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of tracts ? Mr. Grant Allen comes down from a mountain, with a message. His “Hill Top Novels” are to be taken by “the reader who cares for truth and righteousness” as representing Mr. Allen's “original thinking, whether good or bad, on some important points in human society or human evolution.” I hope I care for truth and righteous
as much as my neighbours, but there already exists a collection of ancient documents which appear to me to be satisfactory reading on these important points. For Mr. Allen's “thinking” I have a tempered respect, as it is quite sincere, though I may not always see that his premises are correct, or his conclusions consequent, and I will gladly study it more deeply when it takes the form of treatise on human evolution or on human society. But I want a novel to be a novel, not a tract; and “Hill Top" novels are tracts, of which I decline “to take one." They are meant to “prove ” nothing
I should think not, indeed except perhaps that, if you act as Mr. Allen “thinks right for the highest good of human kind, you will infallibly and inevitably come to a bad end for it.” But Mr. Allen has not come to a bad end, and never will, I hope. Are we to infer that he has not acted as he thinks right ? Martyrdom is not a bad, but a good end. However, one may trust that Mr. Allen, like John Knox and several other protesters of mark, will refute his own doctrine by acting as he thinks right without enlisting in the Holy Army of Martyrs. He writes novels instead of treatises, not because the public won't buy treatises, but because he desires to sing, or say, virginibus puerisque. And he is an “automatic mouthpiece of the spirit of the age,” like all the rest of us, he says. Mouthpieces we are, all of us, it seems, and automatic too. It is idle to cavil at an automaton, but, for one, I do not care to read the results of automatic writing. I see that, in this tract, somebody shot somebody else, a mild anthropologist, who had been doing as he thought right by living with the other gentleman's wife, and had been making himself tedious by talk about taboos. It is a mad world, but the lives of British anthropologists are usually pure. Nobody is more interested than I in the Attic Thargelia, but to trifle with the feelings of a married lady by discourse on that pleasing theme, is conduct which I do not think right “for the highest good of human kind.” Moreover, I doubt if prosing on folk lore would conduce to the success of my profligate scheme of pleasure. So the kind reader will take his choice between my ideas of what is right, and Mr. Allen's ideas. We are both anthropological mouthpieces, and both are fond of totems and taboos, but the wind of the spirit of the age whistles through us to different tunes. Let the world call the tune, I know who is the less expensive piper. To Mr. Allen, if I understand his philosophy, every
“ Thou shalt not” is an offence, a descendant of some savage old taboo. Our laws are “barbarous," and are children, like our religion, of savage superstitions. Granted that their origins lie in a society and in modes of thought all unlike our own, the long ages, and the secular experience of mankind, have transmuted them into a tolerable adaptation to our needs, and will further transmute and adapt them. I no more doubt that monogamy is the best of all possible arrangements, than I dispute the existence of its drawbacks. I no more believe adultery to be “right" than I believe prussic acid to be burgundy, or the private revolver to be a good substitute for public law. There is, probably, such a thing as the " Philosophy of the Unconscious," or rather the “ Philosophy of the Sub-conscious," whose influence has been, and still will be, correcting and adapting conceptions originally savage, in society, just as, in art, it developed the work of Phidias out of the rude idol. And the laws of civilised men are no more " barbarous” because they descend from taboos, than the Athene of the Parthenon is "barbarous," because it descends from a rudely chipped idol. And this prosing is all about a “novel !” Now here Mr. Allen, if his eye falls on this page, will observe the unfairness of his method. If Mr. Tylor or Mr. Frazer were to announce (which is inconceivable) that because an African might not see his wife (which is absurd), therefore to keep the Seventh Commandment is ridiculous, one would reply to the treatises of these gentlemen in another treatise. But as anthropologists at first hand, they never dream of propounding such fallacies. If I want to answer Mr. Allen, and to reach the brides of the middle classes, I too must write my novel of Taboos ! Perish the brides of the middle classes ! The sense of humour forbids anyone who possesses it to mince up folklore into a tract for young matrons.
About Mr. Meredith's new novel, “ An Amazing Marriage,” I must write with diffidence, and even with distress. “In life's gay morn," as the Scotch paraphrase runs, I fell in love with a heroine of Mr. Meredith's (in “Richard Feveral ") and with his early poems. In these days, say 1858, he had few admirers among schoolboys. And now I find myself baffled in three efforts to read "An Amazing Marriage." The newspapers applaud it as a “masterpiece"; and it must be a masterpiece, yet remains a sealed book to me. Clearly the critic has fallen into his “Count Robert of Paris” stage, and his opinion is of no value ; indeed he has no opinion, except that he prefers a romance more easily understanded of the people. The existence of the Baby is, to me, the central crux : if I could account for that baby, I might solve the problem. Yet the opening chapters are lucid, and some of the descriptions of nature, though in a style rather tormented, reveal the poet. “ It is an infant we address," says Mr. Meredith, and this child, quite baffled, leaves the riddle virginibus puerisque.
In Mr. Marion Crauford's “Casa Braccio," his twenty-fifth novel, a reader is most taken, I think, by the vivid rendering of Italian life, character, and conversation, as they were forty or fifty years ago. The country ways and country talk, the solemn interior of a Carmelite convent, the grotesque difficulties of a doctor in attendance on the Abbess, are all admirably suggested. For the tale itself, are there not too many parts “to tear a cat in ” ? In a tragedy of sacrilege we expect the tragic, of course, and a stage encumbered with mutilated remains of mortality, but the number of passions in tatters is considerable; and the tale, relieved mainly by the fair and melancholy noble widow, does rather strain our faculty of belief. A story in two generations has, inevitably, a disagreeable lack of continuity. A tale as "of Thebes or Atreus line" jars with modern self-repression. The novel is not at all disagreeable, however, as “powerful” novels go. For an Italian romance, it is free from the Contadina and Transteverino dancing to tlie music of a pifferaro outside an albergo. It holds a high place in Mr. Crauford's very level and excellent work : may he live to write twenty-five more novels as entertaining.
Mr. Kipling's "Second Jungle Book” needs no praise. Whatever tune he pipes we must all dance to, men, women, and children. He not only enables us to live in the life of men in India, brown or white, but to live in the life of the beasts, and of the jungle itself. He animates everything, makes all alive, and, as the savage fancy does the same thing, Mr. Allen should regard the “ Jungle Book” as a barbarous performance. Well, as the Scot said at the funeral feast,“ be it burial, be it bridal, it's grand.” “Red Dog,” an invasion of Red Dogs repelled by the valour and strategy of Mowgli, aided by the bees, is my private favourite, and next to it is “The Miracle of Purun Bhagat,” though this is less interesting reading for the very tiny youths and maids who love Mr. Kipling's Jungle tales. “Quiquern ” is a wonderful example of sympathetic genius animating the life (which Mr. Kipling can only know by report) of those blameless Hyperboreans, the Eskimo. “The Undertakers,” carrion-eating beasts, is chiefly remarkable for the contrasted manners of the mugger and the jackal. “How Fear Came" is the cosmogonic legend of the beasts, and contains a vivid picture of a drought in the jungle. The whole series is a delightful and original experiment, which proves to demonstration that “all the stories ” have not “been told.” But Mr. kipling should not write “they laid down,” nor “where they belong."
Good-humoured veracity, with a dose of sentiment, are the notes of Mr. Ian Maclaren's “The Days of Auld Lang Syne." The Scots is not difficult, as a rule, even to an English reader, but Mr. Maclaren’s habit of spelling “to” as “tae " is rather irritating to some Scottish readers. To account for the popularity of these simple sketches is not easy ; they seem to me to lack the power of Mr. Barrie, and the picturesqueness and adventure of Mr. Crockett. However, their very simplicity is commendable, the characters have most of the good, and little of the not so good, in the Scottish nature. The tales are clean, pure, fresh as milk, and we ought rather to rejoice that such "halesome fare" is generally appreciated. People who admire Mr. Maclaren cannot but be disgusted by the jargon and pretence, the pedantry and ambitious dulness, of many more or less fashionable essays in romance.
For me it must suffice to chronicle the appearance of Mr. Hardy's “Jude the Obscure,” accompanied by a map of Wessex. To review a book when one labours under a total lack of sympathy with the author's philosophy of life, is to spin ropes of sand, a tissue of irritating materials; and I gather from a review in The Athenæum that the philosophy which I failed to appreciate in “Tess" is more conspicuous in “ Jude.” Mr. Hardy's art is certainly not included in the Gay Science : is not “ dedicated to joy.”
In poetry there is very little of real merit to chronicle. In “The Father of the Forest,” Mr. Watson, like Mr. Squeers, gives us just enough to make us wish for more. The little volume contains but seventy pages, “choicely good,” in Mr. Watson's manner, and with his limitations. These limitations he himself discusses in a piece called “Apologia.” “One shall curl superior lips," he says, referring, as it seems, to a critic. But Mr. Watson himself, if memory deceives me not, once curled superior lips at all contemporary poets and versifiers, from the cedar of Lebanon, Lord Tennyson, to the harmless gnats of ballade-mongers, who made
“Grave men weary of the sound of rhyme." Well, they piped not to “grave men”! The critic reproached Mr. Watson, he says, for not doing something that he never set out to do : it is the common fault of critics. Then this bad man found fault because Mr. Watson
“In singer's selves found me a theme of song," writing criticism in verse, as here in “Burns's Grave," and elsewhere in “Wordsworth's Grave," and perhaps in some other sepulchres. Mr. Matthew Arnold had set the example in “ Heine's Grave,” in “Obermann," in Dr. Arnold's grave ; and Mr. Swinburne has celebrated Baudelaire, Gautier, and
The humour is a good humour, and Mr. Watson's “Burns's Grave,” in Burns's favourite metre, is a good example of it. Once more Mr. Watson
“ Has not thought it shame To tread in nobler footsteps than my own,"