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woes, her lawless desires, too complex mischances, her wailings and her riotings, has departed utterly; alas! her siren finery has got all besmutched, ground, generations since, into dust and smoke; of her degraded body, and whole miserable earthly existence, all is away: she is no longer here, but far from us, in the bosom of Eternity, — whence we too came, whither we too are bound! Johnson said, "No, no, my girl; it won't do;" and then 'we talked ;' and herewith the wretched one, seen but for the twinkling of an eye, passes on into the utter Darkness. No high Calista, that ever issued from Story-teller's brain, will impress us more deeply than this meanest of the mean; and for a good reason: That she issued from the Maker of Men.
It is well worth the Artist's while to examine for himself what it is that gives such pitiful incidents their memorableness; his aim likewise is, above all things, to be memorable. Half the effect, we already perceive, depends on the object; on its being real, on its being really seen. The other half will depend on the observer; and the question now is: How are real objects to be so seen; on what quality of observing or of style in describing, does this so intense pictorial power depend? Often a slight circumstance contributes curiously to the result: some little, and perhaps to appearance accidental, feature is presented; a light-gleam, which instantaneously excites the mind, and urges it to complete the picture, and evolve the meaning thereof for itself. By critics, such light-gleams and their almost magical influence have frequently been noted: but the power to produce such, to select such features as will produce them, is generally treated as a knack, or trick of the trade, a secret for being 'graphic;' whereas these magical feats are, in truth, rather inspirations; and the gift of performing them, which acts unconsciously, without forethought, and as if by nature alone, is properly a genius for description.
One grand, invaluable secret there is, however, which includes all the rest, and, what is comfortable, lies clearly in every man's power: To have an open loving heart, and what follows from the possession of such! Truly it has been said, emphatically in these days ought it to be repeated: A loving Heart is the beginning of all Knowledge. This it is that opens the whole mind, quickens every faculty of the intellect to do its fit work, that of knowing; and
therefrom, by sure consequence, of vividly uttering-forth. Other secret for being 'graphic' is there none, worth having: but this is an all-sufficient one. See, for example, what a small Boswell can do! Hereby, indeed, is the whole man made a living mirror, wherein the wonders of this ever-wonderful Universe are, in their true light (which is ever a magical, miraculous one) represented, and reflected back on us. It has been said, 'the heart sees farther than the head:' but, indeed, without the seeing heart, there is no true seeing for the head so much as possible; all is mere oversight, hallucination and vain superficial phantasmagoria, which can permanently proît no one.
Here, too, may we not pause for an instant, and make a practical reflection? Considering the multitude of mortals that handle the Pen in these days, and can mostly spell, and write without glaring violations of grammar, the question naturally arises: How is it, then, that no Work proceeds from them, bearing any stamp of authenticity and permanence; of worth for more than one day? Ship-loads of Fashionable Novels, Sentimental Rhymes, Tragedies, Farces, Diaries of Travel, Tales by flood and field, are swallowed monthly into the bottomless Pool: still does the Press toil; innumerable Paper-makers, Compositors, Printers' Devils, Bookbinders, and Hawkers grown hoarse with loud proclaiming, rest not from their labour; and still, in torrents, rushes on the great array of Publications, unpausing, to their final home; and still Oblivion, like the Grave, cries, Give! Give! How is it that of all these countless multitudes, no one can attain to the smallest mark of excellence, or produce aught that shall endure longer than 'snowflake on the river,' or the foam of penny-beer? We answer: Because they are foam; because there is no Reality in them. These Three Thousand men, women and children, that make up the army of British Authors, do not, if we will well consider it, see anything whatever; consequently have nothing that they can record and utter, only more or fewer things that they can plausibly pretend to record. The Universe, of Man and Nature, is still quite shut-up from them; the 'open secret' still utterly a secret; because no sympathy with Man or Nature, no love and free simplicity of heart has yet unfolded the same. Nothing but a pitiful Image of their own pitiful Self with its vanities, and grudgings,
and ravenous hunger of all kinds, hangs forever painted in the retina of these unfortunate persons; so that the starry ALL, with whatsoever it embraces, does but appear as some expanded magic-lantern shadow of that same Image, — and naturally looks pitiful enough.
It is vain for these persons to allege that they are naturally without gift, naturally stupid and sightless, and so can attain to no knowledge of anything; therefore, in writing of anything, must needs write falsehoods of it, there being in it no truth for them. Not so, good Friends. The stupidest of you has a certain faculty; were it but that of articulate speech (say, in the Scottish, the Irish, the Cockney dialect, or even in 'Governess-English'), and of physically discerning what lies under your nose. The stupidest of you would perhaps grudge to be compared in faculty with James Boswell; yet see what he has produced! You do not use your faculty honestly; your heart is shut up; full of greediness, malice, discontent; so your intellectual sense cannot be open. It is vain also to urge that James Boswell had opportunities; saw great men and great things, such as you can never hope to look on. What make ye of Parson White in Selborne? He had not only no great men to look on, but not even men; merely sparrows and cockchafers: yet has he left us a Biography of these; which, under its title Natural History of Selborne, still remains valuable to us; which has copied a little sentence or two faithfully from the Inspired Volume of Nature, and so is itself not without inspiration. Go ye and do likewise. Sweep away utterly all frothiness and falsehood from your heart; struggle unweariedly to acquire, what is possible for every god-created Man, a free, open, humble soul: speak not at all, in any wise, till you have somewhat to speak; care not for the reward of your speaking, but simply and with undivided mind for the truth of your speaking: then be placed in what section of Space and of Time soever, do but open your eyes, and they shall actually see, and bring you real knowledge, wondrous, worthy of belief; and instead of one Boswell and one White, the world will rejoice in a thousand, stationed on their thousand several watchtowers, to instruct us by indubitable documents, of whatsoever in our so stupendous World comes to light and is! O, had the Editor of this Magazine but a magic rod to turn all that not in
considerable Intellect, which now deluges us with artificial fictitious soap-lather, and mere Lying, into the faithful study of Reality, - what knowledge of great, everlasting Nature, and of Man's ways and doings therein, would not every year bring us in! Can we but change one single soap-latherer and mountebank Juggler, into a true Thinker and Doer, who even tries honestly to think and great will be our reward.
But to return; or rather from this point to begin our journey! If now, what with Herr Sauerteig's Springwurzeln, what with so much lucubration of our own, it have become apparent how deep, immeasurable is the 'worth that lies in Reality,' and farther, how exclusive the interest which man takes in Histories of Man, may it not seem lamentable, that so few genuinely good Biographies have yet been accumulated in Literature; that in the whole world, one cannot find, going strictly to work, above some dozen or baker's dozen, and those chiefly of very ancient date? Lamentable; yet, after what we have just seen, accountable. Another question might be asked: How comes it that in England we have simply one good Biography, this Boswell's Johnson; and of good, indifferent, or even bad attempts at Biography, fewer than any civilised people? Consider the French and Germans, with their Moreris, Bayles, Jördenses, Jöchers, their innumerable Mémoirs, and Schilderungen, and Biographies Universelles; not to speak of Rousseaus, Goethes, Schuberts, Jung-Stillings: and then contrast with these our poor Birches and Kippises and Pecks; the whole breed of whom, moreover, is now extinct!
With this question, as the answer might lead us far, and come out unflattering to patriotic sentiment, we shall not intermeddle; but turn rather, with great pleasure, to the fact, that one excellent Biography is actually English; - and even now lies, in Five new Volumes, at our hand, soliciting a new consideration from us; such as, age after age (the Perennial showing ever new phases as our position alters), it may long be profitable to bestow on it; to which task we here, in this position, in this age, gladly address ourselves.
First, however, let the foolish April-fool day pass by; and our Reader, during these twenty-nine days of uncertain weather that will follow, keep pondering, according to convenience, the purport
of BIOGRAPHY in general: then, with the blessed dew of May-day, and in unlimited convenience of space, shall all that we have written on Johnson and Boswell's Johnson and Croker's Boswell's Johnson be faithfully laid before him.
LORD HERBERT OF CHERBURY
THE FIGHT WITH SIR JOHN AYRES
[From The Autobiography of Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, written in 1643, first printed by Horace Walpole in 1764.
HERBERT, EDWARD, first BARON HERBERT OF CHERBURY (1583-1648), philosopher, historian, and diplomatist; while at University College, Oxford, taught himself the Romance languages and became a good musician, rider, and fencer; went to court, 1600; sheriff of Montgomeryshire, 1605; during a continental tour became intimate with Casaubon and the Constable Montmorency, and fought several duels, 1608-10; volunteer at recapture of Juliers, 1610; joined Prince of Orange's army, 1614; visited the elector palatine and the chief towns of Italy; offered help to the Savoyards, but was imprisoned by the French at Lyons, 1615; stayed with Prince of Orange, 1616; on his return became intimate with Donne, Carew, and Ben Jonson; named by Buckingham ambassador at Paris, 1619; tried to obtain French support for elector palatine, and suggested marriage between Henrietta Maria and Prince Charles; recalled for quarrelling with the French king's favourite, De Luynes, 1621, but reappointed on De Luynes's death,_1622; recalled, 1624, owing to his disagreement with James I about the French marriage negotiations; received in Irish peerage the barony of Cherbury, 1629, and seat in council of war, 1632; attended Charles I on Scottish expedition, 1639-40; committed to the Tower for royalist speech in House of Lords, 1642, but released on apologising; aimed at neutrality during the war; compelled to admit parliamentary force into Montgomery Castle, 1644; submitted to parliament and received a pension, 1645; steward of duchy of Cornwall and warden of the Stannaries, 1646; visited Gassendi, 1647; died in London, Selden being one of his executors. His autobiography (to 1624), printed by Horace Walpole, 1764 (thrice reissued), and edited by Mr. Sidney Lee, 1886, scarcely mentions his serious pursuits. His 'De Veritate' (Paris, 1624, London, 1645), the chief of his philosophical works, is the first purely metaphysical work by an Englishman. It was unfavourably criticised by Baxter, Locke, and others, but commended by Gassendi and Descartes. Though named the father of English deism, Herbert's real affinity was with the Cambridge Platonists. His poems were edited by Mr. Churton Collins, 1881; his 'Life of Henry VIII' (apologetic) first published, 1649. — Index and Epitome of D. N. B.
"But it is doubtful if any other autobiography breathes quite as freely the writer's overweening conceit of his own worth, which is the primary condition of all autobiographical excellence. At every turn Lord Herbert