HotFreeBooks.com
Adventures among Books
by Andrew Lang
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Already Madame La Motte has become jealous of Adeline, especially as her husband is oddly melancholy, and apt to withdraw into a glade, where he mysteriously disappears into the recesses of a genuine Gothic sepulchre. This, to the watchful eyes of a wife, is proof of faithlessness on the part of a husband. As the son, Louis, really falls in love with Adeline, Madame La Motte becomes doubly unkind to her, and Adeline now composes quantities of poems to Night, to Sunset, to the Nocturnal Gale, and so on.

In this uncomfortable situation, two strangers arrive in a terrific thunderstorm. One is young, the other is a Marquis. On seeing this nobleman, "La Motte's limbs trembled, and a ghastly paleness overspread his countenance. The Marquis was little less agitated," and was, at first, decidedly hostile. La Motte implored forgiveness—for what?—and the Marquis (who, in fact, owned the Abbey, and had a shooting lodge not far off) was mollified. They all became rather friendly, and Adeline asked La Motte about the stories of hauntings, and a murder said to have been, at some time, committed in the Abbey. La Motte said that the Marquis could have no connection with such fables; still, there was the skeleton.

Meanwhile, Adeline had conceived a flame for Theodore, the young officer who accompanied his colonel, the Marquis, on their first visit to the family. Theodore, who returned her passion, had vaguely warned her of an impending danger, and then had failed to keep tryst with her, one evening, and had mysteriously disappeared. Then unhappy Adeline dreamed about a prisoner, a dying man, a coffin, a voice from the coffin, and the appearance within it of the dying man, amidst torrents of blood. The chamber in which she saw these visions was most vividly represented. Next day the Marquis came to dinner, and, though reluctantly, consented to pass the night: Adeline, therefore, was put in a new bedroom. Disturbed by the wind shaking the mouldering tapestry, she found a concealed door behind the arras and a suite of rooms, one of which was the chamber of her dream! On the floor lay a rusty dagger! The bedstead, being touched, crumbled, and disclosed a small roll of manuscripts. They were not washing bills, like those discovered by Catherine Morland in "Northanger Abbey." Returning to her own chamber, Adeline heard the Marquis professing to La Motte a passion for herself. Conceive her horror! Silence then reigned, till all was sudden noise and confusion; the Marquis flying in terror from his room, and insisting on instant departure. His emotion was powerfully displayed.

What had occurred? Mrs. Radcliffe does not say, but horror, whether caused by a conscience ill at ease, or by events of a terrific and supernatural kind, is plainly indicated. In daylight, the Marquis audaciously pressed his unholy suit, and even offered marriage, a hollow mockery, for he was well known to be already a married man. The scenes of Adeline's flight, capture, retention in an elegant villa of the licentious noble, renewed flight, rescue by Theodore, with Theodore's arrest, and wounding of the tyrannical Marquis, are all of breathless interest. Mrs. Radcliffe excels in narratives of romantic escapes, a topic always thrilling when well handled. Adeline herself is carried back to the Abbey, but La Motte, who had rather not be a villain if he could avoid it, enables her again to secure her freedom. He is clearly in the power of the Marquis, and his life has been unscrupulous, but he retains traces of better things. Adeline is now secretly conveyed to a peaceful valley in Savoy, the home of the honest Peter (the coachman), who accompanies her. Here she learns to know and value the family of La Luc, the kindred of her Theodore (by a romantic coincidence), and, in the adorable scenery of Savoy, she throws many a ballad to the Moon.

La Motte, on the discovery of Adeline's flight, was cast into prison by the revengeful Marquis, for, in fact, soon after settling in the Abbey, it had occurred to La Motte to commence highwayman. His very first victim had been the Marquis, and, during his mysterious retreats to a tomb in a glade in the forest, he had, in short, been contemplating his booty, jewels which he could not convert into ready money. Consequently, when the Marquis first entered the Abbey, La Motte had every reason for alarm, and only pacified the vindictive aristocrat by yielding to his cruel schemes against the virtue of Adeline.

Happily for La Motte, a witness appeared at his trial, who cast a lurid light on the character of the Marquis. That villain, to be plain, had murdered his elder brother (the skeleton of the Abbey), and had been anxious to murder, it was added, his own natural daughter—that is, Adeline! His hired felons, however, placed her in a convent, and, later (rather than kill her, on which the Marquis insisted), simply thrust her into the hands of La Motte, who happened to pass by that way, as we saw in the opening of this romance. Thus, in making love to Adeline, his daughter, the Marquis was, unconsciously, in an awkward position. On further examination of evidence, however, things proved otherwise. Adeline was not the natural daughter of the Marquis, but his niece, the legitimate daughter and heiress of his brother (the skeleton of the Abbey). The MS. found by Adeline in the room of the rusty dagger added documentary evidence, for it was a narrative of the sufferings of her father (later the skeleton), written by him in the Abbey where he was imprisoned and stabbed, and where his bones were discovered by La Motte. The hasty nocturnal flight of the Marquis from the Abbey is thus accounted for: he had probably been the victim of a terrific hallucination representing his murdered brother; whether it was veridical or merely subjective Mrs. Radcliffe does not decide. Rather than face the outraged justice of his country, the Marquis, after these revelations, took poison. La Motte was banished; and Adeline, now mistress of the Abbey, removed the paternal skeleton to "the vault of his ancestors." Theodore and Adeline were united, and virtuously resided in a villa on the beautiful banks of the Lake of Geneva.

Such is the "Romance of the Forest," a fiction in which character is subordinate to plot and incident. There is an attempt at character drawing in La Motte, and in his wife; the hero and heroine are not distinguishable from Julia and Hippolytus. But Mrs. Radcliffe does not aim at psychological niceties, and we must not blame her for withholding what it was no part of her purpose to give. "The Romance of the Forest" was, so far, infinitely the most thrilling of modern English works of fiction. "Every reader felt the force," says Scott, "from the sage in his study, to the family group in middle life," and nobody felt it more than Scott himself, then a young gentleman of nineteen, who, when asked how his time was employed, answered, "I read no Civil Law." He did read Mrs. Radcliffe, and, in "The Betrothed," followed her example in the story of the haunted chamber where the heroine faces the spectre attached to her ancient family.

"The Mysteries of Udolpho," Mrs. Radcliffe's next and most celebrated work, is not (in the judgment of this reader, at least) her masterpiece. The booksellers paid her what Scott, erroneously, calls "the unprecedented sum of 500 pounds" for the romance, and they must have made a profitable bargain. "The public," says Scott, "rushed upon it with all the eagerness of curiosity, and rose from it with unsated appetite." I arise with a thoroughly sated appetite from the "Mysteries of Udolpho." The book, as Sir Walter saw, is "The Romance of the Forest" raised to a higher power. We have a similar and similarly situated heroine, cruelly detached from her young man, and immured in a howling wilderness of a brigand castle in the Apennines. In place of the Marquis is a miscreant on a larger and more ferocious scale. The usual mysteries of voices, lights, secret passages, and innumerable doors are provided regardless of economy. The great question, which I shall not answer, is, what did the Black Veil conceal? Not "the bones of Laurentina," as Catherine Morland supposed.

Here is Emily's adventure with the veil. "She paused again, and then, with a timid hand, lifted the veil; but instantly let it fall—perceiving that what it had concealed was no picture, and before she could leave the chamber she dropped senseless on the floor. When she recovered her recollection, . . . horror occupied her mind." Countless mysteries coagulate around this veil, and the reader is apt to be disappointed when the awful curtain is withdrawn. But he has enjoyed, for several hundred pages, the pleasures of anticipation. A pedantic censor may remark that, while the date of the story is 1580, all the virtuous people live in an idyllic fashion, like creatures of Rousseau, existing solely for landscape and the affections, writing poetry on Nature, animate and inanimate, including the common Bat, and drawing in water colours. In those elegant avocations began, and in these, after an interval of adventures "amazing horrid," concluded the career of Emily.

Mrs. Radcliffe keeps the many entangled threads of her complex web well in hand, and incidents which puzzle you at the beginning fall naturally into place before the end. The character of the heroine's silly, vain, unkind, and unreasonable aunt is vividly designed (that Emily should mistake the corse of a moustached bandit for that of her aunt is an incident hard to defend). Valancourt is not an ordinary spotless hero, but sows his wild oats, and reaps the usual harvest; and Annette is a good sample of the usual soubrette. When one has said that the landscapes and bandits of this romance are worthy of Poussin and Salvator Rosa, from whom they were probably translated into words, not much remains to be added. Sir Walter, after repeated perusals, considered "Udolpho" "a step beyond Mrs. Radcliffe's former work, high as that had justly advanced her." But he admits that "persons of no mean judgment" preferred "The Romance of the Forest." With these amateurs I would be ranked. The ingenuity and originality of the "Romance" are greater: our friend the skeleton is better than that Thing which was behind the Black Veil, the escapes of Adeline are more thrilling than the escape of Emily, and the "Romance" is not nearly so long, not nearly so prolix as "Udolpho."

The roof and crown of Mrs. Radcliffe's work is "The Italian" (1797), for which she received 800 pounds. {6} The scene is Naples, the date about 1764; the topic is the thwarted loves of Vivaldi and Ellena; the villain is the admirable Schedoni, the prototype of Byron's lurid characters.

"The Italian" is an excellent novel. The Prelude, "the dark and vaulted gateway," is not unworthy of Hawthorne, who, I suspect, had studied Mrs. Radcliffe. The theme is more like a theme of this world than usual. The parents of a young noble might well try to prevent him from marrying an unknown and penniless girl. The Marchese Vivaldi only adopts the ordinary paternal measures; the Marchesa, and her confessor the dark-souled Schedoni, go farther—as far as assassination. The casuistry by which Schedoni brings the lady to this pass, while representing her as the originator of the scheme, is really subtle, and the scenes between the pair show an extraordinary advance on Mrs. Radcliffe's earlier art. The mysterious Monk who counteracts Schedoni remains an unsolved mystery to me, but of that I do not complain. He is as good as the Dweller in the Catacombs who haunts Miriam in Hawthorne's "Marble Faun." The Inquisition, its cells, and its tribunals are coloured

"As when some great painter dips His pencil in the gloom of earthquake and eclipse."

The comic valet, Paulo, who insists on being locked up in the dungeons of the Inquisition merely because his master is there, reminds one of Samuel Weller, he is a Neapolitan Samivel. The escapes are Mrs. Radcliffe's most exciting escapes, and to say that is to say a good deal. Poetry is not written, or not often, by the heroine. The scene in which Schedoni has his dagger raised to murder Ellena, when he discovers that she is his daughter, "is of a new, grand, and powerful character" (Scott), while it is even more satisfactory to learn later that Ellena was not Schedoni's daughter after all.

Why Mrs. Radcliffe, having reached such a pitch of success, never again published a novel, remains more mysterious than any of her Mysteries. Scott justly remarks that her censors attacked her "by showing that she does not possess the excellences proper to a style of composition totally different from that which she has attempted." This is the usual way of reviewers. Tales that fascinated Scott, Fox, and Sheridan, "which possess charms for the learned and unlearned, the grave and gay, the gentleman and clown," do not deserve to be dismissed with a sneer by people who have never read them. Following Horace Walpole in some degree, Mrs. Radcliffe paved the way for Scott, Byron, Maturin, Lewis, and Charlotte Bronte, just as Miss Burney filled the gap between Smollett and Miss Austen. Mrs. Radcliffe, in short, kept the Lamp of Romance burning much more steadily than the lamps which, in her novels, are always blown out, in the moment of excited apprehension, by the night wind walking in the dank corridors of haunted abbeys. But mark the cruelty of an intellectual parent! Horace Walpole was Mrs. Radcliffe's father in the spirit. Yet, on September 4, 1794, he wrote to Lady Ossory: "I have read some of the descriptive verbose tales, of which your Ladyship says I was the patriarch by several mothers" (Miss Reeve and Mrs. Radcliffe?). "All I can say for myself is that I do not think my concubines have produced issue more natural for excluding the aid of anything marvellous."



CHAPTER VII: A SCOTTISH ROMANTICIST OF 1830

The finding of a rare book that you have wanted long is one of the happier moments in life. Whatever we may think of life when we contemplate it as a whole, it is a delight to discover what one has sought for years, especially if the book be a book which you really want to read, and not a thing whose value is given by the fashion of collecting. Perhaps nobody ever collected before

THE DEATH-WAKE, OR LUNACY A NECROMAUNT

In Three Chimeras

BY THOMAS T. STODDART.

"Is't like that lead contains her?— It were too gross To rib her cerecloth in the obscure grave."— Shakespeare.

EDINBURGH: Printed for HENRY CONSTABLE, Edinburgh, And HURST, CHANCE, & CO., London.

MDCCCXXXI.

This is my rare book, and it is rare for an excellent good reason, as will be shown. But first of the author. Mr. Thomas Tod Stoddart was born in 1810. He died in 1880. Through all his pilgrimage of three-score years and ten, his "rod and staff did comfort him," as the Scottish version of the Psalms has it; nay, his staff was his rod. He "was an angler," as he remarked when a friend asked: "Well, Tom, what are you doing now." He was the patriarch, the Father Izaak, of Scottish fishers, and he sleeps, according to his desire, like Scott, within hearing of the Tweed. His memoir, published by his daughter, in "Stoddart's Angling Songs" (Blackwood), is an admirable biography, quo fit ut omnis Votiva pateat veluti descripta tabella Vita senis.

But it is with the "young Tom Stoddart," the poet of twenty, not with the old angling sage, that we have to do. Miss Stoddart has discreetly republished only the Angling Songs of her father, the pick of them being classical in their way. Now, as Mr. Arnold writes:—

"Two desires toss about The poet's feverish blood, One drives him to the world without, And one to solitude."

The young Stoddart's two desires were poetry and fishing. He began with poetry. "At the age of ten his whole desire was to produce an immortal tragedy . . . Blood and battle were the powers with which he worked, and with no meaner tool. Every other dramatic form he despised." It is curious to think of the schoolboy, the born Romanticist, labouring at these things, while Gerard de Nerval, and Victor Hugo, and Theophile Gautier, and Petrus Borel were boys also—boys of the same ambitions, and with much the same romantic tastes. Stoddart had, luckily, another love besides the Muse. "With the spring and the May fly, the dagger dipped in gore paled before the supple rod, and the dainty midge." Finally, the rod and midge prevailed.

"Wee dour-looking hooks are the thing, Mouse body and laverock wing."

But before he quite abandoned all poetry save fishing ditties, he wrote and published the volume whose title-page we have printed, "The Death Wake." The lad who drove home from an angling expedition in a hearse had an odd way of combining his amusements. He lived among poets and critics who were anglers—Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd (who cast but a heavy line, they say, in Yarrow), Aytoun, Christopher North, De Quincey—

"No fisher But a well-wisher To the game,"

as Scott has it—these were his companions, older or younger. None of these, certainly not Wilson, nor Hogg, nor Aytoun, were friends of the Romantic school, as illustrated by Keats and Shelley. None of them probably knew much of Gautier, De Nerval, Borel, le lycanthrope, and the other boys in that boyish movement of 1830. It was only Stoddart, unconsciously in sympathy with Paris, and censured by his literary friends, who produced the one British Romantic work of 1830. The title itself shows that he was partly laughing at his own performance; he has the mockery of Les Jeunes France in him, as well as the wormy and obituary joys of La Comedie de la Mort. The little book came out, inspired by "all the poetasters." Christopher North wrote, four years later, in Blackwood's Magazine, a tardy review. He styled it "an ingeniously absurd poem, with an ingeniously absurd title, written in a strange, namby-pamby sort of style, between the weakest of Shelley and the strongest of Barry Cornwall." The book "fell dead from the Press," far more dead than "Omar Khayyam." Nay, misfortune pursued it, Miss Stoddart kindly informs me, and it was doomed to the flames. The "remainder," the bulk of the edition, was returned to the poet in sheets, and by him was deposited in a garret. The family had a cook, one Betty, a descendant, perhaps, of "that unhappy Betty or Elizabeth Barnes, cook of Mr. Warburton, Somerset Herald," who burned, among other quartos, Shakespeare's "Henry I.," "Henry II.," and "King Stephen." True to her inherited instincts, Mr. Stoddart's Betty, slowly, relentlessly, through forty years, used "The Death Wake" for the needs and processes of her art. The whole of the edition, except probably a few "presentation copies," perished in the kitchen. As for that fell cook, let us hope that

"The Biblioclastic Dead Have diverse pains to brook, They break Affliction's bread With Betty Barnes, the Cook,"

as the author of "The Bird Bride" sings.

Miss Stoddart had just informed me of this disaster, which left one almost hopeless of ever owning a copy of "The Death Wake," when I found a brown paper parcel among many that contained to-day's minor poetry "with the author's compliments," and lo, in this unpromising parcel was the long-sought volume! Ever since one was a small boy, reading Stoddart's "Scottish Angler," and old Blackwood's, one had pined for a sight of "The Necromaunt," and here, clean in its "pure purple mantle" of smooth cloth, lay the desired one!

"Like Dian's kiss, unasked, unsought, It gave itself, and was not bought,"

being, indeed, the discovery and gift of a friend who fishes and studies the Lacustrine Muses.

The copy has a peculiar interest; it once belonged to Aytoun, the writer of "The Scottish Cavaliers," of "The Bon Gaultier Ballads," and of "Firmilian," the scourge of the Spasmodic School. Mr. Aytoun has adorned the margins with notes and with caricatures of skulls and cross-bones, while the fly-leaves bear a sonnet to the author, and a lyric in doggerel. Surely this is, indeed, a literary curiosity. The sonnet runs thus:—

"O wormy Thomas Stoddart, who inheritest Rich thoughts and loathsome, nauseous words and rare, Tell me, my friend, why is it that thou ferretest And gropest in each death-corrupted lair? Seek'st thou for maggots such as have affinity With those in thine own brain, or dost thou think That all is sweet which hath a horrid stink? Why dost thou make Haut-gout thy sole divinity? Here is enough of genius to convert Vile dung to precious diamonds and to spare, Then why transform the diamond into dirt, And change thy mind, which should be rich and fair, Into a medley of creations foul, As if a Seraph would become a Ghoul?"

No doubt Mr. Stoddart's other passion for angling, in which he used a Scottish latitude concerning bait, {7} impelled him to search for "worms and maggots":—

"Fire and faggots, Worms and maggots,"

as Aytoun writes on the other fly-leaf, are indeed the matter of "The Death Wake."

Then, why, some one may ask, write about "The Death Wake" at all? Why rouse again the nightmare of a boy of twenty? Certainly I am not to say that "The Death Wake" is a pearl of great price, but it does contain passages of poetry—of poetry very curious because it is full of the new note, the new melody which young Mr. Tennyson was beginning to waken. It anticipates Beddoes, it coincides with Gautier and Les Chimeres of Gerard, it answers the accents, then unheard in England, of Poe. Some American who read out of the way things, and was not too scrupulous, recognised, and robbed, a brother in Tom Stoddart. Eleven years after "The Death Wake" appeared in England, it was published in Graham's Magazine, as "Agatha, a Necromaunt in Three Chimeras," by Louis Fitzgerald Tasistro. Now Poe was closely connected with Graham's Magazine, and after "Arthur Gordon Pym," "Louis Fitzgerald Tasistro" does suggest Edgar Allen Poe. But Poe was not Tasistro.

So much for the literary history of the Lunacy.

The poem begins—Chimera I. begins:—

"An anthem of a sister choristry! And, like a windward murmur of the sea, O'er silver shells, so solemnly it falls!"

The anthem accompanies a procession of holy fathers towards a bier;

"Agathe Was on the lid—a name. And who? No more! 'Twas only Agathe."

A solitary monk is prowling around in the moonlit cathedral; he has a brow of stony marble, he has raven hair, and he falters out the name of Agathe. He has said adieu to that fair one, and to her sister Peace, that lieth in her grave. He has loved, and loves, the silent Agathe. He was the son of a Crusader,

"And Julio had fain Have been a warrior, but his very brain Grew fevered at the sickly thought of death, And to be stricken with a want of breath."

On the whole he did well not to enter the service. Mr. Aytoun has here written—"A rum Cove for a hussar."

"And he would say A curse be on their laurels. And anon Was Julio forgotten and his line— No wonder for this frenzied tale of mine."

How? asks Aytoun, nor has the grammatical enigma yet been unriddled.

"Oh! he was wearied of this passing scene! But loved not Death; his purpose was between Life and the grave; and it would vibrate there Like a wild bird that floated far and fair Betwixt the sun and sea!"

So "he became monk," and was sorry he had done so, especially when he met a pretty maid,

"And this was Agathe, young Agathe, A motherless fair girl,"

whose father was a kind of Dombey, for

"When she smiled He bade no father's welcome to the child, But even told his wish, and will'd it done, For her to be sad-hearted, and a nun!"

So she "took the dreary veil."

They met like a blighted Isabella and Lorenzo:

"They met many a time In the lone chapels after vesper chime, They met in love and fear."

Then, one day,

"He heard it said: Poor Julio, thy Agathe is dead."

She died

"Like to a star within the twilight hours Of morning, and she was not! Some have thought The Lady Abbess gave her a mad draught."

Here Mr. Aytoun, with sympathy, writes "Damn her!" (the Lady Abbess, that is) and suggests that thought must be read "thaft."

Through "the arras of the gloom" (arras is good), the pale breezes are moaning, and Julio is wan as stars unseen for paleness. However, he lifts the tombstone "as it were lightsome as a summer gladness." "A summer gladness," remarks Mr. Aytoun, "may possibly weigh about half-an- ounce." Julio came on a skull, a haggard one, in the grave, and Mr. Aytoun kindly designs a skeleton, ringing a bell, and crying "Dust ho!"

Now go, and give your poems to your friends!

Finally Julio unburies Agathe:—

"Thou must go, My sweet betrothed, with me, but not below, Where there is darkness, dream, and solitude, But where is light, and life, and one to brood Above thee, till thou wakest. Ha, I fear Thou wilt not wake for ever, sleeping here, Where there are none but the winds to visit thee. And Convent fathers, and a choristry Of sisters saying Hush! But I will sing Rare songs to thy pure spirit, wandering Down on the dews to hear me; I will tune The instrument of the ethereal moon, And all the choir of stars, to rise and fall In harmony and beauty musical."

Is this not melodious madness, and is this picture of the distraught priest, setting forth to sail the seas with his dead lady, not an invention that Nanteuil might have illustrated, and the clan of Bousingots approved?

The Second Chimera opens nobly:—

"A curse! a curse! {8} the beautiful pale wing Of a sea-bird was worn with wandering, And, on a sunny rock beside the shore, It stood, the golden waters gazing o'er; And they were nearing a brown amber flow Of weeds, that glittered gloriously below!"

Julio appears with Agathe in his arms, and what ensues is excellent of its kind:—

"He dropt upon a rock, and by him placed, Over a bed of sea-pinks growing waste, The silent ladye, and he mutter'd wild, Strange words about a mother and no child. "And I shall wed thee, Agathe! although Ours be no God-blest bridal—even so!" And from the sand he took a silver shell, That had been wasted by the fall and swell Of many a moon-borne tide into a ring— A rude, rude ring; it was a snow-white thing, Where a lone hermit limpet slept and died In ages far away. 'Thou art a bride, Sweet Agathe! Wake up; we must not linger!' He press'd the ring upon her chilly finger, And to the sea-bird on its sunny stone Shouted, 'Pale priest that liest all alone Upon thy ocean altar, rise, away To our glad bridal!' and its wings of gray All lazily it spread, and hover'd by With a wild shriek—a melancholy cry! Then, swooping slowly o'er the heaving breast Of the blue ocean, vanished in the west."

Julio sang a mad song of a mad priest to a dead maid:—

. . .

"A rosary of stars, love! a prayer as we glide, And a whisper on the wind, and a murmur on the tide, And we'll say a fair adieu to the flowers that are seen, With shells of silver sown in radiancy between.

"A rosary of stars, love! the purest they shall be, Like spirits of pale pearls in the bosom of the sea; Now help thee, {9} Virgin Mother, with a blessing as we go, Upon the laughing waters that are wandering below."

One can readily believe that Poe admired this musical sad song, if, indeed, he ever saw the poem.

One may give too many extracts, and there is scant room for the extraordinary witchery of the midnight sea and sky, where the dead and the distraught drift wandering,

"And the great ocean, like the holy hall, Where slept a Seraph host maritimal, Was gorgeous with wings of diamond"—

it was a sea

"Of radiant and moon-breasted emerald."

There follows another song—

"'Tis light to love thee living, girl, when hope is full and fair, In the springtide of thy beauty, when there is no sorrow there No sorrow on thy brow, and no shadow on thy heart, When, like a floating sea-bird, bright and beautiful thou art

. . .

"But when the brow is blighted, like a star at morning tide And faded is the crimson blush upon the cheek beside, It is to love as seldom love the brightest and the best, When our love lies like a dew upon the one that is at rest."

We ought to distrust our own admiration of what is rare, odd, novel to us, found by us in a sense, and especially one must distrust one's liking for the verses of a Tweedside angler, of a poet whose forebears lie in the green kirkyard of Yarrow. But, allowing for all this, I cannot but think these very musical, accomplished, and, in their place, appropriate verses, to have been written by a boy of twenty. Nor is it a common imagination, though busy in this vulgar field of horrors, that lifts the pallid bride to look upon the mirror of the sea—

"And bids her gaze into the startled sea, And says, 'Thine image, from eternity, Hath come to meet thee, ladye!' and anon He bade the cold corse kiss the shadowy one That shook amid the waters."

The picture of the madness of thirst, allied to the disease of the brain, is extremely powerful, the delirious monk tells the salt sea waves

"That ye have power, and passion, and a sound As of the flying of an angel round The mighty world; that ye are one with time!"

Here, I can't but think, is imagination.

Mr. Aytoun, however, noted none of those passages, nor that where, in tempest and thunder, a shipwrecked sailor swims to the strange boat, sees the Living Love and the Dead, and falls back into the trough of the wave. But even the friendly pencil of Bon Gaultier approves the passage where an isle rises above the sea, and the boat is lightly stranded on the shore of pure and silver shells. The horrors of corruption, in the Third Chimera, may be left unquoted, Aytoun parodies—

"The chalk, the chalk, the cheese, the cheese, the cheeses, And straightway dropped he down upon his kneeses."

Julio comes back to reason, hates the dreadful bride, and feeds on limpets, "by the mass, he feasteth well!"

There was a holy hermit on the isle,

"I ween like other hermits, so was he."

He is Agathe's father, and he has retired to an eligible island where he may repent his cruelty to his daughter. Julio tells his tale, and goes mad again. The apostrophe to Lunacy which follows is marked "Beautiful" by Aytoun, and is in the spirit of Charles Lamb's remark that madness has pleasures unknown to the sane.

"Thou art, thou art alone, A pure, pure being, but the God on high Is with thee ever as thou goest by."

Julio watches again beside the Dead, till morning comes, bringing

"A murmur far and far, of those that stirred Within the great encampment of the sea."

The tide sweeps the mad and the dead down the shores. "He perished in a dream." As for the Hermit, he buried them, not knowing who they were, but on a later day found and recognised the golden cross of Agathe,

"For long ago he gave that blessed cross To his fair girl, and knew the relic still."

So the Hermit died of remorse, and one cannot say, with Walton, "and I hope the reader is sorry."

The "other poems" are vague memories of Shelley, or anticipations of Poe. One of them is curiously styled "Her, a Statue," and contains a passage that reminds us of a rubaiyat of Omar's,

"She might see A love-wing'd Seraph glide in glory by, Striking the tent of its mortality.

"But that is but a tent wherein may rest A Sultan to the realm of Death addrest; The Sultan rises, and the dark Ferrash Strikes, and prepares it for another guest."

Most akin to Poe is the "Hymn to Orion,"

"Dost thou, in thy vigil, hail Arcturus on his chariot pale, Leading him with a fiery flight— Over the hollow hill of night?"

This, then, is a hasty sketch, and incomplete, of a book which, perhaps, is only a curiosity, but which, I venture to think, gave promise of a poet. Where is the lad of twenty who has written as well to-day—nay, where is the mature person of forty? There was a wind of poetry abroad in 1830, blowing over the barricades of Paris, breathing by the sedges of Cam, stirring the heather on the hills of Yarrow. Hugo, Mr. Browning, Lord Tennyson, caught the breeze in their sails, and were borne adown the Tigris of romance. But the breath that stirred the loch where Tom Stoddart lay and mused in his boat, soon became to him merely the curl on the waters of lone St. Mary's or Loch Skene, and he began casting over the great uneducated trout of a happier time, forgetful of the Muse. He wrote another piece, with a sonorous and delightful title, "Ajalon of the Winds." Where is "Ajalon of the Winds"? Miss Stoddart knows nothing of it, but I fancy that the thrice-loathed Betty could have told a tale.

MALIM CONVIVIS QVAM PLACVISSE COQVIS.

We need not, perhaps, regret that Mr. Stoddart withdrew from the struggles and competitions of poetic literature. No very high place, no very glorious crown, one fancies, would have been his. His would have been anxiety, doubt of self, disappointment, or, if he succeeded, the hatred, and envyings, and lies which even then dogged the steps of the victor. It was better to be quiet and go a-fishing.

"Sorrow, sorrow speed away To our angler's quiet mound, With the old pilgrim, twilight gray, Enter through the holy ground; There he sleeps whose heart is twined With wild stream and wandering burn, Wooer of the western wind Watcher of the April morn!"



CHAPTER VIII: THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT AUGUSTINE

My copy of the Confessions is a dark little book, "a size uncumbersome to the nicest hand," in the format of an Elzevir, bound in black morocco, and adorned with "blind-tooled," that is ungilt, skulls and crossbones. It has lost the title-page with the date, but retains the frontispiece, engraved by Huret. Saint Augustine, in his mitre and other episcopal array, with a quill in his hand, sits under a flood of inspiring sunshine. The dumpy book has been much read, was at some time the property of Mr. John Philips, and bears one touching manuscript note, of which more hereafter. It is, I presume, a copy of the translation by Sir Toby Matthew. The author of the Preface declares, with truth, that the translator "hath consulted so closely and earnestly with the saint that he seemeth to have lighted his torch att his fire, and to speak in the best and most significant English, what and how he would have done had he understood our language."

There can be no better English version of this famous book, in which Saint Augustine tells the story of his eager and passionate youth—a youth tossed about by the contending tides of Love, human and divine. Reading it to-day, with a mundane curiosity, we may half regret the space which he gives to theological metaphysics, and his brief tantalising glimpses of what most interests us now—the common life of men when the Church was becoming mistress of the world, when the old Religions were dying of allegory and moral interpretations and occult dreams. But, even so, Saint Augustine's interest in himself, in the very obscure origins of each human existence, in the psychology of infancy and youth, in school disputes, and magical pretensions; his ardent affections, his exultations, and his faults, make his memoirs immortal among the unveilings of the spirit. He has studied babies, that he may know his dark beginnings, and the seeds of grace and of evil. "Then, by degrees, I began to find where I was; and I had certain desires to declare my will to those by whom it might be executed. But I could not do it, . . . therefore would I be tossing my arms, and sending out certain cryes, . . . and when they obeyed me not . . . I would fall into a rage, and that not against such as were my subjects or servants, but against my Elders and my betters, and I would revenge myself upon them by crying." He has observed that infants "begin to laugh, first sleeping, and then shortly waking;" a curious note, but he does not ask wherefore the sense of humour, or the expression of it, comes to children first in their slumber. Of what do babies dream? And what do the nested swallows chirrup to each other in their sleep?

"Such have I understood that such infants are as I could know, and such have I been told that I was by them who brought me up, though even they may rather be accounted not to know, than to know these things." One thing he knows, "that even infancy is subject to sin." From the womb we are touched with evil. "Myselfe have seene and observed some little child, who could not speake; and yet he was all in an envious kind of wrath, looking pale with a bitter countenance upon his foster-brother." In an envious kind of wrath! Is it not the motive of half our politics, and too much of our criticism? Such is man's inborn nature, not to be cured by laws or reforms, not to be washed out of his veins, though "blood be shed like rain, and tears like a mist." For "an infant cannot endure a companion to feed with him in a fountain of milk which is richly abounding and overflowing, although that companion be wholly destitute, and can take no other food but that." This is the Original Sin, inherited, innate, unacquired; for this are "babes span-long" to suffer, as the famous or infamous preacher declared. "Where, or at what time, was I ever innocent?" he cries, and hears no answer from "the dark backward and abysm" of the pre-natal life.

Then the Saint describes a child's learning to speak; how he amasses verbal tokens of things, "having tamed, and, as it were, broken my mouth to the pronouncing of them." "And so I began to launch out more deeply into the tempestuous traffique and society of mankind." Tempestuous enough he found or made it—this child of a Pagan father and a Christian saint, Monica, the saint of Motherhood. The past generations had "chalked out certain laborious ways of learning," and, perhaps, Saint Augustine never forgave the flogging pedagogue—the plagosus Orbilius of his boyhood. Long before his day he had found out that the sorrows of children, and their joys, are no less serious than the sorrows of mature age. "Is there, Lord, any man of so great a mind that he can think lightly of those racks, and hooks, and other torments, for the avoiding whereof men pray unto Thee with great fear from one end of the world to the other, as that he can make sport at such as doe most sharply inflict these things upon them, as our parents laughed at the torments which we children susteyned at our master's hands?" Can we suppose that Monica laughed, or was it only the heathen father who approved of "roughing it?" "Being yet a childe, I began to beg Thy ayde and succour; and I did loosen the knots of my tongue in praying Thee; and I begged, being yet a little one, with no little devotion, that I might not be beaten at the schoole." One is reminded of Tom Tulliver, who gave up even praying that he might learn one part of his work: "Please make Mr. —- say that I am not to do mathematics."

The Saint admits that he lacked neither memory nor wit, "but he took delight in playing." "The plays and toys of men are called business, yet, when children fall unto them, the same men punish them." Yet the schoolmaster was "more fed upon by rage," if beaten in any little question of learning, than the boy; "if in any match at Ball I had been maistered by one of my playfellows." He "aspired proudly to be victorious in the matches which he made," and I seriously regret to say that he would buy a match, and pay his opponent to lose when he could not win fairly. He liked romances also, "to have myne eares scratched with lying fables"—a "lazy, idle boy," like him who dallied with Rebecca and Rowena in the holidays of Charter House.

Saint Augustine, like Sir Walter Scott at the University of Edinburgh, was "The Greek Dunce." Both of these great men, to their sorrow and loss, absolutely and totally declined to learn Greek. "But what the reason was why I hated the Greeke language, while I was taught it, being a child, I do not yet understand." The Saint was far from being alone in that distaste, and he who writes loathed Greek like poison—till he came to Homer. Latin the Saint loved, except "when reading, writing, and casting of accounts was taught in Latin, which I held not for lesse paynefull or penal than the very Greeke. I wept for Dido's death, who made herselfe away with the sword," he declares, "and even so, the saying that two and two makes foure was an ungrateful song in mine ears; whereas the wooden horse full of armed men, the burning of Troy, and the very Ghost of Creusa, was a most delightful spectacle of vanity."

In short, the Saint was a regular Boy—a high-spirited, clever, sportive, and wilful creature. He was as fond as most boys of the mythical tales, "and for that I was accounted to be a towardly boy." Meanwhile he does not record that Monica disliked his learning the foolish dear old heathen fables—"that flood of hell!"

Boyhood gave place to youth, and, allowing for the vanity of self-accusation, there can be little doubt that the youth of Saint Augustine was une jeunesse orageuse. "And what was that wherein I took delight but to love and to be beloved." There was ever much sentiment and affection in his amours, but his soul "could not distinguish the beauty of chast love from the muddy darkness of lust. Streams of them did confusedly boyl in me"—in his African veins. "With a restless kind of weariness" he pursued that Other Self of the Platonic dream, neglecting the Love of God:

"Oh, how late art thou come, O my Joy!"

The course of his education—for the Bar, as we should say—carried him from home to Carthage, where he rapidly forgot the pure counsels of his mother "as old wife's consailes." "And we delighted in doing ill, not only for the pleasure of the fact, but even for the affection of prayse." Even Monica, it seems, justified the saying:

"Every woman is at heart a Rake."

Marriage would have been his making, Saint Augustine says, "but she desired not even that so very much, lest the cloggs of a wife might have hindered her hopes of me . . . In the meantime the reins were loosed to me beyond reason." Yet the sin which he regrets most bitterly was nothing more dreadful than the robbery of an orchard! Pears he had in plenty, none the less he went, with a band of roisterers, and pillaged another man's pear tree. "I loved the sin, not that which I obtained by the same, but I loved the sin itself." There lay the sting of it! They were not even unusually excellent pears. "A Peare tree ther was, neere our vineyard, heavy loaden with fruite, which tempted not greatly either the sight or tast. To the shaking and robbing thereof, certaine most wicked youthes (whereof I was one) went late at night. We carried away huge burthens of fruit from thence, not for our owne eating, but to be cast before the hoggs."

Oh, moonlit night of Africa, and orchard by these wild seabanks where once Dido stood; oh, laughter of boys among the shaken leaves, and sound of falling fruit; how do you live alone out of so many nights that no man remembers? For Carthage is destroyed, indeed, and forsaken of the sea, yet that one hour of summer is to be unforgotten while man has memory of the story of his past.

Nothing of this, to be sure, is in the mind of the Saint, but a long remorse for this great sin, which he earnestly analyses. Nor is he so penitent but that he is clear-sighted, and finds the spring of his mis- doing in the Sense of Humour! "It was a delight and laughter which tickled us, even at the very hart, to find that we were upon the point of deceiving them who feared no such thing from us, and who, if they had known it, would earnestly have procured the contrary."

Saint Augustine admits that he lived with a fast set, as people say now—"the Depravers" or "Destroyers"; though he loved them little, "whose actions I ever did abhor, that is, their Destruction of others, amongst whom I yet lived with a kind of shameless bashfulness." In short, the "Hell-Fire Club" of that day numbered a reluctant Saint among its members! It was no Christian gospel, but the Hortensius of Cicero which won him from this perilous society. "It altered my affection, and made me address my prayers to Thee, O Lord, and gave me other desires and purposes than I had before. All vain hopes did instantly grow base in myne eyes, and I did, with an incredible heat of hart, aspire towards the Immortality of Wisdom." Thus it was really "Saint Tully," and not the mystic call of Tolle! Lege! that "converted" Augustine, diverting the current of his life into the channel of Righteousness. "How was I kindled then, oh, my God, with a desire to fly from earthly things towards Thee."

There now remained only the choice of a Road. Saint Augustine dates his own conversion from the day of his turning to the strait Christian orthodoxy. Even the Platonic writings, had he known Greek, would not have satisfied his desire. "For where was that Charity that buildeth upon the foundation of Humility, which is Christ Jesus? . . . These pages" (of the Platonists) "carried not in them this countenance of piety—the tears of confession, and that sacrifice of Thine which is an afflicted spirit, a contrite and humbled heart, the salvation of Thy people, the Spouse, the City, the pledge of Thy Holy Spirit, the Cup of our Redemption. No man doth there thus express himself. Shall not my soul be subject to God, for of Him is my salvation? For He is my God, and my salvation, my protectour; I shall never be moved. No man doth there once call and say to him: 'Come unto me all you that labour.'"

The heathen doctors had not the grace which Saint Augustine instinctively knew he lacked—the grace of Humility, nor the Comfort that is not from within but from without. To these he aspired; let us follow him on the path by which he came within their influence; but let us not forget that the guide on the way to the City was kind, clever, wordy, vain old Marcus Tullius Cicero. It is to the City that all our faces should be set, if we knew what belongs to our peace; thither we cast fond, hopeless, backward glances, even if we be of those whom Tertullian calls "Saint Satan's Penitents." Here, in Augustine, we meet a man who found the path—one of the few who have found it, of the few who have won that Love which is our only rest. It may be worth while to follow him to the journey's end.

The treatise of Cicero, then, inflamed Augustine "to the loving and seeking and finding and holding and inseparably embracing of wisdom itself, wheresoever it was." Yet, when he looked for wisdom in the Christian Scriptures, all the literary man, the rhetorician in him, was repelled by the simplicity of the style. Without going further than Mr. Pater's book, "Marius, the Epicurean," and his account of Apuleius, an English reader may learn what kind of style a learned African of that date found not too simple. But Cicero, rather than Apuleius, was Augustine's ideal; that verbose and sonorous eloquence captivated him, as it did the early scholars when learning revived. Augustine had dallied a little with the sect of the Manichees, which appears to have grieved his mother more than his wild life.

But she was comforted by a vision, when she found herself in a wood, and met "a glorious young man," who informed her that "where she was there should her son be also." Curious it is to think that this very semblance of a glorious young man haunts the magical dreams of heathen Red Indians, advising them where they shall find game, and was beheld in such ecstasies by John Tanner, a white man who lived with the Indians, and adopted their religion. The Greeks would have called this appearance Hermes, even in this guise Odysseus met him in the oak wood of Circe's Isle. But Augustine was not yet in his mother's faith; he still taught and studied rhetoric, contending for its prizes, but declining to be aided by a certain wizard of his acquaintance. He had entered as a competitor for a "Tragicall poeme," but was too sportsmanlike to seek victory by art necromantic. Yet he followed after Astrologers, because they used no sacrifices, and did not pretend to consult spirits. Even the derision of his dear friend Nebridius could not then move him from those absurd speculations. His friend died, and "his whole heart was darkened;" "mine eyes would be looking for him in all places, but they found him not, and I hated all things because they told me no news of him." He fell into an extreme weariness of life, and no less fear of death. He lived but by halves; having lost dimidium animae suae, and yet dreaded death, "Lest he might chance to have wholy dyed whome I extremely loved." So he returned to Carthage for change, and sought pleasure in other friendships; but "Blessed is the man that loves Thee and his friend in Thee and his enemy for Thee. For he only never loseth a dear friend to whom all men are dear, for His sake, who is never lost."

Here, on the margin of the old book, beside these thoughts, so beautiful if so helpless, like all words, to console, some reader long dead has written:—

"Pray for your poor servant, J. M."

And again,

"Pray for your poor friend."

Doubtless, some Catholic reader, himself bereaved, is imploring the prayers of a dear friend dead; and sure we need their petitions more than they need ours, who have left this world of temptation, and are at peace.

After this loss Saint Augustine went to Rome, his ambition urging him, perhaps, but more his disgust with the violent and riotous life of students in Carthage. To leave his mother was difficult, but "I lyed to my mother, yea, such a mother, and so escaped from her." And now he had a dangerous sickness, and afterwards betook himself to converse with the orthodox, for example at Milan with Saint Ambrose. In Milan his mother would willingly have continued in the African ritual—a Pagan survival—carrying wine and food to the graves of the dead; but this Saint Ambrose forbade, and she obeyed him for him "she did extremely affect for the regard of my spirituall good."

From Milan his friend Alipius preceded him to Rome, and there "was damnably delighted" with the gladiatorial combats, being "made drunk with a delight in blood." Augustine followed him to Rome, and there lost the girl of his heart, "so that my heart was wounded, as that the very blood did follow." The lady had made a vow of eternal chastity, "having left me with a son by her." But he fell to a new love as the old one was departed, and yet the ancient wound pained him still "after a more desperate and dogged manner."

Haeret letalis arundo!

By these passions his conversion was delayed, the carnal and spiritual wills fighting against each other within him. "Give me chastity and continency, O Lord," he would pray, "but do not give it yet," and perhaps this is the frankest of the confessions of Saint Augustine. In the midst of this war of the spirit and the flesh, "Behold I heard a voyce, as if it had been of some boy or girl from some house not farre off, uttering and often repeating these words in a kind of singing voice,

"Tolle, Lege; Tolle, Lege, Take up and read, take up and read."

So he took up a Testament, and, opening it at random, after the manner of his Virgilian lots, read:—

"Not in surfeiting and wantonness, not in causality and uncleanness," with what follows. "Neither would I read any further, neither was there any cause why I should." Saint Augustine does not, perhaps, mean us to understand (as his translator does), that he was "miraculously called." He knew what was right perfectly well before; the text only clinched a resolve which he has found it very hard to make. Perhaps there was a trifle of superstition in the matter. We never know how superstitious we are. At all events, henceforth "I neither desired a wife, nor had I any ambitious care of any worldly thing." He told his mother, and Monica rejoiced, believing that now her prayers were answered.

Such is the story of the conversion of Saint Augustine. It was the maturing of an old purpose, and long deferred. Much stranger stories are told of Bunyan and Colonel Gardiner. He gave up rhetoric; another man was engaged "to sell words" to the students of Milan. Being now converted, the Saint becomes less interesting, except for his account of his mother's death, and of that ecstatic converse they held "she and I alone, leaning against a window, which had a prospect upon the garden of our lodging at Ostia." They

"Came on that which is, and heard The vast pulsations of the world."

"And whilest we thus spake, and panted towards the divine, we grew able to take a little taste thereof, with the whole strife of our hearts, and we sighed profoundly, and left there, confined, the very top and flower of our souls and spirits; and we returned to the noyse of language again, where words are begun and ended."

Then Monica fell sick to death, and though she had ever wished to lie beside her husband in Africa, she said: "Lay this Body where you will. Let not any care of it disquiet you; only this I entreat, that you will remember me at the altar of the Lord, wheresoever you be." "But upon the ninth day of her sickness, in the six-and-fiftieth year of her age, and the three-and-thirtieth of mine, that religious and pious soul was discharged from the prison of her body."

The grief of Augustine was not less keen, it seems, than it had been at the death of his friend. But he could remember how "she related with great dearness of affection, how she never heard any harsh or unkind word to be darted out of my mouth against her." And to this consolation was added who knows what of confidence and tenderness of certain hope, or a kind of deadness, perhaps, that may lighten the pain of a heart very often tried and inured to every pain. For it is certain that "this green wound" was green and grievous for a briefer time than the agony of his earlier sorrows. He himself, so earnest in analysing his own emotions, is perplexed by the short date of his tears, and his sharpest grief: "Let him read it who will, and interpret it as it pleaseth him."

So, with the death of Monica, we may leave Saint Augustine. The most human of books, the "Confessions," now strays into theology. Of all books that which it most oddly resembles, to my fancy at least, is the poems of Catullus. The passion and the tender heart they have in common, and in common the war of flesh and spirit; the shameful inappeasable love of Lesbia, or of the worldly life; so delightful and dear to the poet and to the saint, so despised in other moods conquered and victorious again, among the battles of the war in our members. The very words in which the Veronese and the Bishop of Hippo described the pleasure and gaiety of an early friendship are almost the same, and we feel that, born four hundred years later, the lover of Lesbia, the singer of Sirmio might actually have found peace in religion, and exchanged the earthly for the heavenly love.



CHAPTER IX: SMOLLETT

The great English novelists of the eighteenth century turned the course of English Literature out of its older channel. Her streams had descended from the double peaks of Parnassus to irrigate the enamelled fields and elegant parterres of poetry and the drama, as the critics of the period might have said. But Richardson, Fielding, Smollett, and Sterne, diverted the waters, from poetry and plays, into the region of the novel, whither they have brought down a copious alluvial deposit. Modern authors do little but till this fertile Delta: the drama is now in the desert, poetry is a drug, and fiction is literature. Among the writers who made this revolution, Smollett is, personally, the least well known to the world, despite the great part which autobiography and confessions play in his work. He is always talking about himself, and introducing his own experiences. But there is little evidence from without; his extant correspondence is scanty; he was not in Dr. Johnson's circle, much less was he in that of Horace Walpole. He was not a popular man, and probably he has long ceased to be a popular author. About 1780 the vendors of children's books issued abridgments of "Tom Jones" and "Pamela," "Clarissa" and "Joseph Andrews," adapted to the needs of infant minds. It was a curious enterprise, certainly, but the booksellers do not seem to have produced "Every Boy's Roderick Random," or "Peregrine Pickle for the Young." Smollett, in short, is less known than Fielding and Sterne, even Thackeray says but a word about him, in the "English Humorists," and he has no place in the series of "English Men of Letters."

What we know of Smollett reveals a thoroughly typical Scot of his period; a Scot of the species absolutely opposed to Sir Pertinax Macsycophant, and rather akin to the species of Robert Burns. "Rather akin," we may say, for Smollett, like Burns, was a humorist, and in his humour far from dainty; he was a personal satirist, and a satirist far from chivalrous. Like Burns, too, he was a poet of independence; like Burns, and even more than Burns, in a time of patronage he was recalcitrant against patrons. But, unlike Burns, he was farouche to an extreme degree; and, unlike Burns, he carried very far his prejudices about his "gentrice," his gentle birth. Herein he is at the opposite pole from the great peasant poet.

Two potent characteristics of his country were at war within him. There was, first, the belief in "gentrice," in a natural difference of kind between men of coat armour and men without it. Thus Roderick Random, the starving cadet of a line of small lairds, accepts the almost incredible self-denial and devotion of Strap as merely his due. Prince Charles could not have taken the devotion of Henry Goring, or of Neil MacEachain, more entirely as a matter of course, involving no consideration in return, than Roderick took the unparalleled self-sacrifice of his barber friend and school-mate. Scott has remarked on this contemptuous and ungrateful selfishness, and has contrasted it with the relations of Tom Jones and Partridge. Of course, it is not to be assumed that Smollett would have behaved like Roderick, when, "finding the fire in my apartment almost extinguished, I vented my fury upon poor Strap, whose ear I pinched with such violence that he roared hideously with pain . . . " To be sure Roderick presently "felt unspeakable remorse . . . foamed at the mouth, and kicked the chairs about the room." Now Strap had rescued Roderick from starvation, had bestowed on him hundreds of pounds, and had carried his baggage, and dined on his leavings. But Strap was not gently born! Smollett would not, probably, have acted thus, but he did not consider such conduct a thing out of nature.

On the other side was Smollett's Scottish spirit of independence. As early as 1515, James Ingles, chaplain of Margaret Tudor, wrote to Adam Williamson, "You know the use of this country. . . . The man hath more words than the master, and will not be content except he know the master's counsel. There is no order among us." Strap had the instinct of feudal loyalty to a descendant of a laird. But Smollett boasts that, being at the time about twenty, and having burdened a nobleman with his impossible play, "The Regicide," "resolved to punish his barbarous indifference, and actually discarded my Patron." He was not given to "booing" (in the sense of bowing), but had, of all known Scots, the most "canty conceit o' himsel'." These qualities, with a violence of temper which took the form of beating people when on his travels, cannot have made Smollett a popular character. He knew his faults, as he shows in the dedication of "Ferdinand, Count Fathom," to himself. "I have known you trifling, superficial, and obstinate in dispute; meanly jealous and awkwardly reserved; rash and haughty in your resentment; and coarse and lowly in your connections."

He could, it is true, on occasion, forgive (even where he had not been wronged), and could compensate, in milder moods, for the fierce attacks made in hours when he was "meanly jealous." Yet, in early life at least, he regarded his own Roderick Random as "modest and meritorious," struggling nobly with the difficulties which beset a "friendless orphan," especially from the "selfishness, envy, malice, and base indifference of mankind." Roderick himself is, in fact, the incarnation of the basest selfishness. In one of his adventures he is guilty of that extreme infamy which the d'Artagnan of "The Three Musketeers" and of the "Memoirs" committed, and for which the d'Artagnan of Le Vicomte de Bragelonne took shame to himself. While engaged in a virtuous passion, Roderick not only behaves like a vulgar debauchee, but pursues the meanest arts of the fortune-hunter who is ready to marry any woman for her money. Such is the modest and meritorious orphan, and mankind now carries its "base indifference" so far, that Smollett's biographer, Mr. Hannay, says, "if Roderick had been hanged, I, for my part, should have heard the tidings unmoved . . . Smollett obviously died without realising how nearly the hero, who was in some sort a portrait of himself, came to being a ruffian."

Dr. Carlyle, in 1758, being in London, found Smollett "much of a humorist, and not to be put out of his way." A "humorist," here, means an overbearingly eccentric person, such as Smollett, who lived much in a society of literary dependants, was apt to become. But Dr. Carlyle also found that, though Smollett "described so well the characters of ruffians and profligates," he did not resemble them. Dr. Robertson, the historian, "expressed great surprise at his polished and agreeable manners, and the great urbanity of his conversation." He was handsome in person, as his portrait shows, but his "nervous system was exceedingly irritable and subject to passion," as he says in the Latin account of his health which, in 1763, he drew up for the physician at Montpellier. Though, when he chose, he could behave like a man of breeding, and though he undeniably had a warm heart for his wife and daughter, he did not always choose to behave well. Except Dr. Moore, his biographer, he seems to have had few real friends during most of his career.

As to persons whom he chose to regard as his enemies, he was beyond measure rancorous and dangerous. From his first patron, Lord Lyttelton, to his last, he pursued them with unscrupulous animosity. If he did not mean actually to draw portraits of his grandfather, his cousins, his school-master, and the apothecary whose gallipots he attended—in "Roderick Random,"—yet he left the originals who suggested his characters in a very awkward situation. For assuredly he did entertain a spite against his grandfather: and as many of the incidents in "Roderick Random" were autobiographical, the public readily inferred that others were founded on fact.

The outlines of Smollett's career are familiar, though gaps in our knowledge occur. Perhaps they may partly be filled up by the aid of passages in his novels, plays, and poems: in these, at all events, he describes conditions and situations through which he himself may, or must, have passed.

Born in 1721, he was a younger son of Archibald, a younger son of Sir James Smollett of Bonhill, a house on the now polluted Leven, between Loch Lomond and the estuary of the Clyde. Smollett's father made an imprudent marriage: the grandfather provided a small, but competent provision for him and his family, during his own life. The father, Archibald, died; the grandfather left nothing to the mother of Tobias and her children, but they were assisted with scrimp decency by the heirs. Hence the attacks on the grandfather and cousins of Roderick Random: but, later, Smollett returned to kinder feelings.

In some ways Tobias resembled his old grandsire. About 1710 that gentleman wrote a Memoir of his own life. Hence we learn that he, in childhood, like Roderick Random, was regarded as "a clog and burden," and was neglected by his father, ill-used by his step-mother. Thus Tobias had not only his own early poverty to resent, but had a hereditary grudge against fortune, and "the base indifference of mankind." The old gentleman was lodged "with very hard and penurious people," at Glasgow University. He rose in the world, and was a good Presbyterian Whig, but "had no liberty" to help to forfeit James II. "The puir child, his son" (James III. and VIII.), "if he was really such, was innocent, and it were hard to do anything that would touch the son for the father's fault." The old gentleman, therefore, though a Member of Parliament, evaded attending the first Parliament after the Union: "I had no freedom to do it, because I understood that the great business to be agitated therein was to make laws for abjuring the Pretender . . . which I could not go in with, being always of opinion that it was hard to impose oaths on people who had not freedom to take them."

This was uncommonly liberal conduct, in a Whig, and our Smollett, though no Jacobite, was in distinct and courageous sympathy with Jacobite Scotland. Indeed, he was as patriotic as Burns, or as his own Lismahago. These were times, we must remember, in which Scottish patriotism was more than a mere historical sentiment. Scotland was inconceivably poor, and Scots, in England, were therefore ridiculous. The country had, so far, gained very little by the Union, and the Union was detested even by Scottish Whig Earls. It is recorded by Moore that, while at the Dumbarton Grammar School, Smollett wrote "verses to the memory of Wallace, of whom he became an early admirer," having read "Blind Harry's translation of the Latin poems of John Blair," chaplain to that hero. There probably never were any such Latin poems, but Smollett began with the same hero-worship as Burns. He had the attachment of a Scot to his native stream, the Leven, which later he was to celebrate. Now if Smollett had credited Roderick Random with these rural, poetical, and patriotic tastes, his hero would have been much more human and amiable. There was much good in Smollett which is absent in Random. But for some reason, probably because Scotland was unpopular after the Forty-Five, Smollett merely describes the woes, ill usage, and retaliations of Roderick. That he suffered as Random did is to the last degree improbable. He had a fair knowledge of Latin, and was not destitute of Greek, while his master, a Mr. Love, bore a good character both for humanity and scholarship. He must have studied the classics at Glasgow University, where he was apprenticed to Mr. Gordon, a surgeon. Gordon, again, was an excellent man, appreciated by Smollett himself in after days, and the odious Potion of "Roderick Random" must, like his rival, Crab, have been merely a fancy sketch of meanness, hypocrisy, and profligacy. Perhaps the good surgeon became the victim of that "one continued string of epigrammatic sarcasms," such as Mr. Colquhoun told Ramsay of Ochtertyre, Smollett used to play off on his companions, "for which no talents could compensate." Judging by Dr. Carlyle's Memoirs this intolerable kind of display was not unusual in Caledonian conversation: but it was not likely to make Tobias popular in England.

Thither he went in 1739, with very little money, "and a very large assortment of letters of recommendation: whether his relatives intended to compensate for the scantiness of the one by their profusion in the other is uncertain; but he has often been heard to declare that their liberality in the last article was prodigious." The Smolletts were not "kinless loons"; they had connections: but who, in Scotland, had money? Tobias had passed his medical examinations, but he rather trusted in his MS. tragedy, "The Regicide." Tragical were its results for the author. Inspired by George Buchanan's Latin history of Scotland, Smollett had produced a play, in blank verse, on the murder of James I. That a boy, even a Scottish boy, should have an overweening passion for this unlucky piece, that he should expect by such a work to climb a step on fortune's ladder, is nowadays amazing. For ten years he clung to it, modified it, polished, improved it, and then published it in 1749, after the success of "Roderick Random." Twice he told the story of his theatrical mishaps and disappointments, which were such as occur to every writer for the stage. He wailed over them in "Roderick Random," in the story of Mr. Melopoyn; he prolonged his cry, in the preface to "The Regicide," and probably the noble whom he "lashed" (very indecently) in his two satires ("Advice," 1746, "Reproof," 1747, and in "Roderick Random") was the patron who could not get the tragedy acted. First, in 1739, he had a patron whom he "discarded." Then he went to the West Indies, and, returning in 1744, he lugged out his tragedy again, and fell foul again of patrons, actors, and managers. What befell him was the common fate. People did not, probably, hasten to read his play: managers and "supercilious peers" postponed that entertainment, or, at least, the noblemen could not make the managers accept it if they did not want it. Our taste differs so much from that of the time which admired Home's "Douglas," and "The Regicide" was so often altered to meet objections, that we can scarcely criticise it. Of course it is absolutely unhistorical; of course it is empty of character, and replete with fustian, and ineffably tedious; but perhaps it is not much worse than other luckier tragedies of the age. Naturally a lover calls his wounded lady "the bleeding fair." Naturally she exclaims—

"Celestial powers Protect my father, shower upon his—oh!" (Dies).

Naturally her adorer answers with—

"So may our mingling souls To bliss supernal wing our happy—oh!" (Dies).

We are reminded of—

"Alas, my Bom!" (Dies). "'Bastes' he would have said!"

The piece, if presented, must have been damned. But Smollett was so angry with one patron, Lord Lyttelton, that he burlesqued the poor man's dirge on the death of his wife. He was so angry with Garrick that he dragged him into "Roderick Random" as Marmozet. Later, obliged by Garrick, and forgiving Lyttelton, he wrote respectfully about both. But, in 1746 (in "Advice"), he had assailed the "proud lord, who smiles a gracious lie," and "the varnished ruffians of the State." Because Tobias's play was unacted, people who tried to aid him were liars and ruffians, and a great deal worse, for in his satire, as in his first novel, Smollett charges men of high rank with the worst of unnamable crimes. Pollio and Lord Strutwell, whoever they may have been, were probably recognisable then, and were undeniably libelled, though they did not appeal to a jury. It is improbable that Sir John Cope had ever tried to oblige Smollett. His ignoble attack on Cope, after that unfortunate General had been fairly and honourably acquitted of incompetence and cowardice, was, then, wholly disinterested. Cope is "a courtier Ape, appointed General."

"Then Pug, aghast, fled faster than the wind, Nor deign'd, in three-score miles, to look behind; While every band for orders bleat in vain, And fall in slaughtered heaps upon the plain,"—

of Preston Pans.

Nothing could be more remote from the truth, or more unjustly cruel. Smollett had not here even the excuse of patriotism. Sir John Cope was no Butcher Cumberland. In fact the poet's friend is not wrong, when, in "Reproof," he calls Smollett "a flagrant misanthrope." The world was out of joint for the cadet of Bonhill: both before and after his very trying experiences as a ship surgeon the managers would not accept "The Regicide." This was reason good why Smollett should try to make a little money and notoriety by penning satires. They are fierce, foul-mouthed, and pointless. But Smollett was poor, and he was angry; he had the examples of Pope and Swift before him; which, as far as truculence went, he could imitate. Above all, it was then the fixed belief of men of letters that some peer or other ought to aid and support them; and, as no peer did support Smollett, obviously they were "varnished ruffians." He erred as he would not err now, for times, and ways of going wrong, are changed. But, at best, how different are his angry couplets from the lofty melancholy of Johnson's satires!

Smollett's "small sum of money" did not permit him long to push the fortunes of his tragedy, in 1739; and as for his "very large assortment of letters of recommendation," they only procured for him the post of surgeon's mate in the Cumberland of the line. Here he saw enough of the horrors of naval life, enough of misery, brutality, and mismanagement, at Carthagena (1741), to supply materials for the salutary and sickening pages on that theme in "Roderick Random." He also saw and appreciated the sterling qualities of courage, simplicity, and generosity, which he has made immortal in his Bowlings and Trunnions.

It is part of a novelist's business to make one half of the world know how the other half lives; and in this province Smollett anticipated Dickens. He left the service as soon as he could, when the beaten fleet was refitting at Jamaica. In that isle he seems to have practised as a doctor; and he married, or was betrothed to, a Miss Lascelles, who had a small and far from valuable property. The real date of his marriage is obscure: more obscure are Smollett's resources on his return to London, in 1744. Houses in Downing Street can never have been cheap, but we find "Mr. Smollett, surgeon in Downing Street, Westminster," and, in 1746, he was living in May Fair, not a region for slender purses. His tragedy was now bringing in nothing but trouble, to himself and others. His satires cannot have been lucrative. As a dweller in May Fair he could not support himself, like his Mr. Melopoyn, by writing ballads for street singers. Probably he practised in his profession. In "Count Fathom" he makes his adventurer "purchase an old chariot, which was new painted for the occasion, and likewise hire a footman . . . This equipage, though much more expensive than his finances could bear, he found absolutely necessary to give him a chance of employment . . . A walking physician was considered as an obscure pedlar." A chariot, Smollett insists, was necessary to "every raw surgeon"; while Bob Sawyer's expedient of "being called from church" was already vieux jeu, in the way of advertisement. Such things had been "injudiciously hackneyed." In this passage of Fathom's adventures, Smollett proclaims his insight into methods of getting practice. A physician must ingratiate himself with apothecaries and ladies' maids, or "acquire interest enough" to have an infirmary erected "by the voluntary subscriptions of his friends." Here Smollett denounces hospitals, which "encourage the vulgar to be idle and dissolute, by opening an asylum to them and their families, from the diseases of poverty and intemperance." This is odd morality for one who suffered from "the base indifference of mankind." He ought to have known that poverty is not a vice for which the poor are to be blamed; and that intemperance is not the only other cause of their diseases. Perhaps the unfeeling passage is a mere paradox in the style of his own Lismahago.

With or without a chariot, it is probable that Tobias had not an insinuating style, or "a good bedside manner"; friends to support a hospital for his renown he had none; but, somehow, he could live in May Fair, and, in 1746, could meet Dr. Carlyle and Stewart, son of the Provost of Edinburgh, and other Scots, at the Golden Ball in Cockspur Street. There they were enjoying "a frugal supper and a little punch," when the news of Culloden arrived. Carlyle had been a Whig volunteer: he, probably, was happy enough; but Stewart, whose father was in prison, grew pale, and left the room. Smollett and Carlyle then walked home through secluded streets, and were silent, lest their speech should bewray them for Scots. "John Bull," quoth Smollett, "is as haughty and valiant to-day, as he was abject and cowardly on the Black Wednesday when the Highlanders were at Derby."

"Weep, Caledonia, weep!" he had written in his tragedy. Now he wrote "Mourn, hapless Caledonia, mourn." Scott has quoted, from Graham of Gartmore, the story of Smollett's writing verses, while Gartmore and others were playing cards. He read them what he had written, "The Tears of Scotland," and added the last verse on the spot, when warned that his opinions might give offence.

"Yes, spite of thine insulting foe, My sympathising verse shall flow."

The "Tears" are better than the "Ode to Blue-Eyed Ann," probably Mrs. Smollett. But the courageous author of "The Tears of Scotland," had manifestly broken with patrons. He also broke with Rich, the manager at Covent Garden, for whom he had written an opera libretto. He had failed as doctor, and as dramatist; nor, as satirist, had he succeeded. Yet he managed to wear wig and sword, and to be seen in good men's company. Perhaps his wife's little fortune supported him, till, in 1748, he produced "Roderick Random." It is certain that we never find Smollett in the deep distresses of Dr. Johnson and Goldsmith. Novels were now in vogue; "Pamela" was recent, "Joseph Andrews" was yet more recent, "Clarissa Harlowe" had just appeared, and Fielding was publishing "Tom Jones." Smollett, too, tried his hand, and, at last, he succeeded.

His ideas of the novel are offered in his preface. The Novel, for him, is a department of Satire; "the most entertaining and universally improving." To Smollett, "Roderick Random" seemed an "improving" work! Ou le didacticisme va t'il se nicher? Romance, he declares, "arose in ignorance, vanity, and superstition," and declined into "the ludicrous and unnatural." Then Cervantes "converted romance to purposes far more useful and entertaining, by making it assume the sock, and point out the follies of ordinary life." Romance was to revive again some twenty years after its funeral oration was thus delivered. As for Smollett himself, he professedly "follows the plan" of Le Sage, in "Gil Blas" (a plan as old as Petronius Arbiter, and the "Golden Ass" of Apuleius); but he gives more place to "compassion," so as not to interfere with "generous indignation, which ought to animate the reader against the sordid and vicious disposition of the world." As a contrast to sordid vice, we are to admire "modest merit" in that exemplary orphan, Mr. Random. This gentleman is a North Briton, because only in North Britain can a poor orphan get such an education as Roderick's "birth and character require," and for other reasons. Now, as for Roderick, the schoolmaster "gave himself no concern about the progress I made," but, "should endeavour, with God's help, to prevent my future improvement." It must have been at Glasgow University, then, that Roderick learned "Greek very well, and was pretty far advanced in the mathematics," and here he must have used his genius for the belles lettres, in the interest of his "amorous complexion," by "lampooning the rivals" of the young ladies who admired him.

Such are the happy beginnings, accompanied by practical jokes, of this interesting model. Smollett's heroes, one conceives, were intended to be fine, though not faultless young fellows; men, not plaster images; brave, generous, free-living, but, as Roderick finds once, when examining his conscience, pure from serious stains on that important faculty. To us these heroes often appear no better than ruffians; Peregrine Pickle, for example, rather excels the infamy of Ferdinand, Count Fathom, in certain respects; though Ferdinand is professedly "often the object of our detestation and abhorrence," and is left in a very bad, but, as "Humphrey Clinker" shows, in by no means a hopeless way. Yet, throughout, Smollett regarded himself as a moralist, a writer of improving tendencies; one who "lashed the vices of the age." He was by no means wholly mistaken, but we should probably wrong the eighteenth century if we accepted all Smollett's censures as entirely deserved. The vices which he lashed are those which he detected, or fancied that he detected, in people who regarded a modest and meritorious Scottish orphan with base indifference. Unluckily the greater part of mankind was guilty of this crime, and consequently was capable of everything.

Enough has probably been said about the utterly distasteful figure of Smollett's hero. In Chapter LX. we find him living on the resources of Strap, then losing all Strap's money at play, and then "I bilk my taylor." That is, Roderick orders several suits of new clothes, and sells them for what they will fetch. Meanwhile Strap can live honestly anywhere, while he has his ten fingers. Roderick rescues himself from poverty by engaging, with his uncle, in the slave trade. We are apt to consider this commerce infamous. But, in 1763, the Evangelical director who helped to make Cowper "a castaway," wrote, as to the slaver's profession: "It is, indeed, accounted a genteel employment, and is usually very profitable, though to me it did not prove so, the Lord seeing that a large increase of wealth could not be good for me." The reverend gentleman had, doubtless, often sung—

"Time for us to go, Time for us to go, And when we'd got the hatches down, 'Twas time for us to go!"

Roderick, apart from "black ivory," is aided by his uncle and his long lost father. The base world, in the persons of Strap, Thompson, the uncle, Mr. Sagely, and other people, treats him infinitely better than he deserves. His very love (as always in Smollett) is only an animal appetite, vigorously insisted upon by the author. By a natural reaction, Scott, much as he admired Smollett, introduced his own blameless heroes, and even Thackeray could only hint at the defects of youth, in "Esmond." Thackeray is accused of making his good people stupid, or too simple, or eccentric, and otherwise contemptible. Smollett went further: Strap, a model of benevolence, is ludicrous and a coward; even Bowling has the stage eccentricities of the sailor. Mankind was certain, in the long run, to demand heroes more amiable and worthy of respect. Our inclinations, as Scott says, are with "the open-hearted, good-humoured, and noble-minded Tom Jones, whose libertinism (one particular omitted) is perhaps rendered but too amiable by his good qualities." To be sure Roderick does befriend "a reclaimed street-walker" in her worst need, but why make her the confidante of the virginal Narcissa? Why reward Strap with her hand? Fielding decidedly, as Scott insists, "places before us heroes, and especially heroines, of a much higher as well as more pleasing character, than Smollett was able to present."

"But the deep and fertile genius of Smollett afforded resources sufficient to make up for these deficiencies . . . If Fielding had superior taste, the palm of more brilliancy of genius, more inexhaustible richness of invention, must in justice be awarded to Smollett. In comparison with his sphere, that in which Fielding walked was limited . . ." The second part of Scott's parallel between the men whom he considered the greatest of our novelists, qualifies the first. Smollett's invention was not richer than Fielding's, but the sphere in which he walked, the circle of his experience, was much wider. One division of life they knew about equally well, the category of rakes, adventurers, card-sharpers, unhappy authors, people of the stage, and ladies without reputations, in every degree. There were conditions of higher society, of English rural society, and of clerical society, which Fielding, by birth and education, knew much better than Smollett. But Smollett had the advantage of his early years in Scotland, then as little known as Japan; with the "nautical multitude," from captain to loblolly boy, he was intimately familiar; with the West Indies he was acquainted; and he later resided in Paris, and travelled in Flanders, so that he had more experience, certainly, if not more invention, than Fielding.

In "Roderick Random" he used Scottish "local colour" very little, but his life had furnished him with a surprising wealth of "strange experiences." Inns were, we must believe, the favourite home of adventures, and Smollett could ring endless changes on mistakes about bedrooms. None of them is so innocently diverting as the affair of Mr. Pickwick and the lady in yellow curl-papers; but the absence of that innocence which heightens Mr. Pickwick's distresses was welcome to admirers of what Lady Mary Wortley Montagu calls "gay reading."

She wrote from abroad, in 1752, "There is something humorous in R. Random, that makes me believe that the author is H. Fielding"—her kinsman. Her ladyship did her cousin little justice. She did not complain of the morals of "R. Random," but thought "Pamela" and "Clarissa" "likely to do more general mischief than the works of Lord Rochester." Probably "R. Random" did little harm. His career is too obviously ideal. Too many ups and downs occur to him, and few orphans of merit could set before themselves the ideal of bilking their tailors, gambling by way of a profession, dealing in the slave trade, and wheedling heiresses.

The variety of character in the book is vast; in Morgan we have an excellent, fiery, Welshman, of the stage type; the different minor miscreants are all vividly designed; the eccentric lady author may have had a real original; Miss Snapper has much vivacity as a wit; the French adventures in the army are, in their rude barbaric way, a forecast of Barry Lyndon's; and, generally, both Scott and Thackeray owe a good deal to Smollett in the way of suggestions. Smollett's extraordinary love of dilating on noisome smells and noisome sights, that intense affection for the physically nauseous, which he shared with Swift, is rather less marked in "Roderick" than in "Humphrey Clinker," and "The Adventures of an Atom." The scenes in the Marshalsea must have been familiar to Dickens. The terrible history of Miss Williams is Hogarth's Harlot's Progress done into unsparing prose. Smollett guides us at a brisk pace through the shady and brutal side of the eighteenth century; his vivacity is as unflagging as that of his disagreeable rattle of a hero. The passion usually understood as love is, to be sure, one of which he seems to have no conception; he regards a woman much as a greedy person might regard a sirloin of beef, or, at least, a plate of ortolans. At her marriage a bride is "dished up;" that is all.

Thus this "gay writing" no longer makes us gay. In reading "Peregrine Pickle" and "Humphrey Clinker," a man may find himself laughing aloud, but hardly in reading "Roderick Random." The fun is of the cruel primitive sort, arising merely from the contemplation of somebody's painful discomfiture. Bowling and Rattlin may be regarded with affectionate respect; but Roderick has only physical courage and vivacity to recommend him. Whether Smollett, in Flaubert's deliberate way, purposely abstained from moralising on the many scenes of physical distress which he painted; or whether he merely regarded them without emotion, has been debated. It seems more probable that he thought they carried their own moral. It is the most sympathetic touch in Roderick's character, that he writes thus of his miserable crew of slaves: "Our ship being freed from the disagreeable lading of negroes, to whom indeed I had been a miserable slave since our leaving the coast of Guinea, I began to enjoy myself." Smollett was a physician, and had the pitifulness of his profession; though we see how casually he makes Random touch on his own unwonted benevolence.

People had not begun to know the extent of their own brutality in the slave trade, but Smollett probably did know it. If a curious prophetic letter attributed to him, and published more than twenty years after his death, be genuine; he had the strongest opinions about this form of commercial enterprise. But he did not wear his heart on his sleeve, where he wore his irritable nervous system. It is probable enough that he felt for the victims of poverty, neglect, and oppression (despite his remarks on hospitals) as keenly as Dickens. We might regard his offensively ungrateful Roderick as a purely dramatic exhibition of a young man, if his other heroes were not as bad, or worse; if their few redeeming qualities were not stuck on in patches; and if he had omitted his remark about Roderick's "modest merit." On the other hand, the good side of Matthew Bramble seems to be drawn from Smollett's own character, and, if that be the case, he can have had little sympathy with his own humorous Barry Lyndons. Scott and Thackeray leaned to the favourable view: Smollett, his nervous system apart, was manly and kindly.

As regards plot, "Roderick Random" is a mere string of picturesque adventures. It is at the opposite pole from "Tom Jones" in the matter of construction. There is no reason why it should ever stop except the convenience of printers and binders. Perhaps we lay too much stress on the somewhat mechanical art of plot-building. Fielding was then setting the first and best English example of a craft in which the very greatest authors have been weak, or of which they were careless. Smollett was always rather more incapable, or rather more indifferent, in plot-weaving, than greater men.

In our day of royalties, and gossip about the gains of authors, it would be interesting to know what manner and size of a cheque Smollett received from his publisher, the celebrated Mr. Osborne. We do not know, but Smollett published his next novel "on commission," "printed for the Author"; so probably he was not well satisfied with the pecuniary result of "Roderick Random." Thereby, says Dr. Moore, he "acquired much more reputation than money." So he now published "The Regicide" "by subscription, that method of publication being then more reputable than it has been thought since" (1797). Of "The Regicide," and its unlucky preface, enough, or more, has been said. The public sided with the managers, not with the meritorious orphan.

For the sake of pleasure, or of new experiences, or of economy, Smollett went to Paris in 1750, where he met Dr. Moore, later his biographer, the poetical Dr. Akenside, and an affected painter. He introduced the poet and painter into "Peregrine Pickle"; and makes slight use of a group of exiled Jacobites, including Mr. Hunter of Burnside. In 1750, there were Jacobites enough in the French capital, all wondering very much where Prince Charles might be, and quite unconscious that he was their neighbour in a convent in the Rue St. Dominique. Though Moore does not say so (he is provokingly economical of detail), we may presume that Smollett went wandering in Flanders, as does Peregrine Pickle. It is curious that he should introduce a Capucin, a Jew, and a black-eyed damsel, all in the Ghent diligence, when we know that Prince Charles did live in Ghent, with the black-eyed Miss Walkenshaw, did go about disguised as a Capucin, and was tracked by a Jewish spy, while the other spy, Young Glengarry, styled himself "Pickle." But all those events occurred about a year after the novel was published in 1751.

Before that date Smollett had got an M.D. degree from Aberdeen University, and, after returning from France, he practised for a year or two at Bath. But he could not expect to be successful among fashionable invalids, and, in "Humphrey Clinker," he make Matthew Bramble give such an account of the Bath waters as M. Zola might envy. He was still trying to gain ground in his profession, when, in March 1751, Mr. D. Wilson published the first edition of "Peregrine Pickle" "for the Author," unnamed. I have never seen this first edition, which was "very curious and disgusting." Smollett, in his preface to the second edition, talks of "the art and industry that were used to stifle him in the birth, by certain booksellers and others." He now "reformed the manners, and corrected the expressions," removed or modified some passages of personal satire, and held himself exempt from "the numerous shafts of envy, rancour, and revenge, that have lately, both in private and public, been levelled at his reputation." Who were these base and pitiless dastards? Probably every one who did not write favourably about the book. Perhaps Smollett suspected Fielding, whom he attacks in several parts of his works, treating him as a kind of Jonathan Wild, a thief-taker, and an associate with thieves. Why Smollett thus misconducted himself is a problem, unless he was either "meanly jealous," or had taken offence at some remarks in Fielding's newspaper. Smollett certainly began the war, in the first edition of "Peregrine Pickle." He made a kind of palinode to the "trading justice" later, as other people of his kind have done.

A point in "Peregrine Pickle" easily assailed was the long episode about a Lady of Quality: the beautiful Lady Vane, whose memoirs Smollett introduced into his tale. Horace Walpole found that she had omitted the only feature in her career of which she had just reason to be proud: the number of her lovers. Nobody doubted that Smollett was paid for casting his mantle over Lady Vane: moreover, he might expect a success of scandal. The roman a clef is always popular with scandal-mongers, but its authors can hardly hope to escape rebuke.

It was not till 1752 that Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, in Italy, received "Peregrine," with other fashionable romances—"Pompey the Little," "The Parish Girl," "Eleanora's Adventures," "The Life of Mrs. Theresa Constantia Phipps," "The Adventures of Mrs. Loveil," and so on. Most of them contained portraits of real people, and, no doubt, most of them were therefore successful. But where are they now? Lady Mary thought Lady Vane's part of "Peregrine" "more instructive to young women than any sermon that I know." She regarded Fielding as with Congreve, the only "original" of her age, but Fielding had to write for bread, and that is "the most contemptible way of getting bread." She did not, at this time, even know Smollett's name, but she admired him, and, later, calls him "my dear Smollett." This lady thought that Fielding did not know what sorry fellows his Tom Jones and Captain Booth were. Not near so sorry as Peregine Pickle were they, for this gentleman is a far more atrocious ruffian than Roderick Random.

None the less "Peregrine" is Smollett's greatest work. Nothing is so rich in variety of character, scene, and adventure. We are carried along by the swift and copious volume of the current, carried into very queer places, and into the oddest miscellaneous company, but we cannot escape from Smollett's vigorous grasp. Sir Walter thought that "Roderick" excelled its successor in "ease and simplicity," and that Smollett's sailors, in "Pickle," "border on caricature." No doubt they do: the eccentricities of Hawser Trunnion, Esq., are exaggerated, and Pipes is less subdued than Rattlin, though always delightful. But Trunnion absolutely makes one laugh out aloud: whether he is criticising the sister of Mr. Gamaliel Pickle in that gentleman's presence, at a pot-house; or riding to the altar with his squadron of sailors, tacking in an unfavourable gale; or being run away into a pack of hounds, and clearing a hollow road over a waggoner, who views him with "unspeakable terror and amazement." Mr. Winkle as an equestrian is not more entirely acceptable to the mind than Trunnion. We may speak of "caricature," but if an author can make us sob with laughter, to criticise him solemnly is ungrateful.

Except Fielding occasionally, and Smollett, and Swift, and Sheridan, and the authors of "The Rovers," one does not remember any writers of the eighteenth century who quite upset the gravity of the reader. The scene of the pedant's dinner after the manner of the ancients, does not seem to myself so comic as the adventures of Trunnion, while the bride is at the altar, and the bridegroom is tacking and veering with his convoy about the fields. One sees how the dinner is done: with a knowledge of Athenaeus, Juvenal, Petronius, and Horace, many men could have written this set piece. But Trunnion is quite inimitable: he is a child of humour and of the highest spirits, like Mr. Weller the elder. Till Scott created Mause Headrig, no Caledonian had ever produced anything except "Tam o' Shanter," that could be a pendant to Trunnion. His pathos is possibly just a trifle overdone, though that is not my own opinion. Dear Trunnion! he makes me overlook the gambols of his detestable protege, the hero.

That scoundrel is not an impossible caricature of an obstinate, vain, cruel libertine. Peregrine was precisely the man to fall in love with Emilia pour le bon motif, and then attempt to ruin her, though she was the sister of his friend, by devices worthy of Lovelace at his last and lowest stage. Peregrine's overwhelming vanity, swollen by facile conquests, would inevitably have degraded him to this abyss. The intrigue was only the worst of those infamous practical jokes of his, in which Smollett takes a cruel and unholy delight. Peregrine, in fact, is a hero of naturalisme, except that his fits of generosity are mere patches daubed on, and that his reformation is a farce, in which a modern naturaliste would have disdained to indulge. Emilia, in her scene with Peregrine in the bouge to which he has carried her, rises much above Smollett's heroines, and we could like her, if she had never forgiven behaviour which was beneath pardon.

Peregrine's education at Winchester bears out Lord Elcho's description of that academy in his lately published Memoirs. It was apt to develop Peregrines; and Lord Elcho himself might have furnished Smollett with suitable adventures. There can be no doubt that Cadwallader Crabtree suggested Sir Malachi Malagrowther to Scott, and that Hatchway and Pipes, taking up their abode with Peregrine in the Fleet, gave a hint to Dickens for Sam Weller and Mr. Pickwick in the same abode. That "Peregrine" "does far excel 'Joseph Andrews' and 'Amelia'," as Scott declares, few modern readers will admit. The world could do much better without "Peregrine" than without "Joseph"; while Amelia herself alone is a study greatly preferable to the whole works of Smollett: such, at least, is the opinion of a declared worshipper of that peerless lady. Yet "Peregrine" is a kind of Odyssey of the eighteenth century: an epic of humour and of adventure.

In February 1753, Smollett "obliged the town" with his "Adventures of Ferdinand, Count Fathom," a cosmopolitan swindler and adventurer. The book is Smollett's "Barry Lyndon," yet as his hero does not tell his own story, but is perpetually held up as a "dreadful example," there is none of Thackeray's irony, none of his subtlety. "Here is a really bad man, a foreigner too," Smollett seems to say, "do not be misled, oh maidens, by the wiles of such a Count! Impetuous youth, play not with him at billiards, basset, or gleek. Fathers, on such a rogue shut your doors: collectors, handle not his nefarious antiques. Let all avoid the path and shun the example of Ferdinand, Count Fathom!"

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse