Sir Walter Raleigh and His Time, With Other Papers

LITERARY NOTICES.

By CHARLES KINGSLEY, Author of “Hypatia,” “Two Years Ago,” etc. Boston: Ticknor & Fields. 12mo.

THIS collection of Mr. Kingsley’s miscellaneous writings is marked by the same qualities of mind and temper which have given celebrity and influence to his novels. An earnest man, with strong convictions springing from a fervid philanthropy, fertile in thought, confident in statement, resolute in spirit, with many valuable ideas and not a few curious crotchets, and master of a style singularly bold, vivid, passionate, and fluent, he always stimulates the mind, if he does not always satisfy it. The defects of his intellect, especially in the treatment of historical questions, proceed from the warmth of his temperament. His impulses irritate his reason. Intellectually impatient with all facts and arguments which obstruct the full sweep of his theory, he has an offensive habit of escaping from objections he will not pause to answer, by the calling of names and the introduction of Providence. He is most petulantly disdainful of others when he has nothing but paradoxes with which to oppose their truisms. He has a trick of adopting the manner and expressions of Carlyle, in speaking of incidents and characters to which they are ludicrously inapplicable, and becomes flurried and flippant on occasions where Carlyle would put into the same words his whole scowling and scornful strength. He frequently mistakes sympathy with suffering for insight into its causes, and an eloquent statement of what he thinks desirable for an interpretation of what really is. He has bright glimpses of truth, but they are due rather to the freedom of his thinking than to its depth; and in the hurry and impatient pressure of his impulses, he does not discriminate between his ideas and his whims. He seems to be in a state of insurrection against the limitations of his creed, his profession, and his own mind, and the impression conveyed by his best passages is of splendid incompleteness. It would he ungracious to notice these defects in a writer who possesses so many excellences, were it not that he forces them upon the attention, and in their expression is unjust to other thinkers, His intellectual conceit finds its vent in intellectual sauciness, and is all the worse from appearing to have its source in conceit of conscience and benevolence.

In spite of these faults, however, Mr. Kingsley’s reputation is not greater than he deserves. He is one of the most sincere, truthful, and courageous of writers, has no reserves or concealments, and pours out his feelings and opinions exactly as they lie in his own heart and brain. We at least feel assured that he has no imperfections which he does not express, and that there is no disagreement between the book and the man. He is commonly on the right side in the social and political movements of the day, if he does not always give the right reasons for his position. His love, both of Nature and human nature, is intense and deep, and this gives a cordiality, freshness, and frankness to his writings which more than compensate for their defects.

The present volume of his miscellanies contains not only his essays and reviews, but his four lectures on “Alexandria and her Schools,” and his “Loose Thoughts for Loose Thinkers.” Of the essays, those on “North Devon” and “My Winter Garden” are the best specimens of his descriptive power, and those on “Raleigh” and "England from Wolsey to Elizabeth,” of his talents and accomplishments as a thinker on historical subjects. The literary papers on “Tennyson,” “Burns,” “The Poetry of Sacred and Literary Art,” and “Hours with the Mystics,” are full of striking and suggestive, if somewhat perverse, thought. The volume, as a whole, is read with mingled feelings of vexation and pleasure; but whether provoked or delighted, we are always interested both in the author and his themes.