Human life, as represented in literature, consists of two main branches, character and action. Of these, character, which is the realm of personality, is generalized by means of type, which is ideal character; action, which is the realm of experience, by plot, which is ideal action. It is convenient to examine the nature of these separately. A type, the example of a class, contains the characteristic qualities which make an individual one of that class; it does not differ in this elementary form from the bare idea of the species. The traits of a tree, for instance, exist in every actual tree, however stunted or imperfect; and in the type which condenses into itself what is common in all specimens of the class, these traits only exist; they constitute the type. Comic types, in literature, are often simple abstractions of some single human quality, and hence easily afford illustrations. The braggart, the miser, the hypocrite, contain that one trait which is common to the class; and in their portrayal this characteristic only is shown. In proportion as the traits are many in any character, the type becomes complex. In simple types attention is directed to some one vice, passion, or virtue, capable of absorbing a human life in to itself. This is the method of Jonson, and, in tragedy, of Marlowe. As human energy displays itself more variously in a life, in complex types, the mind contemplates human nature in a more catholic way, with a less exclusive identification of character with specific trait, a more free conception of personality as only partially exhibited; thus, in becoming complex, types gather breadth and depth, and share more in the mystery of humanity as something incompletely known to us at the best. Such are the characters of Shakspere.
The manner in which types are arrived at and made recognizable in other arts opens the subject more fully and throws light upon their nature. The sculptor observes in a group of athletes that certain physical habits result in certain moulds of the body; and taking such characteristics as are common to all of one class, and neglecting such as are peculiar to individuals, he carves a statue. So permanent are the physical facts he relies upon that, centuries after, when the statue is dug up, men say without hesitation—here is the Greek runner, there the wrestler. The habit of each in life produces a bodily form which if it exists implies that habit; the reality here results from the operation of physical laws and can be physically rendered; the type is constituted of permanent physical fact. There are habits of the soul which similarly impress an outward stamp upon the face and form so certainly that expression, attitude, and shape authentically declare the presence of the soul that so reveals itself. In the Phidian Zeus was all awe; in the Praxitelean Hermes all grace, sweetness, tenderness; in the Pallas Athene of her people who carved or minted her image in statue, bas-relief, or coin, was all serene and grave wisdom; or, in the glowing and chastened colours of the later artistic time, the Virgin mother shines out, in Fra Angelico all adoration, in Bellini all beatitude, in Raphael all motherhood. The sculptor and the painter are restricted to the bodily signs of the soul's presence; but the poet passes into another and wider range of interpretation. He finds the soul stamped in its characteristic moods, words, actions. He then creates for the mind's eye Achilles, Aeneas, Arthur; and in his verse are beheld their spirits rather than their bodies.
These several sorts of types make an ascending series from the predominantly physical to the predominantly spiritual; but, from the present point of view, the arts which embody their creations in a material form should not be opposed to literature which employs the least interrelation of sensation, as if the former had a physical and the last a spiritual content. All types have one common element, they express personality; they have for the mind a spiritual meaning, what they contain of human character; they differ here only in fulness of representation. The most purely physical types imply spiritual qualities, choice, will, command,—all the life which was a condition precedent to the bodily perfection that was its flower; and, though the eye rests on the beautiful form, it may discern through it the human soul of the athlete as in life; and, moreover, the figure may be represented in some significant act, or mood even, but this last is rare. The more plainly spiritual types, physically rendered, are most often shown in some such mood or act expressive in itself of the soul whose habit lives in the form it has moulded. It is not that the plastic and pictorial arts cannot spiritualize the stone and the canvas as well as humanize it bodily; equally with the poetic art they reveal character, but within narrower bounds. The limitation of these arts in embodying personality is one of scope, not of intention; and though it springs out of their use of material forms, it does so in a peculiar way. It is not the employment of a physical medium of communication that differentiates them, for a physical medium of some sort is the only means of exchange between mind and mind; neither is it the employment of a physical basis, for all art, being concrete, rests on a physical basis—the world of imagination is exhaled from things that are. The physical basis of a drama, for instance, is manifest when it is enacted on the stage; but it is substantially the same whether beheld in thought or ocularly.
The fact is that the limitation of sculpture and painting and their kindred arts results from their use of the physical basis of life only partially, and not as a whole as literature uses it. They set forth their works in the single element of space; they exclude the changes that take place in time. The types they show are arrested, each in its moment; or if a story is told by a series of representations, it is a succession of such moments of arrested life. The method is that of the camera; what is given is a fixed state. But literature renders life in movement; it revolves life through its moments as rapidly as on the retina of sense; its method is that of the kinetoscope. It holds under its command change, growth, the entire energy of life in action; it can chase mood with mood, link act to act. It alone can speak the word, which is the most powerful instrument of man. Hence the types it shows by presenting moods, words, and acts with the least obstruction of matter and the slightest obligation to the active senses, are the most complete. They have broken the bonds of the flesh, of moment and place. They exhibit themselves in actions; they speak, and in dialogue and soliloquy set forth their states of mind lying before, or accompanying, or following their actions, thus interpreting these more fully. Action by itself reveals character; speech illumines it, and casts upon the action also a forward and a backward light. The lapse of time, binding all together, adds the continuous life of the soul. This large compass, which is the greatest reached by any art, rests on the wider command and more flexible control which literature exercises over that physical basis which is the common foundation of all the arts. Hence it abounds in complex types, just as other arts present simple types with more frequency. All types, however, in so far as they appeal to the mind and interpret the inward world, under which aspect alone they are now considered, have their physical nature, materially or imaginatively, even though it be solely visible beauty, in order to express personality.
The type, in the usage of literature, must be further distinguished from the bare idea of the species as it has thus far been defined. It is more than this. It is not only an example; it is an example in a high state of development, if not perfect. The best possible tree, for instance, does not exist in nature, owing to a confused environment which does not permit its formation. In literature a type is made a high type either by intensity, if it be simple, or by richness of nature, if it be complex. Miserliness, braggadocio, hypocrisy, in their extremes, are the characters of comedy; a rich nature, such as Hamlet, showing variety of faculty and depth of experience, is the hero of more profound drama. This truth, the necessity of high development in the type, underlay the old canon that the characters of tragedy should be of lofty rank, great place, and consequence in the world's affairs, preferably even of historic fame. The canon erred in mistaking one means of securing credible intensity or richness for the many which are possible. The end in view is to represent human qualities at their acme. In other times as a matter of fact persons highly placed were most likely to exhibit such development; birth, station, and their opportunities for unrestrained and conspicuous action made them examples of the compass of human energy, passion, and fate. New ages brought other conditions. Shakspere recognized the truth of the matter, and laid the emphasis where it belongs, upon the humanity of the king, not on the kingly office of the man. Said Henry V: "I think the king is but a man as I am; the violet smells to him as it doth to me; the element shows to him as it doth to me; all his senses have but human conditions; his ceremonies laid by, in his nakedness he appears but a man; and though his appetites are higher mounted than ours, yet, when they stoop, they stoop with like wing." Such, too, was Lear in the tempest. And from the other end of the scale hear Shylock: "Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, appetites, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?" Rank and race are accidents; the essential thing is that the type be highly human, let the means of giving it this intensity and richness be what they may.
It is true that the type may seem defective in the point that it is at best but a fragment of humanity, an abstraction or a combination of abstracted qualities. There was never such an athlete as our Greek sculptor's, never a pagan god nor Virgin Mother, nor a hero equal to Homer's thought, so beautiful, brave, and courteous, so terrible to his foe, so loving to his friend. And yet is it not thus that life is known to us actually? does not this typical rendering of character fall in with the natural habit of life? What man, what friend, is known to us except by fragments of his spirit? Only one life, our own, is known to us as a continuous existence. Just as when we see an orange, we supply the further side and think of it as round, so with men we supply from ourselves the unseen side that makes the man completely and continuously human. Moreover, it is a matter of common experience that men, we ourselves, may live only in one part, and the best, of our nature at one moment, and yet for the moment be absorbed in that activity both in consciousness and energy; for that moment we are only living so; now, if a character were shown to us only in the moments in which he was living so, at his best and in his characteristic state as the soldier, the priest, the lover, then the ideal abstraction of literature would not differ from the actuality of our experience. In this selfsame way we habitually build for ourselves ideal characters out of dead and living men, by dwelling on that part of their career which we most admire or love as showing their characteristic selves. Napoleon is the conqueror, St. Francis the priest, Washington the great citizen, only by this method. They are not thereby de-humanized; neither do the ideal types of imagination fail of humanization because they are thus fragmentarily, but consistently, presented.
The type must make this human appeal under all circumstances. Its whole meaning and virtue lie in what it contains of our common humanity, in the clearness and brilliancy with which it interprets the man in us, in the force with which it identifies us with human nature. If it is separated from us by a too high royalty or a too base villany, it loses intelligibility, it forfeits sympathy, it becomes more and more an object of simple curiosity, and removes into the region of the unknown. Even if the type passes into the supernatural, into fairyland or the angelic or demoniac world, it must not leave humanity behind. These spheres are in fact fragments of humanity itself, projections of its sense of wonder, its goodness, and its evil, in extreme abstraction though concretely felt. Fairy, angel, and devil cease to be conceivable except as they are human in trait, however the conditions of their nature may be fancied; for we have no other materials to build with save those of our life on earth, though we may combine them in ways not justified by reason. In so far as these worlds are in the limits of rational imagination, they are derived from humanity, partial interpretations of some of its moods, portions of itself; and the beings who inhabit them are impaired for the purposes of art in the degree to which their abstract nature is felt as stripping them of complete humanity. For this reason in dealing with such simple types, being natures all of one strain, it has been found best in practice to import into them individually some quality widely common to men in addition to that limited quality they possess by their conception. Some touch of weakness in an angel, some touch of pity in a devil, some unmerited misfortune in an Ariel, bring them home to our bosoms; just as the frailty of the hero, however great he be, humanizes him at a stroke. Thus these abstract fragments also are reunited with humanity, with the whole of life in ourselves.
Types, then, whether simple or complex, whether apparently physical or purely spiritual, whether given fragmentary or as wholes of personality, express human character in its essential traits. They may be narrow or broad generalizations; but if to know ourselves be our aim, those types, which show man his common and enduring nature, are the most valuable, and rank first in importance; in proportion as they are specialized, they are less widely interpretative; in proportion as they escape from time and place, race, culture, and religion, and present man eternal and universal in his primary actions, moods, and passions, they appeal to a greater number and with more permanence; they become immortal in becoming universal. To preserve this universality is the essence of the type, and the degree of universality it reaches is its measure of value to men. It is immaterial whether it be simple as Ajax or complex as Hamlet, whether it be the work of imagination solely as in Hercules, or have a historical basis as in Agamemnon; its exemplary rendering of man in general is its substance and constitutor its ideality.
Action, the second great branch of life, is generalized by plot. It lies, as has been said, in the region of experience. Character, though it may be conceived as latent, can be presented only energetically as it finds outward expression. It cannot be shown in a vacuum. It embodies or reveals itself in an act; form and feature, as expressive of character, are the record of past acts. This act is the link that binds type to plot. By means of it character enters the external world, determining the course of events and being passively affected by them. Plot takes account of this interplay and sets forth its laws. It is, therefore, more deeply engaged with the environment, as type is more concerned with the man in himself. It is, initially, a thing of the outward as type is a thing of the inward world. How, then, does literature, through plot, reduce the environment in its human relations to organic form?
The course of events, taken as a whole, is in part a process of nature independent of man, in part the product of his will. It is a continuous stream of phenomena in great multiplicity, and proceeding in a temporal sequence. Science deals with that portion of the whole which is independent of man, and may be called natural events, and by discerning causal relations in them arrives at the conception of law as a principle of unchanging and necessary order in nature. Science seeks to reduce the multiplicity and heterogeneity of facts as they occur to these simple formulas of law. Science does not begin in reality until facts end; facts, ten or ten thousand, are indifferent to her after the law which contains them is found, and are a burden to her until it is found. Literature, in its turn, deals with human events; and, in the same way as science, by attending to causal relations, arrives at the conception of spiritual law as a similarly permanent principle in the order of the soul. This causal unity is the cardinal idea of plot which by definition is a series of events causally related and conceived as a unit, technically called the action. Plot is thus analogous to an illustrative experiment in science; it is a concrete example of law,—it is law operating.
The course of events again, so far as they stand in direct connection with human life, may be thought of as the expression of the individual's own will, or of that of his environment. The will of the environment may be divided into three varieties, the will of nature, the will of other men, and the will of God. In each case it is will embodied in events. If these ideas be all merged in the conception of the world as a totality whose course is the unfolding of one Divine will operant throughout it and called Fate or Providence, then the individual will, through which, as through nature also, the Divine will works, is only its servant. Action so conceived, the march of events under some heavenly power working through the mass of human will which it overrules in conjunction with its own more comprehensive purposes, is epic action; in it characters are subordinate to the main progress of the action, they are only terms in the action; however free they may be apparently, considered by themselves, that freedom is within such limits as to allow entire certainty of result, its mutations are included in the calculation of the Divine will. The action of the Aeneid is of this nature: a grand series of destined events worked out through human agency to fulfil the plan of the ruler of all things in heaven and earth. On the other hand, if the course of events be more narrowly attended to within the limits of the individual's own activity, as the expression primarily and significantly of his personal will, then the successive acts are subordinate to the character; they are terms of the character which is thereby exhibited; they externalize the soul. Action, so conceived, is dramatic action. If in the course of events there arises a conflict between the will of the individual and that of his environment, whether nature, man, or God, then the seed of tragedy, specifically, is present; this conflict is the essential idea of tragedy. In all these varieties of action, the scene is the external world; plot lies in that world, and sets forth the order, the causal principle, obtaining in it.
It is necessary, however, to refine upon this statement of the matter. The course of external events, in so far as it affects one person, whether as proceeding from or reacting upon him, reveals character, and has meaning as an interpretation of inward life. It is a series outward indeed, but parallel with the states of will, intellect, and emotion which make up the consciousness of the character; and it is interesting humanly only as a mirror of them. It is not the murderous blow, but the depraved will; not the pale victim, but the shocked conscience; not the muttered prayer, the frantic penance, the suicide, but remorse working itself out, that hold our attention. Plot here manifests the law of character outwardly; but the human reality lies within, and to be seen requires the illumination which only our own hearts can give. All fiction is such a shadowing forth of the soul. The constancy, the intimacy, the profundity with which Shakspere felt this, from the earliest syllables of his art, and the frequency with which he dwells upon it, mark a characteristic of genius. Says Richard II:—
"'Tis very true, my grief lies all within; And those external manners of lament Are merely shadows to the unseen grief That swells in silence in the tortured soul; There lies the substance."
So Theseus, of the play of the rude artisans of Athens, excusing all art: "The best in this kind are but shadows." So Hamlet; so Prospero.
Action is vital in us, and has a double order of phenomena; so far as these are physical, their law is one of the physical world, and interests us no more than other physical laws; so far as they belong in the inward world of self-consciousness, their law is spiritual, and has human interest as being operant in a soul like our own. The external fact is seized by the eye as a part of nature; the internal fact is of the unseen world, and is beheld only in the light which is within our own bosoms—it is spiritually discerned. On the stage plainly this is the case. So far as the actions are for the eye of sense alone they are merely spectacular; so far as they express desires and energies, they are dramatic, and these we do not see but feel according as our experience permits us so to comprehend them. We contemplate a world of emotion there in connection with the active energy of the will, a world of character in operation in man; we feed it from our life, interpret it therefrom, build it up in ourselves, suffering the illusion till absorbed in what is arising in our consciousness under the actor's genius we become ourselves the character. The greatest actor is he who makes the spectator play the part. So far is the drama from the scene that it goes on in our own bosoms; there is the stage without any illusion whatsoever; the play in vital for the moment in ourselves.
And what is true of the stage is true of life. It is only through our own hearts that we look into the hearts of others. We interpret the external signs of sense in terms of personality and experience known only within us; the life of will, head, and heart that we ascribe to our nearest and dearest friends is something imagined, something never seen any more than our own personality. Thus our knowledge of them is not only fragmentary, as has been said; it is imaginative even within its limits. It is, in reality as well as in art, a shadow-world we live in, believing that within its sensuous films a spirit like unto ourselves abides,—the human soul, though never seen face to face. To enter this substantial world behind the phenomena of human life as sensibly shown in imagination, to know the invisible things of personality and experience, and to set them forth as a spiritual order, is the main end of ideal art. Though in plot the outward order is brought into the fullest prominence, and may seem to occupy the field, yet it is significantly only the shadow of that order within.
In thus presenting plot as the means by which the history of a single soul is externalized, one important element has been excluded from consideration. The causal chain of events, which constitutes plot, has a double unity, answering to the double order of phenomena in action as a state of mind and a state of external fact. Under one aspect, so much of the action as is included in any single life and is there a linked sequence of mental states, has its unity in the personality of that individual. Under the other aspect, the entire action which sets forth the relations of all the characters involved, of their several courses of experience as elements in the working out of the joint result, has its unity in the constitution of the universe,—the impersonal order, that structure of being itself, which is independent of man's will, which is imposed upon him as a condition of existence, and which he must accept without appeal. This necessity, to give it the best name, to which man is exposed without and subjected within, is in its broadest conception the power that increases life, and all things are under its sway. Its sphere is above man's will; he knows it as immutable law in himself as it is in nature; it is the highest object of his thoughts. Its workings are submitted to his observation and experiment as a part of the world of knowledge; he sees its operation in individuals, social groups, and nations, and sets it forth in the action of the lyric, the drama, and the epic as the law of life. In its sphere is the higher unity of plot by virtue of which it integrates many lives in one main action. Such, then, is the nature of plot as intermediary between man and his environment, but deeply engaged in the latter, and not to be freed from it even by a purely spiritualistic philosophy; for though we say that, as under one aspect plot shadows forth the unseen world of the soul's life, so under the other it shadows forth the invisible will of God, we do not escape from the outward world. Sense is still the medium by which only man knows his brother man and God also as through a glass darkly,—
"The painted veil which those who live call life."
It separates all spirits, the beautiful but dense element in which the pure soul is submerged.
It is necessary only to summarize the characteristics of plot which are merely parallel to those of type already illustrated. Plot may be simple or complex; it may be more or less involved in physical conditions in proportion as it lays stress on its machinery or its psychology; it must be important, as the type must be high, but important by virtue of its essential human meaning and not of its accidents; it is a fragment of destiny only, but in this falls in with the way life in others is known to us; if it passes into the superhuman world, it must retain human significance and be brought back to man's life by devices similar to those used in the type for the same purpose; it rises in value in proportion to the universality it contains, and gains depth and permanence as it is interpretative of common human fate at all times and among all men; it may be purely imaginary or founded on actual incidents; and its exemplary interpretation of man's life is its substance, and constitutes its ideality.
In the discussion of type and plot, the concrete nature of the world of art, which was originally stated to be the characteristic work of the creative reason, or imagination acting in conformity with truth, has been assumed; but no reason has been given for it, because it seemed best to develop first with some fulness the nature of that inward order which is thus projected in the forms of art. It belongs to the frailty of man that he seizes with difficulty and holds with feebleness the pure ideas of the intellect, the more in proportion as they are removed from sense; and he seeks to support himself against this weakness by framing sensible representations of the abstract in which the mind can rest. Thus in all lands and among savage tribes, as well as in the most civilized nations, symbols have been used immemorially. The flag of a nation has all its meaning because it is taken as a physical token of national honour, almost of national life itself. The Moslem crescent, the Christian cross, have only a similar significance, a bringing near to the eye of what exists in reality only for the mind and heart. A symbol, however, is an arbitrary fiction, and stands to the idea as a metaphor does to the thing itself. In literature the parable of the mustard seed to which the kingdom of heaven was likened, exemplifies symbolical or metaphorical method; but the tale of the court of Arthur's knights, ideal method; between them, and sharing something of both, lies allegorical method. Idolatry is the religion of symbolism, for the image is not the god; Christianity is the religion of idealism, for Christ is God incarnate. Idealism presents the reality itself, the universal truth made manifest in the concrete type, and there present and embodied in its characteristics as they are, not merely arbitrarily by a fiction of thought, symbolically or allegorically.
The way in which type concretes truth is sufficiently plain; but it may be useful, with respect to plot, to draw out more in detail the analogy which has been said to exist between it and an illustrative scientific experiment. If scientific law is declared experimentally, the course of nature is modified by intent; certain conditions are secured, certain others eliminated; a selected train of phenomena is then set in motion to the end that the law may be illustrated, and nothing else. In a perfect experiment the law is in full operation. In plot there is a like selection of persons, situations, and incidents so arranged as to disclose the working of that order which obtains in man's life. The law may be simple and shown by means of few persons and incidents in a brief way, as in ancient drama, or complex and exhibited with many characters in an abundance of action over a wide scene as in Shakspere; in either case equally there is a selection from the whole mass of man's life of what shall illustrate the causal union in its order and show it in action. The process in the epic or prose narrative is the same. The common method of all is to present the universal law in a particular instance made for the purpose.
In thus clothing itself in concrete form, truth suffers no transformation; it remains what it was, general truth, the very essence of type and plot being, as has been said, to preserve this universality in the particular instance. There is a sense in which this general truth is more real, as Plato thought, than particulars; a sense in which the phenomenal world is less real than the system of nature, for phenomena come and go, but the law remains; a sense in which the order in man's breast is more real than he is, in whom it is manifest, for the form of ideas, the mould of law, are permanent, but their expression in us transitory. It is this higher realism, as it was anciently called, that the mind strives for in idealism,—this organic form of life, the object of all rational knowledge. Types, under their concrete disguise, are thus only a part of the general notions of the mind found in every branch of knowledge and necessary to thought; plots, similarly, are only a part of the general laws of the ordered world; literature in using them, and specializing them in concrete form by which alone they differ in appearance from like notions and laws elsewhere, merely avails itself of that condensing faculty of the mind which most economizes mental effort and loads conceptions with knowledge. In the type it is not personal, but human character that interests the mind; in plot, it is not personal, but human fate.
While it is true that the object of ideal method is to reach universals, and reembody them in particular instances, this reasoning action is often obscurely felt by the imagination in its creative process. The very fact that its operation is through the concrete complicates the process. The mind of genius working out its will does not usually start with a logical attempt consciously; it does not arrive at truth in the abstract and then reduce it to concrete illustration in any systemic way; it does not select the law and then shape the plot. The poet is rather directly interested in certain characters and events that appeal to him; his sympathies are aroused, and he proceeds to show forth, to interpret, to create; and in proportion as the characters he sets in motion and the circumstances in which they are placed have moulding force, they will develop traits and express themselves in influences that he did not foresee. This is a matter of familiar knowledge to authors, who frequently discover in the trend of the imaginary tale a will of its own, which has its unforeseen way. The drama or story, once set in motion, tends to tell itself, just as life tends to develop in the world. The vitality of the clay it works in, is one of the curious experiences of genius, and occasions that mood of mystery in relation to their creatures frequently observed in great writers. In fact, this mode of working in the concrete, which is characteristic of the creative imagination, gives to its activity an inductive and experimental character, not to be confounded with the demonstrative act of the intellect which states truth after knowing it, and not in the moment of its discovery. In literature this moment of discovery is what makes that flash which is sometimes called intuition, and is one of the great charms of genius.
The concrete nature of ideal art, to touch conveniently here upon a related though minor topic, is also the reason that it expresses more than its creator is aware of. In imaging life he includes more reality than he attends to; but if his representation has been made with truth, others may perceive phases of reality that he neglected. It is the mark of genius, as has hitherto appeared, to grasp life, not fragmentarily, but in the whole. So, in a scientific experiment, intended to illustrate one particular form of energy, a spectator versed in another science may detect some truth belonging in his own field. This richer significance of great works is especially found where the union of the general and the particular is strong; where the fusion is complete, as in Hamlet. In a sense he is more real than living men, and we can analyze his nature, have doubts about his motives, judge differently of his character, and value his temperament more or less as one might with a friend. The more imaginative a character is, in the sense that his personality and experience are given in the whole so that one feels the bottom of reality there, the more significance it has. Thus in the world of art discoveries beyond the intention of the writer may be made as in the actual world; so much of reality does it contain.
Will it be said that, in making primary the universal contents and spiritual significance of type and plot, I have made literature didactic, as if the word should stop my mouth? If it is meant by this that I maintain that literature conveys truth, it may readily be admitted, since only thus can it interest the mind which has its whole life in the pursuit and its whole joy in the possession of truth. But if it be meant that abstract or moral instruction has been made the business of literature, the charge may be met with a disclaimer, as should be evident, first, from the emphasis placed on its concrete dealing with persons and actions. On the contrary, literature fails in art precisely in proportion as it becomes expressly such a teacher. Secondly, the life which literature organizes, the whole of human nature in its relation to the world, is many-sided; and imaginative genius, the creative reason, grasps it in its totality. The moral aspect is but one among many that life wears. If ethics are implicit in the mass of life, so also are beauty and passion, pathos, humour, and terror; and in literature any one of these may be the prominent phase at the moment, for literature gives out not only practical moral wisdom, but all the reality of life. Literature is didactic in the reproachful sense of the word only in proportion as type and plot are distinctly separated from the truth they embody, and ceases to be so in proportion as these are blended and unified. The fable is one of the most ancient forms of such didactic literature; in it a story is told to enforce a lesson, and animals are made the characters, in consequence of which it has the touch of humour inseparable from the spectacle of beasts playing at being men; but the very fact that the moral is of men and the tale is of beasts involves a separation of the truth from its concrete embodiment, and besides the moral is stated by itself. In the Oriental apologue an advance is made. The parables of our Lord, in particular, are admirable examples of its method. The characters are few, the situations common, the action simple, and the moral truth or lesson enforced is so completely clothed in the tale that it needs no explanation; at the same time, the mind is aware of the teacher. In the higher forms of literature, however, the fusion of ethics with life may be complete. Here the poet works so subtly that the mind is not aware of the illumination of this light which comes without the violence of the preacher, until after the fact; and, indeed, the effect is wrought more through the sympathies than the reason. In such a case literature, though it conveys moral with other kinds of truth, is not open to the charge of didacticism, which is valid only when teaching is explicit and abstract. The educative power of literature, however, is not diminished because in its art it dispenses with the didactic method, which by its very definiteness is inelastic and narrow; in fact, the more imaginative a character is, the more fruitful it may be even in moral truth; it may teach, as has been said, what the poet never dreamed his work contained.
If, then, to sum up the argument thus far, the subject-matter of literature is life in the forms of personality and experience, and the particular facts with respect to these are generalized by means of type and plot in concrete form, and so are set forth as phases of an ordered world for the intelligence, to the end that man may know himself in the same way as he knows nature in its living system—if this be so, what standing have those who would restrict literature to the actual in life? who would replace ideal types of manhood by the men of the time, and the ordered drama of the stage by the medley of life? They deny art, which is the instrument of the creative reason, to literature; for as soon as art, which is the process of creating a rational world, begins, the necessity for selection arises, and with it the whole question of values, facts being no longer equal among themselves on the score of actuality, nor in fitness for the work in hand. The trivial, the accidental, the unmeaning, are rejected, and there will be no stopping short of the end; for art, being the handmaid of truth, can employ no other than the method of all reason, wherefore idealism is to it what abstraction is to logic and induction to natural science,—the breath of its rational being. Those who hold to realism in its extreme form, as a representation of the actual only, behave as if one should say to the philosopher—leave this formulation of general notions and be content with sensible objects; or to the scientist—experiment no more, but observe the course of nature as it may chance to arise, and describe it in its succession. They bid us be all eye, no mind; all sense, no thought; all chance, all confusion, no order, no organization, no fabric of the reason. But there are no such realists; though pure realism has its place, as will hereafter be shown, it is usually found mixed with ideal method; and as commonly employed the word designates the preference merely for types and plots of much detail, of narrow application, of little meaning, in opposition to the highly generalized and significant types and plots usually associated with the term idealism. In what way such realism has its place will also appear at a later stage. Here it is necessary to say no more than that in proportion as realism uses the ideal method only at the lowest, it narrows its appeal, weakens its power, and takes from literature her highest distinction by virtue of which she grasps the whole of character and fate in her creation and informs man of the secrets of his human heart, the course of his mortal destiny, and the end of all his spiritual effort and aspiration.
I am aware that I have not proceeded so far without starting objections. To meet that which is most grave, what shall I say when it is alleged that there is no order such as I have assumed in life; or, if there be, that it is insufficiently known, too intangible and complex, too various in different races and ages, to be made the subject of such an exposition as obtains of natural order? Were this assertion true, yet there would be good reason to retain our illusion; for the mind delights in order, and will invent it. The mind is perplexed and disturbed until it finds this order; and in the progressive integration of its experience into an ordered world lies its work. Art gives pleasure to the intellect, because in its structure whatever is superfluous and extrinsic has been eliminated, so that the mind contemplates an artistic work as a unity of relations bound each to each which it fully comprehends. Such works, we say, have form, which is just this interdependence of parts wholly understood which appeals to the intellect, and satisfies it: they would please the mind, though the order they embody were purely imaginary, just as science would delight it, were the order of nature itself illusory. Creative art would thus still have a ground of being under a sceptical philosophy; man would delight to dream his dream. But it is not necessary to take this lower line of argument.
It does not appear to me to be open to question that there is in the soul of man a nature and an order obtaining in it as permanent and universal as in the material world. The soul of man has a common being in all. There could be no science of logic, psychology, or metaphysics on the hypothesis of any uncertainty as to the identity of mind in all, nor any science of ethics on the hypothesis of any variation as to the identity of the will in all, nor any ground of expression even, of communication between man and man, on the hypothesis of any radical difference in the experience and faculties to which all expression appeals for its intelligibility; neither could there be any system of life in social groups, or plan for education, unless such a common basis is accepted. The postulate of a common human nature is analogous to that of the unity of matter in science; it finds its complete expression in the doctrine of the brotherhood of man, for if race be fundamentally distinguished from race as was once thought, it is only as element is distinguished from element in the old chemistry. So, too, the postulate of an order obtaining in the soul, universal and necessary, independent of man's volition, analogous in all respects to the order of nature, is parallel with that of the constancy of physical law. A rational life expects this order. The first knowledge of it comes to us, as that of natural law, by experience; in the social world—the relations of men to one another—and in the more important region of our own nature we learn the issue of certain courses of action as well as in the external world; in our own lives and in our dealings with others we come to a knowledge of, and a conformity to, the conditions under which we live, the laws operant in our being, as well as those of the physical world. Literature assumes this order; in Aeschylus, Cervantes, or Shakspere, it is this that gives their work interest. Apart from natural science, the whole authority of the past in its entire accumulation of wisdom rests upon the permanence of this order, and its capacity to be known by man; that virtue makes men noble and vice renders them base, is a statement without meaning unless this order is continuous through ages; all principles of action, all schemes of culture, would be uncertain except on this foundation.
So near is this order to us that it was known long before science came to any maturity. We have added, in truth, little to our knowledge of humanity since the Greeks; and if one wonders why ethics came before science, let him own at least that its priority shows that it is near and vital in life as science is not. We can do, it seems, without Kepler's laws, but not without the Decalogue. The race acquires first what is most needful for life; and man's heart was always with him, and his fate near. A second reason, it may be noted, for the later development of science is that our senses, as used by science, are more mental now, and the object itself is observable only by the intervention of the mind through the telescope or microscope or a hundred instruments into which, though physical, the mind enters. Our methods, too, as well as our instruments, are things of the mind. It behooves us to remember in an age which science is commonly thought to have materialized, that more and more the mind enters into all results, and fills an ever larger place in life; and this should serve to make materialism seem more and more what it is—a savage conception. But recognizing the great place of mind in modern science, and its growing illumination of our earthly system, I am not disposed to discredit its earliest results in art and morals. I find in this penetration of the order of the world within us our most certain truth; and as our bodies exist only by virtue of sharing in the general order of nature, so, I believe, our souls have being only by sharing in this order of the inward, the spiritual world.
What, then, is this order? We do not merely contemplate it: we are immersed in it, it is vital in us, it is that wherein we live and move and have our being, ever more and more in proportion as the soul's life outvalues the body in our experience. It is necessary to expand our conception of it. Hitherto it has been presented only as an order of truth appealing to the intellect: but the intellect is only one function of the soul, and thinkers are the merest fraction of mankind. We know this order not only as truth, but as righteousness; we know that certain choices end in enlarging and invigorating our faculties, and other choices in their enfeeblement and extinction; and the race adds, acting under the profound motive of self-preservation, that it is a duty to do the one thing and avoid the other, and stores up this doctrine in conscience. We know this order again under the aspect of joy, for joy attends some choices, and sorrow others; and again under the aspect of beauty, for certain choices result in beauty and others in deformity. What I maintain is that this order exists under four aspects, and may be learned in any of them—as an order of truth in the reason, as an order of virtue in the will, as an order of joy in the emotions, as an order of beauty in the senses. It is the same order, the same body of law, operating in each case; it is the vital force of our fourfold life,—it has one unity in the intellect, the will, the emotions, the senses,—is equal to the whole nature of man, and responds to him and sustains him on every side. A lover of beauty in whom conscience is feeble cannot wander if he follow beauty; nor a cold thinker err, though without a moral sense, if he accept truth; nor a just man, nor a seeker after pure joy merely, if they act according to knowledge each in his sphere. The course of action that increases life may be selected because it is reasonable, or joyful, or beautiful, or right; and therefore one may say fearlessly, choose the things that are beautiful, the things that are joyful, the things that are reasonable, the things that are right, and all else shall be added unto you. The binding force in this order is what literature, ideal literature, most brings out and emphasizes in its generalizations, that causal union which has hitherto been spoken of in the region of plot only; but it exists in every aspect of this order, and literature universalizes experience in all these realms, in the provinces of beauty and passion no less than in those of virtue and knowledge, and its method is the same in all.
Is not our knowledge of this fourfold order in its principles, in those relations of its phenomena which constitute its laws, of the highest importance of anything of human concern? In harmony with these laws, and only thus, we ourselves, in whom this order is, become happy, righteous, wise, and beautiful. In ideal literature this knowledge is found, expressed, and handed down age after age—the knowledge of necessary and permanent relations in these great spheres which, taken together, exhaust the capacities of life. Man's moral sense is strong in proportion as he apprehends necessity in the sequence of will and act; his intellect is strong, his emotions, his sense of beauty, are strong in the same way in proportion as he apprehends necessity in each several field of experience. And conversely, the weakness of the intellect lies in a greater or less failure to realise relations of fact in their logic; and the other faculties, in proportion as they fail to realize such relations in their own region, have a similar incapacity. Insanity, in the broad sense, is involuntary error in a nature incapable of effectual enlightenment, and hence abnormal or diseased; but the state of error, whether more or less, whether voluntary or involuntary, whether curable or incurable, in itself is the same. To take an example from one sphere, in the moral world the criminal through ignorance of or distrust in or revolt from the supreme divine law seeks to maintain himself by his own power solitarily as if he might be a law unto himself; he experiences, without the intervention of any human judge, the condemnation which consigns him to enfeeblement and extinction through the decay and death of his nature, as a moral being, stage by stage; this is God's justice, visiting sin with death. Similarly, and to most more obviously, in society itself, the criminal against society, because he does not understand, or believe, or prefers not to accept arbitrary social law as the means by which necessarily the general good, including his own, is worked out, seeks to substitute for it his own intelligence, his cunning, in his search for prosperity, as he conceives it, by an adaptation of means to ends on his own account. This is why the imperfection of human law is sometimes a just excuse for social crime in those whom society does not benefit, its slaves and pariahs. But whether in God's world or in man's, the mind of the criminal, disengaging itself from reliance on the whole fabric for whatever reason, pulverizes because he fails to realize the necessary relations of the world in which he lives in their normal operation, and has no effectual belief in them as unavoidably operant in his nature or over his fortunes. This was the truth that lay in the Platonic doctrine that all sin is ignorance; but Plato did not take account of any possible depravity in the will. Nor is what has been illustrated above true of the mind and the will only. In the region of emotion and of beauty, there may be similar aberration, if these are not grasped in their vital nature, in organic relation to the whole of life.
These several parts of our being are not independent of one another, but are in the closest alliance. They act conjointly and with one result in the single soul in which they find their unity as various energies of one personal power. It cannot be that contradiction should arise among them in their right operation, nor the error of one continue undetected by the others; that the base should be joyful or the wicked beautiful in reality, is impossible. In the narrow view the lust of the eye and the pride of life may seem beautiful, but in the broad perspective of the inward world they take on ugliness; in the moment they may seem pleasurable, but in the backward reach of memory they take on pain; to assert eternity against the moment, to see life in the whole, to live as if all of life were concentrated in its instant, is the chief labour of the mind, the eye, the heart, the enduring will, all together. To represent a villain as attractive is an error of art, which thus misrepresents the harmony of our nature. Satan, as conceived by Milton, may seem to be a majestic figure, but he was not so to Milton's imagination. "The Infernal Serpent" is the first name the poet gives him; and though sublime imagery of gloom and terror is employed to depict his diminished brightness and inflamed malice, Milton repeatedly takes pains to degrade him to the eye, as when in Paradise he is surprised at the ear of Eve "squat like a toad"; and when he springs up in his own form there, as the "grisly king," he mourns most his beauty lost; neither is his resolute courage long admirable. To me, at least, so far from having any heroic quality, he seems always the malign fiend sacrificing innocence to an impotent revenge. In all great creations of art it is necessary that this consistency of beauty, virtue, reason, and joy should he preserved.
It is true that the supremacy of law in this inward world, so constituted, is less realized than in the physical world; but even in the latter the wide conviction of its supremacy is a recent thing, and in some parts of nature it is still lightly felt, especially in those which touch the brain most nearly, while under the stress of exceptional calamity or strong desire or traditional religious beliefs it often breaks down. But if the order of the material universe seems now a more settled thing than the spiritual law of the soul, once the case was reversed; God was known and nature miraculous. It must be remembered, too, in excuse of our feebleness of faith, that we are born bodily into the physical world and are forced to live under its law; but life in the spiritual world is more a matter of choice, at least in respect to its degree; its phenomena are, in part, contingent upon our development and growth, on our living habitually and intelligently in our higher nature, the laws of which as communicated to us by other minds are in part prophecies of experience not yet actual in ourselves. It is the touchstone of experience, after all, that tries all things in both worlds, and experience in the spiritual world may be long delayed; it is power of mind that makes wide generalizations in both; and the conception of spiritual law is the most refined as perhaps it is the most daring of human thoughts.
The expansion of the conception of ideal literature so as to embrace these other aspects, in addition to that of rational knowledge which has thus far been exclusively dwelt upon, requires us to examine its nature in the regions of beauty, joy, and conscience, in which, though generalization remains its intellectual method, it does not make its direct appeal to the mind. It is not enough to show that the creative reason in its intellectual process employs that common method which is the parent of all true knowledge, and by virtue of its high matter, which is the divine order in the soul, holds the primacy among man's faculties; the story were then left half told, and the better part yet to come. To enlighten the mind is a great function; but in the mass of mankind there are few who are accessible to ideas as such, especially on the unworldly side of life, or interested in them. Idealism does not confine its service to the narrow bounds of intellectuality. It has a second and greater office, which is to charm the soul. So characteristic of it is this power, so eminent and shining, that thence only springs the sweet and almost sacred quality breathing from the word itself. Idealism, indeed, by the garment of sense does not so much clothe wisdom as reveal her beauty; so the Greek sculptor discloses the living form by the plastic folds. Truth made virtue is her work of power, and she imposes upon man no harder task than the mere beholding of that sight—
"Virtue in her shape how lovely,"
which since it first abashed the devil in Paradise makes wrong-doers aware of their deformity, and yet has such subtle and penetrating might, such fascination for all finer spirits, that they have ever believed with their master, Plato, that should truth show her countenance unveiled and dwell on earth, all men would worship and follow her.
The images of Plato—those images in which alone he could adequately body forth his intuitions of eternity—present the twofold attitude of our nature, in mind and heart, toward the ideal with vivid distinctness; and they illustrate the more intimate power of beauty, the more fundamental reach of emotion, and the richness of their mutual life in the soul. Under the aspect of truth he likens our knowledge of the ideal to that which the prisoners of the cave had of the shadows on the wall; under the aspect of beauty he figures our love for it as that of the passionate lover. As truth, again,—taking up in his earliest days what seems the primitive impulse and first thought of man everywhere and at all times,—under the image of the golden chain let down from the throne of the god, he sets forth the heavenly origin of the ideal and its descent on earth by divine inspiration possessing the poet as its passive instrument; and later, bringing in now the cooperation of man in the act, he again presents the ideal as known by reminiscence of the soul's eternal life before birth, which is only a more defined and rationalized conception of inspiration working normally instead of by the special act and favour of God. As beauty, again, he shows forth the enthusiasm evoked by the ideal in the image of the charioteer of the white and black horses mastering them to the goal of love. In these various ways the first idealist thought out these distinctions of truth and beauty as having a real community, though a divided life in the mind and heart; and, as he developed,—and this is the significant matter,—the poet in him controlling his speech told ever more eloquently of the charm with which beauty draws the soul unto itself, for to the poet beauty is nearer than truth. It is the persuasion with which he sets forth this charm, rather than his speculation, which has fastened upon him the love of later ages. He was the first to discern in truth and beauty equal powers of one divine being, and thus to effect the most important reconciliation ever made in human nature.
So, too, from the other great source of the race's wisdom, we are told in the Scriptures that though we be fallen men, yet is it left to us to lift our eyes to the beauty of holiness and be healed; for every ray of that outward loveliness which strikes upon the eye penetrates to the heart of man. Then are we moved, indeed, and incited to seek virtue with true desire. Prophet and psalmist are here at one with the poet and the philosopher in spiritual sensitiveness. At the height of Hebrew genius in the personality of Christ, it is the sweet attractive grace, the noble beauty of the present life incarnated in his acts and words, the divine reality on earth and not, as Plato saw it, in a world removed, that has drawn all eyes to the Judean hill. The years lived under the Syrian blue were a rending of the veil of spiritual beauty which has since shone in its purity on men's gaze. It is this loveliness which needs only to be seen that wins mankind. The emotions are enlisted; and, however we may slight them in practice, the habit of emotion more than the habit of mind enters into and fixes inward character. More men are saved by the heart than by the head; more youths are drawn to excellence by noble feelings than are coldly reasoned into virtue on the ground of gain. Some there are among men so colourless in blood that they embrace the right on the mere calculation of advantage, but they seem to possess only an earthly virtue; some, beholding the order of the world, desire to put themselves in tune with nature and the soul's law, and these are of a better sort; but most fortunate are they who, though well-nurtured, find virtue not in profit, nor in the necessity of conforming to implacable law, but in mere beauty, in the light of her face as it first comes to them with ripening years in the sweet and noble nature of those they grow to love and honour among the living and the dead. For this is Achilles made brave, that he may stir us to bravery; and surely it were little to see the story of Pelops' line if the emotions were not awakened, not merely for a few moments of intense action of their own play, but to form the soul. The emotional glow of the creative imagination has been once mentioned in the point that it is often more absorbed in the beauty and passion than in the intellectual significance of its work; here, correspondingly, it is by the heart to which it appeals rather than by the mind it illumines that it takes hold of youth.
What, then, is the nature of this emotional appeal which surpasses so much in intimacy, pleasure, and power the appeal to the intellect? It is the keystone of the inward nature, that which binds all together in the arch of life. Emotion has some ground, some incitement which calls it forth; and it responds with most energy to beauty. In the strictest sense beauty is a unity of relations of coexistence in coloured space and appeals to the eye; it is in space what plot is in time. Like plot, it is deeply engaged in the outward world; it exists in the sensuous order, and it shadows forth the spiritual order in man only in so far as a fair soul makes the body beautiful, as Spenser thought,—the mood, the act, and the habit of heroism, love, and the like nobilities of man, giving grace to form, feature, and attitude. It is primarily an outward thing, as emotion, which is a phase of personality, is an inward thing; what the necessary sequence of events, the chain of causation, is to plot,—its cardinal idea,—that the necessary harmony of parts, the chime of line and colour, is to beauty; thus beauty is as inevitable as fate, as structurally planted in the form and colour of the universe as fate is in its temporal movement. And as plot has its characteristic unity in the impersonal order of God's will, shown in time's event, so beauty has its characteristic unity in the same order shown in the visible creation of space. It is true that all phenomena are perceived by the mind, and are conditioned, as is said, by human modes of perception; but within the limits of the relativity of all our knowledge, beauty is initially a sensuous, not a spiritual, thing, and though the structure of the human eye arranges the harmonies of line and colour, it is no more than as the form of human thought arranges cause and effect and other primary relations in things; beauty does not in becoming humanly known cease to be known as a thing external, independent of our will, and imposed on us from without. It is this outward reality, the harmony of sense, that sculpture and painting add in their types to the interpretation they otherwise give of personality, and often in them this physical element is predominant; and in the purely decorative arts it may be exclusive. In landscape, which is in the realm of beauty, personality altogether disappears, unless, indeed, nature be interpreted in the mood of the Psalmist as declaring its Creator; for the reflection which the presence of man may cast upon nature as his shadow is not expressive of any true personality there abiding, but enters into the scene as the face of Narcissus into the brook. The pleasure which the mind takes in beauty is only a part of its general delight in order of any sort; and visible artistic form as abstracted from the world of space is merely a species of organic form and is included in it.
The eye, however, governs so large a part of the sensuous field, the idea of beauty as a unity of space-relations giving pleasure is so simple, and the experience is so usual, that the word has been carried over to the life of the more limited senses in which analogous phenomena arise, differing only in the fact that they exist in another sense. Thus in the dominion of the ear especially, we speak commonly of the beauty of music; but the life of the minor senses, touch, taste, and smell, is composed of too simple elements to allow of such combination as would constitute specific form in ordinary apprehension, though in the blind and deaf the possibility of high and intelligible complexity in these senses is proved. Similarly, the term is carried over to the invisible and inaudible world of the soul within itself, and we speak of the beauty of Sidney's act, of Romeo's nature, and, in the abstract, of the beauty of holiness, and, in a still more remote sphere, of the beauty of a demonstration or a hypothesis; by this usage we do not so much describe the thing as convey the charm of the thing. This charm is more intimate and piercing to those of sensuous nature who rejoice in visible loveliness or in heard melodies; but to the spiritually minded it may be as close and penetrating in the presence of what is to them dearer than life and light, and is beheld only by the inner eye. It is this charm, whether flowing from the outward semblance or shining from the unseen light, that wins the heart, stirs emotion, wakes the desire to be one with this order manifest in truth and beauty, in the spirit and the body of things, to go out toward it in love, to identify one's being with it as the order of life, mortal and immortal; last the will quickens, and its effort to make this order prevail in us and possess us is virtue. The act through all its phases is, as has been said, one act of the soul, which first perceives, then loves, and finally wills. Emotion is the intermediary between the divine order and the human will; it responds to the beauty of the one and directs the choice of the other, and is felt in either function as love controlling life in the new births of the spirit.
The emotion, to return to the world of art, which is felt in the presence of imaginary things is actual in us; but the attempt is made to fix upon it a special character differentiating it from the emotion felt in the presence of reality. One principle of difference is sought in the point that in literature, or in sculpture and painting, emotion entails no action; it has no outlet, and is without practical consequences; the will is paralyzed by the fatuity of trying to influence an unreal series of events, and in the case of the object of beauty in statue or painting by the impossibility of possession. The world of art is thus thought of as one of pure contemplation, a place of escape from the difficulties, the pangs, and the incompleteness that beset all action. It is true that the imagined world creates special conditions for emotion, and that the will does not act in respect to that world; but does this imply any radical difference in the emotion, or does it draw after it the consequence that the will does not act at all? Checked emotion, emotion dying in its own world, is common in life; and so, too, is contemplation as a mode of approach to beauty, as in landscape, or even in human figures where there is no thought of any other possession than the presence of beauty before the eye and soul; escape, too, into a sphere of impersonality, in the love of nature or the spectacle of life, is a common refuge. Art does not give us new faculties, generate unknown habits, or in any way change our nature; it presents to us a new world only, toward which our mental behaviour is the same as in the rest of life. Why, then, should emotion, the most powerful element in life, be regarded as a fruitless thing in that ideal art which has thus far appeared as a life in purer energy and higher intensity of being than life itself?
The distinction between emotion depicted and that felt in response must be kept in mind to avoid confusion, for both sorts are present at the same time. In literature emotion may be set forth as a phase of the character or as a term in the plot; it may be a single moment of high feeling as in a lyric or a prolonged experience as in a drama; it may be shown in the pure type of some one passion as in Romeo, or in the various moods of a rich nature as in Hamlet; but, whether it be predominant or subordinate in any work, it is there treated in the same way and for the same purpose as other materials of life. What happens when literature gives us, for instance, examples of moral experience? It informs the mind of the normal course of certain lines of action, of the inevitable issues of life; it breeds habits of right thinking in respect to these; it is educative, and though we do not act at once upon this knowledge, when the occasion arises we are prepared to act. So, when literature presents examples of emotional experience, it informs us of the nature of emotion, its causes, occasions, and results, its value in character, its influence on action, the modes of its expression; it breeds habits of right thinking in respect to these, and is educative; and, just as in the preceding case, though we do not act at once upon this knowledge, when the occasion arises we are prepared to act. Concurrently with emotions thus objectively presented there arises in us a similar series of emotions in the beholding; by sympathy we ourselves feel what is before us, the emotions there are also in us in proportion as we identify ourselves with the character; or, in proportion as our own individuality asserts itself by revolt, a contrary series arises of hatred, indignation, or contempt, of pity for the character or of terror in the feeling that what has happened to one may happen to us in our humanity. We are taught in a more intimate and vital way than through ideas alone; the lesson has entered into our bosoms; we have lived the life. Literature is thus far more powerfully educative emotionally than intellectually; and if the poet has worked with wisdom, he has bred in us habits of right feeling in respect to life, he has familiarized our hearts with love and anger, with compassion and fear, with courage, with resolve, has exercised us in them upon their proper occasions and in their noble expression, has opened to us the world of emotion as it ought to be in showing us that world as it is in men with all its possibilities of baseness, ugliness, and destruction. This is the service which literature performs in this field. Imagination shows us a scheme of emotion attending the scheme of events and presents it in its general connection with life, in simple, powerful, and complete expression, on the lines of inevitable law in its sphere. We go out from the sway of this imagined world, more sensitive to life, more accessible to emotion, more likely and more capable, when the occasion arises, to feel rightly, and to carry that feeling out into an act. In all literature the knowledge gained objectively, whether of action or emotion, is a preparation for life; but this intimate experience of emotion in connection with an imagined world is a more vital preparation, and enters more directly, easily, and effectually into men's bosoms.
Two particular phases of this educative power should be specifically mentioned. The objective presentation of emotion in literature, as has been often observed, corrects the perspective of our own lives, as does also the action which it envelops; and by showing to us emotion in intense energy, which by this intensity corresponds to high type and important plot, and in a compass far greater than is normal in ordinary life, the portrayal leads us better to bear and more justly to estimate the petty trials, the vexations, the insignificant experiences of our career; we see our lives in a truer relation to life in general, and avoid an overcharged feeling in regard to our private fortune. And, secondly, the subjective emotion in ourselves is educative in the point that by this outlet we go out of ourselves in sympathy, lose our egoism, and become one with man in general. This is an escape; but not such as has been previously spoken of, for it is not a retreat. There is no escape for us, except into the lives of others. In nature it is still our own face we see; and before the ideal creations of art we are still aware, for all our contemplation, of the ineffable yearning of the thwarted soul, of the tender melancholy, the sadness in all beauty, which is the measure of our separation therefrom, and is fundamental in the poetic temperament. This is that pain, which Plato speaks of—the pain of the growing of the wings of the spirit as they unfold. But in passing into the lives of other men, in sharing their joys, in taking on ourselves the burden of humanity, we escape from our self-prison, we leave individuality behind, we unite with man in common; so we die to ourselves in order to live in lives not ours. In literature, sympathy and that imagination by which we enter into and comprehend other lives are most trained and developed, made habitual, instinctive, and quick. It begins to appear, I trust, that ideal art is not only one with our nature intellectually, but in all ways; it is the path of the spirit in all things. Moreover, emotion is in itself simple; it does not need generalization, it is the same in all. It is rather a means of universalizing the refinements of the intellect, the substantive idealities of imagination, by enveloping them in an elementary, primitive feeling which they call forth. Poetry, therefore, especially deals, as Wordsworth pointed out, in the primary affections, the elementary passions of mankind; and, whatever be its intellectual contents of nature or human events, calls these emotions forth as the master-spirit of all our seeing. Emotion is more fundamental in us than knowledge; it is more powerful in its working; it underlies more deliberate and conscious life in the mind, and in most of us it rules, as it influences in all. It is natural, therefore, to find that its operation in art is of graver importance than that of the intellectual faculty so far as the broad power of art over men is concerned.
Another special point arises from the fact that some emotions are painful, and the question is raised how in literature painful emotions become a pleasure. Aristotle's doctrine in respect to certain of these emotions, tragic pity and terror, is well known, though variously interpreted. He regards such emotions as a discharge of energy, an exhaustion and a relief, in consequence of which their disturbing presence is less likely to recur in actual life; it is as if emotional energy accumulated, as vital force is stored up and requires to be loosed in bodily exercise; but this, except in the point that pity and terror, if they do accumulate in their particular forms latently, are specifically such as it is wise to be rid of, does not differentiate emotion from the rest of our powers in all of which there is a similar pleasure in exercising, an exhaustion and a relief, with less liability of immediate recurrence; this belongs to all expenditure of life. It is not credible to me that painful emotion, under the illusions of art, can become pleasurable in the common sense; what pleasure there is arises only in the climax and issue of the action, as in case of the drama when the restoration of the order that is joyful, beautiful, right, and wise occurs; in other words, in the presence of the final poetic justice or reconciliation of the disturbed elements of life. But here we come upon darker and mysterious aspects of our general subject, now to be slightly touched. Tragedy dealing with the discords of life must present painful spectacles; and is saved to art only by its just ending. Comedy, which similarly deals with discords, is endurable only while these remain painless. Both imply a defect in order, and neither would have any place in a perfect world, which would be without pity, fear, or humour, all of which proceed from incongruities in the scheme. Tragedy and comedy belong alike to low civilizations, to wicked, brutal, or ridiculous types of character and disorderly events, to the confusion, ignorance, and ignominies of mankind; the refinement of both is a mark of progress in both art and civilization, and foretells their own extinction, unless indeed the principle of evil be more deeply implanted in the universe than we fondly hope; pathos and humour, which are the milder and the kindlier forms of tragedy and comedy, must also cease, for both are equally near to tears. But before leaving this subject it is interesting to observe how in the Aristotelian scheme of tragedy, where it was little thought of, the appeal is made to man's whole nature as here outlined—the plot replying to reason, the scene to the sense of beauty, the katharsis to the emotions, and poetic justice to the will, which thus finds its model and exemplar in the supremacy of the moral law in all tragic art.
This, then, being the nature of the ideal world in its whole range commensurate with our being, and these the methods of its intellectual and emotional appeal, it remains to examine the world of art in itself, and especially its genesis out of life. The method by which it is built up has long been recognized to be that of imitation of the actual, as has been assumed hitherto in the statement that all art is concrete. But the concrete which art creates is not a copy of the concrete of life; it is more than this. The mind takes the particulars of the world of sense into itself, generalizes them, and frames therefrom a new particular, which does not exist in nature; it is, in fact, nature made perfect in an imagined instance, and so presented to the mind's eye, or to the eye of sense. The pleasure which imitation gives has been often and diversely analyzed; it may be that of recognition, or that of new knowledge satisfying our curiosity as if the original were present, or that of delight in the skill of the artist, or that of interest in seeing how his view differs from our own, or that of the illusion created for us; but all these modes of pleasure exist when the imitation is an exact copy of the original, and they do not characterize the artistic imitation in any way to differentiate its peculiar pleasure. It is that element which artistic imitation adds to actuality, the difference between its created concrete and the original out of which that was developed, which gives the special delight of art to the mind. It is the perfection of the type, the intensity of the emotion, the inevitability of the plot,—it is the pure and intelligible form disclosed in the phases and movement of life, disengaged and set apart for the contemplation of the mind,—it is the purging of the sensual eye, enabling it to see through the mind as the mind first saw through it, which renders the world of art the new vision it is, the revelation accomplished by the mind for the senses. If the world of art were only a reduplication of life, it would give only the pleasures that have been mentioned; but its true pleasure is that which it yields from its supersensual element, the reason which has entered into it with ordering power. In the world thus created there will remain the imperfections which are due to the limitation of the artist, in knowledge, skill, and choice.
It will be said at once that all these concrete representations necessarily fail to realize the artist's thought, and are inadequate, inferior in exactness, to scientific and philosophic knowledge; in a measure this is true, and would be important if the method of art were demonstrative, instead of being, as has been said, experimental and inductive. So, too, all thinkers, using the actual world in their processes, are at a disadvantage. The figures of the geometer, the quantities of the chemist, the measurements of the astronomer, are inexact approximations to their equivalent in the mind. Art, as an embodiment in mortal images, is subject to the conditions of mortality. Hence arises its human history, the narrative of its rise, climax, and decline in successive ages. The course of art is known; it has been run many times; it is a simple matter. At first art is archaic, the sensible form being rudely controlled by the artist's hand; it becomes, in the second stage, classical, the form being adequate to the thought, a transparent expression; last, it is decadent, the form being more than the thought, dwarfing it by usurping attention on its own account. The peculiar temptation of technique is always to elaboration of detail; technique is at first a hope, it becomes a power, it ends in being a caprice; and always as it goes on it loses sight of the general in its rendering, and dwells with a near eye on the specific. Nor is this attention to detail confined to the manner; the hand of the artist draws the mind after it, and it is no longer the great types of manhood, the important fates of life, the primary emotions in their normal course, that are in the foreground of thought, but the individual is more and more, the sensational in plot, the sentimental in feeling. This tendency to detail, which is the hallmark of realism, constitutes decline. It arises partly from the exhaustion of general ideas, from the search for novelty of subject and sensation, from the special phenomena of a decaying society; but, however manifold may be the causes, the fact of decline consists in the lessened scope of the matter and the increased importance of the form, both resulting in luxuriant detail. Ideas as they lose generality gain in intensity, but in the history of art this has not proved a compensation. In Greece the three stages are clearly marked both in matter and manner, in Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides; in England less clearly in Marlowe, Shakspere, and Webster. How monstrous in the latter did tragedy necessarily become! yet more repulsive in his tenderer companion-spirit, Ford. In Greek sculpture, passing into convulsed and muscular forms or forms of relaxed voluptuousness, in Italian painting, in the romantic poetry of this century with us, the same stages are manifest. Age parallels age. Tennyson in artistic technique is Virgilian, we are aware of the style; but both Virgil and Tennyson remain classic in matter, in universality, and the elemental in man. Browning in substance is Euripidean, being individualistic, psychologic, problematic, with special pleading; classicism had departed from him, and left not even the style behind. The great opposition lies in the subject of interest. Is it to know ourselves in others? Then art which is widely interpretative of the common nature of man results. Is it to know others as different from ourselves? Then art which is specially interpretative of abnormal individuals in extraordinary environments results. This is the opposition between realism and idealism, while both remain in the limits of art, as these terms are commonly used. It belongs to realism to tend to the concrete of narrow application, but with fulness of special trait or detail. It belongs to idealism to tend to the concrete of broad application, but without peculiarity. The trivial on the one hand, the criminal on the other, in the individual, are the extremes of realistic art, while idealism rises to an almost superhuman emphasis on that wisdom and virtue, and the beauty clothing them, which are the goal of a nation's effort. Race-ideas, or generalizations of a compact and homogeneous people summing up their serious interpretations of life, their moral choices, their aspiration and hope in the lines of effort that seem to them highest, are the necessary matter of idealism; when these are expressed they are the Greek spirit, the Roman genius, great types of humanity on the impersonal, the national scale. As these historic generalizations dissolve in national decay, art breaks up in individual portrayal of less embracing types; the glorification of the Greek man in Achilles yields place to the corruptions of the homunculus; and in general the literature of nationality gives way to the unmeaning and transitory literature of a society interested in its vices, superstitions, and sensations. In each age some genius stands at the centre of its expression, a shining nucleus amid its planetary stars; such was Dante, such Virgil, such Shakspere. Few indeed are the races that present the spectacle of a double-sun in their history, as the Hebrews in Psalm and Gospel, the Greeks in Homer and in Plato. And yet, all this enormous range of life and death, this flowering in centuries of the human spirit in its successive creations, reposes finally on the more or less general nature of the concretes used in its art, on their broad or narrow truth, on their human or individualistic significance. The difference between idealism and realism is not more than a question which to choose. At the further end and last remove, when all art has been resolved into a sensation, an effect, lies impressionism, which, by its nature, is a single phase at a single moment as seen by a single being; but even then, if the mind be normal, if the phase be veritable, if the moment be that of universal beauty which Faust bade be eternal, the artistic work remains ideal; but on the other hand, it is usually the eccentric mind, the abnormal phase, the beauty of morbid sensation that are rendered; and impressionism becomes, as a term, the vanishing-point of realism into the moment of sense.
The world of art, to reach its last limitation, through all this wide range is in each creation passed through the mind of the artist and presented necessarily under all the conditions of his personality. His nature is a term in the process, and the question of imperfection or of error, known as the personal equation, arises. Individual differences of perceptive power in comprehending what is seen, and of narrative skill, or in the plastic and pictorial arts of manual dexterity, import this personal element into all artistic works, the more in proportion to the originality of the maker and the fulness of his self-expression. In rendering from the actual such error is unavoidable, and is practically admitted by all who would rather see for themselves than take the account of a witness, and prefer the original to any copy of it, though they thereby only substitute their own error for that of the artist. This personal error, however, is easily corrected by the consensus of human nature.
The differences in personality go far deeper than this common liability of humanity to mere mistakes in sight and in representation. The isolating force that creates a solitude round every man lies in his private experience, and results from his original faculties and the special conditions of his environment, his acquired habits of attending to some things rather than others open to him, the choices he has made in the past by which his view of the world and his interest in it have been determined. Memory, the mother of the Muses, is supreme here; a man's memory, which is the treasury of his chosen delights in life, characterizes him, and differentiates his work from that of others, because he must draw on that store for his materials. Thus a man's character, or, what is more profound, his temperament, acting in conjunction with the memory it has built up for itself, is a controlling force in artistic work, and modifies it in the sense that it presents the universal truth only as it exists in his personality, in his apprehension of it and its meaning.
Genius is this power of personality, and exists in proportion as the man differs from the average in ways that find significant expression. This difference may proceed along two lines. It may be aberration from normal human nature, due to circumstances or to inherent defect or to a thousand causes, but existing always in the form of an inward perversion approaching disease of our nature; such types of genius are pathological and may be neglected. It may, on the other hand, be development of normal human nature in high power, and it then exists in the form of inward energy, showing itself in great sensitiveness to outward things, in mental power of comprehension, in creative force of recombination and expression. Of genius of this last sort the leaders of the human spirit are made. The basis of it is still, human faculty dealing with the universe—the same faculty, the same universe, that are common to mankind; but with an extraordinary power, such that it can reveal to men at large what they of themselves might never have arrived at, can advance knowledge and show forth goals of human hope, can in a word guide the race. The isolation of such a nature is necessarily profound, and intense loneliness has ever been a characteristic of genius. The solvent of all personality, however, lies at last in this fact of a common world and a common faculty for all, resulting in an experience intelligible to all, even if unshared by them. The humanity of genius constitutes its sanity, and is the ground of its usefulness; though it lives in isolation, it does so only as an advanced outpost may; it expects the advent of the race behind and below it, and shows there its signal and sounds there its call. Its escape from personality lies in its identifying itself with the common order in which all souls shall finally be merged and be at one. The limitations of genius are consequently not so much limitations as the abrogation of limits in the ordinary sense; its originality of insight, interpretation, and expression broadens the human horizons and enriches the fields within them; it tells us what we may not have known or felt or guessed, but what we shall at last understand. Thus, as the theory of art is most fixed in the doctrine of order, so here it is most flexible in the doctrine of personality, through which that order is most variously set forth and illustrated. Imitation, so far from becoming a defective or false method because of personality, is really made catholic by it, and gains the variety and breadth that characterizes the artistic world as a whole.
The element of self which thus enters into every artistic work has different degrees of importance. In objective art, it is clear that it enters valuably in proportion as the universe is seized by a mind of right reason, of profound penetration, of truthful imagination; and if the work be presented enveloped in a subjective mood, while it remains objective in contents, as in Virgil the mood pervades the poem so deeply as to be a main part of it, then the mood must be one of those felt or capable of being felt universally,—the profound moods of the meditative spirit in grand works, the common moods of simple joy and sorrow in less serious works. In proportion as society develops, whether in historic states singly or in the progress of mankind, the direct expression of self for its own sake becomes more usual; literature becomes more personal or purely subjective. If the poet's private story be one of action, it is plain that it has interest only as if it were objectively rendered, from its being illustrative of life in general; so, too, if the felt emotion be given, this will have value from its being treated as typical; and, in so far as the intimate nature of the poet is variously given as a whole in his entire works, it has real importance, has its justification in art, only in so far as he himself is a high normal type of humanity. The truth of the matter is, in fact, only a detail of the general proposition that in art history has no value of its own as such; for the poet is a part of life that is, and his nature and career, like that of any character or event in history, have no artistic value beyond their universal significance. In such self-portraiture there may be sometimes the depicting of a depraved nature, such as Villon; but such a type takes its place with other criminal types of the imagination, and belongs with them in another sphere.
This element of self finds its intense expression in lyrical love-poetry, one of the most enduring forms of literature because of its elementariness and universality; but it is also found in other parts of the emotional field. In seeking concrete material for lyrical use the poet may take some autobiographical incident, but commonly the world of inanimate nature yields the most plastic mould. It is a marvellous victory of the spirit over matter when it takes the stars of heaven and the flowers of earth and makes them utter forth its speech, less as it seems in words of human language than in the pictured hieroglyph and symphonic movement of natural things; for in such poetry it is not the vision of nature, however beautiful, that holds attention; it is the colour, form, and music of things externalizing, visualizing the inward mood, emotion, or passion of the singer. Nature is emptied of her contents to become the pure inhabitancy of one human soul. The poet's method is that of life itself, which is first awakened by the beauty without to thought and feeling; he expresses the state evoked by that beauty and absorbing it. He identifies himself with the objects before him through his joy in them, and entering there makes nature translucent with his own spirit.
Shelley's Ode to the West Wind is the eminent example of such magical power. The three vast elements, earth, air, and water, are first brought into a union through their connection with the west wind; and, the wind still being the controlling centre of imagination, the poet, drawing all this limitless and majestic imagery with him, by gradual and spontaneous approaches identifies himself at the climax of feeling with the object of his invocation,—
"Be thou me, impetuous one!"
and thence the poem swiftly falls to its end in a lyric burst of personality, in which, while the body of nature is retained, there is only a spiritual meaning. So Burns in some songs, and Keats in some odes, following the same method, make nature their own syllables, as of some cosmic language. This is the highest reach of the artist's power of conveying through the concrete image the soul in its pure emotional life; and in such poetry one feels that the whole material world seems lent to man to expand his nature and escape from the solitude in which he is born to that divine union to which he is destined. The evolution of this one moment of passion is lyric form, whose unity lies in personality exclusively, however it may seem to involve the external world which is its imagery,—its body lifted from the dust, woven of light and air, but alive only while the spirit abides there. And here, too, as elsewhere, to whatever height the poet may rise, it must be one to which man can follow, to which, indeed, the poet lifts men. Nor is it only nature which thus suffers spiritualization through the stress of imagination interpreting life in definite and sensible forms of beauty, but the imagery of action also may be similarly taken possession of, though this is rare in merely lyrical expression.