HotFreeBooks.com
De Libris: Prose and Verse
by Austin Dobson
Previous Part     1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Note:

[23] Cf. "Attorney Case" in the story of "Simple Susan."

Of the first issue of the Parent's Assistant in 1796, a sufficient account has already been given. In the "Preface" the practical intention of several of the stories is explicitly set forth. "Lazy Lawrence," we are told, illustrates the advantages of industry, and demonstrates that people feel cheerful and happy whilst they are employed; while "Tarleton" represents "the danger and the folly of that weakness of mind, and that easiness to be led, which too often pass for good nature"; "The False Key" points out some of the evils to which a well-educated boy, on first going to service, is exposed from the profligacy of his fellow-servants; "The Mimic," the drawback of vulgar acquaintances; "Barring Out," the errors to which a high spirit and the love of party are apt to lead, and so forth. In the final paragraph stress is laid upon what every fresh reader must at once recognise as the supreme merit of the stories, namely, their dramatic faculty, or (in the actual words of the "Preface"), their art of "keeping alive hope and fear and curiosity, by some degree of intricacy."[24] The plausibility of invention, the amount of ingenious contrivance and of clever expedient in these professedly nursery stories, is indeed extraordinary; and nothing can exceed the dexterity with which—to use Dr. Johnson's words concerning She Stoops to Conquer—"the incidents are so prepared as not to seem improbable." There is no better example of this than the admirable tale of "The Mimic," in which the most unlooked-for occurrences succeed each other in the most natural way, while the disappearance at the end of the little sweep, who has levanted up the chimney in Frederick's new blue coat and buff waistcoat, is a master-stroke. Everybody has forgotten everything about him until the precise moment when he is needed to supply the fitting surprise of the finish,—a surprise which is only to be compared to that other revelation in The Rose and the Ring of Thackeray, where the long-lost and obnoxious porter at Valoroso's palace, having been turned by the Fairy Blackstick into a door knocker for his insolence, is restored to the sorrowing Servants' Hall exactly when his services are again required in the capacity of Mrs. Gruffanuffs husband. But in Miss Edgeworth's little fable there is no fairy agency. "Fairies were not much in her line," says Lady Ritchie, Thackeray's daughter, "but philanthropic manufacturers, liberal noblemen, and benevolent ladies in travelling carriages, do as well and appear in the nick of time to distribute rewards or to point a moral."

Note:

[24] The "Preface to Parents"—Miss Emily Lawless suggests to me—was probably by Mr. Edgeworth.

Although, by their sub-title, these stories are avowedly composed for children, they are almost as attractive to grown-up readers. This is partly owing to their narrative skill, partly also to the clear characterisation, which already betrays the coming author of Castle Rackrent and Belinda and Patronage—the last, under its first name of The Freeman Family, being already partly written, although many years were still to pass before it saw the light in 1814. Readers, wise after the event, might fairly claim to have foreseen from some of the personages in the Parent's Assistant that the author, however sedulous to describe "such situations only ... as children can easily imagine," was not able entirely to resist tempting specimens of human nature like the bibulous Mr. Corkscrew, the burglar butler in "The False Key," or Mrs. Pomfret, the housekeeper of the same story, whose prejudices against the Villaintropic Society, and its unholy dealing with the "drugs and refuges" of humanity, are quite in the style of the Mrs. Slipslop of a great artist whose works one would scarcely have expected to encounter among the paper-backed and grey-boarded volumes which lined the shelves at Edgeworthstown. Mrs. Theresa Tattle, again, in "The Mimic," is a type which requires but little to fit it for a subordinate part in a novel, as is also Lady Diana Sweepstakes in "Waste not, Want not." In more than one case, we seem to detect an actual portrait. Mr. Somerville of Somerville ("The White Pigeon"), to whom that "little town" belonged,—who had done so much "to inspire his tenantry with a taste for order and domestic happiness, and took every means in his power to encourage industrious, well-behaved people to settle in his neighbourhood,"—can certainly be none other than the father of the writer of the Parent's Assistant, the busy and beneficent, but surely eccentric, Mr. Edgeworth of Edgeworthstown.

When, in 1849, the first two volumes of Macaulay's History were issued, Miss Edgeworth, then in her eighty-third winter, was greatly delighted to find her name, coupled with a compliment to one of her characters, enshrined in a note to chap. vi. But her gratification was qualified by the fact that she could discover no similar reference to her friend, Sir Walter Scott. The generous "twinge of pain," to which she confesses, was intelligible. Scott had always admired her genius, and she admired his. In the "General Preface" to the Waverley Novels, twenty years before, he had gone so far as to say that, without hoping to emulate "the rich humour, pathetic tenderness, and admirable tact" of Miss Edgeworth, he had attempted to do for his own country what she had done for hers; and it is clear, from other sources, that this was no mere form of words. And he never wavered in his admiration. In his last years, not many months before his death, when he had almost forgotten her name, he was still talking kindly of her work. Speaking to Mrs. John Davy of Miss Austen and Miss Ferrier, he said: "And there's that Irish lady, too—but I forget everybody's name now" ... "she's very clever, and best in the little touches too. I'm sure in that children's story, where the little girl parts with her lamb, and the little boy brings it back to her again, there's nothing for it but just to put down the book and cry."[25] The reference is to "Simple Susan," the longest and prettiest tale in the Parent's Assistant.

Note:

[25] Lockhart's Life of Sir Walter Scott, ch. lxxxi. ad finem.

Another anecdote pleasantly connects the same book with a popular work of a later writer. Readers of Cranford will recall the feud between the Johnson-loving Miss Jenkyns of that story and its Pickwick-loving Captain Brown. The Captain—as is well-known—met his death by a railway accident, just after he had been studying the last monthly "green covers" of Dickens. Years later, the assumed narrator of Cranford visits Miss Jenkyns, then faliing into senility. She still vaunts The Rambler; still maunders vaguely of the "strange old book, with the queer name, poor Captain Brown was killed for reading-that book by Mr. Boz, you know—Old Poz; when I was a girl—but that's a long time ago—I acted Lucy in Old Poz." There can be no mistake. Lucy is the justice's daughter in Miss Edgeworth's little chamber-drama.



A PLEASANT INVECTIVE AGAINST PRINTING

"Flee fro the PREES, and dwelle with sothfastnesse."—CHAUCER, Balade de Bon Conseil.

The Press is too much with us, small and great: We are undone of chatter and on dit, Report, retort, rejoinder, repartee, Mole-hill and mare's nest, fiction up-to-date, Babble of booklets, bicker of debate, Aspect of A., and attitude of B.— A waste of words that drive us like a sea, Mere derelict of Ourselves, and helpless freight!

"O for a lodge in some vast wilderness!" Some region unapproachable of Print, Where never cablegram could gain access, And telephones were not, nor any hint Of tidings new or old, but Man might pipe His soul to Nature,—careless of the Type!



TWO MODERN BOOK ILLUSTRATORS

I. KATE GREENAWAY

In the world of pictorial recollection there are many territories, the natives of which you may recognise by their characteristics as surely as Ophelia recognises her true-love by his cockle-hat and sandal shoon. There is the land of grave gestures and courteous inclinations, of dignified leave-takings and decorous greetings; where the ladies (like Richardson's Pamela) don the most charming round-eared caps and frilled negliges; where the gentlemen sport ruffles and bag-wigs and spotless silk stockings, and invariably exhibit shapely calves above their silver shoe-buckles; where you may come in St. James's Park upon a portly personage with a star, taking an alfresco pinch of snuff after that leisurely style in which a pinch of snuff should be taken, so as not to endanger a lace cravat or a canary-coloured vest; where you may seat yourself on a bench by Rosamond's Pond in company with a tremulous mask who is evidently expecting the arrival of a "pretty fellow"; or happen suddenly, in a secluded side-walk, upon a damsel in muslin and a dark hat, who is hurriedly scrawling a poulet, not without obvious signs of perturbation. But whatever the denizens of this country are doing, they are always elegant and always graceful, always appropriately grouped against their fitting background of high-ceiled rooms and striped hangings, or among the urns and fish-tanks of their sombre-shrubbed gardens. This is the land of STOTHARD.

In the adjoining country there is a larger sense of colour—a fuller pulse of life. This is the region of delightful dogs and horses and domestic animals of all sorts; of crimson-faced hosts and buxom ale-wives; of the most winsome and black-eyed milkmaids and the most devoted lovers and their lasses; of the most headlong and horn-blowing huntsmen—a land where Madam Blaize forgathers with the impeccable worthy who caused the death of the Mad Dog; where John Gilpin takes the Babes in the Wood en croupe; and the bewitchingest Queen of Hearts coquets the Great Panjandrum himself "with the little round button at top"—a land, in short, of the most kindly and light-hearted fancies, of the freshest and breeziest and healthiest types—which is the land of CALDECOTT.

Finally, there is a third country, a country inhabited almost exclusively by the sweetest little child-figures that have ever been invented, in the quaintest and prettiest costumes, always happy, always gravely playful,—and nearly always playing; always set in the most attractive framework of flower-knots, or blossoming orchards, or red-roofed cottages with dormer windows. Everywhere there are green fields, and daisies, and daffodils, and pearly skies of spring, in which a kite is often flying. No children are quite like the dwellers in this land; they are so gentle, so unaffected in their affectation, so easily pleased, so trustful and so confiding. And this is GREENAWAY-land.

It is sixty years since Thomas Stothard died, and only fifteen since Randolph Caldecott closed his too brief career.[26] And now Kate Greenaway, who loved the art of both, and in her own gentle way possessed something of the qualities of each, has herself passed away. It will rest with other pens to record her personal characteristics, and to relate the story of her life. I who write this was privileged to know her a little, and to receive from her frequent presents of her books; but I should shrink from anything approaching a description of the quiet, unpretentious, almost homely little lady, whom it was always a pleasure to meet and to talk with. If I here permit myself to recall one or two incidents of our intercourse, it is solely because they bear either upon her amiable disposition or her art. I remember that once, during a country walk in Sussex, she gave me a long account of her childhood, which I wish I could repeat in detail. But I know that she told me that she had been brought up in just such a neighbourhood of thatched roofs and "grey old gardens" as she depicts in her drawings; and that in some of the houses, it was her particular and unfailing delight to turn over ancient chests and wardrobes filled with the flowered frocks and capes of the Jane Austen period. As is well known, she corresponded frequently with Ruskin, and possessed numbers of his letters. In his latter years, it had been her practice to write to him periodically—I believe she said once a week. He had long ceased, probably from ill-health, to answer her letters; but she continued to write punctually lest he should miss the little budget of chit-chat to which he had grown accustomed. At another time—in a pleasant country-house which contained many examples of her art—and where she was putting the last touches to a delicately tinted child-angel in the margin of a Bible—I ventured to say, "Why do your children always ...?" But it is needless to complete the query; the answer alone is important. She looked at me reflectively, and said, after a pause, "Because I see it so."

Note:

[26] This was written in 1902.

Answers not dissimilar have been given before by other artists in like case. But it was this rigid fidelity to her individual vision and personal conviction which constituted her strength. There are always stupid, well-meaning busybodies in the world, who go about making question of the sonneteer why he does not attempt something epic and homicidal, or worrying the carver of cherry-stones to try his hand at a Colossus; but though they disturb and discompose, they luckily do no material harm. They did no material harm to Kate Greenaway. She yielded, no doubt, to pressure put upon her to try figures on a larger scale; to illustrate books, which was not her strong point, as it only put fetters upon her fancy; but, in the main, she courageously preserved the even tenor of her way, which was to people the artistic demesne she administered with the tiny figures which no one else could make more captivating, or clothe more adroitly. It may be doubted whether the collector will set much store by Bret Harte's Queen of the Pirate Isle or the Pied Piper of Hamelin, suitable at first sight as is the latter, with its child-element, to her inventive idiosyncrasy. But he will revel in the dainty scenes of "Almanacks" (1883 to 1895, and 1897); in the charming Birthday Book of 1880; in Mother Goose, A Day in a Child's Life, Little Ann, Marigold Garden and the rest, of which the grace is perennial, though the popularity for the moment may have waned.

I have an idea that Mother Goose; or, the Old Nursery Rhymes, 1881, was one of Miss Greenaway's favourites, although it may have been displaced in her own mind by subsequent successes. Nothing can certainly be more deftly-tinted than the design of the "old woman who lived under a hill," and peeled apples; nothing more seductive, in infantile attitude, than the little boy and girl, who, with their arms around each other, stand watching the black-cat in the plum-tree. Then there is Daffy-down-dilly, who has come up to town, with "a yellow petticoat and a green gown," in which attire, aided by a straw hat tied under her chin, she manages to look exceedingly attractive, as she passes in front of the white house with the pink roof and the red shutters and the green palings. One of the most beautiful pictures in this gallery is the dear little "Ten-o'-clock Scholar" in his worked smock, as, trailing his blue-and-white school-bag behind him, he creeps unwillingly to his lessons at the most picturesque timbered cottage you can imagine. Another absolutely delightful portrait is that of "Little Tom Tucker," in sky-blue suit and frilled collar, singing, with his hands behind him, as if he never could grow old. And there is not one of these little compositions that is without its charm of colour and accessory—blue plates on the dresser in the background, the parterres of a formal garden with old-fashioned flowers, quaint dwellings with their gates and grass-work, odd corners of countryside and village street, and all, generally, in the clear air or sunlight. For in this favoured Greenaway-realm, as in the island-valley of Avilion there

falls not hail, or rain, or any snow, Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies Deep-meadow'd, happy, fair with orchard-lawns.

To Mother Goose followed A Day in a Child's Life, also 1881, and Little Ann, 1883. The former of these contained various songs set to music by Mr. Myles B. Foster, the organist of the Foundling Hospital, and accompanied by designs on rather a larger scale than those in Mother Goose. It also included a larger proportion of the floral decorations which were among the artist's chief gifts. Foxgloves and buttercups, tulips and roses, are flung about the pages of the book; and there are many pictures, notably one of a little green-coated figure perched upon a five-barred gate, which repeat the triumphs of its predecessor. In Little Ann and other Poems, which is dedicated to the four children of the artist's friend, the late Frederick Locker-Lampson, she illustrated a selection from the verses for "Infant Minds" of Jane and Ann Taylor, daughters of that Isaac Taylor of Ongar, who was first a line engraver and afterwards an Independent Minister.[27] The dedication contains a charming row of tiny portraits of the Locker-Lampson family. These illustrations may seem to contradict what has been said as to Miss Greenaway's ability to interpret the conceptions of others. But this particular task left her perfectly free to "go her own gait," and to embroider the text which, in this case, was little more than a pretext for her pencil.

Note:

[27] Since this paper was written, the Original Poems and Others, of Ann and Jane Taylor, with illustrations by F.D. Bedford, and a most interesting "Introduction" by Mr. E.V. Lucas, have been issued by Messrs. Wells, Gardner, Darton and Co.

In Marigold Garden, 1885, Miss Greenaway became her own poet; and next to Mother Goose, this is probably her most important effort. The flowers are as entrancing as ever; and the verse makes one wish that the writer had written more. The "Genteel Family" and "Little Phillis" are excellent nursery pieces; and there is almost a Blake-like note about "The Sun Door."

They saw it rise in the morning, They saw it set at night, And they longed to go and see it, Ah! if they only might.

The little soft white clouds heard them, And stepped from out of the blue; And each laid a little child softly Upon its bosom of dew.

And they carried them higher and higher, And they nothing knew any more, Until they were standing waiting, In front of the round gold door.

And they knocked, and called, and entreated Whoever should be within; But all to no purpose, for no one Would hearken to let them in.

"La rime n'est pas riche" nor is the technique thoroughly assured; but the thought is poetical. Here is another, "In an Apple-Tree," which reads like a child variation of that haunting "Mimnermus in Church" of the author of Ionica:—

In September, when the apples are red, To Belinda I said, "Would you like to go away To Heaven, or stay Here in this orchard full of trees All your life? "And she said," If you please I'll stay here—where I know, And the flowers grow."

In another vein is the bright little "Child's Song":—

The King and the Queen were riding Upon a Summer's day, And a Blackbird flew above them, To hear what they did say.

The King said he liked apples, The Queen said she liked pears; And what shall we do to the Blackbird Who listens unawares?

But, as a rule, it must be admitted of her poetry that, while nearly always poetic in its impulse, it is often halting and inarticulate in its expression. A few words may be added in regard to the mere facts of Miss Greenaway's career. She was born at 1 Cavendish Street, Hoxton, on the 17th March, 1846, her father being Mr. John Greenaway, a draughtsman on wood, who contributed much to the earlier issues of the Illustrated London News and Punch. Annual visits to a farm-house at Rolleston in Nottinghamshire—the country residence already referred to—nourished and confirmed her love of nature. Very early she showed a distinct bias towards colour and design of an original kind. She studied at different places, and at South Kensington. Here both she and Lady Butler "would bribe the porter to lock them in when the day's work was done, so that they might labour on for some while more." Her master at Kensington was Richard Burchett, who, forty years ago, was a prominent figure in the art-schools, a well instructed painter, and a teacher exceptionally equipped with all the learning of his craft. Mr. Burchett thought highly of Miss Greenaway's abilities; and she worked under him for several years with exemplary perseverance and industry. She subsequently studied in the Slade School under Professor Legros.

Her first essays in the way of design took the form of Christmas cards, then beginning their now somewhat flagging career, and she exhibited pictures at the Dudley Gallery for some years in succession, beginning with 1868. In 1877 she contributed to the Royal Academy a water colour entitled "Musing," and in 1889 was elected a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours.

By this date, as will be gathered from what has preceded, Miss Greenaway had made her mark as a producer of children's books, since, in addition to the volumes already specially mentioned, she had issued Under the Window (her earliest success), The Language of Flowers, Kate Greenaway's Painting Book, The Book of Games, King Pepito and other works. Her last "Almanack," which was published by Messrs Dent and Co., appeared in 1897. In 1891, the Fine Arts Society exhibited some 150 of her original drawings—an exhibition which was deservedly successful, and was followed by others.[28] As Slade Professor at Oxford, Ruskin, always her fervent admirer, gave her unstinted eulogium; and in France her designs aroused the greatest admiration. The Debats had a leading article on her death; and the clever author of L'Art du Rire, M. Arsene Alexandre, who had already written appreciatively of her gifts as a "paysagiste," and as a "maitresse en l'art du sourire, du jolt sourire d'enfant inginu et gaiement candide" devoted a column in the Figaro to her merits.

Note:

[28] Among other things these exhibitions revealed the great superiority of the original designs to the reproductions with which the public are familiar—excellent as these are in their way. Probably, if Miss Greenaway's work were now repeated by the latest form of three-colour process, she would be less an "inheritor"—in this respect—"of unfulfilled renown."

It has been noted that, in her later years, Miss Greenaway's popularity was scarcely maintained. It would perhaps be more exact to say that it somewhat fell off with the fickle crowd who follow a reigning fashion, and who unfortunately help to swell the units of a paying community. To the last she gave of her best; but it is the misfortune of distinctive and original work, that, while the public resents versatility in its favourites, it wearies unreasonably of what had pleased it at first—especially if the note be made tedious by imitation. Miss Greenaway's old vogue was in some measure revived by her too-early death on the 6th November 1901; but, in any case, she is sure of attention from the connoisseur of the future. Those who collect Stothard and Caldecott (and they are many!) cannot afford to neglect either Marigold Garden or Mother Goose.[29]

Note:

[29] Since the above article appeared in the Art Journal, from which it is here substantially reproduced, Messrs. M.H, Spieimann and G.S. Layard have (1905) devoted a sumptuous and exhaustive volume to Miss Greenaway and her art. To this truly beautiful and sympathetic book I can but refer those of her admirers who are not yet acquainted with it.



A SONG OF THE GREENAWAY CHILD

As I went a-walking on Lavender Hill, O, I met a Darling in frock and frill; And she looked at me shyly, with eyes of blue, "Are you going a-walking? Then take me too!"

So we strolled to the field where the cowslips grow, And we played—and we played, for an hour or so; Then we climbed to the top of the old park wall, And the Darling she threaded a cowslip ball.

Then we played again, till I said—"My Dear, This pain in my side, it has grown severe; I ought to have mentioned I'm past three-score, And I fear that I scarcely can play any more!"

But the Darling she answered,-"O no! O no! You must play—you must play.—I sha'n't let you go!"

—And I woke with a start and a sigh of despair, And I found myself safe in my Grandfather's-chair!



TWO MODERN BOOK ILLUSTRATORS

II. MR HUGH THOMSON

In virtue of certain gentle and caressing qualities of style, Douglas Jerrold conferred on one of his contributors—Miss Eliza Meteyard—the pseudonym of "Silverpen." It is in the silver-pensive key that one would wish to write of Mr. HUGH THOMSON. There is nothing in his work of elemental strife,—of social problem,—of passion torn to tatters. He leads you by no terribile via,—over no "burning Marle." You cannot conceive him as the illustrator of Paradise Lost, of Dante's Inferno—even of Dore's Wandering Jew. But when, after turning over some dozens of his designs, you take stock of your impressions, you discover that your memory is packed with pleasant fancies. You have been among "blown fields" and "flowerful closes"; you have passed quaint roadside-inns and picturesque cottages; you are familiar with the cheery, ever-changing idyll of the highway and the bustle of animal life; with horses that really gallop, and dogs that really bark; with charming male and female figures in the most attractive old-world attire; with happy laughter and artless waggeries; with a hundred intimate details of English domesticity that are pushed just far enough back to lose the hardness of their outline in a softening haze of retrospect. There has been nothing more tragic in your travels than a sprained ankle or an interrupted affair of honour; nothing more blood-curdling than a dream of a dragoon officer knocked out of his saddle by a brickbat. Your flesh has never been made to creep: but the cockles of your heart have been warmed. Mechanically, you raise your hand to lift away your optimistic spectacles. But they are not there. The optimism is in the pictures.

It must be more than a quarter of a century since Mr. Hugh Thomson, arriving from Coleraine in all the ardour of one-and-twenty, invaded the strongholds of English illustration. He came at a fortunate moment. After a few hesitating and tentative attempts upon the newspapers, he obtained an introduction to Mr. Comyns Carr, then engaged in establishing the English Illustrated Magazine for Messrs. Macmillan. His recommendation was a scrap-book of minutely elaborated designs for Vanity Fair, which he had done (like Reynolds) "out of pure idleness." Mr. Carr, then, as always, a discriminating critic, with a keen eye to possibilities, was not slow to detect, among much artistic recollection, something more than uncertain promise; and although he had already Randolph Caldecott and Mr. Harry Furniss on his staff, he at once gave Mr. Thomson a commission for the magazine. The earliest picture from his hand which appeared was a fancy representation of the Parade at Bath for a paper in June, 1884, by the late H. D. Traill; and he also illustrated (in part) papers on Drawing Room Dances, on Cricket (by Mr. Andrew Lang), and on Covent Garden. But graphic and vividly naturalistic as were his pictures of modern life, his native bias towards imaginary eighteenth century subjects (perhaps prompted by boyish studies of Hogarth in the old Dublin Penny Magazine), was already abundantly manifest. He promptly drifted into what was eventually to become his first illustrated book, a series of compositions from the Spectator. These were published in 1886 as a little quarto, entitled Days with Sir Roger de Coverley.

It was a "temerarious" task to attempt to revive the types which, from the days of Harrison's Essayists, had occupied so many of the earlier illustrators. But the attempt was fully justified by its success. One has but to glance at the head-piece to the first paper, where Sir Roger and "Mr. Spectator" have alighted from the jolting, springless, heavy-wheeled old coach as the tired horses toil uphill, to recognise at once that here is an artist en pays de connaissance, who may fairly be trusted, in the best sense, to "illustrate" his subject. Whatever one's predilections for previous presentments, it is impossible to resist Sir Roger (young, slim, and handsome), carving the perverse widow's name upon a tree-trunk; or Sir Roger at bowls, or riding to hounds, or listening—with grave courtesy—to Will Wimble's long-winded and circumstantial account of the taking of the historic jack. Nor is the conception less happy of that amorous fine-gentleman ancestor of the Coverleys who first made love by squeezing the hand; or of that other Knight of the Shire who so narrowly escaped being killed in the Civil Wars because he was sent out of the field upon a private message, the day before Cromwell's "crowning mercy,"—the battle of Worcester. But the varied embodiments of these, and of Mrs. Betty Arable ("the great fortune"), of Ephraim the Quaker, and the rest, are not all. The figures are set in their fitting environment; they ride their own horses, hallo to their own dogs, and eat and drink in their own dark-panelled rooms that look out on the pleached alleys of their ancient gardens. They live and move in their own passed-away atmosphere of association; and a faithful effort has moreover been made to realise each separate scene with strict relation to its text.

All of the "Coverley" series came out in the English Illustrated. So also did the designs for the next book, the Coaching Days and Coaching Ways of Mr. Outram Tristram, 1888. Here Mr. Thomson had a topographical collaborator, Mr. Herbert Railton, who did the major part of the very effective drawings in this kind. But Mr. Thomson's contributions may fairly be said to have exhausted the "romance" of the road. Inns and inn-yards, hosts and ostlers and chambermaids, stage-coachmen, toll-keepers, mail-coaches struggling in snow-drifts, mail-coaches held up by highwaymen, overturns, elopements, cast shoes, snapped poles, lost linch-pins,—all the episodes and moving accidents of bygone travel on the high road have abundant illustration, till the pages seem almost to reek of the stableyard, or ring with the horn.[30] And here it may be noted, as a peculiarity of Mr. Thomson's conscientious horse-drawing, that he depicts, not the ideal, but the actual animal. His steeds are not "faultless monsters" like the Dauphin's palfrey in Henry the Fifth. They are "all sorts and conditions" of horses; and—if truth required it—would disclose as many sand-cracks as Rocinante, or as many equine defects (from wind-gall to the bolts) as those imputed to that unhappy "Blackberry" sold by the Vicar of Wakefield at Welbridge Fair to Mr, Ephraini Jenkinson.

Note:

[30] Sometimes a literary or historical picture creeps into the text. Such are "Swift and Bolingbroke at Backlebury" (p. 30); "Charles II. recognised by the Ostler" (p. 144), and "Barry Lyndon cracks a Bottle" (p. 116). Barry Lyndon with its picaresque note and Irish background, would seem an excellent contribution to the "Cranford" series. Why does not Mr. Thomson try his hand at it? He has illustrated Esmond, and the Great Haggarty Diamond.

The Vicar of Wakefield—as it happens—was Mr. Thomson's next enterprise; and it is, in many respects, a most memorable one. It came out in December, 1890, having occupied him for nearly two years. He took exceptional pains to study and realise the several types for himself, and to ensure correctness of costume. From the first introductory procession of the Primrose family at the head of chapter i. to the awkward merriment of the two Miss Flamboroughs at the close, there is scarcely a page which has not some stroke of quiet fun, some graceful attitude, or some ingenious contrivance in composition. Considering that from Wenham's edition of 1780, nearly every illustrator of repute had tried his hand at Goldsmith's masterpiece in fiction,—that he had been attempted without humour by Stothard, without lightness by Mulready,[31]—that he had been made comic by Cruikshank, and vulgarised by Rowiandson,—it was certainly to Mr. Thomson's credit that he had approached his task with so much refinement, reverence and originality. If the book has a blemish, it is to be mentioned only because the artist, by his later practice, seems to have recognised it himself. For the purposes of process reproduction, the drawings were somewhat loaded and overworked.

Note:

[31]: Mulready's illustrations of 1843 are here referred to, net his pictures.

This was not chargeable against the next volumes to be chronicled. Mrs. Gaskell's Cranford, 1891, and Miss Mitford's Our Village, 1893, are still regarded by many as the artist's happiest efforts. I say "still," because Mr. Thomson is only now in what Victor Hugo called the youth of old age (as opposed to the old age of youth); and it would be premature to assume that a talent so alert to multiply and diversify its efforts, had already attained the summit of its achievement. But in these two books he had certain unquestionable advantages. One obviously would be, that his audience were not already preoccupied by former illustrations; and he was consequently free to invent his own personages and follow his own fertile fancy, without recalling to that implacable and Gorgonising organ, the "Public Eye," any earlier pictorial conceptions. Another thing in his favour was, that in either case, the very definite, and not very complex types surrendered themselves readily to artistic embodiment. "It almost illustrated itself,"—he told an interviewer concerning Cranford; "the characters were so exquisitely and distinctly realised." Every one has known some like them; and the delightful Knutsford ladies (for "Cranford" was "Knutsford"), the "Boz"—loving Captain Brown and Mr. Holbrook, Peter and his father, and even Martha the maid, with their mise en scene of card-tables and crackle-china, and pattens and reticules, are part of the memories of our childhood. The same may be said of Our Village, except that the breath of Nature blows more freely through it than through the quiet Cheshire market-town; and there is a larger preponderance of those "charming glimpses of rural life" of which Lady Ritchie speaks admiringly in her sympathetic preface. And with regard to the "bits of scenery"—as Mr. Thomson himself calls them—it may be noted that one of the Manchester papers, speaking of Cranford, praised the artist's intimate knowledge of the locality,—a locality he had never seen. Most of his backgrounds were from sketches made on Wimbledon Common, near which—until he moved for a space to the ancient Cinque Port of Seaford in Sussex—he lived for the first years of his London life.

In strict order of time, Mr. Thomson's next important effort should have preceded the books of Miss Mitford and Mrs. Gaskell. The novels of Jane Austen—to which we now come—if not the artist's high-water mark, are certainly remarkable as a tour de force. To contrive some forty page illustrations for each of Miss Austen's admirable, but—from an illustrator's standpoint—not very palpitating productions,—with a scene usually confined to the dining-room or parlour,—with next to no animals, and with rare opportunities for landscape accessory,—was an "adventure"—in Cervantic phrase—which might well have given pause to a designer of less fertility and resource. But besides the figures there was the furniture; and acute admirers have pointed out that a nice discretion is exhibited in graduating the appointments of Longbourn and Netherfield Park,—of Rosings and Hunsford. But what is perhaps more worthy of remark is the artist's persistent attempt to give individuality, as well as grace, to his dramatis persona;. The unspeakable Mr. Collins, Mr. Bennet, the horsy Mr. John Thorpe, Mrs. Jennings and Mrs. Norris, the Eltons—are all carefully discriminated. Nothing can well be better than Mr. Woodhouse, with his "almost immaterial legs" drawn securely out of the range of a too-fierce fire, chatting placidly to Miss Bates upon the merits of water-gruel; nothing more in keeping than the Right Honourable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, "in the very torrent, tempest, and whirlwind" of her indignation, superciliously pausing to patronise the capabilities of the Longbourn reception rooms. Not less happy is the dumbfounded astonishment of Mrs. Bennet at her toilet, when she hears—to her stupefaction—that her daughter Elizabeth is to be mistress of Pemberley and ten thousand a year. This last is a head-piece; and it may be observed, as an additional difficulty in this group of novels, that, owing to the circumstances of publication, only in one of the books. Pride and Prejudice, was Mr, Thomson free to decorate the chapters with those ingenious entetes and culs-de-lampe of which he so eminently possesses the secret.[32]

Note:

[32] That eloquence of subsidiary detail, which has had so many exponents in English art from Hogarth onwards, is one of Mr. Thomson's most striking characteristics. The reader will find it exemplified in the beautiful book-plate at page 111, which, by the courtesy of its owner, Mr. Ernest Brown, I am permitted to reproduce.

By this time his reputation had long been firmly established. To the Jane Austen volumes succeeded other numbers of the so-called "Cranford" series, to which, in 1894, Mr. Thomson had already added, under the title of Coridon's Song and other Verses, a fresh ingathering of old-time minstrelsy from the pages of the English Illustrated. Many of the drawings for these, though of necessity reduced for publication in book form, are in his most delightful and winning manner,—notably perhaps (if one must choose!) the martial ballad of that "Captain of Militia, Sir Bilberry Diddle," who

—dreamt, Fame reports, that he cut all the throats Of the French as they landed in flat-bottomed boats

—or rather were going to land any time during the Seven Years' War. Excellent, too, are John Gay's ambling Journey to Exeter., the Angler's Song from Walton (which gives its name to the collection), and Fielding's rollicking "A-hunting we will go." Other "Cranford" books, which now followed, were James Lane Allen's Kentucky Cardinal, 1901; Fanny Burney's Evelina, 1903; Thackeray's Esmond, 1905; and two of George Eliot's novels—Scenes of Clerical Life, 1906, and Silas Marner, 1907. In 1899 Mr. Thomson had also undertaken another book for George Allen, an edition of Reade's Peg Woffington,—a task in which he took the keenest delight, particularly in the burlesque character of Triplet. These were all in the old pen-work; but some of the designs for Silas Marner were lightly and tastefully coloured. This was a plan the author had adopted, with good effect, not only in a special edition of Cranford (1898), but for some of his original drawings which came into the market after exhibition. Nothing can be more seductive than a Hugh Thomson pen-sketch, when delicately tinted in sky-blue, rose-Du Barry, and apple-green (the vert-pomme dear—as Gautier says—to the soft moderns)—a treatment which lends them a subdued but indefinable distinction, as of old china with a pedigree, and fully justifies the amiable enthusiasm of the phrase-maker who described their inventor as the "Charles Lamb of illustration."

From the above enumeration certain omissions have of necessity been made. Besides the books mentioned, Mr. Thomson has contrived to prepare for newspapers and magazines many closely-studied sketches of contemporary manners. Some of the best of his work in this way is to be found in the late Mrs. E.T. Cook's Highways and Byways of London Life, 1902. For the Highways and Byways series, he has also illustrated, wholly or in part, volumes on Ireland, North Wales, Devon, Cornwall and Yorkshire. The last volume, Kent, 1907, is entirely decorated by himself. In this instance, his drawings throughout are in pencil, and he is his own topographer. It is a remarkable departure, both in manner and theme, though Mr. Thomson's liking for landscape has always been pronounced. "I would desire above all things," he told an interviewer, "to pass my time in painting landscape. Landscape pictures always attract me, and the grand examples, Gainsboroughs, Claudes, Cromes, and Turners, to be seen any day in our National Gallery, are a source of never-failing yearning and delight." The original drawings for the Kent book are of great beauty; and singularly dexterous in the varied methods by which the effect is produced. The artist is now at work on the county of Surrey. It is earnest of his versatility that, in 1904, he illustrated for Messrs. Wells, Darton and Co., with conspicuous success, a modernised prose version of certain of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, as well as Tales from Maria Edgeworth, 1903; and he also executed, in 1892 and 1895,[33] some charming designs to selections from the verses of the present writer, who has long enjoyed the privilege of his friendship.

Personal traits do not come within the province of this paper, or it would be pleasant to dwell upon Mr. Thomson's modesty, his untiring industry, and his devotion to his art. But in regard to that art, it may be observed that to characterise it solely as "packing the memory with pleasant fancies" may suffice for an exordium, but is inadequate as a final appreciation. Let me therefore note down, as they occur to me, some of his more prominent pictorial characteristics. With three of the artists mentioned in this and the preceding paper, he has obvious affinities, while, in a sense, he includes them all. If he does not excel Stothard in the gift of grace, he does in range and variety; and he more than rivals him in composition. He has not, like Miss Greenaway, endowed the art-world with a special type of childhood; but his children are always lifelike and engaging. (Compare, at a venture, the boy soldiers whom Frank Castlewood is drilling in chapter xi. of Esmond, or the delightful little fellow who is throwing up his arms in chapter ix. of Emma.) As regards dogs and horses and the rest, his colleague, Mr, Joseph Pennell, an expert critic, and a most accomplished artist, holds that he has "long since surpassed" Randolph Caldecott.[34] I doubt whether Mr. Thomson himself would concur with his eulogist in this. But he has assuredly followed Caldecott close; and in opulence of production, which—as Macaulay insisted—should always count, has naturally exceeded that gifted, but shortlived, designer. If, pursuing an ancient practice, one were to attempt to label Mr. Thomson with a special distinction apart from, and in addition to, his other merits, I should be inclined to designate him the "Master of the Vignette,"—taking that word in its primary sense as including head-pieces, tail-pieces and initial letters. In this department, no draughtsman I can call to mind has ever shown greater fertility of invention, so much playful fancy, so much grace, so much kindly humour, and such a sane and wholesome spirit of fun.

Notes:

[33] The Ballad of Beau Brocade, and The Story of Rosina.

[34] Pen-Drawing and Pen-Draughtsmen, 2nd ed. 1894, p. 358.



HORATIAN ODE

ON THE TERCENTENARY OF

"DON QUIXOTE"

(Published at Madrid, by Francisco de Robles, January 1605)

"Para mi sola nacio don Quixote, y yo para el."—CERVANTES.

Advents we greet of great and small; Much we extol that may not live; Yet to the new-born Type we give No care at all!

This year,[35]—three centuries past,—by age More maimed than by LEPANTO'S fight,— This year CERVANTES gave to light His matchless page,

Whence first outrode th' immortal Pair,— The half-crazed Hero and his hind,— To make sad laughter for mankind; And whence they fare

Throughout all Fiction still, where chance Allies Life's dulness with its dreams— Allies what is, with what but seems,— Fact and Romance:—

O Knight of fire and Squire of earth!— O changing give-and-take between The aim too high, the aim too mean, I hail your birth,—

Three centuries past,—in sunburned SPAIN, And hang, on Time's PANTHEON wall, My votive tablet to recall That lasting gain!

Note:

[35] I.e. January 1905.



THE BOOKS OF SAMUEL ROGERS

One common grave, according to Garrick, covers the actor and his art. The same may be said of the raconteur. Oral tradition, or even his own writings, may preserve his precise words; but his peculiarities of voice or action, his tricks of utterance and intonation,—all the collateral details which serve to lend distinction or piquancy to the performance—perish irrecoverably. The glorified gramophone of the future may perhaps rectify this for a new generation; and give us, without mechanical drawback, the authentic accents of speakers dead and gone; but it can never perpetuate the dramatic accompaniment of gesture and expression. If, as always, there are exceptions to this rule, they are necessarily evanescent. Now and then, it may be, some clever mimic will recall the manner of a passed-away predecessor; and he may even contrive to hand it on, more or less effectually, to a disciple. But the reproduction is of brief duration; and it is speedily effaced or transformed.

In this way it is, however, that we get our most satisfactory idea of the once famous table-talker, Samuel Rogers. Charles Dickens, who sent Rogers several of his books; who dedicated Master Humphrey's Clock to him; and who frequently assisted at the famous breakfasts in St. James's Place, was accustomed—rather cruelly, it may be thought—to take off his host's very characteristic way of telling a story; and it is, moreover, affirmed by Mr. Percy Fitzgerald[36] that, in the famous Readings, "the strangely obtuse and owl-like expression, and the slow, husky croak" of Mr. Justice Stareleigh in the "Trial from Pickwick" were carefully copied from the author of the Pleasures of Memory, That Dickens used thus to amuse his friends is confirmed by the autobiography of the late Frederick Locker,[37] who perfectly remembered the old man, to see whom he had been carried, as a boy, by his father. He had also heard Dickens repeat one of Rogers's stock anecdotes (it was that of the duel in a dark room, where the more considerate combatant, firing up the chimney, brings down his adversary);[38]—and he speaks of Dickens as mimicking Rogers's "calm, low-pitched, drawling voice and dry biting manner very comically."[39] At the same time, it must be remembered that these reminiscences relate to Rogers in his old age. He was over seventy when Dickens published his first book, Sketches by Boz; and, though it is possible that Rogers's voice was always rather sepulchral, and his enunciation unusually deliberate and monotonous, he had nevertheless, as Locker says, "made story-telling a fine art." Continued practice had given him the utmost economy of words; and as far as brevity and point are concerned, his method left nothing to be desired. Many of his best efforts are still to be found in the volume of Table-Talk edited for Moxon in 1856 by the Rev. Alexander Dyce; or preferably, as actually written down by Rogers himself in the delightful Recollections issued three years later by his nephew and executor, William Sharpe.

Notes:

[36] Recreations of a Literary Man, 1882, p. 137.

[37] My Confidences, by Frederick Locker-Lampson, 1896, pp. 98 and 325.

[38] The duellists were an Englishman and a Frenchman; and Rogers was in the habit of adding as a postscript: "When I tell that in Paris, I always put the Englishman up the chimney!"

[39] It may be added that Mr. Percy Fitzgerald, himself no mean mime, may be sometimes persuaded to imitate Dickens imitating Rogers.

But although the two things are often intimately connected, the "books," and not the "stories" of Rogers, are the subject of the present paper. After this, it sounds paradoxical to have to admit that his reputation as a connoisseur far overshadowed his reputation as a bibliophile. When, in December 1855, he died, his pictures and curios,—his "articles of virtue and bigotry" as a modern Malaprop would have styled them,—attracted far more attention than the not very numerous volumes forming his library.[40] What people flocked to see at the tiny treasure-house overlooking the Green Park,[41] which its nonagenarian owner had occupied for more than fifty years, were the "Puck" and "Strawberry Girl" of Sir Joshua, the Titians, Giorgiones, and Guidos,[42] the Poussins and Claudes, the drawings of Raphael and Duerer and Lucas van Leyden, the cabinet decorated by Stothard, the chimney-piece carved by Flaxman; the miniatures and bronzes and Etruscan vases,—all the "infinite riches in a little room," which crowded No. 22 from garret to basement. These were the rarities that filled the columns of the papers and the voices of the quidnuncs when in 1856 they came to the hammer. But although the Press of that day takes careful count of these things, it makes little reference to the sale of the "books" of the banker-bard who spent some L15,000 on the embellishments of his Italy and his Poems; and although Dr. Burney says that Rogers's library included "the best editions of the best authors in most languages," he had clearly no widespread reputation as a book-collector pure and simple. Nevertheless he loved his books,—that is, he loved the books he read. And, as far as can be ascertained, he anticipated the late Master of Balliol, since he read only the books he liked. Nor was he ever diverted from his predilections by mere fashion or novelty. "He followed Bacon's maxim"—says one who knew him—"to read much, not many things: multum legere, non multa. He used to say, 'When a new book comes out, I read an old one.'"[43]

Notes:

[40] The prices obtained confirm this. Thetotaisum realised was L45,188:14:3. Of this the books represented no more than L1415:5.

[41] This—with its triple range of bow-windows, from one of which Rogers used to watch his favourite sunsets—is now the residence of Lord Northcliffe.

[42] Three of these—the "Noli me tangere" of Titian, Giorgione's "Knight in Armour," and Guide's "Ecce Homo"—are now in the National Gallery, to which they were bequeathed by Rogers.

[43] Edinburgh Review, vol. civ. p. 105, by Abraham Hayward.

The general Rogers-sale at Christie's took place in the spring of 1856, and twelve days had been absorbed before the books were reached. Their sale took six days more—i.e. from May 12 to May 19. As might be expected from Rogers's traditional position in the literary world, the catalogue contains many presentation copies. What, at first sight, would seem the earliest, is the Works of Edward Moore, 1796, 2 vols. But if this be the fabulist and editor of the World, it can scarcely have been received from the writer, since, in 1796, Moore had been dead for nearly forty years. With Bloomfield's poems of 1802, l. p., we are on surer ground, for Rogers, like Capel Lofft, had been kind to the author of The Farmer's Boy, and had done his best to obtain him a pension. Another early tribute, subsequently followed by the Tales of the Hall, was Crabbe's Borough, which he sent to Rogers in 1810, in response to polite overtures made to him by the poet. This was the beginning of a lasting friendship, of no small import to Crabbe, as it at once admitted him to Rogers's circle, an advantage of which there are many traces in Crabbe's journal. Next comes Madame de Stael's much proscribed De l'Allamagne (the Paris edition); and from its date, 1813, it must have been presented to Rogers when its irrepressible author was in England. She often dined or breakfasted at St. James's Place, where (according to Byron), she out-talked Whitbread, confounded Sir Humphry Davy, and was herself well "ironed"[44] by Sheridan. Rogers considered Corinne to be her best novel, and Delphine a terrible falling-off. The Germany he found "very fatiguing." "She writes her works four or five times over, correcting them only in that way"—he says. "The end of a chapter [is] always the most obscure, as she ends with an epigram,"[45] Another early presentation copy is the second edition of Bowles's Missionary, 1815. According to Rogers, who claims to have suggested the poem, it was to have been inscribed to him. But somehow or other, the book got dedicated to noble lord who—Rogers adds drily—never, either by word or letter, made any acknowledgment of the homage.[46] It is not impossible that there is some confusion of recollection here, or Rogers is misreported by Dyce. The first anonymous edition of the Missionary, 1813, had no dedication; and the second was inscribed to the Marquess of Lansdowne because he had been prominent among those who recognised the merit of its predecessor.

Notes:

[44] Perhaps a remembrance of Mrs Slipslop's "ironing."

[45] Clayden's Rogers and his Contemporaries, 1889, i. 225. As an epigrammatist himself, Rogers might have been more indulgent to a consoeur. Here is one of Madame de Stael's "ends of chapters":—"La monotonie, dans la retraite, tranquillise l'ame; la monotonie, dans le grand monde, fatigue l'esprit" (ch. viii.). But he evidently found her rather overpowering.

[46] Table-Talk, 1856, p. 258.

Several of Scott's poems, with Rogers's autograph, and Scott's card, appear in the catalogue; and, in 1812, Byron, who a year after inscribed the Giaour to Rogers, sent him the first two cantos of Childe Harold. In 1838, Moore presents Lalla Rookh, with Heath's plates, a work which, upon its first appearance, twenty years earlier, had been dedicated to Rogers. In 1839 Charles Dickens followed with Nicholas Nickleby, succeeded a year later by Master Humphrey's Clock (1840-1), also dedicated to Rogers in recognition, not only of his poetical merit, but of his "active sympathy with the poorest and humblest of his kind." Rogers was fond of "Little Nell"; and in the Preface to Barnaby Rudge, Dickens gracefully acknowledged that "for a beautiful thought" in the seventy-second chapter of the Old Curiosity Shop, he was indebted to Rogers's Ginevra in the Italy:—

And long might'st thou have seen An old man wandering as in quest of something, Something he could not find—he knew not what.

The American Notes, 1842, was a further offering from Dickens. Among other gifts may be noted Wordsworth's Poems, 1827-35; Campbell's Pilgrim of Glencoe, 1842; Longfellow's Ballads and Voices of the Night, 1840-2; Macaulay's Lays and Tennyson's Poems, 1842; and lastly, Hazlitt's Criticisms on Art, 1844, and Carlyle's Letters and Speeches of Cromwell, 1846. Brougham's philosophical novel of Albert Lunel; or, the Chateau of Languedoc, 3 vols, 1844, figures in the catalogue as "withdrawn." It had been suppressed "for private reasons" upon the eve of publication; and this particular copy being annotated by Rogers (to whom it was inscribed) those concerned were no doubt all the more anxious that it should not get abroad. Inspection of the reprint of 1872 shows, however, that want of interest was its chief error. A reviewer of 1858 roundly calls it "feeble" and "commonplace"; and it could hardly have increased its writer's reputation. Indeed, by some, it was not supposed to be from his Lordship's pen at all. Rogers, it may be added, frequently annotated his books. His copies of Pope, Gray and Scott had many marginalia. Clarke's and Fox's histories of James II. were also works which he decorated in this way.

As already hinted, not very many bibliographical curiosities are included in the St. James's Place collection; and to look for Shakespeare quartos or folios, for example, would be idle. Ordinary editions of Shakespeare, such as Johnson's and Theobald's; Shakespeariana, such as Mrs. Montagu's Essay and Ayscough's Index,—these are there of course. If the list also takes in Thomas Caldecott's Hamlet, and As you like it (1832), that is, first, because the volume is a presentation copy; and secondly, because Caldecott's colleague in his frustrate enterprise was Crowe, Rogers's Miltonic friend, hereafter mentioned. Rogers's own feeling for Shakespeare was cold and hypercritical; and he was in the habit of endorsing with emphasis Ben Jonson's aspiration that the master had blotted a good many of his too-facile lines. Nevertheless, it is possible to pick out a few exceptional volumes from Mr. Christie's record. Among the earliest comes a copy of Garth's Dispensary, 1703, which certainly boasts an illustrious pedigree. Pope, who received it from the author, had carefully corrected it in several places; and in 1744 bequeathed it to Warburton. Warburton, in his turn, handed it on to Mason, from whom it descended to Lord St. Helens, by whom, again, shortly before his death (1815), it was presented to Rogers. To Pope's corrections, which Garth adopted, Mason had added a comment. What made the volume of further interest was, that it contained Lord Dorchester's receipt for his subscription to Pope's Homer; and, inserted at the end, a full-length portrait of Pope; viz., that engraved in Warton's edition of 1797, as sketched in pen-and-ink by William Hoare of Bath. Another interesting item is the quarto first edition (the first three books) of Spenser's Faerie Queene, Ponsonbie, 1590: and a third, the Paradise Lost of Milton in ten books, the original text of 1667 (with the 1669 title-page and the Argument and Address to the Reader)—both bequeathed to Rogers by W, Jackson of Edinburgh. (One of the stock exhibits at "Memory Hall"—as 22 St. James's Place was playfully called by some of the owner's friends—was Milton's receipt to Symmons the printer for the five pounds he received for his epic. This, framed and glazeds hung, according to Lady Eastlake, on one of the doors.[47]) A fourth rare book was William Bonham's black-letter Chaucer, a folio which had been copiously annotated in MS. by Home Tooke, who gave it to Rogers. It moreover contained, at folio 221, the record of Tooke's arrest at Wimbledon on 16th May, 1794, and subsequent committal on the 19th to the Tower, for alleged high treason.[48] Further notabilia in this category were the Duke of Marlborough's Hypnerotomachie of Poliphilus, Paris, 1554, and also the Aldine edition of 1499; the very rare 1572 issue of Camoens's Lusiads; Holbein's Dance of Death, the Lyons issues of 1538 and 1547; first editions of Bewick's Birds and Quadrupeds; Le Sueur's Life of St. Bruno, with the autograph of Sir Joshua Reynolds, and a rare quarto (1516) of Boccaccio's Decameron.

Notes:

[47] It was, no doubt, identical with the "Original Articles of Agreement" (Add. MSS. 18,861) between Milton and Samuel Symmons, printer, dated 27th April, 1667, presented by Rogers in 1852 to the British Museum. Besides the above-mentioned L5 down, there were to be three further payments of L5 each on the sale of three editions, each of 1300 copies. The second edition appeared in 1674, the year of the author's death.

[48] He was acquitted. His notes, in pencil, and relating chiefly to his Diversions of Parley, were actually written in the Tower. Rogers, who was present at the trial in November, mentioned, according to Dyce, a curious incident bearing upon a now obsolete custom referred to by Goldsmith and others. As usual, the prisoner's dock, in view of possible jail-fever, was strewn with sweet-smelling herbs-fennel, rosemary and the like. Tooke indignantly swept them away. Another of several characteristic anecdotes told by Rogers of Tooke is as follows:—Being asked once at college what his father was, he replied, "A Turkey Merchant." Tooke pere was a poulterer in Clare Market.

But the mere recapitulation of titles readily grows tedious, even to the elect; and I turn to some of the volumes with which, from references in the Table-Talk and Recollections, their owner might seem to be more intimately connected. Foremost among these—one would think—should come his own productions. Most of these, no doubt, are included under the auctioneers' heading of "Works and Illustrations." In the "Library" proper, however, there are few traces of them. There is a quarto copy of the unfortunate Columbus, with Stothard's sketches; and there is the choice little Pleasures of Memory of 1810, with Luke Clennell's admirable cuts in facsimile from the same artist's pen-and-ink,—a volume which, come what may, will always hold its own in the annals of book-illustration. That there were more than one of these latter may be an accident. Rogers, nevertheless, like many book-lovers, must have indulged in duplicates. According to Hayward, once at breakfast, when some one quoted Gray's irresponsible outburst concerning the novels of Marivaux and Crebillon le fils, Rogers asked his guests, three in number, whether they were familiar with Marivaux's Vie de Marianne, a book which he himself confesses to have read through six times, and which French critics still hold, on inconclusive evidence, to have been the "only begetter" of Richardson's Pamela and the sentimental novel. None of the trio knew anything about it. "Then I will lend you each a copy," rejoined Rogers; and the volumes were immediately produced, doubtless by that faithful and indefatigable factotum, Edmund Paine, of whom his master was wont to affirm that he would not only find any book in the house, but out of it as well. What is more (unless it be assumed that the poet's stock was larger still), one, at least, of the three copies must have been returned, since there is a copy in the catalogue. As might be expected in the admirer of Marivaux's heroine, the list is also rich in Jean-Jacques, whose "gout vif pour les dejeuners," this Amphitryon often extolled, quoting with approval Rousseau's opinion that "C'est le temps de la journee ou nous sommes le plus tranquilles, ou nous causons le plus a noire aise." Another of his favourite authors was Manzoni, whose Promessi Sposi he was inclined to think he would rather have written than all Scott's novels; and he never tired of reading Louis Racine's Memoires of his father, 1747,—that "filon de l'or pur du dix-septieme siecle"—as Villemain calls it—"qui se prolonge dans l'age suivant." Some of Rogers's likings sound strange enough nowadays. With Campbell, he delighted in Cowper's Homer, which he assiduously studied, and infinitely preferred to that of Pope. Into Chapman's it must be assumed that he had not looked—certainly he has left no sonnet on the subject. Milton was perhaps his best-loved bard. "When I was travelling in Italy (he says), I made two authors my constant study for versification,—Milton and Crowe" (The italics are ours.) It is an odd collocation; but not unintelligible. William Crowe, the now forgotten Public Orator of Oxford, and author of Lewesdon Hill, was an intimate friend; a writer on versification; and, last but not least, a very respectable echo of the Miltonic note, as the following, from a passage dealing with the loss in 1786 of the Halsewell East Indiaman off the coast of Dorset, sufficiently testifies:—

The richliest-laden ship Of spicy Ternate, or that annual sent To the Philippines o'er the southern main From Acapulco, carrying massy gold, Were poor to this;—freighted with hopeful Youth And Beauty, and high Courage undismay'd By mortal terrors, and paternal Love, etc., etc.

It is not improbable that Rogers caught the mould of his blank verse from the copy rather than from the model. In the matter of style—as Flaubert has said—the second-bests are often the better teachers. More is to be learned from La Fontaine and Gautier than from Moliere and Victor Hugo.

Many art-books, many books addressed specially to the connoisseur, as well as most of those invaluable volumes no gentleman's library should be without, found their places on Rogers's hospitable shelves. Of such, it is needless to speak; nor, in this place, is it necessary to deal with his finished and amiable, but not very vigorous or vital poetry. A parting word may, however, be devoted to the poet himself. Although, during his lifetime, and particularly towards its close, his weak voice and singularly blanched appearance exposed him perpetually to a kind of brutal personality now happily tabooed, it cannot be pretended that, either in age or youth, he was an attractive-looking man. In these cases, as in that of Goldsmith, a measure of burlesque sometimes provides a surer criterion than academic portraiture. The bust of the sculptor-caricaturist, Danton, is of course what even Hogarth would have classed as outre[49]; but there is reason for believing that Maclise's sketch in Fraser of the obtrusively bald, cadaverous and wizened figure in its arm-chair, which gave such a shudder of premonition to Goethe, and which Maginn, reflecting the popular voice, declared to be a mortal likeness—"painted to the very death"—was more like the original than his pictures by Lawrence and Hoppner. One can comprehend, too, that the person whom nature had so ungenerously endowed, might be perfectly capable of retorting to rudeness, or the still-smarting recollection of rudeness, with those weapons of mordant wit and acrid epigram which are not unfrequently the protective compensation of physical shortcomings. But this conceded, there are numberless anecdotes which testify to Rogers's cultivated taste and real good breeding, to his genuine benevolence, to his almost sentimental craving for appreciation and affection. In a paper on his books, it is permissible to end with a bookish anecdote. One of his favourite memories, much repeated in his latter days, was that of Cowley's laconic Will,—"I give my body to the earth, and my soul to my Maker." Lady Eastlake shall tell the rest:—"This ... proved on one occasion too much for one of the party, and in an incautious moment a flippant young lady exclaimed, 'But, Mr. Rogers, what of Cowley's property?' An ominous silence ensued, broken only by a sotto voce from the late Mrs. Procter: 'Well, my dear, you have put your foot in it; no more invitations for you in a hurry,' But she did the kind old man, then above ninety, wrong. The culprit continued to receive the same invitations and the same welcome."[50]

Note:

[49] Rogers's own copy of this, which (it may be added), he held in horror, now belongs to Mr. Edmund Gosse. Lord Londonderry has a number of Danton's busts.

[50] Quarterly Review, vol. 167, p. 512.



PEPYS' "DIARY"

To One who asked why he wrote it.

You ask me what was his intent? In truth, I'm not a German; 'Tis plain though that he neither meant A Lecture nor a Sermon.

But there it is,—the thing's a Fact. I find no other reason But that some scribbling itch attacked Him in and out of season,

To write what no one else should read, With this for second meaning, To "cleanse his bosom" (and indeed It sometimes wanted cleaning);

To speak, as 'twere, his private mind, Unhindered by repression, To make his motley life a kind, Of Midas' ears confession;

And thus outgrew this work per se,— This queer, kaleidoscopic, Delightful, blabbing, vivid, free Hotch-pot of daily topic.

So artless in its vanity, So fleeting, so eternal, So packed with "poor Humanity"— We know as Pepys' his journal.[51]

Note:

[51] Written for the Pepys' Dinner at Magdalene College, Cambridge, February 23rd, 1905.



A FRENCH CRITIC ON BATH

Among other pleasant premonitions of the present entente cordiale between France and England is the increased attention which, for some time past, our friends of Outre Manche have been devoting to our literature. That this is wholly of recent growth, is not, of course, to be inferred. It must be nearly five-and-forty years since M. Hippolyte Taine issued his logical and orderly Histoire de la Litterature Anglaise; while other isolated efforts of insight and importance—such as the Laurence Sterne of M. Paul Stapfer, and the excellent Le Public et les Hommes de Lettres en Angleterre au XVIII^e Siecle of the late M. Alexandre Beljame of the Sorbonne—are already of distant date. But during the last two decades the appearance of similar productions has been more recurrent and more marked. From one eminent writer alone—M. J.-J. Jusserand—we have received an entire series of studies of exceptional charm, variety, and accomplishment. M. Felix Rabbe has given us a sympathetic analysis of Shelley; M. Auguste Angellier,—himself a poet of individuality and distinction,—what has been rightly described as a "splendid work" on Burns;[52] while M. Emile Legouis, in a minute examination of "The Prelude," has contrasted and compared the orthodox Wordsworth of maturity with the juvenile semi-atheist of Coleridge. Travelling farther afield, M. W. Thomas has devoted an exhaustive volume to Young of the Night Thoughts; M. Leon Morel, another to Thomson; and, incidentally, a flood of fresh light has been thrown upon the birth and growth of the English Novel by the admirable Jean-Jacques Rousseau et les Origines du Cosmopolitisme Litteraire of the late Joseph Texte—an investigation unquestionably of the ripest scholarship, and the most extended research. And now once more there are signs that French lucidity and French precision are about to enter upon other conquests; and we have M. Barbeau's study of a famous old English watering-place[53]—appropriately dedicated, as is another of the books already mentioned, to M. Beljame.[54]

Notes:

[52] A volume of Pages Choisies de Auguste Angellier, Prose et Vers, with an Introduction by M. Legouis, has recently (1908) been issued by the Clarendon Press. It contains lengthy extracts from M. Angellier's study of Burns.

[53:]Une Ville d'Eaux anglaise au XVIIIe Siecle, La Societe Elegante et Litteraire a Bath sous la Reine Anne et sous les Georges. Par A. Barbeau. Paris, Picard, 1904.

[54] The list grows apace. To the above, among others, must now be added M. Rene Huchon's brilliant little essay on Mrs. Montagu, and his elaborate study of Crabbe, to say nothing of M. Jules Derocquigny's Lamb, M. Jules Douady's Hazlitt, and M. Joseph Aynard's Coleridge.

At first sight, topography, even when combined with social sketches, may seem less suited to a foreigner and an outsider than it would be to a resident and a native. In the attitude of the latter to the land in which he lives or has been born, there is always an inherent something of the soil for which even trained powers of comparison, and a special perceptive faculty, are but imperfect substitutes. On the other hand, the visitor from over-sea is, in many respects, better placed for observation than the inhabitant. He enjoys not a little—it has been often said—of the position of posterity. He takes in more at a glance; he leaves out less; he is disturbed by no apprehensions of explaining what is obvious, or discovering what is known. As a consequence, he sets down much which, from long familiarity, an indigenous critic would be disposed to discard, although it might not be, in itself, either uninteresting or superfluous. And if, instead of dealing with the present and actual, his concern is with history and the past, his external standpoint becomes a strength rather than a weakness. He can survey his subject with a detachment which is wholly favourable to his project; and he can give it, with less difficulty than another, the advantages of scientific treatment and an artistic setting. Finally, if his theme have definite limits—as for instance an appreciable beginning, middle, and end—he must be held to be exceptionally fortunate. And this, either from happy guessing, or sheer good luck, is M. Barbeau's case. All these conditions are present in the annals of the once popular pleasure-resort of which he has elected to tell the story. It arose gradually; it grew through a century of unexampled prosperity; it sank again to the level of a county-town. If it should ever arise again,—and it is by no means a ville morte,—it will be in an entirely different way. The particular Bath of the eighteenth century—the Bath of Queen Anne and the Georges, of Nash and Fielding and Sheridan, of Anstey and Mrs. Siddons, of Wesley and Lady Huntingdon, of Quin and Gainsborough and Lawrence and a hundred others—is no more. It is a case of Fuit Ilium. It has gone for ever; and can never be revived in the old circumstances. To borrow an apposite expression from M. Texte, it is an organism whose evolution has accomplished its course.

M. Barbeau's task, then, is very definitely mapped-out and circumscribed. But he is far too good a craftsman to do no more than give a mere panorama of that daily Bath programme which King Nash and his dynasty ordained and established. He goes back to the origins; to the legend of King Lear's leper-father; to the Diary of the too-much-neglected Celia Fiennes; to Pepys[55] and Grammont's Memoirs; to the days when hapless Catherine of Braganza, with the baleful "belle Stewart" in her train, made fruitless pilgrimage to Bladud's spring as a remedy against sterility. He sketches, with due acknowledgments to Goldsmith's unique little book, the biography of that archquack, poseur, and very clever organiser, Mr. Richard Nash, the first real Master of the Ceremonies; and he gives a full account of his followers and successors. He also minutely relates the story of Sheridan's marriage to his beautiful "St. Cecilia," Elizabeth Ann Linley. A separate and very interesting chapter is allotted to Lady Huntingdon and the Methodists, not without levies from the remarkable Spiritual Quixote of that Rev. Richard Graves of Claverton, of whom an excellent account was given not long since in Mr. W. H. Hutton's suggestive Burford Papers. Other chapters are occupied with Bath and its belles lettres; with "Squire Allworthy" of Prior Park and his literary guests, Pope, Warburton, Fielding and his sister, etc.; with the historic Frascati vase of Lady Miller at Batheaston, which stirred the ridicule of Horace Walpole, and is still, it is said, to be seen in a local park. The dosing pages treat of Bath—musical, artistic, scientific—of its gradual transformation as a health resort—of its eventual and foredoomed decline and fall as the one fashionable watering-place, supreme and single, for Great Britain and Ireland.

Note:

[55] Oddly enough—if M. Barbeau's index is to be trusted, and it is an unusually good one,—he makes no reference to Evelyn's visit to Bath. But Evelyn went there in June, 1654, bathed in the Cross Bath, criticised the "facciata" of the Abbey Church, complained of the "narrow, uneven and unpleasant streets," and inter-visited with the company frequenting the place for health. "Among the rest of the idle diversions of the town," he says, "one musician was famous for acting a changeling [idiot or half-wit], which indeed he personated strangely." (Diary, Globe edn., 1908, p. 174.)

But it is needless to prolong analysis. One's only wonder—as usual after the event—is that what has been done so well had never been thought of before. For while M. Barbeau is to be congratulated upon the happy task he has undertaken, we may also congratulate ourselves that he has performed it so effectively. His material is admirably arranged. He has supported it by copious notes; and he has backed it up by an impressive bibliography of authorities ancient and modern. This is something; but it is not all[56]. He has done much more than this. He has contrived that, in his picturesque and learned pages, the old "Queen of the West" shall live again, with its circling terraces, its grey stone houses and ill-paved streets, its crush of chairs and chariots, its throng of smirking, self-satisfied prom-enaders.

Note:

[56] To the English version (Heinemann, 1904) an eighteenth-century map of Bath, and a number of interesting views and portraits have been added.

One seems to see the clumsy stage-coaches depositing their touzled and tumbled inmates, in their rough rocklows and quaint travelling headgear, at the "Bear" or the "White Hart," after a jolting two or three days' journey from Oxford or London, not without the usual experiences, real and imaginary, of suspicious-looking horsemen at Hounslow, or masked "gentlemen of the pad" on Claverton Down. One hears the peal of five-and-twenty bells which greets the arrival of visitors of importance; and notes the obsequious and venal town-waits who follow them to their lodgings in Gay Street or Milsom Street or the Parades,—where they will, no doubt, be promptly attended by the Master of the Ceremonies, "as fine as fivepence," and a very pretty, sweet-smelling gentleman, to be sure, whether his name be Wade or Derrick. Next day will probably discover them in chip hats and flannel, duly equipped with wooden bowls and bouquets, at the King's Bath, where, through a steaming atmosphere, you may survey their artless manoeuvres (as does Lydia Melford in Humphry Clinker) from the windows of the Pump Room, to which rallying-place they will presently repair to drink the waters, in a medley of notables and notorieties, members of Parliament, chaplains and led-captains, Noblemen with ribbons and stars, dove-coloured Quakers, Duchesses, quacks, fortune-hunters, lackeys, lank-haired Methodists, Bishops, and boarding-school misses. Ferdinand Count Fathom will be there, as well as my Lord Ogleby; Lady Bellaston (and Mr. Thomas Jones); Geoffry Wildgoose and Tugwell the cobbler; Lismahago and Tabitha Bramble; the caustic Mrs. Selwyn and the blushing Miss Anville. Be certain, too, that, sooner or later, you will encounter Mrs, Candour and Lady Sneerwell, Sir Benjamin Backbite and his uncle, Mr. Crabtree, for this is their main haunt and region—in fact, they were born here. You may follow this worshipful and piebald procession to the Public Breakfasts in the Spring Gardens, to the Toy-shops behind the Church, to the Coffee-houses in Westgate Street, to the Reading Rooms on the Walks, where, in Mr. James Leake's parlour at the back—if you are lucky—you may behold the celebrated Mr. Ralph Allen of Prior Park, talking either to Mr. Henry Fielding or to Mr. Leake's brother-in-law, Mr. Samuel Richardson, but never—if we are correctly informed—to both of them together. Or you may run against Mr. Christopher Anstey of the over-praised Guide, walking arm-in-arm with another Bathonian, Mr. Melmoth, whose version of Pliny was once held to surpass its original. At the Abbey—where there are daily morning services—you shall listen to the silver periods of Bishop Kurd, whom his admirers call fondly "the Beauty of Holiness"; at St. James's you can attend the full-blown lectures, "more unctuous than ever he preached," of Bishop Beilby Porteus; or you may succeed in procuring a card for a select hearing, at Edgar Buildings, of Lady Huntingdon's eloquent chaplain, Mr. Whitefield. With the gathering shades of even, you may pass, if so minded, to Palmer's Theatre in Orchard Street, and follow Mrs. Siddons acting Belvidera in Otway's Venice Preserv'd to the Pierre of that forgotten Mr. Lee whom Fanny Burney put next to Garrick; or you may join the enraptured audience whom Mrs. Jordan is delighting with her favourite part of Priscilla Tomboy in The Romp. You may assist at the concerts of Signer Venanzio Rauzzini and Monsieur La Motte; you may take part in a long minuet or country dance at the Upper or Lower Assembly Rooms, which Bunbury will caricature; you may even lose a few pieces at the green tables; and, should you return home late enough, may watch a couple of stout chairmen at the door of the "Three Tuns" in Stall Street, hoisting that seasoned toper, Mr. James Quin, into a sedan after his evening's quantum of claret. What you do to-day, you will do to-morrow, if the bad air of the Pump Room has not given you a headache, or the waters a touch of vertigo; and you will continue to do it for a month or six weeks, when the lumbering vehicle with the leathern straps and crane-necked springs will carry you back again over the deplorable roads ("so sidelum and jumblum," one traveller calls them) to your town-house, or your country-box, or your city-shop or chambers, as the case may be. Here, in due course, you will begin to meditate upon your next excursion to THE BATH, provided always that you have not dipped your estate at "E.O.", or been ruined by milliners' bills;—that your son has not gone northwards with a sham Scotch heiress, or your daughter been married at Charicombe, by private license, to a pinchbeck Irish peer. For all these things—however painful the admission—were, according to the most credible chroniclers, the by-no-means infrequent accompaniment or sequel of an unguarded sojourn at the old jigging, card-playing, scandal-loving, pleasure-seeking city in the loop of "the soft-flowing Avon."

It is an inordinate paragraph, outraging all known rules of composition! But then—How seductive a subject is eighteenth-century Bath!—and how rich in memories is M. Barbeau's book!



A WELCOME FROM THE "JOHNSON CLUB"

To William John Courthope, March 12, 1903

When Pope came back from Trojan wars once more, He found a Bard, to meet him on the shore, And hail his advent with a strain as clear As e'er was sung by BYRON or by FRERE.[57]

You, SIR, have travelled from no distant clime, Yet would JOHN GAY could welcome you in rhyme; And by some fable not too coldly penned, Teach how with judgment one may praise a Friend.

There is no need that I should tell in words Your prowess from The Paradise of Birds;[58] No need to show how surely you have traced The Life in Poetry, the Law in Taste;[59] Or mark with what unwearied strength you wear The weight that WARTON found too great to bear.[60] There Is no need for this or that. My plan Is less to laud the Matter than the Man.

Previous Part     1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse