« 이전계속 »
lyle's originality. There is not a chapter of the French lnvolution which looks in the slightest degree like the work of any man but its author. In reading Jean Paul, it is impossible, I think, not to feel that the color is sometimes more important than the meaning, the embroidery more precious than the stuff; but the intellectual power of Carlyle is great enough to cause his most glowing similitudes to thrill with life. In de\ scribing the language of those books, you are forced to fall back on their author's resource of metaphor, and to say that it is now like the gleaming of swords, now like the rustle and glance of jewelled garments, now terrible as the lightning, now tender as the dew, now firm, close, rapid as the tread of armed men, now wildly and grandly vague as the voice of forests or the moaning of the sea.
Mr. Hutton, whose authority on a question of literary criticism I should place as high as that of any living man, observes, respecting a passage he has just quoted from Carlyle, that its style is "crowded with stress, and making the same kind of fatiguing impression on the mind which a handwriting sloped the wrong way makes on the eye—an impression of strain and effort." Such "over-emphasis" is, he holds, "both exhausting and unnatural," being "too crowded for nature," and missing "the neutral tints which are absolutely essential to the harmony of poetry." Mr. Hutton, in making these remarks, is engaged primarily with Mr. Browning's verse, not with Mr. Carlyle's prose, and I am not sure that he would refuse to admit that a degree of emphasis objectionable in poetry, and sometimes objectionable even in prose, might be appropriate in some kinds of prose, and pre-eminently appropriate in the description of a French Revolution. But what I would call attention to is this—that Carlyle, while compelled by his subject to use strong terms in order to reproduce, in literature, an agitation which must have been fatiguing, or indeed agonizing in reality, teas fully aware, as an artist, that undertones and neutral tints were necessary to A harmony in which the reigning tone was that of terror and of tragedy. Accordingly, amidst the tumult and trampling of his style, he is careful to introduce touches of tenderness, glimpses of the peace of nature which is deeper than any raging of man, snatches from that still sad music of humanity which outlasts the clash of battles and the frenzied shrieks of revolution. "In the heart of the remotest mountains rises the little Kirk; the dead all slumbering round it, under their white memorial stones,' in the hope of a blessed resurrection.'" Is not that a tranquillizing tone—a whisper of peace amidst the storm? "0 evening sun of July," he exclaims at the moment when his reader shudders at the spectacle of Paris on the evening of the fall of the Bastile, "how, at this hour, thy beams fall slant on reapers amidst peaceful woody fields; on old women spinning in cottages; on ships far out in the silent main,... and also on this roaring hell-porch of a 116tel-de-Ville!" I may remark, in passing, that the author of Philochristus, consciously or unconsciously, follows Mr. Carlyle in this habit of mingling colors of the dawn with his hues of earthquake and eclipse. Wc are taken out by him into the silence and sunshine of the pastoral hills about Jerusalem, and shown a shepherd-boy tending his sheep, at the very moment when the crime of the crucifixion is blackening the earth.
On one other point I must say a word before leaving the History of the French Revolution, namely, its humor. To omit mention of this were to neglect to specify one of its most characteristic features. But it is difficult to describe— in fact, it is indescribable to any one who has not become acquainted with it in the book itself. To some it may seem altogether offensive to associate any kind of mirth with such a subject; and I confess that the mood of scornful pity, of halfsneering sympathy, of admiration dashed with derision, and gravity varied with peals of laughter, in which the fearful tale is told, has sometimes struck me as scarcely human. But wo
ought to recollect that never, perhaps, in the history of man were the sublime of anguish and terror, and the ridiculous of imbecility, fanfaronade and pretentious foolery of all kinds, so wildly and inextricably mixed up as in the French Eevolution. Some of its incidents, as the Insurrection of Women, were in themselves grotesquely humorous. Into human life in general the absurd enters largely, and no writer who has not an eye for it will truly depict life on the historical scale. It was Professor Wilson, one of the kindest-hearted of men, who said that, if we grant Wordsworth that there are things too deep for tears, we may firmly allege that there is nothing too deep for laughter. The gloom of such occurrences as the French Revolution would become oppressive and intolerable in literary delineation unless relieved by some coruscations of mirth. Mr. Ruskin, commenting on Turner's drawing of soldiers about to begin climbing the hill to their Winchelsca barracks under the lashing rain of a thunder-storm, says that the artist was "partly laughing the strange half-cruel, half-sorrowful laugh that we wonder at, also, so often in Bewick." Few things in art have ever impressed me more painfully than Bewick's apprehension of—for I cannot believe him to have had any sympathy with—that most purely diabolical of all the elements of human nature, pleasure derived from cruelty—apprehension of it, I say, and use of it as a source of interest in his etchings; but I have never discovered even a "half-cruel" laugh in Turner: and grim, almost uncanny, as is the humor of Carlyle in the History of the French Revolution, there is no cruelty in it . I could not say the same of the humor in the Life of Frederick; but as yet Carlyle's mind was thoroughly genial and sunny, full of pity and affection, finding more in the miscry of the wicked and the foolish to weep for than in their crimes or errors to curse at.
The humor of the History of the French Revolution is more akin to that of Hamlet when he jests with the ghost—a humor not inconsistent with earnestness—nay, to all appearance, dependent upon an almost spasmodic, almost maniacal, tension of brain. Carlyle's humor recalls Shakspeare's in another aspect. There is not, so far as I know, any parallel in literature to the indifference or the unconsciousness with which these two allow their most pathetic or sublime passages to be associated with some triviality or absurdity. Shakspeare is absolutely incapable of resisting the temptation to pun or otherwise play upon words. No matter what he has in hand. He makes Laertes pun upon the water that drowned his sister Ophelia; Edgar upon the "bleeding rings" of his blinded father's eyes; Lady Macbeth upon the blood-stain with which, under the fixed eyes of murdered Duncan, she gilds the features of the sleeping grooms in proof of their guilt. Carlyle is not quite so inveterate a punster, but he occasionally perpetrates an atrocious pun, and he is equally incapable of resisting the temptation to make a joke. He speaks somewhere of a scapegrace failing to reach the goal of a noble life, and arriving, " by a fatal inversion," at the "Queen's Bench jail." A worse pun than that does not fall within the possibilities of human invention. In the concluding passage of his Life and Letters of Cromwell, in the last paragraph of the incomparable chapter which relates the death of Oliver, he places the England of his own time in contrast with England as portrayed by Milton in the following words: "The genius of England no longer soars sunward, world-defiant, like an eagle through the storms, 'mewing her mighty youth,' as John Milton saw her do: the genius of England, much likcr a greedy ostrich intent on provender and a whole skin mainly, stands with its other extremity sunward; with its ostrich-head stuck into the readiest bush, of old church-tippets, king-cloaks, or what other 'sheltering fallacy ' there may be, and so awaits the issue. The issue has been slow; but it is now seen to have been inevitable. No ostrich, intent on gross terrene provender, and sticking its
head into fallacies, but will be awakened one day in a terrible a posteriori manner, if not otherwise." You sec how the idea strikes him, lays hold of him, moves him to peal after peal of wild, sad laughter, will not leave him till he has worked it out from the sticking of the ostrich-head into the bush to the awakening of the bird under the birch-rods of destiny.
I cannot refrain from quoting another example of Carlyle's humor from the History of the French Revolution. "Sovereigns die and sovereignties: how all dies, and is for a time only; is a 'time-phantasm,' yet reckons itself real! The Merovingian kings, slowly wending on their bullock-carts through the streets of Paris, with their long hair flowing, have all wended slowly on—into eternity. Charlemagne sleeps at Salzburg, with truncheon grounded; only fable expecting that he will awaken. Charles the Hammer, Pepin bow-legged, where now is their eye of menace, their voice of command? Rollo and his shaggy Northmen cover not the Seine with ships; but have sailed off on a longer voyage. The hair of Tow-head (Tele (fetoupes) now needs no combing; Iron-cutter (Taillefer) cannot cut a cobweb; shrill Fredegonda, shrill Brunhilda, have had out their hot life-scold, and lie silent, their hot life-frenzy cooled." Here he starts with the most solemn of all subjects, the great mysteries of time, and death, and eternity. The picture, so intensely real, with its bnllock-carts, and streets of Paris, and long-haired kings, and so purely ideal in the "wending on" of these into eternity, is humorous to begin with; and so soon as the odd names of the Merovingians occur to him, the sense of fun gets complete possession of his mind, and he must tell us that Tow-head's hair now "needs no combing," and Iron-cutter "cannot cut a cobweb." Evidently, before he reached this point, his sides were shaking, and there is no reason to doubt that Carlyle writes as he talks, with perpetual dramatic sympathy, and with intermittent bursts of laughter.
In the last extract the sense of mystery is seen associated