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tion from all men of thought and culture, but the sad rule in social circles is that the weightiest matters are considered least. What is to be done with the Asiatic Switzerland, that Affghanistan range of mountains which is fast becoming the sole barrier between British and Russian power in Asia? There was a time when the two nations would be preparing to elude each other in diplomacy and combat each other in war; but surely in this stage of the world's history we may trust a little more to frankness, fairness, and good feeling. May we trust to these influences with the United States? To what may we most rightly attribute the rejection, not ill for us, of the Alabama convention? Is it that they will not have it done under the auspices of the hated President whose last message was a crowning insult to them, or is it that a grievance, which may be a casus belli, is too precious to be adjusted by anti-British senti
We are very glad to hear, from speculative brethren, that poetry is no longer a mere drug in the market, but that it is 'looking up' in the commercial estimate of publishers. Such a fact as this-if we may regard it as fairly ascertained to be a fact-indicates an immense advance. The general average of readers must be greatly improved if they are laying aside sensational novels and betaking themselves to poetry-not alone that highest poetry of Milton and Shelley, but that milder and more human poetry that may educate and lead up to the elder sons of song.
Several very interesting volumes of poetry have recently appeared, and, on the principle of pluce aux dames, we will begin with Poems by Menella Bute Smedley.'
Some of Miss Smedley's poems have obtained much deserved popularity in our contemporaries, 'Good Words,' the Daily News,' &c. a whole, these poems are exceedingly good, but we also confess to some little disappointment. We have higher expectations of Miss
Smedley than she has satisfied by the general level of this volume. There is a strength and tenderness, a lyric boldness, a beauty and energy of phrase about some of her pieces that make us believe Miss Smedley has got to make a higher mark as a poetess than the very considerable mark which she has already attained. In such a poem as 'The Contrast,' where, according to her wont, she is too merciful to an unworthy husband, we have a subtlety and delicacy which can hardly be improved on. This is her best vein. The longest poem in this book is the drama of 'Lady Grace,' and with this we own we are least satisfied. This drama will be popular, for it is extremely amusing, and might, without much difficulty, be fitted for representation on the stage. Miss Smedley has a keen and most thorough sense of humour, and we enjoy her fun, but she is essentially a poetess in the highest walks to which poetesses attain, and we regret that in a thin volume so much space should have been given to dramas which might have been occupied with such perfect lyrics or picture-poems as The Little Fair Soul' or April Shadows.'
The Story of Lady Grace' is worth the telling, and is one more exhibition of the girl of the period.' Lady Grace Anmerle, the young widow of an old man, whom she had married without a spark of love, remorsefully determines to dedicate herself and her substance to her nephew and niece. Visiting her lawyer, in order to carry out her benevolent intentions, she expresses her desire to see the young people, herself being unseen. The lawyer explains that nothing is more easy, and accordingly the young cousins are discerned, abundantly chaffing one another, and the officer teaching the young lady how to smoke cigars. Lady Grace, however, is largehearted, and can make allowances for young people if there is nothing worse in the background. Now it so happens that the lawyer is in love with the young widow, and was so as a school lad, though he has changed his name, and she has quite forgotten him. There is some
The lawyer is deeply smitten with his handsome client, and breaks out into blank verse on the smallest provocation. He knows, however, that by a legal deed, if the lady marries again, half the fortune goes to the nephew and half to the second husband. The last stipulation is of a very unusual kind, and is sufficient to deter the legal gentleman, whose scruples, we are afraid, will not meet with much respect from his professional brethren. Lady Grace, in the meanwhile, loves him, and being indignant that he does not declare a corresponding love, out of spite she promises to marry Lord Lynton. The motherly heroine is hardly so discreet and matronly as might be anticipated. Not to mention her slyness in stealing a march on the pair of smokers, having been mercifully delivered from one stupid marriage she is prepared to precipitate herself into another!
In the mean time the niece is getting herself made the subject of rather free remark and an interchange of bets. Sir George Sandys lays a bet that he will prove, to the satisfaction of witnesses, that she is so far devoted to him that it is manifestly at his choice, not hers, whether he will make her his wife or not. Mr. Fitzerse naturally wonders what the ladies say of us in their seclusion. Sir George an
'Did you never learn?
I had the chance once; in a country house, Stalled by good hap next to a gathering-place,
Where a whole bery groomed their golden
Just before sleep-air sultry-windows wide-
In answer to further inquiries, he explains that he left the house early next day because he had no heart to meet looks' which he could not answer. He now takes means to win his bet in the case of Miss Rosa, discerning that the young lady was a very likely subject. He contrives to make an assignation with Rosa, about which Rosa tells some very neat fibs, and then there is some very amusing badinage between the two in Lady Grace's garden. She asks him for a clasp. Sir George answers, that it was given him by a Hungarian, and that he was only to give it away on two conditions
The woman who would win that clasp from me Must come, alone, to fetch it from my rooms, And give me in exchange a tress of hair, Which mine own hand must sever.'
The silly Rosa answers that she does not mind, if he will only cut it even, and make no gap to spoil me for the ball.' She is charmed with the thought of going to Sir George's rooms
I have wished a hundred times To know how you men live in those strange
You call your homes.'
The wayward, imprudent girl goes to Sir George's. As soon as the baronet has caged the bird, he proceeds to summon his friends to witness the winning of the wager. Rosa, finding herself alone in his sitting-room, wishes to leave, but is prevented by a servant. Lady Grace, however, having discovered the mad adventure, hurries after her, and is admitted by the servant, who had no orders to keep ladies out, only to shut them in.' Lady Grace exchanges hat and mantle with Rosa, who makes her escape. Sir George returns with his friends, and among them is the very Lord Lynton to whom she has engaged herself. Lady Grace is trapped, and her own fair name is sullied. Society is scandalized, and even the ungrateful minx of a niece finds a pretext of going into the country to
get away from her compromised aunt. The generosity of the aunt is, however, inexhaustible, and she strips herself of her wealth in order that she may endow her not very deserving nephew and niece. This removes the lawyer's scruples. love is now in poverty and disgrace, and he may venture to speak. Opportunely, at the last, Rosa, now Mrs. Fitzerse, acknowledges her misdeed, which clears up the great question of character, and the question of the pelf drops out of sight with that lavish liberality peculiar to poets, and some few persons in real life.
A companion volume to Miss Smedley's book is 'Twilight Hours,' by Sarah Williams (Sadie), a poetess whose regretted death left many bright hopes unaccomplished. It has the advantage of a prefatory memoir by Professor E. H. Plumptre, a poet of no ordinary culture and power. There is great breadth of mind and most genuine feeling in the volume; and though it will make no popular stir, many will love to hold communion with the incomplete thoughts of a pure, clear spirit. 'The Great Master,' she beautifully says, 'is a perfect gardener. . . . There is room for unfinished souls in heaven.'
The Hon. Robert Lytton's new work speaks more for his great natural ability than for his poetic faculty. We cannot say that this distinguished author has materially advanced since he threw off his literary disguise, or that Robert Lytton pleases us so much as Owen Meredith. He is distinguished for the utmost power of expression, and for unrivalled melodiousness in versification. His mind is remarkable for its intense receptivity, its reflection of the many moods of many minds. In a volume of paraphrases, rendered with more or less strength and freedom, and with an amount of originality which a paraphrase rarely admits, this receptivity is especially obvious. To the poem of Orval' a rather curious literary history belongs. This is set forth in a lengthy
'Orval; or, The Fool of Time: and other Imitations and Paraphrases. By Robert Lytton. Chapman and Hall.
and interesting preface. Mr. Lytton had entertained the noble design of making the great revolution of 1789 the subject of a poem. He is good enough tantalizingly good enough -to sketch out for us the main treatment of his intended poem, when we would rather have had the poem itself, albeit in an unfinished form. But he accidentally made acquaintance, in an old number of the Revue des Deux Mondes,' with a Polish poem, which, in a singular way, anticipated his own design, and at the same time made him dissatisfied with it. This was Count Krasinski's Infernal Comedy.' The count had an unhappy history, and he published his poem without avowing the authorship' the anonymous author of an anonymous nation.' We cordially echo Mr. Lytton's hope that Count Krasinski's wonderful writings will now become better known in this country; and this can hardly fail to be the case since he has attained the rare happiness of finding another genuine poet as his interpreter. We hardly know, however, while reading 'Orval,' how to draw the line between the poem and the paraphrase, and we suspect that a considerable use has been made by Mr. Lytton of his own discarded effort. The supernatural machinery of the work is hardly arranged on any ethical or artistic principle; we best see its failure when we contrast it with Göthe's or Shakespeare's. The religious treatment is still more confused and unsatisfactory. And yet there is tremendous force and energy in the personifications of the forces and passions at work in the French Revolution. Mr. Lytton appears to us to share fully in what he is pleased to call the modern sentiment,' which he defines as 'antitheological and anti-sacerdotal as well as anti-sectarian.' Mr. Lytton's philosophy of the French Revolution and poets generally indite good prose and good philosophyis hopeful enough, and such as most thinking men entertain, despite their Burke. The Revolution has been the mightiest of all forces in promoting the progressive self-development of modern society. This
is the idea which he places on the lips of the revolutionary Panurge'See yonder plains whose dark immensity
Beneath us, stretches 'twixt my thoughts and me;
The yet untraversed fields of my designs! Those smouldering homesteads must be palaces:
Those deserts we must people: pierce yon rocks:
With golden harvests clothe those arid tracts: Dry up those marshes: plant yon barren heath:
Channel this valley, and that waste redeem;
The justification has certainly, to a very considerable degree, yet to be worked out. Mr. Lytton has a very interesting note on the 'Decline of Manners,' which ought to be read in connection with a memorable passage, which he does not cite, from Mr. Hallam's greatest work. cites Sismondi on the deterioration of French society, even in 1813, that is, of the younger in comparison
with the elder portion. He then compares the deterioration of the best society in London and Paris even from that lowered standard of 1813. He reminds us that modern society is still in process of formation: 'Doubtless, among the harvests of the future, flowers will blossom in due season, not less fair than those which have fallen beneath the harrow of time.' Mr. Lytton, among other translations which illustrate his wide command of languages and keen intellectual versatility, reprints, with an apologetic explanation, those Servian translations which were rather roughly handled by the late Lord Strangford in the Saturday Review.' It must be a matter of national congratulation that Lord Lytton has a son who will represent him so worthily in literary rank as well as in the meaner territorial title.
There is still one great poem which we have left untouched. This our readers will at once anticipate-The Ring and the Book.' But this subject is too long to be entered on now.
Weird as a giant shadow,
Yet firm as an Alp, thou pile
Dost abide, and the generations
Fret round thee, and fade the while.
Scarce a pause in the vast pulsation,
Like a brimmed and stormy river
You might drop and pass unnoted
And the ripple of your death-sob
Would melt, lost in the murmur loud.
Through the daylight, and through the twilight, When the endless lamp-lines glow,
In its fulness of power imperious
Pours the mighty ebb-and-flow.
And we ask, as the myriads meet us-
Half-writ in each fated face?
What quick seeds of destiny tingle-
God help them, and save them, who made them;
Christ, who didst die for the sinful,
Lead to some blessedest end!