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These dinners of fiction may be finally compared with a dinner of fact-a neat and inexpensive dinner, given by a Scotch lady of equal economy and taste, who was under the dire necessity of asking a friend to dine at the beginning of this century. The authentic bill of fare is copied from a number of the "Monthly Review." It consisted of seven plats, and included fish, joint, game, and sweets, not to mention sauce and vegetables :
We feel all the same how difficult it is to preserve the mere literary view of Mr. Gladstone. As a writer even he is always more than the man of letters; he is moved by more than the mere literary instinct. In point of fact, there is only one of the seven volumes-the second of the series-to which he himself has ventured to give the title 44 'Personal and Literary." The other volumes, like the first and fourth, are mainly political, or deal with subjects of constitutional or political interest; the third again treats of "Historical and Speculative" questions; while two are entitled "Ecclesiastical," and deal exclusively with Church questions. The ecclesiastical element, more than any other, pervades all the seven volumes; and upon the whole there is nothing less allied to literature, or which less admits of pure literary treatment, than ecclesiastical topics. The Church has often protected and fostered literature-sometimes she has notably done the reverse; but whether she has been friendly or adverse to intellectual progress, the spirit of the Church is always something more and something
At top, 2 herrings....
Bottom, 8 mutton-chops, cut thin..
On the other side, pickled cabbage........ 04
Parsley for garnish...
"Gleanings of Past Years, 1843-'79." By the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone. London: John Murray, 1879.
MR. GLADSTONE AS A MAN OF LETTERS.
UR title expresses the exact purport of our paper. We wish to view Mr. Gladstone simply as a man of letters-a character which he may be said formally to have assumed by the republication in seven handy volumes of his contributions to periodical literature.* Whatever may be thought of the intrinsic value of these volumes, no one can doubt that such a collection not only belongs to contemporary literature, but that it forms a remarkable and significant addition to it. It has been always, at least, a part of Mr. Gladstone's ambition to take a place among the literary men of his time, and to guide the thoughts of his countrymen to worthy intellectual as well as practical results.
less than a genuine literary inspiration. The two may have often gone hand in hand, but the genius of the one is radically different from the genius of the other. The one contemplates objects with which the other has nothing to do, and moves in an atmosphere of faith and service which may attract and influence the other, but which can never inspire it. The literary spirit springs from its own fountain-head, in a different side of human nature altogether than that which the Church addresses.
The predominance of the religious and ecclesiastical element, therefore, in Mr. Gladstone's Essays, constitutes a difficulty. It is impossible to ignore this element, for, if we did so, we should ignore the greater part of these volumes. We should not have their author before us save in a very imperfect shape. In fact, we should not have him before us at all. For the subjects which are farthest away from religion in these volumes are yet impregnated by religious conceptions, and run back by many roots to the ecclesiastico-religious soil which lies so thick and deep in Mr. Gladstone's mind. In contemporary literature he is much more than a theological or political writer, otherwise we should not have set ourselves our present task; but it may be doubted, even when he ranges farthest a-field, whether he does not drag behind him the ecclesiastical chain which was bound around all his intellectual impulses, in those years when he believed he was helping the public mind by such discussions as constitute "The State in its Relation with the Church" (1838-'39).
The subjects discussed in these volumes admit of very imperfect classification, as any one may see from comparing, in the table of contents prefixed to the last volume, the titles with the list of subjects below. It could, serve no useful purpose to endeavor any estimate of these We wish to estimate the
contents in detail.
writer rather than any of his special productions, and we will best accomplish our purpose by looking in succession at what appear to be the broad qualities impressed upon his writings generally. We shall try to seize these qualities in the first instance, at least, in their pure intellectual form.
Perhaps the first, and in some respects the highest intellectual quality which marks these essays, is their varied energy of thought. There is no sign of weariness, of languor, or even repose in them, but everywhere the throb of a fresh, powerful, and unsated intellectual impulse. A genuine life of thought moves in them all. It is impossible for any serious reader not to be touched by their depth and force of sentiment, and the frequent vigor and eloquence, if also the occasional clumsiness and complexity, of their language. Mr. Gladstone writes always as from a full mind, in this respect alone taking at once a higher position than that of many contemporary writers. It is no conventional or professional impulse that animates his pen; he has always something to say, and which he is eager to say; he is so moved by his thought, whatever it is, that he brings all the forces of his mind to bear upon it. He never dallies, seldom pauses over a subject; still less does he, after a prevalent modern fashion, touch it all round with satiric and half-real allusion, as if it were rather a bore to touch it at all, and not of much consequence what conclusion the writer or the reader came to, after all. There is not a trace of persiflage in any of the essays. There is, in fact, far too little play of mind-too much of the Scotch quality of weight. It is well to be earnest. In this respect it is nothing less than a relief to turn from the silly and inconsecutive sentence-making of much of our present writing to Mr. Gladstone's moving and powerful pages. But they are frequently fatiguing from the very weight and hurry of their energy. And if sentence-making in itself be but a poor business with which no man will occupy himself who has much to say, it is yet, so far, an indispensable element in all literature. And Mr. Gladstone, as we may have occasion to point out before we close, too often neglects it. He lacks the special instinct of style, or the repressive art which restricts the outflow of energy in all the highest writers, as indeed in every creation of genius withdrawing the glowing conception within the "mold of form." But of this again. In the mean time it is not the negative but the positive aspect of his writings that we are noticing.
The quality of energy characteristic of Mr. Gladstone's essays is impressed on them from the first. It is perhaps their chief literary quality to the last-and the volumes before us cover a
period of not less than thirty-five years. It would have been better in some respects if the author had contented himself with a chronological arrangement. But there are few writers who less stand in need of being estimated chronologically. In expounding "The Evangelical Movement" in 1789, he is very much the same expositor as when he dealt at length with "The Present Aspect of the Church" in 1843. If in the former paper his attitude is different, which it could hardly help being, considering the different medium he has found for his views,* he yet speaks in both from the same background of substantial conviction. His views are as fully formed in the one case as in the other. Nothing is more remarkable, in fact, in these essays than the immovable background of opinion which everywhere crops through them. Whatever may have been the vacillations of Mr. Gladstone's political career, there has been but little change in his more inward and higher thoughts. We do not know any other writer of the day who has remained more steadfast through a generation and a half to the same central principles.
Nor is it merely that there is little change or growth in his central thought; there is but little change in his manner as a writer. He writes with the same rhetorical fullness in the end as in the beginning-with the same energy and glow, and excessive, at times inelegant movement. If there is any difference in this respect, it is certainly not in favor of the papers of his more mature years. For with the same force and intensity of thought these papers are upon the whole less duly proportioned, less harmonized. More literary care, apparently, has been taken in the preparation of the remarkable series which fill the fruitful decade following 1843, than in some of his recent productions. We would notice for their literary characteristics the articles on "Blanco White," in 1845, and on "Leopardi," in 1850; and we must add to these, although of later origin, the articles on "Tennyson” and “Macaulay." If any one wishes to see Mr. Gladstone at his best as a man of letters, let him read these articles, especially the two last mentioned. They are intense and powerful, radiant with all his peculiar energy of conception; but they are also stamped by a special impress of literary form. The vivid and impetuous march of thought is held within bounds. The writer is less swept along by the force of his ideas; the rein is laid upon them, and they beat step to a more harmonious pace.
* The paper on "The Evangelical Movement: its
Parentage, Progress, and Issue," is reprinted from the
"British Quarterly Review," July, 1879; that on "The Present Aspect of the Church" is from the " Foreign and Colonial Quarterly Review," October, 1843.
It would be difficult perhaps to select any of Mr. Gladstone's essays more finished in its rhetorical fullness, and more felicitously composed after his manner, than the essay of 1843, on the position and prospects of the Church of England. His peculiar genius is here seen in full swing, and yet controlled throughout by a strong sense of form. The secret no doubt is, that he then wrote not only from a copious and inspired intelligence on a theme which stirred his whole heart, but also with comparative freedom, under no other impulse than a faith jubilant in its strength, and in the fresh light of the new morning which seemed rising on the Church of England. This is how he speaks of the revival of
Catholic principles. The passage has the involved and long-drawn note of much of his later writing at its best; but it has also a sweetness and harmony, a graceful swell of tone, which this
often lacks :
And strange indeed it would have been-at least in the view of those who regard the Church visible and Catholic as the everlasting spouse of Christ, dowered with the gifts which he purchased by his blood and tears-most strange to them it would have been if in a great religious revival that spouse had not found herself a voice for the assertion of her prerogatives. It is not indeed for her to do battle with her foes like earthly potentates, for the sake of acquisition or possession, of admiration or renown; but her prerogatives are also her duties, and by them alone can she discharge any of the high trusts committed to her by her Lord. And so in an order which seems to us to bear every mark of the hand of Almighty wisdom, after that the embers of faith and love have been extensively rekindled in thousands upon thousands of individual breasts throughout the land, there came next a powerful, a resistless impulse to combine and harmonize the elements thus called into activity, to shelter them beneath a mother's wings, that there they might grow into the maturity of their strength, and issue forth prepared for the work which might be ordained for them to perform. This was to be done by making men sensible that God's dispensation of love was not a dispensation to communicate his gifts by ten thousand separate channels, nor to establish with ten thousand elected souls as many distinct, independent relations. Nor again was it to leave them unaided to devise and set in motion for themselves a machinery for making sympathy available and coöperation practicable among the children of a common Father. But it was to call them all into one spacious fold, under one tender Shepherd; to place them all upon one level; to feed them all with one food; to surround
them all with one defense; to impart to them all the deepest, the most inward and vital sentiment of community and brotherhood and identity, as in their fall so in their recovery, as in their perils so in their hopes, as in their sins so in their graces, and in the means and channels for receiving them.
Two brief passages from the same essay especially rivet themselves upon the mind by their vivid energy and compact swiftness—their strength, great as it is, being well contained within a highly finished, if hardly graceful, vehicle of expression. We have the more pleasure in quoting them as they show definitely that however high may be Mr. Gladstone's conception of the position and prerogatives of the Church, he is as far as possible from any vulgar inclination to Romanism. His sentiments on this, as on cognate subjects, are presumably quite unaltered since 1843:
Is our national history, bound up in great part with the grand protest and struggle that originated in their (the reformers') time, and resting upon it for much of its meaning and character, to be disowned of the Roman bishop, to admit his impositions, and and dishonored by our return to crouch at the feet to implore his pardon for our long denial of his sovereign authority? "Never, never, never," said Lord Chatham, would he, if he had been an American, have laid down his arms under oppression. "Never, never, never "--would that we could add emphasis to his words-will this people so forego its duties and its rights as to receive back again into its bosom those deeply ingrained mischiefs and corruptions which Rome and her rulers still seem so fondlyGod grant it may not be inseparably !—to cherish. .. We firmly believe that in the day when the secrets of all hearts are revealed, it will appear that many and many a one has in these last years deeply pondered the subject of the bold claims of Rome on our allegiance as Christians. . . . In the chamber of many a heart has that matter been sifted and revolved; on the one hand, with varying force have marshaled themselves such inducements as have been described. Upon the other side men have reflected that the question is not of appearances, but of realities; not of delights, but of duties; not of private option, but of divine authority. And that solemn and imposing imagery which wins souls to Rome has, in the English mind, as we judge, been outshone by the splendors and overawed by the terrors of the Day of Judgment; of the strong sense of personal responsibility connected with that last account, and of the paramount obligation which it involves, conjuring us by the love of the Redeemer, no less than commanding us by the wrath of the Judge, to try and examine well the substances lying under those shows that surround our path, and to suspend upon his changeless laws alone the issues of life and death.
Next to the energy of Mr. Gladstone's writing in an ascending scale may be mentioned its constant elevation and frequent ideality of sentiment. On the descending scale his energy is apt to pass into sheer intensity and rhetoric. The "Never, never, never" which he borrows from Lord Chatham, and would even emphasize in its
repetition, is the note of a manner which rises naturally to vehemence, and the strong rush of words sometimes pass off into shrillness. He can realize for the time little or nothing but the idea which moves him, and it expands and glows till, like an illuminated cloud, it fills the whole heaven of his thought and casts on his page an intense shadow "dark with excessive bright." But his manner of thought, if rhetorical and vehement, is always elevated. It never sinks to frivolity, seldom to commonplace; it ranges at a high level. Whatsoever in religion is holy and sublime, in virtue amiable or grave; whatsoever hath passion or admiration in all the changes of that which is called fortune from without or the wily subtilties and reflexes of men's thoughts from within " *—such things are the main haunt of our author's literary spirit, and his pen aspires to describe them with "a solid and treatable smoothness." Even Milton had no higher conception of the business of literature than he has, and his example so far, no less than in the thoroughness and energy of his work, is of special value. For that we are "moving downward" in this respect, if not in others, can hardly be doubted. Lightness of touch, if it be also skillful and delicate, is a distinct merit. It saves trouble. It attracts casual readers who might otherwise not read at all. It soon passes, indeed, into a trick, and becomes the feeble if pointed weapon of every newspaper critic. But when to lightness of touch is added lightness of subject and frequent emptiness of all higher thought, the descent becomes marked indeed; and literature, from being the lofty pursuit imaged by the great Puritan, becomes a mere pastime in no degree higher than many others.
Mr. Gladstone never descends to the flippant facility to which the mere passions and gossip of the hour are an adequate theme. He not only deals in all his essays with worthy subjects, but he always deals with them in a worthy manner, so far at least as his tastes and sympathies are concerned. If by no means always true or just in his judgments, it is yet always what is noble in character, and pure and lofty in sentiment, and dignified in feeling that engages his admiration. His pen fastens naturally on the higher attributes of mind and action in any figure that he draws; and this too, as in the sketches of Lord Macaulay, the Prince Consort, and Dr. Norman Macleod, where it is plain he has only an imperfect sympathy with the type of character as it comes from his pen. On this very account these portraits are the more interesting, and test more directly the genuineness of his high capacity of appreciation.
*Milton's "Account of his Own Studies."
In such a sketch as that of Bishop Patteson it is comparatively easy for him to maintain a high level of applausive criticism. It is his own Anglican ideal of virtue that is everywhere reflected back upon him. Bishop Patteson is the hero at once of Oxford culture, of Catholic orthodoxy, and of self-sacrificing missionary enthusiasm. It seems to Mr. Gladstone and many others of his school a never-failing marvel that such heroism should have been in our time, and that such a man should have gone forth from his native country, where he might have spent his days in scholarly and parochial peace, to the wilds of Melanesia to labor among savages, and ultimately to fall a victim to their mistaken vengeance. The picture of self-sacrifice is beautiful and heroic, but it is hardly more so because Patteson was born a gentleman and reared at Oxford, and left behind him an affectionate and admiring home-circle. Such a career must always involve sacrifice of this kind more or less. Mr. Gladstone's admiration, if slightly excessive here, is entirely natural. The very prejudices of Patteson, as in the matter of Colenso (one never hears somehow of the sacrifices of this outcast bishop, and yet they must often surely have been very real and bitter) and the "Essays and Reviews," are congenial to the writer. They meet at once a response in the same soil of culture from which they have sprung. In such a case there is no strain put upon the critic's sympathies. But in the article on Macaulay and in others the same genuine love of true greatness comes forth no less warmly and genially, notwithstanding many differences of taste and opinion.
It would be difficult to find anywhere a more exhaustive analysis of Macaulay's personal, intellectual, and literary character than in the essay in the second of these volumes. The marvelous range of Macaulay's powers, "his famous memory, his rare power of illustration, his command of language, united to a real and strong individuality," are all exhibited with copious and felicitous analysis. His combination of intellectual splendor with ethical simplicity, and the charm of true and unsophisticated taste, is particularly emphasized. "Behind the mask of splendor," says our essayist, "lay a singular simplicity; behind a literary severity which sometimes approached to vengeance an extreme tenderness; behind a rigid repudiation of the sentimental a sensibility at all times quick, and in the latest times almost threatening to sap, though never sapping, his manhood. He who as a speaker and writer seemed, above all others, to represent the age and the world, had the real center of his being in the simplest domestic tastes and joys." "Was he envious?" he asks, and the passage deserves quotation at once as an appre
ciation of Macaulay and an illustration of Glad- provement and of delight which so many have found and will ever find in it!"
Was he envious? Never. Was he servile? No. Was he insolent? No. Was he prodigal? No. Was he avaricious? No. Was he selfish? No. Was he idle? The question is ridiculous. Was he false? No; but true as steel and transparent as crystal. Was he vain? We hold that he was not. At every point in the ugly list, he stands the trial; and though in his history he judges mildly some sins of appetite or passion, there is no sign in his life or his remembered character that he was compounding for what he was inclined to.
There is no attempt to depreciate the level of Macaulay's greatness because the critic feels it necessary to point out with an unsparing hand his deficiencies. It is a poor criticism-of which the Whig historian, after his first popularity, had more than enough—which tries to take down the general power of a man because he is far from perfect, or even shows many imperfections. There is nothing of this. The characterization is bold and manly, and generous without stint, but at the same time discriminating and upon the whole correct. Macaulay's mind is described as strong and rich and varied rather than deep:
He belonged to that class of minds whose views of single objects are singularly and almost preternaturally luminous. But Nature sows her bounty wide; and those who possess this precious and fascinating gift as to things in themselves, are very commonly deficient in discerning and measuring their relations to one another. For them all things are either absolutely transparent, or else unapproachable from dense and utter darkness. Hence amid a blaze of glory, there is a want of perspective, of balance, and of breadth.
This may be, although it is profundity and insight rather than breadth in which Macaulay's genius is lacking. But after all exceptions, his genius remains a great fact; after all inaccuracies, his history is among the prodigies of liter.ature. His writings are as "lights that have shone through the whole universe of letters; they have made their title to a place in the solid firmament of fame." There is no aspect of his character as a man or a writer which is dwelt upon invidiously. All is amply and warmly sketched. The only point in which the essayist at once marks his own leanings and points a prejudicial inference is where he often fails. He shows his customary tendency to judge a man's religion by the extent of his dogmatic creed; and a doubt is suggested whether the great Whig historian "had completely wrought the Christian dogma, with all its lessons and all its consolations, into the texture of his mind, and whether he had opened for himself the springs of im
The "Anglican position" of our essayist is marked off by still more distinct lines from the subject of the essay which follows that on Macaulay—the Rev. Dr. Norman Macleod. This is specially acknowledged, while much in Dr. Macleod's character, it is allowed, excites an entire and cordial sympathy. "Even when differences and position intervene, there is still material from which we ought to draw some valuable lessons." This note of narrowness is unhappily characteristic. It is allied to all that is least worthy and
least true in these volumes. It is a blemish in itself; it is specially a blemish in the literary sphere in which we are now estimating Mr. Gladstone. As if such differences were vital on any broad view either of literature or humanity; and character was to be judged by the special Christian communion to which a man belonged. No one can yield to such sectarianism without distinct loss. It is impossible to shut out the light even with so good a substitute as an Anglifrom distortion or imperfection of vision. can eye-glass without suffering in many respects
We are bound to say, however, that after the opening apologies for taking up such a subject at all, our reviewer does full justice to Dr. Macleod, and some may think more than justice. We can only find room for the following comparison:
He (Dr. Macleod) stands out, we think, as having supplied, after Dr. Chalmers, one of the most distinguished names in the history of Presbyterianism. In some respects much after Chalmers; in others probably before him. He had not, so far as we see, the philosophic faculty of Chalmers, nor his intensity, nor his gorgeous gift of eloquence, nor his commanding passion, nor his absolute simplicity, nor his profound, and, to others, sometimes his embarrassing, humility. Chalmers, whose memory, at a period more than forty years back, is still fresh in the mind of the writer of these pages, was indeed a man greatly lifted out of the region of mere flesh and blood. He may be compared with those figures who, in Church history or legend, are represented as risen into the air under the influence of religious emotion. Macleod, on the other hand, had more shrewdness, more knowledge of the world, and far greater elasticity and variety of mind. Chalmers was rather a man of one idea, at least of one idea at a time; Macleod receptive on all hands and in all ways. Chalmers had a certain clumsiness, as of physical, so of mental gift; Macleod was brisk, ready, mobile. Both were men devoted to God; eminently able, earnest, energetic; with great gifts of oratory and large organizing power. A church that had them not may well envy them to a church that had them.
We have spoken of the ideality, no less than