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391 better than he with what richly gilded coverings we are apt to clothe the evil passions and desires of our nature.
One of the most industrious literary craftsmen of the Victorian era was Lord Lytton-Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer Lytton, to give him his full name. Born in 1805 of an ancient family, he was, after a brilliant literary and political career, elevated to the peerage in 1866. During his busy life, there were few departments of literature which he did not attempt. Not only did he write novels, but also history, poetry, essays, and plays. The bare enumeration of his writings would alone occupy more space than can here be afforded. One of his first writings, “ Falkland,” a tale full of that sham Byronic sentiment with which many young writers were infected at the time of its publication, proved a failure, but with “Pelham," which appeared in 1828, began that career of popularity which was closed only by the author's death. It is a novel of fashionable life, full of those errors of taste into which a young writer is apt to fall, but undeniably clever, and containing some brilliant sketches of society. After it came in quick succession “ The Disowned,” “Devereux,” and “Paul Clifford,” the last one of those attempts to “make a hero out of a scoundrel” against which Thackeray during his early career directed some of his most pungent satire. In 1831 Bulwer (his name till he became a peer) entered Parliament. In the following year appeared “Eugene Aram,” a tale of the "Paul Clifford” species. Within a few years came his first historical novels, “The Last Days of Pompeii” and “Rienzi," followed in 1843 and 1848 by two others of a similar class on subjects taken from English history—"The Last of the Barons” and “Harold.” All these are distinguished by the accuracy of their archæological and historical colouring, though in picturesqueness and ease they are far inferior to the wonderful series in which Scott made bygone times and men real to us. In 1849 appeared “The Caxtons,” in which the versatile author took a new departure. It is a novel of domestic life, more natural and pleasing than any of his previous productions. Its success was followed up by two other novels of the same series, “My Novel" and
“What will He Do with It?" the former of which is generally considered his masterpiece. In 1862 appeared “A Strange Story,” one of those tales of mystery of which he wrote several, “Zanoni" (1842) being perhaps the most striking. It was a great favourite with the author, to whom the study of magic and kindred arts always presented a great attraction. mained ardent in his devotion to literature to the end. A novel from his pen, “The Parisians," was appearing in Blackwood at the time of his death, which occurred in 1872; and the final proofs of another novel, “ Kenelm Chillingly," were corrected by him only a few days before the sad event.
Lytton cannot be called a novelist of the first class. There is an air of artificiality about everything he says, a "stagey” sentiment, a love of concealing feeble or inaccurate thought beneath a sort of philosophical jargon, which, added to other faults, place him below the really great masters of the art of fiction, the Fieldings, the Scotts, and the Thackeray's. But he was a man of very remarkable endowments, ardent ambition, and indomitable perseverance. In 1856, addressing the boys of a school, he said, “Boys, when I look at your young faces I could fancy myself a boy once more. I go back to the days when I too tried for prizes, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing. I was once as fond of play as any of you, and in this summer weather I fear my head migiit have been more full of cricket than of Terence or even Homer. But still I can remember that, whether at work or at play, I had always a deep though quiet determination, that sooner or later I would be a somebody or do a something. That determination continues with me to this hour.” Hence his desire to excel in various fields. His first play was a comparative failure, but he had set his heart upon winning dramatic laurels, and to a certain extent he succeeded. “The Lady of Lyons," "Richelieu," and the brilliant comedy of "Money” are always welcome on the stage. To the fame of the writer of works of the imagination he aspired to add that of the scholar, and an unfinished “ History of Athens” and a translation of the “Odes of Horace " with notes, show at all events that he kept up his
acquaintance with the classics to an extent very rare among men so multifariously occupied as he was. In one ambition only he altogether failed; but unfortunately that ambition was his most burning and unquenchable one. There was some. thing almost pitiable about the way in which he went on publishing poem after poem without ever attaining such success as would place him high even in the second rank of writers of verse. Nature, bountiful to him in many respects, had denied him the poetical faculty; even his highest performances of this kind would have been better had they been written in prose. His son, the present Lord Lytton (born 1831), better known as a writer under his pseudonym of "Owen Meredith,” has been more fortunate in his poetical attempts. All his poems, if occasionally marred by faults of diction and sentiment, have about them that indescribable something which distinguishes the work of a genuine poet from that of the mere verse-writer.
Few novels have made a greater sensation at their first appearance than "Jane Eyre," published in 1847. All competent critics, however much they might differ about certain features in the work, were agreed in acknowledging its original power and its thrilling interest, and conjectures were rife as to who could be the unknown “ Currer Bell ” whose name appeared on its title-page. Most of these conjectures were very wide of the mark. “Currer Bell” was the name adopted by Charlotte Brontë, a poor girl, brought up in a homely parsonage amid the bleak wilds of Yorkshire, without any literary friends to aid her in her struggle for fame. There are few more interesting and pathetic stories than that of her and her gifted sisters Emily and Anne. Charlotte, the eldest of the three, was born at Thornton, in Bradford parish, in 1816. Four years later her father, who was a clergyman, removed to Haworth, and there she was brought up and wrote her wonderful novels. Her life was a sad one enough, chequered by poverty, by poor health, by family trials, and by the yearnings of an ambition which was late in finding any fit field for its exercise. All the family were remarkably gifted, and many were the manuscripts which proceeded from their pens,
but it was not till 1846 that Charlotte appeared before the public as an author. In that year was published (at the expense of the writers) a small volume of poems" by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell,” the two last names being the pseudonyms of her sisters Emily and Anne. It attracted very little attention. “The book was printed,” wrote Charlotte, in the biographical notice of her sisters; "it is scarcely known, and all of it that merits to be known are the poems of Ellis Bell.” During the same year a tale of Charlotte Brontë's, “The Professor," was plodding a weary round among the London publishers. "Currer Beli's book," she says, "found acceptance nowhere, nor any acknowledgment of merit, so that something like the chill of despair began to invade his heart.” Two other novels, “Wuthering Heights," by Emily Brontë, a tale of great, though morbid and undisciplined power, and “Agnes Grey," by Anne Brontë, had found publishers, though on such terms as could afford no gratification to the authors; but Charlotte found no gleam of encouragement till the MS. of “ The Professor” was returned to her by Messrs. Smith, Elder, & Co., to whom it had been submitted, along with a courteous letter, declining the tale, but adding that a novel in three volumes would meet with careful consideration. “Jane Eyre," on which she had been for some time engaged, was accordingly sent to them, and at once accepted. Its publication soon after gave her at once a fame and popularity which suffered no diminution from her two succeeding novels, “Shirley" (1849), in which she availed herself of her experience of Yorkshire character, and “ Villette” (1852), in which she made use of some of the material of “The Professor," containing faithful transcripts from her experiences as teacher and pupil in Belgium. In 1854 she married Mr. Nicholls, who had been for eight years her father's curate. The union was a very happy one; but her health, always delicate, gave way, and she died in March 1855. Her two sisters had preceded her to the still country. Charlotte Brontë's life was written with admirable literary skill and good taste by her friend Mrs. Gaskell (1810-1865), herself a novelist of high merit. Among her best-known works are
Charlotte Brontë's Writings.
"Mary Barton," a story of factory life, “ Ruth," and " Crauford.”
Charlotte Brontë had high notions of her calling. In signal contrast to the many lady-novelists, who nowadays pour forth novel after novel with such unceasing rapidity that the panting critic toils after them in vain, she published nothing till it was as good as she could make it, and never wrote except when she felt that she was really in the vein for doing so. Like all who labour conscientiously, she has had her reward. Her works have not, like many other fictions, been sought eagerly at circulating libraries for a season or two and then forgotten; on the other hand, they have taken a secure place in the list of English classics. Her style is intense, vivid, and glowing; and in the descriptions of certain aspects of nature — for example, of a stormy, cloudy sky-it would be hard to mention a writer who is her superior. There are no dull places in her narratives. Everywhere we find that vigour and animation which are a sure sign of a writer having fully matured his conceptions. Harriet Martineau complained that in her novels she always wrote as if love was woman's chief, almost woman's only, interest in life. There is a good deal of force in this remark, but no writer had ever a more pure and highsouled idea of what passionate love really is than Charlotte Brontë had. Her want of knowledge of the usages of society, and her limited experience of life and manners, led her into some mistakes, but they are so comparatively insignificant as in no way to detract from the nobleness of her work. We entirely agree with Mr. W. C. Roscoel in utterly repudiating the cry of “coarseness" with which “Jane Eyre,” in particular, was assailed. "Coarse materials, indeed," he says, "she too much deals with, and her own style has something rude and uncompromising in it not always in accordance with customary ideas of what is becoming in a female writer; but it would be scarcely possible to name a writer who, in handling such difficult subject matter, carries the reader so safely through by the