Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

a

a

wrung from them-forced upon them—by means ceedings; but I have, on the contrary, forced on of torture? It may seem strange that so horrible action. I am the chief author of the events of a question should be raised even in reference to December 26th. If any one has merited death the Government practices under the grim Nicho- for that rising, it is I!” las. But those conversant with the traditions of Was this a noble attempt to shield his friends? the dreaded “Third Division”-of which the or were these words the outcome of a man's sufbland Schuvaloff was the head, before being ap- ferings on the rack? We shall never know. pointed to the task of deceiving, as I must call it, Nor can we decide whether some of the accused the English Government, and Queen Victoria in had not, by cruel, fiendish means, been made to person, by false assurances made in the name of contradict and to incriminate each other in a the Czar “on a gentleman's word of honor"- manner which must have inwardly delighted the are well aware that torture has always been prac- tyrannic victor. Let us draw the veil over these ticed in Russia against political offenders. Only harrowing secrets of the dungeon! This much a few weeks ago the German press and the Lon- we know, that by barbarous atrocities was the don “Standard " have openly stated that torture reign of Nicholas initiated. Through pools of was employed against Solovieff. No denial has blood he waded to the throne; and the beams of come yet, though the Cabinet of St. Petersburg the gallows served as supports for his proud imseldom scruples to deny the most patent facts. perial seat.

Nicholas Turguenieff, who, in his quality of a More than fifty years have passed since the former member of the Russian Government ad- martyrdom of the insurgents of December, 1825. ministration, is always to be listened to with a To-day Russia, in which under Nicholas the stillgreat deal of attention, positively says: The ness of death had reigned, is deeply troubled by replies and the declarations of the accused of disaffection—“an Empire of the Discontented.” 1826 resemble too much those which were for- So Katkoff calls it in his “ Moscow Gazette"; merly drawn out by the system of torture not to and when he, the supporter of autocracy, makes have been the result of analogous means. Only, so general a confession, the absolutistic system, one does not see the same frankness in the draw- though still showing a face of brass, must indeed ing up of the judicial protocols; for, though the have feet of clay. In the next article I shall have results are given, there is silence as to the causes to speak more fully of the attempt the successor which brought them about. The Minister of of Nicholas made to thwart the progress of the War having been informed that Colonel Pestel constitutional movement, which recommenced had just been led into St. Petersburg, the first after the Crimean war, by that liberation of the words which came from the Minister's lips were serfs which the organizer of the Leagues of an order to subject him to the torture. I pur- 1821-25 had already inserted in his programme. posely use here a general expression, not wishing, For the present I will conclude with a hope that by a more precise statement, to add disgust to the contest we see daily going on may result in a the horror."

triumph but too long delayed, and that, guided It is impossible, under these suspicious cir- by the spirit of Pestel and Murawieff, the oppocumstances, to say how far we are to take the nents of a brutal czardom may succeed in openalleged avowals of the accused as genuine. “I ing a new era for Russia, after the oppressive would have been able," Ryleïeff is made to ex- servitude of a thousand years. claim, in the “ Judicial Report," " to stop all pro

KARL BLIND, in Contemporary Review.

a

MORALISTS ON BLUE CHINA.

THERE
CHERE is an interesting tribe of natives on natives help to pay for) the race to which we al-

the northwest frontier of India who acknowl- lude is spoken of rather rudely as “the superedge but three deadly sins. The first is the stitious Ziphs (their real name is of no imporsmoking of tobacco, the next is an indiscretion tance to the argument), and their ideas are held reprobated by our own theologians, and the last up to ridicule. Yet it is surely a wise thing to deadly sin is to part one's hair in the middle. reduce the deadly sins to the utmost possible There is a simplicity about this prohibitory code simplicity and to the smallest number. The tenwhich modern moralists would do well to imitate. dency of modern moralists, and especially of virIn official reports on native manners (which the tuous pressmen, is, on the other hand, to add at

a

[ocr errors]

random to the list of deadly sins. Every one There is a lurking devil in his china-closet that must be edified by the virtue of penny-a-liners, would have frightened good Charles Lamb. “I and of some of the gentlemen who do the picture- have an almost feminine partiality for old china. galleries. There is nothing like the austerity of When I go to see any great house I inquire for pressmen, though Mr. Swinburne, carried away the china-closet,” says that essayist. In his time by his craze for alliteration, once compared it to the profligate and abominable character of the the virtue of members of another profession. taste had not been discovered, and he made reThey have decided that a new deadly sin has ap- marks which we dare not quote, for fear of raispeared on the moral horizon, and this dulce scelus, ing the blush on the cheek of modest journalists. suave flagitium (to quote an early Latin father), Lamb will be allowed by the virtuous the same is the love of blue china.

off - chance as some theologians give the old These two simple words “blue china" have heathen philosophers. Not utterly condemned become—it is difficult to say why—a kind of rail- to torment, he will pass his days with the wise ing accusation. They are hurled at the heads of of the older world, who can say: poets and painters and people at large, much as

“ Siamo perduti, e sol di tanto offesi charges of having robbed a church and murdered

Che senza speme vivemo in disio." a sainted grandmother are tossed about in American political journals. The original sin of the Charles Lamb sinned in loving blue china, but porcelain in question seems to be its blueness. not against knowledge. He had not “sat under" Yet an amateur who is fond of Dresden, or who the ethical critics of the fine arts. He was wont collects Anatolian ware, or Rhodian tiles, or Per- “ to point out to his cousin certain speciosa mirasian lamps, nay, even people who have no ceram- cula upon a set of extraordinary old blue china, ic tastes of any description, often fall under the a recent purchase”; but if he lived now he would stern reprimand of the newspaper preacher, just know better. He would use teacups adorned as if their abodes were full of old Nanking and with the semblance of pink ribbon. It has been the hawthorn pattern. The accusation of deal- remarked, moreover, by a kindly critic that, even ing in blue china is the modern counterpart of if Lamb did like porcelain, he partly redeemed the charge of witchcraft, or of the vague Roman his character for manliness by his taste for Irish offense of insulting the Emperor. There is no stew (or was it cow-heel ?) and gin-and-water. way of disproving it, and indeed the mere charge He was not altogether bad. But the curious is supposed to carry its own evidence with it. spectacle of the taste of the last becoming the How heinous is the offense of being “mixed up," unpardonable sin of the present generation has as people charitably say, with blue china, may led us away from the new villain of romance be gathered from the practice of the novelists. the blue-china villain. The old romancers used to have a good stock We are fresh from making this person's acof villains always on hand, tasteful and varied quaintance in a novel where he is guilty of the patterns which had long been approved of by last and worst offense with which the romancediscriminating public taste. There was the wick- writer can brand a character. The blue-china ed earl, whose wickedness ran in certain well- villain, a young and strong man, has just been known channels, and who generally died of pas- horsewhipped by an elderly and virtuous earl. sion and suppressed gout. There was the bad To be horsewhipped in a novel is to be deeply baronet. He persecuted rustic beauty, prose- stained indeed. There is no court of appeal; cuted interesting poachers, and often perished in character is gone for ever. In the fiction to consequence of a fall from his horse during a which we refer, it does not appear that the misthunderstorm. We have also known him expire, creant had been guilty of any other offense beblaspheming, when his yacht was struck by yond liking porcelain. He aggravated this crime, lightning, and in one noted case his skeleton was however, in a horrid manner, by wearing a “silk found in the hollow of an old oak-tree. Another smoking-suit," at the moment when he was beaten favorite villain was the roaring pirate and smug- like a hound. The heroes of the late Mr. Lawgler of the Dirk Hatteraick type, while a fourth rence, tremendous people, any one of whom could was the sanctimonious attorney. All these mis- pitch a colossal Welsher over a horse-pond, used chievous persons have resigned in favor of the to wear silk smoking-suits, and it was counted to newest villain out, the villain who is contaminated them for merit. They also adorned their arched by a taste for blue china. We have not ascer- insteps with slippers “ daintily charactered with tained that this malevolent but craven wretch enigmatic monograms in embossed gold.” Yet has ever been permitted by the novelist to do what used to be a decided virtue in the eyes of any real mischief. It is his intentions (which, the novelists has become degraded by associalike Wilkins Micawber, junior, he never carries tion with the produce of Satsuma and with old out in any one direction) that are so baneful. Nanking. So relative, when all is said, are the socalled absolute distinctions of human morality. howling seas. He may also like canvases which When the Emperor Hwhang-ti invented blue recall to him Bible stories, and the three or four china (his Majesty flourished in the mythic period historical anecdotes of which he has a muddy of the Celestial Empire about 5260 B. C.), he and confused recollection. If a critic of this sort little thought that he was founding the most cor- finds people admiring works which have nothing rupt sect of the modern world.

but color, sentiment, drawing, and composition There must be some obscure though valid to recommend them, what will he do? He will reason for the earnestness with which the moral- write an article en colère, as the Paris newsboys ist now condemns certain forms of ceramic prof- used to say when they advertised a particularly ligacy. One can imagine the explanation of the ferocious essay in “ Le Père Duchêne.” He will superficial critic. He would say that delicacy of protest that every one who likes what he does satire is not the strong point of the English not like is “ an oaf and an affected puppy." He feuilletonistes. He would point out that the will remember that he does not like blue china same scribblers are very gregarious animals, and either, and he will lump all his aversions under that, if any one gives them a lead in any direc- that useful head. He will bethink him—and this tion, they are apt to rush down that steep place is the moment when the angry critic is oddest with unnecessary clamor. Thus it only needs a and most amusing—that he is very righteous, clever writer to make a very obvious point, in an and that all persons who like what he dislikes amusing way, and lightly to chastise the affecta- must be very wicked. He will draw the conclution of persons who pretend to live for the beau- sion that some unlucky picture, by some unfortiful, and who can only find the beautiful in bric- tunate painter, is sapping the moral strength of à-brac. The success of a satire of that sort is a the nation; and then he will rant in the most sufficient motive. At once the hack writers adopt absurd way, and think he has done his duty as the thing, and give it—as, to do them justice, an æsthetic critic. they always do-a deeply moral meaning. They Mr. Ruskin is perhaps partly responsible for break the butterfly with iron poles, on tremendous all these sermons out of place. Mr. Ruskin genwheels, on scaffolds as high as that which pleased erally, if not always, likes the pictures that the Haman well. Another instance of the same prac- moralist who thunders against blue china distice was afforded in the last generation, or the likes. He hates the pictures that the moralist generation before, by the hacks who were always admires. But his method is just the same, though talking about the “silver-fork school.” To these the victims are different. He is just as likely persons, with their birth, breeding, and taste, sil- to call the harmless painters of whom he does ver forks seemed an outrage. Like manly Eng- not approve “dishonest,” “sensual,” “corrupt," lishmen, they used the cold steel, when they ate “devilish,” etc., as the preacher from the opposite peas, in the way still affected by the vigorous pulpit is to scream “morbid,” “ affected,” “ unand unspoiled Teutonic race. The cry of “sil- English,” “unmanly," “debasing," "corrupting," ver-fork school” was exactly analogous to the “ blue china.” We are born into a pharisaical shriek of “ blue china,” which is raised, in season period, and we must take the consequences of and out of season, by satirists who make up by the situation. Some of the zeal that finds etertheir virulence for their want of originality. nal fault with porcelain is of the sort displayed

This would be the explanation of the super- by the apostle who denounced alabastra. Meanficial observer. He would also hint that dull while the price of the peccant article does not people are apt to envy and detest those who have fall in the market. Perhaps people who liked tastes that they themselves do not possess. Sup- blue china when it was innocent like it better pose a writer on art to know nothing about it, now it is criminal. Already it is difficult to si not a very difficult thing to suppose. Let him on less than five thousand pounds a year. Soon rather detest all forms of plastic representations millionaires will have the vicious passion all to than otherwise; but let him, if he must have a themselves, like deer-stalking. preference, prefer pictures of Evangelical young ladies clinging to stone crosses in the midst of

The Saturday Review.

[ocr errors]

MR. BROWNING'S DRAMATIC IDYLS*

THIS
HIS is by far the best book which Mr. Brown- fate. The chief point of the legend is the story

ing has published for many years. Though that Pheidippides came upon the god Pan—the not reaching the level of his “ Men and Women," god of Arcadian and pastoral pleasures—in the or of the finest portions of “The Ring and the course of his race, and received from the god a Book,” it has many passages full of his charac- promise to assist Athens in the coming struggle, teristic power, and except where a rough style and a remonstrance with the Athenians for not gives dramatic force to the sketch, as in the pic- having hitherto paid Pan due honors. This is a ture of John Bunyan's penitents, Ned Bratts and raw sort of legend, which needs poetic manipulahis wife, nothing at all of the truculent ugliness, tion and motive to give it anything like beauty or the ostentatious broken-windedness of his latest force. Mr. Browning lends it none, but tells it in gasping style of English verse. Of course, his its bareness, without any effort to show what subjects are, as usual with Mr. Browning, star- there was in the Arcadian goat-god-the god who tling subjects. He not only loves to flash his was supposed to inspire those sudden, wild pasweird figures upon the imagination with all the sions of fear, called panic-fear, such as seized suddenness and abruptness of a magic lantern, Persia at Marathon—which would specially lead but to present you with a subject that takes your him to favor Athens, the most accomplished and breath away as much by the singularity of its least merely naturalistic of the states of Greece, attitude as by the suddenness of its appearance. or to fight in her ranks against the invading PerHe rejects purposely the shading and the moral sian. The theme might have been made poetiatmosphere which make the grimmest subjects cal, but needs poetic motive to render it so. Mr. seem natural when they are given in connection Browning has not attempted this, and the legend, with all the conditions of their history and origin, in his versification of it, remains as wanting in for his object is to make you see the wonder of artistic wholeness as it is in the gossipy story of the world, rather than its harmony, or the con- Herodotus. text which, partly at least, explains it. But as- The first of these Idyls which strikes us as suming, as the critic always must assume, the fully worthy of Mr. Browning is the fine story, poet's special bent and genius, there is nothing reminding us of Emily Brontë and the figures in specially harsh in this volume, and much that is “Wuthering Heights,” of the father and son, really powerful, while the harshest pictures in it Halbert and Hob—two wild North-England savare lent a touch of grandeur by the purpose which ages who agreed to live and growl at each other, penetrates the life portrayed.

till at last the passion in them broke loose in the We do not take great interest in the first or scene described in the following idyl : second of the Idyls. The picture of Martin Relph's remorse for his cowardice, or other mo

" HALBERT AND HOB. tive only half-understood even by himself, in not “ Here is a thing that happened. Like wild beasts having stayed the execution of an innocent woman

whelped, for den, by shouting out that he saw the messenger arriv- In a wild part of North England, there lived once ing with the reprieve, is somewhat too vague and

two wild men unfinished to be interesting. The man hardly Inhabiting one homestead, neither a hovel nor hut, knows what his own guilt was, or whether he

Time out of mind their birthright: father and son, really was guilty of anything but unreadiness of

these-butnature; nor is the confusion in his mind which

Such a son, such a father! Most wildness by dehas grown up since the fatal day as to what it is

grees of which he accuses himself, painted with suffi

Softens away: yet, last of their line, the wildest

and worst were these. cient force to make the picture interesting from

Criminals, then ? Why, no: they did not murder that point of view. For a very different reason

and rob; we can not admire Mr. Browning's “ Pheidip

But, give them a word, they returned a blow-old pides "—the idyl whose subject is the great run

Halbert as young Hob: ner, who took to Sparta within two days the news Harsh and fierce of word, rough and savage of of the Persian invasion, and came back only to

deed, announce the coldness and jealousy of the Spar- Hated or feared the more—who knows? the gentans, and their willingness to leave Athens to her

uine wild-beast breed.

a

“ Thus were they found by the few sparse folk of

* Dramatic Idyls. By Robert Browning. London: Smith, Elder & Co.

the country-side ;

But how fared each with other? E'en beasts

couch, hide by hide, In a growling, grudged agreement: so, father and

son lay curled The closelier up in their den because the last of

their kind in the world.

Temples, late black, dead-blanched-right hand

with left hand linkedHe faced his son submissive; when slow the ac

cents came, They were strangely mild, though his son's rash

hand on his neck lay all the same.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

“ Still, beast irks beast on occasion. One Christmas

night of snow, Came father and son to words—such words ! more

cruel because the blow To crown each word was wanting, while taunt

matched gibe, and curse Competed with oath in wager, like pastime in hell

-nay, worse : For pastime turned to earnest, as up there sprang

at last The son at the throat of the father, seized him and

held him fast. "Out of this house you go!'—there followed a

hideous oath) *This oven where now we bake, too hot to hold

us both ! If there's snow outside, there's coolness : out with

you, bide a spell In the drift and save the sexton the charge of a

parish shell !' “Now, the old trunk was tough, was solid as stump

of oak Untouched at the core by a thousand years : much

less had its seventy broke One whipcord nerve in the muscly mass from neck

to shoulder-blade of the mountainous man, whereon his child's rash

hand like a feather weighed. “ Nevertheless at once did the mammoth shut his

eyes, Drop chin to breast, drop hands to sides, stand

stiffened-arms and thighs All of a piece-struck mute, much as a sentry

stands, Patient to take the enemy's fire : his captain so

commands. “Whereat the son's wrath few to fury at such sheer

no note

Took either of each, no sign made each to either ;

last As first, in absolute silence, their Christmas-night

they passed.

" At dawn, the father sate on, dead, in the self-same

place With an outburst blackening still the old, bad

fighting-face: But the son crouched all a-tremble like any lamb

new-yeaned.

" When he went to the burial, some one's staff he

borrowed-tottered and leaned. But his lips were loose, not locked-kept mutter

ing, mumbling. There : At his cursing and swearing, the youngsters cried ;

but the elders thought, "In prayer.' A boy threw stones : he picked them up and

stored them in his vest.

scorn

Of his puny strength by the giant eld thus acting So tottered, muttered, mumbled he, till he died, the babe new-born :

perhaps found rest. And “Neither will this turn serve !' yelled he. 'Is there a reason in nature for these hard hearts?' 'Out with you! Trundle, log!

O Lear, If you can not tramp and trudge like a man, try That a reason out of nature must turn them soft, all-fours like a dog!'

seems clear!" “Still the old man stood mute. So, logwise-down The closing couplet throws out this grim picture to floor

in fine relief against that “reason in nature" Pulled from his fireside place, dragged on from which transmitted so hard and savage a disposihearth to door

tion from father to son, and from son to son's Was he pushed, a very log, staircase along, until

son, and also against that “reason out of naA certain turn in the steps was reached, a yard ture” which touched in turn both father and son from the house-door-sill.

with a softening remorse for their untilial passion “ Then the father opened his eyes—each spark of the father more spontaneously, but with little their rage extinct

effect on his subsequent life; the son only through

« AnkstesnisTęsti »