« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
up with surprise and kindness, her lips bloom- | ing in a smile, the sun making a golden halo round her hair... There seemed, as the boy thought, in every look or gesture of this fair creature, an angelical softness and bright pity-in motion or repose she seemed gracious alike; the tone of her voice, though she uttered words ever so trivial, gave him a pleasure that amounted almost to anguish. It cannot be called love, that a lad of twelve years of age, little more than a menial, felt for an exalted lady, his mistress; but it was worship." ↑
This noble and pure feeling is expanded by a series of devoted actions, related with extreme simplicity; in the least words, in the turn of a phrase, in a chance conversation, we perceive a great heart, passionately grateful, never tiring of doing a kindness, or a service, sympathizing, friendly, giving advice, defending the honor of the family and the fortune of the children. Twice Esmond interposed between Lord Castlewood and Mohun the duellist; it was not his fault that the murderer's weapon did not reach his own breast. When Lord Castlewood on his deathbed revealed that Esmond was not a bastard, but that the title and fortune of Castlewood were lawfully his, the young man, without a word, burned the confession which would have rescued him from the poverty and humiliation in which he had so long pined. Insulted by the Lady Castlewood, sick of a wound received by his kinsman's side, accused of ingratitude and cowardice, he persisted in his silence with the justification in his hand: "And when the struggle was over in Harry's mind, a glow of righteous happiness filled it; and it was with grateful tears in his eyes that he returned thanks to God for that decision which he had been enabled to make." Later, being in love, but sure not to marry if his birth remained under a cloud in the eyes of the world, having repaid his benefactress, whose son he had saved, entreated by her to resume the name which belonged to him, he smiled sweetly, and gravely replied:
"It was settled twelve years since, by my dear lord's bedside,' says Colonel Esmond. "The children must know nothing of this. Frank and his heirs after him must bear our name. 'Tis his rightfully; I have not even a
* The History of Henry Esmond, bk. i.
proof of that marriage of my father and mother though my poor lord, on his deathbed, told me that Father Holt had brought such a proof to Castlewood. I would not seek it when I was abroad. I went and looked at my poor mother's grave in her convent. What matter to her now? No court of law on earth, upon my mere word, would deprive my Lord Viscount and set me up. I am the head of the house, dear lady; but Frank is Viscount of Castlewood still. And rather than disturb him, I would turn monk, or disappear in America." "As he spoke so to his dearest mistress, for whom he would have been willing to give up his life, or to make any sacrifice any day, the before him, and kissed both his hands in an fond creature flung herself down on her knee! outbreak of passionate love and gratitude, such as could not but melt his heart, and make him feel very proud and thankful that God had given him the power to show his love for her, and to prove it by some little sacrifice on his own part. To be able to bestow benefits of happiness on those one loves is sure the greatest blessing conferred upon a man-and what vanity, could compare with the pleasure Eswealth or name, or gratification of ambition or mond now had of being able to confer some kindness upon his best and dearest friends? "Dearest saint,' says he, 'purest soul, that has had so much to suffer, that has blest the poor lonely orphan with such a treasure of love. 'Tis for me to kneel, not for you: 'tis for me to be thankful that I can make you happy. Hath my life any other aim? Blessed be God that I can serve you!'"* This noble tenderness seems still more touching when contrasted with the Esmond surrounding circumstances. goes to the wars, serves a political party, lives amidst dangers and bustle, judging revolutions and politics from a lofty point of view; he becomes a man of experience, well informed, learn ed, far-sighted, capable of great enter prises, possessing prudence and cour age, harassed by his own thoughts and griefs, ever sad and ever strong. He ends by accompanying to England the Pretender, half-brother of Queen Anne and keeps him disguised at Castle wood, awaiting the moment when the queen, dying and won over to the Tory cause, should declare him her heir. This young prince, a true Stuart, pays court to Lord Castlewood's daughter Beatrix, whom Esmond 'oves, and gets out at night to join her. Esmond, who waits for him, sees the crown lost and his house dishonored. His insulted honor and outraged love break forth ir a proud and terrible rage. Pale, with set teeth, his brain on fire by four sleepless nights of anxiety, he keeps
* Ibid. bk. iii. ch. ii.
his mind clear, and his voice calm; he explains to the prince with perfect etiquette, and with the respectful coldness of an official messenger, the folly which the prince has committed, and the villany which the prince contemplated. The scene must be read to see how much superiority and passion this calmness and bitterness imply:
"What mean you, my lord?' says the Prince, and muttered something about a guetpens, which Esmond caught up. "The snare, Sir,' said he, was not of our aying; it is not we that invited you. We came to avenge, and not to compass, the dishonour of our family.'
"Dishonour! Morbleu! there has been no dishonour,' says the Prince, turning scarlet, only a little harmless playing.'
"That was meant to end seriously.' "I swear,' the Prince broke out impetuously, upon the honour of a gentleman, my lords'
"That we arrived in time. No wrong hath been done, Frank,' says Colonel Esmond, turning round to young Castlewood, who stood at the door as the talk was going on. 'See! here is a paper whereon his Majesty hath deigned to commence some verses in honour, or dishonour, of Beatrix. Here is, "Madame" and "Flamme," ""Cruelle" and "Rebelle," and "Amour" and "Jour," in the Royal writing and spelling. Had the Gracious lover been happy, he had not passed his time in sighing." In fact, and actually as he was speaking, Esmond cast his eyes down towards the table, and saw a paper on which my young Prince had been scrawling a madrigal, that was to finish his charmer on the morrow.
"Sir,' says the Prince, burning with rage (he had assumed his Royal coat unassisted by this time), 'did I come here to receive insults?" "To confer them, may it please your Majesty,' says the Colonel, with a very low bow, and the gentlemen of our family are come to thank you.'
"Malediction!' says the young man, tears starting into his eyes with helpless rage and mortification. What will you with me, gen• men?'
"If your Majesty will please to enter the next apartment,' says Esmond, preserving his grave one, 'I have some papers there which I would gladly submit to you, and by your permission I will lead the way; and taking the taper up, and backing before the Prince with very great ceremony, Mr. Esmond passed into the ittle Chaplain's room, through which we had just entered into the house: Please to set chair for his Majesty, Frank,' says the Colonel to his companion, who wondered almost as much at this scene, and was as much puzzled by it, as the other actor in it. Then going to the crypt over the mantel-piece, the Colonel opened it, and drew thence the papers which so long had lain there.
nessed certificate of my father's marriage to my mother, and of my birth and christening; was christened of that religion of which you: sainted sire gave all through life so shining example. These are my titles, dear Frank, and this what I do with them: here go Baptism and Marriage, and here the Marquisate and the August Sign-Manual, with which your pre decessor was pleased to honour our race.' And as Esmond spoke he set the papers burning in the brazier. 'You will please, sir, to remember,' he continued, 'that our family .ath ruined itself by fidelity to yours; that my grandfather spent his estate, and gave his blood and his son to die for your service; that my dear lord's grandfather (for lord you are now, Frank, by right and title too) died for the same cause; that my poor kinswoman, my father's second wife, after giving away her honour to your wicked perjured race, sent all her wealth to the King, and got in return that precious title that lies in ashes, and this inestimable yard of blue riband. I lay this at your feet, and stamp upon it: I draw this sword, and break it and deny you; and had you completed the wrong you designed us, by Heaven I would have driven it through your heart, and no more pardoned you than your father pardoned Monmouth.'"'* Two pages later he speaks thus of his marriage to Lady Castlewood:
"That happiness which hath subsequently crowned it, cannot be written in words; 'tis of its nature sacred and secret, and not to be spoken of, though the heart be ever so full of thankfulness, save to Heaven and the One ear alone to one fond being, the truest and tenderest and purest wife ever man was blessed with. As I think of the immense happiness which was in store for me, and of the depth and intensity of that love which, for so many years, hath blessed me, I own to a transport of wonder and gratitude for such a boon-nay, am thankful to have been endowed with a heart capable of feeling and knowing the immense beauty and value of the gift which God hath bestowed upon me. Sure, love vincit omnia is immeasurably above all ambition, more precious than wealth, more noble than name. He knows not life who knows not that: he hat not felt the highest faculty of the soul who hath not enjoyed it. In the name of my wife 1 write the completion of hope, and the summit of happiness. To have such a love is the one blessing, in comparison of which all earthly joy is of no value; and to think of her, is to praise God."
A character capable of such contrasts is a lofty work; it is to be remembered that Thackeray has produced no other; we regret that moral intentions have perverted these fine literary faculties and we deplore that satire has robbed art of such talent.
Who is he; and what is the value of The History of Henry Esmond, bk. iší.
"Here, may it please your Majesty,' says he, is the Patent of Marquis sent over by your Royal Father at St. Germain's to VisCont Castlewood, my father: here is the witch. xiii.
this literature of which he is one of the princes? At bottom, like every literature, it is a definition of man; and to judge it, we must compare it with man. We can do so now; we have just studied a mind, Thackeray himself; we have considered his faculties, their connections, results, their different degrees; we have before our eyes a model of human naturc. We have a right to Judge of the copy by the model, and to control the definition which his novels lay down by the definition which his character furnishes.
The two definitions are contrary, and his portrait is a criticism on his talent. We have seen that in him the same faculties produce the beautiful and the ugly, force and weakness, success and failure; that moral reflection, after having provided him with every satirical power, debases him in art; that, after having spread over his contemporary novels a tone of vulgarity and falseness, it raises his historical novel to the level of the finest productions; that the same constitution of mind teaches him the sarcastic and violent, as well as the modulated and simple style, the bitterness and harshness of hate with the effusion and -delicacy of love. The evil and the good, the beautiful and the ugly, the repulsive and the agreeable, are in him then but remoter effects, of slight importance, born of changing circumstances, acquired and fortuitous qualities, not essential and primitive, different forms which different streams present in the same current. So it is with other men. Doubtless moral qualities are of the first rank; they are the motive power of civilization, and constitute the nobleness of the individual; society exists by them alone, and by them alone man is great. But if they are the finest fruit of the human plant, they are not its root; they give us our value, but do not constitute our elements. Neither the vices nor the virtues of man are his nature; to praise or to blame him is not to know him; approbation or disapprobation does not define him; the names of good or bad tell us nothing of what he is. Put the robber Cartouche in an Italian court of the fifteenth century; he would be a great statesman. Transport this noble
man, stingy and narrow-minded, into a shop; he will be an exemplary trades. man. This public man, of inflexible probity, is in his drawing-room an intolerable coxcomb. This father of a family, so humane, is an idiotic politi cian. Change a virtue in its circumstances, and it becomes a vice; change a vice in its circumstances, and it becomes a virtue. Regard the same quality from two sides; on one it is a fault, on the other a merit. The essential man is found concealed far below these moral badges; they only point out the usefa or noxious effect of our inner constitu tion: they do not reveal our inner constitution. They are safety or advertizing lights attached to our names, to warn the passer-by to avoid or approach us; they are not the explanatory chart of our being. Our true essence consists in the causes of our good or bad qualities, and these causes are discovered in the temperament, the species and degree of imagination, the amount and velocity of attention, the magnitude and direction of primitive passions. A character is a force, like gravity, or steam, capable, as it may happen, of pernicious or profitable effects, and which must be defined otherwise than by the amount of the weight it can lift or the havoc it can cause. It is there fore to ignore man, to reduce him, as Thackeray and English literature generally do, to an aggregate of virtues and vices; it is to lose sight in him of all but the exterior and social side; it is to neglect the inner and natural element. We will find the same fault in English criticism, always moral, never psychological, bent on exactly measuring the degree of human honesty, igno rant of the mechanism of our sentiments and faculties; we will find the same fault in English religion, which is but an emotion or a discipline; in their philosophy, destitute of metaphys ics; and if we ascend to the source, according to the rule which derives vices from virtues, and virtues from vices, we will see all these weaknesses derived from their native energy, their practical education, and that kind of severe and religious poetic ir stinct which has in time past made them Protestant and Puritan.
Criticism and Nistory.Macaulay.
I SHALL not here attempt to write the life of Lord Macaulay. It can only be related twenty years hence, when his friends shall have put together all their recollections of him. As to what is public now, it seems to me useless o recall it every one knows that his cather was an abolitionist and a philanthropist; that Macaulay passed through a most brilliant and complete classical education; that at twenty-five his essay on Milton made him famous; hat at thirty he entered parliament, and took his standing there amongst the first orators; that he went to India to reform the law, and that on his return he was appointed to high offices; that on one occasion his liberal opinions in religious matters lost him his seat in parliament; that he was reelected amidst universal congratulation; that he continued to be the most celebrated publicist and the most accomplished writer of the Whig party; and that on this ground, towards the close of his life, the gratitude of his party and the public admiration, made him a British peer. It will be a fine biography to write-a life of honor and happiness, devoted to noble ideas, and occupied by manly enterprizes; literary in the first place, but sufficiently charged with action and immersed in business to furnish substance and solidity to his eloquence and style, to form the observer side by side with the artist, and the thinker side by side with the writer. On the present occasion I will only describe the thinker and writer: I leave the life, I take his works; and first his Essays.
His Essays are a collection of articles from reviews: I confess to a fondness for books of this kind. In the first place, we can throw down the volume after a score of pages, begin at the end, or in the middle; we are not its slave, but its master we can treat it like a newspaper in fact, it is the journal of
a mind. In the second place, it is mis‹ cellaneous; in turning over a page, we pass from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century, from England to India : this diversity surprises and pleases. Lastly, involuntarily, the author is indiscreet; he displays himself to us, keeping back nothing; it is a familiar conversation, and no conversation is worth so much as that of Englan's mark the origin of this generous and We are pleased to greatest historian. powerful mind, to discover what facul ties have nourished his talent, what researches have shaped his knowledge, what opinions he formed on philos ophy, religion, the state, literature; what he was, and what he has become; what he wishes, and what he believes.
Seated in an arm-chair, with cur feet on the fender, we see little by little, as we turn over the leaves of the book, an animated and thoughtful face arise before us; the countenance assumes expression and clearness; the different features are mutually explained and lightened up; presently the author lives again for us, and before us; we perceive the causes and birth of all his thoughts, we foresee what he is going to say; his bearing and mode of speech are as familiar to us as those of a man whom we see every day; his opinions correct and affect our own; he enters partly into our thoughts and our life; he is two hundred leagues away, and his book stamps his image on us, as the reflected light paints on the horizon the object from which it is emitted. Such is the charm of books, which deal with all kinds of subjects, which give the author's opinions on all sorts of things, which lead us in all directions of his thoughts, and make us, so to speak, walk around his mind.
Macaulay treats philosophy in the English fashion, as a practical man He is a disciple of Bacon, and sets him above all philosophers; he decides that genuine science dates from him; that the speculations of old thinkers are only witticisms; that for two thousand years the human mind was on a wrong tack; that only since Bacon it has discovered the goal to which it must turn, and the method by which it must arrive there. This goal is utility. The object of knowledge is not theory,
but application. The object of math- | The first was consumed in solving un ematicians is not the satisfaction of an solvable enigmas, fabricating portraits idle curiosity, but the invention of of an imaginary sage, mounting from machines calculated to alleviate human hypothesis to hypothesis, tumbling labor, to increase the power of subdu- from absurdity to absurdity; it deing nature, to render life more secure, spised what was practicable, promised commodious, and happy. The object what was impracticable; and because of astronomy is not to furnish matter it disregarded the limits of the human for vast calculations and poetical cos- mind, ignored its power. The other mogonies, but to subserve geography measuring our force and weakness, and to guide navigation. The object diverted us from roads that were closed of anatomy and the zoological sciences to us, to start us on roads that were is not to suggest eloquent systems on open to us; it recognized facts and laws, the nature of organization, or to set because it resigned itself to remain igbefore the eyes the orders of the animal norant of their essence and principles; kingdom by an ingenious classification, it rendered man more happy, because but to conduct the surgeon's hand and it has not pretended to render him the physician's prognosis. The object perfect; it discovered great truths and of every research and every study is to produced great effects, because it had augment comfort, to ameliorate the the courage and good sense to study condition of man; theoretical laws are small things, and to keep for a long serviceable only in their practical use; time to petty vulgar experiments; it the labors of the laboratory and the has become glorious and powerful, cabinet receive their sanction and value because it deigned to become humble only through the use made of them by and useful. Formerly, science furworkshops and mills; the tree of nished only vain pretensions and chiknowledge must be estimated only by merical conceptions, whilst it held itits fruits. If we wish to judge of a self far aloof from practical existence, philosophy, we must observe its ef- and styled itself the sovereign of man. fects; its works are not its books, but Now, science possesses acquired truths, its acts. The philosophy of the an- the hope of loftier discoveries, an evercients produced fine writings, sublime increasing authority, because it has phrases, infinite disputes, hollow entered upon active existence, and has dreams, systems displaced by systems, declared itself the servant of man. and left the world as ignorant, as un- Let it keep to its new functions; let it happy, and as wicked as it found it. not try to penetrate the region of the That of Bacon produced observations, invisible; let it renounce what must experiments, discoveries, machines, en- remain unknown; it does not contain tire arts and industries: its own issue, it is but a medium; man was not made for it, but science was made for man; it is like the thermom eters and piles which it constructs for its own experiments; its whole glory, merit, and office, is to be an instru ment:
"It has lengthened life; it has mitigated pain; it has extinguished diseases; it has in creased the fertility of the soil; it has given new securities to the mariner; it has furnished
new arms to the warrior; it has spanned great rivers ard estuaries with bridges of form unknown to our fathers; it has guided the thunderboit innocuously from heaven to earth; it has lighted up the night with the splendour of the day; it has extended the range of the human vision; it has multiplied the power of the human muscles; it has accelerated motion; it has annihilated distance; it has facilitated intercourse, correspondence, ail friendly offices, all despatch of business; it has enabled man to descend to the depths of the sea, to soar into the air, to penetrate securely into the noxious recesses of the earth, to traverse the land in cars which whirl along without horses, and the ocean in ships which run ten knots an hour against the wind."*
"We have sometimes thought that an armsing fiction might be written, in which a disciple of Epictetus and a disciple of Bacon should be introduced as fellow-travellers. They come to a village where the small-pox has just begun to rage, and find houses shut up, intercourse sus pended, the sick abandoned, mothers weeping
in terror over their children. The Stoic assures
the dismayed population that there is nothing bad in the small-pox, and that to a wise man disease, deformity, death, the loss of friends are not evils. The Baconian takes out a lan cet and begins to vaccinate. They find a body of miners in great dismay. An explosion of *Macaulay's Works, ed. Lady Trevelyan, 8 noisome vapours has just killed many of those vols. 1866; Essay on Bacon, vi. 222.
who were at work and the survivors are afraid