« ElőzőTovább »
And nor it is in idiotic terror, a fugitive into Paradise, were always welcome to from Orso's vengeance, that the last of men's fancies; and that could only be the Barricini is dying.
because they found a psychologic truth in Exaggerated art, you think. But it them. With much success, with a credi. was precisely such exaggerated art, in.bility insured by his literary tact, Mérimée tense, unrelieved, an art of fierce colors, tried his own hand at such stories ; un. that is needed by those who are seeking frocked the bear in the amorous young in art, as I said of Mérimée, a kind of Lithuanian noble, the wolf in the revolting artificial stimulus. And if his style is peasant of the Middle Age. There were still impeccably correct, cold blooded, survivals surely in himself, in that stealthy impersonal, as impersonal as that of Scott presentment of his favorite themes, in his himself, it does but conduce the better to own art. You seem to find your hand on his one exclusive aim. It is like the pol. a serpent, in reading him. ish of the stiletto Colomba carried under" In such survivals
, indeed, you see the her mantle, or the beauty of the firearms, operation of his favorite motive, the sense that beauty coming of nice adaptation to of wild power, under a sort of mask, or purpose, which she understood so well- assumed babit, realized as the very genius a task characteristic also of Mérimée him. of nature itself; and that interest, with self, a sort of fanatic joy in the perfect some superstitions closely allied to it, the pistol-shot, at its height in the singular belief in the vampire, for instance, is evi. story he has translated from the Russian denced especially in certain pretended of Pouchkine. Those raw colors he pre. Illyrian compositions
prose transla. ferred; Spanish, Oriental, African, per. tions, the reader was to understand, of haps, irritant certainly to cisalpine eyes, more or less ancient popular ballads; he undoubtedly attained the coloring you “ La Guzla,” he called the volume, “ The associate with sunstroke, only possible Lyre,” as we migat say; only that the under a sun in which dead things rot instrument of the Illyrian minstrel had but quickly.
one string. Artistic deception, a trick of Pity and terror, we know, go to the mak. which there is something in the historic ing of the essential tragic sense. In romance as such, in a book like his own Mérimée, certainly, we have all its terror, “Chronicle of Charles the Ninth," was but without the pity. Saint-Clair, the con- always welcome to Mérimée; it was part sent of his mistress. barely attained at of the machinery of his rooted habit of last, rushes madly on self-destruction, that intellectual reserve. A master of irony he may die with the taste of his great also, in “ Madame Lucrezia ” he seems to love fresh on his lips. All the grotesque wish to expose his own method cynically; accidents of violent death he records with to explain his art - how he takes you in visual exactness, and no pains to relieve as a clever, confident conjurer might them; the ironic indifference, for instance, do. So properly were the readers of “ La with which, on the scaffold or the battle. Guzla” taken in that he followed up his field, a man will seem to grin foolishly at success in that line by the “Theatre of the ugly rents through which his life has Clara Gazul,” purporting to be from a rare passed. Seldom or never has the mere Spanish original, the work of a nun, wbo, pen of a writer taken us so close to the under tame, conventual reading, had felt cannon's mouth as in the “ Taking of the the touch of mundane, of physical pas. Redoubt,'
“ Matteo Falcone” sions; had become a dramatic poet, and twenty-five short pages - is perhaps the herself a powerful actress. It may dawn cruellest story in the world.
on you in reading her that Mérimée was Colomba, that strange, fanatic being, a kind of Webster, but with the superficial who has a code of action, of self-respect, mildness of our nineteenth century. At a conscience, all to herself, who, with all the bottom of the true drama there is ever, her virginal charm only does not make you logically at least, the ballad; the ballad hate her, is, in truth, the type of a sort of dealing in a kind of short-hand (or, say, in humanity Mérimée found it pleasant to grand, simple, universal outlines) with dream of — a humanity as alien as the those passions, crimes, mistakes, which animals, with whose moral affinities to have a kind of fatality in them, a kind of man his imaginative work is often directly necessity to come to the surface of the concerned. Were they so alien after all? human mind, if not to the surface of our Were there not survivals of the old wild experience, as in the case of some frankly creatures in the gentlest, the politest of supernatural incidents which Mérimée us? Stories that told of sudden freaks re-haodled. Whether human love
or of gentle, polite natures, straight back, not | hatred has had most to do in shaping
the universal fancy that the dead come many relics of irrepressible old paganism back, I cannot say. Certainly that old there, but in entire contrast to the bour. ballad literature has instances in plenty, in geois comfort of the place where hisljourwhich the voice, the hand, the brief visit ney is to end, the abode of an aged from the grave, is a natural response to antiquary, loud and bright just now with the cry of the human creature. That the celebration of a vulgar, worldly marghosts should return, as they do so often riage. In the midst of this well-being, in Mérimée's fiction, is but a sort of natu. prosaic in spite of the neighborhood, in ral justice. Only in Mérimée's prose bal. spite of the pretty old wedding customs, lads, in those admirable, short, ballad-like morsels of that local color in which Méristories, where every word tells, of which mée delights, the old pagan powers are he was a master, almost the inventor, they supposed to reveal themselves once more, are a kind of half-material ghosts — (malignantly, of course) in the person of a vampire tribe — and never come to do magnificent bronze statue of Venus re. people good; congruously with the mental cently unearthed in the antiquary's garconstitution of the writer, which, alike in dep. On her finger, by ill-Juck, the coarse fact and fiction, could hardly have horror young bridegroom on the morning of his enough — theme after theme. Mérimée marriage places for a moment the bridal himself emphasizes this almost constant ring only too effectually (the bronze hand motive of his fiction when he adds to one closes, like a wilful, living one, upon it), of his volumes of short stories some let- and dies, you are to understand, in ber ters on a matter of fact - a Spanish bull. angry, metallic embraces on his marriage fight, in which those old Romans, he night. From the first, indeed, she had regretted, might seem, decadently, to have seemed bent on crushing out men's desurvived. It is as if you saw it. In truth, generate bodies and souls, though the Mérimée was the unconscious parent of supernatural horror of the tale is adroitly much we may think of dubious significance made credible by a certain vagueress in in later French literature. It is as if there the events, which covers a quite natural were nothing to tell of in this world but account of the bridegroom's mysterious various forms of hatred, and a love that death. is like lunacy; and the only other world, The intellectual charm of literary work a world of maliciously active, hideous, so thoroughly designed as Mérimée's de. dead bodies.
pends in part on the sense as you read Mérimée, a literary artist, was not a man hastily perhaps, perhaps in need of pawho used two words where one would do tience, that you are dealing with a combetter, and shines especially in those brief position, the full secret of which is only to compositions which, like a minute intaglio, be attained in the last paragraph, that with reveal at a glance his wonderful faculty of the last word in mind you will retrace your design and proportion in the treatment steps, more than once, it may be, noting of his work, in which there is not a touch then the minuter structure, also the natu. but counts. That is an art of which there ral or wrought flowers by the way. Noare few examples in English, our some where is such method better illustrated what diffuse, or slipshod, literary language than by another of Mérimée's quintessenhardly lending itself to the concentration tial pieces, “ Arsène Guillot,” and here for of thought and expression, which are of once with a conclusion ethically acceptable the essence of such writing. It is other- also. Mérimée loved surprises in human wise in French, and if you wish to know nature, but it is not often that he surprises ibat art of that kind can come to read us by tenderness or generosity of characMérimée's little romances ; best of all, ter as another master of French fiction, perhaps, “ La Vénus d'Ille” and “ Arsène M. Octave Feuillet, is apt to do, and the Guillot."
The former is a modern version simple pathos of " Arsène Guillot” gives of the beautiful old story of the ring given it a unique place in Mérimée's writings. to Venus, given to her, in this case, by a It may be said, indeed, that only an essomewhat sordid creature of the nine- sentially pitiful nature could have told the teenth century, whom she looks with exquisitely cruel story of Matteo Falcone more than disdain. The strange outline precisely as Mérimée has told it; and of the Canigou, one of the most imposing those who knew him testify abundantly to outlying heights of the Pyrenees, down the his own capacity for generous friendship. mysterious slopes of which the traveller He was no more wanting than others in has made his way towards nightfall into those natural sympathies (sending tears to the great plain of Toulouse, forms an im- the eyes at the sight of suffering age or pressive background, congruous with the childhood) which happily are no extraor.
dinary component in men's natures. It in the uncontrollable movements of his was, perhaps, no fitting return for a friend own so carefully guarded heart. ship of over thirty years to publish posthu- The intimacy, the effusion, the so freely mously those · Lettres à une Inconnue,” exposed personality of those letters does which reveal that reserved, sensitive, self- but emphasize the fact that impersonality centred nature, a little pusillanimously in was, in literary art, Mérimée's central aim. the power, at the disposition of another. Personality versus impersonality in art: For just there lies the interest, the psy- how much or how little of one's self one chological interest, of those letters. An may put into one's work; whether any. amateur of power, of the spectacle of thing at all of it; whether one can put power and force, followed minutely but there anything else ; is clearly a far-reachwithout sensibility on his part, with a kind ing and complex question. Serviceable of cynic pride rather for the mainspring as the basis of a precautionary maxim of his method, both of thought and ex- towards the conduct of our work, selfpression, you find him here taken by sur- effacement, or impersonality, in literary or prise at last; and somewhat humbled, by artistic creation, is, perhaps, after all, as an unsuspected force of affection in him- little possible as a strict realism. " It has self. His correspondent, unknown but for always been my rule to put nothing of these letters except just by name, figures myself into my works," says another in them as, in truth, a being only too much great master of French prose, Gustave like himself seen from one side reflects Flaubert, but luckily, as we may think, his taciturnity, his touchiness, his incre- often failed in thus effacing himself, as he dulity except for self-torment. Agitated, too was aware. “It has always been my dissatisfied, he is wrestling in her with rule to put nothing of myself into my himself, his own difficult qualities. He works” (to be disinterested in his literary demands from her a freedom, a frankness, creations, so to speak) “yet I have put he would have been the last to grant. It much of myself into them;" and where is by first thoughts, of course, that what is he failed Mérimée succeeded. There they forcible and effective in human nature, the stand — Carmen, Colomba, the “False force, therefore, of carnal love, discovers Demetrius — as detached from him as itself; and for her first thoughts Mérimée from each other, with no more filial like. is always pleading, but always complain-ness to their maker than if they were the ing that he gets only her second thoughts; work of another person. And to his the thoughts, that is, of a reserved, self- method of conception, Mérimée's muchlimiting nature, well under the yoke of praised literary style, his method of convention, like his own. Strange con expression, is strictly conformable — im. junction! At the beginning of the corre- personal in its beauty, the perfection of spondence he seems to have been seeking nobody's style -- thus vindicating anew only a fine intellectual companionship; by its very impersonality that much-worn, the lady, perhaps, looking for something but not untrue saying, that the style is the
Towards such companionship man; a man, impassible, unfamiliar, imthat likeness to bimself in her might have peccable, veiling a deep sense of what is been helpful, but was not enough of a forcible, nay, terrible, in things under the complement to his own nature to be sort of personal pride that makes a man a anything but an obstruction in love; and nice observer of all that is most convenit is to that, little by little, that his hu- tional. Essentially unlike other people, mor turns.
He- the Megalopsychus, as he is always fastidiously in the fashion Aristotle defines him – acquires all the an expert in all the little, half-contemptu. lover's humble habits; himself displays ous elegancies of which it is capable. all the tricks of love, its casuistries, its Mérimée's superb self effacement, his in. exigency, its superstitions, ay, even its personality, is itself but an effective per. vulgarities; involves with the significance sonal trait, and transferred to art, becomes of his own genius the mere hazards and a markedly peculiar quality of literary inconsequense of a perhaps average na. beauty. For, in truth, this creature of ture; but too late in the day — the years. disillusion who had no care for half-lights, After the attractions and repulsions of and, like his creations, had no atmosphere half a lifetime, they are but friends, and about him, gifted as he was with pure might forget to be that, but for his death, mind, with the quality which secures clearly presaged in his last weak, touching flawless literary structure, had, on the letter, just two hours before. There, too, other hand, nothing of what we call soul had been the blind and naked force of in literature; hence, also, that singular nature and circumstance, surprising him | harshness in his ideal, as if, in theological
He swung, a
language, he were incapable of grace. He but when the language is suppressed, so has none of those subjectivities, colorings, that mere gutturality (so to speak) remaios, peculiarities of mental refraction, which rudeness perhaps reaches its highest exnecessitate varieties of style — could we pression. The speech of the elder genspare such ? —and render the perfections tleman was non-articulate, but the sound of it po merely negative qualities. There forcibly declared his intention of pleasing are masters of Freoch prose whose art himself as the more important of the two has beguo where the art of Mérimée leaves persons concerned. off.
My young friend (for so, through human sympathy, I had begun to regard him) retired in profound silence, but I could see he was not discomfited. When the
driver appeared, he advanced and lodged From The Cornhill Magazine.
a formal appeal. But the driver was by MY TUTORSHIP.
nature or circumstance an unjust judge. THE sleepy little town of Beilangen Unable to deny the validity of the receipt, wakes up for half an hour about midday. he traversed the general merits of the I had observed its habits, having been case. Raising his voice to reach the there three long summer days with noth- bystanders, he explained that the elder ing more pressing to do than to think gentleman was a frequent if not an imme. wbat to do next. As the Postwagen morial passenger, and that they saw before comes slowly forth from its mews into the them no less a man than Herr Goldfuss, main street, and takes up its position in one of the richest, and (consequently) one front of the post-office, every person who of the most worthy burghers of Frankfort, is sufficiently awake strolls at least as far banker, councillor, ex-deputy, etc. The as his doorway to watch it load and de- voice of the people was naturally with the part. A few of the more energetic draw claimant in possession. The young man, Dear and stare at it, the women knitting, in a beautiful but reprehensible spirit of the men with their hands in their pock- meekness, surrendered. ets.
small portmanteau off the roof, singing This day I was part of the stirring spec. out cheerily, “ No matter; to-morrow will tacle, for I was in my seat ready to start do as well for me." for Frankfort. Our Postwagen was con- He was walking placidly down the structed to stifle four persons inside, while street, when something roused the great it reserved the luxury of air for two pas- banker at my side. Turning quickly sengers by the side of the driver. I had round, he seemed at first about to bespeak in the morning booked one of these out- the driver, then he looked wistfully after side seats, and as I sat aloft I was specu. his retreating rival, and finally, accomlating on the chance of having for my plishing a rapid descent, actually ran after neighbor a young fellow of about my own him. i had heard of the simplicity and age who was standing not far off.
goodness of the German nature, but I I had been watching him for some confess that I was surprised to witness minutes, and had just decided that he was such a sudden revulsion. Here was a possibly English, that he probably took gentleman whose merits had by acclamalife easily, and that he certainly had no tion confirmed him in a seat which his interest whatever, for this day at least, in own enterprise had secured, and he was the coach or its journey, when he suddenly unable to enjoy his triumph. He was uosettled that part of my conclusion the melted by the forbearance of his adversary. evidence for which was apparently the Again I had miscalculated. Instead of stroogest. Unobserved by me, an elderly placing, as I expected, a friendly hand gentleman bad climbed into the vacant upon his shoulder and pressing him to seat at my side. The young man came return, he made, to my surprise, a clutch quietly forward, and in polite terms laid at his luggage, and violently wrested it claim to it. The stranger took not the from his grasp. A breach of the profound least notice of the suggestion, but con- peace of Beilangen seemed inevitable, and tinued to settle himself in comfort. The the younger man was well built for hostilyoung man repeated his remonstrance, ities. But his calm was imperturbable. producing at the same time from his He stooped down and for a moment crit. pocket an indefeasible title in a receipt ically examined the portmanteau, and then, which bore upon it the number of his seat. raising his hat, walked quietly back and Now a guttural language is admirably - took his seat. adapted to express linguistic rudeness, I think the elder had a vision of what was about to happen, for he made what We agreed that it was a very awkward haste he could. But he had to bring up situation. We began to moralize. his baggage. He now gratuitously made “Now if,” I suggested, “you had been it evident to us that he was devoid of the a polite young man, and not only, like the sense of humor. Instead of accepting Athenians, had known what was due to the event complacently, he stood below age, but, like the Lacedæmonians, had and spouted up a fountain of most inap- practised it, how would the case then propriate calumnies. The miscellaneous stand?" charges of being an Englishman, and an “A hollow truce, I suspect, pending unmannered puppy, and an imbecile, further encroachments. If I had given passed without challenge. Once only, up just now and waited for to-morrow, when accused of harboring a felonious there would not have appeared in my graintent, the young man opened his lips, and cious manner, when I rejoined him at answered that he had already apologized Frankfort, the smallest sign that I had for portmanteaus being so fatally alike, ever set eyes on him before. He would and he could say no more.
As the driver not have reminded me. So we should did not see his way to interfere, and had have started fair, with a slight balance in not materials for a second speech, the my favor. But now it is I that have wrathful banker, calumnious to the last, offended. Men don't like being mated in took a seat inside, in the oppressive com- one move by a gambit. What do you pany of three women and a baby, and the think? Could I disguise myself - dye Postwagen started.
my hair -stain the ruddy beauty of my I need not say that this little interlude complexion ?” interested me in my companion. I had He took the letter from his pocket, and always admired the first Napoleon for his passed it to me to read. There it was reputed gift of organizing victory out of certainly; he was expected by Herr Golddefeat, and I confessed to myself that I fuss that very evening. He was to live in should have been quite unequal to that his house. His pupil was to be a boy of neat stroke of strategy. After we had fifteen, the only son at home, to whom he enjoyed the zest of it, first separately and was to impart the English language and then together — for each had caught the its highworthy literature. other smiling to himself - we fell natu- The terms were generous, and there was rally into conversation. He was English, a friendly tone in the letter which seemed but' having been partly educated in Ger- a promise of good treatment in every many, as I myself had been, he was no respect. I was commenting on these stranger in the land. After a while, as we advantages when he stopped me suddenly grew more confidential, he told me that he by saying that he had an inspiration. began to fear he had bought bis little tri- Would I take his place as tutor? The umph too dearly.
idea seemed to me at the moment so gro. “I had really," he said, “pot set my tesque that I laughed outright. The laugh heart on getting my way, till the driver evidently vexed him, for he hastened to made it a question of personal merit. add, in the tone of apology, that ideas Then, of course, I knew he had been always smote him so suddenly that he bribed, and I made up my mind to have sometimes forgot to feel his way before the seat. I had already remarked a very giving them utterance. It had struck bim brotherly likeness between our bags as that possibly I might be one who held they were lying together on the pavement, himself above a tutorship, so I began to and just then the idea struck me of troll. discuss the question with him seriously. ing for the old gentleman. There was no in the interval he had quite decided that resisting it. I felt sure he would follow he neither could nor would present himthe bait. I caught him pretty neatly, but self at that house in Frankfort. The post it is unfortunate, for I was just on my way then was ruled vacant. In respect of to take a tutorship in his family. They qualification we found by comparison that are expecting my arrival this very evening. we two were interchangeable almost absoI have his letter in my pocket.”
lutely at par, as the only proviso which “And you knew him?"
Herr Goldfuss had laid down was that his “Not till the driver proclaimed his tutor should be a well-educated English name to the assembled populace. Then gentleman, and be familiar with the Gerit was too late ; the plan was matured. man language. Therefore I was a fit and Stop. — I'm not sure, but I think knowing proper person to assume the post. Lastly him seemed at the moment to heighten the | 1 reflected (but this within myself) that to humor of it.”
i live for a month at free quarters would