Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

Joctor on that morning he would have been too eager to and the awkward flattery with which Johnson made peace ? leliver himself of his own ideas to observe how the piety Boswell bad delicacy and sensibility in abundance, but he of Johnson expressed itself; and if he did observe it, he was resolved that his biography should not be one of swellwould never have written it in a biography. “Any one ing platitudes and grandiose ephemeral ineptitudes. would write this,” he would think ; “there is no fame to All this shallow and fallacious criticism which the readbe got from such." If Boswell did not dabble in philoso- | ing public has been perusing now for many years, and phy, or discourse in the style of Macaulay upon trade and which has formed the opinions of two generations, has borals in the abstract, he showed his sense by his absti probably never met with an indignant public contradicsence. Philosophy is a branch of intellectual endeavor tion. Its violence and arrogance take the reader by storm. requiring very peculiar gifts. Dr. Johnson kicking a huge Its boisterous uproar and empty tempest of noise bend stone before him by way of confuting Berkeley, or clamor down the mind and overcome the very desire to resist. ously declaring that David Hume was only milking the Boswell's talents are denied, his virtues degraded into bull, or that he would sign the death-warrant of Rousseau vice, his vices exaggerated into crimes; his noble and with far greater readiness than that of any criminal who passionate affection for the place of his birth and the seat bad been hanged during his remembrance, shows himself of his ancestors, his feudal pride in a long and distinto be wofully defective in the capacity for philosophical guished lineage, his sincere and manly admiration for talspeculation. Our gifts are various. Goldsmith, who could ent and all forms of spiritual preëminence, his flowing and bardly open his mouth without making people laugh at universal courtesy, his generosity, bonhommie, and convivwhat seemed his ignorance and intellectual presumption, iality, his frank and winning ways, his, at times, spirited was able to write « The Deserted Village” and “ She and gallant behavior, his manly outspokenness and bis no Stoops to Conquer.” Boswell was neither a philosopher less manly reticence, the grand passion of his life, his por a great conversationist; but he could write the “Life high and heroic devotion to bis type and ideal of moral of Johnson.”

and intellectual grandeur, Samuel Johnson, are all denied, is Jobnson described him as a fellow who had missed his or ignored, or ridiculed. If Boswell, delighted that his * only chance of immortality by not having been alive when little Veronica does not shrink from the Doctor's seamed

the Dunciad' was written." Now Macaulay knew as well and ugly face, declares gayly that he will add five hundred when he penned that sentence as does the author of this pounds to her fortune, if Boswell sitting with Col and his article the circumstance which afforded him a pretext for rough Highland friends drinks too much whiskey-punch,

this dishonest blow, and he knew it was not such as the and if, being a man of piety and principle, he makes Er reader would surmise from the mode in which it is here set atonement for his offence as religious men will, if he writes

down. Boswell was not so described by the Doctor. John to Johnson that he is suffering from depression of spirits, son in the post-prandial mood, sitting over wine with his he is assailed and condemned at every point by the boisfriends, makes a good-humored hit at Boswell: “ Ab, terous invective of the critic.

hadst thou been alive then!” This light sally thown out This famous and yet infamous passage gives the snub E at a dinner-table is represented in the pages of the vera direct to everything frank, open, and confiding, and a pat cious Macaulay as a description.

on the back and a « go on and prosper" to secrecy, affecIn the next sentence we are told that Beauclerk used his tation, and intellectual pomposity. Everything in BosB name as a proverbial expression for a bore. Now in the well's character and literary style is bitterly denounced ut first place Beauclerk was one of those satirical men who and scoffed at by Macaulay. So resolved is he to reduce

sneer at everybody, and whose sneer means little or noth Boswell's merit to zero that he even affects to scorn him ing; in the next, the sneer in question was only thrown because he describes Johnson as he was, and does not hes

out once - Macaulay hints that it was frequent; and in itate to relate his vices and shortcomings. Surely the Es the third, Boswell and Beauclerk were intimate friends, noble writer's brazen eulogies, lavished so freely upon his

and Beauclerk was most zealous in getting him into the own heroes, cannot be set up as models. Had Boswell club. Thus, whenever it is possible to collate Macaulay's concealed Johnson's defects, and his vicious and uncouth assertions with the original they turn out to be groundless peculiarities, who could endure his book? The work would and unjust fabrications.

be false and the writer a sham. Boswell's book lives and I have travelled through three sentences — sentences has power because it is true. In proportion as men are coming in their order at the commencement of Macaulay's themselves genuine they will admire and like the man. It famous Bill of ladictment, and in each one discovered the was beyond the limit of possibility that either Macaulay or noble essayist playing fast and loose with truth. The re- | Carlyle should have any close and sympathetic relations mainder of the libel is of the same description. Wherever with one who above all others calls a spade a spade, and Macaulay mentions any fact as substantiating his sweeping never swells and foams in the vein of 'Ercles. and ruthless accusations, that fact is always distorted and As a proof of his assertion that Boswell was a man of warped to suit his purpose. The critic feeds with seeming the meanest and feeblest intellect, Macaulay informs us joy upon every admission that Boswell, trusting to the that there are no disquisitions upon politics, religion, good nature and generous forbearance of his reader, has literature, etc., of any worth in Boswell's book. But seen fit to make to his own disadvantage. If Boswell tells a Homer, and Dante, and Fielding contain no disquisitions joke at his own expense, he is a common butt in the taverns on politics and philosophy. Everybody is not able to of London. If in his genial way and in connection with make a journey to Corinth, to pour forth sounding laudaJohnson he tells some little touching domestic incident, the tions over the British Constitution as exalted and elabamiable peer covers him with ridicule. “He was a man orated by the Whigs, and to discourse with fervor with without delicacy and without shame, without sense enough | Adam Smith. Speculations upon money and merchanto know when he was wounding the feelings of others or dise, and the shuttlecock of trade kept up between them, when he was exposing himself to derision.” Who that do not require the highest order of intellect. There are shows anything of Boswell's book does not recall unnum such qualities as imagination and fancy, pathos and symbered instances in which he refuses to relate some satirical pathy, delicate and subtle modes of feeling, enthusiasm for Sally of the Doctor's at the expense of another, or softens what is noble and beautiful, a love of the facts of our daily down as well as he can if he is obliged to narrate it? existence and a truthfulness of feeling concerning them.

bo does not long to know the particulars of that alterca Homer knew presumedly little of philosophy, but he has uon between the Tory Jobnson and the old Laird of Auch drawn that picture of Andromache at the Scæan gate nleck when Greek met Greek in battle-royal, but which, weeping with her baby on her arm, young and beautiful, like the doings of the brave men who preceded Agamem like a star, the plumed hero of Troy bending over him ; 100, are without the sacred bard? Who does not remem Dante has told of that frozen sea in which the souls of un

the shame and anger of Boswell at the brutality with just men are immured to all eternity — and these scenes A he was treated by Johnson before some strangers, will live forever in the souls of men, though Homer was a be wandered dejected and indignant about London, dunce in political economy and the lean Dante never fat

0 C

[ocr errors]

tened under the safe shadow of a constitutional Parliament. which he has refused to set down, his habit in travelling James Boswell, too, has drawn that picture of the young of searching out even the remotest and poorest of his rela Scotch entbusiast trembling in the back parlor of the book tions and ancestral friends, all reveal an amiable disposicions fat seller's shop in the Poultry, and the awful approach of tion and a manly spirit. genius preceded by Tom Davies. When will that scene Macaulay has poured bitter scorn upon his record of his be forgotten, or the rough sarcasms of genius and the meek fears when sailing for the first time in his life through ness of young enthusiasm vainly endeavoring to turn away storm in and out between the Hebrides. Whether Macau. wrath ? Constitutions are swept away by time, money lay, in a similar situation, would have shown greater chanyes its character and value, a day comes when Adam prowess I cannot tell ; but we may know that had he felt! Smith is not heard of, philosophy babbles a new song and as Boswell did on the occasion, and as many brave and the old one is heard no more ; but when will arrive a day good men have felt, he would have concealed his panic in when moral and intellectual grandeur is not, and when the depths of his soul, and if compelled afterwards to write young enthusiasm does not feel its approach to be awful ? | upon the voyage, would have treated of it in a certain That scene is perfect as anything in Homer or Fielding.

do style of pompous self-complacency. It does not stand alone, it is one of many truthful and ex Beauclerk and Sheridan, Burke and Goldsmith, were quisite pictures of human life worthy of the great father proud and stiff-necked. They saw that Johnson's gauche of poetry himself, who, for all we know, had not “ thunder ries and unfashionable ways gave them a chance of comous brows" at all, but a face unremarkable or bad, like peting with him in the eyes of the world; while there Boswell's, or Dante's, or Goldsmith's. That book is full of knew that, judged by a standard of genuine merit, they sketches and scenes observed by the eye and with the keen were immeasurably his inferiors. They were aware, too, that 52. penetration of genius, and drawn for us by a master band. anything on their part that could be construed into hero- X23 The meeting of Johnson and Wilkes, and the “ too, too” worship and disciplesbip would render them ridiculous, and atky of the sage, “one of his habitual mutterings” on discov expose them to that derision which Boswell saw and dared. A. ering that he had fallen into a hornet's nest of patriots and In Johnson's presence they were crushed and silenced her to Americans, and the gradual thawing of the stern moralist fore the might of his genius, but in secret they rebelled in the genial companionship of the gay and kindly Jack against his authority. They would not give him their 1.21 Wilkes ; the behavior of the Doctor in St. Clement Danes, | hearts, and they suffered for it. Genius and sense which 23, 20 and his mode of repeating the awful passages in the Litany they would not welcome and love, and before which they need - all this is grand as the Iliad and the Odyssey. If not would not yield, impinged upon them each day, and their B* 1 writ in the high epic style it treats of high epic matter, and self-love was hurt. "They kept sore places sore by diligente . treats thereof in the mode best suited to the times. To nursing. Their nightly pillows were acquainted with the 231 sympathize tenderly and deeply with character and with bitter and devouring thoughts of mortified vanity. Even ? :b mental suffering, to humble one's self before greatness, to Goldsmith, a man of genius, who owed much to Johnson, attach one's self to it with passionate devotion, and so to and saw clearly his great merit, would not lower his proud toep write in loose prose what is great as the greatest poem, has head and accept him frankly and loyally as his superior. - 130 fallen to few, and it has fallen to James Boswell.

He, more than the rest, fed in his heart a brood of venom. De 220 It is absurd to think of Boswell as a dwarf elevated upon ous thoughts that stung and devoured him in the dark, 23:21 the shoulders of a giant. That he rendered the conversa poisoning the springs of his spiritual life, torturing his tion of Johnson is not his peculiar merit, though it is con mind with the keen fangs of envy. Boswell alone of that anden siderable, and its credit we should be always ready to ac brilliant circle loyally accepted Johnson as his superior. *. t t knowledge. How many others beside Boswell heard and He was young and untainted by the world. He was a mi se were astonished at that masterly power of improvisation, patrician, and could afford to associate with an “auld targa yet were never sufficiently loyal to genius to endeavor to dominie." He recognized Johnson's greatness at once. W reduce it to writing ! But it is precisely in those parts of He clove to him throughout his life, and he had his re- d. the book where his mind, stimulated by the humor, ridicule ward. His association with Johnson was to him a life-long ! tribe or grandeur of a particular circumstance, sets by for blessing. It was a pure and noble passion, as splendid and awhile its usual task of recording Johnsoniana and delivers instance of self-sacrificing devotion as history affords. It cand w itself freely from its own wealth of humor and observation, was not to earn fame or consideration, or in any way to ! But that Boswell becomes really great. There is then in our advance himself, that he loved and reverenced Dr. John. ir die language no such master of description. It is not merely son. No selfish motive mingled with that pure and ardent limo the form and coloring of the circumstance that he brings passion. The thought of Johnson was misery to Gold find before us. He penetrates into the spirit of the scene, and smith: it was, in the soul of Boswell, a well-spring of a so his sketches are full of feeling. The event grows and goodness and joy. From his intercourse with Johnson his changes upon the brain with the vividness and regularity resolutions were strengthened, his virtues were confirmed, of nature. Tom Davies advancing to announce the ap his piety was made deeper, his affections were purified and West proach of the sage with the air of Horatio in “ Hamlet,” enlarged, his temper was enlivened, his happiness im. “ Look, my lord, it comes;” Johnson taking up a book to mensely increased. This was his reward. The praise or compose his mind on learning the name of the gentleman blame of men could not diminish that. in lace; Goldsmith lingering with his bat in his hand, That brutal assault first published in the Edinburgh waiting for an opportunity to cut in and shine before leav Review, and since reprinted with the rest of Macaulay's ing the party; the unconscious sage shouldering down the essays, will not hurt him. Carlyle's compassion and lofty porter in the street; that celebrated horse-laugh that re sufferance cannot deprive him of the reward which nature sounded from Temple Bar to Houndsditch in the silence gave him, or strike a pang into his generous and kindly of the night; Johnson, puffing hard with passion struggling heart. He sleeps at Auchinleck, hard by those ancestral for a vent, or, with large gloves on his bands, dusting and trees beneath whose shadow he wandered with his great arranging his books — all are perfect. The perfection of friend, to whom he confided the love that he felt for its these scenes is the perfection that genius is able to give to fields and rocks even from boyish days. But though Bos. its work. The things described are the right things, the well is dead, his reputation is abroad and living. It can words used are the right words - truthful and simple and be hurt by lies and calumnies, it can be tarnished by cenunconscious as the great father of poetry himself.

sure, it shrinks from foul words, for it lives in men's minds. Yet it is not Boswell's literary so much as his moral Boswell belonged to that class of men which produces worth that I feel pleasure in substantiating. The glimpses | poets. His work is full of poetic feeling and pathos. of his amiable and benevolent character seen in every | The moral grandeur of Johnson is seen through that book page are such as should cure the spleen of the most hard. , as might his material form through a sheet of the purest hearted critic. The severe things said of himself which | crystal. This book is a window through which we look he has introduced out of respect for the system and reason | upon that strange heroic figure, and it is such because Bosof his book, and the many severe things said of others well was a great man, and not because he was small.

[ocr errors]

cere, and simple-hearted singer whom one of the greatest TWO CITIES – TWO BOOKS.

of French romancists has planted in her streets; not

nearly so much as there is between the noble, serious, It is a curious fate to have befallen towns which were somewhat solemn town of Florence, and the equally noble, Once the most eminent and influential in the world, to have lofty, and still more solemn presence of the young Florenrecome “ playgrounds of Europe," objects of holiday ex- ' tine who is our English novelist's ideal. But yet these ursions, the scene of sight-seeing, the haunt of strangers. two figures are each of them inalienably connected with i London should ever fall into decadence and decay, it is their separate city. To ourselves we avow, having but a iconsolation to think that there is nothing in it which will moderate appreciation even of the divinest marble, the bring wandering bordes across the Atlantic, or tempt the daughter of the Bardi is more interesting than thc Venus Continental to dare the dangers of the Channel. The of the Medici, that stone woman who has inhabited FlorFlorentines and Venetians have long been used to the fate ence for ages, and awakened many artistic raptures; and which the splendor of their former existence has exposed even Titian's daughter, or his Flora, or his Bella Donna, hem to in their downfall; and yet it is difficult to believe lovely though these ladies are, are scarcely so attractive that it has not given an additional pang to the patriotic to us as Consuelo, threading her shells on the steps of the gitizen of either city, to know how much its present life is Piazzetta, living spotless in her garret, daughter of the dependent upon hotels and lodging-houses ; shops in which people, opera-singer, zingarella — but yet as sweet, as nothe relics of old houses are cheapened in every language ble, and as pure as any ideal woman ever created. The under heaven; and dealers who are gradually transferring two figures are altogether unlike each other. They come these pictures and treasures to every corner of the earth. from two different types of genius, different even in naNothing but Locandas, guest houses, along the Lung-Arno: tionality, only alike in power — and they are curiously Dothing but caravanseras of Forestieri in the palaces of significant of a hundred differences of the most subtle the Grand Canal. It is very good for trade, no doubt; character, in nature as well as in art. Consuelo is the brings money to the country, helps a great many people elder of the two. Had she been intended to embody and to live, and so forth; but it is humbling to the great towns, represent the soul of Venice as Romola does that of Floronce so regal, and still full of the traces of regnant power, ence, she would no doubt have been, like Romola, a pa

wealth, genius, and strength. Genius, most independent, trician, endowed with that natural magnificence which ; yet most dependent of all great things, must infallibly, breathes through Venice, which impresses us in every

alast one time or another, come to the auction-room : but palace front, and - quenching one effect of art in another power, and wealth, and physical force, once so abounding — leave us untouched by any individual Titian or Vero and arrogant in these splendid abodes of a. great race, nese, lost in a wonder of admiration over the splendor, should, one might have thought, have preserved them from vastness, and pomp of the halls in which these great paintthe fate of the slave whose beauty is for the pleasure of her ers are but as magnificent decorators, subservient to, not master. But the power and the strength have gone, the | masters of, the princely place in which they worked. But Wealth has disappeared -- and we all rush to stare and here the real democratic soul of the French woman peep, and gape and chatter, where a stern Signoria, or a different thing altogether from the reflective and philo great Doge, would soon have made short work with in- | sophical democracy with which we islanders play - bas truders. To think of the time when an incautious stranger come in characteristically, selecting her heroine from the was clapped suddenly in prison for having ventured to say | steps of the Piazzetta, as we have said; from the tumblethat he had not thought there was in Florence wealth down tenements of the Corte-Minelli, not from the palaces, enough to erect such a great work as Giotto's Campanile ! - making her, so far as she is a type at all, the type not of - å mere extravagant utterance of admiration; and then Venice magnificent, but of Venice poor, light-hearted, reckto remember how every vulgar sight-seer pokes about, | less, and joyous. This involves a'great and fundamental Murray in hand. Nay, not even with Murray. Cheap | difference of plan in the two works; but not less great in the guide-books for the million now flutter about the insulted difference of character. Consuelo belongs to yesterday — to streets, all full of cheap jewelry and mosaics for the an order of conception which, we fear, no longer holds the million also; and we stand aghast, gazing at the tourists first place in the opinion of the world; while Romola, dewho “do” Florence, wondering what strange wind blew | spite the extraordinary pains that have been taken to drape that goose-flock thither, and what their cackling has to do l her according to the very fashion of the fifteenth century, with the great, serious, noble old town. Something of the l embodies the last thought of art, the reigning ideal of the same feeling of ludicrous inappropriateness came over the moment. No doubt this difference is no temporary but a mind of the writer, whom - holding out to him a cheap perennial one, reappearing continually in all kinds of pocopy of a great romance - a respectable bookseller in etic creation, and indeed in all periods of artistic history. Florence exhorted to publish something about the City of It is the same difference which exists between Shakespeare Flowers. “We sell as many as five hundred copies of and Milton, between Raphael and Michael-Angelo. The this in a season,” he said, by way of encouragement. The one all sweetness, spontaneous movement, soft repose, unbook was “ Romola ;” and if there could be anything much conscious grace; the other, conscious to the very fingermore quaint and strange than the invasion of the jealous tips, full of effort, thought, self-contemplation — noble and proud old town by Mr. Cook's excursionists, it would effort indeed, a majestic strain of mind and muscles — but be the vision thus suggested to us of an excursionist sally still a strain. Perhaps, however, this peculiarity makes lng forth with Romola” instead of Baedeker in his hand to Romola a better representative of the combatant, proud, 19 Florence. The very soul of Mrs. Malaprop is in this self-conscious city to which she belongs, and which, if not

more really great than Venice, has at least a more solemn Bat the gentle reader is not one of those who go with self-assertion in its looks, a determination more marked

multitude to stare and gape. He (or she) is capable, and bitter, less easy, large, and natural, to be the first and Ways capable, of understanding the just affinities as well greatest of cities. Venice, separated from all other towns

the absurdities of such a conjunction; and accordingly by her very design and nature, alone in the world as it we may be permitted to discuss Florence and Romola to. were — no rival possible to her beauty, whosoever might

0 bis sympathetic ear, and even to suggest another threaten her power — reaps the adantage of her unique mbination of a similar character, which, as it was made position in a certain ease of mind and leisure of procedure. ucber of years ago, has ceased perhaps to strike the But Florence, with so many rivals round her, had to hold

1ation of the world. It would be perbaps a mistake | her own at every moment, with that strain which begets ay that Consuelo was to Venice what Romola is to l arrogance in success, and self-regard at all times. Florence. There is not much symbolic resemblance be Florence, notwithstanding the brightness of the picture

9 the great and beautiful city of the waters — so gay, which strikes the traveller when he first enters the town, 180 splendid, glorious in sunshine, still more glorious. I is not a gay city ; everything that is characteristic to the aud magnificent in art and the honest, pure, sin| Tuscan mind is of a grave and serious nature. The cous08

droll combination.

imagination of the

ot

[ocr errors]

tweg

so fair, so splendid, costly, and may

which rise out of the Arno, bright with soft tints of color, | mournful places, and to remember how Michael Angelo irregular, picturesque, various, with roofs at every possible for one, with fine Florentine inflation, spoke of them, plan elevation, the one sole point necessary being, that no two ning his dome for St. Peter's to be the sister of this dome should have the same level - the outline broken with which to his eyes was perfect, “ piu grande ma non pir loggias, balconies, projecting lines, quaint cupolas, and bella,” and bragging of the Baptistery gates that they were spires; the stream flowing full below, reflecting every fit to be gates of Paradise, is of itself a most notable sig salient point, every window on the high perpendicular line, of the characteristic self-consciousness and self-assertice every cloud on the blue overarching sky; this fair conjunc of the town. The palaces have the same effect as the tion gives, at the first glance, that gleam of color, light, churches: the Palazzo Strozzi, for example. How strong sunshine, and warmth, which is conventionally necessary how self-contained (not in our Scotch sense of the words to an Italian town — the sunny South, as we all say with dear northern reader), how invincible, in grave patienes indiscriminate fervor. But there are many days in which and stillness, stands that old house like a rock, under in Florence reminds the spectator of everything in the world ! deep roof, defying time, and storm, and war, and misfort rather than the sunny South; and neither the mind of her une, yet sad as things eternal ever seem, with a strange people nor the architecture of her streets is of a light de- | realization of the transitoriness of everything around! The scrip:ion. Dante, Macchiavelli, Savonarola, Michael-An flowers they sell on the stone bench round its huge ol gelo, are names that give the mind no superficial sensation wall, underneath the huge irons in which flags bare of pleasurableness, but represent to us perhaps the most flaunted and torches burned for hundreds of years on tri serious men who have figured on earth — men of a certain umphal occasions — the sheaves of lily of the valley, white mountainous vastness and grandeur, with great light some lilac, white narcissus, already abundant and scenting all the times dwelling on their heads, but still oftener wrapped in air in the first cold days of April — seem scarcely more great glooms, absorbed in contemplation of the saddest side evanescent than the crowd of men and women who have of nature, their heads striking the stars, their souls en bloomed and passed and gone into darkness while the old grossed with high questions, and problems such as bave no wall stood fast, without getting so much as a wrinkle, easy solution. We have placed among these a name line chiseled by age upon its rugged stones. The Strozzi which some may think too highly honored ; but the cynic palace is pure Florentine; and so of a less gracious kind philosopher and statesman is as characteristic of the peo- is the Pitti, not a benign or royal place, or in the least ple as the great poet, the great preacher, the great painter, betraying by any smile or triumph the wonderful treasure all toiling in sorrow and pity and wrath between a sub | it holds fast, but grim and strong in a sober greatness, lime God and a miserable world lost in wickedness. Serious self-concentrated, aware of its own wealth. The old palas death and life can make them, are all these great spirits, ace of the Signoria in the great.market-place is more pictcalled gloomy by superficial spectators who cannot see be uresque, with its beautiful rugged old tower, stately and neath the gloom the pathetic humanity, the love and yearn strong, so finely poised between the sky and Florence; ing within ; and so are their houses serious, great walls, halt but it also is grave to extremity - smileless and serious fortress, half prison, with projecting Tuscan roofs, which, The square below of a market morning is brimful of Tas like a broad bat over a fair brow, veil the countenance of can figures, in great cloaks, brown and vast, with flaps of the city, so to speak, and convey a perpetual impression of colored lining, green and blue, such as the old painters brooding solemnity, if not of complot and conspiracy. The loved ; peasants from the country, sunburnt, olive-colored. churches, except perhaps the warm, familiar, curtained ele The Piazza has a curious significant appearance, quite gance of the Annunziata, are, like the city, solemn, with a novel to English eyes, with its crowd, almost entirely dim greatness of half-light, which adds to their size and | made up of men. The hum of this crowd as you stand effect, but somewhat chills the eye accustomed to Gothic and listen in the beautiful Orcagna loggia, with Bedrevariety of light and shade. They are places in which it is nuto's Perseus, slim and splendid, slaying the monster, over easier to imagine a great medieval audience listening, ab your head, is as strange as the scene; a hum all male, sorbed, to a great sermon — intent on the strain of burn- | deep and strong, with scarcely one piping treble in all its ing words which came from lips such as those of Savo stern body of sound. The assemblage, and the strange, narola — than to realize the presence of devout worshippers deep hum of it, strikes the unaccustomed eye and ear with of a gorgeous ceremonial of devotion, celestial musio, rich wonder and half alarm, as if it must mean something. But vestments, and clouds of incense. The oldest of Florentine it means nothing - except that so many contadini hare churches indeed - Dante's “bel San Giovanni," the old come in from all the glimmering white villages between Baptistery in which all the old Florentines, for hundreds of this and the Apennines, and are telling their news and years, had their baptism - is scarcely beautiful at all with- / hearing it, and transacting their business, in their deep out, – a round strange erection, without either majesty or voices. There, though you would not think it, in the midgrace of outline; but within has a charm of solemnity, al dle of the great square, amid doubtless a deeper hum from most of sadness, like some old mother brooding over the a still more serious crowd, Savonarola was burnt in the memory of generations of her cbildren who have passed face of day four hundred years ago -a notable recollect away — old, old, meditative still, lost in a deep and silent tion enough. Not a joyful sight for any city to see; her mournfulness. The great round of the walls, so unimpres best offered up a sacrifice to her worst, the voice of rightsive outside, has within a severe and lofty grandeur. eousness quenched in flames and smoke, while the unrightStanding at the door on a sunny summer morning not long eous sat high and uttered judgment. This, too, the old ago, what thoughts gleamed across one's mind! The vast city has seen more than once in her career; and, like other great walls rising up dimly in that twilight coolness which places, has gathered up the relics of the men she slew, is so grateful in a warm country — the vast roof tapering and worshipped them, and bewailed herself for their loss yet further up, with one cold pale star of light in the centre, | - after having slain them. But that, indeed, is not pecuie a few figures dwarfed by its greatness, standing like ghosts iar to Florence as her gravity is, and self-love, and splenabout the pavement below- one or two kneeling in the did self-sufficiency. The spectator feels how completely 10 deep stillness; while outside all was light and sound in | the day of her splendor, while real strength remained to the Piazza, and through the opposite doors a white span of her, the proud old city stood upon her greatness, believing sunny pavement appeared dazzling and blazing. Not herself more noble, more beautiful, more richly decked, much less impressive than the Pantheon at Rome, most more full of might and genius, than any other city or D&eloquent of all sermons in stone, is the great silent round tion – Florence against the world. of the old Baptistery, with all its associations of birth and We can scarcely suppose that the resemblance of baptism, solemn as life and death.

Romola to her city is entirely intentional on the part. And so is the Cathedral across the way, massive and the author of “Romola ;" for there are points in grand, in large lines, like a royal Juno among buildings; character, lofty as it is, which are not lovable, and wb but, like the Baptistery, dark and still and solemn, musing do not belong to the highest ideal. Romola is, the reader in mighty emptiness and sadness. To see those beautiful, remembers, the daughter of an old philosopher, brought up

yy him upon books and the pagan tradition, wbich those in She is Florence personified ; proud, nothing doubting, if lays, as a little in our own, had returned upon the tracks not her own, yet her father's right to be remembered,” of Christianity to boast itself more perfect in high stoi- feeling it natural that all things in heaven and earth ism, courage, and moral greatness than the passionate should give way to that just ambition. This is the foundaand imperfect religion of the time. Old Bardo dei Bardi tion upon which her character is built. She is never was one of the scholars of the age, devoted soul and life to throughout the story on a level with any one she encounthe study of that great literature of the past which in his ters, unless, perhaps, it is the sovereign presence of Savoeyes was superior to anything of the present, to the foolish narola. To all others she stoops — even in the first warmth crowds of ordinary human creatures round, and all the of love, to Tito, who is her opposite, not her complement. vulgar transactions of living and dying. So, too, his young She stoops to bim, as long as he does well, with ineffable daughter was trained to think, brought up in a proud tenderness and self-subduing; but the moment he has seelusion, a little leavened by the painful humility of committed his deadly sin against her, rises at once to her knowing that she was but a woman and could never carry old attitude, fatally above him, clad as with invincible out her father's work as her brother could have done, who armor in that “ strength of scorn ” which had been her had declined to sacrifice his existence to the old scholar, earliest conception of moral grandeur. Though she is and had been bitterly repudiated by the father, and temporarily brought under the influence of Savonarola, scarcely less condemned by Romola herself. Thus Ro and for a while, recognizing even in spite of herself the mola's attitude from the very first is one altogether sepa greatness of his work and his aims, bows her proud head rated from ordinary life, above it, innocently yet proudly to his command, and even accepts, deeply against her will, contemptuous of it, and of common Christianity, common the confessor he gives her, there is no real change wrought existence — raised upon a pedestal of seclusion, learning, in her. She is proudly pitiful, tender, visiting like a queen and ignorance, knowing nothing, as is so often the case, of the poor who want caring for, impressing all who cross her the world which she disdains. The character thus formed path, and receiving everywhere a visionary worship, but captivates many imaginations incapable of perceiving, or never once descending into any kind of human equality. an willing to perceive, tbat the loftiness of tone wbich may

coat the loitiness of tone wbich may So gravely and persistently is this attitude maintained, thus be attained can only be gained in conjunction with a that we are compelled to believe that the author intended Darrowness which is fatal to true grandeur. Romola is it so, and felt in the crushing loftiness and grandeur of her beautiful, graceful, high-minded, and sweet in her reserved creation nothing that was not consistent with the highest and maidenly calm – innocent herself as an angel, but ideal. Romola towers over everybody else as she moves without that fragrance of innocence which makes the through the streets of Florence, simple indeed, but with a childlike soul believe in others as in itself. She knows simplicity which has nothing to do with the simpleness of herself pure, noble, and true; but the world which she ordinary humanity — a figure not angelic but Olympian, sees from the great barred windows of the old high prison- a daughter of the gods, conscious of her lineage; in her palace, is not, she knows, true and noble and pure, but a early stage as contemptuous of the common horde as a common thing which she has been taught to despise, demi-god should be — in her later, moved to such pity and which is beneath her, a thing to be greatly contemptuous lofty service of them as Pallas herself might condescend, of. Here and there is one figure, who, like herself, is in an emergency great enough to call forth her efforts, to raised above it, keeping his skirts apart from its touch, afford. disdaining the rascal multitude; but with that multitude Such is the noble, lofty, limited, narrow, and splendid itself the girl has no sympathy. It is not that she thinks being whom George Eliot has placed for us in those lofty too bighly of her individual acquirements -- for in respect streets of Florence, whom we can see passing to and fro to these, indeed, she is kept on a safe level of humility - 1 in her veiled and stately beauty, attracting a reverential or is vain of a beauty of which she is scarcely conscious. observation everywhere, never misconstrued or unappreThere is no vanity in her ; but vanity itself is a venial and ciated as, alas ! real greatness often is. How well she human imperfection in comparison with the lofty narrow suits the arrogant, serious place, “ with her way of walksense of a vague but great superiority, which is in the very | ing like a procession," as poor Monna Brigida says / and air she breathes. Strangely enough, though all the world when we see the forlorn noble figure, pitiless and comfortappreciates the forbidding character of that spiritual pride less, arrested in the wintry glory of the early morning, on which says, I am holier than thou, a great portion of the her sombre flight out of Florence — turning her back upon world are deeply in pressed by the intellectual self-asser- the beautiful city, with all its spires and bouse-tops gilded tion which claims to be nobler, loftier than the rest of by the rising sun - facing the blank road before her, upon bumanity; and the reader has no reason to suppose that which that early light has just burst forth, and feeling an the great writer who created Romola intended to suggest awe in her desolate soul “ of the impalpable golden glory any defect in the nature so loftily limited, so proudly nar and the long shadow of herself which was not to be esTOW.

caped,” – it is as if the very soul of the grave, self-concenIn the earliest scene which presents this beautiful trated town were passing away from it. But Romola, in creature to us, the key-note of her character is clearly her Christianized state, under the influence of Savonarola, struck and indicated. She is answering her father's bitter is not so perfect an image as in her previous development. apprehensions of being forgotten, his scholarly petty mur- / Sbe is not adapted for Christianity. Self-sacrifice, in the barings and repinings over the probable substitution of classic sense, like that of Iphigenia, would be completely some other name for his, and his assertion of his “right | natural to her ; but self-renunciation is not natural, and to be remembered.” “Nevertheless, father," she says, it i there is a certain constraint in her labors, which ought to

a great gift of the gods to be born with a hatred and be of love, into which she enters, with only pity in her at obitempt of all injustice and meanness. Yours is a higher | best, not love. Indeed there is nothing more remarkable

Dever to have lied and truckled, than to have shared in the creation of this woman than the kind of love of Donors won by dishonor. There is strength ip scorn as which she is made capable. The fountains of divine charity

e is in the martial fury by which men become insen- / are not in her; but those of a noble individual passion e to wounds." We might say this was strange lan | might and ought to have been, one would have imagined. age for a girl of eighteen, were it not very certain that But Romola's love is never true love. It is a sudden, sur

few things youth adopts more easily, or holds prised, and passionate admiration for a creature unlike re absolute faith, than this high doctrine of supe- herself which seizes her - an enthusiasm for the image of guts, and “ the strength of scorn.” But there is no joy and brightness which suddenly lights up her life, in er amusement in the author's tone, as if she meant us the person of the beautiful traitor, whose advent into the Der beautiful Romola to be a victim to youth's de- / still, dim Florentine house, full of dry books and tedious nnocent grandeur of self-contemplation, but a grav. / studies, is as the coming in of Apollo himself, the god of

A precludes all possibility of humor, a stately set | sunshine and gladness. Her love is more like the love of worth of the position as most real and most noble. man than of woman; it is scarcely loftier or deeper than

« ПредишнаНапред »