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it manifests itself to the worid in deeds. Character is ever his study, but it is character in action, considered only in connection with a particular grouping of events, and only so far as it produces or acts upon these. The processes are concealed from us, we behold the result. In the very highest realizations of this dramatic power, and always in intention, we are presented with a perfect picture, in which every actor lives, and every word is audible; perfect, complete in itself, without explanation, without comment; a dogma incarnate, which we must accept as it is given us, and explain and illustrate for ourselves. If we wish to know what this character or that thought or felt in his very soul, we may perhaps have data from which to construct a more or less probable hypothesis; but that is all. Nothing is told us (except of course in occasional soliloquies and the like) of what is going on in the thought; of the infinitely subtle meshes of motive or emotion which will perhaps find no direct outcome in speech, no direct manifestation in action, but by which the soul's life in reality subsists, and from which the deeds and the words will ultimately and indirectly result. This is not the intention; it is a spectacle of life we are beholding: we are inclined sometimes to say, it is life.
But is there no other sense in which a poet may be dramatic, besides this sense of the acting drama? no new form possible, which shall respond to the needs of a self-conscious generation, and which
"peradventure may outgrow,
The simulation of the painted scene,
Boards, actors, prompters, gaslight, and costume
And take for a nobler stage the soul itself,
Its shifting fancies and celestial lights,
With all its grand orchestral silences,
To keep the pauses of the rhythmic sounds."
This new form of drama is the drama as we see it in Browning, a drama of the interior, a tragedy or comedy of the soul. Instead of a grouping of characters which shall act on one another to produce a certain result in action, we have a grouping of events useful or important only as they influence the character or the mind. This is very clearly explained in the original advertisement to Paracelsus, where Browning tells us that his poem is an attempt "to reverse the method usually adopted by writers whose aim it is to set forth any phenomenon of the mind or the passions, by the operation of persons and events; and that, instead of having recourse to an external machinery of incidents to create and evolve the crisis I desire to produce, I have ventured to display somewhat minutely the mood
itself in its rise and progress, and have suffered the agency by which it is influenced and determined, to be generally discernible in its effects alone, and subordinate throughout, if not altogether excluded." We are further told that this is an experiment "I am in no case likely to repeat"; while in fact the experiment has been repeated very generally throughout the best of the poet's work. Browning's endeavour has ever been to understand men's souls, not the mere broad universal instincts, but the subtlest secrets of the most abnormal consciousness. He has purposely and untiringly investigated the most exceptional combinations, the most extraordinary aberrations; he delights to get hold of the most confused and apparently inexplicable tangle, and to unravel it before our eyes. It is as though, when he hears of any event which seems to confuse our sympathies and confound our judgments, he applies himself to the problem: This and these actions, evident to all the world, were performed by certain persons; we have the series of events, we have the probably dubious utterances or records of the actors; the thing seems inexplicable, unnatural: how did it come about? The problem occupies him; presently he begins to recreate, before our eyes and in our hearing, the whole series of events, but turned inside out, if I may say so. We watch the workings of the mental machinery, as it slowly unwinds before us; we get to see that everything external is perfectly natural when we can view its evolution from the internal. As a rule, in this new drama of Browning, the characters speak for themselves; and, as a rule, each by himself, or in monologue, as opposed to the customary dialogue.
We may notice in this matter of the monologue, how admirably the poet selects and adapts his instruments to his purpose. In the vivid drama of action, there needs a concurrence of several distinct personalities, influencing one another rapidly by word or deed, so as to bring about the catastrophe: hence the dialogue. But in the introspective and retrospective drama of which I am speaking, all action is as often as not in the past, contemplated and brought to light again in memory; we deal with individual soul and individual soul: hence the propriety of the monologue, in which a single speaker (or, as I should prefer to say, thinker) can consciously or unconsciously exhibit his own soul, never more strikingly than when passing judgments on others.
In connection with this monologue, the really crucial question arises. It is often stated that Browning's monologues are not true to nature; that no persons in similar situations could have spoken such words. Now in some cases-many cases-this is
utterly and entirely untrue. There are poems and passages in Browning which come as near to deceiving us as to their actual reality as almost anything even in Shakspere. All poetic expression must be modified by art; there always is and always must be a distinct difference between any actual utterance and the imaginative rendering of it by the most realistic artist; but the words of such a poem, for instance, as Andrea del Sarto, might really have almost been spoken in that twilight over Florence, as the faultless painter and his Lucrezia sat together that deathless evening at the window looking across at Fiesole. And in the dialogue, that superb and incomparable first scene in Pippa Passes impresses us, in every burning word, with an over-mastering sense of reality, almost to pain. But while in many instances the most stringent demands of dramatic probability are almost faultlessly complied with, it must be acknowledged that very often, and more and more often latterly, these customary demands are slighted or violated by wholesale. As Mr. Raleigh remarks in his very interesting paper on "Some Prominent Points of Browning's Teaching," "He has a habit, paralleled by the historical method of Thucydides' speeches, of making his characters sometimes speak out what is best to be said on the occasion, without regard to likelihood of what they would say." This is a fact; is it a fault?
If the drama of Browning were the drama of Shakspere, it would of course be a very grievous fault for a character to speak some five hundred lines where in the course of nature he would say something less than five; but I have been trying to show that the dramatic principles of Browning are not those of Shakspere. Shakspere makes his characters live; Browning makes his characters think. A great deal of this apparent dramatic inconsistency is in reality only the consistent application of somewhat new principles, -the attempt being always to fathom the mind, and to explain, 23 best we may through the imperfect medium of words, the variety of its subtle workings.
Supposing this end in view, there are of course several ways of attempting it; but chiefly two. There is the ordinary method of the analytical novel (for the consummation of that process, see George Meredith's wonderful achievement The Egoist), the method of recounting the story throughout in the third person, adding parenthetic comments and explanations, running analyses of the soul's states: a method of great delicacy and utility, but apt sometimes, through over-elaboration and over-refinement, to become both artificial and dull. Then there is the other method, of putting all
the speech into the mouths of the characters, and letting them tell the story in such a way as to throw light at once upon the tale itself and upon the character of the teller. The teller, unconsciously to himself, must be made to exhibit at every turn some new phase of his mind, or some new aspect of his character; or perhaps consciously he must recall his thoughts or his emotions at particular important periods, analyzing his own sensations. There is a certain difficulty in this method, and withal a certain charm: charm it must certainly have for Mr. Browning, for it is his favourite way. He has employed both methods; but by far the greater number of his poems are written according to this. In that very masterly, but I suppose not very popular, work, Red Cotton Night-Cap Country, and in Sordello, we have the chief instances of story-telling in the third person, with mental analyses by the author in person. But even in these, how much of the best and subtlest is put into the mouth of Sordello or Miranda! Down to the smallest lyric, almost everything in Browning comes to us as if uttered word for word by some imaginary character or other. Thus we come back again to the monologue (or dialogue, as the case may be), and the question recurs: What is it that Browning means to give us in this, his favourite form of dramatic verse?
I answer, that he means to give us in this way a series of selfrevelations which shall be at once more complete and intimate than the objective drama usually associated with the act or imitation of speaking, and less artificial and intrusive than the continual obtrusion of the author as dissector or showman would make it. Of course, while something is gained, something is lost. We do not always feel, as we feel when reading Shakspere: "This is Life, caught in the act, and fixed for ever, as in deathless marble." Rather we feel: "This is Thought, a breath of the soul rendered immortal in words."
We have to accustom ourselves to the new method: it is imperative that we put ourselves at our poet's point of view. Goethe has a little parable in verse, which is well known, but can never be too well known. Songs are painted window-panes, he tells us, which, looked at from the outside of the church, appear dull and dim, but seen from within are bright and beautiful with patterns and picturings. The Herr Philister is always about, ready to tell us (looking across at the church-windows from the market-place), that really the thing is quite ugly and unintelligible. Is not the Herr Philister a frequent visitor to the outside of the church of Browning's poetry -eloquent on the dim distorted figures that
he sees on the window: "Those saints, apostles, men and women? Atrocious drawing!" Kommt aber nur einmal herein!
If only people would come inside! They would find, for one thing, and this is what we are at present concerned with, that it is quite possible to write subjective drama as well as objective, where the stage is the soul, not the world; and that this form of drama has its style as well as the other, a style to be understood. I find the keynote struck in a short parenthetic passage of immense significance in Red Cotton Night-Cap Country. It occurs immediately before the famous soliloquy (I must call it so for the nonce) of Miranda, as he steps out on the Belvedere that "Twentieth Day of April 'Seventy." He thought..
(Suppose I should prefer 'He said?' Along with every act-and speech is act― There go, a multitude impalpable
To ordinary human faculty,
The thoughts which give the act significance.
Who is a poet needs must apprehend
Alike both speech and thoughts which prompt to speak.
Part these, and thought withdraws to poetry:
Speech is reported in the newspaper.)
He said, then, probably no word at all,
But thought as follows-in a minute's space
One particle of ore beats out such leaf!"
Then follow the twenty pages, bringing before us the mood of the man, to the finest shades that speech can render.
I do not think there is a more important passage than this, out of the many important passages on the poet's art scattered over the whole twenty and odd volumes. It gives us, in a word, an explanation and a defence of those long and elaborate speeches which so grievously offend the Herr Philister (from his station outside the window).
"He said, then, probably no word at all,
But thought as follows-in a minute's space-
Of course the practical difficulty, with the poet and with the reader, is to differentiate thought from speech, speech from thought. It was hardly possible for Browning as a rule to give pure thought, apart from supposed speech. The strained and unnatural attitude of the soliloquiser has been well known to him; he has usually given to his monologues the character of speech, introducing often a silent listener, or a listener whose occasional utterances come to us only in a quoted or queried report by the principal speaker. This is perhaps a slight inconsistency; but it is an inconsistency scarcely avoidable,