Billeder på siden

Yale-ventured a "Robin Hood Jr." To be sure the students at Angiers had performed a "Robin and Marian" just five hundred years before, but still it was a step in the right direction, and all honor is due to those who took it. Perhaps however the most prominent move has recently been made by Harvard in bringing out the "Phormio" of Terence. Its actors were the students; its promoters and directors were the professors themselves.

To-day America wants a drama-a drama all her own; distinctive and thoroughly American. She turns to her colleges. But we shake our heads in disapproval. The talent for every other art the world knows comes from the men of the university, but the drama, one of the noblest of the arts, one of the easiest ways to bring the people to a higher literary standard, is not only neglected, but actually discouraged at the very centers of culturethe universities. Literature has heretofore found its highest expression in the drama; but what college is there to-day that promotes this department of the study? Indeed there are few practices that cultivate fine address, memory, literary taste, the bearing of a man, like the study and rendering of the masterpieces of great poets and dramatists. Furthermore there is much that lies hidden in the realm of the drama. If this were freely opened to the young men of this country it would doubtless develop a taste for something much higher than the opera bouffe. Surely there is much in the way of drama for the colleges of to-day outside the field of an occasional burlesque. We are not all Dogberrys and Vergesses. Quite likely there is a "Bob Acres in our midst; yes, or even a "Hamlet" or a "Shylock," did we but have an opportunity to find him out. To-day there is all honor and fame waiting for the college which shall produce for us a second Henry Irving or an Edwin Booth.

[ocr errors]

Maitland Griggs.



NE of the growing notes in present day fiction is an expression of the contempt for conventionality that is a characteristic thought of our non-conforming age. It will be a long time before we can forget the stinging sarcasms on orthodox ideas of morality and life that Mr. Thomas Hardy gave us two years ago in his bitterly pathetic tale of Tess, and though Mr. George Du Maurier lacks the Wessex historian's conception of the world as a hopeless incongruity it is hard to read his remarkable story without calling to mind one with whom, after all, he has considerable in common. The dainty gem that he has chosen for the motto of his book tells us to expect a little story of love, triste et gai, tour à tour, but under it all there lies a philosophical idea identical with Mr. Hardy's more ambitious exposition. This is, that religion is more than a creed, but a life; that morality does not consist so much in action as in thought; that the human heart is not a mathematical contrivance, working with the same regularity as the multiplication table, but that it has emotions and tendernesses of its own that all but the utterly blind. are bound to respect. Furthermore, and here we get the final meaning of Trilby, we are told that it is possible for a woman's nature to receive a dark stain in its early days of innocence, and yet rise above this to become a noble and loveable character. The over-sensitive soul, therefore, that lays down the book-after reading every wordand asks, “Is Trilby a moral novel?" can only find a parallel in the misguided uncle of Little Billie, whose first question as to the wisdom of admitting Miss O'Ferrall into the Bagot family as his nephew's wife was, "Is she a Protestant or a Roman Catholic?" And surely the worthy reader who feels these qualms of a machine-made conscience has ideas of morality as far astray as were those which the respectable Devonshire parson held of religion.

It is, however, something of a sacrilege to entangle Mr. Du Maurier's beautifully woven texture with a moral, for one has only to read a few pages to discover that he primarily demands our respect as a literary artist. The entrance of Trilby on the scene is as interesting and as momentous as that in which Colonel Newcome first becomes our friend, and the impression is as vivid a one. The author sketches his characters with a few bold strokes, and after Trilby, in the old military coat, breaks into the studio of the three musketeers of the brush just arrived from London, we have the secret of her nature at a glance. "You're Englishmen, aren't ye?" she says with a delighted sense of comaraderie. "I'm Trilby,-Trilby O'Ferrall. You don't mind me, do you?" And then she sits down on the model-throne, eats her lunch, lights a cigarette, criticizes their paintings, all with the same spirit of frankness that is a characteristic note in her nature. With a feeling that is something far higher than nonchalance, she tells them that she has stepped in out of a sense of hospitality from an interrupted sitting with Durien, where she poses for "the head, hands, feet-everything." Here in a few telling words we have the first phase of her character, before the refining influence of the three Englishmen had shown her receptive nature that there were things in the world that could not be found in the Latin Quarter, and that there were-or had been-higher possibilities for her than the wayward life of a Paris grisette. It may sound like sentimental cant to say that the predominating note in Trilby's nature at this time is one of innocence, but the coldest philosopher cannot read that first chapter and call it anything else. To her humble trade she has been apprenticed from the cradle, and she no more understands its significance than she does Svengali's masterly rendition of the Rosamonde of Schubert. She is not only tone-deaf, but deaf to all the nice distinctions of the world. Later, of course, everything is changed, and Mr. Du Maurier strikes his most pathetic note when the meaning of it all suddenly bursts upon her mind, and she rushes, with tears of bitter

ness and despair, into the confiding arms of the tenderhearted laird. No more cigarettes and slangy French for Trilby O'Ferrall.

We see more in that first remarkable chapter than this virginal aspect of Trilby's heart. We catch the first glimpse of her delightful sense of companionship, her perennial good nature. Trilby possesses what is lacking in so many heroines of fin de siècle romance-the power to laugh. And it is a good hearty merry peal, that rings through all the pages; though we are told that she possesses a voice of unexampled musical sweetness we are sure this laughter comes from a still more musical heart. What more congenial studio could she have strayed into during that noon hour than that which contained the great souls of Taffy Wynne and the jolly laird of Cockpen, to say nothing of the most delicate spirit of them all, the great artist that was to be, who did not often laugh it is true, but who frequently smiled? It will be a long time before we forget the figure of the laird sitting before his easel with his pipe reversed, painting the toreadors he had never seen, or the mighty Taffy sweating over his life like reproduction of rag-pickers as they really were. We shall never cease to admire the fatherly spirit of Sandy McAllister, even though he did most treacherously leave his friend in the lurch on the day of Mrs. Bagot's never-to-be-forgotten call. It is true that he might spout the "Ballad of the Bouillabaisse" more frequently than he said his prayers, but Trilby liked him immensely, and Trilby is our best judge in a matter of friendship. What a splendid part Taffy does play! Who does not feel a satisfaction at every one of those slaps with which he shakes Svengali's worthless shoulders, and what reader can help from wishing that he had been the one to pull that gentleman's nose before the whole Parisian mob? There is no nonsense about these two comrades; they are the genuine thing. There are few figures in literary history of whom Thackeray could not bring himself to write a parody, but one can be sure that he would warmly grasp these men by the

hand-and perhaps recognize them as foster sons of his own. Just what, however, he would have made of Svengali, is not so certain. This great musician is surely one of the most tremendous superlatives that ever did service as the villain of a tale. He is a grewsome, uncanny thing, and should not walk, but crawl. The author has spared no pains, from the large, dirty velveteen cloak to the burnt-up black beard growing almost from under his eyelids, to contrast his ugly nature with the "three nice clean Englishmen" that so quickly found their way to Trilby's heart.

There is a subtle beauty in the character of Little Billie that the critics do not seem to have entirely understood. Why he should be sneered at as a prig because his nature received a shock every time he thought that Trilby sat for the figure is not plain unless priggishness and chivalry are synonymous terms. The most liberal and clearly visioned reader does not gain a truer insight into the many-sided character of Trilby than this little genius, whose point of view it is always safe to follow. Prig though he may be, he has several occasions during the progress of the story for a very effective and well-chosen damn, which are among the finest things he says. He is perhaps at one time a little little overshadowed by Taffy's long suppressed suffering and good nature, but he is always the first to feel his own shortcomings. His is a spirit that is more eloquent in silence than in words; and is as delicately drawn as the sketch of Trilby's foot with which he immortalized the old studio at Madame Vinard's. The secret of his nature is revealed that famous Christmas night, when his whole being was stirred by the ringing of the bells, "and a wave of religious emotion swept him off his little legs, swept him out of his little self, drowned him in a seething surge of love-love of his kind, love of love, love of life, love of death, love of all that is and ever was and ever will be. . . . And it seemed to him that he stretched out his arms for love to one figure especially beloved beyond all the rest,-one figure erect on high with arms stretched out to him in more


« ForrigeFortsæt »