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zac was more essentially poetic than and of a wide vision, has to deal with his predecessors. He was not merely huge masses of conjoined individualicontent with the mystery of psychol- ties, with the personality of mobs and ogy and the glories of action, he per- movements, with the appalling inhuceived also the significance of names- manity of human aggregations. Unyou remember Z. Marcas—and of questionably Balzac tried to grapple streets and the enchantment of great with this problem of art when he cities. He was aware of the massed sought to classify mankind in types opinion which makes a movement. He and to partition society into organic discerned the great in the small; the groups. small in the great. He wrote his epic There is a widely diffused and freamid the débris of the French Revolu- quently voiced grievance that to-day tion, a débris which had been hastily we have no 'great men. To a certain covered over with the tawdry counter- extent the Victorians ensured their pane of the Second Empire.
greatness by their want of sympathy. We are faced with somewhat simi- This is not a paradox. They al ys lar conditions. Not even Balzac was remained serene; they were never feconfronted by such an accumulation of verish. But then they had nothing raw material. The great Victorian much to excite them, except Free Trade novelists smiled tranquilly down on and Popular Education and an Exthe industrial welter of their time and, tended Franchise-academic reforms to shining with the reflected sunset of the them: to us vital problems. Balzac Romantic revival, continued with few alive-and how much alive!-between exceptions along the lines of the
the Revolution and the Commune, the Georgian tradition. The raw material most feverish personality of a feverish went on accumulating; it was dis- epoch, was never a professional great missed from the consideration of art. man like so many of his English conists as ugly: but unless the novelist of
temporaries. I am not trying to sneer to-day tried to extract the poetry from at the Victorians,they were always it, this accumulation will be apt to glorious artists: but Thackeray was swamp art, as indeed was once very not a poet; George Eliot was not a nearly the case. The novel probably poet; Dickens and Meredith ceased to originated in a desire to balance the
They were, indeed, great claims of the heroic with the admis- novelists; but they were so great that sion of the commonplace through the they have made it almost impossible medium of contemporary manners. for modern novelists to recover from This desire, at any rate, served the the responsibility of their greatness, purpose of the two centuries that pre- I shall make myself clearer when I (eded our own. The claims of the say that for me Thomas Hardy is the heroic were still sufficiently percepti- greatest of them all, for Thomas Hardy ble in the conspicuousness of individ- gave the present something to work ual life. But gradually, as with less on, to develop. He is a poet, a very dexterous hands unreality enveloped great poet, and for that reason he may the heroic and sentiment clouded the be called a productive genius. commonplace, the novel betrayed signs Consider now the poetry of what to of expiring from inanition. It is not most of the Victorians was either so easy for our present novelists to rhetoric or logic. Consider the stress protect the claims of the heroic as of our period with the rush of educamany critics would have them believe. tion, the multiplicity of newspapers, the The novelist of to-day, if he be sincere increasing publicity, the helter-skelter
criticism, the swift veering of popular ideals, the racking fatigue, and all the ills of democracy many times magnified beyond the gloom of the great pessimists of the past, flung at our heads together with virtues and triumphs un. dreamed of before they were bebeld. When you think that Mrs. Browning was so much overcome by her first sight of Paddington Station that she took to her bed for some days to recover from it, it is not surprising that the writers of the present have not yet secured a foothold, that they still seem to evade their opportunities, that they appear to hesitate, that artistic experiments are manifold. Yet they are all searching for one thing—the poetry of it all; and by the poetry of the present will the novel survive. If Life and Art were really as easy as they appear after reading The Spectator, no doubt the sensitive critic would be spared the unpleasantness of many harsh experiments. Nevertheless, these experiments are signs of vitality. Mr. Kipling was the first of the mod
to formulate his ideals. He turned with disgust from the infective Liberalism that fell to pieces in 1892, and tried to balance the claims of the heroic Imperialist with the admission of the commonplace soldier. He flashed his prose like a heliograph to the ends of the earth, and in a few weeks all that he had helped to build up crumbled in the disaster and disillusionment of the Boer War. Since then he has claimed for the present nothing heroic. His conception was rooted in poetry, but not so deeply as to reach that subsoil which was so soon to come to the surface and kill with rankness the flowers of Imperialism. This subsoil must be made fertile by the poets of to-day. It must be worked and dug and cultivated experimentally, so that soon, if not in our generation, the rankness will be sweet LIVING AGE. VOL. LVI.
and fit for flowers. And poetry is showing signs that no longer is it content to chirp in a golden cage of romance, no longer is it afraid to trail what pinions are left in the mud of reality. The legend of public indifference to verse is slowly being disproved, and soon, we may trust, our poets will not mope silent for evermore after the striking of a few soft and melancholy chords. But poetry does not depend on verse. This must inevitably be primarily an age of prose, because, as I said before, prose labors more heavily to beget itself: and this raw age can scarcely yet be conscious of its own patterns and rhythms. Poetry, in its purest form, poetry in verse, will doubtless be written by men unborn who, regarding from a tranquil future the travail of the present, will weave immortally its pattern. Soon action must be heightened, and drama will burst forth to accompany appropriately the characteristic of that period. Days of swift action will need nights of drama, the intensification of poetic action. Possibly our contemporary lyrical poets are culpable for the neglect of verse. They are, perhaps, more numerous and more generally accomplished than ever before, but they lack that singing note which is born from triumph and achievement, as when a skylark sings loudest at his topmost altitude. We should look to the lyric, if not for triumph, at least for aspiration in its purest expression: too much of our lyric poetry is a sad complaint. This age has not yet been proved a failure; and if sometimes one is overwhelmed by the contemplation of fled glories, how encouraging is it to stand on the steps of the Albert Memorial, glad to give the Victorians all they had in an almost Pharisaic selfcongratulation.
After all, if there are greater difficulties for the contemporary artist to surmount, there is more material to in
spire him. I question, to be content what the unimaginative majority with a trivial example, whether the choose to call the familiar theme or Tube is not almost the finest adven- object. ture of travel which the world has Perhaps I am laying too much stress known. For me, certainly, every jour- on the externals of poetry: for it is ney is an Odyssey from the moment I not to be supposed that an eye for enter the lift, with its subtle variations color will make a novelist into a poet. of mood—the subdued gaiety of expec- I should be like the followers of Victor tation about half-past seven in con- Hugo who, when some poet first read trast with the lassitude of the after- his verses to the critical circle, sat in noon-the personalities of the liftmen, silence until the newcomer came to the and the curious intimacy and relaxa- epithets “jaune et bleu.” Then they tion of by-laws late at night. There broke into loud applause and voted is the waiting on the tempestuous plat- him a true poet. Mere “blue and yelform, the Cyclopean eye of the advanc- low" does not make poetry. We must ing train, the adventure of boarding, have that perfection of expression comthe fastidiousness in the choice of a pletely coinciding with the capacity for neighbor, the sense of equality, the experience, the sense of tranquillity and mysterious and flattering reflection of the power of contemplation. oneself in the opposite windows, and It may be worth while to apply the even the colors of the various stations test of these four qualities to the mod—from the orange and lemon of Covent ern novel. Sometimes I think that the Garden to the bistre melancholy of first is the most generally neglected. I Caledonian Road, or Camden Town do feel that we are too charitable faintly cerulean like an autumnal sky. towards bad writing, too ready to conSurely the poetic novelist should never done bad craftsmanship, if the matter be called upon to defend his instinct be good. Beautiful words and the for decoration when the stark realities beautiful arrangement of words solidiare so full of suggestive color.
fied by precision and judgment in their But, indeed, the external poetry of application must more than ever be em. the modern novel suffers still from an phatically demanded now. I do not imputation of bastardy. Many critics believe one little bit in the value of view decorative prose in the same way undisciplined autobiography, of jejune as certain mistresses observe the feath. self-revelation. At the moment we ered hat of a parlor-maid en fête and are far too ready, from a natural free. For many critics realism has eagerness to appreciate the new elecertain epithets which stick fast as ments in our society, from our exciteburrs. It must always be gray and ment at reaping the first harvest of sordid and depressing; sometimes, un. universal education, to overlook the der the excitement of a larger vocab- absence of art and, adopting a misera. ulary, it is also mean and squalid. ble cliché, to say, "Here is life-a finer One is inclined to think that truth is thing than literature." I wish that made to depend on the opinion of a this detestable premiss whose only logmajority. For my part, I believe that ical conclusion is the cinematograph in "realism" is the substance or abstrac- combination with the gramophone tion of a familiar theme or object could be killed. Ars longa, vita brevis treated justly-that is, without extrava- is a more admirable platitude. One is gance, but also without superficiality. tired of these introspective muffin-men Much modern realism is simply chaperoned by leading novelists, of nominalism too easily content with these communicative peers vouched for
. by their publishers. If we disdain the quillity is very necessary in an age of
craft of letters, the power of style, the fever. The false realist will be inausterity, the discipline, the merely fected by the turbulence and disconacademic routine, the heritage of great tent and misery. The poetic novelist works of art that survived the little will perceive rather the dignity of the lives of their creators-if we disdain all poor, will hear the inexorable and mathese, we shall not find in any poet or jestic tread of labor, and admire the novelist a quality that will compensate nobility of endurance. for their loss. Those twin spirits, Lastly, for the poet remains the beauty of language and beauty of power of contemplation. Armed with form, must be eternally pursued. They this, he may survey not merely the will run often in contrary directions, world as from a mountain-top, but also but with the capture of one
the his own work—the microcosm of his pursuit of the other must be urged world, while the false realist regards the faster. They are both
himself in a mirror. I had almost sary.
said a newspaper. We come to the capacity for expe- I am convinced that the modern rience. That does not mean experience novel lives only by the poetry which itself. A guide is not more trust- gives it life. It is not enough to trace, worthy because he has fallen down a however accurately, the contours of precipice; but if he has been aware the surface. It is not enough to record of the possibility, and contemplated the a chronicle of facts. It is not enough result, he will be more trustworthy to reflect in a work of art the observathan the guide who has never observed tion of the commonplace mind of the the precipice until the occasion of his majority. Truth is always beautiswift and final descent. It is wonderful, but truthfulness may be often very that gives the poet and the child ca- ugly. The realistic novelist might acpacity for experience. The poetic curately see in the coal strike merely novelist will give this sense of wonder the misery of the unemployed, the to his readers. He will teach them to gauntness of starvation, the dislocation be surprised by life through literature. of traffic, the obstinacy of the miners The false realist and unpoetic novelist and the owners, the effectiveness or always truckles to the expected. He fatuity of Mr. Asquith. But another has no capacity for experience. He realistic novelist might imagine the merely records the commonplace with. muttering of Labor as it turns restout heeding the claims of the heroic. lessly after centuries of dull sleep, and The poetic novelist must not only give the force of Capital at bay. He might his readers wonder, he must at the laugh at the vanities and follies of all same time preserve his sense of tran. statesmen, the ecstasies and lamenta. quillity. The fervid and lyrical tions of divergent opinions. presentation of life in high moods will One might go on for ever illustratonly be valuable in proportion to the ing the difference between the false degree of sanity in static moments. The realist and the poetic novelist, and at poetic novelist will never relax his the end of it be no nearer the truth hold upon the normal, whatever fiery than Aristotle's dictum that Art should page of prose may seem for a moment be universal. I find one always comes to loosen his grip. Shakespeare meant back to Aristotle. But the modern more than dramatic contrast when the novel will achieve universality through drums of Fortinbras were heard at the poetry, for poetry is immortality in a close of Hamlet. This sense of tran- radiance of words. Poetry is life itself, and as I make this assertion all with the reflection that poetry is ulti. my definitions seem to be melting in mately undefinable, just as life is ulticriticism; but I shall console myself mately inexplicable. The English Review.
AT THE SALON AND THE ROYAL ACADEMY.
It may be remembered that when urally the more popular art. For my friends Sir John and Lady Bil- sculpture, in spite of the fact that it derby' made the tour of the Salon pic- deals with actual form in the round inture galleries last year, under the wing stead of the projection of form on a of M. de L'Atelier, they had not time plane surface, cannot pretend to the (or shall we say space?) to examine the realistic representation of life which sculpture. I am sure they did so after- appeals to everyday experience. It is wards; but to say truth, it is rather a severely limited art, dealing with too common with English visitors to severely designed form, executed in a an exhibition to devote nearly all their monumental material; dealing more time to the pictures, and only spare a especially with the nude human figure, hurried glance at the sculpture before in which alone precision of line is of leaving. This is hardly fair to the such importance and difficulty as to sculptors (who, however, in England, justify the monumental material; many are pretty well used to neglect and in- things may be worth painting which difference); but it is also unfair to it is not worth while to carve in marthemselves, as starving their own æs- ble. Sculpture may thrive on mere thetic education, in neglecting a form beauty of form-that is achievement of art which deals much more largely enough to justify it; but its highest with abstract symbolism than modern aim is the symbolizing of an idea painting usually does. For though through human form-an aim which is the great end of all art is symbolism not readily appreciated by the popuand not realism, painting is founded lar mind, on this side of the Channel at on realism to begin with; and so many
all events. In France it may be, for spectators (and some painters) get no at the Salon there is more of symbolic further than the half-way house, and sculpture than is to be found elseare content with outward shows of life, where, and that would hardly be the their appreciation of which may be re- case did not such work find encourageduced to the shorthand form, “it is
ment and sympathy. like,” or “it is not like":
Let us then, this time, begin our
brief survey with the sculpture, which That's the very man!
in fact is the strongest element at the Look at the boy who stoops to pat the
Salon. The vast sculpture hall condog:
tains, as usual, nearly a thousand and so on. It is an innocent recrea. works in sculpture (960, to be precise) tion, which makes no great strain on prepared for one year's exhibition-an the intellect (though, be it remembered, extraordinary testimony to the artistic the producing of it means considerable
energy and vitality of the French naability and severe training on the part tion. French sculpture is perhaps not of the painter); and so painting is nat- all that it was ten or fifteen years ago,
I “Conversations at the Salon and the but in the present exhibition you canRoyal Academy," by H. Heathcote Statham, Nineteenth Century and After, June 1911. not move many steps in any direction