Imágenes de páginas

felicity, incapable of strict analysis: effect of an intuitive condition of mind, it must be recognized by like intuition on the part of the reader, and a sort of immediate sense. In every one of those masterly sentences of Flaubert there was, below all mere contrivance, shaping and afterthought, by some happy instantaneous concourse of the various faculties of the mind with each other, the exact appre- 10 hension of what was needed to carry the meaning. And that it fits with absolute justice will be a judgment of immediate sense in the appreciative reader. We all feel this in what may be called inspired 15 translation. Well! all language involves translation from inward to outward. In literature, as in all forms of art, there are the absolute and the merely relative or accessory beauties; and precisely in that 20 exact proportion of the term to its purpose is the absolute beauty of style, prose or verse. All the good qualities, the beauties, of verse also, are such, only as precise expression.

rectness or purism of the mere scholar, but a security against the otiose, a jealous exclusion of what does not really tell towards the pursuit of relief, of life and 5 vigor in the portraiture of one's sense. License again, the making free with rule, if it be indeed, as people fancy, a habit of genius, flinging aside or transforming all that opposes the liberty of beautiful production, will be but faith to one's own meaning. The seeming baldness of Le Rouge et Le Noir is nothing in itself; the wild ornament of Les Misérables is nothing in itself; and the restraint of Flaubert, amid a real natural opulence, only redoubled beauty - the phrase so large and so precise at the same time, hard as bronze, in service to the more perfect adaptation of words to their matter. Afterthoughts, retouchings, finish, will be of profit only so far as they too really serve to bring out the original, initiative, generative, sense in them.

In this way, according to the well25 known saying, 'The style is the man,' complex for simple, in his individuality. his plenary sense of what he really has to say, his sense of the world; all cautions regarding style arising out of so many natural scruples as to the medium through which alone he can expose that inward sense of things, the purity of this medium, its laws or tricks of refraction: nothing is to be left there which might give con

all its varieties, reserved or opulent, terse, abundant, musical, stimulant, academic, so long as each is really characteristic or expressive, finds thus its justification, the sumptuous good taste of Cicero being as truly the man himself, and not another, justified, yet insured inalienably to him, thereby, as would have been his portrait by Raphael, in full consular splendor, on his ivory chair.

In the highest as in the lowliest literature, then, the one indispensable beauty is, after all, truth:— truth to bare fact in the latter, as to some personal sense of fact, diverted somewhat from men's 30 ordinary sense of it, in the former; truth there as accuracy, truth here as expression, that finest and most intimate form of truth, the vraie vérité. And what an eclectic principle this really is! employ- 35 veyance to any matter save that. Style in ing for its one sole purpose - that absolute accordance of expression to idea all other literary beauties and excellences whatever how many kinds of style it covers, explains, justifies, and at the same 40 time safeguards! Scott's facility, Flaubert's deeply pondered evocation of the phrase,' are equally good art. Say what you have to say, what you have a will to say, in the simplest, the most direct and 45 exact manner possible, with no surplusage: there, is the justification of the sentence SO fortunately born, 'entire, smooth, and round,' that it needs no punctuation, and also (that is the point!) 50 of the most elaborate period, if it be right in its elaboration. Here is the office of ornament: here also the purpose of restraint in ornament. As the exponent of truth, that austerity (the beauty, the func- 55 tion, of which in literature Flaubert understood so well) becomes not the cor

A relegation, you may say perhaps a relegation of style to the subjectivity, the mere caprice, of the individual, which must soon transform it into mannerism. Not so! since there is, under the conditions supposed, for those elements of the man, for every lineament of the vision within, the one word, the one acceptable word, recognizable by the sensitive, by others who have intelligence' in the matter, as absolutely as ever anything can be in the evanescent and delicate region

of human language. The style, the manner, would be the man, not in his unreasoned and really uncharacteristic caprices, involuntary or affected, but in absolutely. sincere apprehension of what is most real to him. But let us hear our French guide again.

Styles,' says Flaubert's commentator, 'Styles, as so many peculiar molds, each of which bears the mark of a particular 10 writer, who is to pour into it the whole content of his ideas, were no part of his theory. What he believed in was Style: that is to say, a certain absolute and unique manner of expressing a thing, i2 15 all its intensity and color. For him the form was the work itself. As in living creatures, the blood, nourishing the body, determines its very contour`and external aspect, just so, to his mind, the matter, 20 the basis, in a work of art, imposed necessarily, the unique, the just expression, the measure, the rhythm—the form in all its characteristics.'

If the style be the man, in all the color 25 and intensity of a veritable apprehension, it will be in a real sense 'impersonal.'

I said, thinking of books like Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, that prose literature was the characteristic art of the 30 nineteenth century, as others, thinking of its triumphs since the youth of Bach, have assigned that place to music. Music and prose literature are, in one sense, the opposite terms of art; the art of literature 35 presenting to the imagination, through the intelligence, a range of interests, as free and various as those which music

presents to it through sense. And cer

takes rank as the typically perfect art. If music be the ideal of all art whatever, precisely because in music it is impossible to distinguish the form from the substance 5 or matter, the subject from the expression, then, literature, by finding its specific excellence in the absolute correspondence of the term to its import, will be but fulfilling the condition of all artistic quality in things everywhere, of all good art.

Good art, but not necessarily great art; the distinction between great art and good art depending immediately, as regards literature at all events, not on its form, but on the matter. Thackeray's Esmond, surely, is greater art than Vanity Fair, by the greater dignity of its interests. It is on the quality of the matter it informs or controls, its compass, its variety, its alliance to great ends, or the depth of the note of revolt, or the largeness of hope in it, that the greatness of literary art depends, as The Divine Comedy, Paradise Lost, Les Misérables, The English Bible, are great art. Given the conditions I have tried to explain as constituting good art; then, if it be devoted further to the increase of men's happiness, to the redemption of the oppressed, or the enlargement of our sympathies with each other, or to such presentment of new or old truth about ourselves and our relation to the world as may ennoble and fortify us in our sojourn here, or immediately, as with Dante, to the glory of God, it will be also great art; if, over and above those qualities I summed up as mind and soul

that color and mystic perfume, and that reasonable structure, it has something of

tainly the tendency of what has been here 40 the soul of humanity in it, and finds its

said is to bring literature too under those conditions, by conformity to which music

logical, its architectural place, in the great structure of human life.



Stevenson's great-grandfather, grandfather, and father were engineers to the Board of Northern Lighthouses, and he was educated for the family profession. At twenty-one he asked to be allowed to give up engineering for literature, and his father consented on condition that he qualified for the Scottish Bar. Stevenson fulfilled the condition, but took as little interest in his legal as in his engineering studies, setting far more store by certain other odds and ends that he came by in the open street while he was playing truant.' At his chosen pursuit of literature, however, he toiled incessantly. He says: 'I imagine nobody had ever such pains to learn a trade as I had; but I slogged at it day in and day out; and I frankly believe (thanks to my dire industry) I have done more with smaller gifts than almost any man of letters in the world.' As a schoolboy he edited magazines and wrote essays, stories and plays; his first novel was turned into a historical essay and privately printed when he was sixteen. As an undergraduate at Edinburgh he established the University Magazine which ran four months in undisturbed obscurity and died without a gasp.' In 1873-4 he had half-a-dozen articles in various magazines, and his first book, An Inland Voyage, was published in 1878. It is an account of a canoe trip in Belgium and France made two years earlier. About this time Stevenson met and fell in love with Mrs. Fanny Osbourne, an American lady who came to study art in France. In 1878 she returned to California, and thither in 1879 Stevenson followed her. Some of his experiences in crossing the Atlantic and the American continent (though by no means all the sufferings he endured) are told in The Amateur Emigrant and Across the Plains. He arrived at San Francisco in desperate straits of health and pocket, and only Mrs. Osbourne's devoted nursing saved his life. After his recovery, they were married, and spent their honeymoon in the neighboring mountains, described in The Silverado Squatters. His first volume of essays, Virginibus Puerisque, was highly appreciated, but only by a few: it was a book for boys, Treasure Island, which made him suddenly famous. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Kidnapped were equally successful. During these years he was living in various health resorts in Europe and America; in 1888 he went for a long voyage in the Pacific, at the end of which he bought an estate and settled in Samoa. He endeared himself to the natives, and in spite of continued illness, did some of his best literary work. The year before his death he wrote: For fourteen years I have not had a day's real health; I have wakened sick and gone to bed weary; and I have done my work unflinchingly. I have written in bed, and written out of it, written in hemorrhages, written in sickness, written torn by coughing, written when my hand swam for weakness; and for so long, it seems to me I have won my wager and recovered my glove. I am better now, have been, rightly speaking, since first I came to the Pacific; and still, few are the days when I am not in some physical distress. And the battle goes on-ill or well, is a trifle: so as it goes. I was made for a contest, and the Powers have so willed that my battlefield should be this dingy, inglorious one of the bed and the physic bottle.' He was buried at the top of the mountain overlooking his Samoan home in a tomb inscribed with his own Requiem:

Under the wide and starry sky,

Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,

And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

tion, ignorance of his neighbors is the character of the typical John Bull. His is a domineering nature, steady in fight, imperious to command, but neither curi5 ous nor quick about the life of others. In French colonies, and still more in the Dutch, I have read that there is an immediate and lively contact between the dominant and the dominated race, that a certain sympathy is begotten, or at the least a transfusion of prejudices, making life easier for both. But the Englishman sits apart, bursting with pride and ignorance. He figures among his vassals in the hour of peace with the same disdainful air that led him on to victory. A passing enthusiasm for some foreign art or fashion may deceive the world, it cannot impose upon his intimates. He may be amused by a foreigner as by a monkey, but he will never condescend to study him with any patience. Miss Bird, an authoress with whom I profess myself in love, declares all the viands of Japan

Two recent books,' one by Mr. Grant White on England, one on France by the diabolically clever Mr. Hillebrand, may well have set people thinking on the divisions of races and nations. Such thoughts should arise with particular con- 10 gruity and force to inhabitants of that United Kingdom, people from so many different stocks, babbling so many different dialects, and offering in its extent such singular contrasts, from the busiest 15 over-population to the unkindliest desert, from the Black Country to the Moor of Rannoch. It is not only when we cross the seas that we go abroad; there are foreign parts of England; and the race 20 that has conquered so wide an empire has not yet managed to assimilate the islands whence she sprang. Ireland, Wales, and the Scottish mountains still cling, in part, to their old Gaelic speech. 25 to be uneatable - a staggering pretension. It was but the other day that English triumphed in Cornwall, and they still show in Mousehole, on St. Michael's Bay, the house of the last Cornish-speaking woman. English itself, which will now frank the traveler through the most of North America, through the greater South Sea Islands, in India, along much of the coast of Africa, and in the ports of China and Japan, is still to be heard, in its home 35 country, in half a hundred varying stages of transition. You may go all over the States, and setting aside the actual intrusion and influence of foreigners, negro, French, or Chinese- you shall scarce 40 meet with so marked a difference of accent as in the forty miles between Edinburgh and Glasgow, or of dialect as in the hundred miles between Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Book English has gone round 45 the world, but at home we still preserve the racy idioms of our fathers, and every county, in some parts every dale, has its own quality of speech, vocal or verbal. In like manner, local custom and 50 prejudice, even local religion and local law, linger on into the latter end of the nineteenth century imperia in imperio [kingdoms within the kingdom], foreign things at home.

In spite of these promptings to reflec

1 1881.

So, when the Prince of Wales's marriage was celebrated at Mentone by a dinner to the Mentonese, it was proposed to give them solid English fare- roast beef and 30 plum pudding, and no tomfoolery. Here we have either pole of the Britannic folly. We will not eat the food of any foreigner; nor, when we have the chance, will we suffer him to eat of it himself. The same spirit inspired Miss Bird's American missionaries, who had come thousands of miles to change the faith of Japan, and openly professed their ignorance of the religions they were trying to supplant.

I quote an American in this connection without scruple. Uncle Sam is better than John Bull, but he is tarred with the English stick. For Mr. Grant White the States are the New England States and nothing more. He wonders at the amount of drinking in London; let him try San Francisco. He wittily reproves English ignorance as to the status of women in America; but has he not himself forgotten Wyoming? The name Yankee, of which he is so tenacious, is used over the most of the great Union as a term of reproach. The Yankee States, of which he is so staunch a subject, are but a drop in the 55 bucket. And we find in his book a vast virgin ignorance of the life and prospects of America; every view partial, parochial,

but it does not stand alone in the experience of Scots.

not raised to the horizon; the moral feel-
ing proper, at the largest, to a clique
of States; and the whole scope and at-
mosphere not American, but merely
Yankee. I will go far beyond him in
reprobating the assumption and the in-
civility of my country folk to their cousins
from beyond the sea; I grill in my blood
over the silly rudeness of our newspaper
articles; and I do not know where to 10 felt ourselves foreigners on many com-

look when I find myself in company with
an American and see my countrymen un-
bending to him as to a performing dog.
But in the case of Mr. Grant White ex-
ample were better than precept. Wyom- 15
ing, is, after all, more readily accessible
to Mr. White than Boston to the Eng-
lish, and the New England self-sufficiency
no better justified than the Britannic.

England and Scotland differ, indeed, in law, in history, in religion, in education. 5 and in the very look of nature and men's faces, not always widely, but al ways trenchantly. Many particulars that struck Mr. Grant White, a Yankee, struck me, a Scot, no less forcibly; he and I

[ocr errors]

mon provocations. A Scotchman may tramp the better part of Europe and the United States, and never again receive so vivid an impression of foreign travel and strange lands and manners as on his first excursion into England. The change from a hilly to a level country strikes him with delighted wonder. Along the flat horizon there arise the frequent venerable towers of churches. He sees at the end of airy vistas the revolution of the windmill sails. He may go where he pleases in the future; he may see Alps, and Pyramids, and lions; but it will be hard to beat the pleasure of that moment There are, indeed, few merrier spectacles than that of many windmills bickering together in a fresh breeze over a woody country; their halting alacrity of movement, their pleasant business, making bread all day with uncouth gesticulations. their air, gigantically human, as of a creature half alive, put a spirit of romance into the tamest landscape. When the Scotch child sees them first he falls immediately in love; and from that time forward windmills keep turning in his dreams. And so, in their degree, with every feature of the life and landscape. ↑ The warm, habitable age of towns and hamlets, the green, settled, ancient look of the country; the lush hedgerows, stiles and privy pathways in the fields; the sluggish, brimming rivers; chalk and smock-frocks; chimes of bells and the rapid, pertly sounding English speechthey are all new to the curiosity; they are all set to English airs in the child's story that he tells himself at night. The sharp edge of novelty wears off; the feeling is scotched, but I doubt whether it is ever killed. Rather it keeps returning, ever the more rarely and strangely, and even in scenes to which you have been

It is so, perhaps, in all countries; per- 20 haps in all, men are most ignorant of the foreigners at home. John Bull is ignorant of the States; he is probably ignorant of India; but considering his opportunities, he is far more ignorant of 25 countries nearer his own door. There is one country, for instance its frontier not so far from London, its people closely akin, its language the same in all essentials with the English - of which I will 30 go bail he knows nothing. His ignorance of the sister kingdom cannot be described; it can only be illustrated by anecdote. I once traveled with a man of plausible manners and good intelligence,—a uni- 35 versity man, as the phrase goes,- a man, besides, who had taken his degree in life and knew a thing or two about the age we live in. We were deep in talk, whirling between Peterborough and London; 40 among other things, he began to describe some piece of legal injustice he had recently encountered, and I observed in my innocence that things were not so in Scotland. I beg your pardon,' said he, 45 'this is a matter of law.' He had never heard of the Scots law; nor did he choose to be informed. The law was the same for the whole country, he told me roundly; every child knew that. At last, 50 to settle matters, I explained to him that I was a member of a Scottish legal body, and had stood the brunt of an examination in the very law in question. Thereupon he looked me for a moment full in 55 long accustomed suddenly awakes and

the face and dropped the conversation. This is a monstrous instance, if you like,

gives a relish to enjoyment or heightens the sense of isolation.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »