When Byron says "rhyme is of the rude," he means that Burns needs it,—while Henry the Fifth does not, nor Plato, nor Isaiah—yet in this need of it by the simple, it becomes all the more religious: and thus the loveliest pieces of Christian language are all in ryme—the best of Dante, Chaucer, Douglas, Shakespeare, Spenser, and Sidney.
69. I am not now able to keep abreast with the tide of modern scholarship; (nor, to say the truth, do I make the effort, the first edge of its waves being mostly muddy, and apt to make a shallow sweep of the shore refuse:) so that I have no better book of reference by me than the confused essay on the antiquity of ryme at the end of Turner's "Anglo-Saxons." I cannot however conceive a more interesting piece of work, if not yet done, than the collection of sifted earliest fragments known of rymed song in European languages. Of Eastern I know nothing; but, this side Hellespont, the substance of the matter is all given in King Canute's impromptu
"Gaily" (or is it sweetly?—I forget which, and it's no matter) "sang the monks of Ely, As Knut the king came sailing by;"
much to be noted by any who make their religion lugubrious, and their Sunday the eclipse of the week. And observe further, that if Milton does not ryme, it is because his faculty of Song was concerning Loss, chiefly; and he has little more than faculty of Croak, concerning Gain; while Dante, though modern readers never go further with him than into the Pit, is stayed only by Casella in the ascent to the Rose of Heaven. So, Gibbon can write in his manner the Fall of Rome; but Virgil, in his manner, the rise of it; and finally Douglas, in his manner, bursts into such rymed passion of praise both of Rome and Virgil, as befits a Christian Bishop, and a good subject of the Holy See.
"Master of Masters—sweet source, and springing well, Wide where over all rings thy heavenly bell;
* * * * *
Why should I then with dull forehead and vain, With rude ingene, and barane, emptive brain, With bad harsh speech, and lewit barbare tongue Presume to write, where thy sweet bell is rung, Or counterfeit thy precious wordis dear? Na, na—not so; but kneel when I them hear. But farther more—and lower to descend Forgive me, Virgil, if I thee offend Pardon thy scolar, suffer him to ryme Since thou wast but ane mortal man sometime."
"Before honor is humility." Does not clearer light come for you on that law after reading these nobly pious words? And note you whose humility? How is it that the sound of the bell comes so instinctively into his chiming verse? This gentle singer is the son of—Archibald Bell-the-Cat!
70. And now perhaps you can read with right sympathy the scene in "Marmion" between his father and King James.
"His hand the monarch sudden took— 'Now, by the Bruce's soul, Angus, my hasty speech forgive, For sure as doth his spirit live As he said of the Douglas old I well may say of you,— That never king did subject hold, In speech more free, in war more bold, More tender and more true:' And while the king his hand did strain The old man's tears fell down like rain."
I believe the most infidel of scholastic readers can scarcely but perceive the relation between the sweetness, simplicity, and melody of expression in these passages, and the gentleness of the passions they express, while men who are not scholastic, and yet are true scholars, will recognize further in them that the simplicity of the educated is lovelier than the simplicity of the rude. Hear next a piece of Spenser's teaching how rudeness itself may become more beautiful even by its mistakes, if the mistakes are made lovingly.
"Ye shepherds' daughters that dwell on the green, Hye you there apace; Let none come there but that virgins been To adorn her grace: And when you come, whereas she in place, See that your rudeness do not you disgrace; Bind your fillets fast, And gird in your waste, For more fineness, with a taudry lace.
Bring hither the pink and purple cullumbine With gylliflowers; Bring coronatioens, and sops in wine, Worn of paramours; Strow me the ground with daffadowndillies And cowslips, and kingcups, and loved lilies; The pretty paunce And the chevisaunce Shall match with the fair flowre-delice."
71. Two short pieces more only of master song, and we have enough to test all by.
"No more, no more, since thou art dead, Shall we e'er bring coy brides to bed, No more, at yearly festivals, We cowslip balls Or chains of columbines shall make, For this or that occasion's sake. No, no! our maiden pleasures be Wrapt in thy winding-sheet with thee."
"Death is now the phoenix nest, And the turtle's loyal breast To eternity doth rest. Truth may seem, but cannot be; Beauty brag, but 'tis not she: Truth and beauty buried be."
72. If now, with the echo of these perfect verses in your mind, you turn to Byron, and glance over, or recall to memory, enough of him to give means of exact comparison, you will, or should, recognize these following kinds of mischief in him. First, if anyone offends him—as for instance Mr. Southey, or Lord Elgin—"his manners have not that repose that marks the caste," etc. This defect in his Lordship's style, being myself scrupulously and even painfully reserved in the use of vituperative language, I need not say how deeply I deplore.
Secondly. In the best and most violet-bedded bits of his work there is yet, as compared with Elizabethan and earlier verse, a strange taint; an indefinable—evening flavor of Covent Garden, as it were;—not to say, escape of gas in the Strand. That is simply what it proclaims itself—London air. If he had lived all his life in Green-head Ghyll, things would of course have been different. But it was his fate to come to town—modern town—like Michael's son; and modern London (and Venice) are answerable for the state of their drains, not Byron.
Thirdly. His melancholy is without any relief whatsoever; his jest sadder than his earnest; while, in Elizabethan work, all lament is full of hope, and all pain of balsam.
Of this evil he has himself told you the cause in a single line prophetic of all things since and now. "Where he gazed, a gloom pervaded space."
So that, for instance, while Mr. Wordsworth, on a visit to town, being an exemplary early riser, could walk, felicitous, on Westminster Bridge, remarking how the city now did like a garment wear the beauty of the morning; Byron, rising somewhat later, contemplated only the garment which the beauty of the morning had by that time received for wear from the city: and again, while Mr. Wordsworth, in irrepressible religious rapture, calls God to witness that the houses seem asleep, Byron, lame demon as he was, flying smoke-drifted, unroofs the houses at a glance, and sees what the mighty cockney heart of them contains in the still lying of it, and will stir up to purpose in the waking business of it,
"The sordor of civilization, mixed With all the passions which Man's fall hath fixed."
73. Fourthly, with this steadiness of bitter melancholy, there is joined a sense of the material beauty, both of inanimate nature, the lower animals, and human beings, which in the iridescence, color-depth, and morbid (I use the word deliberately) mystery and softness of it,—with other qualities indescribable by any single words, and only to be analyzed by extreme care,—is found, to the full, only in five men that I know of in modern times; namely, Rousseau, Shelley, Byron, Turner, and myself,—differing totally and throughout the entire group of us, from the delight in clear-struck beauty of Angelico and the Trecentisti; and separated, much more singularly, from the cheerful joys of Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Scott, by its unaccountable affection for "Rokkes blak" and other forms of terror and power, such as those of the ice-oceans, which to Shakespeare were only Alpine rheum; and the Via Malas and Diabolic Bridges which Dante would have condemned none but lost souls to climb, or cross;—all this love of impending mountains, coiled thunder-clouds, and dangerous sea, being joined in us with a sulky, almost ferine, love of retreat in valleys of Charmettes, gulfs of Spezzia, ravines of Olympus, low lodgings in Chelsea, and close brushwood at Coniston.
74. And, lastly, also in the whole group of us, glows volcanic instinct of Astraean justice returning not to, but up out of, the earth, which will not at all suffer us to rest any more in Pope's serene "whatever is, is right"; but holds, on the contrary, profound conviction that about ninety-nine hundredths of whatever at present is, is wrong: conviction making four of us, according to our several manners, leaders of revolution for the poor, and declarers of political doctrine monstrous to the ears of mercenary mankind; and driving the fifth, less sanguine, into mere painted-melody of lament over the fallacy of Hope and the implacableness of Fate.
In Byron the indignation, the sorrow, and the effort are joined to the death: and they are the parts of his nature (as of mine also in its feebler terms), which the selfishly comfortable public have, literally, no conception of whatever; and from which the piously sentimental public, offering up daily the pure oblation of divine tranquillity, shrink with anathema not unembittered by alarm.
75. Concerning which matters I hope to speak further and with more precise illustration in my next paper; but, seeing that this present one has been hitherto somewhat somber, and perhaps, to gentle readers, not a little discomposing, I will conclude it with a piece of light biographic study, necessary to my plan, and as conveniently admissible in this place as afterwards;—namely, the account of the manner in which Scott—whom we shall always find, as aforesaid, to be in salient and palpable elements of character, of the World, worldly, as Burns is of the Flesh, fleshly, and Byron of the Deuce, damnable,—spent his Sunday.
76. As usual, from Lockhart's farrago we cannot find out the first thing we want to know,—whether Scott worked after his week-day custom, on the Sunday morning. But, I gather, not; at all events his household and his cattle rested (L. iii. 108). I imagine he walked out into his woods, or read quietly in his study. Immediately after breakfast, whoever was in the house, "Ladies and gentlemen, I shall read prayers at eleven, when I expect you all to attend" (vii. 306). Question of college and other externally unanimous prayer settled for us very briefly: "if you have no faith, have at least manners." He read the Church of England service, lessons and all, the latter, if interesting, eloquently (ibid.). After the service, one of Jeremy Taylor's sermons (vi. 188). After sermon, if the weather was fine, walk with his family, dogs included and guests, to cold picnic (iii. 109), followed by short extempore biblical novelettes; for he had his Bible, the Old Testament especially, by heart, it having been his mother's last gift to him (vi. 174). These lessons to his children in Bible history were always given, whether there was picnic or not. For the rest of the afternoon he took his pleasure in the woods with Tom Purdie, who also always appeared at his master's elbow on Sunday after dinner was over, and drank long life to the laird and his lady and all the good company, in a quaigh of whisky or a tumbler of wine, according to his fancy (vi. 195). Whatever might happen on the other evenings of the week, Scott always dined at home on Sunday; and with old friends: never, unless inevitably, receiving any person with whom he stood on ceremony (v. 335). He came into the room rubbing his hands like a boy arriving at home for the holidays, his Peppers and Mustards gamboling about him, "and even the stately Maida grinning and wagging his tail with sympathy." For the usquebaugh of the less honored week-days, at the Sunday board he circulated the champagne briskly during dinner, and considered a pint of claret each man's fair share afterwards (v. 339). In the evening, music being to the Scottish worldly mind indecorous, he read aloud some favorite author, for the amusement or edification of his little circle. Shakespeare it might be, or Dryden,—Johnson, or Joanna Baillie,—Crabbe, or Wordsworth. But in those days "Byron was pouring out his spirit fresh and full, and if a new piece from his hand had appeared, it was sure to be read by Scott the Sunday evening afterwards; and that with such delighted emphasis as showed how completely the elder bard had kept up his enthusiasm for poetry at pitch of youth, and all his admiration of genius, free, pure, and unstained by the least drop of literary jealousy" (v. 341).
77. With such necessary and easily imaginable varieties as chanced in having Dandie Dinmont or Captain Brown for guests at Abbotsford, or Colonel Mannering, Counselor Pleydell, and Dr. Robertson in Castle Street, such was Scott's habitual Sabbath: a day, we perceive, of eating the fat, (dinner, presumably not cold, being a work of necessity and mercy—thou also, even thou, Saint Thomas of Turnbull, hast thine!) and drinking the sweet, abundant in the manner of Mr. Southey's cataract of Lodore,—"Here it comes, sparkling." A day bestrewn with coronatioens and sops in wine; deep in libations to good hope and fond memory; a day of rest to beast, and mirth to man, (as also to sympathetic beasts that can be merry,) and concluding itself in an Orphic hour of delight, signifying peace on Tweedside, and goodwill to men, there or far away;—always excepting the French, and Boney.
"Yes, and see what it all came to in the end."
Not so, dark-virulent Minos-Mucklewrath; the end came of quite other things; of these, came such length of days and peace as Scott had in his Fatherland, and such immortality as he has in all lands.
78. Nathless, firm, though deeply courteous, rebuke, for his sometimes overmuch lightmindedness, was administered to him by the more grave and thoughtful Byron. For the Lord Abbot of Newstead knew his Bible by heart as well as Scott, though it had never been given him by his mother as her dearest possession. Knew it, and what was more, had thought of it, and sought in it what Scott had never cared to think, nor been fain to seek.
And loving Scott well, and always doing him every possible pleasure in the way he sees to be most agreeable to him—as, for instance, remembering with precision, and writing down the very next morning, every blessed word that the Prince Regent had been pleased to say of him before courtly audience,—he yet conceived that such cheap ryming as his own "Bride of Abydos," for instance, which he had written from beginning to end in four days, or even the traveling reflections of Harold and Juan on men and women, were scarcely steady enough Sunday afternoon's reading for a patriarch-Merlin like Scott. So he dedicates to him a work of a truly religious tendency, on which for his own part he has done his best,—the drama of "Cain." Of which dedication the virtual significance to Sir Walter might be translated thus. Dearest and last of Border soothsayers, thou hast indeed told us of Black Dwarfs, and of White Maidens, also of Gray Friars, and Green Fairies; also of sacred hollies by the well, and haunted crooks in the glen. But of the bushes that the black dogs rend in the woods of Phlegethon; and of the crooks in the glen, and the bickerings of the burnie where ghosts meet the mightiest of us; and of the black misanthrope, who is by no means yet a dwarfed one, and concerning whom wiser creatures than Hobbie Elliot may tremblingly ask "Gude guide us, what's yon?" hast thou yet known, seeing that thou hast yet told, nothing.
Scott may perhaps have his answer. We shall in good time hear.
[Footnote 73: September, 1880.]
[Footnote 74: "It must be put by the original, stanza for stanza, and verse for verse; and you will see what was permitted in a Catholic country and a bigoted age to Churchmen, on the score of Religion—and so tell those buffoons who accuse me of attacking the Liturgy.
"I write in the greatest haste, it being the hour of the Corso, and I must go and buffoon with the rest. My daughter Allegra is just gone with the Countess G. in Count G.'s coach and six. Our old Cardinal is dead, and the new one not appointed yet—but the masquing goes on the same." (Letter to Murray, 355th in Moore, dated Ravenna, Feb. 7, 1820.) "A dreadfully moral place, for you must not look at anybody's wife, except your neighbor's."]
[Footnote 75: See quoted infra the mock, by Byron, of himself and all other modern poets, "Juan," canto iii. stanza 80, and compare canto xiv. stanza 8. In reference of future quotations the first numeral will stand always for canto; the second for stanza; the third, if necessary, for line.]
[Footnote 76: "Island," ii. 16, where see context.]
[Footnote 77: "Juan," viii. 5; but, by your Lordship's quotation, Wordsworth says "instrument,"—not "daughter." Your Lordship had better have said "Infant" and taken the Woolwich authorities to witness: only Infant would not have rymed.]
[Footnote 78: "Juan," viii. 3; compare 14, and 63, with all its lovely context 61-68: then 82, and afterwards slowly and with thorough attention, the Devil's speech, beginning, "Yes, Sir, you forget" in scene 2 of "The Deformed Transformed": then Sardanapalus's, act i. scene 2, beginning, "he is gone, and on his finger bears my signet," and finally the "Vision of Judgment," stanzas 3 to 5.]
[Footnote 79: "Island," iii. 3, and compare, of shore surf, the "slings its high flakes, shivered into sleet" of stanza 7.]
[Footnote 80: A modern editor—of whom I will not use the expressions which occur to me—finding the "we" a redundant syllable in the iambic line, prints, "we're." It is a little thing—but I do not recollect, in the forty years of my literary experience, any piece of editor's retouch quite so base. But I don't read the new editions much: that must be allowed for.]
[Footnote 81: "Island," ii. 5. I was going to say, "Look to the context," but am fain to give it here; for the stanza, learned by heart, ought to be our school-introduction to the literature of the world.
"Such was this ditty of Tradition's days, Which to the dead a lingering fame conveys In song, where fame as yet hath left no sign Beyond the sound whose charm is half divine; Which leaves no record to the skeptic eye, But yields young history all to harmony; A boy Achilles, with the centaur's lyre In hand, to teach him to surpass his sire. For one long-cherish'd ballad's simple stave, Rung from the rock, or mingled with the wave, Or from the bubbling streamlet's grassy side, Or gathering mountain echoes as they glide, Hath greater power o'er each true heart and ear, Than all the columns Conquest's minions rear; Invites, when hieroglyphics are a theme For sages' labors or the student's dream; Attracts, when History's volumes are a toil— The first, the freshest bud of Feeling's soil, Such was this rude rhyme—rhyme is of the rude, But such inspired the Norseman's solitude, Who came and conquer'd; such, wherever rise Lands which no foes destroy or civilize, Exist; and what can our accomplish'd art Of verse do more than reach the awaken'd heart?"]
[Footnote 82: "Shepherd's Calendar." "Coronatioen," loyal-pastoral for Carnation; "sops in wine," jolly-pastoral for double pink; "paunce," thoughtless pastoral for pansy; "chevisaunce," I don't know (not in Gerarde); "flowre-delice"—pronounce dellice—half made up of "delicate" and "delicious."]
[Footnote 83: Herrick, "Dirge for Jephthah's Daughter."]
[Footnote 84: "Passionate Pilgrim."]
[Footnote 85: In this point compare the "Curse of Minerva" with the "Tears of the Muses."]
[Footnote 86: "He,"—Lucifer; ("Vision of Judgment," 24). It is precisely because Byron was not his servant, that he could see the gloom. To the Devil's true servants, their Master's presence brings both cheerfulness and prosperity; with a delightful sense of their own wisdom and virtue; and of the "progress" of things in general:—in smooth sea and fair weather,—and with no need either of helm touch, or oar toil: as when once one is well within the edge of Maelstrom.]
[Footnote 87: "Island," ii. 4; perfectly orthodox theology, you observe; no denial of the fall,—nor substitution of Bacterian birth for it. Nay, nearly Evangelical theology, in contempt for the human heart; but with deeper than Evangelical humility, acknowledging also what is sordid in its civilization.]
FICTION, FAIR AND FOUL.
79. I fear the editor of the Nineteenth Century will get little thanks from his readers for allowing so much space in closely successive numbers to my talk of old-fashioned men and things. I have nevertheless asked his indulgence, this time, for a note or two concerning yet older fashions, in order to bring into sharper clearness the leading outlines of literary fact, which I ventured only in my last paper to secure in silhouette, obscurely asserting itself against the limelight of recent moral creed, and fiction manufacture.
The Bishop of Manchester, on the occasion of the great Wordsworthian movement in that city for the enlargement, adornment, and sale of Thirlmere, observed, in his advocacy of these operations, that very few people, he supposed, had ever seen Tairlmere. His Lordship might have supposed, with greater felicity, that very few people had ever read Wordsworth. My own experience in that matter is that the amiable persons who call themselves "Wordsworthian" have read—usually a long time ago—"Lucy Gray," "The April Mornings," a picked sonnet or two, and the "Ode on the Intimations," which last they seem generally to be under the impression that nobody else has ever met with: and my further experience of these sentimental students is, that they are seldom inclined to put in practice a single syllable of the advice tendered them by their model poet.
Now, as I happen myself to have used Wordsworth as a daily text-book from youth to age, and have lived, moreover, in all essential points according to the tenor of his teaching, it was matter of some mortification to me, when, at Oxford, I tried to get the memory of Mr. Wilkinson's spade honored by some practical spadework at Ferry Hincksey, to find that no other tutor in Oxford could see the slightest good or meaning in what I was about; and that although my friend Professor Rolleston occasionally sought the shades of our Rydalian laurels with expressions of admiration, his professorial manner of "from pastoral graves extracting thoughts divine" was to fill the Oxford Museum with the scabbed skulls of plague-struck cretins.
80. I therefore respectfully venture to intimate to my bucolic friends, that I know, more vitally by far than they, what is in Wordsworth, and what is not. Any man who chooses to live by his precepts will thankfully find in them a beauty and rightness, (exquisite rightness I called it, in "Sesame and Lilies,") which will preserve him alike from mean pleasure, vain hope, and guilty deed: so that he will neither mourn at the gate of the fields which with covetous spirit he sold, nor drink of the waters which with yet more covetous spirit he stole, nor devour the bread of the poor in secret, nor set on his guest-table the poor man's lamb:—in all these homely virtues and assured justices let him be Wordsworth's true disciple; and he will then be able with equanimity to hear it said, when there is need to say so, that his excellent master often wrote verses that were not musical, and sometimes expressed opinions that were not profound.
And the need to say so becomes imperative when the unfinished verse, and uncorrected fancy, are advanced by the affection of his disciples into places of authority where they give countenance to the popular national prejudices from the infection of which, in most cases, they themselves sprang.
81. Take, for example, the following three and a half lines of the 38th Ecclesiastical Sonnet:—
"Amazement strikes the crowd; while many turn Their eyes away in sorrow, others burn With scorn, invoking a vindictive ban From outraged Nature."
The first quite evident character of these lines is that they are extremely bad iambics,—as ill-constructed as they are unmelodious; the turning and burning being at the wrong ends of them, and the ends themselves put just when the sentence is in its middle.
But a graver fault of these three and a half lines is that the amazement, the turning, the burning, and the banning, are all alike fictitious; and foul-fictitious, calumniously conceived no less than falsely. Not one of the spectators of the scene referred to was in reality amazed—not one contemptuous, not one maledictory. It is only our gentle minstrel of the meres who sits in the seat of the scornful—only the hermit of Rydal Mount who invokes the malison of Nature.
What the scene verily was, and how witnessed, it will not take long to tell; nor will the tale be useless: but I must first refer the reader to a period preceding, by nearly a century, the great symbolic action under the porch of St. Mark's.
82. The Protestant ecclesiastic, and infidel historian, who delight to prop their pride, or edge their malice, in unveiling the corruption through which Christianity has passed, should study in every fragment of authentic record which the fury of their age has left, the lives of the three queens of the Priesthood, Theodora, Marozia, and Matilda, and the foundation of the merciless power of the Popes, by the monk Hildebrand. And if there be any of us who would satisfy with nobler food than the catastrophes of the stage, the awe at what is marvelous in human sorrow which makes sacred the fountain of tears in authentic tragedy, let them follow, pace by pace, and pang by pang, the humiliation of the fourth Henry at Canossa, and his death in the church he had built to the Virgin at Spire.
His antagonist, Hildebrand, died twenty years before him; captive to the Normans in Salerno, having seen the Rome in which he had proclaimed his princedom over all the earth, laid in her last ruin; and forever. Rome herself, since her desolation by Guiscard, has been only a grave and a wilderness—what we call Rome, is a mere colony of the stranger in her "Field of Mars." This destruction of Rome by the Normans is accurately and utterly the end of her Capitoline and wolf-suckled power; and from that day her Leonine or Christian power takes its throne in the Leonine city, sanctified in tradition by its prayer of safety for the Saxon Borgo, in which the childhood of our own Alfred had been trained.
And from this date forward, (recollected broadly as 1090, the year of the birth of St. Bernard,) no longer oppressed by the remnants of Roman death,—Christian faith, chivalry, and art possess the world, and recreate it, through the space of four hundred years—the twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries.
And, necessarily, in the first of these centuries comes the main debate between the powers of Monk and Knight which was reconciled in this scene under the porch of St. Mark's.
83. That debate was brought to its crisis and issue by the birth of the new third elemental force of the State—the Citizen. Sismondi's republican enthusiasm does not permit him to recognize the essential character of this power. He speaks always of the Republics and the liberties of Italy, as if a craftsman differed from a knight only in political privileges, and as if his special virtue consisted in rendering obedience to no master. But the strength of the great cities of Italy was no more republican than that of her monasteries, or fortresses. The Craftsman of Milan, Sailor of Pisa, and Merchant of Venice are all of them essentially different persons from the soldier and the anchorite:—but the city, under the banner of its caroccio, and the command of its podesta, was disciplined far more strictly than any wandering military squadron by its leader, or any lower order of monks under their abbot. In the founding of civic constitutions, the Lord of the city is usually its Bishop:—and it is curious to hear the republican historian—who, however in judgment blind, is never in heart uncandid, prepare to close his record of the ten years' war of Como with Milan, with this summary of distress to the heroic mountaineers—that "they had lost their Bishop Guido, who was their soul."
84. I perceive for quite one of the most hopeless of the many difficulties which Modernism finds, and will find, insuperable either by steam or dynamite, that of either wedging or welding into its own cast-iron head, any conception of a king, monk, or townsman of the twelfth and two succeeding centuries. And yet no syllable of the utterance, no fragment of the arts of the middle ages, far less any motive of their deeds, can be read even in the letter—how much less judged in spirit—unless, first of all, we can somewhat imagine all these three Living souls.
First, a king who was the best knight in his kingdom, and on whose own swordstrokes hung the fate of Christendom. A king such as Henry the Fowler, the first and third Edwards of England, the Bruce of Scotland, and this Frederic the First of Germany.
Secondly, a monk who had been trained from youth in greater hardship than any soldier, and had learned at last to desire no other life than one of hardship;—a man believing in his own and his fellows' immortality, in the aiding powers of angels, and the eternal presence of God; versed in all the science, graceful in all the literature, cognizant of all the policy of his age; and fearless of any created thing, on the earth or under it.
And, lastly, a craftsman absolutely master of his craft, and taking such pride in the exercise of it as all healthy souls take in putting forth their personal powers: proud also of his city and his people; enriching, year by year, their streets with loftier buildings, their treasuries with rarer possession; and bequeathing his hereditary art to a line of successive masters, by whose tact of race, and honor of effort, the essential skills of metal-work in gold and steel, of pottery, glass-painting, woodwork, and weaving, were carried to a perfectness never to be surpassed; and of which our utmost modern hope is to produce a not instantly detected imitation.
These three kinds of persons, I repeat, we have to conceive before we can understand any single event of the Middle Ages. For all that is enduring in them was done by men such as these. History, indeed, records twenty undoings for one deed, twenty desolations for one redemption; and thinks the fool and villain potent as the wise and true. But Nature and her laws recognize only the noble: generations of the cruel pass like the darkness of locust plagues; while one loving and brave heart establishes a nation.
85. I give the character of Barbarossa in the words of Sismondi, a man sparing in the praise of emperors:—
"The death of Frederic was mourned even by the cities which so long had been the objects of his hostility, and the victims of his vengeance. All the Lombards—even the Milanese—acknowledged his rare courage, his constancy in misfortune—his generosity in conquest.
"An intimate conviction of the justice of his cause had often rendered him cruel, even to ferocity, against those who still resisted; but after victory he took vengeance only on senseless walls; and irritated as he had been by the people of Milan, Crema, and Tortona, and whatever blood he had shed during battle, he never sullied his triumph by odious punishments. In spite of the treason which he on one occasion used against Alessandria, his promises were in general respected; and when, after the peace of Constance, the towns which had been most inveterately hostile to him received him within their walls, they had no need to guard against any attempt on his part to suppress the privileges he had once recognized."
My own estimate of Frederic's character would be scarcely so favorable; it is the only point of history on which I have doubted the authority even of my own master, Carlyle. But I am concerned here only with the actualities of his wars in Italy, with the people of her cities, and the head of her religion.
86. Frederic of Suabia, direct heir of the Ghibelline rights, while nearly related by blood to the Guelph houses of Bavaria and Saxony, was elected emperor almost in the exact middle of the twelfth century (1152). He was called into Italy by the voices of Italians. The then Pope, Eugenius III., invoked his aid against the Roman people under Arnold of Brescia. The people of Lodi prayed his protection against the tyrannies of Milan.
Frederic entered the plain of Verona in 1154, by the valley of the Adige,—ravaged the territory of Milan,—pillaged and burned Tortona, Asti, and Chieri,—kept his Christmas at Novara; marched on Rome,—delivered up Arnold to the Pope (who, instantly killing him, ended for that time Protestant reforms in Italy)—destroyed Spoleto; and returned by Verona, having scorched his path through Italy like a level thunderbolt along the ground.
Three years afterwards, Adrian died; and, chiefly, by the love and will of the Roman people, Roland of Siena was raised to the Papal throne, under the name of Alexander III. The conclave of cardinals chose another Pope, Victor III.; Frederic on his second invasion of Italy (1158) summoned both elected heads of the Church to receive judgment of their claims before him.
The Cardinals' Pope, Victor, obeyed. The people's Alexander, refused; answering that the successor of St. Peter submitted himself to the judgment neither of emperors nor councils.
The spirit of modern prelacy may perhaps have rendered it impossible for an English churchman to conceive this answer as other than that of insolence and hypocrisy. But a faithful Pope, and worthy of his throne, could answer no otherwise. Frederic of course at once confirmed the claims of his rival; the German bishops and Italian cardinals in council at Pavia joined their powers to the Emperor's and Alexander, driven from Rome, wandered—unsubdued in soul—from city to city, taking refuge at last in France.
87. Meantime, in 1159, Frederic took and destroyed Crema, having first bound its hostages to his machines of war. In 1161, Milan submitted to his mercy, and he decreed that her name should perish. Only a few pillars of a Roman temple, and the church of St. Ambrose, remain to us of the ancient city. Warned by her destruction, Verona, Vicenza, Padua, Treviso, and Venice, joined in the vow—called of the Lombard League—to reduce the Emperor's power within its just limits. And, in 1164, Alexander, under the protection of Louis VII. of France and Henry II. of England, returned to Rome, and was received at Ostia by its senate, clergy, and people.
Three years afterwards, Frederic again swept down on the Campagna; attacked the Leonine city, where the basilica of the Vatican, changed into a fortress, and held by the Pope's guard, resisted his assault until, by the Emperor's order, fire was set to the Church of St. Mary of Pity.
The Leonine city was taken; the Pope retired to the Coliseum, whence, uttering once again his fixed defiance of the Emperor, but fearing treachery, he fled in disguise down the Tiber to the sea, and sought asylum at Benevento.
The German army encamped round Rome in August of 1166, with the sign before their eyes of the ruins of the church of Our Lady of Pity. The marsh-fever struck them—killed the Emperor's cousin, Frederic of Rothenburg, the Duke of Bavaria, the Archbishop of Cologne, the Bishops of Liege, Spire, Ratisbonne, and Verden, and two thousand knights; the common dead were uncounted. The Emperor gathered the wreck of his army together, retreated on Lombardy, quartered his soldiery at Pavia, and escaped in secret over the Mont Cenis with thirty knights.
88. No places of strength remained to him south of the Alps but Pavia and Montferrat; and to hold these in check, and command the plains of Piedmont, the Lombard League built the fortress city, which, from the Pope who had maintained through all adversity the authority of his throne and the cause of the Italian people, they named "Alessandria."
Against this bulwark the Emperor, still indomitable, dashed with his utmost regathered strength after eight years of pause, and in the temper in which men set their souls on a single stake. All had been lost in his last war, except his honor—in this, he lost his honor also. Whatever may be the just estimate of the other elements of his character, he is unquestionably, among the knights of his time, notable in impiety. In the battle of Cassano, he broke through the Milanese vanguard to their caroccio, and struck down with his own hand its golden crucifix;—two years afterwards its cross and standard were bowed before him—and in vain. He fearlessly claims for himself right of decision between contending popes, and camps against the rightful one on the ashes of the Church of the Virgin.
Foiled in his first assault on Alessandria, detained before it through the inundations of the winter, and threatened by the army of the League in the spring, he announced a truce to the besieged, that they might keep Good Friday. Then violating alike the day's sanctity and his own oath, he attacked the trusting city through a secretly completed mine. And, for a second time, the verdict of God went forth against him. Every man who had obtained entrance within the city was slain or cast from its ramparts;—the Alessandrines threw all their gates open—fell, with the broken fugitives, on the investing troops, scattered them in disorder, and burned their towers of attack. The Emperor gathered their remains into Pavia on Easter Sunday,—spared in his defeat by the army of the League.
89. And yet, once more, he brought his cause to combat-trial. Temporizing at Lodi with the Pope's legates, he assembled, under the Archbishops of Magdebourg and Cologne, and the chief prelates and princes of Germany, a seventh army; brought it down to Como across the Spluegen, put himself there at its head, and in the early spring of 1176, the fifteenth year since he had decreed the effacing of the name of Milan, was met at Legnano by the specter of Milan.
Risen from her grave, she led the Lombard League in this final battle. Three hundred of her nobles guarded her caroccio; nine hundred of her knights bound themselves—under the name of the Cohort of Death—to win for her, or to die.
The field of battle is in the midst of the plain, now covered with maize and mulberry trees, from which the traveler, entering Italy by the Lago Maggiore, sees first the unbroken snows of the Rosa behind him and the white pinnacles of Milan Cathedral in the south. The Emperor, as was his wont, himself led his charging chivalry. The Milanese knelt as it came;—prayed aloud to God, St. Peter, and St. Ambrose—then advanced round their caroccio on foot. The Emperor's charge broke through their ranks nearly up to their standard—then the Cohort of Death rode against him.
90. And all his battle changed before them into flight. For the first time in stricken field, the imperial standard fell, and was taken. The Milanese followed the broken host until their swords were weary; and the Emperor, struck fighting from his horse, was left, lost among the dead. The Empress, whose mercy to Milan he had forbidden, already wore mourning for him in Pavia, when her husband came, solitary and suppliant, to its gate.
The lesson at last sufficed; and Barbarossa sent his heretic bishops to ask forgiveness of the Pope, and peace from the Lombards.
Pardon and peace were granted—without conditions. "Caesar's successor" had been the blight of Italy for a quarter of a century; he had ravaged her harvests, burnt her cities, decimated her children with famine, her young men with the sword; and, seven times over, in renewed invasion, sought to establish dominion over her, from the Alps to the rock of Scylla.
She asked of him no restitution;—coveted no province—demanded no fortress, of his land. Neither coward nor robber, she disdained alike guard and gain upon her frontiers: she counted no compensation for her sorrow; and set no price upon the souls of her dead. She stood in the porch of her brightest temple—between the blue plains of her earth and sea, and, in the person of her spiritual father, gave her enemy pardon.
"Black demons hovering o'er his mitered head," think you, gentle sonneteer of the daffodil-marsh? And have Barbarossa's race been taught of better angels how to bear themselves to a conquered emperor,—or England, by braver and more generous impulses, how to protect his exiled son?
The fall of Venice, since that day, was measured by Byron in a single line:
"An Emperor tramples where an emperor knelt."
But what words shall measure the darker humiliation of the German pillaging his helpless enemy and England leaving her ally under the savage's spear?
91. With the clews now given, and an hour or two's additional reading of any standard historian he pleases, the reader may judge on secure grounds whether the truce of Venice and peace of Constance were of the Devil's making: whereof whatever he may ultimately feel or affirm, this at least he will please note for positive, that Mr. Wordsworth, having no shadow of doubt of the complete wisdom of every idea that comes into his own head, writes down in dogmatic sonnet his first impression of black instrumentality in the business; so that his innocent readers, taking him for their sole master, far from caring to inquire into the thing more deeply, may remain even unconscious that it is disputable, and forever incapable of conceiving either a Catholic's feeling, or a careful historian's hesitation, touching the centrally momentous crisis of power in all the Middle Ages! Whereas Byron, knowing the history thoroughly, and judging of Catholicism with an honest and open heart, ventures to assert nothing that admits of debate, either concerning human motives or angelic presences; but binds into one line of massive melody the unerringly counted sum of Venetian majesty and shame.
92. In a future paper, I propose examining his method of dealing with the debate, itself on a higher issue: and will therefore close the present one by trampling a few of the briers and thorns of popular offense out of our way.
The common counts against Byron are in the main, three.
I. That he confessed—in some sort, even proclaimed defiantly (which is a proud man's natural manner of confession)—the naughtiness of his life.
The hypocrisy even of Pall Mall and Petit Trianon does not, I assume, and dares not, go so far as to condemn the naughtiness itself? And that he did confess it, is precisely the reason for reading him by his own motto "Trust Byron." You always may; and the common smooth-countenanced man of the world is guiltier in the precise measure of your higher esteem for him.
II. That he wrote about pretty things which ought never to be heard of.
In the presence of the exact proprieties of modern Fiction, Art, and Drama, I am shy of touching on the question of what should be mentioned, and seen—and should not. All that I care to say, here, is that Byron tells you of realities, and that their being pretty ones is, to my mind,—at the first (literally) blush, of the matter, rather in his favor. If however you have imagined that he means you to think Dudu as pretty as Myrrha, or even Haidee, whether in full dress or none, as pretty as Marina, it is your fault, not his.
93. III. That he blasphemed God and the King.
Before replying to this count, I must ask the reader's patience in a piece of very serious work, the ascertainment of the real and full meaning of the word Blasphemy. It signifies simply "Harmful speaking"—Male-diction—or shortly "Blame"; and may be committed as much against a child or a dog, if you desire to hurt them, as against the Deity. And it is, in its original use, accurately opposed to another Greek word, "Euphemy," which means a reverent and loving manner of benediction—fallen entirely into disuse in modern sentiment and language.
Now the compass and character of essential Male-diction, so-called in Latin, or Blasphemy, so-called in Greek, may, I think, be best explained to the general reader by an instance in a very little thing, first translating the short pieces of Plato which best show the meaning of the word in codes of Greek morality.
"These are the things then" (the true order of the Sun, Moon, and Planets), "oh my friends, of which I desire that all our citizens and youths should learn at least so much concerning the Gods of Heaven, as not to blaspheme concerning them, but to eupheme reverently, both in sacrificing, and in every prayer they pray."—Laws, VII. Steph. 821.
"And through the whole of life, beyond all other need for it, there is need of Euphemy from a man to his parents, for there is no heavier punishment than that of light and winged words," (to them)? "for Nemesis, the angel of Divine Recompense, has been throned Bishop over all men who sin in such manner."—IV. Steph. 717.
The word which I have translated "recompense" is more strictly that "heavenly Justice"—the proper Light of the World, from which nothing can be hidden, and by which all who will may walk securely; whence the mystic answer of Ulysses to his son, as Athena, herself invisible, walks with them, filling the chamber of the house with light, "This is the justice of the Gods who possess Olympus." See the context in reference to which Plato quotes the line.—Laws, X. Steph. 904. The little story that I have to tell is significant chiefly in connection with the second passage of Plato above quoted.
94. I have elsewhere mentioned that I was a homebred boy, and that as my mother diligently and scrupulously taught me my Bible and Latin Grammar, so my father fondly and devotedly taught me my Scott, my Pope, and my Byron. The Latin grammar out of which my mother taught me was the 11th edition of Alexander Adam's—(Edinb.: Bell and Bradfute, 1823)—namely, that Alexander Adam, Rector of Edinburgh High School, into whose upper class Scott passed in October 1782, and who—previous masters having found nothing noticeable in the heavy-looking lad—did find sterling qualities in him, and "would constantly refer to him for dates, and particulars of battles, and other remarkable events alluded to in Horace, or whatever other authors the boys were reading; and called him the historian of his class" (L. i. 126). That Alex. Adam, also, who, himself a loving historian, remembered the fate of every boy at his school during the fifty years he had headed it, and whose last words—"It grows dark, the boys may dismiss," gave to Scott's heart the vision and the audit of the death of Elspeth of the Craigburn-foot.
Strangely, in opening the old volume at this moment (I would not give it for an illuminated missal) I find, in its article on Prosody, some things extremely useful to me, which I have been hunting for in vain through Zumpt and Matthiae. In all rational respects I believe it to be the best Latin Grammar that has yet been written.
When my mother had carried me through it as far as the syntax, it was thought desirable that I should be put under a master: and the master chosen was a deeply and deservedly honored clergyman, the Rev. Thomas Dale, mentioned in Mr. Holbeach's article, "The New Fiction," (Contemporary Review for February of this year), together with Mr. Melville, who was our pastor after Mr. Dale went to St. Pancras.
95. On the first day when I went to take my seat in Mr. Dale's schoolroom, I carried my old grammar to him, in a modest pride, expecting some encouragement and honor for the accuracy with which I could repeat, on demand, some hundred and sixty close-printed pages of it.
But Mr. Dale threw it back to me with a fierce bang upon his desk, saying (with accent and look of seven-times-heated scorn), "That's a Scotch thing."
Now, my father being Scotch, and an Edinburgh High School boy, and my mother having labored in that book with me since I could read, and all my happiest holiday time having been spent on the North Inch of Perth, these four words, with the action accompanying them, contained as much insult, pain, and loosening of my respect for my parents, love of my father's country, and honor for its worthies, as it was possible to compress into four syllables and an ill-mannered gesture. Which were therefore pure, double-edged and point-envenomed blasphemy. For to make a boy despise his mother's care, is the straightest way to make him also despise his Redeemer's voice; and to make him scorn his father and his father's house, the straightest way to make him deny his God, and his God's Heaven.
96. I speak, observe, in this instance, only of the actual words and their effect; not of the feeling in the speaker's mind, which was almost playful, though his words, tainted with extremity of pride, were such light ones as men shall give account of at the Day of Judgment. The real sin of blasphemy is not in the saying, nor even in the thinking; but in the wishing which is father to thought and word: and the nature of it is simply in wishing evil to anything; for as the quality of Mercy is not strained, so neither that of Blasphemy, the one distilling from the clouds of Heaven, the other from the steam of the Pit. He that is unjust in little is unjust in much, he that is malignant to the least is to the greatest, he who hates the earth which is God's footstool, hates yet more Heaven which is God's throne, and Him that sitteth thereon. Finally, therefore, blasphemy is wishing ill to any thing; and its outcome is in Vanni Fucci's extreme "ill manners"—wishing ill to God.
On the contrary, Euphemy is wishing well to everything, and its outcome is in Burns' extreme "good manners," wishing well to—
"Ah! wad ye tak a thought, and men'!"
That is the supreme of Euphemy.
97. Fix then, first in your minds, that the sin of malediction, whether Shimei's individual, or John Bull's national, is in the vulgar malignity, not in the vulgar diction, and then note further that the "phemy" or "fame" of the two words, blasphemy and euphemy, signifies broadly the bearing of false witness against one's neighbor in the one case, and of true witness for him in the other: so that while the peculiar province of the blasphemer is to throw firelight on the evil in good persons, the province of the euphuist (I must use the word inaccurately for want of a better) is to throw sunlight on the good in bad ones; such, for instance, as Bertram, Meg Merrilies, Rob Roy, Robin Hood, and the general run of Corsairs, Giaours, Turks, Jews, Infidels, and Heretics; nay, even sisters of Rahab, and daughters of Moab and Ammon; and at last the whole spiritual race of him to whom it was said, "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?"
98. And being thus brought back to our actual subject, I purpose, after a few more summary notes on the luster of the electrotype language of modern passion, to examine what facts or probabilities lie at the root both of Goethe's and Byron's imagination of that contest between the powers of Good and Evil, of which the Scriptural account appears to Mr. Huxley so inconsistent with the recognized laws of political economy; and has been, by the cowardice of our old translators, so maimed of its vitality, that the frank Greek assertion of St. Michael's not daring to blaspheme the devil, is tenfold more mischievously deadened and caricatured by their periphrasis of "durst not bring against him a railing accusation," than by Byron's apparently—and only apparently—less reverent description of the manner of angelic encounter for an inferior ruler of the people.
"Between His Darkness and His Brightness There passed a mutual glance of great politeness."
PARIS, September 20, 1880.
99. I am myself extremely grateful, nor doubt a like feeling in most of my readers, both for the information contained in the first of the two following letters; and the correction of references in the second, of which, however, I have omitted some closing sentences which the writer will, I think, see to have been unnecessary.
NORTH STREET, WIRKSWORTH: August 2, 1880.
DEAR SIR,—When reading your interesting article in the June number of the Nineteenth Century, and your quotation from Walter Scott, I was struck with the great similarity between some of the Scotch words and my native tongue (Norwegian). Whigmaleerie, as to the derivation of which you seem to be in some perplexity, is in Norwegian Vaegmaleri. Vaeg, pronounced "Vegg," signifying wall, and Maleri "picture," pronounced almost the same as in Scotch, and derived from at male, to paint. Siccan is in Danish sikken, used more about something comical than great, and scarcely belonging to the written language, in which slig, such, and slig en, such a one, would be the equivalent. I need not remark that as to the written language Danish and Norwegian is the same, only the dialects differ.
Having been told by some English friends that this explanation would perhaps not be without interest to yourself, I take the liberty of writing this letter. I remain yours respectfully,
INNER TEMPLE: September 9, 1880.
SIR,—In your last article on Fiction, Foul and Fair (Nineteenth Century, September 1880) you have the following note:
"Juan viii. 5" (it ought to be 9) "but by your Lordship's quotation, Wordsworth says 'instrument' not 'daughter.'"
Now in Murray's edition of Byron, 1837, octavo, his Lordship's quotation is as follows:—
"But thy most dreaded instrument In working out a pure intent Is man arranged for mutual slaughter; Yea, Carnage is thy daughter."
And his Lordship refers you to "Wordsworth's Thanksgiving Ode."
I have no early edition of Wordsworth. In Moxon's, 1844, no such lines appear in the Thanksgiving Ode, but in the ode dated 1815, and printed immediately before it, the following lines occur.
"But man is thy most awful instrument In working out a pure intent."
It is hardly possible to avoid the conclusion that Wordsworth altered the lines after "Don Juan" was written. I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,
JOHN RUSKIN, Esq.
[Footnote 88: November, 1880.—ED.]
[Footnote 89: "Childe Harold," iv. 79; compare "Adonais," and Sismondi, vol. i. p. 148.]
[Footnote 90: Adrian the Fourth. Eugenius died in the previous year.]
[Footnote 91: "All the multitudes threw themselves on their knees, praying mercy in the name of the crosses they bore: the Count of Blandrata took a cross from the enemies with whom he had served, and fell at the foot of the throne, praying for mercy to them. All the court and the witnessing army were in tears—the Emperor alone showed no sign of emotion. Distrusting his wife's sensibility, he had forbidden her presence at the ceremony; the Milanese, unable to approach her, threw towards her windows the crosses they carried, to plead for them."—Sismondi (French edition), vol. i. p. 378.]
[Footnote 92: The most noble and tender confession is in Allegra's epitaph, "I shall go to her, but she shall not return to me."]
[Footnote 93: Hypocrisy is too good a word for either Pall Mall or Trianon, being justly applied (as always in the New Testament), only to men whose false religion has become earnest, and a part of their being: so that they compass heaven and earth to make a proselyte. There is no relation between minds of this order and those of common rogues. Neither Tartuffe nor Joseph Surface are hypocrites—they are simply impostors: but many of the most earnest preachers in all existing churches are hypocrites in the highest; and the Tartuffe-Squiredom and Joseph Surface-Masterhood of our virtuous England which build churches and pay priests to keep their peasants and hands peaceable, so that rents and per cents may be spent, unnoticed, in the debaucheries of the metropolis, are darker forms of imposture than either heaven or earth have yet been compassed by; and what they are to end in, heaven and earth only know. Compare again, "Island," ii. 4, "the prayers of Abel linked to deeds of Cain," and "Juan," viii. 25, 26.]
[Footnote 94: Perhaps some even of the attentive readers of Byron may not have observed the choice of the three names—Myrrha (bitter incense), Marina (sea lady), Angiolina (little angel)—in relation to the plots of the three plays.]
[Footnote 95: I shall have lost my wits very finally when I forget the first time that I pleased my father with a couplet of English verse (after many a year of trials); and the radiant joy on his face as he declared, reading it aloud to my mother with emphasis half choked by tears,—that "it was as fine as anything that Pope or Byron ever wrote!"]
[Footnote 96: Of our tingle-tangle-titmouse disputes in Parliament like Robins in a bush, but not a Robin in all the house knowing his great A, hear again Plato: "But they, for ever so little a quarrel, uttering much voice, blaspheming, speak evil one of another,—and it is not becoming that in a city of well-ordered persons, such things should be—no; nothing of them nohow nowhere,—and let this be the one law for all—let nobody speak mischief of anybody ([Greek: Medena kakegoreito medeis])."—Laws, book ii. s. 935; and compare Book iv. 117.]
[Footnote 97: A paragraph beginning "I find press corrections always irksome work, and in my last paper trust the reader's kindness to make some corrections in the preceding paper," is here omitted, and the corrections made.—ED.]
FICTION, FAIR AND FOUL.
THE TWO SERVANTS.
100. I have assumed throughout these papers, that everybody knew what Fiction meant; as Mr. Mill assumed in his Political Economy, that everybody knew what wealth meant. The assumption was convenient to Mr. Mill, and persisted in: but, for my own part, I am not in the habit of talking, even so long as I have done in this instance, without making sure that the reader knows what I am talking about; and it is high time that we should be agreed upon the primary notion of what Fiction is.
A feigned, fictitious, artificial, supernatural, put-together-out-of-one's-head, thing. All this it must be, to begin with. The best type of it being the most practically fictile—a Greek vase. A thing which has two sides to be seen, two handles to be carried by, and a bottom to stand on, and a top to be poured out of, this, every right fiction is, whatever else it may be. Planned rigorously, rounded smoothly, balanced symmetrically, handled handily, lipped softly for pouring out oil and wine. Painted daintily at last with images of eternal things—
Forever shalt thou love, and she be fair.
101. Quite a different thing from a "cast,"—this work of clay in the hands of the potter, as it seemed good to the potter to make it. Very interesting, a cast from life may perhaps be; more interesting, to some people perhaps, a cast from death;—most modern novels are like specimens from Lyme Regis, impressions of skeletons in mud.
"Planned rigorously"—I press the conditions again one by one—it must be, as ever Memphian labyrinth or Norman fortress. Intricacy full of delicate surprise; covered way in secrecy of accurate purposes, not a stone useless, nor a word nor an incident thrown away.
"Rounded smoothly"—the wheel of Fortune revolving with it in unfelt swiftness; like the world, its story rising like the dawn, closing like the sunset, with its own sweet light for every hour.
"Balanced symmetrically"—having its two sides clearly separate, its war of good and evil rightly divided. Its figures moving in majestic law of light and shade.
"Handled handily"—so that, being careful and gentle, you can take easy grasp of it and all that it contains; a thing given into your hand henceforth to have and to hold. Comprehensible, not a mass that both your arms cannot get round; tenable, not a confused pebble heap of which you can only lift one pebble at a time.
"Lipped softly"—full of kindness and comfort: the Keats line indeed the perpetual message of it—"For ever shalt thou love, and she be fair." All beautiful fiction is of the Madonna, whether the Virgin of Athens or of Judah—Pan-Athenaic always.
And all foul fiction is leze majeste to the Madonna and to womanhood. For indeed the great fiction of every human life is the shaping of its Love, with due prudence, due imagination, due persistence and perfection from the beginning of its story to the end; for every human soul, its Palladium. And it follows that all right imaginative work is beautiful, which is a practical and brief law concerning it. All frightful things are either foolish, or sick, visits of frenzy, or pollutions of plague.
102. Taking thus the Greek vase at its best time, for the symbol of fair fiction: of foul, you may find in the great entrance-room of the Louvre, filled with the luxurious orfevrerie of the sixteenth century, types perfect and innumerable: Satyrs carved in serpentine, Gorgons platted in gold, Furies with eyes of ruby, Scyllas with scales of pearl; infinitely worthless toil, infinitely witless wickedness; pleasure satiated into idiocy, passion provoked into madness, no object of thought, or sight, or fancy, but horror, mutilation, distortion, corruption, agony of war, insolence of disgrace, and misery of Death.
It is true that the ease with which a serpent, or something that will be understood for one, can be chased or wrought in metal, and the small workmanly skill required to image a satyr's hoof and horns, as compared to that needed for a human foot or forehead, have greatly influenced the choice of subject by incompetent smiths; and in like manner, the prevalence of such vicious or ugly story in the mass of modern literature is not so much a sign of the lasciviousness of the age, as of its stupidity, though each react on the other, and the vapor of the sulphurous pool becomes at last so diffused in the atmosphere of our cities, that whom it cannot corrupt, it will at least stultify.
103. Yesterday, the last of August, came to me from the Fine Art Society, a series of twenty black and white scrabbles of which I am informed in an eloquent preface that the author was a Michael Angelo of the glebe, and that his shepherds and his herdswomen are akin in dignity and grandeur to the prophets and Sibyls of the Sistine.
Glancing through the series of these stupendous productions, I find one peculiarly characteristic and expressive of modern picture-making and novel-writing,—called "Hauling" or more definitely "Paysan rentrant du Fumier," which represents a man's back, or at least the back of his waistcoat and trousers, and hat, in full light, and a small blot where his face should be, with a small scratch where its nose should be, elongated into one representing a chink of timber in the background.
Examining the volume farther, in the hope of discovering some trace of reasonable motive for the publication of these works by the Society, I perceive that this Michael Angelo of the glebe had indeed natural faculty of no mean order in him, and that the woeful history of his life contains very curious lessons respecting the modern conditions of Imagination and Art.
104. I find in the first place, that he was a Breton peasant; his grandmother's godson, baptized in good hope, and christened Jean, after his father, and Francois after the Saint of Assisi, his godmother's patron. It was under her care and guidance and those of his uncle, the Abbe Charles, that he was reared; and the dignified and laborious earnestness of these governors of his was a chief influence in his life, and a distinguishing feature in his character. The Millet family led an existence almost patriarchal in its unalterable simplicity and diligence; and the boy grew up in an environment of toil, sincerity and devoutness. He was fostered upon the Bible, and the great book of nature.... When he woke, it was to the lowing of cattle and the song of birds; he was at play all day, among "the sights and sounds of the open landscape; and he slept with the murmur of the spinning-wheel in his ears, and the memory of the evening prayer in his heart.... He learned Latin from the parish priest, and from his uncle Charles; and he soon came to be a student of Virgil, and while yet young in his teens began to follow his father out into the fields, and thenceforward, as became the eldest boy in a large family, worked hard at grafting and plowing, sowing and reaping, scything and shearing and planting, and all the many duties of husbandmen. Meanwhile, he had taken to drawing ... copied everything he saw, and produced not only studies but compositions also; until at last his father was moved to take him away from farming, and have him taught painting."
105. Now all this is related concerning the lad's early life by the prefatory and commenting author, as if expecting the general reader to admit that there had been some advantage for him in this manner of education:—that simplicity and devoutness are wholesome states of mind; that parish cures and uncle Abbes are not betrayers or devourers of youthful innocence—that there is profitable reading in the Bible, and something agreeably soothing—if not otherwise useful—in the sound of evening prayer. I may observe also in passing, that his education, thus far, is precisely what, for the last ten years, I have been describing as the most desirable for all persons intending to lead an honest and Christian life: (my recommendation that peasants should learn Latin having been, some four or five years ago, the subject of much merriment in the pages of Judy and other such nurses of divine wisdom in the public mind.) It however having been determined by the boy's father that he should be a painter, and that art being unknown to the Abbe Charles and the village Cure (in which manner of ignorance, if the infallible Pope did but know it, he and his now artless shepherds stand at a fatal disadvantage in the world as compared with monks who could illuminate with color as well as word)—the simple young soul is sent for the exalting and finishing of its artistic faculties to Paris.
106. "Wherein," observers my prefatory author, "the romantic movement was in the full tide of prosperity."
Hugo had written "Notre Dame," and Musset had published "Rolla" and the "Nuits"; Balzac the "Lys dans la Vallee"; Gautier the "Comedie de la Mort"; Georges Sand "Leone Leonie"; and a score of wild and eloquent novels more; and under the instruction of these romantic authors, his landlady, to whom he had intrusted the few francs he possessed, to dole out to him as he needed, fell in love with him, and finding he could not, or would not, respond to her advances, confiscated the whole deposit, and left him penniless. The preface goes on to tell us how, not feeling himself in harmony with these forms of Romanticism, he takes to the study of the Infinite, and Michael Angelo; how he learned to paint the Heroic Nude; how he mixed up for imitation the manners of Rubens, Ribera, Mantegna, and Correggio; how he struggled all his life with neglect, and endured with his family every agony of poverty; owed his butcher and his grocer, was exposed to endless worry and annoyance from writs and executions; and when first his grandmother died, and then his mother, neither death-bed was able to raise the money that would have carried him from Barbizon to Gruchy.
The work now laid before the public by the Fine Art Society is to be considered, therefore—whatever its merits or defects may be—as an expression of the influence of the Infinite and Michael Angelo on a mind innocently prepared for their reception. And in another place I may take occasion to point out the peculiar adaptability of modern etching to the expression of the Infinite, by the multitude of scratches it can put on a surface without representing anything in particular; and to illustration of the majesty of Michael Angelo by preference of the backs and legs of people to their faces.
107. But I refer to the book in this paper, partly indeed because my mind is full of its sorrow, and I may not be able to find another opportunity of saying so; but chiefly, because the author of the preface has summed the principal authors of depraved Fiction in a single sentence; and I want the reader to ask himself why, among all the forms of the picturesque which were suggested by this body of literary leaders, none were acceptable by, none helpful to, the mind of a youth trained in purity and faith.
He will find, if he reflect, that it is not in romantic, or any other healthy aim, that the school detaches itself from those called sometimes by recent writers "classical"; but first by Infidelity, and an absence of the religious element so total that at last it passes into the hatred of priesthood which has become characteristic of Republicanism; and secondly, by the taint and leprosy of animal passion idealized as a governing power of humanity, or at least used as the chief element of interest in the conduct of its histories. It is with the Sin of Master Anthony that Georges Sand (who is the best of them) overshadows the entire course of a novel meant to recommend simplicity of life—and by the weakness of Consuelo that the same authoress thinks it natural to set off the splendor of the most exalted musical genius.
I am not able to judge of the degree of moral purpose, or conviction, with which any of the novelists wrote. But I am able to say with certainty that, whatever their purpose, their method is mistaken, and that no good is ever done to society by the pictorial representation of its diseases.
108. All healthy and helpful literature sets simple bars between right and wrong; assumes the possibility, in men and women, of having healthy minds in healthy bodies, and loses no time in the diagnosis of fever or dyspepsia in either; least of all in the particular kind of fever which signifies the ungoverned excess of any appetite or passion. The "dullness" which many modern readers inevitably feel, and some modern blockheads think it creditable to allege, in Scott, consists not a little in his absolute purity from every loathsome element or excitement of the lower passions; so that people who live habitually in Satyric or hircine conditions of thought find him as insipid as they would a picture of Angelico's. The accurate and trenchant separation between him and the common railroad-station novelist is that, in his total method of conception, only lofty character is worth describing at all; and it becomes interesting, not by its faults, but by the difficulties and accidents of the fortune through which it passes, while, in the railway novel, interest is obtained with the vulgar reader for the vilest character, because the author describes carefully to his recognition the blotches, burrs and pimples in which the paltry nature resembles his own. The "Mill on the Floss" is perhaps the most striking instance extant of this study of cutaneous disease. There is not a single person in the book of the smallest importance to anybody in the world but themselves, or whose qualities deserved so much as a line of printer's type in their description. There is no girl alive, fairly clever, half educated, and unluckily related, whose life has not at least as much in it as Maggie's, to be described and to be pitied. Tom is a clumsy and cruel lout, with the making of better things in him (and the same may be said of nearly every Englishman at present smoking and elbowing his way through the ugly world his blunders have contributed to the making of); while the rest of the characters are simply the sweepings out of a Pentonville omnibus.
109. And it is very necessary that we should distinguish this essentially Cockney literature, developed only in the London suburbs, and feeding the demand of the rows of similar brick houses, which branch in devouring cancer round every manufacturing town,—from the really romantic literature of France. Georges Sand is often immoral; but she is always beautiful, and in the characteristic novel I have named, "Le Peche de Mons. Antoine," the five principal characters, the old Cavalier Marquis,—the Carpenter,—M. de Chateaubrun,—Gilberte,—and the really passionate and generous lover, are all as heroic and radiantly ideal as Scott's Colonel Mannering, Catherine Seyton, and Roland Graeme; while the landscape is rich and true with the emotion of years of life passed in glens of Norman granite and beside bays of Italian sea. But in the English Cockney school, which consummates itself in George Eliot, the personages are picked up from behind the counter and out of the gutter; and the landscape, by excursion train to Gravesend, with return ticket for the City-road.
110. But the second reason for the dullness of Scott to the uneducated or miseducated reader lies far deeper; and its analysis is related to the most subtle questions in the Arts of Design.
The mixed gayety and gloom in the plan of any modern novel fairly clever in the make of it, may be likened, almost with precision, to the patchwork of a Harlequin's dress, well spangled; a pretty thing enough, if the human form beneath it be graceful and active. Few personages on the stage are more delightful to me than a good Harlequin; also, if I chance to have nothing better to do, I can still read my Georges Sand or Alfred de Musset with much contentment, if only the story end well.
But we must not dress Cordelia or Rosalind in robes of triangular patches, covered with spangles, by way of making the coup d'oeil of them less dull; and so the story-telling of Scott is like the robe of the Sistine Zipporah—embroidered only on the edges with gold and blue, and the embroidery involving a legend written in mystic letters.
And the interest and joy which he intends his reader to find in his tale, are in taking up the golden thread here and there in its intended recurrence—and following, as it rises again and again, his melody through the disciplined and unaccented march of the fugue.
111. Thus the entire charm and meaning of the story of the Monastery depend on the degree of sympathy with which we compare the first and last incidents of the appearance of a character, whom perhaps not one in twenty readers would remember as belonging to the dramatis personae—Stawarth Bolton.
Childless, he assures safety in the first scene of the opening tale to the widow of Glendinning and her two children—the elder boy challenging him at the moment, "I will war on thee to the death, when I can draw my father's sword." In virtually the last scene, the grown youth, now in command of a small company of spearmen in the Regent Murray's service, is on foot, in the first pause after the battle at Kennaquhair, beside the dead bodies of Julian Avenel and Christie, and the dying Catherine.
Glendinning forgot for a moment his own situation and duties, and was first recalled to them by a trampling of horse, and the cry of St. George for England, which the English soldiers still continued to use. His handful of men, for most of the stragglers had waited for Murray's coming up, remained on horseback, holding their lances upright, having no command either to submit or resist.
"There stands our captain," said one of them, as a strong party of English came up, the vanguard of Foster's troop.
"Your captain! with his sword sheathed, and on foot in the presence of his enemy? a raw soldier, I warrant him," said the English leader. "So! ho! young man, is your dream out, and will you now answer me if you will fight or fly?"
"Neither," answered Halbert Glendinning, with great tranquillity.
"Then throw down thy sword and yield thee," answered the Englishman.
"Not till I can help myself no otherwise," said Halbert, with the same moderation of tone and manner.
"Art thou for thine own hand, friend, or to whom dost thou owe service?" demanded the English captain.
"To the noble Earl of Murray."
"Then thou servest," said the Southron, "the most disloyal nobleman who breathes—false both to England and Scotland."
"Thou liest," said Glendinning, regardless of all consequences.
"Ha! art thou so hot now, and wert so cold but a minute since? I lie, do I? Wilt thou do battle with me on that quarrel?"
"With one to one, one to two, or two to five, as you list," said Halbert Glendinning; "grant me but a fair field."
"That thou shalt have. Stand back, my mates," said the brave Englishman. "If I fall, give him fair play, and let him go off free with his people."
"Long life to the noble captain!" cried the soldiers, as impatient to see the duel as if it had been a bull.
"He will have a short life of it, though," said the sergeant, "if he, an old man of sixty, is to fight for any reason, or for no reason, with every man he meets, and especially the young fellows he might be father to. And here comes the warden, besides, to see the sword-play."
In fact, Sir John Foster came up with a considerable body of his horsemen, just as his captain, whose age rendered him unequal to the combat with so strong and active a youth as Glendinning, lost his sword.
"Take it up for shame, old Stawarth Bolton," said the English warden; "and thou, young man, get you gone to your own friends, and loiter not here."
Notwithstanding this peremptory order, Halbert Glendinning could not help stopping to cast a look upon the unfortunate Catherine, who lay insensible of the danger and of the trampling of so many horses around her—insensible, as the second glance assured him, of all and forever. Glendinning almost rejoiced when he saw that the last misery of life was over, and that the hoofs of the war-horses, amongst which he was compelled to leave her, could only injure and deface a senseless corpse. He caught the infant from her arms, half ashamed of the shout of laughter which rose on all sides, at seeing an armed man in such a situation assume such an unwonted and inconvenient burden.
"Shoulder your infant!" cried a harquebusier.
"Port your infant!" said a pikeman.
"Peace, ye brutes!" said Stawarth Bolton, "and respect humanity in others, if you have none yourselves. I pardon the lad having done some discredit to my gray hairs, when I see him take care of that helpless creature, which ye would have trampled upon as if ye had been littered of bitch-wolves, not born of women."
The infant thus saved is the heir of Avenel, and the intricacy and fateful bearing of every incident and word in the scene, knitting into one central moment all the clews to the plot of two romances, as the rich boss of a Gothic vault gathers the shaft moldings of it, can only be felt by an entirely attentive reader; just as (to follow out the likeness on Scott's own ground) the willow-wreaths changed to stone of Melrose tracery can only be caught in their plighting by the keenest eyes. The meshes are again gathered by the master's own hand when the child now in Halbert's arms, twenty years hence, stoops over him to unlace his helmet, as the fallen knight lies senseless on the field of Carberry Hill.
112. But there is another, and a still more hidden method in Scott's designing of story, in which, taking extreme pains, he counts on much sympathy from the reader, and can assuredly find none in a modern student. The moral purpose of the whole, which he asserted in the preface to the first edition of Waverley, was involved always with the minutest study of the effects of true and false religion on the conduct;—which subject being always touched with his utmost lightness of hand and stealthiness of art, and founded on a knowledge of the Scotch character and the human heart, such as no other living man possessed, his purpose often escapes first observation as completely as the inner feelings of living people do; and I am myself amazed, as I take any single piece of his work up for examination, to find how many of its points I had before missed or disregarded.
113. The groups of personages whose conduct in the Scott romance is definitely affected by religious conviction, may be arranged broadly, as those of the actual world, under these following heads:
1. The lowest group consists of persons who, believing in the general truths of Evangelical religion, accommodate them to their passions, and are capable, by gradual increase in depravity, of any crime or violence. I am not going to include these in our present study. Trumbull ("Red Gauntlet"), Trusty Tomkyns ("Woodstock"), Burley ("Old Mortality"), are three of the principal types.
2. The next rank above these consists of men who believe firmly and truly enough to be restrained from any conduct which they clearly recognize as criminal, but whose natural selfishness renders them incapable of understanding the morality of the Bible above a certain point; and whose imperfect powers of thought leave them liable in many directions to the warping of self-interest or of small temptations.
Fairservice. Blattergowl. Kettledrummle. Gifted Gilfillan.
3. The third order consists of men naturally just and honest, but with little sympathy and much pride, in whom their religion, while in the depth of it supporting their best virtues, brings out on the surface all their worst faults, and makes them censorious, tiresome, and often fearfully mischievous.
Richie Moniplies. Davie Deans. Mause Hedrigg.
4. The enthusiastic type, leading to missionary effort, often to martyrdom.
Warden, in "Monastery." Colonel Gardiner. Ephraim Macbriar. Joshua Geddes.
5. Highest type, fulfilling daily duty; always gentle, entirely firm, the comfort and strength of all around them; merciful to every human fault, and submissive without anger to every human oppression.
Rachel Geddes. Jeanie Deans. Bessie Maclure, in "Old Mortality"—the Queen of all.
114. In the present paper, I ask the reader's patience only with my fulfillment of a promise long since made, to mark the opposition of the effects of an entirely similar religious faith in two men of inferior position, representing in perfectness the commonest types in Scotland of the second and third order of religionists here distinguished, Andrew Fairservice ("Rob Roy"), and Richie Moniplies ("Nigel").
The names of both the men imply deceitfulness of one kind or another—Fairservice, as serving fairly only in pretense; Moniplies, as having many windings, turns, and ways of escape. Scott's names are themselves so Moniplied that they need as much following out as Shakespeare's; and as their roots are pure Scotch, and few people have a good Scottish glossary beside them, or would use it if they had, the novels are usually read without any turning of the first keys to them. I did not myself know till very lately the root of Dandie Dinmont's name—"Dinmont," a two-year-old sheep; still less that of Moniplies, which I had been always content to take Master George Heriot's rendering of: "This fellow is not ill-named—he has more plies than one in his cloak." ("Nigel," i. 72.) In its first sense, it is the Scotch word for tripe, Moniplies being a butcher's son.
115. Cunning, then, they both are, in a high degree—but Fairservice only for himself, Moniplies for himself and his friend; or, in grave business, even for his friend first. But it is one of Scott's first principles of moral law that cunning never shall succeed, unless definitely employed against an enemy by a person whose essential character is wholly frank and true; as by Roland against Lady Lochleven, or Mysie Happer against Dan of the Howlet-hirst; but consistent cunning in the character always fails: Scott allows no Ulyssean hero.
Therefore the cunning of Fairservice fails always, and totally; but that of Moniplies precisely according to the degree of its selfishness: wholly, in the affair of the petition—("I am sure I had a' the right and a' the risk," i. 73)—partially, in that of the carcanet. This he himself at last recognizes with complacency:—
"I think you might have left me," says Nigel in their parting scene (i. 286), "to act according to my own judgment."
"Mickle better not," answered Richie; "mickle better not. We are a' frail creatures, and can judge better for ilk ither than in our own cases. And for me—even myself—I have always observed myself to be much more prudential in what I have done in your lordship's behalf, than even in what I have been able to transact for my own interest—whilk last, I have, indeed, always postponed, as in duty I ought."
"I do believe thou hast," answered Lord Nigel, "having ever found thee true and faithful."
And his final success is entirely owing to his courage and fidelity, not to his cunning.
To this subtlety both the men join considerable power of penetration into the weaknesses of character; but Fairservice only sees the surface-failings, and has no respect for any kind of nobleness; while Richie watches the gradual lowering of his master's character and reputation with earnest sorrow.
"My lord," said Richie, "to be round with you, the grace of God is better than gold pieces, and, if they were my last words," he said, raising his voice, "I would say you are misled, and are forsaking the paths your honorable father trode in; and what is more, you are going—still under correction—to the devil with a dishclout, for ye are laughed at by them that lead you into these disordered bypaths" (i. 282).
116. In the third place, note that the penetration of Moniplies,—though, as aforesaid, more into faults than virtues,—being yet founded on the truth of his own nature, is undeceivable. No rogue can escape him for an instant; and he sees through all the machinations of Lord Glenvarloch's enemies from the first; while Fairservice, shrewd enough in detecting the follies of good people, is quite helpless before knaves, and is deceived three times over by his own chosen friends—first by the lawyer's clerk, Touthope (ii. 21), then by the hypocrite MacVittie, and finally by his true blue Presbyterian friend Laurie.
In these first elements of character the men are thus broadly distinguished; but in the next, requiring analysis, the differences are much more subtle. Both of them have, in nearly equal degree, the peculiar love of doing or saying what is provoking, by an exact contrariety to the wishes of the person they are dealing with, which is a fault inherent in the rough side of uneducated Scottish character; but in Andrew, the habit is checked by his self-interest, so that it is only behind his master's back that we hear his opinion of him; and only when he has lost his temper that the inherent provocativeness comes out—(see the dark ride into Scotland).
On the contrary, Moniplies never speaks but in praise of his absent master; but exults in mortifying him in direct colloquy: yet never indulges this amiable disposition except with a really kind purpose, and entirely knowing what he is about. Fairservice, on the other hand, gradually falls into an unconscious fatality of varied blunder and provocation; and at last causes the entire catastrophe of the story by bringing in the candles when he has been ordered to stay downstairs.
117. We have next to remember that with Scott, Truth and Courage are one. He somewhat overvalued animal courage—holding it the basis of all other virtue—in his own words, "Without courage there can be no truth, and without truth no virtue." He would, however, sometimes allow his villains to possess the basis, without the super-structure, and thus Rashleigh, Dalgarno, Balfour, Varney, and other men of that stamp are to be carefully distinguished from his erring heroes, Marmion, Bertram, Christie of the Clinthill, or Nanty Ewart, in whom loyalty is always the real strength of the character, and the faults of life are owing to temporary passion or evil fate. Scott differs in this standard of heroism materially from Byron, in whose eyes mere courage, with strong affections, are enough for admiration: while Bertram, and even Marmion, though loyal to his country, are meant only to be pitied—not honored. But neither Scott nor Byron will ever allow any grain of mercy to a coward; and the final difference, therefore, between Fairservice and Moniplies, which decides their fate in Scott's hands, is that between their courage and cowardice. Fairservice is driven out at the kitchen door, never to be heard of more, while Richie rises into Sir Richie of Castle-Collop—the reader may perhaps at the moment think by too careless grace on the King's part; which, indeed, Scott in some measure meant;—but the grotesqueness and often evasiveness of Richie's common manner make us forget how surely his bitter word is backed by his ready blow, when need is. His first introduction to us (i. 33), is because his quick temper overcomes his caution,—
"I thought to mysel', 'Ye are owre mony for me to mell with; but let me catch ye in Barford's Park, or at the fit of the vennel, I could gar some of ye sing another sang.' Sae, ae auld hirpling deevil of a potter behoved just to step in my way and offer me a pig, as he said, just to pit my Scotch ointment in, and I gave him a push, as but natural, and the tottering deevil couped owre amang his ain pigs, and damaged a score of them. And then the reird raise"—
while in the close of the events (ii. 365), he wins his wife by a piece of hand-to-hand fighting, of the value of which his cool and stern estimate, in answer to the gay Templar, is one of the great sentences marking Scott's undercurrent of two feelings about war, in spite of his love of its heroism.
"Bravo, Richie," cried Lowestoffe, "why, man, there lies Sin struck down like an ox, and Iniquity's throat cut like a calf."
"I know not why you should upbraid me with my upbringing, Master Lowestoffe," answered Richie, with great composure; "but I can tell you, the shambles is not a bad place for training one to this work."
118. These then being the radical conditions of native character in the two men, wholly irrespective of their religious persuasion, we have to note what form their Presbyterian faith takes in each, and what effect it has on their consciences.
In Richie, it has little to do; his conscience being, in the deep of it, frank and clear. His religion commands him nothing which he is not at once ready to do, or has not habitually done; and it forbids him nothing which he is unwilling to forego. He pleads no pardon from it for known faults; he seeks no evasions in the letter of it for violations of its spirit. We are scarcely therefore aware of its vital power in him, unless at moments of very grave feeling and its necessary expression.
"Wherefore, as the letter will not avail you with him to whom it is directed, you may believe that Heaven hath sent it to me, who have a special regard for the writer—have besides, as much mercy and honesty within me as man can weel mak' his bread with, and am willing to aid any distressed creature, that is my friend's friend."
So, again, in the deep feeling which rebukes his master's careless ruin of the poor apprentice—
"I say, then, as I am a true man, when I saw that puir creature come through the ha' at that ordinary, whilk is accurst (Heaven forgive me for swearing) of God and man, with his teeth set, and his hands clenched, and his bonnet drawn over his brows...." He stopped a moment, and looked fixedly in his master's face.
—and again in saving the poor lad himself when he takes the street to his last destruction "with burning heart and bloodshot eye":
"Why do you stop my way?" he said fiercely.
"Because it is a bad one, Master Jenkin," said Richie.
"Nay, never start about it, man; you see you are known. Alack-a-day! that an honest man's son should live to start at hearing himself called by his own name."
"I pray you in good fashion to let me go," said Jenkin. "I am in the humor to be dangerous to myself, or to anyone."
"I will abide the risk," said the Scot, "if you will but come with me. You are the very lad in the world whom I most wish to meet."
"And you," answered Vincent, "or any of your beggarly countrymen, are the last sight I should ever wish to see. You Scots are ever fair and false."
"As to our poverty, friend," replied Richie, "that is as Heaven pleases; but touching our falsity, I'll prove to you that a Scotsman bears as leal and true a heart to his friend as ever beat in an English doublet."
119. In these, and other such passages, it will be felt that I have done Richie some injustice in classing him among the religionists who have little sympathy! For all real distress, his compassion is instant; but his doctrinal religion becomes immediately to him a cause of failure in charity.
"Yon divine has another air from powerful Master Rollock, and Mess David Black of North Leith, and sic like. Alack-a-day, wha can ken, if it please your lordship, whether sic prayers as the Southrons read out of their auld blethering black mess-book there, may not be as powerful to invite fiends, as a right red-het prayer warm from the heart may be powerful to drive them away; even as the evil spirit was driven by the smell of the fish's liver from the bridal chamber of Sara, the daughter of Raguel!"
The scene in which this speech occurs is one of Scott's most finished pieces, showing with supreme art how far the weakness of Richie's superstitious formality is increased by his being at the time partially drunk!
It is on the other hand to be noted to his credit, for an earnest and searching Bible-reader, that he quotes the Apocrypha. Not so gifted Gilfillan,—
"But if your honor wad consider the case of Tobit—!"
"Tobit!" exclaimed Gilfillan with great heat; "Tobit and his dog baith are altogether heathenish and apocryphal, and none but a prelatist or a papist would draw them into question. I doubt I hae been mista'en in you, friend."
Gilfillan and Fairservice are exactly alike, and both are distinguished from Moniplies in their scornfully exclusive dogmatism, which is indeed the distinctive plague-spot of the lower evangelical sect everywhere, and the worst blight of the narrow natures, capable of its zealous profession. In Blattergowl, on the contrary, as his name implies, the doctrinal teaching has become mere Blather, Blatter, or patter—a string of commonplaces spoken habitually in performance of his clerical function, but with no personal or sectarian interest in them on his part.
"He said fine things on the duty o' resignation to the will of God—that did he"; but his own mind is fixed under ordinary circumstances only on the income and privilege of his position. Scott however indicates this without severity as one of the weaknesses of an established church, to the general principle of which, as to all other established and monarchic law, he is wholly submissive, and usually affectionate (see the description of Colonel Mannering's Edinburgh Sunday), so that Blattergowl, out of the pulpit, does not fail in his serious pastoral duty, but gives real comfort by his presence and exhortation in the cottage of the Mucklebackits.
On the other hand, to all kinds of Independents and Nonconformists (unless of Roderick Dhu type) Scott is adverse with all his powers; and accordingly, Andrew and Gilfillan are much more sternly and scornfully drawn than Blattergowl.