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teenth century our forefathers looked | nian off the stage ; when to wear a lo Coveut Gardeu or Drury Laue for rich dress, to carry a sword, to be able the wares which we uow procure from to make an elegant bow, and to be the nearest circulating library. Be- skilled in the management of a cano sides the Restoration dramatists, the aud a spuff-box, went so far to constiplays of the two Colmans, Cibber, tute a gentleman. All this could easily Murphy, Macklin, and Cumberland, to be taught; and the true grace of it,” say nothing of Goldswith and Sheri- which houest Mike Lambourue laments dau, constituted their world of fiction"; that he never · could acquire, would and long after the novel had begun to not be much missed in a large and compete successfully with the drama not over-lighted theatre. As mappers, for popular favor, the latter continued dress, and general demeanor became to be esteemed the superior depart- simpler and plainer, and the representament of the two.
tion of a gentleman or a lady came to The causes which led to the decline depend less on externals and more on of the old eighteenth-century comedy qualifications not so easily picked up, and the establishment of the novel ou the task of the genteel comedian beits ruins have been variously explained. came more and more difficult, and his One reason may be found in the com- efforts to accomplish it less and less monplace fact that, as the number of successful." readers increased in proportion to the Moreover, with the closing of the vumber of playgoers, it became better Continents against Euglishmen, a great worth while to write for them ; and change took place in the babits of the that, as the sphere of criticism en- English aristocracy, who, as soon as larged, “the towu” lost its exclusive the London season was over, used to pretensions to occupy the chair, and flock to Paris. They had now to seek the theatre that literary and fashion-their amusements in their own country, able halo which had encircled it, with a and the line of demarcation ween brief interval, from Elizabeth to Anne. the rural squire and the man of fashion Sir Walter Scott himself, in his essay lost much of its sharpness. Lord Fop. on the drama, has given his own view pington and Sir Brilliant Fashion of the decadence of the English stage adopted the pursuits of country gentoward the close of the last century. tlemen, and the lower classes of the He thiuks that the comedy of the territorial order caught in turn the tone period was French in origin and cons of the higher. Iu “ The Poor Gentlestruction, and that with the decay of man,” written in 1802, Sir Charles French models it naturally languished Cropland tells the steward of his Kentand disappeared. We suppose he ish estates that she must hunt in would have said the same, though he Leicestershire — 'tis the thing.” This did not say it, of " the comedy of in- is the first mention of the metropolis trigue,” or what he calls the Spanish of fox-huuting that we know of, in comedy. The one left no more suc- polite literature. Here was one fertile cessors than the other. But may it not source of “ business " cut off at once be said that for the success of social from both actor and playwright. The comedy, or the comedy of manners, on country gentleman in London robbed the stage, more liglits and shades are of his money or betrayed by his wife, required thau are furnished by modern the victim and the butt of wils and society ; stronger contrasts, a more gamblers, was for many years a stock formal and ceremonious carriage, more character on the London boards, and distinctive and more striking cos- his disappearance left a vacuum in the tumes ? At all events, this much will dramatic repertory which nothing could hardly be disputed, that it must have fill up. The sinıplicity of modern manbeen easier to act the part of a gentle
1 We need hardly say that these remarks bave man on the stage when there were so
no reference to the present stage, where ladies and many distinctive marks of the geutle-gentlemen appear in characters of all kinds,
ners and the undemonstrative character mankind are born. Such reflections do of modern passion, even at its deepest, not necessarily represent the babitual make it almost impossible to place mood of the poet. In Scott's novels, upon the stage a play which shall ex- at all events, we should bave said that actly reproduce the life of modern cheerfulness was a conspicuous feaclubs and drawing-rooms. Many other lure ; while as for lack of faith, it is causes were at work at the same time difficult to understand how any one to undermine the popularity of the could bring such a charge against Sir theatre; the Evangelical movement, Walter Scott. Mr. Ruskin seems to for instance, is said to have exercised a rely on the fact that Scott could not very injurious effect on its fortune. bring himself to believe in the Bodach Thus, by the end of the century the Glas, or the White Lady, and that in drama was tottering on its throne, and “ Woodstock” he does his best to fast giving place to its rival. Fielding make such credulity ridiculous. But and Richardson mark the epoch when by the word “scepticism” something the rivalry may be said to have com- more is usually meant than a disbelief menced ; with the appearance of in ghosts and spectres. Mr. Ruskin “Evelina,
," “ Castle Rackrent,” “Mar- here seems to be falling into the same riage,” and “Pride and Prejudice,” kind of mistake which he has made the scale began to turn decisively in about Scott's antiquarianism. He also favor of the novelist. The authoresses refers to some fancied evidence of it in of these works, however, transferred Scott's behavior on the death of his only comedy from the stage to the wife. But seeing that Scott in his prilibrary. The master who was to com- vate journal, intended only for his own plete the process and do the same for eye, speaks of the mysterious yet certragedy and the historic drama was yet tain hope of seeing her again in a betto appear. The vacant niche was wait- ter world, we cannot allow that Mr. ing for him. Scott stepped into it, and Ruskin gains much by this appeal. became the Shakespeare of the viue. Certain it is, however, that it could teenth century. He did with the novel have been neither melancholy nor infiwhat Shakespeare had done with the delity which won the heart of a nation: drama, and ever since his reign the drunk with victory and bathed in glory, novel has held ipcontestably the first and boasting itself favored above all place.
nations by the hand of God. It is curious to find two such men To the great mass of the English as Ruskin and Newman giving such people eighty years ago, " That Christ widely opposite accounts of Scott's had risen from the dead was as sure as original popularity. Mr. Ruskiu has a that the sun had risen that morning. theory that Scott was the represen- That they would themselves rise was tative poet of his age in virtue of his as certain as that they would die, and sadness and bis scepticism - a strange as positively would one day be called description of Scott, surely, as well as to judgment for the good or ill that of his age. Neither sadness nor scep- they had done in life.”' l It was with a ticism was the prevailing vote of the faith of this kind that Scott had to English people during the first quarter reckon, and it is nonsense to suppose of the present century, whatever they that he could have leaped into popumay be of the last. And even if they larity as he did, had his works exhibwere visible in Scott, we should have to ited the faintest traces of scepticism. look elsewhere for the secret of his Newman's ' explanation of Scott's influence during the fifteen years that popularity is the reverse of Ruskin's. followed the great war. But are they He attributes it to the general need visible in Scott ? All poets alike dwell that was felt of something deeper and at times on the brevity of human life, more attractive than the religion and on the vanity of human wishes, on the
1 Froude, Short Studies on Great Subjects, il sorrows and disappointments to which .261.
literature of the eighteenth century ; / umph, created a reaction against it not to faithlessness, but to the craving equally spirituelle and imaginative with for a fuller and deeper faith, which the welcome accorded to its beginning, sympathized at once with Scott's pic- and swept men's minds back on a flood ture of the Middle Ages,“ setting be- of passion to the ages of faith and orfore his readers visions which, when der, of feudal chivalry and romantic once seen, are not easily forgotten, and loyalty. Scott, we say, had the benefit silently indoctrinating them with no- of both tides,- of both the flow and bler ideas, which might afterwards be the ebb. The one produced the necesappealed to as first principles.” This sary thirst; the other gave it the reaccount of the matter is nearer the quired impulse in his own direction. mark than Ruskin’s ; but it is not an Thus we see that everything was exhaustive one, and leaves much to be made ready for Scott. The march of added before the argument is complete. literary events naturally led up to him,
It is here to be noted, that as the and prepared the way before him; two great events in modern history are while, at the same time, the trumpet the Reformation and the French Rev- that woke Europe from its long repose olution, so we see Shakespeare directly - tuba mirum spargens sonum – stirred following the one and Scott the other. the public mind to its lowest depths, The sanguine, buoyant, adventurous, and taught it, one might say, to expect and enthusiastic spirit which marks him. the Elizabethan age, and was the nat- Other circumstances contributed to ural result of the rupture of old bonds the formation of that national taste and the dawn upon the human mind of which Scott took at the flood. But we a new era, had its counterpart, to some have said enough about the making of extent, in the highly wrought tone of the Waverleys. We have endeavored public feeling which became apparent, to show that a variety of causes comboth at home and abroad, about the bined to produce both an intellectual middle of the reign of George III., and moral condition of the public mind, wlien so many eager minds hoped so which made it ripe for the genius who much that was never to be realized. was about to appear upon the stage. What is more remarkable is, that while But the completeness which the public both Scott and Shakespeare were found in Scott, what they were unconlargely indebted to the moral and spir- sciously craving for, was due to the itual effects of the new movement, fact that he, like Shakespeare, was a neither was himself in sympathy with poet, with the power of dipping everyit. Shakespeare was a Catholic, if not thing that he touched in that mystic a Roman. Scott's heart was in the atmosphere which criticism seeks in past. But he reaped all the advantage vain to analyze, which can make the of the two meeting currents : the one dry bones live, and the kings and hewhich made men long for something roes of the past our own contemporanew; the other which led them to seek ries. Considering the temper of the for it in what was old. The excite- people, both here and elsewhere, as it ment, the looking forward, the stirring was in 1814, and the antecedent cirof the blood, which followed the early cumstances which had partly contribrevolutionary outbreak, wearied men uted to form it, only a poet could have of their accustomed intellectual diet been accepted as its new literary inand of the established literary models. terpreter; and it was by turning his The insults heaped on kings and poetic genius to a new species of queens, on gallant gentlemen and deli- composition that Scott achieved his cate ladies, the Ilplajulkai túžai of great splendid triumphs. All this has been old liouses and falling kingdoins; the hinted at before. Both Mr. Lang and sacrilege, the selfishness, the vulgarity, Professor Masson, and above all Mr. and the insolence which marked the Keble, refer to it. But scarcely suffilater stages of the great democratic tri-cient prominence, in our own opinion
at least, has hitherto been assigned to barns. The explanation of it is that
Scott, like his own Waverley, habituThe Waverleys may be divided into ally lived two lives. In one he was the historical novels and novels of contem- man of the world, the mau of letters, porary life and manners, which had the cheerful hospitable host, the zealeither been witnessed by Scott himself, ous modern politician ; in the other he or described to him by others from their was the old feudal proprietor, the old own personal reminiscences ; and the Lowland laird with his heritable jurishistorical novels again may be divided diction, charged with the maintenance into those which are founded on feu- of law and order in his district, dalism, those which relate to the period position which Scott esteemed far more of the Scottish Reformation, and those highly than that of a Tasso or a Shakewhich are inspired by the deathless speare ; and a link in that great chain interest of the great Stewart romance. of government and authority which One or two there are which reject this has been called, by more impartial witclassification, and many of those which nesses than Scott, the noblest which come within it run into each other. mankind have ever
The oue But it is sufficient for our present pur- world at times was as real to him as pose. Let us begin with the epic of the other. When he withdrew to it to feudalism.
commune uprestrictedly with his own One great charm which pervades all thoughts, it was as if he retired to some Scott's feudal novels, independent alike grey old castle or monastic ruin, there of plots, incidents, or characters, is our to walk with the dead, who came, consciousness, as we read them, of obedient to his sermons, to tell him their deep and simple sincerity. If it all the story of the past. is the highest art of the poet, whether epic or dramatic - and the historical Multa modissimulacra videt volitantia
miris Waverleys are only prose epics — to
Et varias audit voces fruiturque deorum obtain such a complete mastery over
Colloquio. the reader's imagination as to transport him for the moment into the But Scott's imagination alone would midst of the scenes and personages probably not have enabled him to described, Scott went beyond them, for reproduce the manners of the past with he transported himself. He drew, so such marvellous effect had not reason to speak, from the inside. He takes lent her aid as well. In all the novels captive not only the imagination of his which are founded on feudalism we readers, but his owo. He is as much feel that we are in company with a the dupe of his own creations as they writer who appreciates not only its
If we compare “ The Betrothed” picturesque effects, but also its sterling
“ Ivanhoe" with " Harold" or merits. Thus, while gazing on the " The Last of the Barons,” we see the gorgeous array of “Fancy's gilded difference in a moment. The latter clouds," we have a solid substratum of are elaborate pictures on which the political truth under our feet, of which, greatest pains have been bestowed ; consciously or unconsciously, we feel every detail carefully worked up, and the effect in an increased sense of the historical accuracy as far as possible author's earnestness and moral honrigidly observed.
But there the esty. Objections taken to Scott's rep. achievement ends. There is no illu- resentations of medieval life on the sion. Scott lulls us into a dream ground that they are inaccurate in wherein we see the figures move and detail were not likely to interfere with speak, mingle in the battle and the the popular appreciation of them. It chase, and glow with the passions of is said, for justance, that he did not love, hatred, and revenge, as plainly as understand Gothic architecture ; that Lovel saw the tapestry suddenly wake his antiquarian knowledge is often at into life in the Green Room at Monk. Ifault; that the language be puts into
the mouths of his feudal personages is between the good and the bad in the wholly anlike anything they ever used ; age of loyalty. We see the bright side that in his account of the relations be- of the picture in Quentin Durward and tween Norman and Saxon his history Damian de Lacy ; the dark side in is erroneous. Who cares? If we get Front de Beuf and Brian de Boisthe spirit of the age, we can dispense Guilbert. The pure honor, the unwith the letter. If we get the general wavering faith, the generous devotion effect, the grand outlines of feudalism, of Damian ; the prompt obedience to we can spare the upholstery. Scott the voice of knightly duty exhibited by himself has explained the principle on Quentin Durward, are to be set against which he acted in regard to the lan- the abduction of Rebecca by the Temguage of “ Ivanhoe,”
Be- plar, the torture of the Jew by Frout trothed,”
,” “The Talisman,” “ Quentin de Bæuf, and the violation of Ulrica by Durward," and others of the same the Norman conqueror of Torquilstone. character. He tells us that some com- No; the “historical conscience” of promise was inevitable. His charac- the public has never been shocked by ters must speak a language which his Scott's delineations of feudalism ; and readers could understand, while it must all the other flaws which have been be sufficiently far removed from that of detected in it by antiquarians and etbmodern times to sustain the illusion. nologists have been whistled down the We need hardly enquire whether Scott wind by the general reader as points of achieved this object. His dialogue no interest to himself, whatever they sometimes wants variety, it never lacks might be to experts. The spirit of reality.
Shakespeare was not caught less faithWe may add in this place that anti- fully by the men who wore wigs and quarian or archæological criticism be- laced waistcoats than by those who stowed on a series of historic romances wore truuk hose and doublets. We like the Waverleys, seems altogether may fairly object, perhaps, to “the out of place when addressed to the Prodigal Son in the costume of Sir general public. If Scott has given us Charles Graudison." Yet this marked such pictures of historical events, or incongruity did not interfere at all such estimates of historical person with Maggie Tulliver's appreciation of ages, as are calculated to convey false the parable. impressions when false impressions And here we must pause for a momay be mischievous, and seriously per- ment to notice the strange confusion of vert our judgment on political or reli- thought into which Mr. Ruskin has gious subjects, that is fair matter for been betrayed on the subject of Scott's criticism and worthy of general at- antiquarianism. He supposes him to tention. But many of the objections be ridiculing in “ The Antiquary” the raised to Scott's feudal pictures are same tastes and researches to which fit only to be discussed by a society we owe the feudal novels. The differof antiquaries, where, no doubt, they ence is enormous. Who would conhave a legitimate locus standi. We do found the devotion of a lifetime to the not mean that such faults have any collection of such lumber as choked claim to go entirely unnoticed. They up Mr. Oldbuck's study with that rev. may be brought before their proper erence for a great system of governcourt ; but that is not the general pub- ment and society which was the moving lic. Has then that division of the spring of all Scott's historical pictures. historical novels which belong to the They required costume,' Mr. feudal period exercised any such mis- Ruskin elsewhere admits. That may chievous effect as the one supposed ? be correct or incorrect; but it is only We answer unhesitatingly in the nega- an accessory, not an essential. A pastive. Scott has held the balance quite sion for traditions and relics, because evenly between the good and the bad they are associated with the poetry of in the age of chivalry, as he has donel history, may be carried too far; but it