Puslapio vaizdai

One of these women is Miss Elizabeth Dejeans, and the men in her story of "The Winning Chance" treat the typewriting heroine as if she were necessarily a light woman. The author makes her, in order to save her mother's life, accept a home and support from her married employer, and then presents a respectable young man perfectly acquainted with her story as anxious to marry her. Neither morality nor art is served by such a tale, and in its most sentimental passages a wicked impulse to laugh obtrudes itself. It is not possible to weep over the woes of a married man when a girl tells him that she loves another. Why should she not? J. B. Lippincott Co.

In spite of all that has been written and printed about Turkey during the years which have passed since the Crimean war, the popular conception of the Turk is a blended Othello and Nana Sahib with a dash of Haroun al Raschid. The popular fancy figures this pleasing creature as surrounded by an Ashanti Emperor's allowance of wives, and wearing a very large turban, or, as ferociously butchering innocent Christians and tossing babies on pikes, obtained the Djinns only know where in the present state of European armories. Now and then, a consul or an ambassador, and at rarer intervals, a missionary, ventures to correct a line or two in this portrait, but nobody minded such officiousness until the Young Turks flamed into action, and now there is a demand for knowledge; and those who seek may find some in "Haremlik," Mrs. Kenneth Brown's book of stories about Turkish wives and husbands. It by no means takes the place of formal handbooks or histories, but it supplements and vivifies them with its pictures of home-life, its reports of home-talk, and it should at once and forever dissipate the belief that well-educated, well-bred Turks are

Moors, Rajputs, or Arabs. The author, a member of a Greek family resident in Constantinople for centuries, and holding high office there, was reared in the society of Turkish girls and boys, and after leaving the country for a few years returned to renew her acquaintance with old friends of both sexes and to refresh her recollections as to customs and habits of thought. She found that there really is a small group of noisy, discontented women, under the presidency of a leader who has divorced two husbands, and eager, as Mrs. Brown unkindly phrases it, to talk "tomfoolery about their souls," but she found all other women, first, second, third, or fourth wives, or slaves, or petted daughters, contented, with the exception of the very few who were jealous. Also, she discovered that instead of being struck dumb by Christian and occidental views of marriage, and other social usages, they were ready to dispose of them by ridicule; and were convinced that truth and happiness were the possession of the Mussulmans and especially of the Turks. This was the state of mind of women acquainted with the language and light literature of three, four, or five Christian nations and also with the poetry of Turkey. They were about as conscious of needing enlightenment from foreigners as a group of married graduates of Vassar and Radcliffe. This is equivalent, inasmuch as Turkish boys are reared by their mothers, to saying that the Young Turks are about as much disposed to accept the guidance of foreigners as the Kaiser was immediately after his accession, or as George Washington was after more than seven years of ruling a republic. Mrs. Brown is always interesting, but the student of national traits, and the observer of European politics will find her worth actual study. The harem life is the source of the Turk's feelings and sentiment. Houghton Mifflin Co.

No. 3396 August 7, 1909.


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


The Poetry of George Meredith. By John Bailey.

The Eisteddfod in London. By Ernest Rhys

Hardy-on-the-Hill Book II. Chapters IV and V. By M. F. Francis

(Mrs. Francis Blundell). (To be continued.)
The Extinction of the Upper Classes. By W. C. D. Whetham,
The Lady of the Manor. By Katharine Tynan

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


[merged small][ocr errors]

Mirahuano. By R. B. Cunninghame Graham ENGLISH REVIEW 361
The Imperial Press Conference.

The Prisoner. By John Galsworthy

The Quarrel.

The Bright Side of Bad Weather.

"Damnable Iteration."


The Pageant. By S. S. .

Transformation. By Claud Field
Above the Timber Line. By M..
Calycanthus Flower. By C. Cranmer-Byng

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]




[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ACADEMY 322 SPECTATOR 322 322 NATION 322 383


[ocr errors]


FOR SIX DOLLARS, remitted directly to the Publishers, THE LIVING AGE will be punctually forwarded for a year, free of postage, to any part of the United States. To Canada the postage is

50 cents per annum.

Remittances should be made by bank draft or check, or by post-office or express money order if possible. If neither of these can be procured, the money should be sent in a registered letter. All postmasters are obliged to register letters when requested to do so. Drafts, checks, express and money orders should be made payable to the order of THE LIVING AGE Co.

Single Copies of THE LIVING AGE, 15 cents.

[blocks in formation]


The other day a subscriber to the London Library was told, on asking for Meredith's works, that the novels were all out, and that of the ten or dozen volumes of poems only two or three were in. Probably that represents the high-water mark of a demand for Meredith. For the moment, death is supreme, and the whole of that not very large world that cares for books is thinking and talking about George Meredith. The thinking and talking turn principally round the nov els. The dominance of the novel in modern literature is so complete that many people are scarcely aware that the writer of The Egoist and Richard Feverel was also a poet. And of those who are, there is no question that few place the poet on at all the same level as the novelist. There they are very probably right. At any rate, there is no point of view from which any sane critic would pretend that Meredith was the greatest of our poets, while there is one from which he may be regarded as the greatest English novelist, perhaps the greatest novelist of any time or country. Whatever the defects of the novels, there are none to the making of which SO much fundamental brainwork has been given. The novel has always suffered from lack of brains: but nobody can say that of a poetry which stretches from Shakespeare and Milton to Wordsworth and Shelley; to say nothing of the great Victorians. It was in the nature of Meredith to intellectualize whatever he touched, and that is as plain in the poems as in the novels. But the process which was so imperative in the one case may have been not far from superfluous in the other.

It is certain, then, that the poet occupies no such place in the history of our poetry as the creator of The Egoist

must always occupy in the history of the novel. And so, perhaps, the members of the London Library were wise in preferring the novels to the poetry when they made their combined rush at Meredith's works. Yet, after all, poetry has a way of out-living prose, and it is quite possible, that, two or three centuries hence, The Lark Ascending, Love in the Valley, and the great French odes will be remembered and the novels forgotten. No prose fails so completely as bad poetry; but then, on the other hand, when poetry succeeds, it has about it an imperishable quality never attained even by the best prose. And that for two plain reasons. It is form that preserves matter, and it is in poetry that the matter of human speech is most completely and perfectly under the mastery of form. That is one thing, and the other is that poetry is an utterance of the highest moods of the human mind, and it is these moods that most easily rise superior to the changes of times and manners. Nothing transcends time like the imagination. Job and Homer, Dante and Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton, speak a language which is of all time, which can never seem old-fashioned or odd. On the other hand, it is impossible to read the prose, even of the latest of them, the majestic chaos of Milton's pamphlets, without feeling at once that it is separated from us by two hundred years. The only poetry that ages as fast or faster than its contemporary prose is that which resigns its highest privileges in order to compete with prose. So long as it remains a thing made up of spirit and imagination even more than of intellect it is necessarily less tainted than prose by the subtle corruption of temporary and transient manners. So it may be with the work

of George Meredith. The fashion of this generation, as of all others, passes away, and may well become eccentric or wearisome in the ears of the next. How much that was once brilliant in Thackeray is now insipid or absurd, because its life lay in its reflection of some folly of the season, a folly which has now ceased to be amusing or even credible! Time only can show how much Victorian alloy is mingled with the imperishable gold of Meredith's prose. But there is no alloy in the song of "The Lark Ascending."

Unluckily, however, the poems are very far from all being of that fine quality. There is no use in denying that their gold has only too much alloy in it. It is not the alloy of matter, of the fashions and fancies of a past generation; it is something more fatal, an alloy of style and of essence. No honest reader can deny that the large majority of Meredith's poems are, to a greater or less degree, harsh, difficult, and obscure. Some of them have scarcely a line that yields its meaning at once, and at least a few lines that never yield their meaning at all. How many people can make anything whatever of such passages as

A woman who is wife despotic lords Count faggot at the question, Shall she live?

Who is quite sure of what the story of Archduchess Anne and Count Louis is meant to be? Who could paraphrase "The Last Contention" with any confidence of accuracy? Who does not find reading "The Empty Purse" something like trying to find one's way, without a path, through a thick wood on a dark night, in the midst of a terrific storm of thunder and lightning? The result is a rather complex expe rience, at once alarming, exhausting, stimulating, and, occasionally, when the flashes come, illuminating; but, when you reach daylight and the open

country, you cannot give a very clear account of the wood. The fact is, that Meredith treated both thought and language as a tyrant rather than as a lawful sovereign. And not even the greatest can do that with impunity. It is as true of language as it is, in Bacon's famous phrase, of Nature, that you can only conquer it by obeying. It is vain to run a-tilt against the necessary limitations of the human mind. The rules of grammar, which require the use of relatives and conjunctions, are not arbitrary things: they exist in response to the mind's demands. We cannot think in shorthand, as we are required to do in such verse as:

Rejoice ye to know not shame,
Not a dread, not a doubt; to have

With the tortures of thought in the

Our animal tangle, and grass
Very sap of the vital in this:
That from flesh unto spirit man grows
Even here on the sod under sun;
That she of the wanton's kiss
Broken through with the bite of an


Is Mother of simple truth.
Relentless quencher of lies.

The general idea of this is plain enough, at any rate to a Meredithian, from the first; but the details in which it expresses itself? Some of them do not get into clear daylight till the third or fourth reading, and one or two perhaps never. The fact is that in such writing as this we are still in the stage which may be described in its own words, "the tortures of thought in the throes," the stage we sometimes see in Shakespeare, sometimes in Shelley, rarely in any other really great poet. Poetry can never do its proper work when it is thrown at us in the shapeless shape of a succession of linguistic, or logical, or pictorial conundrums. Such a state of things is altogether fatal to the harmonious union

« AnkstesnisTęsti »