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Yet there is of course some ground for the suggestion that with his pen in his hand he sometimes became a cynic. That at any rate is true of all his earlier books up to and including the masterpiece of Vanity Fair. In this great novel, as well as in Catherine, Barry Lyndon, and The Yellowplush Papers, and most of the minor stories, it is not to be denied that the interest mainly centres round personages who are mean, vicious, cruel, immoral or dishonest. The good people of Thackeray's earlier portrait-gallery are mostly foolish, and the clever people are mostly knaves or rogues. To a large extent this feature is due to the writer's consciousness of his own foible and a determined effort to counteract it. When he drew Catherine and Barry Lyndon, and perhaps also the immortal Becky, he was waging a crusade against the sentimentality which had affected himself, and which, as he maintained, was debilitating the whole imaginative literature of the period. The public, as he held, under the infiuence of writers like Harrison Ainsworth and Bulwer Lytton, had become perverted by a kind of diseased sentimentality. It not only had its rogues and knaves introduced into literature, but it insisted on getting them dressed up as interesting creatures to be admired and sympathized with. Even Dickens, he thought, was open to the same accusation. Catherine was a direct protest against this unwholesome mawkishness:
The public will hear of nothing but rogues; and the only way in which poor authors, who must live, can act honestly by the public and themselves, is to paint such thieves as they are; not dandy, poetical, rose-water thieves, but real downright scoundrels, leading scoundrelly lives, drunken, profligate, dissolute, low, as scoundrels will be. They don't quote Plato like Eugene Aram; or live like gentlemen, or sing the pleasantest ballads in the
world, like jolly Dick Turpin; or prate eternally about τὸ καλόν like that precious canting Maltravers, whom we all of us have read about and pitied; or die whitewashed saints, like poor Biss Dadsy in Oliver Twist. No, my dear madam, you and your daughters have no right to admire and sympathize with any such persons, fictitious or real; you ought to be made cordially to detest, scorn, loathe, abhor, and abominate all people of this kidney.
Thackeray, in fact, was endeavoring to do what his prototype Fielding had accomplished when he burlesqued
Richardson in Joseph Andrews and Amelia. But Thackeray, unlike Fielding, was never able to merge the moralist in the painter of manners. All through his books he has a sermon to preacha sermon against snobbishness and shams and hypocrisy and pretence and worldliness. And again, unlike Fielding, he often seems more interested in playing the part of chorus than in exhibiting his drama. The action is perpetually stopped while the author indulges in one of those famous asides to the reader. They are delightful of course, these little scraps of reflection and dissertation, and nobody-not Fielding himself or Cervantes-has ever done this kind of thing better; but it must be confessed that they pall after a time, and as one gets on with the books one is assailed by an mcreasing temptation to "cut the cattle and come to the 'osses." Possibly this has had more to do than anything else with the waning of Thackeray's popalarity, so far as it can be said to have waned. Dickens was a moralist too, as indeed were nearly all the novelists of the great Victorian period; but then Dickens was first and foremost a storyteller, and no one is ever conscious of feeling that drag upon the wheel while the chariot is halted upon the road in order that the coachman may stand up on the box and address the spectators. Moreover, Thackeray's sermon is
preached far too often upon the same text, and a limited one. He is constantly recurring to those minor affectations and pretences which belong less to human nature as a whole than to those particular specimens of it which flourished in England in the forties and fifties of the last century. Dickens' characters come from fairyland, from the realm of pure imagination, and because a good many of them never lived anywhere at any time they are us much alive to-day as they were fifty years ago. But Thackeray's types were so often those of a particular society that we recognize them no longer. They are really more alien to us than The Outlook.
In this age of Centenaries is not a laudable custom in danger of being overdone? This annus mirabilis, 1909, brings us round to the birthdays of four great Englishmen-Darwin, Tennyson, Johnson, Gladstone-to say nothing of others, such as Calvin and Tom Paine, who have been commemorated by their respective admirers. What with aviation "records," rival Budgets, and Halley's Comet, we can hardly live up to the incessant sensations which race across our thoughts like flying men at Blackpool in a gale. I see more centenaries coming along soon-Charles Dickens, Thackeray, to be followed by Shakespeare himself. Now I have a proposal to offer which will greatly mitigate this stormburst of centenaries, which pelt us like November meteors-coming and going before we have recovered breath.
In one word, my suggestion is to limit our commemorations to the centenary only of the death, not of the birth, of our worthies. This would reduce the number of these festivals by two-thirds at least, besides being more LIVING AGE. VOL. XLV. 2388
the demagogues and pedants and sham philosophers and advanced women who figure in the comedies of Aristophanes. It is a pity that Thackeray, with his exuberant imagination, his searching humor, and his inimitable style, has placed this handicap upon his genius. But for this limitation he might well be ranked as the first of all English novelists, as perhaps in his finest effort he is. There are greater English romancers than Thackeray; but it may well be questioned whether in the whole range of English fiction there is a single work which is entitled to be placed on a rank superior to that which is held by Vanity Fair.
truly historic and rational. Centenaries are being preposterously muftiplied. And the commemoration of the birth of any but of supernatural beings is illogical from the point of view of sound sociology.
It is obvious that, if we celebrate only the death, but never the birth, of our great men, we at once strike off one-half of these occasions. But we should strike off many more. If we wait till a hundred years have passed since our great men went from us, we should find sometimes that posterity would not judge the occasion quite so memorable. Two-thirds of these centenaries would answer themselves, as Napoleon said his letters did when he locked them in his cabinet for a month. They might have local, or special, but not national commemoration. By all means let Little Pedlington and Little Bethel glorify their former mayor or pastor, if his memory keeps green 100 years after his decease. But the nation would not be roused into entnusiasm by orations, and dunned with subscription lists week after week.
Celebrate only the 100th anniversary of a memorable death, and we should not have superior persons cynically sneering at a noble custom. It is the miscellaneous and interminable recurrence of these occasions which calls out the irony of Culture. In this age of longevity the centenary of the birth of our hero follows too closely upon the actual date of his death. We have hardly recovered from the emotions of a grand national funeral, with various local celebrations, as the fashion is today, before we are asked to renew our lyrical elegies and our apodeictic eulogies. The funeral bak'd words do coldly furnish forth the centenary feast. Why! the other day dear old Garcia in person attended the centenary festival of his own birth! It reminded me of Darwin's old Patagonian woman, whom he saw walk in procession to her own funeral. This wet year we have been surfeited with lamentations or jubilees of the mighty dead. One might think the angels in chorus had been raining tears upon our island. Take the case of the three great Englishmen who were born in 1809. Many of us knew them in the flesh, have talked with them, eaten with them, seen them, and heard them for years, and finally, but a few years ago, saw them all laid to rest in the Abbey. They are as present to us in memory as our own fathers. We heard all that had to be said of their achievements but a few years since; we exhausted our own sympathies about them and their work; we have nothing fresh to say, nothing more to learn of them. And lo! before those living pages of our memory are turned, we find a fresh, and somewhat belated, commemoration thrust upon us. When 100 years shall have passed from their respective deaths-in 1982, 1992, 1998Darwin, Tennyson, Gladstone will be duly honored by a generation which never saw them, knew them only by
books, and can judge them more clearly through the illuminating halo of an entire century. But for all of us to-day who are long past middle life, it is too early to ask us to treat as ancient history the men whom we have known in life as friends, associates, teachers, and prophets.
From the point of view of scientific history, it is always the death, not the birth, of a great genius which concerns after ages. At their birth absolutely nothing happened; no man observea anything; no one was in the least degree affected. The world rolled round without a shadow of change, except that one more helpless infant was added to its millions of possible men and women. There was no special reason, unless it were a Royal prince, to mark the place, or the day, or the surroundings of the birth of another child, which in most cases was perfectly ordinary, and sometimes obscure. Did heaven ring and earth shake when a rather thriftless tradesman at Stratford, in April, 1564, had a third child? The very day is still not quite certain. Did England rejoice, or Whitehall groan, when, in April. 1599, a quiet gentleman at Huntingdon had born to him the fifth of his ten children? Even little Huntingdon was not stirred by the event. But on September 3, 1658, the three kingdoms were shaken to their inmost depthnay, all Europe drew a long breath.
In the evolution of a nation, of the human race, the birth of a great man is nothing. It is the end of his life, like the close of his career, his posthumous influence which the generations to come need treasure in their mind. The centenary of birth in many cases follows so closely upon the actual death that the interval is too short, and often the facts are still too little known, to make any true judgment of the man and his work clear beyond doubt or dispute. The hundredth an
niversary of Mr. Gladstone's birth will have to be commemorated, alas! in the midst of a fierce conflict still raging between his own friends, colleagues, rivals, opponents, within but 11 short years since he was buried in the Abbey by the nation, whilst the fires that he lighted up are still blazing round us, and hot words are still bandied about over his half-closed grave. Were it not better that the centenary should wait until 1998, when all that England, Scotland, and Ireland owes to him can be recorded in the dry light of historic time?
One sees how the hundredth anniversary of birth came to be commonly accepted as the memorable date. Christendom dates everything naturally from the Nativity. Anno Domini is to us the familiar almanac for all events. Romans dated from the birth of their city; and monks often dated from the Creation of the world. Divine, supernatural, mythical births stand on a different ground. When the "Heav'nborn childe" lay in the manger, Nature was in awe and "Kings sate still, with awful eye." That was indeed an event. But even to Christians Easter The Times.
comes with far more reality as a religious power than does Christmas. The birth of the Heir to a Throne may partake of this national importance. For all others it is death, not birth, which really counts.
May I add that no man values more than I do myself the adequate commemoration of a great man's life? Few men have labored more earnestly in the various celebrations of our time. For ten years I worked to secure, ana finally, in 1901, we achieved the millenary of Alfred. I have taken active part in the centenaries of Cromwell, Chatham, Tennyson, Ruskin, and many others. Our own small body for 30 years continuously celebrated the centenaries of the worthies in our calendar. In the volume of biographies of 558 heroes of all ages and races we have sought to bring home to contemporaries what they owe to the genius and the services of the men of old time. Humanity owes reverence to its ancestors as a social and even as a religious duty. But it is only when posterity can calmly weigh the entire posthumous influence of their lives as a whole.
BOOKS AND AUTHORS
Dr. Wilfred T. Grenfell, who has done more than any one else to make Labrador and the needs of its hardy population known, is the chief author of a fully illustrated volume on "Labrador" which the Macmillan Company publishes. Other writers have aided him with chapters of history, geology and natural history, and a map and fifty or sixty full page illustrations from photographs enhance both the attractiveness and the value of the book. Dr. Grenfell's chapters, which constitute about two-thirds of the book, are alive with personal experience and
sympathy; and the volume, altogether, is one of the freshest and most interesting of recent books of travel.
It appears that it was neither Dr. Cook nor Commander Peary who was "First at the North Pole," but two Maine boys, in company with one or two scientists. It was Mr. Edward Stratemeyer who found out about it, and he tells the story in his characteristic way. In such a yarn as this, there is opportunity both for stirring incident, and for the imparting of some information, and both are to be found
in the book. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard versity, and Anne C. E. Allison are Co.
joint authors, is a great deal more than a guide-book, on the one hand, or a survey of Greek history and literature on the other. It is both of these, and more. In it, the Greece of to-day, and the Greece of a remote yesterday are described and pictured, and both are illuminated by passages from the Greek poets and philosophers, many of them newly translated and others quoted in the versions of Ernest Myers and Gilbert Murray. The result is a volume which may be used with profit by travelers in Greece, but may also be read with delight by those who must do their travelling by their own firesides and in their own libraries. There is a frontispiece in colors, showing the Propylæa from within, looking toward Salamis, and there are twenty or more full page illustrations from photographs. Houghton Mifflin Co.
The new volume of the "Roses of St. Elizabeth Series," "Seven Christmas Candles," continues the chronicles of the Mulvaney children, especially dealing with the oldest two, Hannah and Stubbins. The absurd incidents which continually beset the Mulvaneys are more absurd than ever in this book, and the reader's laughter is of necessity almost continuous, but side by side with the fun develops the pretty story of the two children's efforts to live up to the hymn, and to be "candles" each lighting up "his own small corner" with good deeds. There are six colored pictures, and papers in the Christmas tints and a cover showing the most famous of all candlesticks, with a little Mulvaney perched on each of its seven branches. L. C. Page & Co.
Mrs. De la Pasture comes nearer to the commonplace in the chief character of her newest story, "The Tyrant," than is her custom, but on the other hand she has given it more humor and a more involved plot than her readers have learned to expect. The chief character, a middle-aged country gentleman and ruler of his small world by virtue partly of holding the purse strings, and partly by having an abominable temper, is stricken with mortal illness at the moment when he has made a new will disinheriting his oldest son. He leaves England hoping to recover his health, and during his absence his wife discovers that she holds a means of controlling him, and, to the great delight of all the tyrant's acquaintances, uses it. The ending of the tale is a master stroke, and is related with extraordinary skill. E. P. Dutton & Co.
"Greek Lands and Letters," of which Francis Greenleaf Allinson, Professor of Classical Philology in Brown Uni
The articles collected in Mrs. Anna A. Rogers's "Why American Marriages Fail" have attracted much attention in the magazines in which they were first published because of their absolute freedom from prejudice and the fearlessness with which they follow a train of reasoning to its logical end. When it is considered that her subjects inIclude the failure of American marriages, American men's faults, the failure of American mothers, certain defects in the school system, and a whole series of stupidities and negli. gences classed as "What we put up with," it is surprising that they have not been more seriously attacked. That they have not may be ascribed less to that toleration of which some of us are so proud and others 80 ashamed, than to a thickness of skin not to be penetrated by the sharpest arrow of speech. To those who share the author's opinions, their apt expression in this volume will give very great pleasure and those who do not will do