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POETRY: - Tyng-a-ling-ting, 130. My Photograph Book Thirty Years Hence, 190. Miss Carnival, 191. Two Ways, 192. The Organ, 192.
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From The Cornhill Magazine. | absorbed into the paper; a certain soporific aroma exhales from the endless files of fictitious correspondence. This contrast, however, between popularity and celebrity is not THE literary artifice, so often patronized so rare as to deserve special notice. Richby Lord Macaulay, of describing a charac-ardson is only one of many authors whose ter by a series of paradoxes, is of course, in fame seldom rouses a very lively curiosity. one sense, a mere artifice. It is We should like to see a return of the numeasy enough to make a dark grey black and a ber of persons who have fairly read to the light grey white, and to bring the two into end of the Faery Queen, or of Paradise Lost, unnatural proximity. But it rests also who could pass an examination off-hand upon the principle which is more of a plati- even in books of greater claims to populartude than a paradox, that our chief faults ity—say, in Robinson Crusoe, or Gulliver's often lie close to our chief merits. The Travels. Richardson's slumber may be greatest man is perhaps one who is so equa- deeper than that of most men of equal fame, bly developed that he has the strongest fac- but it is not quite unprecedented. The string ulties in the most perfect equilibrium, and is of paradoxes, which it would be easy to apply apt to be somewhat uninteresting to the rest of to Richardson, would turn upon a different mankind. The man of lower eminence has point; that even a celebrated writer should some one or more faculties developed out of sleep well a century after his death is intelliall proportion to the rest, with the natural gible; but there is something decidedly result of occasionally overbalancing him. paradoxical in the nature of his reputaA first-rate gymnast with enormous muscular tion. Here is a man, we might say, whose power in his arms and chest, and compara- special characteristic it was to be a milktively feeble lower limbs, can sometimes sop - who provoked Fielding to a coarse perform the strangest feats in consequence hearty burst of ridicule who was steeped of his conformation, but owes his awkward- in the incense of useless adulation from ness to the same singularity. He astonishes a throng of middle-aged lady worshipus for the time more than the well-propor- pers who wrote his novels expressly
tioned man who can do fewer wonders and to recommend little unimpeachable moral more useful work. In the intellectual world the contrasts in one man are often greater. Extraordinary memories with weak logical faculties, wonderful imaginative sensibility with a complete absence of selfcontrol, and other defective conformations of mind, supply the raw materials for a luminary of the second order, and imply a predisposition to certain faults, which are natural complements to the conspicuous merits.
maxims, as that evil courses lead to unhappy deaths, that ladies ought to observe the laws of propriety, and generally that it is an excellent thing to be thoroughly respectable; who lived an obscure life in a petty coterie in fourth-rate London society, and was in no respect at a point of view more exalted than that of his companions. What greater contrast can be imagined in its way than that between Richardson, with his second-rate eighteenth-century priggishSuch reflections naturally occur in speak-ness and his twopenny-tract morality, and ing of one of our greatest literary reputa- the modern school of French novels, who tions, whose popularity is almost in an in- are certainly not prigs, and whose morality verse ratio to his celebrity. Every one is by no means that of tracts? We might knows the names of Sir Charles Grandison have expected à priori that they would have and Clarissa Harlowe. They are amongst summarily put him down, by whatever the established types which serve to point a epithet corresponds with them to the slang paragraph; but the volumes in which they term of Philistine which is now so popular are described remain for the most part in with us. Yet Richardson is a name of undisturbed repose, sleeping peacefully power with their best writers; Balzac for amongst Charles Lamb's biblia a-biblia, books example, and George Sand, speak of him which are no books, or, as he explains, with reverence; and a writer who is, perthose books "which no gentleman's library haps, as odd a contrast to Richardson as should be without." They never enjoy the could well be imagined — Alfred de Musset honours of cheap reprints; the modern - calls Clarissa, le premier roman du monde. reader shudders at a novel in eight volumes, What is the secret which enables the steady and declines to dig for amusement in so pro- old printer, with his singular limitation to his found a mine; when some bold inquirer own career of time and space, to impose dips into their pages he generally fancies upon the wild Byronic Parisian of the that the sleep of years has been somehow next century? Amongst his contemporaries
Diderot, the atheistic author of one of the filthiest novels extant, expresses an almost fanatical admiration of Richardson for his purity and power, and declares characteristically that he will place Richardson's works on the same shelf with those of Moses, Homer, Euripides, and other favourite writers; he even goes so far as to excuse Clarissa's belief in Christianity on the ground of her youthful innocence. To continue in the paradoxical vein, we might ask how the quiet tradesman could create the character which has stood ever since for a type of the fine gentleman of the period; or how from the most prosaic of centuries should spring one of the most poetical of feminine ideals? We can hardly fancy a genuine hero with a pigtail, or a heroine in a hoop and high-heeled shoes, nor believe that persons who wore those articles of costume could possess any very exalted virtues. Perhaps our grandchildren may have the same difficulty about the race which wears crinolines and chimney-pot hats.
though not of effeminate character; especially a novelist should have the delicate perception, the sensibility to emotion, and the interest in small details, which only women exhibit in perfection. Indeed this is so true, that there seems to be at present some probability that the art of novel writing will pass altogether into feminine hands. It may be long before the advocates of woman's rights will conquer other provinces of labour; but they have already monopolized to a great extent the immense manufacturing industry of Great Britain. Now Richardson had certain other talents of a very high order to which we shall presently refer; but his most obvious merits and defects resulted from his feminine characteristics. His sympathy with women is as obvious in his literature as in his life. Richardson, as our readers know, was perpetual president of one of those institutions which have of late flourished and spread mightily
a mutual admiration society. Never was there a body in which the chief received a more perpetual tribute of flattery, and repaid it by more elaborate condescension. Colley Cibber occasionally appeared as a courtier, and surpassed the regular female attendants in the vigour of his phrases, though scarcely in fervour. We find him writing- -"The delicious meal I made off Miss Byron-the heroine of Sir Charles Grandison on Sunday last, has given me an appetite for another slice of her off the spit before she is served on the public table:" and he elegantly proposes to "come and piddle off a bit more of her." But he expresses himself more energetically, as reported by a lady correspondent. With a profane oath, he swears that he "would never believe that Providence or eternal wisdom or goodness governed the world, if merit, innocence, and beauty were to be so destroyed" — that is, if Richardson admitted a certain catastrophe to his novel. These," as the lady reporter mildly adds, "were his strongly emphatic expressions." The ladies, however, do very well in their own way. An unknown lady writes to him under a feigned signature, and exclaims with more ingenious flattery, "I do assure you nothing can induce me to read your history through it is too well executed for such tender and foolish hearts as mine!" However she manages to proceed, and entreats him to give a turn to the story, "which will make his despairing readers half mad with joy." She tells him that "all the good-natured and compassionate and distressed are on their knees at his feet, and hope they will not beg in vain."
It is a fact, however, that our grandfathers, in spite of their belief in pigtails and in Pope's poetry, and other matters that have gone out of fashion, had some very excellent qualities, and even some genuine sentiment, in their compositions. Indeed, now that their peculiarities have been finally packed away in various lumber-rooms, and the revolt against the old-fashioned school of thought and manners has become triumphant instead of militant, we are beginning to see the picturesque side of their character. They have gathered something of the halo that comes with the lapse of years; and social habits that looked prosaic enough to contemporaries, and to the generation which had to fight against them, have gained a touch of romance. Richardson's characters wear a costume and speak a language which are indeed queer and oldfashioned, but are now far enough removed from the present to have a certain piquancy;" and it is becoming easier to recognize the real genius which created them, as the active aversion to the forms in which it was necessarily clothed tends to disappear. The wigs and the high-heeled shoes are not without a certain pleasing quaintness; and when we have surmounted this cause of disgust, we can see more plainly what was the real power which men of the most opposite schools in art have recognized. That Richardson was, as we have said, something of the milksop is obvious; but it is not so plain that that is a very serious objection to a novelist. Every man should have in him some considerable infusion of feminine
no better than a good-managing housekeeper who knows her place. It is, therefore, remarkable that Richardson's greatest triumph should be in describing a woman, and that most of his feminine characters are more life-like, and more delicately discriminated than his men. Unluckily his conspicuous faults result from the same cause. His moral prosings savour of the endless gossip over a dish of chocolate, in which bis heroines delight; we can imagine the applause with which his admiring feminine circle would receive his demonstration of the fact, that adversity is harder to bear than prosperity, or the sentiment that "a man of principle, whose love is founded in reason, and whose object is mind rather than person, must make a worthy woman happy." These are admirable sentiments; but they savour of the serious tea-party. If Tom Jones has about it an occasional suspicion
The lady from whom we have quoted became a settled correspondent, and, when more familiar, ventured occasionally upon such a tender and humble expostulation as a country priest might offer to a pope. Nor was Richardson slow at returning compliments in kind. Writing to Miss Fielding, a sister of his great rival and contrast, he assures her that her late brother's knowledge of the human heart was not comparable to hers. He only saw the outside of the clockwork-she its finer springs and movements. Truly, in this commerce of beer and pipes at the bar, Sir Charles both parties could boast of their gains. Grandison recalls an indefinite consumption Richardson became a kind of Protestant of tea and small talk. In short, the femiconfessor; he gave ladies solemn advice on nine part of Richardson's character has a little discussions to which they invited him; little too much affinity to Mrs. Gamp - not told them whether they ought to learn Lat-that he would ever be guilty of putting gin in, and argued as to the probability of a re- in his cup, but that he would have the same formed rake proving a good husband; as is capacity for spinning out indefinite twaddle not uncommon in such cases, the teacher of a superior kind. And, of course, he fell seems to catch the tone of his penitents; his into the faults which beset the members of letters to young ladies are exactly like mutual admiration societies in general; but young ladies' letters, and full of the gossip- especially those which consist chiefly of woing morality and sentimental platitudes in men. Men who meet for purposes of mutuwhich women occasionally delight. They al flattery, become unnaturally solemn and are worth a glance, because the style is priggish; they never free themselves from identical with that of the novels, and ex- the suspicion that the older members of plains to some extent the nature of his art. their coterie may be laughing at them beThe sympathy with women is equally con- hind their backs. But the flattery of wospicuous in his works. Nothing is more men is so much more delicate, and so much rare than to find a great novelist who can more sincere, that it is far more dangerous. satisfactorily describe the opposite sex. It is a poultice which in time softens the Women's heroes are women in disguise, or hardest outside. Richardson yielded as enmere lay-figures, walking gentlemen who tirely as any curate exposed to a shower of parade tolerably through their parts, but slippers. He evidently wrote under the have no real vitality. Miss Brontë, for ex- impression that he was not merely an imaample, showed extraordinary power in Jane ginative writer of the highest order, but also Eyre; but Jane Eyre's lovers, Rockingham a great moralist. "He taught the passions and St. John, are painted from the outside; to move," says his admirer, Dr. Johnson, they are, perhaps, what some women think " at the command of virtue." Certainly men ought to be, but not what any man of that was Richardson's own view. He fame at all comparable to Miss Brontë's was reforming the world, putting down could ever have imagined. Her most suc- vice, sending duelling out of fashion cessful men such as M. Paul in Villette and inculcating the lessons of the pulpit are those who have the strongest feminine in a far more attractive form. A modern element in their composition. On the oth- novelist is half ashamed of his art; he er hand, the heroines of male writers are disclaims earnestly any serious purpose; for the most part unnaturally strained or his highest aim is to amuse his readers, and quite colourless; male hands are too heavy his greatest boast that he amuses them by for the delicate work required. Milton honourable, or at least by harmless means. could draw a majestic Satan, but his Eve is There are, indeed, novelists with a pur
"Pray, sir," she exclaims, "make him (Lovelace) happy - you can so easily do it -pray reform him will you not save a soul, sir?" And Richardson takes in all this rant with perfect seriousness, replies in a voluminous letter of argument, in which the affectation of sublime wisdom does not conceal a kind of purring complacency, and evidently bolts the flattery whole.