Изображения страниц

ceremony" of marriage; by leaving Fanny Imlay's corpse unclaimed at Swansea for his reputation's sake; by refusing to acknowledge a play while its success was doubtful; by regarding most of his friends in the light of their probable capacity and willingness to "lend" him money.

Mr. Brown has written a biography which is never a caricature, but which sets in clear relief the irony of Godwin's life in relation to the doctrines set forth in Political Justice. He makes full use of the letters and diaries of Godwin and his friends, letting us see the man in a score of contemporary perspectives. The selection and use of quotations is so skilful, however, that the impression is always that of the development of a unified character. The philosopher's temper and tastes are not separately described, but offered us in their living concreteness in the talk, the business ventures, the literary productions, and the friendships of his life. Even in his substantial interpretations of Political Justice, Inquirer, and Of Population, Mr. Brown never loses the thinker in his thoughts.

Nothing in the book is finer than the treatment of Mary Wollstonecraft and her relation with Godwin. The letters of the two, and the events directly following Mary Wollstonecraft's death, are presented with the very minimum of interpretation by the biographer. But we are made to feel that it was in seeing so clearly his wife's rare beauty and intelligence, and in loving her as he did, that Godwin came nearest to freeing himself from the indecent vanity which marred and narrowed his life. Under her influence he began to see and like at least a few persons, as persons, and not merely as terms fitting in more or less with his moral and political schemes. With the continuance of Mary Wollstonecraft's intimate friendship, Godwin might have achieved the generosity and humor without which even intellectual genius and learning are hollow and incomplete. But Mary Wollstonecraft died in the first year of their union, and after that nothing went well. Two courtships, even in their failure, nourished his conceit. Although he had "advanced with much care" a "logical and complete" case in favor of his suit for the hand of Mrs. Reveley, that lady preferred an alliance in which the relative inferiority of her intellect might be less conspicuous. Two more courtships followed, with much unavailing logic. Then one day, from a neighboring window, the lady who was to become the second Mrs. Godwin accosted him with "Is it possible that I behold the immortal Godwin?"


Buxom, energetic, a good cook, Mrs. Clairmont took Godwin's affairs in hand. But her inquisitiveness and jealousy and ambition were ill-suited to balance or control Godwin's obvious weakFrom their marriage there began in earnest the long series of extravagances and business reverses that led to those notorious financial "arrangements" by which Godwin succeeded in ruining most of his friendships, and in exhibiting many of the vices and much of the meanness he had exposed in Political Justice. Mr. Brown differs from other historians in being careful not to make this part of the story clearer and more direct than the facts warrant. Godwin wrestled with genuine scruples over his first "borrowings" from Shelley. Shelley's and Godwin's letters are allowed to tell the story of the poet's early enthusiastic admiration for the author of Political Justice, and the further story of the respect Shelley bore to the end for what had been great in him. The letters are a moving revelation of "the contagion that the world's slow stain had worked in Godwin," and was to continue to work nearly to the end of his many days.

Mr. Brown deals with Godwin's famous contemporaries— Shelley, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Lamb-as he deals with Godwin himself. Their opinions and their doings are allowed to speak for themselves, but always as they enter into intimate and unforced relation to Godwin's world and life. It is a considerable achievement to have used such an abundance of materials to such a unified effect. The Godwin-Wollstonecraft-Clairmont children are portrayed in that incredible mixture of brightness and pedantry, of generosity and vanity, which only their eccentric nurture could have produced. Even if all else were forgotten, the book would still be delightful for the incidental glimpses of the proud Mrs. Inchbald; of Mrs. Hannah More at seventy stepping into the breach with "a third series of tracts and pamphlets" in defense of "home delights" and "the inestimable value of our free government"; of Percy Florence Shelley, being sent to Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge, to learn "to think like other people"; of Mary Jane Clairmont, satirized by Peacock in 1818, living to be satirized again by Henry James. Even the index shows that Mr. Brown has not lived in the eighteenth century in vain. Under the head of “Godwin, William" the index itself is as informing and much more readable than the "lives" generally to be found in histories and encyclopedias.


The History of the Damnable Life and Deserved Death of Doctor John Faustus, 1592,

together with The Second Report of Faustus, Containing His Appearances and the Deeds of Wagner, 1594. Modernized and edited by WM. ROSE. Broadway Translations. London, Geo. Routledge & Sons, Ltd. New York, E. P. Dutton & Co.

The greatest legend which has sprung from German soil, and one of the world's greatest literary legends, is that concerning the life and death of Faust. Its compass and depth give it a unique superiority in legendary history, and constitute it a literary theme that will never die. What gave the Faust legend its great vogue was: (1) the many primitive myth elements leading back to gray antiquity, and (2) its theological-philosophical character, touching as it does upon the great questions of life that move us most keenly, and always will so move us.

With regard to (1), it may be pointed out that the fundamental idea at the base of the Faust legend is the pact with the devil. And that, in the last analysis, is man's fall into sin, by his turning from God to the Father of Evil. This basal idea is of course as old as mankind itself. As to (2), the Faust book raises questions such as the divine order of the universe, the personification of evil, freedom of the will, and immortality of the soul. Faust discusses with Mephistopheles the creation of the world and its end, the structure of the heavens, the movement of the constellations, the existence and nature of hell. Although, naturally enough, no light is shed on these matters, the mere fact that the questions are cast up interests and stimulates. These elements of the legend have always been and will continue to be particularly welcome to the poets, inasmuch as they are susceptible of further development and deepened meaning.

There are strange facts in the history of the Faust legend. Perhaps the strangest of these is that there was at the source of it an actual person, concerning whose life in the first half of the sixteenth century considerable is known. It is a further strange fact that the man Faust should so soon have become a myth. Even during his lifetime the legend seems to have started; for even then there gathered about his name a nucleus of anecdotes, colorful and imaginative, which circulated among all classes of people. Historical facts became blurred immediately after his death, and scarcely fifty years had elapsed until in 1587 the first Faust book was published. Rose properly finds the explanation of this astoundingly rapid transformation from man to myth in the ferment and unrest of an age, standing between the medieval and

the modern, when old conceptions were falling, and new worlds, both material and intellectual, were being discovered. Literature was no longer a diversion for the upper classes, and the dreams and traditions of the people were finding their way into print. Dr. Faust, like Till Owlglass and the Wandering Jew, is a type in which has been concentrated the lore and myth of centuries. In such representative figures the people focussed their longings and their aversions, their hopes and their fears, and none of the wizards of popular superstition was more familiar to them than the man who had loudly put forth his pretensions in all the marketplaces of Germany.

A further remarkable fact in connection with the Faust book is the speed with which it was translated into English. The German editio princeps was published in 1587. The English translation of 1592 was evidently preceded by an earlier edition which is lost. The Faust drama by Christopher Marlowe, which is thought to have been based on the English Faust book, was on the stage as early as 1589. The German Wagner book appeared in 1593; the English Wagner book was licensed for printing about six months later, and is dated 1594.

Dr. Rose, by his new edition of the English Faust and Wagner books of 1592 and 1594, with its modernized spelling, has made important literary material more easily accessible to the English reader. He does not make syntactical changes, and thus the reader gets all the stylistic flavor of the antiquated originals. A serviceable feature of Dr. Rose's edition is his introduction, in which he gives a concise, up-to-date historical account of the Faust legend. It may easily be observed that, although the unknown German author wrote his Faust book with the declared intention of warning and frightening all readers from similar conduct, he nevertheless shows a naïve joy in the incidents he narrates. The reader may easily become so lost in the maze of bizarre anecdotes as to lose sight of the essence of the legend. It is not earthly goods, enjoyments, or power that are Faust's downfall. These are secondary. It is his striving for the highest knowledge, his longing to solve the most secret problems of nature and of life. Faust is not only a theologian, he is a scholar, scientist, and thinker. At the time when the Faust legend took form, the study of the natural sciences awakened a belief in a league with the devil-a belief which still lives in Dayton, Tennessee-and other places. This Promethean struggle for knowledge, which stands out

more prominently in the dramatic form into which the saga was cast, is what gives the legend its profound human significance.


Napoleon. By EMIL LUDWIG. Ernst Rowohlt Verlag, Berlin, 1925. 695 pp.

Colleagues frequently inquire: "What among the books that have recently appeared in German is especially worth reading?" In reply to that question I would recommend Ludwig's Napoleon as perhaps the most brilliantly written and fascinating book I have read for several years.

Ludwig's most prominent characteristics as an author are dramatic ability and a gift for psychological analysis and interpretation, associated with a thorough grounding in history. A glance at the list of his works already published shows his considerable experience in the field in which he is here engaged. Among his dramas we note his Bismarck: Trilogy of a Warrior (1923), and an earlier drama, Napoleon. Besides a number of novels, there are works on Shakespeare, Rembrandt, Wagner, Richard Dehmel, a psychological interpretation of Bismarck, and two works on Goethe, of which the popular one-volume work has reached its tenth, and the three-volume Goethe, its fifteenth edition. There is, further, his Genius and Character: Portraits of Twenty Men (1924), already in its twenty-fourth edition. Among these twenty character-portraits is one of Woodrow Wilson.

It is difficult to classify Ludwig's Napoleon. It does not fall into any of our common categories of literature. It is neither history nor biography in the ordinary sense. Nor, as Ludwig himself specifically declares, may it be called an historical novel, fusing elements of fact and fancy. It is history moulded into art. The outer form of the book, as well as the style, is attractive. It is strikingly illustrated by twenty-one portraits of Napoleon, from the time of his boyhood to his death-mask-eloquent likenesses which themselves tell the story of the Occident's most dramatic career. The volume is divided into five books: I, The Island; II, The Torrent; III, The Stream; IV, The Sea; V, The Rock. The beginning of each of these books is embellished with a pregnant quotation from the greatest spirit contemporary to Napoleon: Goethe.

Ludwig's style is distinctly modern. His subdivisions are short: a cross between the paragraph and the old chapter. We begin with live action: "In bivouac a young woman is sitting;

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »