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ritable: these are Nature's warnings men ought to manifest the most unto desist, but they are disregarded ; mistakable signs of it. Yet we do not the object of ambition lures the vic- learn that Sophocles, Dante, Chautim on, the seduction of artistic cer, Shakespeare, Milton, Goethe, and creation, or of a truth seen dancing Scott among the poets, or Giotto, like a will-o'-wisp, incessantly solicits Michael Angelo, Raphael, Titian, him; he will not pause--at length and Rubens among the painters, or he cannot pause, the excitement has Bacon, Spinoza, and Kart among become a fever, the flame that warms philosophers, either claim our sorrow destroys him : madness arrives. for their intellectual eclipse, or our Sad this is, and would be infinitely pity for their eccentricities.
We are sad if there were no help for it, if told that men of genius are always the very glory and splendour of the eccentric. They are always original, intellect were necessarily allied to its and generally much self-absorbed ; infirmity and ruin. But it is not so. but we believe that there will be Men cannot transgress Nature's laws found among them very little eccenwithout incurring Nature's penalties. tricity of the kind noticeable in mad The most perfect digestive apparatus people. We have ourselves known will be ruined by imprudent habits; a great many people pre-eminent in the most powerful muscular system intellect, and cannot recall one who may be lamed by over-exertion; the was remarkable for any such eccenmost admirable secreting organs will tricity; whereas we have known become morbid under over-stimulus ; people whose eccentricities were and why are we to expect the com- such that their friends generally plex and delicate nervous mechanism alluded to them as "half-cracked," to be overworked with impunity? yet these people were by no means
Not by reason of diseased nervous remarkable for intellectual power. centres are men ever pre-eminent in That it is over-excitement, and intellectual energy ; nor are they disregard of the laws of health, liable to become insane by reason of rather than the amount of cerebral this energy, unless misdirected. They power, which causes the insanity of are pre-eminent because God has en- men of genius, may be suspected from dowed them with the higher cerebral the single comparison of Southey development, and because this is in and Wordsworth. No one, we suphealthy activity; when it falls into pose, will for an instant question the unhealthy activity, insanity is the immeasurable superiority of Wordsresult-a result not due to the origi- worth's genius; yet his long and nal strength of the energy, but due laborious life was passed without a to an original defect in the constitu- threat of cerebral disease ; whereas tion transmitted from parents, or to poor Southey paid the penalty of a defect acquired through neglect of overwork. Wordsworth was much the plainest precepts of healthy living. in the open air, taking active exerIt is from their weakness that they cise. Southey lived in his study. fall, not because of their strength. The explanation lies there. Oné may pity the overtasked man There is another error current on of genius, and sympathise with his the subject of genius, an error which imprudence; one may regret that a bases its evidence on cases not less knowledge of the simpler laws of life equivocal than those brought forand health is not more general; but ward respecting insanity, namely, one cannot draw from the biographies that men of genius are too absorbed of illustrious men an argument in in their pursuits to pay the same favour of the notion that genius is scrupulous attention to minor morals allied to insanity. Overwork, and and ordinary duties demanded from unseemly neglect, kill the meanest other men. Here biography offers its as inevitably as the highest. It is a treacherous aid, and shows, unhaptragedy which is no respecter of pily, that many men of genius have persons, and darkens a thousand disregarded minor morals. To this homes which are never brightened we reply, as before, that many more with a ray of genius.
men of unblemished mediocrity of If genius were disease, the greatest intellect have shown a greater dis
regard to minor and major morals; men too poor “ to live like gentlewhereupon we conclude that there men.” It is not imperative on a must be some other cause at work, man to live like a gentleman; only and that the shortcomings of men of imperative on him to live honestly. genius are referrible simply to their If his genius will not procure him imperfect conscientiousness. Not be- the common necessaries” (which cause they are strong in intellect, but too often include a host of superbecause they are weak in will or con- fluities, and sacrifices to mere show), science, have these men erred. There let him earn those necessaries by is no legitimate connection between some other labour, like other men. splendid talents and engagements bro- Spinoza lived by polishing glasses ; ken, trust violated, or bills unpaid ; but and small as the pittance was which there is a direct connection between this secured him, it was enough for weak consciences and these things. his necessities, and it preserved his
Genius may prevent a man from independence. When a pension was becoming rich ; it does not pre- offered to him if he would dedicate vent his being scrupulously honest. his work to Louis XIV., he declined, Absorption in ideas, the pursuit of “ having no intention of dedicating objects not in themselves market- anything to that monarch.” It was able, must of course limit the in- ascertained after his death that he come of any man who earns his had sometimes lived on twopenceincome by labour of brain ; but it halfpenny a-day. This was interdoes not screen from him the plain preting the necessities very rigidly; facts of his position. If he is so and although it is highly probable absorbed as not to be perfectly aware that had he been an Englishman his that he has not earned the money to "position in society” would not have pay for the sherry and mutton on been very brilliant on those terms, his table, he ought to be shut up it is certain that he would have an asylum ; and if he is aware of it, troubled himself little about his posibut disregards it, either because it tion in society, finding in philosophy vexes him, or because his sanguine enough to satisfy his soul. disposition leads him to believe that Goldsmith and Johnson are two the money will be forthcoming instructive illustrations of our argu
somehow," then we must lay the ment. Goldsmith had more of what blame on his feeble conscientious- is specially called genius than Johnness, not on his intense intellectual son had; but will any one assert absorption. It is true that a concen- that it was by reason of this adtration of the intellect on any subject vantage that he was so careless of indisposes, if it does not unfit, a man engagements, and so heedless in for attending closely to many other money matters? will any one assert matters; though one may note in that Johnson's noble integrity was passing, that mathematicians and owing to his intellectual inferipoets who could find no time to look ority? The impulsive, hopeful, childafter the small matters of finance in like nature of Goldsmith, makes us their own families, found ample time love the man, and easily forgive his to look after the finance of India, errors; we know that there was and the means of defraying the Na- nothing base in him, only a weakness tional Debt. But granting that genius to which we can be charitable ; but incapacitates a man from attending let us not forget that his errors sprang to domestic matters, we must still from his weakness, and were in no assert that it by no means absolves sense the necessary consequences of him from taking care that those his strength. Neither let us suffer logic matters are properly seen to; he to stifle charity; nor let charity conmay resign them into other hands, fuse our moral judgments. It is not and only be careful that no sophistica- because we see a course of conduct tion misleads his agent. Ghirlandajo to be sinful that we are to shut the bade his brother manage the house; sinner from our hearts ; nor because for himself, he would do his utmost we feel yearnings of pity for the errto find the money for it by painting. ing, that we are to alter our judgment
The same principle applies even to of the error.
Men of genius are said to be by genius is on the whole remarkably nature improvident. It may be so: noble and pure. The curiosity natubiography too often seems to say it rally felt about everything concerning is so. But thousands who have no men of genius leads to the publicagenius are quite as improvident; and tion of all their errors and shortcom. it is never in virtue of his genius that ings; but who can doubt that a any man is so. Human nature is similar scrutiny of the lives of grocers human nature, and its infirmities would yield a much blacker cata ue may be seen in the shade of its of errors? The vices of illustrious splendours, but they are not owing men are cried out from the housetops, to the splendours. The great Shake- but who troubles himself about the speare, the great Newton, the great vices of blockheads ? Goethe, were not little men because Our conclusion, then, is briefly they too had their littlenesses ; nor this : Genius is health and strength, were these littlenesses in any sense not disease and weakness; it is sanity the product of their greatness. And and virtue, not insanity and vice. if the trembling sensibility, which is The man of genius may be sickly and one of the conditions of genius, makes vicious; but he is so by reason of a a man more accessible to certain sickly body and a vacillating will; temptations, it makes him also more not by any means because, with this accessible to moral influences, so that, body and this will, he also possesses in point of fact, the history of men of a splendid intellect.
KING ARTHUR AND HIS ROUND TABLE.
"Arturum expectare" is no longer aval tinting. Young ladies are ina taunting proverb. Arthur is come troduced to his court in Miss Yonge's again! Bardic prophecy and popu- pleasant fictions, and ask the most lar tradition, after all, spoke truly. puzzling questions of their well-read Once more the name of the hero-king governesses touching Sir Galahad rings through the length and breadth and the San Greal. Children even of England. Years ago, the Laureate find him reigning in their storycaught his first glimpse of him, in books, vice King Cole and King poetic trance, when he sang of Ex- Alfred superseded. Enterprising calibur and the Lady of Shalott, lady-tourists demand of their astonbefore he brought the full vision be- ished Breton guides to be led forthfore us-“The Dragon of the great with to the “Fontaine de Barenton.” Pendragonship’ in his “ Idylls.” We seem to have gone back suddenly Sir Lytton Bulwer was the first to some eight or nine centuries, and are herald this new avatar with a grand once more become enamoured of the and stately march-music, which has grand chain of romance which held yet to find its due appreciation. captive all readers--or rather hearers Clothed in the old prose version, - in the days of Edward III. Mr Russell Smith has presented him Yet, probably, to the great body in three volumes of undeniable type of his admirers, the outline of this and paper. A host of minor lyrists favourite hero is very dim and inswell the triumph. The British king distinct. They see little more of him is more ubiquitous in his resuscitation than Guenever saw at their last than even in the days of his mortal partingity. He looks down upon the under
“ The moony vapour rolling round the graduates of Oxford from the gallery King, of their new reading-room, grim and
Who seemed the phantom of a giant
in it." gorgeous, in the richest hues of Messrs Riviere and Rosetti's medi- Mr Tennyson's “Idylls,” and the
La Mort d'Arthure. 3 vols. J. RUSSELL Smith. 1859.
Les Romans de la Table Ronde. Par M. le Vicomte H. DE LA VILLEMARQUÉ. Paris, 1860.
graceful presentations of Sir Lance- school half-year. The taste is a ļot and Sir Galahad, and their com- genuine one on their part, wholly panions of the Round Table, which independent of Mr Tennyson and his now crowd upon us everywhere in fellow-poets, explain it how we will prose and poetry, produce, we very The truth is, that the style of these much suspect, upon the minds of the romances recommends itself at once reading public in general, much the to the schoolboy mind, healthfully same tantalising and ha'f-disappoint- active and energetic; with very little ing effect, as those snatches of tempt- love-making, few of the finer flights ing scenery which flash upon our eyes of fancy, and no moral reflections, at intervals between the cuttings of there are plenty of terrific encounters the railway and the smoke of the and hard blows. The interest, such engine—informing us of a pleasant as it is, never flags; incident crowds and interesting country close at hand, on incident, adventure succeeds adbut with which we have no present venture; the successful champion means of making further acquaint- disposes of one antagonist just in
For the early English and time to be ready for another—the French romances which contain the discomfited knight is either destory at large are not very easily spatched forthwith to make room for accessible; the MSS. themselves not some new aspirant, or is healed of to be thought of except by professed his wound with marvellous rapidity antiquarians; the printed editions by some convenient hermit, and few and scarce, and their quaint fights as well, or better, than ever. wording and orthography, so charm- The plot and machinery are of the ing in the eyes of their true lovers, simplest kind, most intelligible to presenting rather a forbidding front the schoolboy mind, and appealing to mere passing acquaintances. Even strongly to his sympathies, fresh the most accessible and most read from foot-ball. Everybody runs able of all—“the noble and joyous full tilt at everybody he meets, is hystorye of the grete conquerour and the general stage direction. Whether excellent kyng, Kyng Arthur”-first the antagonist be friend or foe by printed by Caxton, and several times right, is quite a secondary considerareprinted since with more or less tion; these kind of questions are accuracy, had become in all its edi- generally asked afterwards, being tions comparatively scarce; and it considered rather a waste of precious may fairly be doubted whether the time beforehand. “It doth them late reprint, with all the advantage good to feel each other's might.” of an attractive typography, is likely There you have the key-note of Round to become a popular book. Southey Table philosophy; and young Engspoke indeed quite truly when he land thoroughly appreciates it. True, said it had a marvellous attraction there is a wonderful sameness in the for boys. It was so in his youthful heroes and their achievements; Sir days; it was so, we can ourselves Tristram's performances are precisetestify, a generation later, in at least ly like Sir Lancelot's. In the enone large public school, when a soli- counters with which almost every tary copy in two disreputable little page is filled, there is not even the paper-bound volumes, claiming to graphic variety of Homer's wounds; belong to Walker's British Clas- commonly, the knight who is worsted sics” (even that wretched edition goes “over his horse's croupe ; must have been scarce), was passed occasionally, by way of change, we from hand to hand, and literally read find that his opponent has “gate to pieces, at all hours, lawful and un- him by the necke, and pulled him lawful. And the spell works to this cleane out of his saddle.” But to day; boys seize upon the volumes the admiring readers in question still, wherever they fall in their way, this never seems to occur as an oband sit absorbed in them as did their jection ; sufficient for them that the forefathers. They will tell you more action of the piece never stands still of Sir Bagdemagus and King Pelli- for an instant ; Sir Ban or Sir Bors, nore in a week, than they can of or whoever may be the hero of the Diomed and Hector at the end of a hour, has no sooner overthrown the
knight with the black shield, than ries had an Iliad of their own. Like he fewtres his spear afresh, and the great classical epic, it reigned hurles him” straightway at him of undisputed in the literary firmament, the red shield. The disport” is fast and absorbed all minor bards into and furious. And when half-a-dozen satellites or imitators. Like that, champions are unhorsed in the space too, it has outlived the personal fame of a single page, it would be unrea- of its authors. We can no more tell sonable to expect that each should the names of those old bards who fall in different fashion,
of Arthur and his Round This kind of repetition, however, Table, than we can be sure at this vigorous as it is, must be confessed day whether the Iliad and the Odysto pall occasionally upon less vora- sey are the work of one or many. cious appetites. One gets tired of Like the Iliad, these lays had a cerreading for ever of“ fortemque Gyan, tain unity; their central personality fortemque Cloanthum;" and we can
King of Men;" their epireadilyimagine the disappointmentof sodes, the acts of his knight comthose gentle and enthusiastic readers, panions. The resemblance was even who, with the grand chant of the more striking in this—that in both, Laureate or the classic rhyme of the Great King is not the real hero. Bulwer still in their ears, turn to the Sir Lancelot and Achilles are the volumes of the Mort d'Arthure as peerless knights; and the fatal estheir fount of inspiration. The gentle trangement between Lancelot and Enid they will not find there. Such his king works more irretrievable woe passages as the love of the fair maid than even the wrath of Achilles. But of Astolat are rare indeed; and even whether the glorious romance of the Arthur and Lancelot, like living Greeks sprung forth in full panoply mortal heroes, lose something of their from some one god-like brain or no, herohood on more familiar acquaint- we at least have no means of tracing ance. They will hardly be consoled its infancy or its growth. With the by a succession of chapters recording Arthurian epos it is quite otherwise. "how Sir Lamoracke justed with Sir Nearly every stage in its development Palomides, and hurt him grievously;" is open to us. We can trace it, inand “how Sir Tristram smote down distinctly but certainly, rolling on Sir Sagramore le Desirous and Şir from age to age, assimilating and inDodinas le Savage.” Yet these tales corporating, from the manners and of chivalry, though they threaten to the taste of each, fresh elements of be wearisome to the general reader strength or weakness - ever changwhen encountered at full length, have · ing, yet still the same. a very deep interest both in a literary On its earliest origin, indeed, conand an antiquarian point of view; siderable learning and research, and the more so, because now for the first very many ingenious conjectures, time there appears a general consent would appear to have been wasted. as to the real sources of their origin, Mallet and Percy (and Count de while they have sprung afresh into Tressan agrees with them) would the full sunshine of popular favour, trace it to the northern Skalds, who, after centuries of comparative ob- accompanying the army of Rollo, scurity, by one of the most remark
in his warlike migraable resurrections in the history of tion southward, carried with them fiction. We will endeavour here to the lays of their own mythology, but lay before our readers some sketch of replaced the Pagan heroes by Christhat great cycle of romance which for tian kings and warriors. Another ages was the literature par excellence theory, originated by the learned of Christendom, and which has once Claude Saumaise (Salmasius), and more become the treasure-house from adopted enthusiastically by Warton, which poet and painter draw subjects ascribes all the germs of romantic for their pictures, and in which essay- fiction to the Saracens or Arabians, ists — wearied of the old heathen and suggests its probable introducclassics—seek for illustrations and tion into Europe to the effects of the allusions.
Crusades; or, according to Warton, The twelfth and thirteenth centu. to the Arab conquests in Spain; that