Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

one

searched for the story in his reprinted The remainder of the verse cannot in works, I cannot think of it without see- fairness (even to an author of thirteen) ing the dead body lying in a certain be given, as there are in the final line position on the dining-room floor. two qualifying epithets to one uoun,

I have only so far come upon two both of which bave been struck out as specimens of Stevenson's literary work unsatisfactory by the already fastidious at that early age

rhyming self-critic. The dénouement is the death letter he wrote in reply to one I had of the young Baron of Manaheit, in the sent him embodying the regrets of his attempt to defy prophecy, and is deschoolmates at his absence in Torquay, scribed with a certain promise of Steand the other, an imperfect and much- venson's force and dramatic power : corrected-and-altered draft of a roman. He gasped, he struggled, then, with hands tic ballad of the “ Baron of Manaheit.” on high, Of the intentional) doggerel of the Gave one loud shriek and from his sadletter, the following lines are an amus- dle dropped. ing specimen, and are not without a But there is no sign in these early hint of that playful humor which be- attempts of anything really premature came one of his finest and most fas- or precocious, and nothing can be cinating qualities :

truer, in spite of his early bent towards E'er since I left

letters, than that his success was the Of friends bereft

fruit, as he himself alleges, of persisI've pined in melancholly,

tent industry and indefatigable perseAnd all Torquay

verance, and when we consider that all Its rocks and sea

this was accomplished in the face of Have witnessèd my folly.

much discountenance and opposition, I do not say That all the day

and despite all the drawbacks of phys

ical weakness and almost continuous I weep and pine in grief, But now and then

delicacy and ill-health, Stevenson's I say again

achievement in literature must seem The greek for “stop the thief !” nothing short of heroic. And when I intentionally preserve the slip in we remember that he died hard at spelling and the lacking capital as char- work, too hard I fear, in the harness he acteristic of schoolboy haste and care- had so resolutely buckled on, we may lessness. I do not now remember what well declare that the Carlyle of the is the Greek for “Stop the thief !” future will not have far to seek for a but have no doubt it was a fine, mouth

“ Hero as Man of Letters." filling phrase with probably an exhilarating suggestion of profanity. It may indeed encourage the juvenile

I THINK Stevenson and I must have literary aspirant to know that precocity left school about the same year — 1865 in the matter of correct spelling is evi

- he to make a valiant, but vain, atdently not a sine quâ non of ultimate tempt to follow his father's profession, success in letters. The ballad was

and I to proceed to the arts classes of probably written for the Jack o' Lan- Edinburgh University ; and so it came tern, but 'twas hardly in a state for about that he followed me to the unipublication, even there, in spite of the versity some three years later, and we amount of “elbow grease" to which it thus belonged to quite different generahas obviously been subjected. It opens tions of undergraduate life and moved characteristically with a description of

in different sets. But I fancy we a haunted house :

should have seen more of each other The moon shone down from the black arch

had it not been that our boyish friendof night,

ship was thrown somewhat out of gear And showed a house close by the public by a crisis in my own inner history, way.

chiefly induced, I believe, by a perusal of Pascal's “ Pensées,” which resulted

[ocr errors]

II.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

in a period of religious depression - as A renewal of our intercourse came I regard it now - which must have about rather curiously, from his inmade me poor company for any one, structing his publishers, Messrs. Chatto but most of all for the bright, elastic & Windus, to send me a copy of the hedonist, the truant, life-loving stu- volume entitled “ Ballads,” a form of dent, diligent iu all studies but those compliment he had never before paid prescribed for him. So there appears me. This naturally led to my writing to me at this time a yawning gap to him, and this to a project that I in our intercourse which must have should visit him in Samoa ; a project, extended over several years, further alas ! never, to my infinite regret, caraccounted for by the fact that while he ried out, the fault being my own, as was at Edinburgh University I was was the misfortune. But it led to my mainly in Cambridge. Then he had, in receiving letters from him, which are those days, also to take swallow-flights naturally very precious possessions now. southward in search of warmth and They are in the old vein of frank sunshine. But somehow, I recollect not friendship, disengaged and manly, but how, our friendship became renewed, breathing of that fine camaraderie of and on some bright day when the Edin- which he and Whitman, of all modburgh climate was gracious for a time erns, most possessed the secret. I he would pounce on me and carry me had spoken warnıly of the “ Ballads, off to some snug, wind-sheltered seat which the public, it seems, would have in the Princess Street Gardens, and in none of, especially the “Song of Rapleasant fraternal converse we would hero,” which I regard as his highest report ourselves to each other and ex- achievement in verse, and he writes : change mental electricities, no doubt largely to my profit. When we had, so

They (the “Ballads'] failed to entertain to speak, squared our mental accounts; I set much account by my verses, which

a coy public, at which I wondered, not that or my duties recalled me, we would

are the verses of Prosator ; but I do know part, probably for months, till his com- how to tell a yarn, and two of the yarns etary track again came into conjunction

are great.

• Rahero" is for its length a with my prosaic orbit, and he pounced perfect folk-tale ; savage and yet fine, full on me for another day of reckoning. of tail-foremost morality, ancient as the But gradually as his wanderings ex- granite rocks ; if the historian, not to say tended and his absences from Scotland the politician, could get that yarn into his grew in duration, his visits became head, he would have learned some of his more angelic in frequency; the last I A B C. But the average man at home remember was after his marriage, and cannot understand antiquity; he is sunk I saw Mrs. Stevenson at a little dis- over the ears in Roman civilization ; and a

tale like that of “Rahero" falls on his ears tance, but was not introduced to her.

inarticulate. The Spectator said there was But I think I may say this curious

no psychology in it; that interested me fragmentary friendship maintained a much ; my grandmother (as I used to call wonderful warmth, not only on my part that able paper, and an able paper it is, but on liis. My love and admiration and a fair one) cannot so much as observe were doubtless fed continually by his the existence of savage psychology when it books, and especially his essays, in is put before it. I am at bottom a psycholwhich I always felt the true Stevenson, ogist, and ashamed of it ; the tale seized and which brought to me so completely me one-third because of its picturesque his presence, his voice and smile, that features, two-thirds because of its astonmy friend seemed ever at my elbow, ishing psychology, and the Spectator says

there's none. ready to discourse in his best manner, island work, exulting in the knowledge of

I am going on with a lot of his happiest vein. So even when the

a new world, “a new created world” and news of his death came, I did not feel

new men ; and I am sure my income will it as a remote event, but rather as

DECLINE and FALI, off ; for the effort of though a comrade in arms were shot comprehension is death to the intelligent down by one's side.

public, and sickness to the dull.

over

was

Everything he here says, points to a was utterly repellent, and it does not remarkably sane and true estimate of require the record of his converse with his own powers, and I do not think I the Trappists to apprise us that in a ever met or read of a man of letters or clime whose religion is more indulgent genius of any kind more genuinely to human frailties and less divorced modest than Stevenson. His ideal was from the beautiful, his life might bave high, and he seldom altogether pleased taken on more color of piety in the himself; so he was apt rather to dis- ordinary sense. parage too much those of his efforts In spite of the childish piety on which failed of his severe standard of which he seems to me to plume bimachievement. He put me off reading self rather unnecessarily, the religious one of his volumes for years, because world, as he found it, revolted him by he described it as composed of pot- its harshness and moral pedantry, boilers or some such phrase. When I which too often but skimmed came to read it I saw well enough what characters full of dishonesty, selfishmade him utter this libel on himself. ness, and even impurity. But liis naThe work was not of his best, perhaps ture was not exactly of the religious somewhat tentative; but there were type ; he was tender rather than revlouches of the master of story-telling erent, sympathetic and indulgent - a charm and force of style he could rather than austerely virtuous; the not divest himself of. As a rule he human more to him than the was, in a degree very rare among divine. Yet he was ever on the road artistic natures, more severe and sternly to true piety by the route indicated in just to his own work than any of his St. John's epistles : the love of his critics ; indeed, he sometimes treated brother ; but his code is not a little his own offspring with a truculent heathen. Like Heine, he is a Hellenseverity worthy of a Roman father, or ist, not a Hebraist, more anxious and of his favorite, Lord Braxfield. Few appreciative of graciousness and grace men, I am convinced, have on any of bearing and conduct than of strict score treated themselves to more brutal conformity to set rules of virtue or frankness. Still, when he had done morals. Of all rule and convention, wbat he thought was good work, be indeed, he was the sworn foe; virtue was minded to stick loyally by it, and itself only charms him when growing valiantly maintain his position, whether wild. Of the drudgery of labor at set against the slights of a fickle, dull- times and places, of the compliance scented public, or the onslaught of with civilized routine and fashion, he critics.

was fully as incapable as Hottentot or When we come to judge of Steven- Red Indian. He loved to plunge into son's career, and especially his conduct vagrancy, into the lower strata of soof life, and more particularly when the ciety, into the company of the huddled fascinating autography we find in his and hustled emigrant, or the companbooks is supplemented by a biography ionship of primitive and savage peoindited by loving and sympathetic ples; anywhere, indeed, where he hands (as we hope it will be), we must could purge himself of that middlealways bear in mind the peculiarity of class respectability that so stank in his his ethical standards. He had early nostrils. revolted against the grim rule of min- He had a true child's horror of being gled Calvinism and Puritanism, behind put into fine clothes, in which one which (in spite of the heroic purity of must “ sit still and be good.” I fancy many) lurks, as behind a grim mask, be modestly disclaimed the pretension much uplovely evil in Scottish char- to be good in the ordinary acceptation ; acter.

To his supple, artistic, and yet he has his own rather exacting perhaps somewhat Gallicized nature, standards for human action. He is with its unconquerable Bohemianism, austere with Robert Burns, and when the grim, granite face of Scottish piety' he writes of Villon, we feel he is suffocating with moral nausea. Neither of marble selfishness of the one, nor the them reaches his notion of manly cou- peevish bitterness of the other. He duct. He cannot forgive the village made a brave fight to live, on the Don Juan that Scotland delights to whole, the true and the beautiful, an honor as though he had been a saint; ideal in its way more exacting than he cannot stomach the sordid envy or any. But the man, like his style, is the vile complacences of Villon. Yet unique. In his life and his books one another kind of bad character he can be is often reminded of the models by indulgent enough to is his own" Mas- which he shaped his action or his ter of Ballantrae," perhaps the most style, yet the result is pure Stevenson. unmitigated and accomplished scoun- His life was perhaps more unique drel in fiction, and he leaves him with than his work. A life-long invalid, the tragic honors of the story, while braving innumerable trials, hardships, the poor, worthy, long-suffering brother and perils, before which the bardiest sinks into a despicable sot.

might have quailed ; an EdinburghStevenson's moral judgments were bred lad without reverence for caste or guided more by what I call the poetic the religion of the tall hat, and yet or absolute ethic, than by that practical more surprising, a member of the Scotethic which society, rather than the tish bar travelling in the steerage of an best impulses of our nature, imposes. emigrant ship, and at times not over Now in the poetic scale of virtues a particular as to his own linen. A prohigh place, if not the highest, is always fessed wanderer and Bohemian, with allotted to courage, and that absolutely no pretensions to regular industry, and and independently of the cause in yet, when we consider his short life which it is displayed. Courage as and the high quality of much of his courage is morally beautiful, however work, one of the most prolific writers inconvenient it may be to the authori- of his age. Beset from his childhood ties. Hence the highwayman, the with disease, and menaced by death, brigand, and the buccaneer always ap- sorely tempted (as he hiuts to me in a peal to us, however dark their deeds letter) to give way to evil courses, and may be ; but let them flinch or play the tread the fatal path genius has so often poltroon, and we are done with them. trodden ; passiug through painful strugLove, again, is a true poet's virtue, and gle with his father as to his career ; wherever we are convinced that the driven hither and thither in search of love is genuine, we are all, I fear, very the possibility of living ; exiled from willing to lend a hand in pitching the every intellectual centre, and yet exer. Decalogue overboard. So we might cising his splendid powers unweariedly, proceed to make a list of these roman- indefatigably, to the end ! But every tic and poetic virtues and their more experience, however painful, he turned prosaic counterparts, as generosity and to gain ; from every enemy was wrested prudence, charity and circumspection, some weapon for use; as light-heartimpulsiveness and caution, passion and edly as a little child gathers a posy in the wisdom that is " aye sae cauld,” | a graveyard, he fearlessly reaped a and we should find Stevenson leaning harvest in the very “valley of the to the former rather than the latter. shadow." But this is perhaps more à propos of His one fear was that of “ dying at his art than his life.

the top," and in a letter dated June I have no doubt, both from what he 30, 1894, he said in words that ring now 'himself said to me and from what I like prophecy, “If I could die just know of his character, that he modelled now, or in say half a year, I should his conduct as much after that of have had a splendid time of it on the Goethe, as of any predecessor in let- whole. But it gets a little stale, and ters. He had a touch of that paganism my work will begin to sevesce, and which Goethe and Heine exemplified, parties to shy bricks at me ; and it now but he allowed himself neither the begins to look as if I should survive to

[ocr errors]

see myself impotent and forgotten." until two years afterwards, when he He even moots the questiou as to was entered in the books as plebis filius. whether he should not have taken his Wood (Ath. Oxon.) tells us that “he father's way and been an engineer, was always averse to the crabbed studwith literature for an “anusement.” ies of logic and philosophy. For so it But he adds, “I have pulled it off of was, that his genius being bent to the course ; I have won the wager, and it pleasant paths of poetry (its pitfalls had is pleasant while it lasts, but how long given him a wreath of his own, bays will it last ?"

without snatching or struggling), did in Too well we know that, and that his a manner neglect academical studies, own prayer was too literally fulfilled. yet not so much but that he took deThat in the full tide of literary activity, grees in arts, that of master being comso successful that, as he wrote, “it pleted in 1575 ; at which time he was frightens me,” long-hesitating death esteemed at the university a noted wit, laid bim suddenly low, with his fame, and afterwards was in the court of in spite of all his misgivings, standing Queen Elizabeth, where he was also at high-water mark, loved by his thou- reputed a rare poet, witty, comical, and sands of readers as few have been facetious." He took the degree of loved, to be deplored and lamented as B.A. in April, 1573, and that of M.A. but few have been lamented or de-i two years afterwards. But for some plored. H. BELLYSE BAILDON. reason unknown he afterwards left

Oxford and removed to Cambridge, whence he went to court.

There is preserved among the LansFrom The Gentleman's Magazine. downe manuscripts in the British MuJOHN LYLY AND HIS “EUPHUES.”

seum a beautifully written Latin letter, WHEN Sir Walter Scott, in the char- dated 1574, from Lyly to Lord Burleigh, acter of Sir Piercie Shaftou, attempted in which the young scholar solicits the the portrait of an Euphuist after the patronage of the great statesman. And manner of John Lyly's once famous not in vain, for in “Euphues and his hero, few persons knew anything about England ” Lyly writes : “ This noble “ Euphues' Anatomie of Wit” or its mau [Burleigh) I found so ready, being author, for when “The Monastery” but a stranger, to do me good, that was written, Elizabethan literature, neither I ought to forget him, neither though Charles Lamb had directed at- cease to pray for him.” tention to its treasures in his “Speci- pear that he was admitted to some mens” twelve years previously, was position of trust in Lord Burleigh's scarcely read by any one except him- household, but from a letter addressed self and Coleridge. In a late editiou of to his patron, preserved in the Lanshis romance Scott was fain to confess downe manuscripts, it seems that in that his attempt had proved a failure. 1582 he fell under some suspicion, and It is probable that the great novelist was dismissed in disgrace. The earhad never read “ Euphues,” and drew nest and passionate tone in which he his knight from Jonson's and Shake- entreats that a full inquiry shall be speare's caricatures instead of from the instituted justifies the conclusion that original. Charles Kingsley, in “ West- the accusation was a false one. ward Ho!” falls foul of Sir Piercie, “ God is my witness," he writes, and points out that he is an anachro-" before whom I speak, and before nism belonging to the later and worst whom for my speech I shall answer, days of the euphuistic craze.

that all my thoughts concerning my The author of " The Anatomie of lord have been

reverent and Wit,” it would seem, was born in the almost religious. How I have dealt Weald of Kent, about the year 1553 or God knoweth and my lady can conjec1554, and entered Magdalen College, ture, so faithfully, as I am unspotted Oxford, in 1569, but did not matriculate for dishonesty, as a suckling from LIVING AGE.

"

It would ap

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

VOL. VI. 275

ever

« AnteriorContinuar »