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The Egoist, a Comedy in Narrative,' as befits a comedy, is in lighter vein. But as there was a mystical introduction to Diana,' so there is a frolicsome 'prelude' to the comedy. We select a sentence or two, and, so far as we can judge, they lose little in intelligibility by being torn from the context.

'For verily we must read what we can of it [comedy] if we would be men. One, with an index to the book, cries out in a style, pardonable to his fervency: The comedy of your frightful affliction is here, through the stillatory of Comedy, and not in Science nor yet in Speed, whose name is but another for vivacity. Why, to be alive, to be quick in your soul, there should be diversity in the companionthrob of your pulse. Interrogate them. They limp along like the old lob-legs of Dobbin the horse, or do their business like cudgels of carpet-thackers expelling dust, or the cottage clock pendulum touching the infant hour over midnight simple arithmetic. This, too, in spite of Bacchus. . . . Monstrous monotonousness has enfolded us as with the arms of Amphitrite!'

But having got over these simple and lucid definitions of the functions of comedy, we find in the Egoist himself a delightful and delicately shaded piece of satire. Sir Willoughby Patterne is a provincial satrap, flourishing before the days of agricultural depression, rich beyond the ordinary dreams of avarice, and nursed in his hereditary self-importance. Like Feverel he has never had the discipline of a public school, nor been in contact with either superiors or equals. As it pleases Mr. Meredith to express him, he has a leg.' So the lady whom he most seriously · sets himself to win is defined by a woman of the world as 'a dainty rogue in porcelain,' and we fancy we can follow out Mr. Meredith's thoughts, which are meant as a running commentary on his comedy. Sir Willoughby, supercilious and superb, is charmingly unconscious of his ingrained selfishness. He is helped to misconceive himself by confounding prodigality with generosity. He has been befooled and flattered to the top of his bent, and he enjoys nothing more than the luxury of condescending patronage. He reveals his selfishness with intense naïveté, and never more so than when he is most in earnest. With that leg of his he prides himself on his success with women; he well knows how much he has to bestow on a wife. Three times he fancied himself in love, and thrice he is jilted or rejected. Even the vanity he wears as armour of proof is pierced by the aggravations of his humiliation, for he is baffled by rivals who are either poor or dependent on him. It will be seen that there is ample material for laughter, and Mr. Meredith VOL. CLXXXL. NO. CCCLXXI.




with light-hearted cynicism makes the most of it. baronet holds to his second and most serious engagement, when the perverse young lady is struggling to break away, not only because he is fascinated by her beauty, but because his pride is deeply engaged. It is characteristic that he would rather undergo any amount of secret mortification than have his final discomfiture proclaimed to the world. But as The Egoist' is professedly a comedy, it ends, contrary to Mr. Meredith's usual fashion, in something approaching burlesque. The curtain descends in a cross-shuffle of the characters and their circumstances; and the supercilious baronet is wedded to a deserving young woman, whom he had long regarded as a chattel and a slave, and who had blindly bowed to his caprices, as she had been dazzled by the radiance of his smiles. To be sure, that dénouement is made more probable by her being provoked into asserting her feminine dignity, when refusing a belated offer of the Egoist. Withdrawing herself beyond his reach, she became a prize worth the courting and winning. By the way, Mr. Meredith in his sarcasms does not spare himself, for when he makes one of his characters exclaim, 'How you must 'enjoy a spell of dulness!' we can hardly doubt that he had his readers in his mind.

Mr. Meredith, with all his gifts, is neither a Shakespeare nor a Garrick. He cannot identify himself with the gravediggers as easily as with Hamlet, or play low comedy so as to bring down the house he has been moving to tears with his pathos in tragedy. The lot of his Emilia in England' is cast among a family of wealthy parvenus, struggling hard for a position in county society. But they are all too refined and brilliant for their parts and, in spite of themselves, will show the instincts of refined ladies and gentlemen. We need hardly say that they sparkle in their talk, and excel in the subtleties of social diplomacy. They worship Mammon, but they worship after a fashion which might bring that vulgar diplomacy into decent repute. The satire, which is fanciful and somewhat far-fetched, is apparently drawn from the author's disagreeable experiences of suburban capitalists. The interest and ingenuity are in the presentation of the characters, who are to be evolved and transformed under very different circumstances in the sequel, Vittoria.' For some reason, the original title of Emilia in England' was afterwards changed to 'Sandra 'Belloni.' Emilia is a gifted child of nature, the incarnation of childlike simplicity and musical genius. She has one of

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those voices which, from their phenomenal rarity, create a European sensation and may command fabulous sums. The frank little girl has no suspicion of her brilliant destinies. The daughter of a Bohemian father, she has run unknown risks, but she touches slime without a stain on her purity, and her confidence in humanity makes her comparatively safe. Wilfred, the only son of the wealthy Mr. Pole, falls cautiously in love at first sight-or rather at first hearing of the notes of this nightingale. There is really good comedy in these first interviews. She tells him that Mr. Pericles, a rich and reckless impresario, intends to take her to Italy to be taught.

"He told me to keep it secret. I have no secrets from my


"Would you not rather let me take you? "Not quite." She shook understand music as he does. deal of money for eating alone. me when I come back.'


her head. "No! because you do not And are you as rich? I cost a great But you will be glad when you hear

She proceeds to tell him all about her father-a violin at the Opera, and one of the most wonderful men in the 'whole world.' And she goes on to relate with charming simplicity an adventure which befell her in the Park, when her father flew into an unaccountable fit of passion with a gentleman who had been making kindly advances pour le mauvais motif. I was mad with joy,' says the unsophisticated maiden, and so delighted to have made a friend. 'I had never before had a rich friend. I sang to him in 'the Park. His eyes looked beautiful with pleasure. I knew 'I enchanted him.' As she could not understand how her father, who once surprised them in a tête-à-tête, should have pelted her friend with the potatoes he was carrying home for dinner, so she is annoyed that her little narrative should ruffle and irritate Mr. Wilfred. In the course of the novel Emilia does not progress much in knowledge of the world. When the rich Mr. Pole, who has practically adopted her, suggests that she would do well to marry Mr. Pericles, who, partly from eagerness to become undisputed possessor of the voice, was ready to throw himself and his fortune at her feet, she gravely objects.

But, oh! if he married me he would kiss me.' And Mr. Pole, in conscience, cannot deny the probability. He laughed and blinked. Well!' he remarked as one gravely cogitating, and, with the native delicacy of a Briton, turned it off with a playful 'so shall I now.'

That touch of comedy comes off in a highly dramatic scene, which Mr. Meredith has rendered with an analytical realism worthy of Zola at his best. Mr. Pole has been breaking down under the prolonged strain of pecuniary troubles. Driven inch by inch nearer the verge of ruin, he has taken none of his household into his confidence. Perhaps he is more in sympathy with this simple-minded little maiden than with any of them, and he has taken her to dine at one of his hotel haunts. He guesses rather than knows that a brain attack is stealing upon him, and she passes through successive stages of uneasiness and fright, as ominous signs develope into certainties.

Other troubles are in store for her, besides the illness and probable ruin of her benefactor, and Mr. Meredith, with characteristic ingenuity, piles up the misery which schools as it steels her in the furnace of adversity. The course of true love runs by no means smoothly. Wilfred, to whom she had almost given her heart as she had actually promised her hand, calculates, hesitates, is unfaithful and repents. The family desire to rise inclines him to an aristocratic marriage, and he forges fetters which he finds it difficult to shake off when he has ultimately made up his mind that his happiness is bound up in Emilia. When he tardily repents and returns, he seems to have lost her irretrievably

and yet her influence is still so strong, that it induces him to resign his commission and to take service with the Austrians. When he bade adieu to Emilia her prospects were even more doubtful and cheerless. The sudden loss of her voice, demonstrated by some heart-breaking experiments, has reduced her and Mr. Pericles to the depths of despair. And Mr. Pericles, who cannot count self-control among his good qualities, has expressed his despair as to her future with uncompromising frankness.

When the curtain rises on Vittoria' all is metamorphosed, and the sequel is an absolute antithesis to its predecessor. Vittoria, the illustrious prima donna, the star of the Scala, passing on from triumph to triumph, courted by all the men, flattered and hated by envious women, is no other than our old acquaintance Emilia. She has not only recovered but cultivated her voice, and is successful far beyond her most ambitious dreams. Her trainer, Mr. Pericles, is always in attendance, enclosing thousand-pound cheques in bouquets in testimony of approval, and jealously guarding his treasure against rival dragons on the prowl. But that stage-play and the stage successes are only acces

sories to a grand international drama. We are no longer concerned with the paltry intrigues of local cliques in Surrey. Italy is throbbing from the Alps to the Adriatic and revolting against the iron rule of the foreigner. Hot brains are at fever-heat and blood is boiling. We are in a whirl of angry passion and a labyrinth of conspiracies and intrigues. Love comes in to complicate matters-there are engagements, marriages, jealousies, jiltings, provocations, and fierce interchanging of challenges; and, as is usual with Mr. Meredith, he utterly confuses us in the crowd of supernumeraries he thrusts forward on the scenes. But still Vittoria and her old admirer Wilfred stand out to the front. Wilfred distinguishes himself by chivalrous and rather absurd self-sacrifice for the once candid Vittoria too evidently makes a tool of him, taking shabby advantage of his unselfish devotion. If she had reason to complain of his proceedings in Surrey, assuredly in Italy she has ample revenge. She has married a noble Lombard patriot, and her passionate Italian temperament, which fitfully flushed out in Sandra Belloni,' has finally and fatally asserted itself. She is patriotic like her husband, passionately emotional, subtle, secret, and vindictive. All is condoned for her by devotion to her husband and her country.

Necessarily the subject gives Mr. Meredith great opportunities for strong dramatic presentation and picturesque description. The scenes change from the fair Italian lakes and the fertile plains of Lombardy to the passes of the Italian Tyrol and the pastoral valleys on the Swiss frontier. Now we are smelling the stage lamps, or mixing with a mob in Milan that has risen in mad émeute, and again we are among the rocks and glaciers, or threading the pathless pine woods with gendarmerie and light cavalry following close on our heels. There is a dance at La Scala, where the adored and bewitching cantatrice raises Milan in semi-revolution with a seditious song. That is succeeded by her hasty flight across the frontiers. In fact there is a general sauve qui peut, and among other things we have a melodramatic duel in the mountains between an Italian armed only with a poniard and an Austrian with all the advantages of weapons. There are suspected traitors to the Italian cause, living between the double terror of dagger and gallows; and wounded refugees sheltered from the proscription by sympathisers whose necks are in deadly peril. Women violently separated from husbands or lovers, or resenting the faithlessness of adorers who seem to have forgotten them, carry us

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