« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
"I know that it is, in all ordinary things. But I cannot have him now for a very simple reason. He has made up his mind about my dear father-horribly, horribly; I can't speak of it. And he never changes
his mind; and sometimes when I look at him, I hate him."
"Erema, you are quite a violent girl, although you so seldom show it. Is the whole world divided then into two camps--those who think as you wish, and those who are led by their judgment to think otherwise? And are you to hate all who do not think as you wish?"
"No, because I do not hate you," I said; "I love you, though you do not think as I wish. But that is only because you think your husband must be right of course. But I cannot like those who have made up
their minds, according to their own coldness."
"Major Hockin is not cold at all. On the contrary he is a warmhearted man-I might almost say hot-hearted."
"Yes, I know he is. And that makes it ten times worse. He takes up everybody's case-but mine."
"Sad as it is, you almost make me smile," my hostess answered gravely; "and yet it must be very bitter for you, knowing how just and kind my husband is. I am sure that you will give him credit for at least desiring to take your part. And doing so, at least you might let him go with you, if only as a good protection."
"I have no fear of any one; and I might take him into society that he would not like. In a good cause he would go anywhere, I know. But in my cause, of course, he would be scrupulous. Your kindness I always can rely upon, and I hope in the end to earn his as well."
"My dear, he has never been unkind to you. I am certain that you never can say that of him. Major Hockin unkind to a poor girl like you !"
"The last thing I wish to claim is anybody's pity," I answered, less humbly than I should have spoken, though the pride was only in my tone perhaps. "If people choose to pity me, they are very good, and I am not at all offended, because-because they cannot help it perhaps, from not knowing anything about me. I have nothing whatever to be pitied for, except that I have lost my father, and have nobody left to care for me, except Uncle Sam in America."
"Your Uncle Sam, as you call him, seems to be a very wonderful man, Erema," said Mrs. Hockin, craftily, so far as there could be any craft in her; "I never saw him-a great loss on my part. But the Major went up to meet him somewhere, and came home with the stock of his best tie broken, and two buttons gone from his waistcoat. Does Uncle Sam make people laugh so much? Or is it that he has some extraordinary gift of inducing people to taste whisky? My husband is a very-most abstemions man, as you must be well aware, Miss Wood, or we never should have been as we are, I am sure. But, for the first time in all my life, I doubted his discretion, on the following day, when he had—
what shall I say?-when he had been exchanging sentiments with Uncle Sam !"
"Uncle Sam never takes too much in any way," I replied to this new attack; "he knows what he ought to take, and then he stops. Do you think that it may have been his sentiments,' perhaps, that were too strong and large for the Major?"
"Erema!" cried Mrs. Hockin, with amazement, as if I had no right to think or express my thoughts in life so early; "if you can talk politics at eighteen, you are quite fit to go anywhere. I have heard a great deal of American ladies, and seen not a little of them, as you know. But I thought that you called yourself an English girl, and insisted particularly upon it."
"Yes, that I do; and I have good reason. I am born of an old English family, and I hope to be no disgrace to it. But being brought up in a number of ways, as I have been without thinking of it, and being quite different from the fashionable girls Major Hockin likes to walk with
"My dear, he never walks with anybody but myself!"
"Oh yes, I remember! I was thinking of the deck. There are no fashionable girls here yet. Till the terrace is built, and the esplanade
"There shall be neither terrace, nor esplanade, if the Major is to do such things upon them."
"I am sure that he never would," I replied; "it was only their dresses that he liked at all, and that very, to my mind, extraordinary style, as well as unbecoming. You know what I mean, Mrs. Hockin, that wonderful-what shall I call it ?-way of looping up?"
"Call me 'Aunt Mary,' my dear, as you did when the waves were so dreadful. You mean that hideous Mexican poncho, as they called it, stuck up here and going down there. Erema, what observation you have! Nothing ever seems to escape you. Did you ever see anything so indecorous?"
"It made me feel just as if I ought not to look at them," I answered, with perfect truth, for so it did; "I have never been accustomed to such things. But seeing how the Major approved of them, and liked to be walking up and down between them, I knew that they must be not only decorous, but attractive. There is no appeal from his judgment, is there?"
"I agree with him upon every point, my dear child; but I have always longed to say a few words about that. For I cannot help thinking that he went too far."
VOL. XXXV.-NO. 206.
ours in a Library.
A DOUBLE parallel has often been pointed out between the two pairs of novelists who were most popular in the middle of our own and of the preceding century. The intellectual affinity which made Smollett the favourite author of Dickens is scarcely so close as that which commended Fielding to Thackeray. The resemblance between Pickwick and Humphrey Clinker, or between David Copperfield and Roderick Random, consists chiefly in the exuberance of animal spirits, the keen eye for external oddity, the consequent tendency to substitute caricature for portrait, and the vivid transformation of autobiography into ostensible fiction which are characteristic of both authors. Between Fielding and Thackeray the resemblance is closer. The peculiar irony of Jonathan Wild has its closest English parallel in Barry Lyndon. The burlesque in Tom Thumb of the Lee and Dryden school of tragedy may remind us of Thackeray's burlesques of Scott and Dumas. The characters of the two authors belong to the same family. Vanity Fair has grown more decent since the days of Lady Bellaston, but the costume of the actors has changed more than their nature. Rawdon Crawley would not have been surprised to meet Captain Booth in a sponging-house; Shandon and his friends preserved the old traditions of Fielding's Grub Street; Lord Steyne and Major Pendennis were survivals from the more congenial period of Lord Fellamar and Colonel James; and the two Amelias represent cognate ideals of female excellence. Or, to take an instance of similarity in detail, might not this anecdote from The Covent Garden Journal have rounded off a paragraph in the Snob Papers? A friend of Fielding saw a dirty fellow in a mudcart lash another with his whip, saying, with an oath, "I will teach you manners to your betters." Fielding's friend wondered what could be the condition of this social inferior of a mudcar-driver, till he found him to be the owner of a dustcart driven by asses. The great butt of Fielding's satire is, as he tells us, affectation; the affectation which he specially hates is that of straitlaced morality; Thackeray's satire is more generally directed against the particular affectation called snobbishness; but the evil principle attacked by either writer is merely one avatar of the demon assailed by the other.
The resemblance, which extends in some degree to style, might perhaps be shown to imply a very close intellectual affinity. I am content, however, to notice the literary genealogy as illustrative of the fact that
Fielding was the ancestor of one great race of novelists.
"I am," he
says expressly in Tom Jones, "the founder of a new province of writing." Richardson's Clarissa and Smollett's Roderick Random were indeed published before Tom Jones; but the provinces over which Richardson and Smollett reigned were distinct from the contiguous province of which Fielding claimed to be the first legislator. Smollett (who comes nearest) professed to imitate Gil Blas as Fielding professed to imitate Cervantes. Smollett's story inherits from its ancestry a reckless looseness of construction. It is a series of anecdotes strung together by the accident that they all happen to the same person. Tom Jones, on the contrary, has a carefully constructed plot, if not, as Coleridge asserts, one of the three best plots in existence (its rivals being Edipus Tyrannus and The Alchemist). Its excellence depends upon the skill with which it is made subservient to the development of character and the thoroughness with which the working motives of the persons involved have been thought out. Fielding claims-even ostentatiously-that he is writing a history, not a romance; a history not the less true because ali the facts are imaginary; for the fictitious incidents serve to exhibit the most general truths of human character. It is by this seriousness of purpose that his work is distinguished from the old type of novel, developed by Smollett, which is but a collection of amusing anecdotes; or from such work as De Foe's, in which the external facts are given with an almost provoking indifference to display of character and passion. Fielding's great novels have a true organic unity as well as a consecutive story, and are intended in our modern jargon as genuine studies in physiological analysis.†
Johnson, no mean authority when in his own sphere and free from personal bias, expressly traversed this claim; he declared that there was more knowledge of the human heart in a letter of Clarissa than in the whole of Tom Jones; and said more picturesquely, that Fielding could tell the hour by looking at the dial-plate, whilst Richardson knew how the clock was made. It is tempting to set this down as a Johnsonian prejudice, and to deny or retort the comparison. Fielding, we might say, paints flesh and blood; whereas Richardson consciously constructs his puppets out of frigid abstractions. Lovelace is a bit of mechanism; Tom Jones a human being. In fact, however, such comparisons are misleading. Nothing is easier than to find an appropriate ticket for the objects of our criticism, and summarily pigeon-hole Richardson as an idealist and Fielding as a realist; Richardson as subjective and morbid; Fielding as objective and full of coarse health; or to attribute to either of them the deepest knowledge of the human heart. These are the mere
* Richardson wrote the first part of Pamela between November 10, 1739, and January 10, 1740. Joseph Andrews appeared in 1742. The first four volumes of Clarissa Harlowe and Roderick Random appeared in the beginning of 1748; Tom Jones in 1749.
† See some appreciative remarks upon this in Scott's preface to the Monastery.
banalities of criticism; and I can never hear them without a suspicion that a professor of æsthetics is trying to hoodwink me by a bit of technical platitude. The cant phrases which have been used so often by panegyrists too lazy to define their terms, have become almost as meaningless as the complimentary formulæ of society.
Knowledge of the human heart in particular is a phrase which covers very different states of mind. It may mean that power by which the novelist or dramatist identifies himself with his characters; sees through their eyes and feels with their senses: it is the product of a rich nature, a vivid imagination, and great powers of sympathy, and draws a comparatively small part of its resources from external experience. The novelist knows how his characters would feel under given conditions, because he feels it himself; he sees from within, not from without; and is almost undergoing an actual experience instead of condensing his observations on life. This is the power in which Shakspeare is supreme; which Richardson proved himself, in his most powerful passages, to possess in no small degree; and which in Balzac seems to have generated fits of absolute hallucination.
Fielding is not devoid of this power, as no great imaginative work can be possible without it; but the knowledge for which he is specially conspicuous differs almost in kind. This knowledge is drawn from observation rather than intuitive sympathy. It consists in great part of those weighty maxims which a man of keen powers of observation stores up in his passage through a varied experience. It is the knowledge of Ulysses, who has known
Cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments;
the knowledge of a Machiavelli, who has looked behind the screen of political hypocrisies; the knowledge of which the essence is distilled in Bacon's Essays; or the knowledge of which Polonius seems to have retained many shrewd scraps even when he had fallen into his dotage. In reading Clarissa or Eugénie Grandet we are aware that the soul of Richardson or Balzac has transmigrated into another shape; that the author is projected into his character, and is really giving us one phase of his own sentiments. In reading Fielding we are listening to remarks made by a spectator instead of an actor; we are receiving the pithy recollections of the man about town; the prodigal who has been with scamps in gambling-houses, and drunk beer in pothouses and punch with country squires; the keen observer who has judged all characters, from Sir Robert Walpole down to Betsy Canning; who has fought the hard battle of life with unflagging spirit, though with many falls; and who, in spite of serious stains, has preserved the goodness of his heart and the
Fielding blundered rather strangely in the celebrated Betsy Canning case, as Balzac did in the Affaire Peytel; but the story is too long for repetition in this place.