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you are sure of a good market for ture of pride and malice which your works ; but it is only by real constitutes the delight felt more or genius that this can be done. less by all in the exposure of the Every one, I suppose, meets people errors and foibles of others; but if such as one reads of in Vanity this is a reason why such books Fair and Pendennis, and in his ought not to be written, it is also a secret heart and half unconsciously reason against all censure of that laughs and sneers at their follies which is ignoble and hypocritical or their vices; but he has no satis- and selfish and silly and base. If faction in doing so, because not un- the tendency of such writing is to derstanding the precise grounds on foster a censorious, uncharitable which he does it, or not being able spirit, and to make the social world to express them in a popular and look uglier than it really is, that is effective manner, he cannot com- an evil effect of it against which municate with others upon the sub- both the writer and the reader must ject and so obtain their sympathy. jealously guard themselves, and not The secret of success in a great one which should deter a man from author is, that he supplies this chastising, if he can, with a scorpiondefect. He points out to the ordi- lash, the frivolities and vulgarisms nary individual the peculiarities of and vices of his age. It is dirty speech, gesture, and conduct which work, and there is a good deal less produced in him the derisive feeling love than admiration in the feeling in question, and by treating them which you have towards the man as matter for ridicule, both sym- who does it well; nevertheless, if pathizes himself and enables others be carefully avoids all libel on to sympathize with him. To do this humanity, and sbrinks with horror thoroughly, as Mr. Thackeray does from anything like irreverent treatit, is given to few. Vanity Fair is ment of that which is really noble a master-work. Neither Thackeray and pure and true, he is without himself nor any one else has done doubt a benefactor to mankind. anything equal to it in its kind. Of novels proper, or books claimWe seem, not to be reading about ing to be such, there has been since people, but living among them. It the days of Scott a constantly inis not imitation, it is creation; it is creasing, supply, till imaginary not fiction, it is fact. Bitter and heroes have become much comcynical enough it is; but to accuse moner than real ones, and there is a satirist of being bitter and cynical a great deal more love in fiction is only to say that he is doing than there is in fact. And this, efficiently his proper work, which is perhaps, was natural enough. The that of bringing into scorn and con. idea once started, it seems so easy tempt those
dispositions and actions to write a novel. Absolutely all which are the reverse of what is that seems requisite is leisure and noble in human nature. If indeed pens and paper. Unless you are the satirist attributes to his cha- dull or practical to an inconceivracters faults or crimes other or able degree, to make an interesting greater than those which are found hero and a charming' lieroine, and by experience to be incidental to group round them a set of accessory humanity, he grievously crrs, and characters drawn from your own will infallibly fail of success. Becky experience of life, must surely be a Sharp and old Sir Pitt Crawley labour of love ; and when you think have been occasionally looked upon of the thrilling incidents you can inwith suspicion from this point of troduce, and of all the wise and witty view; but the verdict of the public and original remarks on men and was ultimately in their favour. manners which you will throw in, Execrable as they are, they are you feel that success is certain. And not unfair pictures of the form yet how many good novels have we which extreme selfishness is apt to -how many even 'readable' ones? take in the masculine and feminine Our readable novelists, living and natures respectively. No doubt writing at the present time, may be that in the exercise of his voca- counted on our fingers; and our tion a writer such as Thackeray really good novelists, so living and ministers to that loathsome mixwriting, cannot be counted at all 1859.] Sir E. Bulwer Lytton- Lady Novelists.
101 for they are not. Positively, so far Hook a clever writer of narrative as I know, there lives not the man farce, Harrison Ainsworth an exwho has written a thoroughly good, pert manipulator of the Newgate as distinct from a 'readable' novel, Calendar. In later times we have except Sir Edward Balwer Lytton; had novels (as, for instance, Warand he has been for some time ren's Ten Thousand a Year) showdoing his best to neutralize the deed ing, power and originality and by writing superlatively bad ones. entitled to rank high among the Bulwer, I say, has written a good readables, and one or two which novel, and that more than once ; look as if their authors might at but it was before he fancied himself some time or other soar into the a philosopher, and exchanged the thinly-peopled empyrean of 'good worship of truth and beauty for novels;' but certainly there is not that of The Beautiful and The True. one of these which can hope for
Pelham was finely conceived and immortality. admirably executed, and the cou- Deep in the heart of masculine rage and strength of the principal humanity lies a profound contempt character were thrown into grand re- for feminine writers generally, and hef by his effeminate dandyism. In especially for feminine novelists. Paul Clifford there was a command Lady novelists (it is supposed) must of spirit-stirring narration and a necessarily write silly novels; and dramatic skill wbich have not often certainly general propositions are been surpassed; anıl in Eugene every day asserted and beliered Aram the terrible subject-a man which are founded upon a far less of refined education and established complete induction than that by character with a murder on his which this doctrine is sustained. soul-is managed with a power and And yet it appears to me that (exsuccess that remind us of the Greek cluding Scott, who wrote not novels tragedians. In Rienzi and the Last but romances, and excepting BulDays of Pumpeii poetic language wer) the best novels of our century and gorgeous imagery compensated have been written by ladies. Miss in some degree for want of intrinsic Edgeworth and Miss Austen led the interest and force; but then came way. The former is pretty well the unhappy turn of affairs which forgotten now, and I have no gave us the sentimentalism and desire to revive her memory; but. transcendentalism of Night and Miss Austen is the idol of a Morning, Ernest Valtravers, and numerous band of enthusiastic Alice or the Mysteries. Of The devotees. To me this admiration Cartons, My Novel, and What will of Miss Austen's novels seems a He do with It? what is to be said ? mystery which must be classed Two of them are in a style stre- with that of which George Selwyn nuously, if not very successfully, looked to futurity for a solutionimitative of Sterne ; and all three the reason why boots are always are read by the public with an made too tight. Take her Emma avidity illustrative of the stubborn for a specimen. Emma is a young vitality with which a literary repu- lady about whom, when tation, once made, will resist the have read the book, we have most deadly attacks even of the really no distinct idea of any kind, person to whom it belongs.
except that she was rather pretty, Since the golden prime' of Bul. rather goodnatured, rather dutiful, wer's genius it is dificult indeed and very prudent. She has an old to find a really good novel. Unless, father, the salient point of whose perhaps, Cyril Thornton, I cannot character is that he talks a good think of one which is of masculine deal about the weather and the authorship. Mr. Disraeli's novels wholesomes, all his other qualities were practical jokes — successful being entirely negative ; and three experiments on the bad taste of a lovers, of whom, having prudently not infallible publie. Of other rejected first the prig and then the * readable' novelists--and be it al- roué, she prudently, marries the ways remembered that to be read. richest and most sensible, whom we able is no small distinction-Ward' are further expected to admire beis weak and finical, Theodore cause he did not declare his passion
till he saw the stage was clear. The nent figure as nobly conceived as by-play of this exciting plot consists any which our literature can show. of interminable discussions about I said that (excepting Bulwer) such subjects as the weather, or the the best novelists of our century next county ball, or the conduct of have been lady-novelists. I go somebody (I think the roué lover) further, and say that the best novel. in going up to London for a day to of our century has been written have his hair cut. Of course it is by a lady in her teens. If you conceivable that a novel with such a doubt this, read Jane Eyre over plot might have been made interest- again ; for of course you have read ing. If, for instance, the prig bad it once. It is written with the inbeen drawn like the younger Pitt stinctive and consummate power of Crawley, or the roué like Rawdon, real commanding genius. Every we should have forgiven a great line is drawn and every touch laid deal. But the prig is only the con- on with the ease and precision of 4 rentional outline of the character, master-hand. It was no elaborate and the roué the mere walking complication of a skilfully devised gentleman' of the play. As to style story-no gradually and painfully I find no fault with Miss Austen. unravelling web of treachery or She writes in plain, quiet, har- crime-no phantasmagoria of intrimonious English the
dullest cately-connected characters flitting stories that ever were conceived.
ever before the bewildered brain of It is not that thrilling 'incidents the unhappy reader—that made are required to make a good novel. this young school-girl immortal. A If the exciting part of the story forlorn governess, whose master were eliminated from the Vicar of falls in love with her, his wife in a Wakefield, and the incident left as state of hopeless insanity being tame as that of Miss Austen, the secreted in his house without the Vicar of Wakefield would, I think, knowledge of any one but himself be improved; it would at all events and one servant, was the material still remain as delightful a book as on which she worked. Not a very ever charmed and solaced the soul promising one for feeble or secondof man.
Since Miss Austen we rate faculties, but which, in the have had several readable' lady- hands of real genius, was certain of novelists; and the best of them, I success. Never was the growth of think, is Mrs. Gore, who is remark. love described with a more subtle able above all the daughters of Eve knowledge of the workings of a for her knowledge of London so- woman's heart-never were terror, ciety, and especially, strange to say, pain, remorse, and the fearful conof the habits of London 'men about flict of principle with temptation, town. I do not know that I ever described with a more sublime yet in my life experienced so great a simple truth. There is but one other, surprise as in finding that Cecil was modern novel, I think, equal in power written by a lady. There are one to this, in which, indeed, the power or two novels by Lady Georgina is almost Titanic, and the great Fullarton which show power and passions, terribly real and life-like, passion almost enough to lift them stalk about and jostle one another above the ‘readable' order, and gave in all their naked deformity; and hopes that she might do something that is written–by whom does the really great, or would have given reader think?-by another young them, but that her second novel was girl scarcely out of the school-room, inferior to her first; and very much a daughter of the same strangelythe same may be said of Miss gifted house. Wuthering Heights, Kavanagh, who has given signs of considering its authorship, I look something not unlike real genius upon the greatest intellecand knowledge of her art. The tual prodigy that the world has author of the Heir of Redclyffe is seen. It was not very successful, scarcely to be called a novelist in for it had not the constructive art the ordinary sense of the term; but of Jane Eyre. Though there are in her elaborate, minute, and careful terrible incidents, plot' of the pictures of domestic life we have story there is none; but as a picture here and there a central or promi- of fierce and strong human nature,
Mr. Hallam, Lord Macaulay, Mr. Carlyle.
utterly untutored and untamed, left yond the surface of things-hating to run wild in the gloomy loneliness all philosopbies except those which of a farm on the northern moors, minister to material welfare, des. it is marvellous. Surely,' I have pising ethics, sneering at metaheard it said, there never were physics, barely tolerating creeds, such people, at least let us hope not.' and distributing praise or blame For myself, I fully believe there without hesitation and without stint have been such people, and more- under a strong party bias and from over, that they are drawn from the a standard of morality of the simlife; but at all events these cha. plest and most conventional kind. racters, 'dowered with the late of And Mr. Carlyle--what shall we say hate, the scorn of scorn, the love of of Carlyle P-writing an English love,' are such as this young girl exclusively his own, part German, knew, by the infallible genius that part classical, part colloquial, part was in her, might and would exist poetical—in itself a wonderful creaunder certain conditions of life and tion of genius, startling indeed to action. It is a fearful picture, but Edinburgh reviewers of the “able it is drawn with a deep miraculous article' order, and to old ladies who knowledge of the human heart. have no patience with such non
Of historians, the three whom the sense,' but digging up as it were world ranks most highly are Hallam, and bringing to light from the Macaulay, and Carlyle; and these depths of our glorious language a three seem to have been given to power and a beauty unknown before • us for the purpose of showing in —valuing events not for the political
how different ways history may be or social, but for the human interest written. Mr. Hallain, with a style that is in them, and looking upon chaste even to prudery, and a judg- every action or event however orment impartial almost to a fault;- dinary with intense interest, curithoughtful, indeed, but thoughtful osity, and almost awé, as matter for only about facts; 'treating all actions wonder, laughter, or tears; as a and events as matters of course strange fact, not an unexampled neither strange, nor startling, nor one, for the strangest of all animals affecting, and important only as is man ;' with a humour exuberant generating certain other facts which enough to rob history of her digwe call social and political results ; nity, and a pathos and earnestness -so dry and cold that you shrink deep enough to restore it to her tenfrom contact with him, yet so useful fold; with a jealous and passionate and so sound that you avoid it at your love and a quick and steady discernperil. Lord Macaulay, the stately ment of all that in human action is yet impetuous march of whose clear lovely and true and great, and a and brilliant narratire, coruscating graphic power which causes scenes with well-polished epigram and and persons to live and move before nicely-poised antithesis, all clin- us as they never lived in history till quant, all in gold,' carries you on now; with a turn of mind singu. with by an irresistible impulse, larly unjadicial, yet a judgment of yet wearies you at last by the very character eminently impartial bemonotony of its elaborate excellence cause of the inarvellous insight and the studied modulation of its which be possesses into the secret vigorous and ringing tread;-Macau. chambers of the human heart. No lay, with a keen eye for the pictu. question but of the three Carlyle resque, and a large share of that sort comes nearest to the ideal of perfect of poetic feeling which attained its history; and that is because Carlyle perfection in Scott, recognising (like is a poet. Poetry, indeed, is not Hallam) the importance of events history, nor is history poetry ; and in their social and political aspect, yet it is eternally true that, except and also (unlike Hallam) strongly by a poet, no perfect history can be affected by incidents in themselves, written. For whatever other faculty provided they are out of the common she may require besides the poetic, way, but seeing little to wonder at a perception of the true character or to weep over in the ordinary of events under all the aspects in course of that sorrowful mystery, which they would present themthe life of man, looking scarcely be- selves to the most perfectly organized
human intellect, a perception that is, small book (the Memoir of Hedley of their poetic value is essential to per. Vicars) has had a sale unprece. fect history. And in this respect Mr. dented' in the annals of bibliopoly. Carlyle stands far indeed above Hal- The truth is, that to write satisfaclam and Macaulay. Instances of this torily the life of a man you must there can be no need to give; for proof either be a Boswell or a genius. Of ofit you have only toopen any page of Boswell, Lord Macaulay says that the French Revolution or Frederick he was a great writer because he the Great. Take the defence of the was a fool. The meaning of this Tuileries by the Swiss Guards. The is that Boswell's simple-mindedwhole scene is brought so vividly ness, or (as we say) silliness, saved before you that you see and almost him from the cynicism which is the feel it-the onward surging of the bane of hero-worship; and his maddened multitude, and the ter- want of that keen sense of the rible recoil of its foremost thousands ludicrous from which a higher as ever and anon a sheet of quick order of mind is never free, allowed bright flame, followed by a long him to record without compuncsteady roll, gleams out from the tion and in the utmost detail *red Swiss rock' that bars their every incident, however trifling, in onset; and if this were all, perhaps the life of his idol, as if it was a Macaulay might have succeeded, matter of grave historic importance. not so well, certainly, but (let us say) The consequence is, that the reader half as well. But what Lord Macau. finds before him a vast mass of lay could not have done was to show truthful materials, from which he us, standing at a little distance, a gradually forms an idea of Johnson. thin pale individual, looking calmly Just idea of Johnson, or indeed any and critically on that scene of idea at all, except that he was a cbaotic murder and madness, and very large, wise, and wonderful man, thinking, in the passionless presence who had a perfect right to be out of of mind that made Marengo and teniper when you contradicted him, Austerlitz, that if they had been Boswell himself had not. A man properly commanded, the Swiss possessed of the requisite genius, on would have won. There is no the other hand, would have disreason to doubt that the individual carded an immense number of these was there; but oniy a man who had details ; but yet would have so caught the true historic spirit could managed as to give you his own idea have made so much use of him. If (and that would have been a true any one wishes to obtain some idea one) of what Johnson really was in of how history ought and also of his outer and his inner life, in his how it ought not to be written, moments of weakness and of let him read with the first object strength, in appearance and reality, Carlyle's account of the French in temper, in gesture, in manner, in Revolution and with the second cast of countenance, in heart and in Lamartine's.
soul. It would appear that to repeat The requisite genius, however, the trick which Boswell performed and the requisite absence of genius, is not given to mortals, and that which seem to be the only possible only one good biography was pos- conditions of good biography, seem sible for man. Certainly our libra- also to be the rarest of all human ries do little to satisfy the public things. In our time we have sererequirements in this direction ; and ral lives' and 'memoirs,' some of yet, notwithstanding the encroach- them—such as those of Wilberforce ments of the utilitarian spirit, and Arnold—of the greatest inte. and in spite of that loss of rest, for they are of men who have individuality which is lamented left their mark upon the age; conby Mr. Mill,* there has been no scientious, able, and admirable time when to all appearance people works so far as they go, and entitling were so interesting to each other. their authors to public gratitude. Such biography as can be got is Mr.Carlyle's Life of Sterling, indeed, swallowed with avidity; and one is something more than this, and
Essay on Liberty.