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tion, that a fat and happy German was puffing at a cornet-à-piston within arm's-length of him? But for a quiver of his lip, any bystander might have supposed he was asking Miss Bruce if he should bring her an ice.
'I have seen enough!' she replied, very resolutely, and I am determined to see no more. Mr. Ryfe, if you have no pleasanter subjects of conversation than yourself and your arrangements, I will ask you to move for an instant that I may pass, and find Mrs. Stanmore.'
Lord Bearwarden was at the other end of the room, looking about, apparently, for some object of unusual interest. Perhaps Miss Bruce saw him-as ladies do see people without turning their eyes— and the sight fortified her resolution.
"Then you defy me!' whispered Tom, in the low suppressed tones that denote rage, concentrated and intensified for being kept down. 'By Heaven, Miss Bruce, you shall repent it! I'll show you up! I'll expose you! I'll have neither pity nor remorse! You think you've won a heavy stake, do you? Hooked a big fish, and need only pull him ashore? He shan't be deceived! He shall know you for what you are! He shall by
The adjuration with which Mr. Ryfe concluded this little ebullition was fortunately drowned to all ears but those for which it was intended by a startling flourish on the corneta-piston. Miss Bruce accepted the challenge readily. Do your worst!' said she, rising with a scornful bow, and taking Lord Bearwarden's arm,
much to that gentleman's delight, walked haughtily away.
Perhaps this declaration of open war may have decided her subsequent conduct; perhaps it was only the result of those circumstances which form the meshes of a certain web we call Fate. Howbeit, Miss Bruce was too tired to dance. Miss Bruce would like to sit down in a cool place. Miss Bruce would not be bored with Lord Bearwarden's companionship, not for an hour, not for a week-no, not for a lifetime!
Dick Stanmore, taking a lady down to her carriage, saw them sitting alone in the tea-room, now deserted by Puckers and her assistants. His honest heart turned very sick and cold. Half an hour after, passing the same spot, they were there still; and then, I think, he knew that he was overtaken by the first misfortune of his life.
Later, when the ball was over, and he had wished Mrs. Stanmore good-night, he went up to Maud with a grave, kind face.
'We never had our waltz, Miss Bruce,' said he; 'and-and-there's a reason, isn't there?'
He was white to his very lips. Through all her triumph, she felt a twinge, far keener than she expected, of compunction and re
'Oh, Dick!' she said, 'I couldn't help it! Lord Bearwarden proposed to me in that room.'
And you accepted him?' said Dick, trying to steady his voice, wondering why he felt half suffocated all the time.
'And I accepted him!'
THE PICCADILLY PAPERS.
BY A PERIPATETIC.
THE RING AND THE BOOK.*
WE do not profess to belong to
the number of the very ardent admirers of Mr. Browning, of those who consider that Tennyson is weak and emasculated, that Swinburne is a musical rhetorician, and that strength and genius have found their culmination in Browning alone. Neither do we belong to those who maintain the sturdy opinion that Mr. Browning exists in a chronic state of intellectual fog; that he is obscure to his readers because his conceptions are obscure to himself; that he revels in words to which no clear sense is ordinarily attached. It is necessary to arbitrate between such conflicting views, and such a work as the 'Ring and the Book' is a rebuke to either extreme opinion. This enormous poem, of many thousand lines, is indeed a most substantial addition to the literature of our age, a work, we will venture to predicate, which will never be popular among ordinary readers, and which will also never be left unread by those who wish to comprehend one of the most complex and remarkable intellectual efforts of our time. Hardly any one but Mr. Browning would have ventured to have published such a poem in four consecutive volumes. A great deal of premature criticism was wasted on the appearance of the first. The admirers were loud in their admiration; but it was admiration uncritical and indiscriminate, and could not have been justified until Mr. Browning had developed his conceptions in the succeeding parts. There was more reason, indeed, for the adverse criticism, but as the poet's design has attained its full perfection, many of the strictures will lose their relevancy, and something of the admiration has also become unintelligible.
There is still some force in the *The Ring and the Book.' By Robert Browning, M.A, In Four Vols. Smith
observation that the poet has taken
Oh, how good God is that my babe was born!" and there is something both human and divine in the flush of her pure love for her delivering priest, like sunset upon alpine ice and snow, the looking forward to that eternal state when there is neither marrying nor giving in marriage. In violent contrast with this simplicity, the result of the poet's intensest and highest art, are the rival speeches of the two lawyers, Hyacinthus de Archangelis and Johannes Baptista Bottinius. Whatever Mr. Browning has of ingenuity, of logomachy, of sophistic reasoning, of verbal license, is here carried to absolute revelry,
the foil to passion, the Margites element in the epic, the comic Parabasis rudely introduced into the tragedy. There is an immense quantity of Latin, which need not, however, frighten the ladies, as the poet, seriatim, translates all the phrases into free English, and the poem now resembles nothing so much as the end of the Eton Latin Grammar, where the prosody is construed out into the vernacular. The Procurator Pauperum, overflowing with love for his little eight-year old boy, and with professional rivalry against his opponent the Fisce, and all the while that he is working out Guido's case, intent upon his dinner of lamb's fry and Rosolio wine, and then the fun, as is Mr. Browning's manner, suddenly becoming earnest, as he rejoices in home sanctitudes, is, though highly curious, out of place, and would easily bear excision from the poem. The fourth volume is in every respect the worthiest of the quaternion. The Pope's monologue is the highest part of the whole work, the highest tones to which Mr. Browning, or any poet of our day, has ever attained. We by no means agree in the somewhat disparaging estimate that has been made of the second Guido speech. There is a sulphurous odour about it, indeed, redolent of the pit, but it is unsurpassable in energy and passion, and we only place it below the pontiff's because the piety, insight, wisdom, and greatness in the pope's speech are so much richer food for contemplation. It is thus he settles the main issue of the story, by sending his rescript for the execution of Guido and his assassins as soon as may be.
For the main criminal I have no hope,
Anywhere; sky, or sea, or world at all:
Thunder struck blow on blow, earth groaned and bore
Through her whole length of mountain visible. There lay the city thick and plain with spires, And, like a ghost disshrouded, white the sea. So may the truth be flashed out by one blow, And Guido see, one instant, and be saved.
Else I avert my face, nor follow him
Throughout the pope's speech there is as pure an air as Pompilia's own and higher thought. There is a vein of simple, natural piety about the good old man which would appear strange to undiluted Protestantism. There is his fatherly joy over the endurance of Pompilia.
Not the escape by way of sin. O God,
'Ten years a gardener of the untoward ground
My flower, My rose, I gather for the breast of God.' And so, too, in his loving admiration and acquittal of Caponsacchi.' Work, be unhappy, but bear life, my son.' Here is a satiric touch that belongs to our age as much as to the age of Pope Innocent.
"There's a new tribunal now,
There is in the pope a deep vein of religion, or what may be called the metaphysics of religion, as when he meditates how pain is the machinery designed to evolve the moral qualities of man, or when he grapples with the reasoning which he attributes, hardly historically, to Euripides. There is here warm imagining, real devoutness, and keen argument, eminently calculated to stimulate thought. There is, however, a kind of obscurity, partly due to condensation of thought and language, and partly, we cannot but think, to some indistinctness in the poet's own ideas. We may here remark that when he apostrophises 'Lyric Love' in two remarkable passages, it is not quite clear, perhaps designedly so, whether he means the
great poetess England has lost in his loss.
We had marked many passages for quotation, but our limits only permit us to cull a few. For the intensity of hate and energy it is impossible to surpass the conclusion of Caponsacchi's words, in which he predicts the meeting and companionship of Count Guido and Iscariot in the nethermost portion of Hades. At times our poet is so forcible that he becomes coarse, and there are some passages that are unquotable. But then there are many that are so very much the reverse. Here are a few.
Both wrapped up in the love of their one child,
The strange, tall, pale, beautiful creature
Lily-like out o' the cleft i' the sun-smit rock, To bow its white, miraculous birth of buds 1' the way of wandering Joseph and his spouse,--
So painters fancy: bere it was a fact.
And this their lily,-could they but transplant, And set in vase to stand by Solomon's porch, "Twixt lion and hon.'
There was no duty patent in the world
And Prince o' the power of the air.'
There is a strong vein of humour at times, as in Count Guido's grim jesting about the torture. So in a speech Caponsacchi says his bishop made to him.
I have a heavy scholar cloistered up
The following is an example of simple narratives, where Count Guido gives the origin of his family
"Tis said a certain ancestor of mine Followed whoever was the potentate To Paynimrie, and in some battle broke Through more than due allowance of the foe, And risking much his own life, saved the lord's.
Battered and bruised, the Emperor scrambled
Rubs his eyes and looks round, and sees my
Picks a furze-sprig from out his hauberk-joint,
(Token how near the ground went majesty,) And says, "Take this, and, if thou get safe home,
Plant the same in thy garden-ground to grow;
These are my arms: we turned the furze to tree
To show mare and the greyhound tied thereto, Straining to start meals swilt and grecuy both.'
We have not busied ourselves with that range of minor criticism to which the work is sufficiently liable, the long involutions of speech, illustrations and sub-illustrations, violences to language and forms of speech, irregular inharmonious rhythm, which Mr. Browning might so easily correct. Greatly, also, should we like some intercalary lyrics, such as he could write so well, to relieve these twenty thousand lines of blank verse. Neither, since Mr. Browning has so greatly advanced beyond his previous works, do we like to complain of the obscurity, which, still to some extent, exists; and since he has shown us that he can be plain and clear enough, we cannot altogether divest this obscurity from the nature of his own conceptions. But let the reader read this great poem, and though he may not greatly care for the first perusal, yet on the second and third it will brighten up greatly for him, and he will find that he has made a solid addition to his intellectual stores, in becoming familiar with one of the most learned, thoughtful, and poetical minds of our age.
THE CURABILITY OF ILLNESS SUPPOSED INCURABLE.
The other day, going into the London Library, I took up a book which had been presented to us by our constant visitor, Mr. John Stuart Mill, which treated on the curability of phthisis. Every now
* Consumption,' &c. By Henry MacCormack, M.D. Second edition. Loudou : Longmans.
politan experience. Her Majesty's Consul at Spezzia has a minute fidelity in all his continental sketches. His description of the little town on the Adriatic and of the great Transylvanian castle will prove a real addition to the stock of most persons' ideas. Mr. T. A. Trollope is an author who uniformly gives an Italian colouring to his stories. But the colouring ought always to be subordinate to dramatic interest, and this is the reason why "That Boy of Norcott's' is the most pleasing of Mr. Lever's continental stories.
There is a class of novels, many of which are greatly to be deprecated, where the undoubted tendency is not only to be sensuous but sensual. Some writers, in cold blood, deliberately adopt the prurient style with the intention to trade and traffic on the vices and infirmities of humanity. In other cases such stories are the genuine outcome of nature and disposition. In the way of legible lust, perhaps no extant author quite comes up to Mr. Algernon Swinburne. But in this path of fiction Mr. Mortimer Collins makes a very decent or indecent second. Now we have very kindly feeling for Mr. Mortimer Collins. He has a genuine love of letters and a true gift of lyric song. We appreciate Mr. Collins' lyrics very highly, and we think that the public has hardly done justice to him in this respect. It is therefore really distressing to see Mr. Collins, when writing fiction with a cleverness that trenches upon genius, take so avowed a rank in the kingdom of evil. This is only an instance of a class. The novels of Ouida,' not to mention other authors and authoresses, lie open to very much the same imputation, although the military descriptions by Ouida'
make her novels favourites with army men. But even here 'corrup
tion wins not more than honesty.' Lust made legible is hardly popular with the community at large. Opposed to this is the school of simple narrative, faithful description, close quiet thought, in which a band of female novelists stands pre-eminent, and where such writers as Mr. George Macdonald, despite a certain vagueness and extravagance of thought, deserves to be named, and Miss Yonge, who in a long series of beneficent works has well sustained and carried on that which once seemed to be the special department of Miss Sewell.
We quite grant that the proper function of a novel is not to be goody, and obtrude a sermon in the place of a sentiment. But we cannot regret that the acid of sensuality is neutralized by such an alkali. The novel should supply for us the Comedy of Manner, the new comedy of old Menander, which, with satire, irony, and close observation, possessed also earnestness and purpose. When this is done, the novel may even acquire an historical importance. For instance, the novels of Smollett, the novels of Captain Marryat, and the few seastories of Mr. James Hannay, may very well give us a kind of consecutive history of mauners in the modern British navy. It is also open to the novelists, if only they could achieve it, to give us the largest exhibition of the workings of passion and motive-which, indeed, all the novelists profess to do, and which is perhaps done, say in one case out of a thousand. These deeper sources of interest are very much neglected in current fiction for the light photographing of fleeting manner and costume, which we only desire may be well done, and with subjects well chosen, until some great genius may again arise to hold an admiring world in laughter or in tears.