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where I should have been ignominiously rolled over. Meanwhile,” says Mr. Norris, in conclusion, “I and other writers of my calibre must needs rest contented-or discontented—with things as they are.”
Mr. Anstey is pithy, pertinent, sensible ; he doubts very much whether any author who possesses the power of dramatic utterance at all requires any external persuasion to induce him to exercise it ; and he cannot accept the theory that a writer who does not feel a natural and spontaneous impulse to write a play “owes it to himself and to literature to make some essay, at any rate, in dramatic form.” It seems to him, as indeed it seems to me, that a drama solemnly composed from a stern and exaggerated sense of duty of this sort would not be particularly likely to benefit either literature or the stage.
Mrs. Margaret L. Woods's contribution to the debate is chiefly remarkable for an astounding assertion. “But even in France it is doubtful whether the plays of the last thirty years, with certain great exceptions, equal the novels of the same period in artistic quality. That so trashy a play as 'La Dame aux Camélias 'holds the stage, while the novel on which it is founded is extinct, points to a certain lowering of the standard for theatrical purposes.” How, I ask myself in amazement, can “La Dame aux Camélias " be called an extinct novel ?
But if Mrs. Woods is perplexing, Mr. Shorthouse is even more so. He says, “I do not call myself a novelist, and I do not think that any of my books can be described as novels.” What, one asks in wonder, is he? what are they? But Mr. Shorthouse seems to be in the mood for whimsical assertions. He says, “The last English actor I saw with pleasure was the late Charles Mathews, and I doubt whether he could properly be called an actor at all.” What is the meaning of this mysterious juggling with words? Mr. Shorthouse contributes nothing to the matter under discussion beyond these two riddles.
Lucas Malet is much more to the point, and her contribution is one of the best in the bunch. She has some definite opinions to express, and she expresses them well. According to her, the stage is in some considerable measure responsible for the breach between literature and drama. “For the members of the dramatic profession insinuate rather persistently that a sacred mystery enshrouds the business of their art, which the intelligence of the literary man or woman is hardly equal to penetrating. The specialist's profound reverence for himself is a peculiarity of the English nature. He has yet to learn that the possessor of a fair amount of intellect can apply
that intellect down pretty well any lines he pleases. From this peculiarity the English novelist is, I need hardly remark, happily free. We English writers are a modest and retiring race, naturally disposed to believe that which our sellow-artists tell us about ourselves. We have been told we could not write plays by those who were supposed to know. Therefore we have been discouraged, and have not written them.” But it would seem that Lucas Malet does not yearn to write them, does not want to be lured to the stage. “No, I for one protest against a new departure. We have experienced the worst of the printer and compositor ; of the critics, whose arrows fly by day in the public prints ; and of those persons with a conscience and desire for our souls' good whose letters, like the pestilence, walk in the darkness of anonymity. We also know the magazine editor; some of us know—and that is bitter knowledge indeed—the slow torture inflicted by the illustrator—in England, for they do these things better across the Atlantic and in France. Can we seriously be required to add to all these woes those of the stage manager, the actors, still more the ladies of the company, the scene-painter, the costumier, the scene-shifters and carpenters, the very important personage who directs the limelight upon the face of our expiring hero—the whole personnel of the theatre, in short, including, according to Dumas père, the fireman whose nod means damnation ? With all due deference to Mr. Archer, I really think we cannot. It is too much.” I cannot analyse the] utterances of all the writers. Among the best must be classed the words of Mr. Harold Frederic, words whose cool courage and uncompromising frankness come like a favouring wind across the fervour and the foolishness of the debate. It is a queer controversy: it seems to me to be also rather a barren controversy. Why, in Heaven's name ! should people be called upon to write plays whether they want to or whether they do not want to ? If a man, or woman, has it in him, or her, to write a good play, he, or she, will write that good play and have done with it. But good plays are not to be obtained by eloquent appeals to the writers of novels to “come over and help us.” This desperate attempt to force an art that ought to be spontaneous can scarcely yield good fruit. As for the novelists themselves, they seem, as we have seen, to be very well content with their own method and their own material, in which, at all events, they are very wise. JUSTIN HUNTLY McCARTHY.
DISCOVERY OF AMERICA. THE theory that Columbus was the first to visit the American
I continent has long been disputed, and will shortly be abandoned. The latest, and immeasurably the most ambitious historian of America, Mr. Edward John Payne, the first volume of whose “History of the New World called America” has just been issued by the Clarendon Press, is so much in earnest in stripping Columbus of a portion of his laurels that he is not inclined wholly and unhesitatingly to reject the story that Madox, the son of Owen Gwyneth, King of North Wales, sailed in the twelfth century to America and founded a colony on the bank of the Missouri. Without entering on this question, Mr. Payne gives a still earlier date to what is practically the discovery of America. He holds that when Ingolf, the son of Orn, reached Iceland in 874, he had unwittingly bridged over the gulf between Europe and America. Iceland practically belongs to America, and from the day when the Northmen landed on its coast, finding their way to the coast of New England was only a question of time. The nearest promontory of Greenland was only fifty-two nautical leagues from Iceland. The year 986 is that in which America was first discovered by Biarne Herjulfson the Northman, whose vessel drifted on an arctic current to New England. At this period, as Mr. Payne says, “While the Northmen were exploring the coast of America, others of their race were engaged in that continuous invasion of England which resulted in the Danish dynasty. Others were sailing up the Guadalquivir and plundering the Moors in Andalusia. Spain seemed permanently annexed to Africa : Genoa had not emerged from obscurity: the maritime revolution was not begun : none of the causes of the Columbian discovery had come into existence.” Profoundly interesting is the account of the discovery which Americans regard with small favour and in which Spain feels no great belief. Danish antiquaries, however, have taken much pains to establish its authority, and will be generally held to have succeeded. A subsequent voyage in Biarne's own ship, but under the lead of Leif, the son of Eric the Red, resulted in the discovery of Wineland, as the Northmen named the country in which they found the vine. This spot our author takes to have been some part of the State of Rhode Island.
HE views of Columbus generally which Mr. Payne expresses are not likely to be well received by those who have undertaken the apotheosis of the great navigator. Besides stripping Columbus of the honours awarded him through centuries, Mr. Payne finds much in his character to condemn. Humboldt regarded Columbus as “above all things an observer of cosmical Nature, a man of science, and worthy of a place among the forerunners of modern natural philosophy.” This view is not accepted by the later writer, who takes a much lower estimate, holding that his tone of thought belongs wholly to the Middle Ages, and then continues: “His ill-directed ambition, his sentimental fidelity to the monarchs who hired him, and cheated him of his hire, his love of the show of power and dignity, his intolerance of any theory of his discoveries except his own, indicate a temperament far indeed from that of the philosopher: and the literary work which employed his latter years, treating of the prophecies which he had conceived himself to have been instrumental in bringing to pass, evince a mind wholly under the sway of a gross and narrow theology.” Elsewhere I read that “Columbus, though a great seaman, was an incompetent governor,” and that the secret of his dogged persistency, both when recommending his scheme to Ferdinand and Isabella, and when crossing the Atlantic in search of the Indies, was not “precisely a masculine and rational faith in himself and the cause. It was part of his creed that nothing in his career was really a matter of fortune, and that he was in all things an instrument chosen by the Almighty for the accomplishment of His inscrutable designs.” I give Mr. Payne's own words, and leave them to be regarded as rank heresy or inspired truth according to the sympathies or convictions of the reader.
THE EXPLORATION of ANTARCTIC SEAs.
HE extreme interest now taken in all things connected with the voyages of Columbus and the discovery of America renders more remarkable the neglect that has long been exhibited with regard to the Antarctic Ocean. While Arctic seas have been explored in search of a North-West passage or in pursuit of commerce, the correspond. ing region in the south has for a long time been practically neglected. It is satisfactory to know that Britain is still in the van of discovery, and that four Dundee whalers have set sail for Arctic seas in pursuit of what is practically a voyage of discovery. The vessels are well fitted, manned, and commanded, and are furnished with means of taking observations, meteorological, magnetic, and other. What amount of success is to be hoped for in a voyage of this class, how far the fauna and flora of this comparatively unknown region may be expected to differ from those of the North, are matters that I leave to scientists. My satisfaction is derived from seeing that the spirit of enterprise and the love of adventure, and, I may add, the search after gain, are as keen now as they were in the days when across unknown seas Columbus held on undaunted. It speaks volumes for the British sailor that, though at the utmost disadvantage as regards situation, he remains foremost in the chase. To America should fall the responsibility of solving the great mystery of the South. Perhaps if we wait a little the task will fall to the Australasians. When once they have fitted themselves to the new home of Englishmen, have explored the length and breadth of their splendid continent, and settled the vexed questions connected with their political future, their surplus energies may be devoted to the solution of the largest, if not the most important, of remaining geographical problems.
ARTIFICIAL FOOD AND CivilISATION.
NE view strongly held by Mr. Payne, to whose “History of the ON
New World” I have recurred, seems likely, with some modifications, to meet with acceptance. It is that the “organisation of food-provision on the artificial basis has been combined with that of defence, and that communities in which these combined organisations have been fully elaborated have extended their boundaries at the expense of others whose social arrangements were less advanced." I have neither time nor space, if I had the ability and disposition, to show what seem the limitations of the theory, and content myself with putting it before my readers, many of whom will not fail to turn to Mr. Payne's volume. The transformation of human society, and the features which distinguish civilisation from savagery, are thus attri. buted to "the substitution of an artificial for a natural basis of subsistence." Upon the savage, as upon the civilised, weighs the necessity of storing food, a lesson taught him by some of the lower animals. · The first step to an artificial supply is, instead of mere