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this is antiquated. For, to begin with, it is nothing of the kind; though it is much more shamefaced in its policy than it used to be. When writers such as Charles Kingsley, Miss Yonge, and George MacDonald have written novels, which have been read and relished by millions of good and pure souls within distinctly sectarian inclosures-when such books awaken all but universal shouts of delight and gratitude-when that is the case, common love of approbation (which is usually very strong in a certain order of mind) makes certain people hold their tongues. They do not want to be laughed at, that is all-but their (more or less) secret opinions remain unaltered; the judgment condemning works of fiction is held as extensively as ever among the serious classes now incriminated; and-here we have prepared a surprise for some-we will do them more justice than they, by their shamefaced reticence, do themselves, and will boldly repeat that if the logic of their creed is the same their condemnation of fiction ought to stand. Robert Hall has left it on record that no writings ever did him so much harm as those of Maria Edgeworth: *
In point of tendency, I should class Miss Edgeworth's writings among the most irreligious I ever read. Not from any desire she evinces to do mischief, or to unsettle the mind, like some of the insidious infidels of the last century; not so much from any direct attack she makes upon religion, as from a universal and studied omission of the subject. In her writings a very high strain of morality is assumed. she delineates the most virtuous characters, and represents them in the most affecting circumstances of life—in sickness, in distress, even in the immediate prospect of eternity, and finally sends them off the stage with their virtue unsullied-and all this without the remotest allusion to Christianity, the only true religion. Thus, she does not attack religion, or inveigh against it, but makes it appear unnecessary, by exhibiting perfect virtue without it. No works ever produced so bad an effect on my own mind as hers. I did not expect any irreligion there; I was off my guard, their moral character beguiled me, I read volume after volume with eagerness, and the evil effect of them I experienced for weeks.
Now, here we have the whole case in little the whole case, we mean, as to one of its most serious elements. Robert Hall was bound by his creed (which was, however, liberal) to find fiction objectionable unless it was written with a certain dominating purpose. And so are those who, nowadays, hold a creed resembling his. They may and do dodge the obligation; they can not destroy it. The whole "situation" in this particular is thoroughly insincere.
But Robert Hall had not got to the bottom or nearly to the bottom of his own mind in this matter. What he felt-what he thought was so mischievous (and what, unless he had altered his belief, really was mischievous to him) was not so much the absence of any element of positive Christianity, as the diffused, interpenetrating, unconquerable delight of the novelist in life as it is, and the presence of moral elements for which there was no room under shelter of his beliefsfor example, love, as understood among us of the Western nations-a thing of which there is not a germ in the Semitic mind, or a hint in the Old and New Testament. Now, it was the more or less impassioned, but always direct, delight in life and this world, without reference to any positive Christian institute or dogma, which was at the bottom of it all, and spoiled Mr. Hall's religious life for weeks: and it is this delight which is the essential condition of all good poetry or fiction. Write fiction on any other plan, and nobody will read it. The literary artist in this kind turns over the pages of what Mr. Meredith calls the "Book of Earth "--which is also, as he says, the "Book of Egoism "—and he finds it full, not only of "wisdom," but of delight. And poor Mr. Hall-his tortured organs crammed with sharp-pointed calculi-found that even as little as he got of it in Miss Edgeworth (who is, however, full of animal spirits), took the savor out of his closet and pulpit exercises for "weeks."
Now, here we impinge, end on, upon one of the most interesting questions, and from its character necessarily the foremost of the questions suggested by the relation of the New Fiction to the moral and spiritual culture of the age. It would recur again and again in dealing with novelists like Kingsley, Thackeray, and George Eliot, not to mention others. The startling point in the case is that so much of our fiction has lost the healthy simplicity of Scott and his school, and is as much occupied, though in a subauditur, with the skeleton in the cupboard of daily life as even a Robert Hall could be with "the corruption of the human heart," and the "miseries of the perishing creature."
It is the fashion to try to trace things to remote origins, and show more or less plausibly how complex products have been evolved from beginnings held for simple-we say held for simple, because the egg is in reality as complex as the chick; and, as Dogberry said, "it will go near to be thought so" before long. What, however, if we follow the fashion, may we suppose to have been the beginning of deliberately composed fiction among human beings? Reserving that point for future consideration, we
* "Life and Writings of Robert Hall, M. A.," 6 vols., may pause upon the one which has been already vol. i., p. 174.
raised, because it is, in the anatomy of the sub
ject, vital. If a man maintains not only that man is imperfect, but that he is corrupt and, without supernatural aid connecting itself with certain beliefs, incapable of good, then he must feel that to him the fountains of art, in poetry, fiction, or otherwise, are sealed. But, whatever else may be said of the essential logic of such an opinion as that, it is plain that poetry and fiction have in all ages set themselves in battle array against it, and that the victory seems more and more to lean to their side. Now, as we have already noticed, the zeit-geist does not argue-it is in the air, and it conquers by inconsistencies. However, we can not now follow up this, or trace the history of story-telling, so far as we know it, from Jotham's parable down to Mr. George Meredith's "Book of Egoism."
Most, if not all, of the critics of the old-fashioned school who have condemned novels and romances have been anxious to explain that they do not extend their condemnation to books like the "Pilgrim's Progress," or stories carefully written in order to inculcate religious truths, or moral truths set in organic relation to religious truths. It is true they have always been very jealous in admitting stories of actual life to any position of even qualified honor, because of the difficulty of introducing what they would call the sal evangelicum into such stories, and also because to tell a story of natural human feeling is, from their point of view, slippery work-the "interest" being apt to slide, under the workman's very eye, into paths held to be dangerous. But, of course, it would never do to condemn simple parables, or even complicated parables, or narratives as inartificial and as little discursive as those of Joseph and his brethren, or Job. This would land then in an obvious difficulty. The great crux with them is always the passion of love between man and woman. In the first place, paint it as he will, the artist is sure to get too much color on the canvas-for their taste. In the second place, they are vaguely influenced by the fact already mentioned that love, as understood among the Westerns, is not to be found in the Bible. When the description of love is carried to the height which is necessary to make it interesting in itself, there are, in the eye of these critics, two evils. The first they see clearly and constantly point out—namely, that "the perishing creature" occupies too large a space in the heart. The second they do not see clearly, but they feel it—and they flinch from pictures of life which attribute so much exalting power to an "earthly" passion; the good woman in the Book of Proverbs, or a subordinated figure like the wife sketched by St. Paul, does not show very congruously with woman as the inspirer and regenerator of the man; a being seen in a seventh
heaven of divine luster, and utterly alien in conception to anything to be found in the Fathers or the Apostles. Governor Winthrop's wife writes to her husband, "I love thee, first, because thou lovest Christ"; but the good man would have been very much hurt if he had believed her. This, I repeat, is the everlasting difficulty as to the poetic, or thoroughly "human" novel, regarded from what we have (without committing any one) agreed to call the "evangelical" point of view. A novel may contain no vice, or other wrong-doing, or it may treat the wrong-doing with the most orthodox severity, and yet the work may be obnoxious to criticism of the kind now contemplated. Hawthorne's "Scarlet Letter" is a case in point. True, Hawthorne makes it plain here and there that he did not understand Puritanism, after all; but Cotton Mather himself, or a grimmer than he, might be satisfied with the climax-the scene in which the minister dies on the scaffold. Nevertheless, the predominant influence of the story is naturalistic, and it does not require a very subtile intellect to gather doubtful oracles from it. External nature and human nature are both handled with the sympathetic touch of the artist, not with that of the moralist. The Rev. Mr. Wilson would have turned sourly away from the last chapter, in which it is suggested that " a new truth will some day be "revealed," in order to place certain matters on a more satisfactory footing. "New truth? new truth? Why, what new truth can there be in such a case?" he would have said. "My unlearned and unregenerate brother, you have given your mind too much to ballads and play-books. Learn the lesson of self-abasement, and be not wise above that which is written."
The exact process by which the literature of any given age, or any given branch of literature assumes a new color is sometimes very obscure, but now and then it is amusingly obvious. Many reasons have been assigned for Queen Elizabeth's remaining unmarried. If one of them were proved to be true (which is not possible), then it would follow that very much of the poetic and romantic literature of her age and Milton's received a peculiar tinge from facts which had no more to do with literature or morals than the shape of Cleopatra's nose. As it happens, we can trace the fact that in our own time the religious classes (with large exceptions) read novels extensively and without scruple to immediate causes which lie upon the surface. We are not now taking the larger or deeper view of the matter-we are not going to pause upon the question of the influence of Sir Walter Scott and Miss Austen in breaking fresh ground among that large class of serious readers who take what might be roughly described as the ordinary old-fashioned Church of England
view of religion, nor upon the influence in fostering latent naturalistic tendencies which was exercised by the revival of the old ballad literature: the writings of Wordsworth and Coleridge, and the cultivation of German. The last, however, has had more to do with it than would at first sight be supposed. The childlike poetic naturalism of German romance and poetry stole upon the mind before there was time to think how naturalism in art stood related to hard-and-fast literalism of creed-and the waters were out before any one knew it. The direct influence of stories like Fouqué's and ballads like Uhland's was confined, of course, to a few minds. But these were minds that could be swiftly kindled, and that were sure to pass on the torch. How ever, to pass from such generalities, it may plausibly be said that writers like Miss Yonge, Charles Kingsley, and Dinah Mulock (Mrs. Craik), were the foremost among those who led the way to the new state of things. So far as we know, Mr. Kingsley was the only one who avowedly took up naturalistic-poetic ground as land lying within the territory of any Biblical creed. He did this with great ardor, and got himself into trouble by it; but he was within his commission as a disciple of Mr. Maurice, whatever may be thought of his policy or his arguments. "It may seem paradoxical, yet is hardly hazardous, to say that the Maurice theology owes its power not less to its indulgence, than to its correction, of the pantheistic tendency of the age. It answers the demand of every ideal philosophy and every poetic soul for an indwelling divine presence, living and acting in all the beauty of the world and the good of human hearts." These sentences of Dr. Martineau's are aimed at the influence of the Maurice dogma upon the practical religious "benevolence" of the age, but they apply with even more obvious weight to the question of the relation between poetic literature and the old stiff orthodoxy. And here, once more, the minds impregnated by Maurice and his school were themselves propagators, and what one man like Dr. George MacDonald acquired he passed on to thousands. We do not pretend to determine to what extent, if any, Dr. MacDonald was at any time indebted to the elder prophet; but the reader may find in the former's poem of "The Disciple" a fragmentary statement of the case as we have put it, and Dr. MacDonald's solution. Now, Dr. MacDonald, like Kingsley, has written no novel without distinctly Christian assumptions. But to a reader within the Christian precincts there is no great harshness in the transition from, say, "Robert Falconer" to a story by Mrs. Oliphant; from Mrs. Oliphant it is easy to pass to Mr. Trollope; and from him to Mr. Blackmore or Mr. Charles Reade.
In this scale I have left out Mrs. Gaskell, but her influence in making novels acceptable reading in certain circles has been incalculable. It was not on account of any poetic naturalism that her "Ruth" was ever shut out. But Mrs. Gaskell was one of three very notable novelists, whose early training lay within Puritan or quasiPuritan boundaries. The other two are Mrs. Beecher Stowe and George Eliot. Both these writers had the command of a certain dialect (not to say more) which gave them the entry into "evangelical" circles at once. There are thousands of such circles where "Mr. Gilfil's Love Story," and much more "Adam Bede," would meet a doubtful welcome; but none where "Uncle Tom's Cabin" or "The Minister's Wooing" would not take the readers by storm. It is interesting, by the way, to note the prominence which the question of poetic naturalism and Puritanism assumes in Mrs. Stowe's earlier novels. Her own mind was evidently much "exercised" upon it.
The end of it is that, nowadays, nearly everybody reads a story of some kind. Nearly all, if not all, the avowedly religious periodicals, in which a story is at all possible, take care to have one running from number to number. True, the "human interest" in these tales is never strong, nor is the humor; and the range of allusions is narrow. In other words, we find the old antagonism still present-when we look closely. But the general reader does not look closely, and the very thinnest of such narratives approximates more closely to the character of the novel proper than, say, Legh Richmond's "Dairyman's Daughter," or Hannah More's "Cœlebs in Search of a Wife."
It will probably be said that the extended acceptance of the novel in our own day is largely due to the fact that fiction is no longer the indecent thing it once was. But this, so far as it is true, refers us back to the larger question of poetic naturalism as against dogmatic literalism; for the purification of fiction has gone on handin-hand with certain wide improvements and greater freedom of construction as to what may be good to read. We might here recall the outcry made in certain circles about "Jane Eyre," and later about "Ruth." But it is undoubtedly true that within the boundaries of literature proper there is little fiction that is offensive. Indeed, too much stress-or at least stress of the wrong kind-has been laid upon the presence in recent literature of what might be called the luxuriouswanton novel. The importance of this product has been overrated, and certainly its real significance has not been shown or hinted at. The exaggeration in the treatment of it is easily accounted for. There is a considerable class
of leading - article writers and reviewers who are, naturally enough, on the lookout for exciting topics, and fond of exhibiting their parts of speech. It is from these gentlemen that we get those amazingly indignant criticisms of a certain class of novels, which ring so false. The object with which the articles are produced is, in too many cases, worse than that with which the stories are written. The latter are often the work of inexperienced writers, women in particular, who have got into a fume about they know not what, and who really mean no harm. The critics, on the other hand, know very well what they are about; their virtuous indignation is artificial lather; their object is to produce a "spicy" paper, which, under cover of zeal for purity, shall be full of impure suggestion. So much for one class of journalists who make capital out of such novels. But there is another and a still larger class, made up of half-sincere social critics, usually young. These gentlemen (for lady reviewers seldom get into an indecorous passion of decorum) are generally on the right side, so far as intention goes, but they make mountains out of molehills. When you go to the poor, abused novel itself you find, probably, that the harm in it is of a kind or a size which would never have struck anybody who was not in want of "a cat to tear-this is Ercles' vein." We have, in fact, but very little fiction which is, in the high and true sense, immoral. There are numerous hints of social heresy, and some nibbling at things which would be better left alone. This seems inevitable in a state of society in which clever young women abound, marriage is difficult, and luxury great. One result of these facts-taken with the vivacity of the modern style of living, and the throwing open of nearly all libraries to all comers-is naturally that men and women, but especially women of imperfect experience, should be imaginatively stretching out their hands toward closed doors of mature experience, and should make a sad muddle of their work. But of wicked intention in such novelists there is small evidence.
The matter, however, goes deeper than what would be generally recognized as immorality, and a widespread but quiet and unsuspected conflict is going on, as we have already said, between poetic naturalism in general and the spirit or the belief which would cast it out as a thing unholy or unprofitable. The objection to novels and romances, poems and plays (we use only general phrases), has not been confined strictly to Christian critics of a certain class. It is to be traced in minds of a certain dogmatic order everywhere and in various ages. There is something like it, for example, in Plato, and it has its last roots in a philosophy of life which is not necesVOL. VIII.-23
sarily either Christian or anti-Christian. But it is certain that Christian dogmatists of various types have carried the dislike to poetic naturalism of all kinds to lengths which leave one in no doubt as to the logic of the dislike. To take a small instance: About twenty-four years ago Dr. Campbell-a great malleus hæreticorum in his day-led a fierce attack upon Mr. Lynch's "Rivulet," a little book of sacred poems, whose one fault, in the eyes of those who disliked it, was its way of fusing religious faith and the sentiment of natural beauty with the intermediate simply human affections. Dr. Campbell was justly condemned for his virulence, but he knew what he was about when he proclaimed to the like-minded, "Either this book is all wrong, or some of our dogmatic bases must be revised." I do not remember whether Dr. Campbell had an organ at his Tabernacle-but, of course, the question goes to music (nay, to singing) in public worship, to pictures everywhere, and so on, and on. A 'spiritual" man of a certain school, who happens to be acutely sensitive to music, will tell you, and tell you truly, that he finds the special emotive agitation caused by music unfavorable to "spirituality." Similarly with novels, and ro
mances, and poetry. These all arouse more impulse than the dogma or received law of the mind can control, or is, at least in most cases, likely to control. So that the observance of certain rules of conduct is felt to be endangered, and at all events the whole nature is for a time in a tumult. An outsider may say: "That is your own fault; why do you not put things in their places, subordinate what should be subordinated, and work all the results into your higher life?" Such an appeal, however, comes practically to nothing; for you can not give eyes to the blind or ears to the deaf.
But this is not the whole of the case. We naturally attach something of sacred force and right divine to all spontaneous emotion of the kind which is said to "carry us out of ourselves." The "spiritually-minded" objector would be the last to deny that spontaneity is of the essence of some kinds of sacredness-and, to put it roughly, he is jealous of competing spontaneities. He finds they surge upward from the sensations caused by music, novels, romances, plays, etc., and he attributes them to-the devil. They are a sort of demonism. He puts them all from him with averted head, attributing them to the great spontaneous source of evil. That phraseology is not so common now as it used to be-we can trace it through the middle ages back to the Fathers, and it belonged to the "Manicheanism,” against which Kingsley made such incessant war. That that way of meeting the case is wholly candid is not in my brief to affirm. But, as we have
seen, the matter is in course of settlement by the usual non-argumentative methods. Novels go everywhere, more or less. The recent revivals of the old-fashioned "evangelicalism" are against them, but the victory will remain with the novelist. He is largely aided by the usual accommodated phraseology of the pulpit and the religious press. All this stands connected with the spread of scientific knowledge, the increase of luxury,
the far-reaching æsthetic revival, and some other topics, which would at the first glance appear utterly alien. There are great changes in the air, and in these the novel will play a large and even increasing part. What will be the probable course of events in this respect is a question which will connect itself with certain typical stories of the last decade, and may, perhaps, be considered in another article.
HENRY HOLBEACH (The Contemporary Review).
MIDDLE-CLASS DOMESTIC LIFE IN SPAIN.
N an old and now but little-read work on Spain, "Spanische's für die Gebildetewelt," by Von Alban Stotz, the following remarkable passage occurs. Speaking of the Spanish Department in the first exhibition in 1851, he says: "I beheld only three things: a sword; a bishop's staff; and a very beautiful guitar."
I have never read an observation more pithy, or, when well considered, more descriptive, in a few words, of the Spanish national character; there is, save in Cataluña—and the Cataluñans say they are not Spaniards!—very little solid industry in Spain, but there is an old-world chivalry, well-betokened by the sword above mentioned; a mediæval state of religion; and a love of amusement, well-betokened by the tinkling guitar.
Many writers, notably Ford and Borrow, have written, and written well and truthfully, upon the always interesting and picturesque peasant classes of Spain. Those mahogany-faced sons of the wild, gray, spreading campo, or of the blue, romantic sierra, semi-gypsy, semi-savage, wholly uneducated, nobly chivalrous, children of Nature, whom the railway traveler, as he rattles through the wastes of Andalucia or the pine-woods near Seville, sees flitting, ghost-like, in gaudy dresses in the country or province. They shuffle along, singing their wild, melancholy ditties, at set of sun, in sandaled feet through clouds of dust toward their lonely pueblo, flitting, with their patient ass trotting in front, through the groves of stunted, glaucous olive-trees, or threading the narrow track that skirts the hedge of aloe or of prickly pear.
Rough sons of toil! full of interest are you, your quaint herbal remedies, your strange folklore, your erotic songs and ditties, your women's wailing nana (nursery rhyme) as they put baby to sleep, your outlandish superstitions-full of interest for poet, painter, or any lover of the old
world and the curious and the romantic! But' rough indeed; and with a vengeance! Pepita, my nursemaid, to me to-night, her sweet face rippling over with a naïve smile, “Dios me libre de casarse con un hombre de campo!” i. e., "God preserve me from ever being wedded to a campo-man, or field-laborer!"—and an old fisherman, smoking his coarse paper cigarette in my den, looked up and said:
"Ya lo creo, Pepita: una gente que tiene poca civilizacion; " i. e., “I believe you, Pepita: they are a set of men who can boast of very little civilization."
It is not of the domestic life of these wild sons of toil that I am about to speak in the present chapter, but of the life of a different class, namely, the middle class of Spain, among which I place the priest, the well-to-do tradesman, the doctor, the lawyer, the merchant, and, in a word, the town or country gentleman. No English pen has ever yet portrayed the life of these persons-their manners, their mode of life, houses, food, income, religion, ideas, and nurseries.
In this chapter I entirely disclaim speaking of the inhabitants of the frigid northwest of Spain; I have never visited the so-called Carlist provinces, and, if, as I am told, the inhabitants are very English, and their climate very Scottish, I certainly shall say with Pepita, " Dios me libre!” "God preserve me!"
I write of the three fourths of the Peninsula with which I am familiar, and have for many years been familiar — Andalucia, the Castiles, Valencia, Murcia, Cataluña, and, but slightly, Aragon.
The sword, the pastoral staff, the guitar, are specially emblematic of the tastes and character of the nation, but especially of that part of it which is composed of the great middle class: the men are most chivalrous, and full of courage;