페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

attempt to controvert, but tried to make ridiculous in an answer, which he entitled, with questionable taste, an Essay on Thunder and small Beer. Thackeray's literary career began with a series of social sketches published in Fraser's Magazine under the signature of Michael Angelo Titmarsh, including the Hoggarty Diamond and the Yellowplush Papers. But it was by the publication of the Snob Papers and Jeames's Diary in Punch, that his reputation was established. The snob, as Thackeray uses the word, is a vain upstart, who affects to despise the class from which he has himself emerged, and endeavours, by fawning and servile obsequiousness, to secure himself a footing in a higher circle. The pseudonym of Titmarsh he retained in the publication of the Irish Sketch Book, the Paris Sketch Book, the Second Funeral of Napoleon, and a Journey from Cornhill to Cairo; but several of his other works appeared under the names of Fitz-Boodle and Pendennis. It was not till 1846 that Thackeray really showed what was in him by the publication, in monthly numbers, of his story of Vanity Fair, a novel without a hero, but with two heroines, respectively called Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedley; the one the impersonation of virtue without intelligence, the other the representative of intelligence without virtue. With one single exception-that of the awkward and ungainly Major Dobbin-all the characters are schemers, fools, roués or spendthrifts. In spite of all her faults, the interest of the story centres in Becky Sharp. A penniless orphan, received as French teacher in a boarding-school, she makes her way as governess into Sir Pitt Crawley's family, where she alternately flirts with the miserly old man and his son, Captain Rawdon Crawley, a silly, extravagant officer in the Life-Guards, whom she at length gains as a husband, and accompanies to Brussels, just before Waterloo. She next becomes the mistress of Lord Steyne, is repudiated by her husband, becomes a swindler and roving adventuress, but at last manages to secure herself a pecuniary independence. Major Dobbin, the only estimable character in the story, is finally rewarded with the hand of the woman without intelligence, after she has been a widow for fifteen years. Thackeray cannot be accused of coarseness, but we wish we could exonerate him from the charge of vulgarity. Unlike Dickens, he never chooses his characters among the people, but exclusively among the better, and what we usually call the educated classes; and we cannot understand why he

a 'neat

is so fond of making his personages talk slang. Was it necessary for Becky Sharp, the well-educated and clever governess, to describe Amelia Sedley's first husband as her 'gaby of a husband,' or for Captain Crawley to speak of Becky as little filly,' and of his father as an 'old put and a chaw-bacon?' The baronet, Sir Pitt, speaks as bad English as the meanest labourer on his estate; and we will venture to affirm, that no Englishman ever knew such a baronet in real life. The coarse practical joke of Jos Sedley, the East Indian, who persuades Becky, when she cannot succeed in swallowing a spoonful of a hotly spiced Indian dish, to take some Chili pepper into her mouth, we do not think diverting. When we come to the third volume, we find most of the characters of the novel together in Germany, at the ‘Grand Ducal town of Pumpernickel,' and we have no end of jokes on 'His Transparency the Duke and Transparent family,' the author seeming to imagine that Transparency' is the correct English translation of Durchlaucht, and never suspecting that it is simply the equivalent of the English word 'illustrious. At this court, Jos the East Indian becomes, we are told, 'very sweet upon the Gräfinn Fanny de Butterbrod.' This may be all very humorous, but we confess that we are too obtuse to see where the humour lies.

We have gone a little into detail in describing Vanity Fair, because, after all, it is Thackeray's principal story, and the work which, as his ardent admirers assure us, is to make his name immortal. In his second novel, the History of Pendennis, we have a young scapegrace as the hero, who falls in love with an actress, is jilted by her, is plucked, as the students say, in a university examination, and at last takes to literature as a profession. The Kickleburys on the Rhine, evidently suggested by Moore's Fudge Family in Paris, followed, and gave occasion to the critical article in the Times already mentioned. In the summer of 1851 Thackeray appeared as a lecturer, and took for his subject the English Humorists. These lectures were so popular, that when soon afterwards they appeared in print, thousands of copies were sold in a few days. Though in most respects excellent, they have one great blemish-some writers, such as Gay, he praises excessively, while to others, like Swift, he is grossly unjust, as can be easily proved by the evidence of men who knew Swift intimately. In Esmond, which appeared in the following year, Thackeray brings us back to the age of

Queen Anne, and Swift, Congreve, Addison and Steele figure on the stage. But the most interesting character in the novel is the hero himself, Colonel Henry Esmond, a partisan of the banished Stuarts, who, seeing his hopes of a second Restoration disappointed, emigrates to Virginia. Esmond loves the capricious beauty, Beatrix, the daughter of Lady Castlewood, but on being rejected by her, he seeks and finds consolation in her neighbourhood, and marries, at the age of forty, the young lady's mother, who is fifty. Notwithstanding this unnatural, and even revolting conclusion, the substitution is so gradually and skilfully introduced, and the reader so well prepared, that we are much less shocked by it than might he supposed. A continuation of Esmond appeared under the name of the Virginians, a tale of the times of George II., but it is inartistically constructed, and deficient in interest. Much superior is the Newcomes, in which we find Thackeray's most engaging heroine, Ethel Newcome; many even regard it as his masterpiece. In his lectures on the four Georges of England, his most cutting sarcasm is levelled at George IV., but it must be confessed that very little could he said in his favour, either as prince or king.

Thackeray is fond of digressions, and in some of his stories-particularly the Virginians-he falls into a preaching and moralizing tone, at once pretentious and commonplace, that is very tiresome. We have already alluded to his habit of putting slang into the mouths of persons supposed to belong to the educated classes, but he has the worse fault of making use of it when writing in his own character as author. In some of his novels, the constant repetition of the vulgar word 'chap' is very offensive to a delicate ear, and this is one of his most venial transgressions against good taste. Thackeray has no doubt written much that will permanently hold its place in English literature, but much too, we believe, that will soon be consigned to oblivion.

Thomas Carlyle, a great but eccentric genius, though best known as an historian, is hardly, if at all, less distinguished as a biographer, translator and critic. His historical style is the very opposite to that of Macaulay, and it is some time before the reader can reconcile himself to his roughness and abruptness, and gather up the gems of thought that lie buried beneath a cumbrous layer of German phraseology. It is the opinion of many writers, that Carlyle is most successful as a biographer, and that even in his historical

|

works, he rather presents us with a series of biographical sketches, than with pictures of the times, or with a closely connected chain of historical events arising out of each other. He was one of the first to make the English reader familiar with German literature, though a movement in this direction had been initiated by Scott and Coleridge, and he penetrated much deeper into the spirit of German philosophy than even Coleridge himself. His first important literary production was the Life of Schiller, which he wrote in 1873 for the London Magazine, and in the following year he published an anonymous translation of Goethe's Wilhelm Meister. Of these works the former is written in a plain and pleasing style, but the latter has been severely censured on account of its perpetually recurring Germanisms. In 18331834 his singular Sartor Resartus, or the Tailor Patched, appeared in Fraser's Magazine, after it had been rejected by several publishers. It is an attempt to elucidate the doctrine of Fichte, that there is a Divine Idea underlying the superficialities of the world, all which, as well as ourselves, serve it only as a dress or sensuous appearance. We must therefore apply ourselves to the research of the essence of truth concealed beneath these disguises and conventionalities. In 1871 Sartor Resartus appeared in a cheap popular edition, and 20,000 copies were sold in the month of April alone-a rich compensation for the coldness with which the book was at first received. From 1837

1840, Carlyle delivered several courses of lectures in London, on German Literature, the Revolutions of Modern Europe, on Literary History, and on Heroes and Hero Worship. In the former year appeared the ablest and most admired of all Carlyle's works, the French Revolution, a book whose perusal cannot fail to make an indelible impression on every reflecting mind. The reader sees defile before him, in a long procession and wonderfully lifelike the imperious Danton, the spectral-visaged Robespierre, the resolute and beautiful Charlotte Corday, her victim the blood-stained Marat; Madame Roland and Louis XVI. on their way to the guillotine. The style is eloquent and animated, and the portraits he places before us acquire an almost startling reality by the vivacity of his language, his frequent use of the present tense, and the apostrophes into which he suddenly and unexpectedly bursts. In the publication of the Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell, in 1845, he rendered a special service

to history, completely disproving many of the foul calumnies.heaped on a great name by the servile and venal royalist writers of the Restoration. His last work of importance was his History of Frederick II. called Frederick the Great, the two first volumes of which appeared in 1858. In spite of all the merits of this history, it falls considerably below the high standard of his French Revolution. The style, on the whole, is too flippant for authentic history; and the reader is often puzzled to know if the author is in earnest or in jest. We have already protested against the portrait of Frederick William I. drawn | by Macaulay, who makes him a sort of German Caligula; and we are no better pleased with that offered us by Carlyle, who, passing over in silence the invaluable services rendered to Prussian agriculture, trade and finance by that monarch, makes him only an amusing lunatic. To Frederick himself Carlyle is in general not unjust, and he presents him to us as the hero of action in the eighteenth century, as Voltaire was the hero of thought.

We terminate our observations on Thomas Carlyle and his works by adding, to his honour, that during the Franco-German war of 1870-1871, he was one of the firmest partisans of the German cause, and that in November 1870, at a time when Germany was grossly misrepresented and most unjustly assailed by a considerable part of the London press, he addressed a long and energetic letter to the Times in defence of German policy, German soldiers, and German statesmen.

RECENT ENGLISH LITERATURE.

Among recent English poets Robert Browning (the Ring and the Book, Caliban on Setebos, Fifine at the Fair, etc.) and Elizabeth Browning (Aurora Leigh, etc.) hold a distinguished place. Browning is an ingenious philosophical and satirical poet, but his obscurity will prevent him from ever becoming popular. Mrs. Browning's Aurora Leigh is a novel in blank verse, containing some fine descriptive passages, but unfortunately also much that is incongruous and repulsive. Swinburne (Atalanta in Calydon: a Tragedy; Chastelard: a Tragedy; Poems) surprised the world in 1865 by the reproduction of a Greek tragedy, which was soon followed by a second tragedy founded on a passage in the life of the unhappy Mary Stuart. Swinburne has been continually at war with the critics, who reproached him with profanity and

sensuousness. Matthew Arnold (Tristram and Iseult, etc.), though not a great, is a pleasing poet. Sheridan's granddaughter, the Hon. Mrs. Norton (Stuart of Dunleath, etc.) has written poems, novels and several beautiful songs. Thomas Hood (Song of the Shirt, etc.), the king of punsters, equally excelled in humorous and pathetic poetry. Eliza Cook, and the blind Irish girl, Frances Brown, have gained a high reputation for the elegance and healthy moral tone of their verses.

The leading recent novelists are Charlotte Brontë (Jane Eyre, etc.), George Eliot (Adam Bede, etc.), Anthony Trollope (Orley Farm, etc.), Wilkie Collins (the Woman in White, etc.), Mrs. S. C. Hall (Marian, etc.), the Countess of Blessington (Confessions of an elderly Gentleman, etc.), Lady Morgan (Wild Irish Girl, etc.), Mrs. Marsh (Emilia Wyndham, etc.), Julia Kavanagh (Queen Mab, etc.), Charles Lever (Harry Lorrequer, etc.), Maxwell (Stories of Waterloo, etc.), Miss Mulock (John Halifax, etc.), Crofton Croker (Barney Mahoney, etc.), Captain Mayne Reid (the Rifle Rangers, etc.), Mrs. Gore (Mothers and Daughters, etc.), Kingsley (Alton Locke, etc.), Miss Yonge (Heir of Redclyffe, etc.), William Carleton (the Black Prophet, etc.), James Grant (the Chelsea Pensioners, etc.), Ainsworth (the Tower of London, etc.), Samuel Lover (Rory O'More, etc.).

The chief recent historical writers are Alison, Froude, Earl Stanhope, Palgrave, Grote, Miss Strickland, Thirlwall, Kinglake and Dr. Russell. Ruskin is the main authority on art. Lockhart, Smiles and Lewes are biographers. The great names in science are Whately, Mill, Brewster, Lardner, Faraday, Wheatstone, Buckland, Darwin and Murchison.

AMERICAN LITERATURE.

It was not till Washington Irving published his Sketch-Book in 1820 that the young literature of America attracted any attention in Europe; nor can we call this very surprising. From the first settlement of New England till the Declaration of Independence in 1775, almost the only literary fruits of the colonies were some theological books and a number of political pamphlets. Benjamin Franklin is the first American writer who made himself a name in Europe, and even he was more of a politician than a literary man. But with Washington Irving a new era opens; and, as if nothing had been necessary but a beginning and an example, the literary progress

of America henceforth marched æquo passu with her material development. We believe it is not generally known, how much Irving contributed to awaken the slumbering powers of Dickens. The English novelist frankly and cheerfully acknowledged it, and in a letter to Irving he expressed himself in the following emphatic manner: 'There is no living writer, and there are very few among the dead, whose approbation I should feel so proud to earn. And with every thing you have written on my shelves, and in my thoughts, and in my heart of hearts, I may honestly and truly say so.' The first fruits of Irving's genius were his Letters of Jonathan Oldstyle in the NewYork Morning Chronicle, and sundry contributions to the humorous periodical Salmagundi. Soon after appeared his droll History of New-York by Diedrich Knickerbocker, which with his jocose portraits of the two Dutch governors, the wise Wouter van Twiller, or Walter the Doubter, and the warlike Peter Stuyvesant, or Peter the Headstrong, greatly amused his American fellow-citizens, though it a good deal annoyed the proud old Dutch aristocracy of New-York. The Sketch-Book, Bracebridge Hall and Tales of a Traveller, were published in London, during his residence in England from 1820-1824. In 1825 he went to Spain, as a member of the American Embassy, and remained there four years, gathering in his leisure moments the materials for his Tales of the Alhambra, the Conquest of Granada, and the Life of Columbus. Irving likewise wrote several books of travels, and other works, historical, biographical and imaginative, including a Life of Goldsmith; but his literary reputation is mainly based on the Sketch-Book and Bracebridge Hall.

The poetry of America is chiefly lyrical, and its principal representatives are Bryant, Dana, Poe, the popular song-writer Morris, and the quaker Whittier. Bryant was a precocious genius, having published a successful political satire, the Embargo, when only a boy of fourteen, but he soon renounced this uncongenial style of writing. His two principal poems are his grand and solemn Thanatopsis (1816), and the Ages (1821), a review of human knowledge and experience; his shorter pieces, with hardly an exception, are exquisitely beautiful. It was Washington Irving who in 1832 had Bryant's poems collected, and published in London. Professor Wilson observes, that 'the chief charm of Bryant's genius consists in a tender pensiveness, a moral melancholy, breathing over all his

contemplations, dreams and reveries.' Dana, the author of the Bucaneer, is the sailorpoet of America. The sombre poetry_of the unfortunate and dissipated genius Poe, like his terrific tales, is instinct with a morbid, despondent melancholy, that at once attracts and repels the reader. The sweet poet Morris has much that reminds us of Mrs. Hemans, and his mellifluous verses exhale, like hers, a fragrance of purity and moral grandeur. Whittier, the poet moralist of New-England, writes with all the power and zeal of earnest conviction. Bayard Taylor, the able translator of Faust, is likewise a poet, though not of the first order. Longfellow, as the author of Evangeline and the Song of Hiawatha, has been called an epic poet, but he owes his popularity more to his ballads and his shorter poems, such as the Psalm of Life. In Evangeline, which is written in hexameters, and is consequently rather heavy reading, the poet movingly recounts the sufferings of a French NovaScotian family in war-time. With regard to the Indian tale Hiawatha, public opinion in both America and England is widely divided. While by some it has been lauded to the skies, by others it has been ridiculed and parodied. If success be the true test of merit, Hiawatha must be looked on as a masterpiece, for it went through no less than thirty editions in the first half-year of its publication. As a translator and critic Longfellow stands justly high; and his novels, Kavanagh and Hyperion, more especially the latter, much enhanced his literary reputation. Halleck writes in a manly and vigorous tone, but shows little imagination, and his poetry contrasts strongly with the elegant and polished verses of Lowell. Holmes (Terpsichore, Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table, etc.) displays a rich vein of humour, both in his poetry and his prose. Halpine, under the nom de plume of Private Miles O'Reilly, is the Dibdin of the American civil war. Steadman has also written martial poetry of a highly vigorous cast. Whitman has introduced a new style of philosophical blank verse. Miller is the popular bard of the Far-West.

Of American novelists and story tellers, Cooper is the most celebrated, and his books have found a wide circle of readers. His earlier works, the Spy, the Pilot, and Lionel Lincoln, stories of the war of the American Revolution, possess no mean literary merit, but are disfigured by his distorted historical facts, and by an uncalledfor display of hostility to England. His sea-stories, such as the Water-witch, and

his tales of Indian life, especially the Last of the Mohicans, are in a high degree fascinating; on the other hand, the Bravo, a Venetian story, is tedious in the dialogue, and highly improbable in the plot. Cooper has been called the Scott of America, but in solid learning, patient research, historical accuracy, and poetic feeling he is immeasurably inferior to the 'Wizard of the North.' Hawthorne (Twice-told Tales etc.), Miss Sedgwick (the Linwoods), and Paulding (Westward ho!) are very agreeable writers; but an unparalleled success was obtained by Mrs. Beecher-Stowe in her anti-slavery story of Uncle Tom's Cabin. The plot of this now famous tale is somewhat melodramatic, but many of the characters are excellent, and seem to have been taken from real life. It is a considerable drawback to this book, that the author persists in continually intruding on the reader the peculiar religious opinions of the sect to which she belongs; and the stories of another American lady, Elizabeth Wetherell (the Wide, Wide World, etc.) are in this respect still more displeasing. Mrs. Stowe wrote several other novels, but they are all greatly inferior to Uncle Tom's Cabin. The novelist Cable admirably portrays life in New-Orleans under the French regime. Mrs. Sigourney has published poems, tales, travels and letters. One of her most popular works: Pleasant Memories in pleasant Lands, appeared in 1842. Her favourite themes are love and devotion. Mrs. Sigour ney's works,' says an American critic, 'express with great purity and evident sincerity the tender affections which are so natural to the female heart, and the lofty aspirations after a higher and better state of being, which constitute the truly ennobling and elevating principle in art as well as nature.'

Although America as yet has done relatively little in philosophy, we have only to mention the names of Emerson, Thoreau, Alcott and Margaret Fuller, to show that even in so busy a country this department of science has not been quite neglected. These writers were all contributors to the Boston philosophical journal called the Dial. Miss Fuller also published, in 1845, 'Woman in the nineteenth century,' which is her principal work. In the following year she visited Rome, where she married the Marquis d'Ossoli. On her way back to America, in 1850, the ship was wrecked on Fire Island on the 8th of August, and both she

and her husband perished. She had just finished an important work: 'On the Revolution in Italy, but the manuscript was lost with its author in the catastrophe.

names.

Among the eminent orators of America we may mention Webster, Clay, Sumner, Everett, Wendell Phillips, Calhoun, and Benton. The principal writers of travels are Stephens, Brace, and Bayard Taylor. Horace Mann is the author of several excellent works on education; Ticknor is one of the highest authorities on Spanish literature; and in every department of science we find distinguished American Bancroft reared himself an imperishable monument in his great work: the History of the United States; and Prescott, though labouring under the disadvantage of imperfect sight, has bequeathed to the world three most valuable historical works on Spain and the Spanish conquests in America, besides three volumes of a fourth, which his death in the beginning of 1859 hindered him from completing. Motley published in 1856 the Rise of the Dutch Republic, and in 1860 a continuation under the name of History of the United Netherlands. This fine historical writer has been called the American Macaulay. The four years' civil war, as may be supposed, called forth a legion of narratives and histories, the most valuable of which is the Great Conflict by Horace Greeley.

Among the pulpit orators and theologians of America we may mention Beecher, Cheever, Parker and Channing. The last-named divine is also the author of several essays and eloquent discourses on Milton, Napoleon, Negro Emancipation, the Present Âge, and other subjects.

Humorous literature is largely represented in America. The leading American humorist is certainly Clemens, better known as Mark Twain (Sketches, etc.). Bret Harte (Gabriel Conroy, Thankful Blossom, etc.) is less exclusively a humorist, and more of a poet, than Mark Twain. The drollery of Artemus Ward, the showman, whose real name is Brown, though very diverting, is of an inferior order; and the same may be said of Hans Breitmann, whose curious jumble of English and German is as provocative of laughter as Artemus Ward's very original orthography. Holmes, Lowell and Hawthorne we have mentioned elsewhere; and the list may be considered complete if we add the names of Billings, Leland, Harris and Adeler.

« 이전계속 »