« ForrigeFortsæt »
by a resolution of energetic defence against Ultramontane aggression, we should be the last to find fault with it.* But this legislation is itself aggressive. This is the tendency which provokes the strong resistance of the Catholics in Germany, the force of which is testified by the result of the last elections, and will go on increasing till the Government acknowledges that it bent the bow the wrong way. It will then become necessary to try a real settlement of the thorny question of State and Church by a comprehensive legislation, resting upon the reverse principle of that which prompted the Falk laws, not indeed by attempting to effect an absolute separation of the two powers, which is impossible, but by reducing their mutual interference to the minimum compatible with true and lasting national interests.
ART. IV.-The Parisians. By EDWARD BULWER, Lord
LYTTON, Author of · The Coming Race.' Edinburgh :
1873-74. 4 vols. 'WE
E none of us prize a blessing till we have lost it,' was
the remark of the worthy Squire Hazeldean in the speech of reconciliation he made to his tenantry after the memorable quarrel. Never is the remark more applicable than when a valued friend has just been taken from us, and then in the first sorrow of the bereavement perhaps we are inclined to do him more than justice. Memory refuses to rest upon his faults and lingers fondly on unappreciated virtues. Nor are we ever more sensible of this than when death robs us suddenly of some favourite author, while he is yet in the full vigour of his powers--some favourite with whom acquaintance passed long ago into intimacy, and intimacy has been ripening into familiar friendship. For the friendship formed through books is essentially selfish. It dies away with the decay of the gifts that have charmed us, possibly to be revived for the moment by old associations, when death recalls half-forgotten enjoyments.
It is seldom indeed that we have to lament a loss like Lord Lytton's, and now the selfish sincerity of our regret may give us the measure of his peculiar genius. Criticism by comparison is as unsatisfactory as it is odious, and never
The law on civil marriage which has just passed is an attempt in this direction. But, although brought forward in consequence of the opposition to the ecclesiastical laws, it follows an entirely different policy, that of separating as far as possible the civil from the religious domain.
is it less easy than when applied to writings whose primary purpose
is to amuse. Placing 'representatives of the widely various schools of fiction always reminds us of the ingenious classification in travellers' guide-books that assigns to masterpieces of art their rank in a promiscuous order of meritan order where Paul Potter with his Bull figures next to Domenichino and the Communion of St. Jerome. Yet in reading Lord Lytton's unfinished novel one comparison forces itself on us involuntarily, and secures to the author of · The • Parisians' a distinct position of his own. Absolutely the novel is admirable ; relatively it takes rank with the best and most finished works of its author. So much, we fancy, will be generally admitted, pending any minute analysis of its merits. Yet The Parisians' is the last work of a most prolific writer, who died at the ripe age of sixty-eight, after assiduously weaving fiction through a busy lifetime. We can recall no other instance precisely parallel; no similar case of a man who has gone on producing novels so indefatigably, and always adding to his literary laurels, until at last the pen slipped from his fingers. Examples of the common rule, to which Lord Lytton is perhaps the solitary exception, present themselves readily enough. There are Sir Walter Scott, and that brilliant and most unequal Frenchman, who may possibly pass for Scott's French counterpart. Scott burst upon the world with a fertility almost as extraordinary as his genius. Turning from verse to prose, he punctually produced his three-volume novels by the quarter or half year with all the precision of machinery, while his admirers mobbed the doors of his publishers in London, to scramble for the cargoes discharged from the Leith sailing packets. But the great magician survived until his wand had lost its virtue, and the author of Waverley' wrote • Count Robert of Paris.' •Monte Christo 'has a fair chance of immortality, notwithstanding its sins of taste and the vulgar extravagance of its conceptions; but who can remember the names of its author's later works ? While the most popular humourist of our own times, although he laboured on to the last in spite of a decreasing circulation, was chiefly indebted to old kindness for such measure of popularity as he managed to retain. His pathos had deteriorated into a trick of style: his humour was the melancholy phantom of its former self; and he reminded one painfully of the worn-out bon vivant whose efforts at sparkling depress the society of which he was once the life and soul. Mr. Forster has done all it is possible to do, and not without success, to excite our sympathy and admiration for Charles Dickens, but he leaves us with the melancholy impression that, with all his gifts and untiring energy, that child of genius was worn out before he died.
In short, in the common and expressive phrase, most popular novelists write themselves out; but who shall say that of Lord Lytton? His novels group themselves naturally by periods, and we feel that with each successive group we rise to higher ground, and are breathing an atmosphere that is purer and more refined. •Pelham ' had a great success; but Pelham’ after all was but the fashionable novel of the day, although the hero's career showed that life had ambitions beyond the drawing-rooms and outside the clubs. With a great deal that was original and vigorous, there was a great deal more that was high-flown and transcendental. In Ernest Maltravers, • Alice,' and their companions, there was much morbid sentimentality ; the moral tendencies were by no means so unimpeachable as they might have been, and all were more or less disfigured by mannerisms. We may say the same of the romances of Eugene Aram' and · Paul Clifford,' which impress us chiefly as brilliant tours de force. In the former the author made not only an exciting but touching story out of the solitary crime of a deliberate murderer, where the dénouement was foreknown; in the latter he treated a career of vulgar lawlessness with what taste and refinement the subject was susceptible of. The critics took exception to all these books on the score of their morality, but no one disputed that the author's powers were maturing, and it was just as evident that he wrote with a deeper purpose. He loved to dilate on the struggles of ill-regulated minds, strong in their natural tendencies to good ; his style grew smoother without losing any of its force; but it was especially in dramatic treatment and the art of ingenious construction that he showed a marked advance. He was never more dramatic than in his historical novels, and yet it was not historic scene-painting that gave them their principal attraction. He achieved the feat of transporting the people of his time, with their modern sympathies, back to an age of historical abstractions; he peopled the Rome of Rienzi and the England of Harold with beings of blood and passions like our own. Of the · Last of the · Barons' we need only say that no writer is always equal to himself; but what stranger has visited Pompeii in our times without going straight to the house of Diomede and descending into the vault beneath ? You forget that the brilliant Julia only lived in Lord Lytton's fancy, as you follow the finger of the guide when it traces the impress left by her form on her death bed of ashes.
VOL. CXXXIX. NO. CCLXXXIV.
All these works and many more were in what we may call his earlier manner. • The Caxtons,' like · The Parisians, came as a surprise on the public, in the columns of · Black
wood.' Not only had he once more shifted his ground, but he had broken into deeper strata. It was then that, to our mind, he began indisputably to vindicate his claims to genius as distinguished from talent. He had been brilliant before; he had shown himself a diligent student, an earnest thinker, and a keen observer. It was evident that he had made the most of his natural and social advantages. But hitherto the sparkle had been on the surface of things, and his thoughts had dipped but little beneath it. Now it appeared that his studies had been far more extensive and his observation infinitely more profound than most men had given him credit for. To borrow one of his own favourite forms of expression, henceforth the Ideal was more toned down by the Practical
. Experience of men began to dominate researches in books, and for the first time he appeared to draw in earnest upon those stores of life-knowledge that he had long been accumulating. And ever since, he has been driving his side galleries from the shafts that he then began to sink; following out fresh veins as he struck them, and smelting the treasures, just as he extracted them, in those fires of his genius that have always been in full blast. The tasks he might still have achieved could only have been measured by his health and strength; and his strength had shown few signs of failing when death surprised him over his labours. The unwearied toiler was bringing forth ore as fast as ever, and the temper of • The Parisians' is at least as pure as the metal of any of its numerous predecessors.
We often indulge in unavailing regrets over the waste of accumulated treasures, when we lose a man who has devoted a lifetime to study. Literæ scriptæ manent: his written works survive him ; but of all the rest he leaves nothing behind him for the benefit of those who may be following in his footsteps. Yet sheer industry may generally be trusted to repair a loss like that, and for ought we know, for the man who drops, a ' thousand good as he may be coming on behind him. With a great novelist, and with a novelist like Lord Lytton in particular, the case is absolutely different. We are assured with a melancholy certainty, not only that there is no one left to occupy Lord Lytton's place, but that no one can possibly come in to fill it, at least in the lifetime of the present generation. We might even venture further, and assert that in his own especial walk he never had a predecessar who resembled him. Yet we do not claim for him either very transcendent or very original genius. Setting genius aside altogether, or at least subordinating it to other considerations, few men have combined his tastes and gifts with the very exceptional advantages he enjoyed. Born with intuitive literary taste, with a decided literary bent, with a mind at once vigorous and versatile; with a nature that was only happy in activity; with indefatigable industry that despised no drudgery that might serve as the stepping-stone to success; with dramatic instincts and a delicately poetical temperament; with rare faculties of observation and engaging manners that enabled him to turn these to the most useful purpose, he steered his course in life with definite objects, and to the last he never lost sight of them. With birth and connexions that placed him in the best society, he had powers that recommended him to the most cultivated intellects. The extent of his reading, and the laborious care with which he made notes of all he read, are almost inconceivable: but they are attested by the prodigious mass of unpublished manuscript he has left behind him. As a poet he never achieved the success to which he thought himself entitled, though his versification was often harmonious and his satirical lines sometimes strong. But as a dramatist he gave the English stage three or four of the best modern plays, and he has left as many more behind him. His literary tastes and gifts were united with considerable powers of oratory in the House of Commons, and with good sense in official life. These multifarious pursuits made each other's complement, and conspired in common to form the accomplished novelist. The poet became the politician; the dreamer and thinker, turning to active business, had to deal with hard realities under the wholesome dread of hostile criticism; and poet, thinker, and politician were alike men of the world. While Pelham' was verging into · Audley • Egerton,' Lord Lytton's lighter and fresher fancies contrived to relieve the gravity of his more earnest thought; and to borrow one of the ideas in his own · Parisians, in him the ideal world lay to the last alongside of the real. He went on widening and deepening his knowledge of human nature, but that perennial spring of poetry bubbling up in his nature always refreshed his writings, and saved them from anything like cynicism. As he appreciated the weaknesses of men more justly, he grew more tolerant of their failings, and learned to dwell more hopefully on their redeeming merits. Hence. his books went on increasing in power as they rendered humar nature more and more faithfully; and yet the last of them