HERNE HILL, July 25, 1836.
[Footnote 27: London's Magazine of Natural History, Vol. vii., pp. 644-5. The note was illustrated by engravings from two sketches by the author of the Aiguille de Servoz and of the Aiguille Dru, and by a diagram explanatory of its last sentence but one.—ED.]
[Footnote 28: "A small neat copy of a sketch carefully taken on the spot," which, according to the editor of the magazine, accompanied this communication, was not, however, published. See the magazine.—ED.]
[Footnote 29: Loudon's Magazine of Natural History, Vol. ix., No. 65, pp. 488-90.—ED.]
[Footnote 30: The question here discussed was originally asked in the magazine (Vol. ix., pp. 379-80) by Mr. W. Perceval Hunter with reference to the condition of Bodiam Castle, in Sussex.—ED.]
OBSERVATIONS ON THE CAUSES WHICH OCCASION THE VARIATION OF TEMPERATURE BETWEEN SPRING AND RIVER WATER.—BY J. R.
274. The difference in temperature between river and spring water, which gives rise to the query of your correspondent Indigena (p. 491), may be the result of many causes, the principal of which is, however, without doubt, the interior heat of the earth. It is a well known fact, that this heat increases in a considerable ratio as we descend, making a difference of several degrees between the temperature of the earth at its surface and at depths of 500 or 600 feet; raising, of course, the temperature of all springs which have their source at even moderate depths, and entirely securing them from the effects of frost, which, it is well known, cannot penetrate the earth to a greater depth than 3 or 4 ft.
275. Many instances might be given of the strong effect of this interior heat. The glaciers of the Alps, for instance, frequently cover an extent of three or four square leagues, with a mass of ice 400, 500, or even 600 feet deep, thus entirely preventing the access of exterior heat to the soil; yet the radiation of heat from the ground itself is so powerful as to dissolve the ice very rapidly, and to occasion streams of no inconsiderable size beneath the ice, whose temperature, in summer, is, I believe, as far as can be ascertained, not many degrees below that of streams exposed to the air; and the radiation of heat from the water of these streams forms vaults under the ice, which are frequently 40 ft. or 50 ft. above the water; and which are formed, as a glance will show, not by the force of the stream, which would only tear itself a broken cave sufficient for its passage, but by the heat which radiates from it, and gives the arch its immense height, and beautifully regular form.
These streams continue to flow in winter as well as in summer, although in less quantity; and it is this process which chiefly prevents the glacier from increasing in size; for the melting at the surface is, in comparison, very inconsiderable, even in summer, the wind being cold, the sun having little power, and slight frosts being frequent during the night. It is also this melting beneath the ice (subglacial, suppose we call it) which loosens the ice from the ground, and occasions, or rather permits, the perpetual downward movement, with which
"The glacier's cold and restless mass Moves onward day by day."
276. But more forcible and striking evidence is afforded by experiments made in mines of great depth. Between 60 ft. and 80 ft. down, the temperature of the earth is, I believe, the same at all times and in all places; and below this depth it gradually increases. Near Bex, in the Valais, there is a perpendicular shaft 677 ft. deep, or about 732 ft. English, with water at the bottom, the temperature of which was ascertained by Saussure. He does not tell us whether he used Reaumur's or the centesimal thermometer; but the result of his experiment was this:—In a lateral gallery, connected with the main shaft, but deserted, and, therefore, unaffected by breath or the heat of lamps, at 321 ft. 10 in. below the surface, the temperature of the water and the air was exactly the same, 11-1/2 deg.; or, if the centesimal thermometer was used, 52-4/5 Fahr.; if Reaumur's, 57-7/8 Fahr.
277. In another gallery, 564 feet below the surface, the water and air had likewise the same temperature, 12-1/2 deg., either 54-4/5 or 6O-1/4 Fahr. The water at the bottom, 677 feet, was 14 deg., 57-1/2 or 63-1/4 Fahr. The ratio in which the heat increases, therefore, increased as we descend, since a difference of 113 feet between the depth of the bottom of the shaft and the lowest gallery makes a greater difference in temperature than the difference of 243 feet between the lowest and upper gallery. This heat is the more striking when it is considered that the water is impregnated with salt; indeed, Saussure appears inclined to consider it accidental, perhaps occasioned by the combustion of pyrites, or other causes in the interior of the mountain ("Voyages dans les Alpes," tom. iv., c. 50). All experiments of this kind, indeed, are liable to error, from the frequent occurrence of warm springs, and other accidental causes of increase in temperature. The water at the bottom of deep lakes is always found several degrees colder than the atmosphere, even when the water at the surface is warmer: but that may be accounted for by the difference in the specific gravity of water at different temperatures; and, as the heat of the sun and atmosphere in summer is greater than the mean heat of the earth at moderate depths, the water at the bottom, even if it becomes of the same heat with the earth, must be colder than that at the surface, which, from its exposure to the sun, becomes frequently warmer than the air. The same causes affect the temperature of the sea; and the greater saturation of the water below with salt renders it yet more susceptible of cold. Under-currents from the poles, and the sinking of the water of low temperature, which results from the melting of the icebergs which float into warmer latitudes, contribute still farther to lower the temperature of the deep sea. If, then, the temperature of the sea at great depths is found not many degrees lower than that at the surface, it would be a striking proof of the effect produced by the heat of the earth; but I am not aware of the results of the experiments which have been made on this subject.
278. We must, then, rest satisfied with the well-ascertained fact, that the temperature of the earth, even at depths of a few feet, never descends, in temperate latitudes, to the freezing point; and that at the depth of 60 feet it is always the same, in winter much higher, in summer considerably lower, than that of the atmosphere. Spring water, then, which has its source at a considerable depth, will, when it first rises, be of this mean temperature; while, after it has flowed for some distance, it becomes of the temperature of the atmosphere, or, in summer, even warmer, owing to the action of the sun, both directly and reflected or radiated from its bottom. Besides this equable temperature in the water itself, spring or well water is usually covered; and, even if exposed, if the well is very deep, the water will not freeze, or at least very slightly; for frost does not act with its full power, except where there is a free circulation of air. In open ponds, wherever bushes hang over the water, the ice is weak. Indigena's supposition, that there are earthy particles in river water, which render it more susceptible of cold than spring water, cannot be true; for then the relative temperatures would be the same in winter and in summer, which is not the case; and, besides, there are frequently more earthy particles in mineral springs, or even common land springs, than in clear river water, provided it has not been fouled by extraneous matter; for it has a tendency to deposit the earthy particles which it holds in suspension.
279. It is evident, also, that the supposition of Mr. Carr (Vol. v., p. 395) relative to anchor frosts, that the stones at the bottom acquire a greater degree of cold, or, to speak more correctly, lose more heat, than the water, is erroneous. J. G. has given the reasons at p. 770; and the glaciers of Switzerland afford us an example. When a stone is deposited on a glacier of any considerable size, but not larger than 1 foot or 18 inches in diameter, it becomes penetrated with the heat of the sun, melts the ice below it, and sinks into the glacier. But this effect does not cease, as might be supposed, when the stone sinks beneath the water which it has formed; on the contrary, it continues to absorb heat from the rays of the sun, to keep the water above it liquid by its radiation, and to sink deeper into the body of the glacier, until it gets down beyond the reach of the sun's rays, when the water of the well which it has formed is no longer kept liquid, and the stone is buried in the ice. In summer, however, the water is kept liquid; and circular wells, formed in this manner, are of frequent occurrence on the glaciers, sometimes, in the morning, covered by a thin crust of ice.
Thus, the stones at the bottom of streams must tend to raise, rather than lower, this temperature. Is it possible that, in the agitation of a stream at its bottom, if violent, momentary and minute vacua may be formed, tending to increase the intensity of the cold?
HERNE HILL, Sept. 2, 1836.
[Footnote 31: London's Magazine of Natural History, vol. ix., pp. 533-536.—ED.]
[Footnote 32: The query was as follows:—
An Inquiry for the Cause of the Difference in Temperature of River Water and Spring Water, both in Summer and Winter.—In the summer time the river water is much warmer than that from a spring; during the severe frosts of winter it is colder; and when the stream is covered over with ice, the spring, that is, well or pump water is unaffected by frost. Does this difference proceed from the exposure of the surface of the river water, in summer, to the sun's direct influence, and, in winter, to that of frost; while the well water, being covered, is protected from their power? Or is there in river water, from the earthy particles it contains, a greater susceptibility of heat and cold?—Indigena. April 19, 1836.—ED.]
280. The comparison and estimation of the relative advantages of separate departments of science is a task which is always partially executed, because it is never entered upon with an unbiased mind; for, since it is only the accurate knowledge of a science which can enable us to present its beauty, or estimate its utility, the branches of knowledge with which we are most familiar will always appear the most important. The endeavor, therefore, to judge of the relative beauty or interest of the sciences is utterly hopeless. Let the astronomer boast of the magnificence of his speculations, the mathematician of the immutability of his facts, the chemist of the infinity of his combinations, and we will admit that they all have equal ground for their enthusiasm. But the highest standard of estimation is that of utility. The far greater proportion of mankind, the uninformed, who are unable to perceive the beauty of the sciences whose benefits they experience, are the true, the just, the only judges of their relative importance. It is they who feel what impartial men of learning know, that the mass of general knowledge is a perfect and beautiful body, among whose members there should be no schism, and whose prosperity must always be greatest when none are partially pursued, and none unduly rejected. We do not, therefore, advance any proud and unjustifiable claims to the superiority of that branch of science for the furtherance of which this society has been formed over all others; but we zealously come forward to deprecate the apathy with which it has long been regarded, to dissipate the prejudices which that apathy alone could have engendered, and to vindicate its claims to an honorable and equal position among the proud thrones of its sister sciences. We do not bring meteorology forward as a pursuit adapted for the occupation of tedious leisure, or the amusement of a careless hour. Such qualifications are no inducements to its pursuit by men of science and learning, and to these alone do we now address ourselves. Neither do we advance it on the ground of its interest or beauty, though it is a science possessing both in no ordinary degree. As to its beauty, it may be remarked that it is not calculated to harden the mind it strengthens, and bind it down to the measurement of magnitudes and estimation of quantities, destroying all higher feelings, all finer sensibilities: it is not to be learned among the gaseous exhalations of the deathful laboratory; it has no dwelling in the cold caves of the dark earth; it is not to be followed up among the charnel houses of creation. But it is a science of the pure air, and of the bright heaven; its thoughts are amidst the loveliness of creation; it leads the mind, as well as the eye, to the morning mist, and the noonday glory, and the twilight-cloud, to the purple peace of the mountain heaven, to the cloudy repose of the green valley; now expatiating in the silence of stormless ether, now on the rushing of the wings of the wind. It is indeed a knowledge which must be felt to be, in its very essence, full of the soul of the beautiful. For its interest, it is universal, unabated in every place, and in all time. He, whose kingdom is the heaven, can never meet with an uninteresting space, can never exhaust the phenomena of an hour; he is in a realm of perpetual change, of eternal motion, of infinite mystery. Light and darkness, and cold and heat, are to him as friends of familiar countenance, but of infinite variety of conversation; and while the geologist yearns for the mountain, the botanist for the field, and the mathematician for the study, the meteorologist, like a spirit of a higher order than any, rejoices in the kingdoms of the air.
281. But, as we before said, it is neither for its interest, nor for its beauty, that we recommend the study of meteorology. It involves questions of the highest practical importance, and the solution of which will be productive of most substantial benefit to those classes who can least comprehend the speculations from which these advantages are derived. Times and seasons and climates, calms and tempests, clouds and winds, whose alternations appear to the inexperienced mind the confused consequences of irregular, indefinite, and accidental causes, arrange themselves before the meteorologist in beautiful succession of undisturbed order, in direct derivation from definite causes; it is for him to trace the path of the tempest round the globe, to point out the place whence it arose, to foretell the time of its decline, to follow the hours around the earth, as she "spins beneath her pyramid of night," to feel the pulses of ocean, to pursue the course of its currents and its changes, to measure the power, direction, and duration of mysterious and invisible influences, and to assign constant and regular periods to the seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, which we know shall not cease, till the universe be no more. It may be thought we are exaggerating the effects of a science which is yet in its infancy. But it must be remembered that we are not speaking of its attained, but of its attainable power: it is the young Hercules for the fostering of whose strength the Meteorological Society has been formed.
282. There is one point, it must now be observed, in which the science of meteorology differs from all others. A Galileo, or a Newton, by the unassisted workings of his solitary mind, may discover the secrets of the heavens, and form a new system of astronomy. A Davy in his lonely meditations on the crags of Cornwall, or in his solitary laboratory, might discover the most sublime mysteries of nature, and trace out the most intricate combinations of her elements. But the meteorologist is impotent if alone; his observations are useless; for they are made upon a point, while the speculations to be derived from them must be on space. It is of no avail that he changes his position, ignorant of what is passing behind him and before; he desires to estimate the movements of space, and can only observe the dancing of atoms; he would calculate the currents of the atmosphere of the world, while he only knows the direction of a breeze. It is perhaps for this reason that the cause of meteorology has hitherto been so slightly supported; no progress can be made by the most gigantic efforts of a solitary intellect, and the co-operation demanded was difficult to obtain, because it was necessary that the individuals should think, observe, and act simultaneously, though separated from each other by distances on the greatness of which depended the utility of the observations.
283. The Meteorological Society, therefore, has been formed, not for a city, nor for a kingdom, but for the world. It wishes to be the central point, the moving power of a vast machine, and it feels that unless it can be this, it must be powerless; if it cannot do all, it can do nothing. It desires to have at its command, at stated periods, perfect systems of methodical and simultaneous observations,—it wishes its influence and its power to be omnipotent over the globe, so that it may be able to know, at any given instant, the state of the atmosphere at every point on its surface. Let it not be supposed that this is a chimerical imagination, the vain dream of a few philosophical enthusiasts. It is co-operation which we now come forward to request, in full confidence, that if our efforts are met with a zeal worthy of the cause, our associates will be astonished, individually, by the result of their labors in a body. Let none be discouraged because they are alone, or far distant from their associates. What was formerly weakness will now have become strength. Let the pastor of the Alps observe the variations of his mountain winds; let the voyagers send us notes of the changes on the surface of the sea; let the solitary dweller in the American prairie observe the passages of the storms, and the variations of the climate; and each, who alone would have been powerless, will find himself a part of one mighty mind, a ray of light entering into one vast eye, a member of a multitudinous power, contributing to the knowledge, and aiding the efforts, which will be capable of solving the most deeply hidden problems of nature, penetrating into the most occult causes, and reducing to principle and order the vast multitude of beautiful and wonderful phenomena by which the wisdom and benevolence of the Supreme Deity regulates the course of the times and the seasons, robes the globe with verdure and fruitfulness, and adapts it to minister to the wants, and contribute to the felicity, of the innumerable tribes of animated existence.
[Footnote 33: From the "Transactions of the Meteorological Society," Vol. i., pp. 56-9 (London, 1839). The full title of the paper was "Remarks on the Present State of Meteorological Science." The Society was instituted in 1823, but appears to have published no previous transactions.—ED.]
ON TREE TWIGS.
284. The speaker's purpose was to exhibit the development of the common forms of branch, in dicotyledonous trees, from the fixed type of the annual shoot. Three principal modes of increase and growth might be distinguished in all accumulative change, namely:—
1. Simple aggregation, having no periodical or otherwise defined limit, and subject only to laws of cohesion and crystallization, as in inorganic matter.
2. Addition of similar parts to each other, under some law fixing their limits and securing their unity.
3. Enlargement, or systematic change in arrangement, of a typical form, as in the growth of the members of an animal.
285. The growth of trees came under the second of these heads. A tree did not increase in stem or boughs as the wrist and hand of a child increased to the wrist and hand of a man; but it was built up by additions of similar parts, as a city is increased by the building of new rows of houses.
Any annual shoot was most conveniently to be considered as a single rod, which would always grow vertically if possible.
Every such rod or pillar was, in common timber trees, typically either polygonal in section, or rectangular.
If polygonal, the leaves were arranged on it in a spiral order, as in the elm or oak.
If rectangular, the leaves were arranged on it in pairs, set alternately at right angles to each other.
Intermediate forms connected each of these types with those of monocotyledonous trees. The structure of the arbor vitae might be considered as typically representing the link between the rectangular structure and that of monocotyledons; and that of the pine between the polygonal structure and that of monocotyledons.
Every leaf during its vitality secreting carbon from the atmosphere, with the elements of water, formed a certain quantity of woody tissue, which extended down the outside of the tree to the ground, and farther to the extremities of the roots. The mode in which this descending masonry was added appeared to depend on the peculiar functions of cambium, and (the speaker believed) was as yet unexplained by botanists.
286. Every leaf, besides forming this masonry all down the tree, protected a bud at the base of its own stalk. From this bud, unless rendered abortive, a new shoot would spring next year. Now, supposing that out of the leaf-buds on each shoot of a pentagonal tree, only five at its extremity or on its side were permitted to develop themselves, even under this limitation the number of shoots developed from a single one in the seventh year would be 78,125. The external form of a healthily grown tree at any period of its development was therefore composed of a mass of sprays, whose vitality was approximately distributed over the surface of the tree to an equal depth. The branches beneath at once supported, and were fed by, this orbicular field, or animated external garment of vegetation, from every several leaf of which, as from an innumerable multitude of small green fountains, the streams of woody fiber descended, met, and united as rivers do, and gathered their full flood into the strength of the stem.
287. The principal errors which had been committed by artists in drawing trees had arisen from their regarding the bough as ramifying irregularly, and somewhat losing in energy towards the extremity; whereas the real boughs threw their whole energy, and multiplied their substance, towards the extremities, ranking themselves in more or less cup-shaped tiers round the trunk, and forming a compact united surface at the exterior of the tree.
288. In the course of arrival at this form, the bough, throughout its whole length, showed itself to be influenced by a force like that of an animal's instinct. Its minor curves and angles were all subjected to one strong ruling tendency and law of advance, dependent partly on the aim of every shoot to raise itself upright, partly on the necessity which each was under to yield due place to the neighboring leaves, and obtain for itself as much light and air as possible. It had indeed been ascertained that vegetable tissue was liable to contractions and expansion (under fixed mechanical conditions) by light, heat, moisture, etc. But vegetable tissue in the living branch did not contract nor expand under external influence alone. The principle of life manifested itself either by contention with, or felicitous recognition of, external force. It accepted with a visible, active, and apparently joyful concurrence, the influences which led the bough towards its due place in the economy of the tree; and it obeyed reluctantly, partially, and with distorted curvatures, those which forced it to violate the typical organic form. The attention of painters of foliage had seldom been drawn with sufficient accuracy to the lines either of branch curvature, or leaf contour, as expressing these subtle laws of incipient volition; but the relative merit of the great schools of figure design might, in absence of all other evidence, be determined, almost without error, by observing the precision of their treatment of leaf curvature. The leaf-painting round the head of Ariosto by Titian, in the National Gallery, might be instanced.
289. The leaf thus differed from the flower in forming and protecting behind it, not only the bud in which was the form of a new shoot like itself, but a piece of permanent work, and produced substance, by which every following shoot could be placed under different circumstances from its predecessor. Every leaf labored to solidify this substance during its own life; but the seed left by the flower matured only as the flower perished.
This difference in the action and endurance of the flower and leaf had been applied by nearly all great nations as a type of the variously active and productive states of life among individuals or commonwealths. Chaucer's poem of the "Flower and Leaf" is the most definite expression of the mediaeval feeling in this respect, while the fables of the rape of Proserpine and of Apollo and Daphne embody that of the Greeks. There is no Greek goddess corresponding to the Flora of the Romans. Their Flora is Persephone, "the bringer of death." She plays for a little while in the Sicilian fields, gathering flowers, then snatched away by Pluto, receives her chief power as she vanishes from our sight, and is crowned in the grave. Daphne, on the other hand, is the daughter of one of the great Arcadian river gods, and of the earth; she is the type of the river mist filling the rocky vales of Arcadia; the sun, pursuing this mist from dell to dell, is Apollo pursuing Daphne; where the mist is protected from his rays by the rock shadows, the laurel and other richest vegetation spring by the river-sides, so that the laurel-leaf becomes the type, in the Greek mind, of the beneficent ministry and vitality of the rivers and the earth, under the beams of sunshine; and therefore it is chosen to form the signet-crown of highest honor for gods or men, honor for work born of the strength and dew of the earth and informed by the central light of heaven; work living, perennial, and beneficent.
[Footnote 34: Read by Mr. Ruskin at the weekly evening meeting of the Royal Institution (see Proceedings, vol. iii., pp. 358-60), April 19, 1861.—ED.]
ON THE FORMS OF THE STRATIFIED ALPS OF SAVOY.
290. The purpose of the discourse was to trace some of the influences which have produced the present external forms of the stratified mountains of Savoy, and the probable extent and results of the future operation of such influences.
The subject was arranged under three heads:—
I. The Materials of the Savoy Alps. II. The Mode of their Formation. III. The Mode of their subsequent Sculpture.
291. I. Their Materials.—The investigation was limited to those Alps which consist, in whole or in part, either of Jura limestone, of Neocomian beds, or of the Hippurite limestone, and include no important masses of other formations. All these rocks are marine deposits; and the first question to be considered with respect to the development of mountains out of them is the kind of change they must undergo in being dried. Whether prolonged through vast periods of time, or hastened by heat and pressure, the drying and solidification of such rocks involved their contraction, and usually, in consequence, their being traversed throughout by minute fissures. Under certain conditions of pressure, these fissures take the aspect of slaty cleavage; under others, they become irregular cracks, dividing all the substance of the stone. If these are not filled, the rock would become a mere heap of debris, and be incapable of establishing itself in any bold form. This is provided against by a metamorphic action, which either arranges the particles of the rock, throughout, in new and more crystalline conditions, or else causes some of them to separate from the rest, to traverse the body of the rock, and arrange themselves in its fissures; thus forming a cement, usually of finer and purer substance than the rest of the stone. In either case the action tends continually to the purification and segregation of the elements of the stone. The energy of such action depends on accidental circumstances: first, on the attractions of the component elements among themselves; secondly, on every change of external temperature and relation. So that mountains are at different periods in different stages of health (so to call it) or disease. We have mountains of a languid temperament, mountains with checked circulations, mountains in nervous fevers, mountains in atrophy and decline.
292. This change in the structure of existing rocks is traceable through continuous gradations, so that a black mud or calcareous slime is imperceptibly modified into a magnificently hard and crystalline substance, inclosing nests of beryl, topaz, and sapphire, and veined with gold. But it cannot be determined how far, or in what localities, these changes are yet arrested; in the plurality of instances they are evidently yet in progress. It appears rational to suppose that as each rock approaches to its perfect type the change becomes slower; its perfection being continually neared, but never reached; its change being liable also to interruption or reversal by new geological phenomena. In the process of this change, rocks expand or contract; and, in portions, their multitudinous fissures give them a ductility or viscosity like that of glacier-ice on a larger scale. So that many formations are best to be conceived as glaciers, or frozen fields of crag, whose depth is to be measured in miles instead of fathoms, whose crevasses are filled with solvent flame, with vapor, with gelatinous flint, or with crystallizing elements of mingled natures; the whole mass changing its dimensions and flowing into new channels, though by gradations which cannot be measured, and in periods of time of which human life forms no appreciable unit.
293. II. Formation.—Mountains are to be arranged, with respect to their structure, under two great classes—those which are cut out of the beds of which they are composed, and those which are formed by the convolution or contortion of the beds themselves. The Savoy mountains are chiefly of this latter class. When stratified formations are contorted, it is usually either by pressure from below, which raises one part of the formation above the rest, or by lateral pressure, which reduces the whole formation into a series of waves. The ascending pressure may be limited in its sphere of operation; the lateral one necessarily affects extensive tracts of country, and the eminences it produces vanish only by degrees, like the waves left in the wake of a ship. The Savoy mountains have undergone both these kinds of violence in very complex modes and at different periods, so that it becomes almost impossible to trace separately and completely the operation of any given force at a given point.
294. The speaker's intention was to have analyzed, as far as possible, the action of the forming forces in one wave of simple elevation, the Mont Saleve, and in another of lateral compression, the Mont Brezon: but the investigation of the Mont Saleve had presented unexpected difficulty. Its facade had been always considered to be formed by vertical beds, raised into that position during the tertiary periods; the speaker's investigations had, on the contrary, led him to conclude that the appearance of vertical beds was owing to a peculiarly sharp and distinct cleavage, at right angles with the beds, but nearly parallel to their strike, elsewhere similarly manifested in the Jurassic series of Savoy, and showing itself on the fronts of most of the precipices formed of that rock. The attention of geologists was invited to the determination of this question.
The compressed wave of the Brezon, more complex in arrangement, was more clearly defined. A section of it was given, showing the reversed position of the Hippurite limestone in the summit and lower precipices. This limestone wave was shown to be one of a great series, running parallel with the Alps, and constituting an undulatory district, chiefly composed of chalk beds, separated from the higher limestone district of the Jura and Lias by a long trench or moat, filled with members of the tertiary series—chiefly nummulite limestones and flysch. This trench might be followed from Faverges, at the head of the lake of Annecy, across Savoy. It separated Mont Vergi from the Mont Dorons, and the Dent d'Oche from the Dent du Midi; then entered Switzerland, separating the Moleson from the Diablerets; passed on through the districts of Thun and Brientz, and, dividing itself into two, caused the zigzagged form of the lake of Lucerne. The principal branch then passed between the high Sentis and the Glarnisch, and broke into confusion in the Tyrol. On the north side of this trench the chalk beds were often vertical, or cast into repeated folds, of which the escarpments were mostly turned away from the Alps; but on the south side of the trench, the Jurassic, Triassic, and Carboniferous beds, though much distorted, showed a prevailing tendency to lean towards the Alps, and turn their escarpments to the central chain.
295. Both these systems of mountains are intersected by transverse valleys, owing their origin, in the first instance, to a series of transverse curvilinear fractures, which affect the forms even of every minor ridge, and produce its principal ravines and boldest rocks, even where no distinctly excavated valleys exist. Thus, the Mont Vergi and the Aiguilles of Salouvre are only fragmentary remains of a range of horizontal beds, once continuous, but broken by this transverse system of curvilinear cleavage, and worn or weathered into separate summits.
The means of this ultimate sculpture or weathering were lastly to be considered.
* * * * *
296. III. Sculpture.—The final reductions of mountainform are owing either to disintegration, or to the action of water, in the condition of rain, rivers, or ice, aided by frost and other circumstances of temperature and atmosphere.
All important existing forms are owing to disintegration, or the action of water. That of ice had been curiously over-rated. As an instrument of sculpture, ice is much less powerful than water; the apparently energetic effects of it being merely the exponents of disintegration. A glacier did not produce its moraine, but sustained and exposed the fragments which fell on its surface, pulverizing these by keeping them in motion, but producing very unimportant effects on the rock below; the roundings and striation produced by ice were superficial; while a torrent penetrated into every angle and cranny, undermining and wearing continually, and carrying stones, at the lowest estimate, six hundred thousand times as fast as the glacier. Had the quantity of rain which has fallen on Mont Blanc in the form of snow (and descended in the ravines as ice) fallen as rain, and descended in torrents, the ravines would have been much deeper than they are now, and the glacier may so far be considered as exercising a protective influence. But its power of carriage is unlimited, and when masses of earth or rock are once loosened, the glacier carries them away, and exposes fresh surfaces. Generally, the work of water and ice is in mountain surgery like that of lancet and sponge—one for incision, the other for ablution. No excavation by ice was possible on a large scale, any more than by a stream of honey; and its various actions, with their limitations, were only to be understood by keeping always clearly in view the great law of its motion as a viscous substance, determined by Professor James Forbes.
297. The existing forms of the Alps are, therefore, traceable chiefly to denudation as they rose from the sea, followed by more or less violent aqueous action, partly arrested during the glacial periods, while the produced diluvium was carried away into the valley of the Rhine or into the North Sea. One very important result of denudation had not yet been sufficiently regarded; namely, that when portions of a thick bed (as the Rudisten-kalk) had been entirely removed, the weight of the remaining masses, pressing unequally on the inferior beds, would, when these were soft (as the Neocomian marls), press them up into arched conditions, like those of the floors of coal-mines in what the miners called "creeps." Many anomalous positions of the beds of Spatangenkalk in the district of the Lake of Annecy were in all probability owing to this cause: they might be studied advantageously in the sloping base of the great Rochers de Lanfon, which, disintegrating in curved, nearly vertical flakes, each a thousand feet in height, were nevertheless a mere outlying remnant of the great horizontal formation of the Parmelan, and formed, like it, of very thin horizontal beds of Rudisten-kalk, imposed on shaly masses of Neocomian, modified by their pressure. More complex forms of harder rock were wrought by the streams and rains into fantastic outlines; and the transverse gorges were cut deep where they had been first traced by fault or distortion. The analysis of this aqueous action would alone require a series of discourses; but the sum of the facts was that the best and most interesting portions of the mountains were just those which were finally left, the centers and joints, as it were, of the Alpine anatomy. Immeasurable periods of time would be required to wear these away; and to all appearances, during the process of their destruction, others were rising to take their place, and forms of perhaps far more nobly organized mountain would witness the collateral progress of humanity.
[Footnote 35: Read by Mr. Ruskin at the weekly evening meeting of the Royal Institution (see Proceedings, vol. iv., pp. 142-46), June 5, 1863.—ED.]
THE RANGE OF INTELLECTUAL CONCEPTION PROPORTIONED TO THE RANK IN ANIMATED LIFE.
298. I suppose this theorem to be a truism; but I venture to state it, because it is surely desirable that it should be recognized as an axiom by metaphysicians, and practically does not seem to me yet to have been so. I say "animated life" because the word "life" by itself might have been taken to include that of vegetables; and I say "animated" instead of "spiritual" life because the Latin "anima," and pretty Italian corruption of it, "alma," involving the new idea of nourishment of the body as by the Aliment or Alms of God, seems to me to convey a better idea of the existence of conscious creatures than any derivative of "spiritus," "pneuma," or "psyche."
I attach, however, a somewhat lower sense to the word "conception" than is, I believe, usual with metaphysicians, for, as a painter, I belong to a lower rank of animated being than theirs, and can only mean by conception what I know of it. A painter never conceives anything absolutely, and is indeed incapable of conceiving anything at all, except as a phenomenon or sensation, or as the mode or locus of a phenomenon or sensation. That which is not an appearance, or a feeling, or a mode of one or the other, is to him nothing.
299. For instance, he would deny the definition of the phenomenon which he is himself first concerned in producing—a line—as "length without breadth." He would say, "That which has no breadth is nothing, and nothing cannot be long." He would define a line as a narrow and long phenomenon, and a mathematician's idea of it as an idea of the direction of such a phenomenon.
The act of conception or imagination with him, therefore, is merely the memory, simple or combined, of things that he has seen or felt. He has no ray, no incipience of faculty beyond this. No quantity of the sternest training in the school of Hegel, would ever enable him to think the Absolute. He would persist in an obstinate refusal to use the word "think" at all in a transitive sense. He would never, for instance, say, "I think the table," but "I think the table is turning," or is not, as the case might be. And if he were to be taught in any school whatever to conceive a table, his first demand would be that he should be shown one, or referred to other things that had the qualities of one in illustrative degree.
300. And even respecting the constant methods or laws of phenomena, he cannot raise the statement of them into an act of conception. The statement that two right lines can never inclose a space merely appears to him another form of verbal definition, or, at the grandest, a definition in prophetic extent, saying in other words that a line which incloses, or ever may inclose, a space, is not, and never will be, a right one. He would admit that what he now conceives as two things, doubled, would always be what he now conceives as four things. But assuming the existence of a world in which, whenever two things were actually set in juxtaposition with other two things, they became actually three times, or actually five, he supposes that the practice of arithmetic, and laws of it, would change in relation to this new condition in matter; and he accepts, therefore, the statement that twice two are four only as an accident of the existing phenomena of matter.
301. A painter therefore may, I think, be looked upon as only representing a high order of sensational creatures, incapable of any but physical ideas and impressions; and I continue my paper, therefore, only in the name of the docile, and therefore improvable, part of the Brute Creation.
And in their name I would suggest that we should be much more docile than we are if we were never occupied in efforts to conceive things above our natures. To take an instance, in a creature somewhat lower than myself. I came by surprise the other day on a cuttle-fish in a pool at low tide. On being touched with the point of my umbrella, he first filled the pool with ink, and then finding himself still touched in the darkness, lost his temper, and attacked the umbrella with much psyche or anima, hugging it tightly with all his eight arms, and making efforts, like an impetuous baby with a coral, to get it into his mouth. On my offering him a finger instead, he sucked that with two or three of his arms with an apparently malignant satisfaction, and on being shaken off, retired with an air of frantic misanthropy into the cloud of his ink.
302. Now, it seems to me not a little instructive to reflect how entirely useless such a manifestation of a superior being was to his cuttle-fish mind, and how fortunate it was for his fellow-octopods that he had no command of pens as well as ink, nor any disposition to write on the nature of umbrellas or of men.
It may be observed, further, that whatever ideas he was able to form respecting either were positively false—so contrary to truth as to be worse than none, and simply dangerous to himself, so far as he might be induced to act upon them—that, namely, an umbrella was an eatable thing, or a man a conquerable one, that the individual man who looked at him was hostile to him or that his purposes could be interfered with by ejection of ink. Every effort made by the fish under these convictions was harmful to himself; his only wisdom would have been to lie quietly and unreflectively in his pool.
And with us painters also, the only result of any efforts we make to acquaint ourselves with the subjects of metaphysical inquiry has been an increased sense of the prudence of lying placidly and unreflectively in our pools, or at least limiting ourselves to such gentle efforts of imagination as may be consistent with the as yet imperfectly developed powers, I do not say even of cephalopodic, but of Ascidian nervous centers.
303. But it may be easily imagined how pleasantly, to persons thus subdued in self-estimation, the hope presents itself which is involved in the Darwinian theory, that their pools themselves may be capable of indefinite extension, and their natures of indefinite development—the hope that our descendants may one day be ashamed of us, and debate the question of their parentage with astonishment and disgust.
And it seems to me that the aim of elementary metaphysical study might henceforth become more practical than that of any other science. For in hitherto taking little cognizance of the limitation of thought by the structure of the body, we have surely also lost sight of the power of certain modes of thought over the processes of that structure. Taking, for instance, the emotion of anger, of which the cephalopoda are indeed as capable as we are, but inferior to us in being unable to decide whether they do well to be angry or not, I do not think the chemical effect of that emotion on the particles of the blood, in decomposing and otherwise paralyzing or debilitating them, has been sufficiently examined, nor the actual quantity of nervous energy which a fit of anger of given violence withdraws from the body and restores to space, neither the correlative power of volition in restraining the passion, or in directing the choice of salutary thought, as of salutary herbs on streams. And even we painters, who dare not call ourselves capable of thought, are capable of choice in more or less salutary vision. In the degree in which we lose such power of choice in vision, so that the spectral phenomena which are the materials of our industry present themselves under forms beyond our control, we become insane; and although for all our best work a certain degree of this insanity is necessary, and the first occurring conceptions are uncommanded, as in dreams, we have, when in health, always instantaneous power of accepting some, refusing others, perfecting the outlines and colors of those we wish to keep, and arranging them in such relations as we choose.
304. And unquestionably the forms of the body which painters instinctively recognize as best, and call "beautiful," are so far under the command of the plastic force of voluntary thought, that the original and future authority of such a plastic force over the whole of creation cannot but seem to painters a direct, though not a certain influence; and they would at once give their adherence to the statement made many years since in his opening lectures in Oxford by the present Regius Professor of Medicine (as far as I can recollect approximately, in these terms)—that "it is quite as logical, and far more easy, to conceive of original anima as adapting itself to forms of substance, than of original substance as adapting to itself modes of mind."
305. It is surely, therefore, not too much to expect of future schools of metaphysicians that they will direct mankind into methods of thought which will be at once happy, unerring, and medicinal, and therefore entirely wise; that they will mark the limits beyond which uniformity must be dangerous, and speculation vain; and that they will at no distant period terminate the acrimony of theologians, and the insolences, as well as the sorrows, of groundless faith, by showing that it is appointed for us, in common with the rest of the animal creation, to live in the midst of an universe the nature of which is as much better than we can believe, as it is greater than we can understand.
[Footnote 36: Contemporary Review, June, 1871.—ED.]
* * * * *
FICTION—FAIR AND FOUL.
(Nineteenth Century, June, August, Sept., Nov. 1880, and Oct. 1881.)
(Preface to "German Popular Stories," 1868.)
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FICTION, FAIR AND FOUL.
1. On the first mild—or, at least, the first bright—day of March, in this year, I walked through what was once a country lane, between the hostelry of the Half-moon at the bottom of Herne Hill, and the secluded College of Dulwich.
In my young days, Croxsted Lane was a green byroad traversable for some distance by carts; but rarely so traversed, and, for the most part, little else than a narrow strip of untilled field, separated by blackberry hedges from the better-cared-for meadows on each side of it: growing more weeds, therefore, than they, and perhaps in spring a primrose or two—white archangel—daisies plenty, and purple thistles in autumn. A slender rivulet, boasting little of its brightness, for there are no springs at Dulwich, yet fed purely enough by the rain and morning dew, here trickled—there loitered—through the long grass beneath the hedges, and expanded itself, where it might, into moderately clear and deep pools, in which, under their veils of duckweed, a fresh-water shell or two, sundry curious little skipping shrimps, any quantity of tadpoles in their time, and even sometimes a tittlebat, offered themselves to my boyhood's pleased, and not inaccurate, observation. There, my mother and I used to gather the first buds of the hawthorn; and there, in after years, I used to walk in the summer shadows, as in a place wilder and sweeter than our garden, to think over any passage I wanted to make better than usual in Modern Painters.
So, as aforesaid, on the first kindly day of this year, being thoughtful more than usual of those old times, I went to look again at the place.
2. Often, both in those days, and since, I have put myself hard to it, vainly, to find words wherewith to tell of beautiful things; but beauty has been in the world since the world was made, and human language can make a shift, somehow, to give account of it, whereas the peculiar forces of devastation induced by modern city life have only entered the world lately; and no existing terms of language known to me are enough to describe the forms of filth, and modes of ruin, that varied themselves along the course of Croxsted Lane. The fields on each side of it are now mostly dug up for building, or cut through into gaunt corners and nooks of blind ground by the wild crossings and concurrencies of three railroads. Half a dozen handfuls of new cottages, with Doric doors, are dropped about here and there among the gashed ground: the lane itself, now entirely grassless, is a deep-rutted, heavy-hillocked cart-road, diverging gatelessly into various brickfields or pieces of waste; and bordered on each side by heaps of—Hades only knows what!—mixed dust of every unclean thing that can crumble in drought, and mildew of every unclean thing that can rot or rust in damp: ashes and rags, beer-bottles and old shoes, battered pans, smashed crockery, shreds of nameless clothes, door-sweepings, floor-sweepings, kitchen garbage, back-garden sewage, old iron, rotten timber jagged with out-torn nails, cigar-ends, pipe-bowls, cinders, bones, and ordure, indescribable; and, variously kneaded into, sticking to, or fluttering foully here and there over all these,—remnants broadcast, of every manner of newspaper, advertisement or big-lettered bill, festering and flaunting out their last publicity in the pits of stinking dust and mortal slime.
3. The lane ends now where its prettiest windings once began; being cut off by a cross-road leading out of Dulwich to a minor railway station: and on the other side of this road, what was of old the daintiest intricacy of its solitude is changed into a straight, and evenly macadamized carriage drive between new houses of extreme respectability, with good attached gardens and offices—most of these tenements being larger—all more pretentious, and many, I imagine, held at greatly higher rent than my father's, tenanted for twenty years at Herne Hill. And it became matter of curious meditation to me what must here become of children resembling my poor little dreamy quondam self in temper, and thus brought up at the same distance from London, and in the same or better circumstances of worldly fortune; but with only Croxsted Lane in its present condition for their country walk. The trimly kept road before their doors, such as one used to see in the fashionable suburbs of Cheltenham or Leamington, presents nothing to their study but gravel, and gas-lamp posts; the modern addition of a vermilion letter-pillar contributing indeed to the splendor, but scarcely to the interest of the scene; and a child of any sense or fancy would hastily contrive escape from such a barren desert of politeness, and betake itself to investigation, such as might be feasible, of the natural history of Croxsted Lane.
4. But, for its sense or fancy, what food, or stimulus, can it find, in that foul causeway of its youthful pilgrimage? What would have happened to myself, so directed, I cannot clearly imagine. Possibly, I might have got interested in the old iron and wood-shavings; and become an engineer or a carpenter: but for the children of to-day, accustomed, from the instant they are out of their cradles, to the sight of this infinite nastiness, prevailing as a fixed condition of the universe, over the face of nature, and accompanying all the operations of industrious man, what is to be the scholastic issue? unless, indeed, the thrill of scientific vanity in the primary analysis of some unheard-of process of corruption—or the reward of microscopic research in the sight of worms with more legs, and acari of more curious generation than ever vivified the more simply smelling plasma of antiquity.
One result of such elementary education is, however, already certain; namely, that the pleasure which we may conceive taken by the children of the coming time, in the analysis of physical corruption, guides, into fields more dangerous and desolate, the expatiation of an imaginative literature: and that the reactions of moral disease upon itself, and the conditions of languidly monstrous character developed in an atmosphere of low vitality, have become the most valued material of modern fiction, and the most eagerly discussed texts of modern philosophy.
5. The many concurrent reasons for this mischief may, I believe, be massed under a few general heads.
I. There is first the hot fermentation and unwholesome secrecy of the population crowded into large cities, each mote in the misery lighter, as an individual soul, than a dead leaf, but becoming oppressive and infectious each to his neighbor, in the smoking mass of decay. The resulting modes of mental ruin and distress are continually new; and in a certain sense, worth study in their monstrosity: they have accordingly developed a corresponding science of fiction, concerned mainly with the description of such forms of disease, like the botany of leaf-lichens.
In De Balzac's story of Father Goriot, a grocer makes a large fortune, of which he spends on himself as much as may keep him alive; and on his two daughters, all that can promote their pleasures or their pride. He marries them to men of rank, supplies their secret expenses, and provides for his favorite a separate and clandestine establishment with her lover. On his death-bed, he sends for this favorite daughter, who wishes to come, and hesitates for a quarter of an hour between doing so, and going to a ball at which it has been for the last month her chief ambition to be seen. She finally goes to the ball.
The story is, of course, one of which the violent contrasts and spectral catastrophe could only take place, or be conceived, in a large city. A village grocer cannot make a large fortune, cannot marry his daughters to titled squires, and cannot die without having his children brought to him, if in the neighborhood, by fear of village gossip, if for no better cause.
6. II. But a much more profound feeling than this mere curiosity of science in morbid phenomena is concerned in the production of the carefulest forms of modern fiction. The disgrace and grief resulting from the mere trampling pressure and electric friction of town life, become to the sufferers peculiarly mysterious in their undeservedness, and frightful in their inevitableness. The power of all surroundings over them for evil; the incapacity of their own minds to refuse the pollution, and of their own wills to oppose the weight, of the staggering mass that chokes and crushes them into perdition, brings every law of healthy existence into question with them, and every alleged method of help and hope into doubt. Indignation, without any calming faith in justice, and self-contempt, without any curative self-reproach, dull the intelligence, and degrade the conscience, into sullen incredulity of all sunshine outside the dunghill, or breeze beyond the wafting of its impurity; and at last a philosophy develops itself, partly satiric, partly consolatory, concerned only with the regenerative vigor of manure, and the necessary obscurities of fimetic Providence; showing how everybody's fault is somebody else's, how infection has no law, digestion no will, and profitable dirt no dishonor.
And thus an elaborate and ingenious scholasticism, in what may be called the Divinity of Decomposition, has established itself in connection with the more recent forms of romance, giving them at once a complacent tone of clerical dignity, and an agreeable dash of heretical impudence; while the inculcated doctrine has the double advantage of needing no laborious scholarship for its foundation, and no painful self-denial for its practice.
7. III. The monotony of life in the central streets of any great modern city, but especially in those of London, where every emotion intended to be derived by men from the sight of nature, or the sense of art, is forbidden forever, leaves the craving of the heart for a sincere, yet changeful, interest, to be fed from one source only. Under natural conditions the degree of mental excitement necessary to bodily health is provided by the course of the seasons, and the various skill and fortune of agriculture. In the country every morning of the year brings with it a new aspect of springing or fading nature; a new duty to be fulfilled upon earth, and a new promise or warning in heaven. No day is without its innocent hope, its special prudence, its kindly gift, and its sublime danger; and in every process of wise husbandry, and every effort of contending or remedial courage, the wholesome passions, pride, and bodily power of the laborer are excited and exerted in happiest unison. The companionship of domestic, the care of serviceable, animals, soften and enlarge his life with lowly charities, and discipline him in familiar wisdoms and unboastful fortitudes; while the divine laws of seedtime which cannot be recalled, harvest which cannot be hastened, and winter in which no man can work, compel the impatiences and coveting of his heart into labor too submissive to be anxious, and rest too sweet to be wanton. What thought can enough comprehend the contrast between such life, and that in streets where summer and winter are only alternations of heat and cold; where snow never fell white, nor sunshine clear; where the ground is only a pavement, and the sky no more than the glass roof of an arcade; where the utmost power of a storm is to choke the gutters, and the finest magic of spring, to change mud into dust: where—chief and most fatal difference in state—there is no interest of occupation for any of the inhabitants but the routine of counter or desk within doors, and the effort to pass each other without collision outside; so that from morning to evening the only possible variation of the monotony of the hours, and lightening of the penalty of existence, must be some kind of mischief, limited, unless by more than ordinary godsend of fatality, to the fall of a horse, or the slitting of a pocket?
8. I said that under these laws of inanition, the craving of the human heart for some kind of excitement could be supplied from one source only. It might have been thought by any other than a sternly tentative philosopher, that the denial of their natural food to human feelings would have provoked a reactionary desire for it; and that the dreariness of the street would have been gilded by dreams of pastoral felicity. Experience has shown the fact to be otherwise; the thoroughly trained Londoner can enjoy no other excitement than that to which he has been accustomed, but asks for that in continually more ardent or more virulent concentration; and the ultimate power of fiction to entertain him is by varying to his fancy the modes, and defining for his dullness the horrors, of Death. In the single novel of "Bleak House" there are nine deaths (or left for death's, in the drop scene) carefully wrought out or led up to, either by way of pleasing surprise, as the baby's at the brick-maker's, or finished in their threatenings and sufferings, with as much enjoyment as can be contrived in the anticipation, and as much pathology as can be concentrated in the description. Under the following varieties of method:—
One by assassination Mr. Tulkinghorn. One by starvation, with phthisis Joe. One by chagrin Richard. One by spontaneous combustion Mr. Krook. One by sorrow Lady Dedlock's lover. One by remorse Lady Dedlock. One by insanity Miss Flite. One by paralysis Sir Leicester.
Besides the baby, by fever, and a lively young Frenchwoman left to be hanged.
And all this, observe, not in a tragic, adventurous, or military story, but merely as the further enlivenment of a narrative intended to be amusing; and as a properly representative average of the statistics of civilian mortality in the center of London.
9. Observe further, and chiefly. It is not the mere number of deaths (which, if we count the odd troopers in the last scene, is exceeded in "Old Mortality," and reached, within one or two, both in "Waverley" and "Guy Mannering") that marks the peculiar tone of the modern novel. It is the fact that all these deaths, but one, are of inoffensive, or at least in the world's estimate, respectable persons; and that they are all grotesquely either violent or miserable, purporting thus to illustrate the modern theology that the appointed destiny of a large average of our population is to die like rats in a drain, either by trap or poison. Not, indeed, that a lawyer in full practice can be usually supposed as faultless in the eye of Heaven as a dove or a woodcock; but it is not, in former divinities, thought the will of Providence that he should be dropped by a shot from a client behind his fire-screen, and retrieved in the morning by his housemaid under the chandelier. Neither is Lady Dedlock less reprehensible in her conduct than many women of fashion have been and will be: but it would not therefore have been thought poetically just, in old-fashioned morality, that she should be found by her daughter lying dead, with her face in the mud of a St. Giles's churchyard.
10. In the work of the great masters death is always either heroic, deserved, or quiet and natural (unless their purpose be totally and deeply tragic, when collateral meaner death is permitted, like that of Polonius or Roderigo). In "Old Mortality," four of the deaths, Bothwell's, Ensign Grahame's, Macbriar's, and Evandale's, are magnificently heroic; Burley's and Oliphant's long deserved, and swift; the troopers', met in the discharge of their military duty, and the old miser's as gentle as the passing of a cloud, and almost beautiful in its last words of—now unselfish—care.
* * * * *
"Ailie" (he aye ca'd me Ailie, we were auld acquaintance), "Ailie, take ye care and hand the gear weel thegither; for the name of Morton of Milnwood's gane out like the last sough of an auld sang." And sae he fell out o' ae dwam into another, and ne'er spak a word mair, unless it something we you'dna mak out, about a dipped candle being gude eneugh to see to dee wi'. He cou'd ne'er bide to see a molded ane, and there was ane, by ill luck, on the table.
* * * * *
In "Guy Mannering," the murder, though unpremeditated, of a single person, (himself not entirely innocent, but at least by heartlessness in a cruel function earning his fate,) is avenged to the uttermost on all the men conscious of the crime; Mr. Bertram's death, like that of his wife, brief in pain, and each told in the space of half a dozen lines; and that of the heroine of the tale, self-devoted, heroic in the highest, and happy.
Nor is it ever to be forgotten, in the comparison of Scott's with inferior work, that his own splendid powers were, even in early life, tainted, and in his latter years destroyed, by modern conditions of commercial excitement, then first, but rapidly, developing themselves. There are parts even in his best novels colored to meet tastes which he despised; and many pages written in his later ones to lengthen his article for the indiscriminate market.
11. But there was one weakness of which his healthy mind remained incapable to the last. In modern stories prepared for more refined or fastidious audiences than those of Dickens, the funereal excitement is obtained, for the most part, not by the infliction of violent or disgusting death; but in the suspense, the pathos, and the more or less by all felt, and recognized, mortal phenomena of the sick-room. The temptation, to weak writers, of this order of subject is especially great, because the study of it from the living—or dying—model is so easy, and to many has been the most impressive part of their own personal experience; while, if the description be given even with mediocre accuracy, a very large section of readers will admire its truth, and cherish its melancholy. Few authors of second or third rate genius can either record or invent a probable conversation in ordinary life; but few, on the other hand, are so destitute of observant faculty as to be unable to chronicle the broken syllables and languid movements of an invalid. The easily rendered, and too surely recognized, image of familiar suffering is felt at once to be real where all else had been false; and the historian of the gestures of fever and words of delirium can count on the applause of a gratified audience as surely as the dramatist who introduces on the stage of his flagging action a carriage that can be driven or a fountain that will flow. But the masters of strong imagination disdain such work, and those of deep sensibility shrink from it. Only under conditions of personal weakness, presently to be noted, would Scott comply with the cravings of his lower audience in scenes of terror like the death of Front-de-Boeuf. But he never once withdrew the sacred curtain of the sick-chamber, nor permitted the disgrace of wanton tears round the humiliation of strength, or the wreck of beauty.
12. IV. No exception to this law of reverence will be found in the scenes in Coeur de Lion's illness introductory to the principal incident in the "Talisman." An inferior writer would have made the king charge in imagination at the head of his chivalry, or wander in dreams by the brooks of Aquitaine; but Scott allows us to learn no more startling symptoms of the king's malady than that he was restless and impatient, and could not wear his armor. Nor is any bodily weakness, or crisis of danger, permitted to disturb for an instant the royalty of intelligence and heart in which he examines, trusts and obeys the physician whom his attendants fear.
Yet the choice of the main subject in this story and its companion—the trial, to a point of utter torture, of knightly faith, and several passages in the conduct of both, more especially the exaggerated scenes in the House of Baldringham, and hermitage of Engedi, are signs of the gradual decline in force of intellect and soul which those who love Scott best have done him the worst injustice in their endeavors to disguise or deny. The mean anxieties, moral humiliations, and mercilessly demanded brain-toil, which killed him, show their sepulchral grasp for many and many a year before their final victory; and the states of more or less dulled, distorted, and polluted imagination which culminate in "Castle Dangerous" cast a Stygian hue over "St. Ronan's Well," "The Fair Maid of Perth," and "Anne of Geierstein," which lowers them, the first altogether, the other two at frequent intervals, into fellowship with the normal disease which festers throughout the whole body of our lower fictitious literature.
13. Fictitious! I use the ambiguous word deliberately; for it is impossible to distinguish in these tales of the prison-house how far their vice and gloom are thrown into their manufacture only to meet a vile demand, and how far they are an integral condition of thought in the minds of men trained from their youth up in the knowledge of Londinian and Parisian misery. The speciality of the plague is a delight in the exposition of the relations between guilt and decrepitude; and I call the results of it literature "of the prison-house," because the thwarted habits of body and mind, which are the punishment of reckless crowding in cities, become, in the issue of that punishment, frightful subjects of exclusive interest to themselves; and the art of fiction in which they finally delight is only the more studied arrangement and illustration, by colored fire-lights, of the daily bulletins of their own wretchedness, in the prison calendar, the police news, and the hospital report.
14. The reader will perhaps be surprised at my separating the greatest work of Dickens, "Oliver Twist," with honor, from the loathsome mass to which it typically belongs. That book is an earnest and uncaricatured record of states of criminal life, written with didactic purpose, full of the gravest instruction, nor destitute of pathetic studies of noble passion. Even the "Mysteries of Paris" and Gaboriau's "Crime d'Orcival" are raised, by their definiteness of historical intention and forewarning anxiety, far above the level of their order, and may be accepted as photographic evidence of an otherwise incredible civilization, corrupted in the infernal fact of it, down to the genesis of such figures as the Vicomte d'Orcival, the Stabber, the Skeleton, and the She-wolf. But the effectual head of the whole cretinous school is the renowned novel in which the hunchbacked lover watches the execution of his mistress from the tower of Notre-Dame; and its strength passes gradually away into the anatomical preparations, for the general market, of novels like "Poor Miss Finch," in which the heroine is blind, the hero epileptic, and the obnoxious brother is found dead with his hands dropped off, in the Arctic regions.
15. This literature of the Prison-house, understanding by the word not only the cell of Newgate, but also and even more definitely the cell of the Hotel-Dieu, the Hopital des Fous, and the grated corridor with the dripping slabs of the Morgue, having its central root thus in the Ile de Paris—or historically and pre-eminently the "Cite de Paris"—is, when understood deeply, the precise counter-corruption of the religion of the Sainte Chapelle, just as the worst forms of bodily and mental ruin are the corruption of love. I have therefore called it "Fiction mecroyante," with literal accuracy and precision: according to the explanation of the word, which the reader may find in any good French dictionary, and round its Arctic pole in the Morgue, he may gather into one Caina of gelid putrescence the entire product of modern infidel imagination, amusing itself with destruction of the body, and busying itself with aberration of the mind.
16. Aberration, palsy, or plague, observe, as distinguished from normal evil, just as the venom of rabies or cholera differs from that of a wasp or a viper. The life of the insect and serpent deserves, or at least permits, our thoughts; not so the stages of agony in the fury-driven hound. There is some excuse, indeed, for the pathologic labor of the modern novelist in the fact that he cannot easily, in a city population, find a healthy mind to vivisect: but the greater part of such amateur surgery is the struggle, in an epoch of wild literary competition, to obtain novelty of material. The varieties of aspect and color in healthy fruit, be it sweet or sour, may be within certain limits described exhaustively. Not so the blotches of its conceivable blight: and while the symmetries of integral human character can only be traced by harmonious and tender skill, like the branches of a living tree, the faults and gaps of one gnawed away by corroding accident can be shuffled into senseless change like the wards of a Chubb lock.
17. V. It is needless to insist on the vast field for this dice-cast or card-dealt calamity which opens itself in the ignorance, money-interest, and mean passion, of city marriage. Peasants know each other as children—meet, as they grow up in testing labor; and if a stout farmer's son marries a handless girl, it is his own fault. Also in the patrician families of the field, the young people know what they are doing, and marry a neighboring estate, or a covetable title, with some conception of the responsibilities they undertake. But even among these, their season in the confused metropolis creates licentious and fortuitous temptation before unknown; and in the lower middle orders, an entirely new kingdom of discomfort and disgrace has been preached to them in the doctrines of unbridled pleasure which are merely an apology for their peculiar forms of ill-breeding. It is quite curious how often the catastrophe, or the leading interest, of a modern novel, turns upon the want, both in maid and bachelor, of the common self-command which was taught to their grandmothers and grandfathers as the first element of ordinarily decent behavior. Rashly inquiring the other day the plot of a modern story from a female friend, I elicited, after some hesitation, that it hinged mainly on the young people's "forgetting themselves in a boat;" and I perceive it to be accepted as nearly an axiom in the code of modern civic chivalry that the strength of amiable sentiment is proved by our incapacity on proper occasions to express, and on improper ones to control it. The pride of a gentleman of the old school used to be in his power of saying what he meant, and being silent when he ought (not to speak of the higher nobleness which bestowed love where it was honorable, and reverence where it was due); but the automatic amours and involuntary proposals of recent romance acknowledge little further law of morality than the instinct of an insect, or the effervescence of a chemical mixture.
18. There is a pretty little story of Alfred de Musset's—"La Mouche," which, if the reader cares to glance at it, will save me further trouble in explaining the disciplinarian authority of mere old-fashioned politeness, as in some sort protective of higher things. It describes, with much grace and precision, a state of society by no means pre-eminently virtuous, or enthusiastically heroic; in which many people do extremely wrong, and none sublimely right. But as there are heights of which the achievement is unattempted, there are abysses to which fall is barred; neither accident nor temptation will make any of the principal personages swerve from an adopted resolution, or violate an accepted principle of honor; people are expected as a matter of course to speak with propriety on occasion, and to wait with patience when they are bid: those who do wrong, admit it; those who do right don't boast of it; everybody knows his own mind, and everybody has good manners.
19. Nor must it be forgotten that in the worst days of the self-indulgence which destroyed the aristocracies of Europe, their vices, however licentious, were never, in the fatal modern sense, "unprincipled." The vainest believed in virtue; the vilest respected it. "Chaque chose avait son nom," and the severest of English moralists recognizes the accurate wit, the lofty intellect, and the unfretted benevolence, which redeemed from vitiated surroundings the circle of d'Alembert and Marmontel.
I have said, with too slight praise, that the vainest, in those days, "believed" in virtue. Beautiful and heroic examples of it were always before them; nor was it without the secret significance attaching to what may seem the least accidents in the work of a master, that Scott gave to both his heroines of the age of revolution in England the name of the queen of the highest order of English chivalry.
20. It is to say little for the types of youth and maid which alone Scott felt it a joy to imagine, or thought it honorable to portray, that they act and feel in a sphere where they are never for an instant liable to any of the weaknesses which disturb the calm, or shake the resolution, of chastity and courage in a modern novel. Scott lived in a country and time, when, from highest to lowest, but chiefly in that dignified and nobly severe middle class to which he himself belonged, a habit of serene and stainless thought was as natural to the people as their mountain air. Women like Rose Bradwardine and Ailie Dinmont were the grace and guard of almost every household (God be praised that the race of them is not yet extinct, for all that Mall or Boulevard can do), and it has perhaps escaped the notice of even attentive readers that the comparatively uninteresting character of Sir Walter's heroes had always been studied among a class of youths who were simply incapable of doing anything seriously wrong; and could only be embarrassed by the consequences of their levity or imprudence.
21. But there is another difference in the woof of a Waverley novel from the cobweb of a modern one, which depends on Scott's larger view of human life. Marriage is by no means, in his conception of man and woman, the most important business of their existence; nor love the only reward to be proposed to their virtue or exertion. It is not in his reading of the laws of Providence a necessity that virtue should, either by love or any other external blessing, be rewarded at all; and marriage is in all cases thought of as a constituent of the happiness of life, but not as its only interest, still less its only aim. And upon analyzing with some care the motives of his principal stories, we shall often find that the love in them is merely a light by which the sterner features of character are to be irradiated, and that the marriage of the hero is as subordinate to the main bent of the story as Henry the Fifth's courtship of Katherine is to the battle of Agincourt. Nay, the fortunes of the person who is nominally the subject of the tale are often little more than a background on which grander figures are to be drawn, and deeper fates forthshadowed. The judgments between the faith and chivalry of Scotland at Drumclog and Bothwell Bridge owe little of their interest in the mind of a sensible reader to the fact that the captain of the Popinjay is carried a prisoner to one battle, and returns a prisoner from the other: and Scott himself, while he watches the white sail that bears Queen Mary for the last time from her native land, very nearly forgets to finish his novel, or to tell us—and with small sense of any consolation to be had out of that minor circumstance,—that "Roland and Catherine were united, spite of their differing faiths."
22. Neither let it be thought for an instant that the slight, and sometimes scornful, glance with which Scott passes over scenes which a novelist of our own day would have analyzed with the airs of a philosopher, and painted with the curiosity of a gossip, indicates any absence in his heart of sympathy with the great and sacred elements of personal happiness. An era like ours, which has with diligence and ostentation swept its heart clear of all the passions once known as loyalty, patriotism, and piety, necessarily magnifies the apparent force of the one remaining sentiment which sighs through the barren chambers, or clings inextricably round the chasms of ruin; nor can it but regard with awe the unconquerable spirit which still tempts or betrays the sagacities of selfishness into error or frenzy which is believed to be love.
That Scott was never himself, in the sense of the phrase as employed by lovers of the Parisian school, "ivre d'amour," may be admitted without prejudice to his sensibility, and that he never knew "l'amor che move 'l sol e l'altre stelle," was the chief, though unrecognized, calamity of his deeply checkered life. But the reader of honor and feeling will not therefore suppose that the love which Miss Vernon sacrifices, stooping for an instant from her horse, is of less noble stamp, or less enduring faith, than that which troubles and degrades the whole existence of Consuelo; or that the affection of Jeanie Deans for the companion of her childhood, drawn like a field of soft blue heaven beyond the cloudy wrack of her sorrow, is less fully in possession of her soul than the hesitating and self-reproachful impulses under which a modern heroine forgets herself in a boat, or compromises herself in the cool of the evening.
23. I do not wish to return over the waste ground we have traversed, comparing, point by point, Scott's manner with those of Bermondsey and the Faubourgs; but it may be, perhaps, interesting at this moment to examine, with illustration from those Waverley novels which have so lately retracted the attention of a fair and gentle public, the universal conditions of "style," rightly so called, which are in all ages, and above all local currents or wavering tides of temporary manners, pillars of what is forever strong, and models of what is forever fair.
But I must first define, and that within strict horizon, the works of Scott, in which his perfect mind may be known, and his chosen ways understood.
His great works of prose fiction, excepting only the first half-volume of "Waverley," were all written in twelve years, 1814-26 (of his own age forty-three to fifty-five), the actual time employed in their composition being not more than a couple of months out of each year; and during that time only the morning hours and spare minutes during the professional day. "Though the first volume of 'Waverley' was begun long ago, and actually lost for a time, yet the other two were begun and finished between the 4th of June and the 1st of July, during all which I attended my duty in court, and proceeded without loss of time or hindrance of business."
Few of the maxims for the enforcement of which, in "Modern Painters," long ago, I got the general character of a lover of paradox, are more singular, or more sure, than the statement, apparently so encouraging to the idle, that if a great thing can be done at all, it can be done easily. But it is that kind of ease with which a tree blossoms after long years of gathered strength, and all Scott's great writings were the recreations of a mind confirmed in dutiful labor, and rich with organic gathering of boundless resource.
Omitting from our count the two minor and ill-finished sketches of the "Black Dwarf" and "Legend of Montrose," and, for a reason presently to be noticed, the unhappy "St. Ronan's," the memorable romances of Scott are eighteen, falling into three distinct groups, containing six each.
24. The first group is distinguished from the other two by characters of strength and felicity which never more appeared after Scott was struck down by his terrific illness in 1819. It includes "Waverley," "Guy Mannering," "The Antiquary," "Rob Roy," "Old Mortality," and "The Heart of Midlothian."
The composition of these occupied the mornings of his happiest days, between the ages of forty-three and forty-eight. On the 8th of April, 1819 (he was forty-eight on the preceding 15th of August), he began for the first time to dictate—being unable for the exertion of writing—"The Bride of Lammermuir," "the affectionate Laidlaw beseeching him to stop dictating when his audible suffering filled every pause. 'Nay, Willie,' he answered, 'only see that the doors are fast. I would fain keep all the cry as well as all the wool to ourselves; but as for giving over work, that can only be when I am in woolen.'" From this time forward the brightness of joy and sincerity of inevitable humor, which perfected the imagery of the earlier novels, are wholly absent, except in the two short intervals of health unaccountably restored, in which he wrote "Redgauntlet" and "Nigel."
It is strange, but only a part of the general simplicity of Scott's genius, that these revivals of earlier power were unconscious, and that the time of extreme weakness in which he wrote "St. Ronan's Well," was that in which he first asserted his own restoration.
25. It is also a deeply interesting characteristic of his noble nature that he never gains anything by sickness; the whole man breathes or faints as one creature: the ache that stiffens a limb chills his heart, and every pang of his stomach paralyzes the brain. It is not so with inferior minds, in the workings of which it is often impossible to distinguish native from narcotic fancy, and the throbs of conscience from those of indigestion. Whether in exaltation or languor, the colors of mind are always morbid which gleam on the sea for the "Ancient Mariner," and through the casements on "St. Agnes' Eve"; but Scott is at once blinded and stultified by sickness; never has a fit of the cramp without spoiling a chapter, and is perhaps the only author of vivid imagination who never wrote a foolish word but when he was ill.
It remains only to be noticed on this point that any strong natural excitement, affecting the deeper springs of his heart, would at once restore his intellectual powers to their fullness, and that, far towards their sunset: but that the strong will on which he prided himself, though it could trample upon pain, silence grief, and compel industry, never could warm his imagination, or clear the judgment in his darker hours.
I believe that this power of the heart over the intellect is common to all great men: but what the special character of emotion was, that alone could lift Scott above the power of death, I am about to ask the reader, in a little while, to observe with joyful care.
26. The first series of romances then, above-named, are all that exhibit the emphasis of his unharmed faculties. The second group, composed in the three years subsequent to illness all but mortal, bear every one of them more or less the seal of it.