HER FAULTS.—It is as easy to criticize Mrs. Browning's works as to admire them; but our admiration is great in spite of her faults: in part because of them, for they are faults of a bold and striking individuality. There is sometimes an obscurity in her fancies, and a turgidity in her language. She seems to transcend the poet's license with a knowledge that she is doing so. For example:
We will sit on the throne of a purple sublimity, And grind down men's bones to a pale unanimity.
And again, in speaking of Goethe, she says:
His soul reached out from far and high, And fell from inner entity.
Her rhymes are frequently and arrogantly faulty: she seems to scorn the critics; she writes more for herself than for others, and infuses all she writes with her own fervent spirit: there is nothing commonplace or lukewarm. She is so strong that she would be masculine; but so tender that she is entirely feminine: at once one of the most vigorous of poets and one of the best of women. She has attained the first rank among the English poets.
ROBERT BROWNING.—As a poet of decided individuality, which has gained for him many admirers, Browning claims particular mention. His happy marriage has for his fame the disadvantage that he gave his name to a greater poet; and it is never mentioned without an instinctive thought of her superiority. Many who are familiar with her verses have never read a line of her husband. This is in part due to a mysticism and an intense subjectivity, which are not adapted to the popular comprehension. He has chosen subjects unknown or uninteresting to the multitude of readers, and treats them with such novelty of construction and such an affectation of originality, that few persons have patience to read his poems.
Robert Browning was born, in 1812, at Camberwell; and after a careful education, not at either of the universities, (for he was a dissenter,) he went at the age of twenty to Italy, where he eagerly studied the history and antiquity to be found in the monasteries and in the remains of the mediaeval period. He also made a study of the Italian people. In 1835 he published a drama called Paracelsus, founded upon the history of that celebrated alchemist and physician, and delineating the conditions of philosophy in the fifteenth century. It is novel, antique, and metaphysical: it exhibits the varied emotions of human sympathy; but it is eccentric and obscure, and cannot be popular. He has been called the poet for poets; and this statement seems to imply that he is not the poet for the great world.
In 1837 he published a tragedy called Strafford; but his Italian culture seems to have spoiled his powers for portraying English character, and he has presented a stilted Strafford and a theatrical Charles I.
In 1840 appeared Sordello, founded upon incidents in the history of that Mantuan poet Sordello, whom Dante and Virgil met in purgatory; and who, deserting the language of Italy, wrote his principal poems in the Provencal. The critics were so dissatisfied with this work, that Browning afterwards omitted it in the later editions of his poems. In 1843 he published a tragedy entitled A Blot on the 'Scutcheon, and a play called The Dutchess of Cleves. In 1850 appeared Christmas Eve and Easter Day. Concerning all these, it may be said that it is singular and sad that a real poetic gift, like that of Browning, should be so shrouded with faults of conception and expression. What leads us to think that many of these are an affectation, is that he has produced, almost with the simplicity of Wordsworth, those charming sketches, The Good News from Ghent to Aix, and An Incident at Ratisbon.
Among his later poems we specially commend A Death in the Desert, and Pippa Passes, as less obscure and more interesting than any, except the lyrical pieces just mentioned. It is difficult to show in what manner Browning represents his age. His works are only so far of a modern character that they use the language of to-day without subsidizing its simplicity, and abandon the old musical couplet without presenting the intelligible if commonplace thought which it used to convey.
OTHER POETS OF THE LATEST PERIOD.
Reginald Heber, 1783-1826: a godly Bishop of Calcutta. He is most generally known by one effort, a little poem, which is a universal favorite, and has preached, from the day it appeared, eloquent sermons in the cause of missions—From Greenland's Icy Mountains. Among his other hymns are Brightest and Best of the Sons of the Morning, and The Son of God goes forth to War.
Barry Cornwall, born 1790: this is a nom de plume of Bryan Proctor, a pleasing, but not great poet. His principal works are Dramatic Scenes, Mirandola, a tragedy, and Marcian Colonna. His minor poems are characterized by grace and fluency. Among these are The Return of the Admiral; The Sea, the Sea, the Open Sea; and A Petition to Time. He also wrote essays and tales in prose—a Life of Edmund Keane, and a Memoir of Charles Lamb. His daughter, Adelaide Anne Proctor, is a gifted poetess, and has written, among other poems, Legends and Lyrics, and A Chaplet of Verses.
James Sheridan Knowles, 1784-1862: an actor and dramatist. He left the stage and became a Baptist minister. His plays were very successful upon the stage. Among them, those of chief merit are The Hunchback, Virginius and Caius Gracchus, and The Wife, a Tale of Mantua.
Jean Ingelow, born 1830: one of the most popular of the later English poets. The Song of Seven, and My Son's Wife Elizabeth, are extremely pathetic, and of such general application that they touch all hearts. The latter is the refrain of High Tide on the Coast of Lancashire. She has published, besides, several volumes of stories for children, and one entitled Studies for Stories.
Algernon Charles Swinburne, born 1843: he is principally and very favorably known by his charming poem Atalanta in Calydon. He has also written a somewhat heterodox and licentious poem entitled Laus Veneris, Chastelard, and The Song of Italy; besides numerous minor poems and articles for magazines. He is among the most notable and prolific poets of the age; and we may hope for many and better works from his pen.
Richard Harris Barham, 1788-1845: a clergyman of the Church of England, and yet one of the most humorous of writers. He is chiefly known by his Ingoldsby Legends, which were contributed to the magazines. They are humorous tales in prose and verse; the latter in the vein of Peter Pindar, but better than those of Wolcot, or any writer of that school. Combined with the humorous and often forcible, there are touches of pathos and terror which are extremely effective. He also wrote a novel called My Cousin Nicholas.
Philip James Bailey, born 1816: he published, in 1839, Festus, a poem in dramatic form, having, for its dramatis personae, God in his three persons, Lucifer, angels, and man. Full of rare poetic fancy, it repels many by the boldness of its flight in the consideration of the incomprehensible, which many minds think the forbidden. The Angel World and The Mystic are of a similar kind; but his last work, The Age, a Colloquial Satire is on a mundane subject and in a simpler style.
Charles Mackay, born 1812: principally known by his fugitive pieces, which contain simple thoughts on pleasant language. His poetical collections are called Town Lyrics and Egeria.
John Keble, 1792-1866: the modern George Herbert; a distinguished clergyman. He was Professor of Poetry at Oxford, and produced, besides Tracts for the Times, and other theological writings, The Christian Year, containing a poem for every Sunday and holiday in the ecclesiastical year. They are devout breathings in beautiful verse, and are known and loved by great numbers out of his own communion. Many of them have been adopted as hymns in many collections.
Martin Farquhar Tupper, born 1810: his principal work is Proverbial Philosophy, in two series. It was unwontedly popular; and Tupper's name was on every tongue. Suddenly, the world reversed its decision and discarded its favorite; so that, without having done anything to warrant the desertion, Tupper finds himself with but very few admirers, or even readers: so capricious is the vox populi. The poetry is not without merit; but the world cannot forgive itself for having rated it too high.
Matthew Arnold, born 1822: the son of Doctor Arnold of Rugby. He has written numerous critical papers, and was for some time Professor of Poetry at Oxford. Sorab and Rustam is an Eastern tale in verse, of great beauty. His other works are The Strayed Reveller, and Empedocles on Etna. More lately, an Inspector of Schools, he has produced several works on education, among which are Popular Education in France and The Schools and Universities of the Continent.
THE LATER HISTORIANS.
New Materials. George Grote. History of Greece. Lord Macaulay. History of England. Its Faults. Thomas Carlyle. Life of Frederick II. Other Historians.
Nothing more decidedly marks the nineteenth century than the progress of history as a branch of literature. A wealth of material, not known before, was brought to light, increasing our knowledge and reversing time-honored decisions upon historic points. Countries were explored and their annals discovered. Expeditions to Egypt found a key to hieroglyphs; State papers were arranged to the hand of the scholar; archives, like those of Simancas, were thrown open. The progress of Truth, through the extension of education, unmasked ancient prescriptions and prejudices: thus, where the chronicle remained, philosophy was transformed; and it became evident that the history of man in all times must be written anew, with far greater light to guide the writer than the preceding century had enjoyed. Besides, the world of readers became almost as learned as the historian himself, and he wrote to supply a craving and a demand such as had never before existed. A glance at the labors of the following historians will show that they were not only annalists, but reformers in the full sense of the word: they re-wrote what had been written before, supplying defects and correcting errors.
GEORGE GROTE.—This distinguished writer was born near London, in 1794. He was the son of a banker, and received his education at the Charter House. Instead of entering one of the universities, he became a clerk in his father's banking-house. Early imbued with a taste for Greek literature, he continued his studies with great zeal; and was for many years collecting the material for a history of Greece. The subject was quietly and thoroughly digested in his mind before he began to write. A member of Parliament from 1832 to 1841, he was always a strong Whig, and was specially noted for his championship of the vote by ballot. There was no department of wholesome reform which he did not sustain. He opposed the corn laws, which had become oppressive; he favored the political rights of the Jews, and denounced prescriptive evils of every kind.
HISTORY OF GREECE.—In 1846 he published the first volume of his History of Greece from the Earliest Period to the Death of Alexander the Great: the remaining volumes appeared between that time and 1856. The work was well received by critics of all political opinions; and the world was astonished that such a labor should have been performed by any writer who was not a university man. It was a luminous ancient history, in a fresh and racy modern style: the review of the mythology is grand; the political conditions, the manners and customs of the people, the military art, the progress of law, the schools of philosophy, are treated with remarkable learning and clearness. But he as clearly exhibits the political condition of his own age, by the sympathy which he displays towards the democracy of Athens in their struggles against the tenets and actions of the aristocracy. The historian writes from his own political point of view; and Grote's history exhibits his own views of reform as plainly as that of Mitford sets forth his aristocratic proclivities. Thus the English politics of the age play a part in the Grecian history.
There were several histories of Greece written not long before that of Grote, which may be considered as now set aside by his greater accuracy and better style. Among these the principal are that of JOHN GILLIES, 1747-1836, which is learned, but statistical and dry; that of CONNOP THIRLWALL, born 1797, Bishop of St. David's, which was greatly esteemed by Grote himself; and that of WILLIAM MITFORD, 1744-1827, to correct the errors and supply the deficiencies of which, Grote's work was written.
LORD MACAULAY.—Thomas Babington Macaulay was born at Rothley, in Leicestershire, on the 25th of October, 1800. His father, Zachary Macaulay, a successful West Indian merchant, devoted his later life to philanthropy. His mother was Miss Selina Mills, the daughter of a bookseller of Bristol. After an early education, chiefly conducted at home, he was entered at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1818, where he distinguished himself as a debater, and gained two prize poems and a scholarship. He was graduated in 1822, and afterwards continued his studies; producing, during the next four years, several of his stirring ballads. He began to write for the Edinburgh Review in 1825. In 1830 he entered Parliament, and was immediately noted for his brilliant oratory in advocating liberal principles. In 1834 he was sent to India, as a member of the Supreme Council; and took a prominent part in preparing an Indian code of laws. This code was published on his return to England, in 1838; but it was so kind and considerate to the natives, that the martinets in India defeated its adoption. From his return until 1847, he had a seat in Parliament as member for Edinburgh; but in the latter year his support of the grant to the Maynooth (Roman Catholic) College so displeased his constituents, that in the next election he lost his seat.
During all these busy years he had been astonishing and delighting the reading world by his truly brilliant papers in the Edinburgh Review, which have been collected and published as Miscellanies. The subjects were of general interest; their treatment novel and bold; the learning displayed was accurate and varied; and the style pointed, vigorous, and harmonious. The papers upon Clive and Hastings are enriched by his intimate knowledge of Indian affairs, acquired during his residence in that country. His critical papers are severe and satirical, such as the articles on Croker's Boswell, and on Mr. Robert Montgomery's Poems. His unusual self-reliance as a youth led him to great vehemence in the expression of his opinions, as well as into errors of judgment, which he afterwards regretted. The radicalism which is displayed in his essay on Milton was greatly modified when he came to treat of kindred subjects in his History.
THE HISTORY OF ENGLAND.—He had long cherished the intention of writing the history of England, "from the accession of James II. down to a time which is within the memory of men still living." The loss of his election at Edinburgh gave him the leisure necessary for carrying out this purpose. In 1848 he published the first and second volumes, which at once achieved an unprecedented popularity. His style had lost none of its brilliancy; his reading had been immense; his examination of localities was careful and minute. It was due, perhaps, to this growing fame, that the electors of Edinburgh, without any exertion on his part, returned him to Parliament in 1852. In 1855 the third and fourth volumes of his History appeared, bringing the work down to the peace of Ryswick, in 1697. All England applauded the crown when he was elevated to the peerage, in 1857, as Baron Macaulay of Rothley.
It was now evident that Macaulay had deceived himself as to the magnitude of his subject; at least, he was never to finish it. He died suddenly of disease of the heart, on the 28th of December, 1859; and all that remained of his History was a fragmentary volume, published after his death by his sister, Lady Trevelyan, which reaches the death of William III., in 1702.
ITS FAULTS.—The faults of Macaulay's History spring from the character of the man: he is always a partisan or a bitter enemy. His heroes are angels; those whom he dislikes are devils; and he pursues them with the ardor of a crusader or the vendetta of a Corsican. The Stuarts are painted in the darkest colors; while his eulogy of William III. is fulsome and false. He blackens the character of Marlborough for real faults indeed; but for such as Marlborough had in common with thousands of his contemporaries. If, as has been said, that great captain deserved the greatest censure as a statesman and warrior, it is equally true, paradoxical as it may seem, that he deserved also the greatest praise in both capacities. Macaulay has fulminated the censure and withheld the praise.
What is of more interest to Americans, he loses no opportunity of attacking and defaming William Penn; making statements which have been proved false, and attributing motives without reason or justice.
His style is what the French call the style coupe,—short sentences, like those of Tacitus, which ensure the interest by their recurring shocks. He writes history with the pen of a reviewer, and gives verdicts with the authority of a judge. He seems to say, Believe the autocrat; do not venture to philosophize.
His poetry displays tact and talent, but no genius; it is pageantry in verse. His Lays of Ancient Rome are scholarly, of course, and pictorial in description, but there is little of nature, and they are theatrical rather than dramatic; they are to be declaimed rather than to be read or sung.
In society, Macaulay was a great talker—he harangued his friends; and there was more than wit in the saying of Sidney Smith, that his conversation would have been improved by a few "brilliant flashes of silence."
But in spite of his faults, if we consider the profoundness of his learning, the industry of his studies, and the splendor of his style, we must acknowledge him as the most distinguished of English historians. No one has yet appeared who is worthy to complete the magnificent work which he left unfinished.
THOMAS CARLYLE.—A literary brother of a very different type, but of a more distinct individuality, is Carlyle, who was born in Dumfries-shire, Scotland, in 1795. He was the eldest son of a farmer. After a partial education at home, he entered the University of Edinburgh, where he was noted for his attainments in mathematics, and for his omnivorous reading. After leaving the university he became a teacher in a private family, and began to study for the ministry, a plan which he soon gave up.
His first literary effort was a Life of Schiller, issued in numbers of the London Magazine, in 1823-4. He turned his attention to German literature, in the knowledge of which he has surpassed all other Englishmen. He became as German as the Germans.
In 1826 he married, and removed to Craigen-Puttoch, on a farm, where, in isolation and amid the wildness of nature, he studied, and wrote articles for the Edinburgh Review, the Foreign Quarterly, and some of the monthly magazines. His study of the German, acting upon an innate peculiarity, began to affect his style very sensibly, as is clearly seen in the singular, introverted, parenthetical mode of expression which pervades all his later works. His earlier writings are in ordinary English, but specimens of Carlylese may be found in his Sartor Resartus, which at first appalled the publishers and repelled the general reader. Taking man's clothing as a nominal subject, he plunges into philosophical speculations with which clothes have nothing to do, but which informed the world that an original thinker and a novel and curious writer had appeared.
In 1834 he removed to Chelsea, near London, where he has since resided. In 1837, he published his French Revolution, in three volumes,—The Bastile, The Constitution, The Guillotine. It is a fiery, historical drama rather than a history; full of rhapsodies, startling rhetoric, disconnected pictures. It has been fitly called "a history in flashes of lightning." No one could learn from it the history of that momentous period; but one who has read the history elsewhere, will find great interest in Carlyle's wild and vivid pictures of its stormy scenes.
In 1839 he wrote, in his dashing style, upon Chartism, and about the same time read a course of lectures upon Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History, in which he is an admirer of will and impulse, and palliates evil when found in combination with these.
In 1845 he edited The Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell, and in his extravagant eulogies worships the hero rather than the truth.
FREDERICK II.—In 1858 appeared the first two volumes of The Life of Frederick the Great, and since that time he has completed the work. This is doubtless his greatest effort. It is full of erudition, and contains details not to be found in any other biography of the Prussian monarch; but so singularly has he reasoned and commented upon his facts, that the enlightened reader often draws conclusions different from those which the author has been laboring to establish. While the history shows that, for genius and success, Frederick deserved to be called the Great, Carlyle cannot make us believe that he was not grasping, selfish, a dissembler, and an immoral man.
The author's style has its admirers, and is a not unpleasing novelty and variety to lovers of plain English; but it wearies in continuance, and one turns to French or German with relief. The Essays upon German Literature, Richter, and The Niebelungen Lied are of great value to the young student. Such tracts as Past and Present, and The Latter-Day Pamphlets, have caused him to be called the "Censor of the Age." He is too eccentric and prejudiced to deserve the name in its best meaning. If he fights shams, he sometimes mistakes windmills and wine-skins for monsters, and, what is worse, if he accost a shepherd or a milkmaid, they at once become Amadis de Gaul and Dulcinea del Toboso. In spite of these prejudices and peculiarities, Carlyle will always be esteemed for his arduous labors, his honest intentions, and his boldness in expressing his opinions. His likes and dislikes find ready vent in his written judgments, and he cares for neither friend nor foe, in setting forth his views of men and events. On many subjects it must be said his views are just. There are fields in which his word must be received with authority.
OTHER HISTORIANS OF THE LATEST PERIOD.
John Lingard, 1771-1851: a Roman Catholic priest. He was a man of great probity and worth. His chief work is A History of England, from the first invasion of the Romans to the accession of William and Mary. With a natural leaning to his own religious side in the great political questions, he displays great industry in collecting material, beauty of diction, and honesty of purpose. His history is of particular value, in that it stands among the many Protestant histories as the champion of the Roman Catholics, and gives an opportunity to "hear the other side," which could not have had a more respectable advocate. In all the great controversies, the student of English history must consult Lingard, and collate his facts and opinions with those of the other historians. He wrote, besides, numerous theological and controversial works.
Patrick Fraser Tytler, 1791-1849: the author of A History of Scotland from Alexander III. to James VI. (James I. of England), and A History of England during the reigns of Edward VI. and Mary. His Universal History has been used as a text-book, and in style and construction has great merit, although he does not rise to the dignity of a philosophic historian.
Sir William Francis Patrick Napier, 1785-1866: a distinguished soldier, and, like Caesar, a historian of the war in which he took part. His History of the War in the Peninsula stands quite alone. It is clear in its strategy and tactics, just to the enemy, and peculiar but effective in style. It was assailed by several military men, but he defended all his positions in bold replies to their strictures, and the work remains as authority upon the great struggle which he relates.
Lord Mahon, Earl of Stanhope, born 1805: his principal work is a History of England from the Peace of Utrecht to the Peace of Versailles. He had access to much new material, and from the Stuart papers has drawn much of interest with reference to that unfortunate family. His view of the conduct of Washington towards Major Andre has been shown to be quite untenable. He also wrote a History of the War of Succession in Spain.
Henry Thomas Buchle, 1822-1862: he was the author of a History of Civilization, of which he published two volumes, the work remaining unfinished at the time of his death. For bold assumptions, vigorous style, and great reading, this work must be greatly admired; but all his theories are based on second principles, and Christianity, as a divine institution, is ignored. It startled the world into admiration, but has not retained the place in popular esteem which it appeared at first to make for itself. He is the English Comte, without the eccentricity of his model.
Sir Archibald Alison, 1792-1867: he is the author of The History of Europe from the Commencement of the French Revolution to the Restoration of the Bourbons, and a continuation from 1815 to 1852. It may be doubted whether even the most dispassionate scholar can write the history of contemporary events. We may be thankful for the great mass of facts he has collated, but his work is tinctured with his high Tory principles; his material is not well digested, and his style is clumsy.
Agnes Strickland, born 1806: after several early attempts Miss Strickland began her great task, which she executed nobly—The Queens of England. Accurate, philosophic, anecdotal, and entertaining, this work ranks among the most valuable histories in English. If the style is not so nervous as that of masculine writers, there is a ready intuition as to the rights and the motives of the queens, and a great delicacy combined with entire lack of prudery in her treatment of their crimes. The library of English history would be singularly incomplete without Miss Strickland's work. She also wrote The Queens of Scotland, and The Bachelor Kings of England.
Henry Hallam, 1778-1859: the principal works of this judicious and learned writer are A View of Europe during the Middle Ages, The Constitutional History of England, and An Introduction to the Literature of Europe in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries. With the skill of an advocate he combines the calmness of a judge; and he has been justly called "the accurate Hallam," because his facts are in all cases to be depended on. By his clear and illustrative treatment of dry subjects, he has made them interesting; and his works have done as much to instruct his age as those of any writer. Later researches in literature and constitutional history may discover more than he has presented, but he taught the new explorers the way, and will always be consulted with profit, as the representative of this varied learning during the first half of the nineteenth century.
James Anthony Froude, born 1818: an Oxford graduate, Mr. Froude represents the Low Church party in a respectable minority. His chief work is A History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Death of Elizabeth. With great industry, and the style of a successful novelist in making his groups and painting his characters, he has written one of the most readable books published in this period. He claimed to take his authorities from unpublished papers, and from the statute-books, and has endeavored to show that Henry VIII. was by no means a bad king, and that Elizabeth had very few faults. His treatment of Anne Boleyn and Mary Queen of Scots is unjust and ignoble. Not content with publishing what has been written in their disfavor, with the omniscience of a romancer, he asserts their motives, and produces thoughts which they never uttered. A race of powerful critics has sprung forth in defence of Mary, and Mr. Froude's inaccuracies and injustice have been clearly shown. To novel readers who are fond of the sensational, we commend his work: to those who desire historic facts and philosophies, we proclaim it to be inaccurate, illogical, and unjust in the highest degree.
Sharon Turner, 1768-1847: among many historical efforts, principally concerning England in different periods, his History of the Anglo-Saxons stands out prominently as a great work. He was an eccentric scholar, and an antiquarian, and he found just the place to delve in when he undertook that history. The style is not good—too epigrammatic and broken; but his research is great, his speculations bold, and his information concerning the numbers, manners, arts, learning, and other characters of the Anglo-Saxons, immense. The student of English history must read Turner for a knowledge of the Saxon period.
Thomas Arnold, 1795-1832: widely known and revered as the Great Schoolmaster. He was head-master at Rugby, and influenced his pupils more than any modern English instructor. Accepting the views of Niebuhr, he wrote a work on Roman History up to the close of the second Punic war. But he is more generally known by his historical lectures delivered at Oxford, where he was Professor of Modern History. A man of original views and great honesty of purpose, his influence in England has been strengthened by the excellent biography written by his friend Dean Stanley.
William Hepworth Dixon, born 1821: he was for some time editor of The Athenaeum. In historic biography he appears as a champion of men who have been maligned by former writers. He vindicates William Penn from the aspersions of Lord Macaulay, and Bacon from the charges of meanness and corruption.
Charles Merivale, born 1808: he is a clergyman, and a late Fellow of Cambridge, and is favorably known by his admirable work entitled, The History of the Romans under the Empire. It forms an introduction to Gibbon, and displays a thorough grasp of the great epoch, varied scholarship, and excellent taste. His analyses of Roman literature are very valuable, and his pictures of social life so vivid that we seem to live in the times of the Caesars as we read.
THE LATER NOVELISTS AS SOCIAL REFORMERS.
Bulwer. Changes in Writing. Dickens's Novels. American Notes. His Varied Powers. Second Visit to America. Thackeray. Vanity Fair. Henry Esmond. The Newcomes. The Georges. Estimate of his Powers.
The great feature in the realm of prose fiction, since the appearance of the works of Richardson, Fielding, and Smollett, had been the Waverley novels of Sir Walter Scott; but these apart, the prose romance had not played a brilliant part in literature until the appearance of Bulwer, who began, in his youth, to write novels in the old style; but who underwent several organic changes in modes of thought and expression, and at last stood confessed as the founder of a new school.
BULWER.—Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer was a younger son of General Bulwer of Heydon Hall, Norfolk, England. He was born, in 1806, to wealth and ease, but was early and always a student. Educated at Cambridge, he took the Chancellor's prize for a poem on Sculpture. His first public effort was a volume of fugitive poems, called Weeds and Wild Flowers, of more promise than merit. In 1827 he published Falkland, and very soon after Pelham, or the Adventures of a Gentleman. The first was not received favorably; but Pelham was at once popular, neither for the skill of the plot nor for its morality, but because it describes the character, dissipations, and good qualities of a fashionable young man, which are always interesting to an English public. Those novels that immediately followed are so alike in general features that they may be called the Pelham series. Of these the principal are The Disowned, Devereux, and Paul Clifford—the last of which throws a sentimental, rosy light upon the person and adventures of a highwayman; but it is too unreal to have done as much injury as the Pirate's Own Book, or the Adventures of Jack Sheppard. It may be safely asserted that Paul Clifford never produced a highwayman. Of the same period is Eugene Aram, founded upon the true story of a scholar who was a murderer—a painful subject powerfully handled.
In 1831 Bulwer entered Parliament, and seems to have at once commenced a new life. With his public duties he combined severe historical study; and the novels he now produced gave witness of his riper and better learning. Chief among these were Rienzi, and The Last Days of Pompeii. The former is based upon the history of that wonderful and unfortunate man who, in the fourteenth century, attempted to restore the Roman republic, and govern it like an ancient tribune. The latter is a noble production: he has caught the very spirit of the day in which Pompeii was submerged by the lava-flood; his characters are masterpieces of historic delineation; he handles like an adept the conflicting theologies, Christian, Roman, and Egyptian; and his natural scenes—Vesuvius in fury, the Bay of Naples in the lurid light, the crowded amphitheatre, and the terror which fell on man and beast, gladiator and lion—are chef-d'oeuvres of Romantic art.
CHANGES IN WRITING.—For a time he edited The New Monthly Magazine, and a change came over the spirit of his novels. This was first noticed in his Ernest Maltravers, and the sequel, Alice, or the Mysteries, which are marked by sentimental passion and mystic ideas. In Night and Morning he is still mysterious: a blind fate seems to preside over his characters, robbing the good of its free merit and condoning the evil.
In 1838 he was made a baronet. His versatile pen now turned to the drama; and although he produced nothing great, his Lady of Lyons, Richelieu, Money, and The Sea Captain have always since been favorites upon the stage, subsidizing the talents of actors like Macready, Kean, and Edwin Booth.
We must now chronicle another change, from the mystic to the supernatural, as displayed in Zanoni and Lucretia, and especially in A Strange Story, which is the strangest of all. It was at the same period that he wrote The Last of the Barons, or the story of Warwick the king-maker, and Harold, the Last of the Saxon Kings. Both are valuable to the student of English history as presenting the fruits of his own historic research.
The last and most decided, and, we may add, most beneficial, change in Bulwer as a writer, was manifested in his publication of the Caxtons, the chief merit of which is as an usher of the novels which were to follow. Pisistratus Caxton is the modern Tristram Shandy, and becomes the putative editor of the later novels. First of these is My Novel, or Varieties of English Life. It is an admirable work: it inculcates a better morality, and a sense of Christian duty, at which Pelham would have laughed in scorn. Like it, but inferior to it, is What Will He do with It? which has an interesting plot, an elevated style, and a rare human sympathy.
Among other works, which we cannot mention, he wrote The New Timon, and King Arthur, in poetry, and a prose history entitled Athens, its Rise and Fall.
Without the highest genius, but with uncommon scholarship and great versatility, Bulwer has used the materials of many kinds lying about him, to make marvellous mosaics, which imitate very closely the finest efforts of word-painting of the great geniuses of prose fiction.
CHARLES DICKENS.—Another remarkable development of the age was the use of prose fiction, instead of poetry, as the vehicle of satire in the cause of social reform. The world consents readily to be amused, and it likes to be amused at the expense of others; but it soon tires of what is simply amusing or satirical unless some noble purpose be disclosed. The novels of former periods had interested by the creation of character and scenes; and there had been numerous satires prompted by personal pique. It is the glory of this latest age that it demands what shall so satirize the evil around it in men, in classes, in public institutions, that the evil shall recoil before the attack, and eventually disappear. Chief among such reformers are Dickens and Thackeray.
Charles Dickens, the prince of modern novelists, was born at Landsport, Portsmouth, England, in 1812. His father was at the time a clerk in the Pay Department of the Navy, but afterwards became a reporter of debates in Parliament. After a very hard early life and an only tolerable education, young Dickens made some progress in the study of law; but soon undertook his father's business as reporter, in which he struggled as he has made David Copperfield to do in becoming proficient.
His first systematic literary efforts were as a daily writer and reporter for The True Sun; he then contributed his sketches of life and character, drawn from personal observation, to the Morning Chronicle: these were an earnest of his future powers. They were collected as Sketches by Boz, in two volumes, and published in 1836.
PICKWICK.—In 1837 he was asked by a publisher to prepare a series of comic sketches of cockney sportsmen, to illustrate, as well as to be illustrated by, etchings by Seymour. This yoking of two geniuses was a trammel to both; but the suicide of Seymour dissolved the connection, and Dickens had free play to produce the Pickwick Papers, by Boz, which were illustrated, as he proceeded, by H. K. Browne (Phiz). The work met and has retained an unprecedented popularity. Caricature as it was, it caricatured real, existent oddities; everything was probable; the humor was sympathetic if farcical, the assertion of humanity bold, and the philosophy of universal application. He had touched our common nature in all ranks and conditions; he had exhibited men and women of all types; he had exposed the tricks of politics and the absurdity of elections; the snobs of society were severely handled. He was the censor of law courts, the exposer of swindlers, the dread of cockneys, the friend of rustics and of the poor; and he has displayed in the principal character, that of the immortal Pickwick, the power of a generous, simple-hearted, easily deceived, but always philanthropic man, who comes through all his trials without bating a jot of his love for humanity and his faith in human nature. But the master-work of his plastic hand was Sam Weller, whose wit and wisdom pervaded both hemispheres, and is as potent to excite laughter to-day as at the first.
In this work he began that assault, not so much on shams as upon prominent, unblushing evil, which he carried on in some form or other in all his later works; and which was to make him prominent among the reformers and benefactors of his age. He was at once famous, and his pen was in demand to amuse the idle and to aid the philanthropic.
NICHOLAS NICKLEBY.—The Pickwick Papers were in their intention a series of sketches somewhat desultory and loosely connected. His next work was Nicholas Nickleby, a complete story, in which he was entirely successful. Wonderful in the variety and reality of his characters, his powerful satire was here principally directed against the private boarding-schools in England, where unloved children, exiled and forgotten, were ill fed, scantily clothed, untaught, and beaten. Do-the-boys' Hall was his type, and many a school prison under that name was fearfully exposed and scourged. The people read with wonder and applause; these haunts of cruelty were scrutinized, some of them were suppressed; and since Nicholas Nickleby appeared no such school can live, because Squeers and Smike are on every lip, and punishment awaits the tyrant.
Our scope will not permit a review of his numerous novels. In Oliver Twist he denounces the parish system in its care of orphans, and throws a Drummond light upon the haunts of crime in London.
The Old Curiosity Shop exposes the mania of gaming, and seems to have been a device for presenting the pathetic pictures of Little Nell and her grandfather, the wonderful and rapid learning of the marchioness, and the uncommon vitality of Mr. Richard Swiveller; and also the compound of will and hideousness in Quilp.
He affected to find in the receptacle of Master Humphrey's clock, his Barnaby Rudge, a very dramatic picture of the great riot incited by Lord George Gordon in 1780, which, in its gathering, its fury, and its easy dispersion, was not unlike that of Wat Tyler. Dickens's delineations are eminently historic, and present a better notion of the period than the general history itself.
AMERICAN NOTES.—In 1841 Dickens visited America, where he was received by the public with great enthusiasm, and annoyed, as the author of his biography says, by many individuals. On his return to England, he produced his American Notes for General Circulation. They were sarcastic, superficial, and depreciatory, and astonished many whose hospitalities he had received. But, in 1843, he published Martin Chuzzlewit, in which American peculiarities are treated with the broadest caricature. The Notes might have been forgiven; but the novel excited a great and just anger in America. His statements were not true; his pictures were not just; his prejudice led him to malign a people who had received him with a foolish hospitality. He had eaten and drunk at the hands of the men whom he abused, and his character suffered more than that of his intended victims. In taking a few foibles for his caricature, he had left our merits untold, and had been guilty of the implication that we had none, although he knew that there were as elegant gentlemen, as refined ladies, and as cultivated society in America as the best in England. But a truce to reproaches; he has been fully forgiven.
His next novel was Dombey and Son, in which he attacks British pomp and pride of state in the haughty merchant. It is full of character and of pathos. Every one knows, as if they had appeared among us, the proud and rigid Dombey, J. B. the sly, the unhappy Floy, the exquisite Toots, the inimitable Nipper, Sol Gills the simple, and Captain Cuttle with his hook and his notes.
This was followed by David Copperfield, which is, to some extent, an autobiography describing the struggles of his youth, his experience in acquiring short-hand to become a reporter, and other vicissitudes of his own life. In it there is an attack upon the system of model prisons; but the chief interest is found in his wonderful portraitures of varied and opposite characters: the Peggottys, Steerforth, the inimitable Micawber, Betsy Trotwood; Agnes, the lovely and lovable; Mr. Dick, with such noble method in his madness; Dora, the child-wife; the simple Traddles, and Uriah Heep, the 'umble intriguer and villain.
Bleak House is a tremendous onslaught upon the Chancery system, and is said to have caused a modification of it; his knowledge of law gave him the power of an expert in detailing and dissecting its enormities.
Little Dorrit presents the heartlessness of society, and is besides a full and fearful picture of the system of imprisonment for debt. For variety, power, and pathos, it is one of his best efforts.
A Tale of Two Cities is a gloomy but vivid story of the French Revolution, which has by no means the popularity of his other works.
In Hard Times, a shorter story, he has shown the evil consequences of a hard, statistical, cramming education, in which the sympathies are repressed, and the mind made a practical machine. The failure of Gradgrind has warned many a parent from imitating him.
Great Expectations failed to fulfil the promise of the name; but Joe Gargery is as original a character as any he had drawn.
His last completed story is Our Mutual Friend, which, although unequal to his best novels, has still original characters and striking scenes. The rage for rising in the social scale ruins the Veneerings, and Podsnappery is a well-chosen name far the heartless dogmatism which rules in English society.
Besides these splendid works, we must mention the delight he has given, and the good he has done in expanding individual and public charity, by his exquisite Christmas stories, of which The Chimes, The Christmas Carol, and The Cricket on the Hearth are the best.
His dramatic power has been fully illustrated by the ready adaptations of his novels to the stage; they are, indeed, in scenes, personages, costume, and interlocution, dramas in all except the form; and he himself was an admirable actor.
HIS VARIED POWERS.—His tenderness is touching, and his pathos at once excites our sympathy. He does not tell us to feel or to weep, but he shows us scenes like those in the life of Smike, and in the sufferings and death of Little Nell, which so simply appeal to the heart that we are for the time forgetful of the wand which conjures them before us.
Dickens is bold in the advocacy of truth and in denouncing error; he is the champion of honest poverty; he is the foe of class pretension and oppression; he is the friend of friendless children; the reformer of those whom society has made vagrants. Without many clear assertions of Christian doctrine, but with no negation of it, he believes in doing good for its own sake,—in self-denial, in the rewards which virtue gives herself. His faults are few and venial. His merry life smacks too much of the practical joke and the punch-bowl; he denounces cant in the self-appointed ministers of the gospel, but he is not careful to draw contrasted pictures of good pastors. His opinion seems to be based upon a human perfectibility. But for rare pictures of real life he has never been surpassed; and he has instructed an age, concerning itself, wisely, originally, and usefully. He has the simplicity of Goldsmith, and the truth to nature of Fielding and Smollett, without a spice of sentimentalism or of impurity; he has brought the art of prose fiction to its highest point, and he has left no worthy successor. He lived for years separated from his wife on the ground of incompatibility, and, during his later years at Gadshill, twenty miles from London, to avoid the dissipations and draughts upon his time in that city.
SECOND VISIT TO AMERICA.—In 1868 he again visited America, to read portions of his own works. He was well received by the public; but society had learned its lesson on his former visit, and he was not overwhelmed with a hospitality he had so signally failed to appreciate. And if we had learned better, he had vastly improved; the genius had become a gentleman. His readings were a great pecuniary success, and at their close he made an amend which was graceful and proper; so that when he departed from our shores his former errors were fully condoned, and he left an admiring hemisphere behind him.
In the glow of health, and while writing, in serial numbers, a very promising novel entitled The Mystery of Edwin Drood, he was struck by apoplexy, in June, 1870, and in a few hours was dead. England has hardly experienced a greater loss. All classes of men mourned when he was buried in Westminster Abbey, in the poets' corner, among illustrious writers,—a prose-poet, none of whom has a larger fame than he; a historian of his time of greater value to society than any who distinctively bear the title. His characters are drawn from life; his own experience is found in Nicholas Nickleby and David Copperfield; Micawber is a caricature of his own father. Traddles is said to represent his friend Talfourd. Skimpole is supposed to be an original likeness of Leigh Hunt, and William and Daniel Grant, of Manchester, were the originals of the Brothers Cheeryble.
WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY.—Dickens gives us real characters in the garb of fiction; but Thackeray uses fiction as the vehicle of social philosophy. Great name, second only to Dickens; he is not a story-teller, but an eastern Cadi administering justice in the form of apologue. Dickens is eminently dramatic; Thackeray has nothing dramatic, neither scene nor personage. He is Democritus the laughing philosopher, or Jupiter the thunderer; he arraigns vice, pats virtue on the shoulder, shouts for muscular Christianity, uncovers shams,—his personages are only names. Dickens describes individuals; Thackeray only classes: his men and women are representatives, and, with but few exceptions, they excite our sense of justice, but not our sympathy; the principal exception is Colonel Newcome, a real individual creation upon whom Thackeray exhausted his genius, and he stands alone.
Thackeray was born in Calcutta, of an old Yorkshire family, in 1811. His father was in the civil service, and he was sent home, when a child of seven, for his education at the Charter House in London. Thence he was entered at Cambridge, but left without being graduated. An easy fortune of L20,000 led him to take life easily; he studied painting with somewhat of the desultory devotion he has ascribed to Clive Newcome, and, like that worthy, travelled on the Continent. Partly by unsuccessful investments, and partly by careless living, his means were spent, and he took up writing as a profession. The comic was his forte, and his early pieces, written under the pseudonym of Michael Angelo Fitzmarsh and George Fitz Boodle, are broadly humorous, but by no means in his later finished style. The Great Hoggarty Diamond (1841) did not disclose his full powers.
In 1841, Punch, a weekly comic illustrated sheet, was begun, and it opened to Thackeray a field which exactly suited him. Short scraps of comedy, slightly connected sketches, and the weekly tale of brick, chimed with his humor, and made him at once a favorite. The best of these serial contributions were The Snob Papers: they are as fine specimens of humorous satire as exist in the language. But these would not have made him famous, as they did not disclose his power as a novelist.
VANITY FAIR.—This was done by his Vanity Fair, which was published, in monthly numbers, between 1846 and 1848. It was at once popular, and is the most artistic of all his works. He called it a novel without a hero, and he is right; the mind repudiates all aspirants for the post, and settles upon poor Major Sugar-Plums as the best man in it. He could not have said without a heroine, for does not the world since ring with the fame of Becky Sharpe, the cleverest and wickedest little woman in England? The virtuous reader even is sorry that Becky must come to grief, as, with a proper respect to morality, the novelist makes her.
Never had the Vanity Fair of European society received so scathing a dissection; and its author was immediately recognized as one of the greatest living satirists and novelists. If he adheres more to the old school of Fielding, who was his model, in his plots and handling of the story, he was evidently original in his satire.
In 1847, upon the completion of this work, he began his History of Pendennis, in serial numbers, in which he presents the hero, Arthur Pendennis, as an average youth of the day, full of faults and foibles, but likewise generous and repentant. Here he enlists the sympathies which one never feels for perfection; and here, too, he portrays female loveliness and endurance in his Mrs. Pendennis and Laura. Arthur is a purer Tom Jones and Laura a superior Sophia Western.
In 1851 he gave a course of lectures, repeated in America the next year, on "the English Humorists of the Eighteenth Century." There was no one better fitted to write such a course; he felt with them and was of them. But if this enabled him to present them sympathetically, it also caused him to overrate them, and in some cases to descend to the standpoint of their own partial views. He is wrong in his estimate of Swift, and too eulogistic of Addison; but he is thoroughly English in both.
HENRY ESMOND.—The study of history necessary to prepare these led to his undertaking a novel on the time of Queen Anne, entitled The History of Henry Esmond, Esq., written by himself. His appreciation of the age is excellent; but the book, leaving for the most part the comic field in which he was most at home, is drier and less read than his others; as an historical presentation a great success, with rare touches of pathos; as a work of fiction not equal to his other stories. The comic muse assumes a tragic, or at least a very sombre, dress. We have a portraiture of Queen Anne in her last days, and a sad picture of him who, to the Protestant succession, was the pretender, and to the hopeful Jacobites, James III. The character of Marlborough is given with but little of what was really meritorious in that great captain.
His novel of Pendennis gave him, after the manner of Bulwer's Caxton, an editor in Arthur Pendennis, who presents us The Newcomes, Memoirs of a Most Respectable Family, which he published in a serial form, completing it in 1855.
THE NEWCOMES.—In that work we have the richest culture, the finest satire, and the rarest social philosophy. The character—the hero by pre-eminence—is Colonel Newcome, a nobleman of nature's creation, generous, simple, a yearningly affectionate father, a friend to all the poor and afflicted, one of the best men ever delineated by a novelist; few hearts are so hard as not to be touched by the story of his death in his final retirement at the Charter House. When, surrounded by weeping friends, he heard the bell, "a peculiar sweet smile shone over his face, and he lifted up his head a little, and quickly said 'Adsum,' and fell back: it was the word we used at school when names were called; and, lo! he, whose heart was that of a little child, had answered to his name, and stood in the presence of the Master."
THE GEORGES.—While he was writing The Newcomes, he had prepared a course of four lectures on the Four Georges, kings of England, with which he made his second visit to the United States, and which he delivered in the principal cities, to make a fund for his daughters and for his old age. It was entirely successful, and he afterwards read them in England and Scotland. They are very valuable historically, as they give us the truth with regard to men whose reigns were brilliant and on the whole prosperous, but who themselves, with the exception of the third of the name, were as bad men as ever wore crowns. George III. was continent and honest, but a maniac, and Mr. Thackeray has treated him with due forbearance and eulogy.
In 1857, Mr. Thackeray was a candidate for Parliament from Oxford, but was defeated by a small majority; his conduct in the election was so magnanimous, that his defeat may be regarded as an advantage to his reputation.
In the same year he began The Virginians, which may be considered his failure; it is historically a continuation of Esmond,—some of the English characters, the Esmonds in Virginia, being the same as in that work. But his presentation and estimate of Washington are a caricature, and his sketch of General James Wolfe, the hero of Quebec, is tame and untrue to life. His descriptions of Virginia colonial life are unlike the reality; but where he is on his own ground, describing English scenes and customs in that day, he is more successful. To paint historical characters is beyond the power of his pencil, and his Doctor Johnson is not the man whom Boswell has so successfully presented.
In 1860 he originated the Cornhill Magazine, to which his name gave unusual popularity: it attained a circulation of one hundred thousand—unprecedented in England. In that he published Lovel the Widower, which was not much liked, and a charming reproduction of the Newcomes,—for it is nothing more,—entitled The Adventures of Philip on His Way through the World. Philip is a more than average Englishman, with a wicked father and rather a stupid wife; but "the little sister" is a star—there is no finer character in any of his works. Philip, in spite of its likeness to The Newcomes, is a delightful book.
With an achieved fame, a high position, a home which he had just built at Kensington, a large income, he seemed to have before him as prosperous an old age as any one could desire, when, such are the mysteries of Providence, he was found dead in his room on the morning of December 24, 1863.
ESTIMATE OF HIS POWERS.—Thackeray's excellences are manifest: he was the master of idiomatic English, a great moralist and reformer, and the king of satire, all the weapons of which he managed with perfect skill. He had a rapier for aristocratic immunities of evil, arrows to transfix prescriptions and shams; and with snobs (we must change the figure) he played as a cat does with a mouse, torturing and then devouring. In the words of Miss Bronte, "he was the first social regenerator of the day, the very master of that working corps who would restore to rectitude the warped system of things." But this was his chief and glorious strength: in the truest sense, he was a satirist and a humorist, but not a novelist; he could not create character. His dramatic persons do not speak for themselves; he tells us what they are and do. His mission seems to have been to arraign and demolish evil rather than to applaud good, and thus he enlists our sinless anger as crusaders rather than our sympathy as philanthropists. In Dickens we are sometimes disposed to skip a little, in our ardor, to follow the plot and find the denouement. In Thackeray we read every word, for it is the philosophy we want; the plot and personages are secondary, as indeed he considered them; for he often tells us, in the time of greatest depression of his hero, that it will all come out right at the end,—that Philip will marry Charlotte, and have a good income, while the poor soul is wrestling with the res augusta domi. Dickens and Thackeray seemed to draw from each other in their later works; the former philosophizing more in his Little Dorrit and Our Mutual Friend, and the latter attempting more of the descriptive in The Newcomes and Philip. Of minor pieces we may mention his Rebecca and Rowena, and his Kickleburys on the Rhine; his Essay on Thunder and Small Beer; his Notes on a Journey from Cornhill to Grand Cairo, in 1846, and his published collection of smaller sketches called The Roundabout Papers. That Thackeray was fully conscious of the dignity of his functions may be gathered from his own words in Henry Esmond. "I would have history familiar rather than heroic, and think Mr. Hogarth and Mr. Fielding. [and, we may add, Mr. Thackeray,] will give our children a much better idea of the manners of that age in England than the Court Gazette and the newspapers which we get thence." At his death he left an unfinished novel, entitled Dennis Duval. A gifted daughter, who was his kind amanuensis. Miss ANNE E. THACKERAY, has written several interesting tales, among which are The Village on the Cliff and The Story of Elizabeth.
THE LATER WRITERS.
Charles Lamb. Thomas Hood. Thomas de Quincey. Other Novelists. Writers on Science and Philosophy.
CHARLES LAMB.—This distinguished writer, although not a novelist like Dickens and Thackeray, in the sense of having produced extensive works of fiction, was, like them, a humorist and a satirist, and has left miscellaneous works of rare merit. He was born in London, and was the son of a servant to one of the Benches of the Inner Temple; he was educated at Christ's Hospital, where he became the warm friend of Coleridge. In 1792 he received an appointment as clerk in the South Sea House, which he retained until 1825, when, owing to the distinction he had obtained in the world of letters, he was permitted to retire with a pension of L450. He describes his feelings on this happy release from business, in his essay on The Superannuated Man. He was an eccentric man, a serio-comic character, whose sad life is singularly contrasted with his irrepressible humor. His sister, whom he has so tenderly described as Bridget Elia, in a fit of insanity killed their mother with a carving-knife, and Lamb devoted himself to her care.
He was a poet, and left quaint and beautiful album verses and minor pieces. As a dramatist, he is known by his tragedy John Woodvil, and the farce Mr. H——, neither of which was a success. But he has given us in his Specimens of Old English Dramatists the result of great reading and rare criticism.
But it is chiefly as a writer of essays and short stories that he is distinguished. The Essays of Elia, in their vein, mark an era in the literature; they are light, racy, seemingly dashed off, but really full of his reading of the older English authors. Indeed, he is so quaint in thought and style, that he seems an anachronism—a writer of the Elizabethan period returned to life in this century. He bubbles over with puns, jests, and repartees; and although not popular in the sense of reaching the multitude, he is the friend and companion of congenial readers. Among his essays, we may mention the stories of Rosamund Gray and Old Blind Margaret. Dream Children and The Child Angel are those of greatest power; but every one he has written is charming. His sly hits at existing abuses are designed to laugh them away. He was the favorite of his literary circle, and as a talker had no superior. After a life of care, not unmingled with pleasures, he died in 1834. Lamb's letters are racy, witty, idiomatic, and unlabored; and, as most of them are to colleagues in literature and on subjects of social and literary interest, they are important aids in studying the history of his period.
THOMAS HOOD.—The greatest humorist, the best punster, and the ablest satirist of his age, Hood attacked the social evils around him with such skill and power that he stands forth as a philanthropist. He was born in London in 1798, and, after a limited education, he began to learn the art of engraving; but his pen was more powerful than his burin. He soon began to contribute to the London Magazine his Whims and Oddities; and, in irregular verse, satirized the would-be great men of the time, and the eccentric legislation they proposed in Parliament. These short poems are full of puns and happy jeux de mots, and had a decided effect in frustrating the foolish plans. After this he published National Tales, in the same comic vein; but also produced his exquisite serious pieces, The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies, Hero and Leander, and others, all of which are striking and tasteful. In 1838 he commenced The Comic Annual, which appeared for several years, brimful of mirth and fun. He was editor of various magazines,—The New Monthly, and Hood's Magazine. For Punch he wrote The Song of the Shirt, and The Bridge of Sighs. No one can compute the good done by both; the hearts touched; the pockets opened. The sewing women were better paid, more cared for, elevated in the social scale; and many of them saved from that fate which is so touchingly chronicled in The Bridge of Sighs. Hood was a true poet and a great poet. Miss Kilmansegg and her Precious Leg is satire, story, epic, comedy, in one.
If he owed to Smollett's Humphrey Clinker the form of his Up the Rhine, he has equalled Smollett in the narrative, in the variety of character, and in the admirable cacography of Martha Penny. His caricatures fasten facts in the memory, and every tourist up the Rhine recognizes Hood's personages wherever he lands.
After a life of ill-health and pecuniary struggle, Hood died, greatly lamented, on the 3d of May, 1845, and left no successor to wield his subtle pen.
THOMAS DE QUINCEY (1785-1859).—This singular author, and very learned and original thinker, owes much of his reputation to the evil habit of opium-eating, which affected his personal life and authorship. His most popular work is The Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, which interests the reader by its curious pictures of the abnormal conditions in which he lived and wrote. He abandoned this noxious practice in the year 1820. He produced much which he did not publish; and his writings all contain a suggestion of strength and scholarship, a surplus beyond what he has given to the world. There are numerous essays and narratives, among which his paper entitled Murder considered as One of the Fine Arts is especially notable. His prose is considered a model of good English.
The death of Dickens and Thackeray left England without a novelist of equal fame and power, but with a host of scholarly and respectable pens, whose productions delight the popular taste, and who are still in the tide of busy authorship.
Our purpose is already accomplished, and we might rest without the proceeding beyond the middle of the century; but it will be proper to make brief mention of those, some of whom have already departed, but many of whom still remain, and are producing new works, who best illustrate the historical value and teachings of English literature, and whose writings will be read in the future for their delineations of the habits and conditions of the present period.
Captain Frederick Marryat, of the Royal Navy, 1792-1848: in his sea novels depicts naval life with rare fidelity, and with, a roystering joviality which makes them extremely entertaining. The principal of these are Frank Mildmay, Newton Forster, Peter Simple, and Midshipman Easy. His works constitute a truthful portrait of the British Navy in the beginning of the eighteenth century, and have influenced many high-spirited youths to choose a maritime profession.
George P. R. James, 1806-1860: is the author of nearly two hundred novels, chiefly historical, which have been, in their day, popular. It was soon found, however, that he repeated himself, and the sameness of handling began to tire his readers. His "two travellers," with whom he opens his stories, have become proverbially ridiculous. But he has depicted scenes in modern history with skill, and especially in French history. His Richelieu is a favorite; and in his Life of Charlemagne he has brought together the principal events in the career of that distinguished monarch with logical force and historical accuracy.
Benjamin d'Israeli, born 1805: is far more famous as a persevering, acute, and able statesman than as a novelist. In proof of this, having surmounted unusual difficulties, he has been twice Chancellor of the Exchequer and once Prime Minister of England. Among his earlier novels, which are pictures of existing society, are: Vivian Gray, Contarini Fleming, Coningsby, and Henrietta Temple. In The Wondrous Tale of Alroy he has described the career of that singular claimant to the Jewish Messiahship. Lothair, which was published in 1869, is the story of a young nobleman who was almost enticed to enter the Roman Catholic Church. The descriptions of society are either very much overwrought or ironical; but his knowledge of State craft and Church craft renders the book of great value to the history of religious polemics. His father, Isaac d'Israeli, is favorably known as the author of The Curiosities of Literature, The Amenities of Literature, and The Quarrels of Authors.
Charles Lever, 1806-1872: he was born in Dublin, and, after a partial University career, studied medicine. He has embodied his experience of military life in several striking but exaggerated works,—among these are: The Confessions of Harry Lorrequer, Charles O'Malley, and Jack Hinton. He excels in humor and in picturesque battle-scenes, and he has painted the age in caricature. Of its kind, Charles O'Malley stands pre-eminent: the variety of character is great; all classes of military men figure in the scenes, from the Duke of Wellington to the inimitable Mickey Free. He was for some time editor of the Dublin University Magazine, and has written numerous other novels, among which are: Roland Cashel, The Knight of Gwynne, and The Dodd Family Abroad; and, last of all, Lord Kilgobbin.
Charles Kingsley, born 1809: this accomplished clergyman, who is a canon of Chester, is among the most popular English writers,—a poet, a novelist, and a philosopher. He was first favorably known by a poetical drama on the story of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, entitled The Saint's Tragedy. Among his other works are: Alton Locke, Tailor and Poet; Hypatia, the Story of a Virgin Martyr; Andromeda; Westward Ho! or the Adventures of Sir Amyas Leigh; Two Years Ago; and Hereward, the Last of the English. This last is a very vivid historical picture of the way in which the man of the fens, under the lead of this powerful outlaw, held out against William the Conqueror. The busy pen of Kingsley has produced numerous lectures, poems, reviews, essays, and some plain and useful sermons. He is now Professor of Modern History at Cambridge.
Charlotte Bronte, 1816-1855: if of an earlier period, this gifted woman would demand a far fuller mention and a more critical notice than can be with justice given of a contemporary. She certainly wrote from the depths of her own consciousness. Jane Eyre, her first great work, was received with intense interest, and was variously criticized. The daughter of a poor clergyman at Haworth, and afterwards a teacher in a school at Brussels, with little knowledge of the world, she produced a powerful book containing much curious philosophy, and took rank at once among the first novelists of the age. Her other works, if not equal to Jane Eyre, are still of great merit, and deal profoundly with the springs of human action. They are: The Professor, Villette, and Shirley. Her characters are portraits of the men and women around her, painted from life; and she speaks boldly of motives and customs which other novelists have touched very delicately. She had two gifted sisters, who were also successful novelists; but who died young. Miss Bronte died a short time after her marriage to Mr. Nichol, her father's curate. Mrs. Elizabeth Gaskell, her near friend, and the author of a successful novel called Mary Barton, has written an interesting biography of Mrs. Nichol.
George Eliot, born 1820: under this pseudonym, Miss Evans has written several works of great interest. Among these are: Adam Bede; The Mill on the Floss; Romola, an Italian story; Felix Holt; and Silas Marner. Simple, and yet eminently dramatic in scene, character, and interlocution, George Eliot has painted pictures from middle and common life, and is thus the exponent of a large humanity. She is now the wife of the popular author, G. H. Lewes.
Dinah Maria Muloch (Mrs. Craik), born 1826: a versatile writer. She is best known by her novels entitled John Halifax and The Ogilvies.
Wilkie Collins, born 1824: he is the son of a landscape-painter, and is renowned for his curious and well-concealed plots, phantom-like characters, and striking effects. Among his novels the best known are: Antonina, The Dead Secret, The Woman in White, No Name, Armadale, The Moonstone, and Man and Wife. There is a sameness in these works; and yet it is evident that the author has put his invention on the rack to create new intrigues, and to mystify his reader from the beginning to the end of each story.
Charles Reade, born 1814: he is one of the most prolific writers of the day, as well as one of the most readable in all that he has written. He draws many impassioned scenes, and is as sensuous in literature as Rubens in art. Among his principal works are: White Lies, Love Me Little, Love Me Long; The Cloister and The Hearth; Hard Cash, and Griffith Gaunt, which convey little, if any, practical instruction. His Never Too Late to Mend is of great value in displaying the abuses of the prison system in England; and his Put Yourself in His Place is a very powerful attack upon the Trades' Unions. A singular epigrammatic style keeps up the interest apart from the story.
Mary Russell Mitford, 1786-1855: she was a poet and a dramatist, but is chiefly known by her stories. In the collection called Our Village, she has presented beautiful and simple pictures of English country life which are at once touching and instructive.
Charlotte Mary Yonge, born 1823: among the many interesting works of this author, The Heir of Redclyff is the first and best. This was followed by Daisy Chain, Heartsease, The Clever Woman of the Family, and numerous other works of romance and of history,—all of which are valuable for their high tone of moral instruction and social manners.
Anthony Trollope, born 1815: he and his brother, Thomas Adolphus Trollope, are sons of that Mrs. Frances Trollope who abused our country in her work entitled The Domestic Manners of the Americans, in terms that were distasteful even to English critics. Anthony Trollope is a successful writer of society-novels, which, without being of the highest order, are faithful in their portraitures. Among those which have been very popular are: Barchester Towers, Framley Parsonage, Doctor Thorne, and Orley Farm, He travelled in the United States, and has published a work of discernment entitled North America. His brother Thomas is best known by his History of Florence to the Fall of the Republic.
Thomas Hughes, born 1823: the popular author of Tom Brown's School-Days at Rugby, and Tom Brown at Oxford,—books which display the workings of these institutions, and set up a standard for English youth. The first is the best, and has made him famous.
WRITERS ON SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY.
Although these do not come strictly within the scope of English literature, they are so connected with it in the composition of general culture, and give such a complexion to the age, that it is well to mention the principal names.
Sir William Hamilton, 1788-1856: for twenty years Professor of Logic and Metaphysics in the University of Edinburgh. His voluminous lectures on both these subjects were edited, after his death, by Mansel and Veitch, and have been since of the highest authority.
William Whewell, 1795-1866: for some time Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. He has written learnedly on many subjects: his most valuable works are: A History of the Inductive Sciences, The Elements of Morality, and The Plurality of Worlds. Of Whewell it has been pithily said, that "science was his forte, and omniscience his foible."
Richard Whately, D.D., 1787-1863: he was appointed in 1831 Archbishop of Dublin and Kildare, in Ireland. His chief works are: Elements of Logic, Elements of Rhetoric, and Lectures on Political Economy. He gave a new impetus to the study of Logic and Rhetoric, and presented the formal logic of Aristotle anew to the world; thus marking a distinct epoch in the history of that much controverted science.
John Ruskin, born 1819: he ranks among the most original critics in art; but is eccentric in his opinions. His powers were first displayed in his Modern Painters. In his Seven Lamps of Architecture he has laid down the great fundamental principles of that art, among the forms of which the Gothic claims the pre-eminence. These are further carried out in The Stones of Venice. He is a transcendentalist and a pre-Raphaelite, and exceedingly dogmatic in stating his views. His descriptive powers are very great.
Hugh Miller, 1802-1856: an uneducated mechanic, he was a brilliant genius and an observant philosopher. His best works are: The Old Red Sandstone, Footprints of the Creator, and The Testimonies of the Rocks. He shot himself in a fit of insanity.
John Stuart Mill, born 1806: the son of James Mill, the historian of India. He was carefully educated, and has written on many subjects. He is best known by his System of Logic; his work on Political Economy; and his Treatise on Liberty. Each of these topics being questions of controversy, Mr. Mill states his views strongly in respect to opposing systems, and is very clear in the expression of his own dogmas.
Thomas Chalmers, D.D., 1780-1847: this distinguished divine won his greatest reputation as an eloquent preacher. He was for some time Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of St. Andrew's, and wrote on Natural Theology, The Evidences of Christianity, and some lectures on Astronomy. But all his works are glowing sermons rather than philosophical treatises.
Richard Chevenix Trench, D.D., born 1807: the present Archbishop of Dublin. He has written numerous theological works of popular value, among which are Notes on the Parables, and on Miracles. He has also published two series of charming lectures on English philology, entitled The Study of Words and English Past and Present. They are suggestive and discursive rather than philosophical, but have incited many persons to pursue this delightful study.
Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, D.D., born 1815: Dean of Westminster. He was first known by his excellent biography of Dr. Arnold of Rugby; but has since enriched biblical literature by his lectures on The Eastern Church and on The Jewish Church. He accompanied the Prince of Wales on his visit to Palestine, and was not only eager in collecting statistics, but has reproduced them with poetic power.
Nicholas Wiseman, D.D., 1802-1865: the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England. Cardinal Wiseman has written much on theological and ecclesiastical questions; but he is best known to the literary world by his able lectures on The Connection between Science and Revealed Religion, which are additionally valuable because they have no sectarian character.
Charles Darwin, born 1809: although he began his career at an early age, his principal works are so immediately of the present time, and his speculations are so involved in serious controversies, that they are not within the scope of this work. His principal works are: The Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection, and The Descent of Man. His facts are curious and very carefully selected; but his conclusions have been severely criticized.
Frederick Max Mueller, born 1823: a German by birth. He is a professional Oxford, and has done more to popularize the Science of Language than any other writer. He has written largely on Oriental linguistics, and has given two courses of lectures on The Science of Language, which have been published, and are used as text-books. His Chips from a German Workshop is a charming book, containing his miscellaneous articles in reviews and magazines.
Roman News Letters. The Gazette. The Civil War. Later Divisions. The Reviews. The Monthlies. The Dailies. The London Times. Other Newspapers.
ROMAN NEWS LETTERS.—English serials and periodicals, from the very time of their origin, display, in a remarkable manner, the progress both of English literature and of English history, and form the most striking illustration that the literature interprets the history. In using the caption, "journalism," we include all forms of periodical literature—reviews, magazines, weekly and daily papers. The word journalism is, in respect to many of them, a misnomer, etymologically considered: it is a French corruption of diurnal, which, from the Latin dies, should mean a daily paper; but it is now generally used to include all periodicals. The origin of newspapers is quite curious, and antedates the invention of printing. The acta diurna, or journals of public events, were the daily manuscript reports of the Roman Government during the later commonwealth. In these, among other matters of public interest, every birth, marriage, and divorce was entered. As an illustration of the character of these brief entries, we have the satire of Petronius, which he puts in the mouth of the freed man Trimalchio: "The seventh of the Kalends of Sextilis, on the estate at Cumae, were born thirty boys, twenty girls; were carried from the floor to the barn, 500,000 bushels of wheat; were broke 500 oxen. The same day the slave Mithridates was crucified for blasphemy against the Emperor's genius; the same day was placed in the chest the sum of ten millions sesterces, which could not be put out to use." Similar in character were the Acta Urbana, or city register, the Acta Publica, and the Acta Senatus, whose names indicate their contents. They were brief, almost tabular, and not infrequently sensational.
THE GAZETTE.—After the downfall of Rome, and during the Dark Ages, there are few traces of journalism. When Venice was still in her palmy days, in 1563, during a war with the Turks, printed bulletins were issued from time to time, the price for reading which was a coin of about three farthings' value called a gazetta; and so the paper soon came to be called a gazette. Old files, to the amount of thirty volumes, of great historical value, may be found in the Magliabecchian Library at Florence.
Next in order, we find in France Affiches, or placards, which were soon succeeded by regular sheets of advertisement, exhibited at certain offices.
As early as the time of the intended invasion of England by the Spanish Armada, about the year 1588, we find an account of its defeat and dispersion in the Mercurie, issued by Queen Elizabeth's own printer. In another number is the news of a plot for killing the queen, and a statement that instruments of torture were on board the vessels, to set up the Inquisition in London. Whether true or not, the newspaper said it; and the English people believed it implicitly.
About 1600, with the awakening spirit of the people, there began to appear periodical papers containing specifically news from Germany, from Italy, &c. And during the Thirty Years' War there was issued a weekly paper called The Certain News of the Present Week. Although the word news is significant enough, many persons considered it as made up of the initial letters representing the cardinal points of the compass, N.E.W.S., from which the curious people looked for satisfying intelligence.
THE CIVIL WAR.—The progress of English journalism received a great additional impetus when the civil war broke out between Charles I. and his Parliament, in 1642. To meet the demands of both parties for intelligence, numbers of small sheets were issued: Truths from York told of the rising in the king's favor there. There were: Tidings from Ireland, News from Hull, telling of the siege of that place in 1643; The Dutch Spy; The Parliament Kite; The Secret Owl; The Scot's Dove, with the olive-branch. Then flourished the Weekly Discoverer, and The Weekly Discoverer Stripped Naked. But these were only bare and partial statements, which excited rancor without conveying intelligence. "Had there been better vehicles for the expression of public opinion," says the author of the Student's history of England, "the Stuarts might have been saved from some of those schemes which proved so fatal to themselves."
In the session of Parliament held in 1695, there occurred a revolution of great moment. There had been an act, enforced for a limited time, to restrain unlicensed printing, and under it censors had been appointed; but, in this year, the Parliament refused to re-enact or continue it, and thus the press found itself comparatively free.
We have already referred to the powerful influence of the essayists in The Tatler, Spectator, Guardian, and Rambler, which may be called the real origin of the present English press.