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who have studied him narrowly, Henri Beyle (Stendhal), is probably, to a certain extent, one of the determining causes of Balzac's literary career, and of some of the peculiarities of his talent. We say this reservedly, because Balzac would have been Balzac had Stendhal never existed; but Stendhal, perhaps, helped him to be himself a little sooner. The analogies and dissimilarities too between the two men are as great as between the two authors; but neither has any analogy with any one else, save the other alone. Stendhal's individuality is not Balzac's, but it is almost as strong as his, and that is where they are of the same kind; Stendhal is undoubtedly Balzac's precursor, he heralds and announces, though he is not exactly like him. Many of the peculiarities of La Comédie Humaine (take the Conjuration des Treize, for instance) may be traced back to that strange book, Le Rouge et le Noir; and the Physiologie du Mariage owes as much to Stendhal's Traité de l'Amour as to Brillat Savarin's Physiologie du Gout. But there is one immense difference between them—Stendhal has no conviction. When, in the Chartreuse de Parme, he gives us that wonderful description of the battle of Waterloo, as he himself lived through it, he neither believes in himself nor in the battle of Waterloo. IIad Balzac written it, he would have believed in every line he wrote; as he would, if he were still alive, believe in the genuineness of the sixty-million-and-tenth sabre-hilt that might be dug up on the immortal plain itself, and offered to him as that of the first horseman of the Vieille Garde who fled. This being premised, let it be remarked parenthetically, that as a mere work of art (but as such alone) the Chartreuse de Parme is infinitely superior to any thing Balzac ever wrote; a truth of which no one was more intimately persuaded than Balzac himself.
If we had to point out in whom this quality of conviction (so rare amongst French writers of fiction) is exhibited at the present time, we could point only to the name of the younger Alexandre Dumas. Out of Balzac's large and varied intellectual estate, young Dumas (and he is the only one) has inherited this faculty of belief; and it is to that alone that he owes the honour of being singled out for notice from amidst the insignificant tribe of his contemporaries by two of the best and one of them the severest) critics in Europe-Gutzkow and Gustave Planche. Alexandre Dumas fils is full of belief, as was Balzac; but, “alas," as Gutzkow justly laments, “belief in what? in whom?” In that alone which in the intellectual and moral world is unhealthy. He inherits also strikingly one of Balzac's most striking faults -a tendency to surrender himself completely to the impression of outward objects. Here Stendhal is likewise superior to both. The latter renders to himself a cooler account of his impressions;
and instead of obeying them always, puts them aside, banishes them, until they obey him; he then recalls them, and reproduces them at a distance. Balzac and his disciple, young Dumas, both commit the fault of registering immediately the impression they have not yet mastered, and the first evil result of this is the distorted proportion it induces—the violation of perspective, so
But we feel we have already transgressed our limits; and we hasten to retrace our steps, and recur for the last time to what has occasioned, if it does not excuse, our prolixity. We have been drawn on to what our readers may consider, perhaps, too great a length by the exceeding importance we cannot avoid attaching to Balzac as an exponent of the true state of civilisation in modern France. And, in this sense, he fully justifies our remark, that his worth is, in reality, dependent precisely upon that one peculiarity, which at first sight seems to diminish ithis intense, but exclusive, nationality. Balzac is, perhaps, the one writer of modern France most read by us, and least understood; and he is so for the reason that he is so exclusively French. He is for France what Dickens and Thackeray both are for England. No class escapes him, and no characteristic of that class passes unnoticed. We have studied the man minutely, because, as we said, in the man is to be found the mainspring of the author, his raison d'étre; and we measure the importance of the author by the deep insight he affords us into the social life of his country. Any one may know France without reading Balzac, but no one can read Balzac without knowing France.
ART. IV.-MR. SPURGEON AND HIS POPULARITY.
The New Park-Street Pulpit, containing Sermons preached and re
vised by the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon, Minister of the Chapel, ring
the year 1855. Vol. I. London: Alabaster and Passmore. 1856. The unhappy catastrophe which brought Mr. Spurgeon's name so prominently before the public a couple of months ago, has exposed him not unnaturally to a great deal of unpopularity. The propensity to find fault with a popular man, especially if he is a popular preacher, has given his critics plenty of business. Nothing, of course, is more easy and obvious than to say that it is an offence against good manners, and almost against the police themselves, to collect together large crowds of people to listen to irreverent familiarity, low buffoonery, and coarse railing upon sacred subjects; nor does it require any great profundity or charity to suggest that Mr. Spurgeon is a mere impostor, a wretched hypocrite, who uses the Surrey Gardens for exactly the same purposes on Sunday for which other speculators on the public appetite for excitement employ them on the other days of the week. To us such criticism appears to be open to the double objection that it attacks a man who is placed by circumstances in a very painful position, and that it is a singularly feeble and inadequate solution of one of the most interesting of all possible problems. Ordinary candour must enable every one to see that the accident which occurred at the Surrey Gardens might have occurred to any body else as well as to Mr. Spurgeon, and that no one is to blame except those who caused the confusion. The question why several thousand people came together to listen to Mr. Spurgeon still remains to be answered; and we can scarcely conceive a question of greater interest to those who really wish to find the way to the hearts and understandings of large masses of their fellow-creatures. A young man of ordinary education, and without advantages of position or connection, has something to say which many thousand people weekly flock to hear. The question how and why this happens is surely one which cannot but be interesting to those who have had much experience of the utter failure of so large a number of the members of Mr. Spurgeon's profession to interest their congregations upon any subject whatever.
The most obvious answer to the question is no doubt to be found in Mr. Spurgeon's style. Any one, it is said, who will condescend to be a buffoon can collect an audience. Mr. Spurgeon's comic sermons and Mr. Robson's comic songs are popular for the same reason, though the one exhibition is in its proper place and the other is not. Many stories, more or less comic and more or less true, are very generally quoted in illustration of this opinion; but after carefully reading the thick and closely printed volume of sermons mentioned at the head of this article, we can conscientiously say that such stories do their subject considerable injustice. Coarseness, vulgarity, and sometimes even rant, is no doubt to be found in them in abundance; but they are by no means of the essence of Mr. Spurgeon's style, and might, we think, be expunged without affecting its force.
For example, in comparing the sufferings of the Christian with those of our Lord, we find (p. 13): “All you have to bear is as nothing compared with his mighty sufferings. Take courage; face it again like a man; never say die. Let not your patience be gone; take up your cross daily,” &c. The introduction of the language of the ring in such a connection shows a want both of education and sensibility ; but it is the phrase
that is vulgar and not the thought. Mr. Spurgeon's own account of the matter seems to us to be a very fair
explanation of it. He says in his preface, “ There are also many expressions which may provoke a smile; but let it be remembered that every man has his moments when his lighter feelings indulge themselves, and the preacher must be allowed to have the same passions as his fellow-men; and since he lives in the pulpit more than any where else, it is but natural that his whole man should be there developed; besides, he is not quite sure about a smile being a sin, and at any rate he thinks it less a crime to cause a momentary laughter than a half-hour's profound slumber.” Certainly it is so rare to see “ the whole man developed” in the pulpit, that when it does happen we cannot help feeling indulgent towards the delinquent. Mr. Spurgeon's style appears to us quaint and grotesque, with a strong dash of very genuine humour. Ile is obviously to the last degree vivacious and susceptible, and being to a great extent an uneducated man, his illustrations constantly overstep the limits of vulgarity; but that is not their special characteristic. There is nothing vulgar, for example, in the following, though it is as grotesque as a gurgoyle. “O, may God awaken us all, and stir us up to pray; for when we pray we shall be victorious. I should like to take morning as Samson did the foxes, tie the firebrands of to you, and send you in among the shocks of corn till you burn the whole up.” The following has a sort of rough energy and force of conviction which is not unlike many of the stories told of Luther and his conflicts with the devil : “A poor tried countryman said the other day, 'I have been troubled with that old devil lately, and I could not get rid of him for a long while; until at last, after he had been adding up all my sins, and bringing them all before my remembrance, I said to him, “You rascal you, did not I transfer all my business to Jesus Christ long ago, bad debts and all? What business have you to bring them them. Don't come troubling me, and tell my Master about
Well, I thought that was not so bad. It was pretty rough, but it was gloriously true.” A man who had always considered his sins as so many debts in the strict sense of the word, and whose mind is habitually occupied with small business-transactions, shows a very forcible and genuine conviction by this kind of language. In fact, if his language is to be genuine and striking at all, it must be taken from the subjects which are familiar to him. To
say; “You rascal, don't trouble me; you must speak to my master," is a phrase which has at any rate a positive definite meaning. A man who should say on a similar occasion, “I dwelt on the all-sufficient sacrifice," or "I rejoiced in the blessed blood which
cleanseth us from all sin,” would speak, in our opinion, far less sincerely and far less reverently. The one man believes in a real master, a real legal obligation, a real devil in the likeness of a harsh creditor, and a discharge such as he could plead in the county-court; and the other, in a great proportion of cases, only expresses an indefinite feeling in conventional language. The common feelings which form the lasting bonds of human society are generally definite in proportion to their strength. Conjugal and family love, friendship, a sense of duty, a sense of honour, may be described in the very simplest language; and the fact that it is usually considered reverent to speak of God, Christ, heaven, hell, the devil, and the feelings which they excite, in an obscure and indefinite manner, has always appeared to us one of the strongest proofs of the prevalence amongst us of unacknowledged scepticism. Mr. Spurgeon no doubt constantly falls to the most lamentable extent into the other extreme. To speak of such matters very seldom and very plainly would seem to be the course pointed out both by reverence and common sense; but if we must choose between the two, we do not know whether it is not less bad to handle spiritual truths as you would handle a bullock than to handle them as you would handle a mist.
The evils of the style of which we are writing are too obvious to need exposure; but we do not think that the source of its influence over those to whom it is addressed is altogether obvious. We do not at all believe that the buffoonery with which it is mixed is its only or even its principal attraction. Its power seems to us to depend much more on the fact that the person who employs it is so fully possessed by the system which he has adopted that it is natural and easy to him to play with it. The buffoonery is rather the effect than the cause of that which produces the popularity. No Italian friar was ever more perfectly at home in the legends of the saints than Mr. Spurgeon is in what he calls “ the threc R’s-Ruin, Redemption, and Regeneration." To use the language of the pantheistic sensualist, Walt Whitman, “no array of terms can say how much he is at peace about God and death.” Though his brethren, as he complains, “call him an Antinomian and a hyper” (hyper-Calvinist), he is as completely satisfied with Calvinism as with the four rules of arithmetic, and cracks his jokes and tells his stories whilst he is explaining the "scheme of salvation” with the same kind of nonchalance with which a barrister, thoroughly accustomed to his business, will chat with his friends whilst he is defending a man on trial for his life. Dr. Newman, with that strange mixture of sense and sophistry which distinguishes him from all other men, has contrived to extract an argument in favour of Romanism from the profanity and superstition of the peasantry