Imágenes de páginas

The porpoise would seem graceful if it was seen bending its head. The nerves of the lean quiver before the eyes like telegraphic wires, while the nerves of the fat repose like electric cables under an ocean of obesity; and because no emotion ever reaches the surface, we take the equableness for tranquility. Thus it is that bigness overcomes us all; and in nobler intercourse also admiration moves according to the law of gravity. When any of us come from London and meet the men of bolder mould in the great inland counties, metropolitan attenuity bows its head before provincial ponderosity.

My friend Mr. Herbert Spencer ought to have noticed this law of material respect before. Though we think we can, none of us do escape the influence of magnitude. When you gaze on men

of altitudinous proportion you feel that they have taken possession of the world. Their very nod seems a title deed to your deference, while the smaller people of diffident mien appear as though they had slipped through a crevice of the sky on to this planet, and are wandering about to find the lost aperture that they may get back again. Such persons give no trouble; they never think of preferring any demands lest they should be questioned; they are but too happy to be allowed to disappear without being called upon to give an account of themselves.

Far be it from me to pretend that provincial stoutness is one of mere material preponderance. The robustness pertains also to the understanding. Provincial ideas are not like metropolitan ones, stuck upon a pincushion, they are packed up in bales; and if we sometimes require machinery to move them, it is not because of their intrinsic density, but because of metropolitan deficiency of strength for transferring them. Is not massiveness of ideas owing to physical vigour? We are apt to go all round an idea, and sometimes retire without finding a place where it can be laid hold of. Whereas, if Mr. Bright, for instance, sees a conception lying about that does not give a satisfactory account of itself, he grasps it, as it were, by the collar, and holds it up for public interrogation, and if there be anything in it something is soon got out of it.

It is of the first importance in life that anyone should understand the advantages of his position. In no other way can he put them to the boldest use The supreme advantage of provincial

life is the opportunity of originality-an originality which can be seen by reason of its separateness. The greatest discovery in agriculture is the plan of growing pedigree wheat, which Major Hallett has demonstrated. A single grain yields a stronger and taller stalk, a richer and weightier ear, when it has adequate room to grow in. So it is with the provincial mind. Its ideas by standing well apart have greater opulence of space to expand in; while in London ideas are apt to be thin and feeble, because they are choked by contiguity, which is what Professor Tyndall means when he says the metropolitan air is too much vitalized. The moral of my paper is that the provincial mind has fecundity and force by reason of its position. In science, in industry and commerce, in politics, in journalism and poetry, it has stoutness of imagination and even gaiety. What the provinces seem to lack in material splendour often renders the metropolitan mind oblivious of that Titanic concentration of power, which unexpectedly enforces attention, and often compels acceptance. For myself I always think of the provincial mind as Samuel Bamford did of the Spring

[ocr errors]

Stout bringer of new life,

Welcome thou ever :

Though with thee comes the strife

Of changeful weather.

Ever young and coldly fair,

Grand with thy storm-blown hair,

Down casting snow-pearls fair
For earth to gather.


The provincial mind is the spring-land of the nation. metropolis is but the confluence of its mighty waters. They do not arise there; the metropolis has but the merit of attracting them. London is otherwise but the mirror of the provinces, where every man of genius who looks into it sees his own face.

Still the provincial mind has-I will not say a defect—but one peculiarity which might be named. It has a fixed eye. It sees clearly what is before it, and nothing escapes it within its own range. But it sees nothing beyond it, or around it. It does not ignore excellence in others; it does not know of it. Ignoring implies knowingness and intentional disregard. The tendency of the provincial mind is not only not to know; its tendency is not to believe in anything but itself. Its secret opinion is that

Nature exhausted herself in bestowing upon the provincial mind the ideas it has; and that other persons who profess to know something, are unconscious impostors; being unaware that all true conceptions were otherwise distributed before they applied for theirs. I do not say this is so, only that the provincial mind ofttimes, by inadvertence, gives this impression of itself. If I have ever shared such an impression it has been when watching the vicissitudes of public affairs. You know what happens every year. Some aspiring and ardent young publicist, who in the parlour of the Mitre or the Merchants' Hotel, is regarded as knowing all things from the beginning-and previously-is peradventure transferred to the Town Council, where he finds himself confronted by thirty or forty gentlemen, who are each under precisely the same impression as to their attainments, and he is astounded at the skill he has to acquire, and the delay which intervenes, before he establishes the ascendancy of his views there. If in due time it comes to pass that he enters Parliament, he is further dismayed at discovering himself face to face with a larger Town Council of 658 members, each believing with representative and concentrated obstinacy that he alone has the right ideas of the government of the world. I have watched a hundred men in the House of Commons, of just and strong ambition, grow pale with dying purpose as they stepped into that wilderness of infallibility, and the fierce blasts of contrariety of opinion first beat upon them. They are discouraged at the labour, the delay, the art, the tact, the power, the resource required to command consent there to a new or unwelcome measure. Were this foreseen there would be preparation and provision for it; but this dismay is the peculiar birth of the provincial mind. It is within my knowledge that the most aspiring publicists who have awakened the courage and hope of the provinces, are the first to feel discouragement in Parliament, and what is worse, to propagate it.

The one advantage of the metropolitan mind is that it has, like a lighthouse, a revolving eye. It sees all the country round. It awaits events with an amazed expectancy-is never disconcerted-and never despairs. Its welcome is given to genius, and its respect to artistic force. It knows that winning concurrence with the right is a pursuit of infinite labour and infinite worth, and that victory comes with facts and time. Its art is impartiality,

[ocr errors]

its strategy is patience, its grace is deference, and its strength toleration. It is wise, not by its own wisdom, but by its wisdom in getting wisdom.

I might amplify the argument, but when you have said all you have to say, what is the good of saying any more? In these days when thought is being stifled by garrulity, and the public judgment grows limp by being saturated with a solution of words, the most wholesome quality of the speaker's art is knowing when to stop. Many times when far away I have thought I could treat this subject with reasonable dexterity of statement. But so far as inaptness and hesitancy appear in my illustrations, you must forgive them. I recall a dinner in the north of England, many years ago, at the house of a county member, at which a baronet was present who complained of gout in his hands, though it was not apparent. He was a relative of a famous poet, and it no doubt resulted from too much indulgence in the Muse. The chairman of committees of the House of Commons, who sat next to him, said: "Ah, Sir John, what you have is suppressed gout, and that is the worst form of the disease." I thought at the time how many persons are there, other than baronets, who labour under diseases of suppression to which no sympathy is extended. All my life I have laboured under suppressed eloquence. I feel the throbbing of sentences which never come to the surface. shall never know all we might about rhetoric, until we have reports of the orations which have never been delivered. If I have failed now to convey to you the full idea of the provincial mind, ascribe it to the malady which I have mentioned.




[Read February 11, 1878.]

To make no allusion to the copious literature that exists on

the play of Hamlet would be either to leave one's self without excuse for going beyond verbal criticism, or to assume the first discovery of the problem which has, in fact, engaged a host of writers. It is well known that the difficulty which has attracted so many commentators is owing to a supposed indistinctness in the character of the chief person, and to the inference that Shakspere meant to illustrate some principle or convey some lesson. If any such indefiniteness were observed in one of the historic plays, its cause would reasonably be sought in the necessary, fancy-filled, interval that lies between the prose narrative and the poetic conception. But Hamlet is virtually a historical play. Traditions or fabulous legends must exercise as large a modification on dramatic compositions founded on them as established facts of history. This is matter of observation as well as of probability. Let us sketch the history of Saxo Grammaticus, which suggested directly or indirectly the character of Hamlet to the mind of Shakspere.

In the reign of Roderick, two brothers, Horvendile and Fengon, were joint rulers of a province. The King of Norway challenged Horvendile to combat, and was slain by him. The conditions of the fight were that all the riches in the ship of the vanquished should pass to the conqueror. Roderick gave his daughter, Geroth, in marriage to Horvendile. Hamblet was their son. Fengon murdered Horvendile, and had sufficient address to gain condone

« AnteriorContinuar »