« ElőzőTovább »
fixed on keeping a “trot for the public for these, heaven help the town." No matter how he stumbled real humorist when he craves an and staggered during the stage, so audience! That there is a public that he comes up to the door at for them he would be a bold man last with whip-cracking, and the that should deny, and a very large jaded team spirited up to a lively and a very faithful public, too! tramp.
I do not make a great demand The serial writer, too, performs on my novelist. I ask him to
I usually to a larger public, and, help me through a stray hour of consequently, is less addicted to ennui, a dreary half-day of rainy conventionalities than Three Vo- weather in a dull house, the time I lume, who has a more select few have to wait for my train, or the for his audience, and who could not morning in which the post has so easily stoop to the vulgarity of either failed or brought nothing of common people, and their ways any interest. I protest loudly and and doings. But, as I have said in toto against accepting the storyalready, the serial is more prone to teller as either preacher or teacher. make me laugh, and for this great I will neither listen to him about gift I prize him most of all. I law reform, nor prison discipline, have very grave doubts if age has nor madhouses, nor public schools. anything heavier in all its inflic- Let him, if he must, season his pages tions than in the difficulty-yearly by the introduction of these instiincreasing in a terrific ratio—the tutions; but let him not insinuate difficulty of enjoying a good laugh. his own theories about their manFor my own part, baldness, adi- agement, or pretend to tell me how posity, and suchlike, are all lighter much more smoothly would suits in evils to me than the gravity I Equity go were he the Chancellor, feel stealing over me, the little or what a happy day would it be tolerance I have for small fun, and for the lunatics did the writer sit the growing conviction that the in Whitehall with the dignity of a pleasant people have gone home, Commissioner. I never heard an and that I am left to walk back amateur fiddler that one would with the dreary ones.
have given a sixpence to; and I That my own capacity for the have rarely seen one of those wouldenjoyment is not totally blunted, I be reformers in fiction who apcan test by seeing how the old racy proached his subject with even the humour of Molière and Cervantes- vaguest knowledge of its details, or how Scott, too, and Sydney Smith any conception of its difficulties.
-continue to amuse me. What “Mark me, Mr Vagabond," said has become of this gift? is it gone Junius to Garrick, when the actor, and lost, like the art of painting on forgetting his real province, had atglass, like the glaze of Luca della tempted a negotiation with the pubRobbia, or the wonderful pottery- lisher to betray the name of the paste of Maestro Giorgio ? One great satirist— “mark me, Mr Vagathing is certain, Three Volume has bond ; stick to your pantomimes.” none of it; and, latterly, the serial I do not think there is anything has not more than enough to sea- so good in Alexandre Dumas as his son his quality and remind you of total exemption from this vice. He bygones. As nothing so much never tries the didactic, and I redisgusts a man with wine-drinking spect him for his abstinence. Let as plying him for a while with bad not the clown, when he casts a liquor, so there is no such certain somersault in the circus, tell me death to the appreciation of real hum- that he means to emblematise the our as in the race of small jokers motion of the earth! Suum cuique. perpetually letting off a fire of petty Let the story-teller understand that drolleries suggested by the passing his mission is simply to amuse withevents of the hour. If there be a out any outrage to good manners,
or any offence to good morals. Let nothing in the actual records of him be as pleasant as he can, and the time will recall it. leave the task of making the world It is hard to believe or to unbetter and wiser to men who have derstand it, but the literature of to accept the charge with heavier France in those dreadful years ran responsibilities than attach to tale- upon idylls and odes and paswriting.
torals. Pastorals, when the creak Scott understood something about of the charrette that carried the his craft, and something about the victims to the scaffold was the one world too. Had he deemed that sound heard in the streets ! when fiction was the proper channel to the channels ran with blood, amidst instil correct notions about hos- the carnage of helpless women, and pitals for the blind, drainage of the noyades of the Loire ! Pastowns, ragged schools, or reforma- torals ! One is inclined to ask, Is tories, we should doubtless have it in ethics as in optics, and does had these and suchlike discussed, the eye, gorged and inflamed by though, perhaps, we might have red, turn to seek repose, to rest lost something in not having the upon green?
Antiquary,' Ivanhoe,' and a score Now, if Fiction had to deal with more as good.
this era, we should find the guilloBalzac, also, wrote indifferent tine in every page. Every event good novels, and knew one sort of and every action would revolve life as few others ever did, and yet around the scaffold ; the headshe never addressed himself to as- man everywhere - everywhere the sail some institution or attack some axe : and what truth would there system. He knew well that no be in such a portraiture ? group of people ever yet lived who The Irish rebellion of '98 was, revolved round one grievance; that while it lasted, a dreadful scene of life is a very particoloured affair, cruelty and carnage on all sides; and, however à particular wrong and yet I have heard more stories of may tinge existence, that the daily convivial gaiety, more narratives of business of the world goes on amidst country-house life and hospitality, innumerable cares and troubles and of that period, than of all I ever joys and anxieties, and it is of these remember to have heard of any fiction ought to treat, showing as other time of Irish history. truthfully as she can what human Of what is now going on in nature does, says, thinks, and en- America, let Wall Street and Fifth dures, with very little reference to Avenue, in their respective spheres, some great stumbling-block, which, tell how much sympathy is felt after all, has hurt the shins of only for the countless thousands dying one, perhaps, in the company. in every form of agony, or com
That the ordinary business of ing back, pitiably maimed and life can go on amidst the most ter- crippled, to drag out lives of sufrible convulsions, and men follow fering and penury! Fiction would the pursuits of ambition, of plea- doubtless paint New York breathsure, or of money-getting, unaffect- less for the last news from the ed by that great event which in battle-field ; and so it might, but history will absorb the whole page, not for the record of victory or dewill be readily acknowledged by feat as a source of triumph or sorany one who will turn to the me- row, but simply to know how it moirs of the years of the French would affect the exchanges, or reRevolution, or the Magazines of act on the price of gold. Ireland during '98. Jeffrey, in one To my thinking, 'Les Misérables' of his essays, remarks on this, and is only a blue-book gone mad; and says, that while posterity will be a census return done by a sensaentirely occupied by the dreadful tional hand would be just as amusphantom of the Reign of Terror, ing reading as any of this school.
There is another practice of cer- author, and gifted with a retentive tain novelists which annoys me not memory besides, a man feels like a a little—that is, to dish up the parvenu suddenly introduced into a same characters either as principals society where, except himself, each or secondaries in every story. It knows and is known to his neighis not merely objectionable on the bour. He has the humiliating con ground that character-drawing is sciousness that in a company so almost the best part of fiction, as intimately united, he himself, the it is certainly the most instructive; intruder, is de trop. He sees that but there is such poverty in in- every one knows the Duke of Allvention, or such inveterate indo- sorts, and that nobody is surprised lence implied in the practice. It when Lady Mumford appears, and
, is bad enough if a strolling company he naturally concludes that he has must perform Coriolanus' with no business in a society where he the same corps that gave the ‘Road is the only one who has to into Ruin ;' and it is hard to sur- quire who are those around him. render one's sympathy to Romeo, Why will not these writers give us when he perpetually recalls Jeremy with a new book a chronological Diddler : still, these poor creatures table, and let us learn who begat do their utmost so to disguise their whom? identities that you shall not detect But, in point of fact, the thing is them. Whereas, in the novel, it harder than mere chronology-it is the same dreary personage that is far more ; it is the Darwinian broke your heart in the Three theory applied to fiction, and the Crows, that is now dogging your law of development introduced into steps in 'Drivelling Manor;' and tale-writing. The homunculus of the Bore that cost you the thread some book of ten years ago may be of one story by your efforts to skip the foreground figure of a later him, turns up in a totally differ- work; and the child you have ent book to be your misery once scarcely noticed at one time, may more.
have been developed into the grandWhen Sancho was relating the mother of a present heroine. memorable story of the shepherd to This is simply intolerable. I his master, he found himself sud- ask for a story, and you give me denly arrested in his narrative by a census return; I want a tale, and Don Quixote's inability to tell how I get an extract from a baptismal many sheep had been ferried over registry. the stream. “'Fore God,” said he, There are a few characters of fic“if you have forgotten the score, tion, and really they are very few, it is impossible for me to continue that could not recur too often. It the story." These people are, how- would be difficult to shut the door ever, more exacting still, for they against Sancho, or Falstaff, or percall on you to bear in mind who haps Dugald Dalgetty ; but have was each person's father and mother, the writers I have just been speakwho their uncles and aunts and ing of given us any creations like good friends. A name turns up these? or are not their personages suddenly in the story without any only real in the one respect, that intimation who he is and whence they are as tiresome as living he comes. You turn back to trace
men ? him; alas! it is to a story published Let me record one splendid exthe year before, and nine others ception from this judgment in dating successively as many years him who has given to our fictionback, you must goma labour that literature a racy vigour and a may possibly not be requited by any freshness which only genius can interest intended to surround him. give. With Charles Dickens we In the reading of these books, if encounter no repetitions ; all is varnot well"posted” in all by the same ied, novel, and interesting as nature herself; and this great master sit beside our fireplaces at lone of humour moves us to tears or hours, or stroll with us in our solilaughter without the semblance of tary rambles, we owe more of them an effort on his part; and as for to him than to any other writer of those "inexpensive guests” that the century.
ABUSE OF IRELAND.
Daniel O'Connell used to say wrong. If we stay at home, we that he was the best abused man are told that we are a poor -spiin Europe ; had he only lived till rited set of creatures, satisfied with now he would have seen that the mere subsistence, and content to practice has been extended to all grovel on in our poverty. his countrymen of every class and emigrate, we are reproached as condition, of every shade of poli- people who have no loyalty, nor tics, and every section of opinion. any attachment to the land of their The leading journal especially has birth. adopted this line, and the adjec- One great authority declared that tive Irish has been assumed as a Ireland could never grow wheat, disqualifier to all and everything and yet Mr Whiteside t’other day it can be applied to. I am sure assured us that we were ruined by that this is not generous—I have the corn-laws. This is mighty hard my doubts if it be just.
to understand, and I own it puzzles First of all, we are abused too indis- me considerably. criminately, and for faults diametrically the opposite of each other;
“They've raised the price of malt, I hear;
But what has malt to do with table-beer?" secondly, we are sneered at for qualities which the greater nation Surely if the country was unsuited is not sorry to utilise ; and, last of to the grape, it could scarcely be inall, we are treated as such acknow- jured by a tax on the exportation ledged admitted inferiors as makes of wine ! it a very polite piece of conde- Again, we are over-populated. scension for Englishmen to occupy The fatal tendency of the Irish to themselves, even in their leisure be venturous led to early marriages hours, by admonishing us of our and large families ; and it was faults, and reminding us of our a mercy to think that some had shortcomings. Our unhappy coun- taken
gone off to try, too, whose greatest crime we America. used to think was the being our Then came another with 'Adam birthplace, is now discovered to be Smith' in his hand, to protest that a damp tract of dreary bog-un- population meant riches—even a fruitful, unwholesome, and unplea- population of Irishmen; and, last sant-without a soil to grow corn, of all, an indignant patriot declared or a sun to ripen it ; spongy if un- that the day was not perhaps very drained, and if drained, a “parched distant, when Ireland should be expanse of arid limestone. This peopled by Scotchmen. is not cheerful, any more than to The Times, however, capped hear that it rains ten months in all. It explained that Ireland must the year, and that if it only rained abandon tillage and forego manunine we should have no grass, and factures—that her climate was unwithout grass could no longer fat- stable, her soil unfruitful, and her ten beeves for Britons to feed on, people lazy. She had, however, that being the last resource left us here and there, principally on the in our destitution.
seaboard, some spots of picturesque Whatever we do, or attempt to beauty ; and that Englishmen, do, by some unhappy fatality seems partly out of a liking for scenery,
partly from pity, might occasionally well-clad, well-to-do "Manchester"
over and look at these, —made up elements that worked the duties of guide and cicerone into something highly dramatic. being assigned to the native-who Let me assure the happy disthus at last would have found an coverer of this theory for Ireland employment up to the level of his that, so far from increasing the opcapacity and his inclination. This portunities to Paddy to measure his is no exaggeration of mine-I am native quickness with Saxon stolidinventing nothing-I read, twice ity, he would be wiser not to give over too, the article that contained heedless occasion for the comparithis suggestion. It was made in perfect good faith, just as the Now, these slights are not peacewriter might have counselled a makers, and we, the poorer and the North American savage to limit more helpless people, ought at least himself to the manufacture of mo- to have kind words; and yet there cassins, and not take to regular is one more grievance which, I own, shoemaking.
is, to my own feeling, harder to Irishmen were deliberately told, bear than even these. It is the by an authority that assumes to be assertion-made so frequently, denot only the political director, but clared so roundly, and proclaimed the moral arbiter of the nation, so unblushingly, that it has passed that there was nothing better for into a popular belief—that any them to do than turn guides to Irishman who has ever risen to Cockney tourists.
high honours and great renown, If poor Paddy's circumstances will be found, on examination, to were such as to permit his having possess traits and characteristics the some leisure time at his disposal, I very opposite to those that distincan easily believe what amusement guish his countrymen-being, in he might obtain from the occupa- short, a sort of lusus naturæ Paddy tion recommended—what food for —who knows if not a Saxon egg, laughter he would derive from town- surreptitiously stolen, and placed bred ignorance and moneyed self- in the Celtic nest ! Sterne they sufficiency—what stores of fun he only half give us.
Swift some would lay by from the crude re- deny us altogether; for my own marks and stupid commentaries of part, I'd not fight for him. Goldwandering bagmen and the like; smith they only concede to us but the fact of reducing to a pro- whenever they disparage him. As fession what ought only to be a pas- for Edmund Burke, he puzzles them time, gives a very different colour sorely. Burke, the great orator, to the career.
the master of every form of eloThe writer of this suggestion may quence, we might be permitted to not, however, have seen, as I have, claim, because, by calling it Irish a heavy traveller from the manu- eloquence, its condemnation was facturing districts gaining his Irish fixed for ever. But Burke the experiences from a bare-footed, logician-- Burke the statesman, ragged, half-famished native; and Burke the philosopher—the man it is such an exhibition of intense who foresaw more in the working drollery and sly raillery as one can- out of events than any man of his not readily forget : the quick in- age, who could trace effects to their stinct as to the nature of the causes, and predicate from the acstranger, his class and his habits tual what must be the future—him -the subtle appreciation of the they deny us, and declare that all amount of his credulity—the racy these gifts were English. There enjoyment of his manifold blun- was an Irishman, too, who called ders, and the thorough zest felt by himself Arthur Wellesley, and what a poor, half-naked, potato-fed crea- an amount of ingenuity was ture for his mental superiority over pended to show that his origin was