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words of impatience altogether foreign to her usual character. She was fretted beyond her powers of endurance. But at this moment she calmed down again. She acquiesced in Miss Cherry's little speech and herself drew the chairs into their usual places, and got the book which Edward had been reading to them. The ladies were very quiet, expecting their visitor; the fire sent forth little puffs of flame and crackles of sound, the clock ticked softly, everything else was silent. Cara fell into a muse of many fancies, more tranquil than usual, for the idea that he would not come had not entered her mind. At least they would be happy to-night. This thought lulled her into a kind of feverish tranquillity, and even kept her from rousing, as Miss Cherry did, to the sense that he had not come at his usual hour and might not be coming. "Edward is very late," Miss Cherry said at last. "Was there any arrangement made, Cara, that he

was not to come?

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Arrangement? that he was not to come!"

"My dear," said good Miss Cherry, who had been very dull for the last hour, "you have grown so strange in your ways. I don't want to blame you, Cara; but how am I to know? Oswald comes in the morning and Edward in the evening; but how am I to know? If one has said more to you than the other, if you think more of one than the other, you never tell me. Cara, is it quite right, dear? I thought you would have told me that day that Oswald came and wanted to see you alone; of course, we know what that meant; but you evaded all my questions; you never would tell me."

"Aunt Cherry, it was because there was nothing to tell. I told you there would be nothing."

"Then there ought to have been something, Cara. One sees what Edward feels, poor boy, and I am very sorry for him. And it is hard upon him-hard upon us all to be so treated. Young people ought to be honest in these matters. Yes, dear, it is quite true. I am not pleased. I have not been pleased ever since

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"Aunt Cherry," said the girl, her face crimson, her eyes full of tears, "why do you upbraid me now-is this the moment? As if I were not unhappy enough. What does Edward feel? Does he too expect me to tell him of something that does not exist ?"

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"Poor Edward! All I can say is, that if we are unhappy, he is unhappy too, and unhappier than either you or me, for he isPoor boy! but he is young and he will get over it," said Miss Cherry with a deep sigh.

"Oh, hush, hush! but tell me of him-hush!" said Cara eagerly; "I hear him coming up the stairs."

There was some one certainly coming upstairs, but it was not Edward's youthful footstep, light and springy. It was a heavier and slower tread. They listened, somewhat breathless, being thus stopped in an interesting discussion, and wondered at the slow approach of these steps. At last the door opened slowly, and Mr. Beresford, with some letters in his hand, came into the room. He came quite up to them before he

said anything. The envelope which he held in his hand seemed to have contained both the open letters which he carried along with it, and one of them had a black edge. He was still running his eyes over this as he entered the room.

"I think," he said, standing with his hand upon Cara's table, at the place where Edward usually sat, "that you had better stop your packing for the moment. An unfortunate event has happened, and I do not think now that I can go away-not so soon at least; it would be heartless, it would be unkind!"

"What is it?" cried Miss Cherry, springing to her feet. "Oh, James, not any bad news from the Hill?"

"No, no; nothing that concerns us. The fact is," said Mr. Beresford, gazing into the dim depths of the mirror and avoiding their eyes, "Mr. Meredith, the father of the boys, has just died in India. The news has come only to-day."

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Chaucer's Love-Poetry.

WHENEVER Chaucer is spoken of, every English face within sight brightens. A special, very oddly-mixed, but, on the whole, a highly pleasant literary sensation is stirred. The chiefest outward sign is a twinkling of the eyes. With the men, the look instantly becomes very knowing, and there is a quick impulse to laughter, more-or-less broad; in the best instances among the women, just a little stiffening of carriage sets in, with the beginning of a blush. After five centuries, the sex in those ways recognises the poet as its great critic. In neither case is the effect bad. An Englishman in the first stage of enjoying a sly joke, and an Englishwoman sedately flushing in the cheeks at the apprehension of it, are seen at an advantage. The two aspects form our best national presentment. What is really at the bottom of the provocation is a knowledge that Chaucer, amidst all his merits of keen comic wit, high poetic fancy, and love of some scenes of nature, is improper.

If ever there was any chance of the fact being forgotten, Pope, and before him Dryden in a lesser degree, did it away, by fastening upon some of the worst passages, doing all that was possible to modernise the scandal. Luckily, the gross incidents themselves have an incurable clumsy antiqueness; the jokes are a good deal too broad to be made quite fresh and very injurious. But, in the meantime, the popular recollection of the love-poetry of Chaucer has dwindled down to little but these obscenities; The Wife of Bath and January and May being only mitigated and purified in part by the immortal sketch of the Prioress of the Prologue to the Tales. The fact seems nearly to have dropped out of sight, that he has a quite different set of erotics-one so high-flown, so sentimental, as not merely not to be wicked, but to be childishly good. For the injustice, he has himself to thank more than his too fragmentary, unsavoury modernisers. He has hidden away in sheer overwhelming prolixity some of the sweetest female characterisations in the world. What his amazing multiplication of words did not quite fully do, he finished by the unhappy association of the passion with a bad choice of main theme. Literature shows miracles of want of sense in picking topics, but, for us, Chaucer must ever remain the worst example. It is hard to forgive him at even this distance. His sublime folly in selecting The Romaunt of the Rose and Troilus and Creseide was the precedent in our own literature of Shakespeare's exactly similar preposterousness in meddling with Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. If the two men had not lived to do other work, our two greatest, sweetest literary

names would have sunk to the bottom of the list, drawing the eyes of posterity thither by a shameful glitter of phrase.

Before going further, it may be as well to point out how very small a portion of Chaucer's work decides the special impression of him which now is historically transmitted from generation to generation.


If it were possible to take away only little more than a tenth part of the poet's voluminous writings, there would be left a mass of outlandish recital having nothing whatever to do with anything we now know of English tastes. Instead of appearing a broad humourist, with an overpowering love of nature, painting persons and scenes with exact reality, there would then scem to be no English poet so artificial, so romantic, so lackadaisical as Chaucer. The truth is, that the literary associations for which the mention of his name is the cue, belong to the Canterlury Tal's only. Even this is too large a statement. The Tales themselves, for the greater part, are as outlandish as anything else in the works, although, speaking generally, they have some activity, some incident, and, in so far, appeal to common sympathy. But if the matchless Introduction had not been written, or bad been different, and if he had not included in the list two or three of the stories, or not given prologues to the others, Chaucer could not have survived in our literature. course, there is a historical explanation for it all, only it would be tedious to give it here in detail. Nor is it wholly without honour for Chaucer. Put at its briefest, the explanation is this: his object was to give Englishmen a literature bodily, instantly as it were, by transferring into o'r tongue, such as he found it and made it, the famous achievements of the great foreign writers. The upper circles of those he wrote for, though forming the Court of England, could hardly be described as other than foreigners; at any rate, they were of most artificial tastes, and the highly-spiced borrowings from France and Italy were meant for that class in the first place. What is most wonderful is, that in spite of this endless translating, Chaucer could still keep for a part of his other work the homelier but keener vein of English thinking so pure. For in the prefatory portion of The Canterbury Tales are the roots of what is special in our literature. If anyone was asked to describe that specialty, he would very likely say-It is a robust kind of humour eager to note failure, doing this originally in a spirit of fun, but rising, ever-and-again, into short flights of pathos; the opposite feelings being so truly mixed as to answer to a perfect pictorial characterisation of human life from a point of critical superiority, but of a resigned acceptance of it as good enough, or nearly so, when recognised to be imperfect. The kind criticism is, at bottom, so wide and liberal that it is a sort of natural religion, a mild sympathy being taught in the very midst of the laughter, out of which a large forgiving goodness is to grow without much effort. This spirit of English literature is now called Shakespearian, and it must be so by reason of Shakespeare sharing its impulses more largely still. But with strict historical accuracy it might for a moment be styled Chaucerian; VOL. XXXV.-NO. 207. 14.

and, indeed, if there had been exact criticism in Shakespeare's lifetime, his work at the first must have been christened after Chaucer. Both by bulk and fineness the later poet in the end makes good his superiority, for the quantity of this excellence in Chaucer is not great. His best things, however, are the most English things yet written in our language.

The point need not be dwelt on further. Our business here is instantly to narrow all we have been saying into the statement, that, with the above exceptions, Chaucer's writings are a lackadaisical exaggeration of one feeling-Love, and that in them the passion is taken in its weakest, vainest form of sentimentality. He is, and for ever will remain, the chief erotic poet of our language. Simply from the growing multiplicity of motives in human life, and the increase in the general business of existence, the sexual instinct must lose part of its sway in literature. It had far fewer competitors in the days of Chaucer, but he availed himself of it to the very utmost. Tom Moore's very modern treatment of love was only meagre and occasional alongside Chaucer's use of the topic; Herrick's lyrics, in comparison, could only be called the merest momentary snatches; Byron's ostentatious dark dallying with the theme was only desultory trifling contrasted with Chaucer's industry in celebrating the relations of the sexes. This is the true description he gives of himself* to Rosiall in The Court of Love :—

In art of love I write, and songes make
That may be sung in honour of the king
And quene of love.-Lines 898-900.

His surviving stock of versification reckons up to nearly 48,000 lines a long day's labour, especially if we take into account the small stock of words there then was for rhyming. Out of this grand total The Romaunt of the Rose and Troilus and Creseide make 16,000 lines. These are the only objectionable writings of the sentimental kind; the wrong-doing in The Canterbury Tales is simply rough indecency-a scandalous use of low comic incident for the sake of broad merriment. In these other highly ornate translations, the spirit is that of the Italian and French erotics. The former poem, The Romaunt of the Rose, taken, as everybody knows, from the French, admits, it has been hinted, of being moralised; but for this you would have to treat it as a fable twice symbolised, and it labours under the drawback that the first interpretation would be indecent. One is glad to mention that, as Chaucer's imperfect version now stands, some of the worst passages are left out. But the fact remains that he allotted to this task the spinning of 7,700 lines; that is, it stands for more than an eighth part of all his rhythmical doings. When every mitigation has been urged, surprise is

*The Chaucer critics reject this poem, but as we are not writing a critical paper we cannot afford to forego so much good material,

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