IN the first three numbers of their illustrated edition of Mr. Longfellow’s poems1 the publishers offer an earnest of what is to be, on the whole, the most considerable artistic enterprise yet attempted in America. It was very fit that this poet, and no other, should be chosen for such honor as the best endeavor of our best designers,engravers, and printers can render him. Of all the poets of our time he is by far the most widely known; and while no splendors of their art can add to his fame, his fame can publish everywhere the generous intention and the opulent achievement with which his countrymen have wished to recognize his genius. We speak of the work as a tribute of American art to Mr. Longfellow, rather than as a mere business venture on the part of the publishers; for in the cordial response which it has met with from those qualified to promote it, this has really become its character. Mr. A. V. S. Anthony, long associated by his taste and his labors with the illustrated publications of the house, is the artistic editor of the work, and has complete charge of it, from the selection of artists and the suggestion of subject to the final preparation of the plates for the press. Of the artists whose help he has invoked, none have declined who could possibly shape their work to his need ; most of the most eminent have eagerly come to his aid ; some who were supposed to be out of the question by reason of their engagements have turned from pressing tasks to offer their contributions; and all have made it occasion to testify their appreciation of the importance and acceptability of the enterprise. In this spirit he has the coöperation of such painters as Messrs. Boughton, LaFarge, Eastman Johnson, Thomas Moran, the Giffords, Whittridge, Colman, Appleton Brown, Shapleigh, J. D. Smillie, Shirlaw, Winslow Homer, J. R. Key, Hennessey, Fredericks, J. W. Wood; such designers as Mrs. Hallock-Foote, Messrs. E. A. Abbey, C. S. Rheinhart, Ipsen, Frank Schell, Hoppin, A. R. Wand, D. C. Hitchcock, W. H. Gibson, Miss Jessie Curtis; such engravers as Messrs. Linton, Davis, Bogert, Southwick, Speer, Morse, Hallowell, Harley, King, Varley, Andrew, Russell, and Richardson.
A very pleasant incident of the work, which the sympathetic reader will like to know, is the interest which the poet himself has taken in naming subjects for illustration. These, some three hundred out of the six hundred which are to illumine the thousand broad pages of the edition, are always actual views of places and portraits of real persons named, For these the best materials have been studied, with such poetic result in the opening numbers as Mr. Schell’s beautiful sketch of the Bridge of Prague for The Beleaguered City ; the street, true to fact and sentiment, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for the Hymn of the Moravian Nuns; the Old Mill at Newport for The Skeleton in Armor; Column’s richly picturesque and characteristic streets in Madrid for The Spanish Student; and Barnes’s rendition of the peaceful beauty of a stretch of the Cambridge flats for the poem To the River Charles. The illustration for The Village Blacksmith is a view of the “smithy” from a sketch in Mr. Longfellow’s possession, and shows it as it stood long ago on the qnaint Cambridge street, where the customary mansard roof now overlooks the site of “the spreading chestnut-tree,” sacrificed some years since to the possibility that harm might come from its branches to a man driving a load of hay under it on a dark night. Wherever it has been practicable, original studies of locality have been made, and no trouble has been spared to verify details in the more imaginative illustrations. An instance of care in this direction is to be found in the pictures for the ballad of King Christian ; the powerful head of the king is after a photograph from a painting in the Museum at Copenhagen, and the deck-fight is mainly from a historical painting in the same gallery. Not only quality but character also has been given to the illustrations in minor matters, where neglect might have been easily overlooked. Mr. J. Appleton Brown’s pines in the beautiful illustration for the Prelude to the Voices of the Night, and Mr. R. S. Gifford’s pines and birches in that for The Spirit of Poetry, are not more characteristic of New England than the softly rounded hill-tops in Mr. W. L. Sheppard’s sketch of the school-house “ by Great Kenhawa’s side” are characteristic of West Virginia. It was not essential that they should be characteristic, but if fidelity in such things can be added to the ideal truth and beauty, it is something to be glad of. Another of the lesser satisfactions of the book, for which the reader is to be grateful to Mr. Anthony, is the occurrence of the pictures at just the point in the text which they are meant to illustrate, and not several pages before or beyond.
We do not know how far it may be feasible to assign each poem to a particular artist, as in these early numbers the Coplas de Manrique has been given to Mr. Rheinhart, The Children of the Lord’s Supper to Mr. Abbey, and The Spanish Student to Mr. Fredericks ; but we hope it may be done at least in the case of the shorter poems throughout the edition. The work of Mr. Fredericks especially is of charmingly good effect. He has shown more than any other of our designers an aptness for that sort of dramatic expression which makes much of costume and of mise en scène ; he is in a good sense theatrical, and he is here at his best. In looking at his illustrations, one feels that if this delightful play could be perfectly put upon the stage, the people in it would dress, and would sit, stand, move, and look, as they do here. What an admirable scene, for instance, is that first one, where Lara sits smoking in his dressinggown, and chatting with Don Carlos; how delicious is Preciosa where Victorian has climbed to her on the balcony ; how superb where she finds Lara in her chamber; what Life and humor there is in her dance before the applauding cardinal and archbishop; how picturesquely gay and Spanish the encounter of Victorian with Hypolito and Don Carlos in the Prado ! It is quite like seeing The Spanish Student played ; and we mean this for the highest praise, since a drama demands theatrical, not realistic, illustration. The realism of these charming pictures is in the men’s dress, minutely yet vividly studied from that of the close of the last century, when the strange taste of the Parisian incroyables had penetrated everywhere; the women’s dress suggests rather than reproduces the period; but all is of a fitness, a harmony, in which Mr. Colman’s serenading scene, with its cavalieresque costume, strikes a jarring note, rich and fine as it is in its own way.
Of a very different excellence are Mr. Abbey’s pictures for The Children of the Lord’s Supper, with their tender Northern blonde types of childhood. The little girl pacing churchward, beside the dark stonewall, is as blue-eyed and yellow-haired as if she were a sketch in color instead of black and white. She is wholly Scandinavian and peasant; and so are the children kneeling in church before the bishop. The group of angels in another illustration are not so good : they are respectively self-satisfied and thoughtfully sentimental in expression ; but then it is perhaps difficult to do angels for want of studies from life. Mr. Abbey, however, has radiantly succeeded in his full-page picture for The Skeleton in Armor : that is full of the ideal truth and loveliness which he has missed in his company of complacent seraphs;
Yielding, yet half-afraid,”
is a dream of tender, girlish beauty.
Among the other more notable illustrations in these numbers are Mr. Moran’s rich night-scene for The Light of Stars; Mr. Brown’s group of autumn trees and stretch of autumn meadow for Autumn ; Mr. Abbey’s fancy for The Two Locks of Hair; Mr. Schell’s vignette for The Rainy Day, — a bit of vine-clambered wall from which the gusts beat the dying leaves, and from whose flooded eaves coldly spills the wind-tossed rain; and Mr. Waud’s vista in the Dismal Swamp, with the gaunt-limbed, moss-grown trees about the stagnant water.
As may have been inferred, the plan of all these illustrations is in distinct opposition to the theory that the illustration of modern literature should be in the spirit of mediæval illumination; that is, that it should pictorially annotate the text with whatever wayward fancy it suggests to the artist. This theory, if a whole work could be delivered to one designer for the occupation of his life, might be realized, and might be more or less satisfactory; but it is quite incompatible with contemporary conditions. Illustration must still, and probably always will, — with very rare exceptions, — be done upon the plan of reproducing in line what is said or hinted in words, and the designer will succeed or fail as he infuses more or less of his own life into what must be first literally faithful. It is the question, in another form, of translation or paraphrase, of trying to give the spirit in the body, or the spirit without the body. The latter is a task so delicate that it will probably remain the unattainable ideal of critics who can do neither. In fact, after all the talk, and all the print, in praise of illuminative illustration, it would be difficult to allege any quite successful or striking instance of its application. There are occasional pleasing touches of it in the vignettes of this Longfellow, as of other beautiful illustrated works, where the text seems to break into quaint conceit of bird or blossom, or running vine, framing a face or a glimmer of landscape; and here it probably fulfills its only possible office, leaving a vast field for more positive interpretation, into which we may be sure the mediæval illuminators would have entered if they had known how. But if illuminative art is scantily present here, the spirit of the most suggestive decorative art abounds in the exquisite titles designed by Mr. Ipsen. In the three numbers before us there are some ten of these, in which it is hard to say which is most suggestive and charming, — the varied use of conventional forms, or the refined caprice with which a bit of realism in bird or flower is here and there introduced. The second title to The Spanish Student and the first to Poems of Slavery are rich instances of the first; those of Voices of the Night and Earlier Poems, of the second. But in whatever spirit these designs are, they sparkle with a fresh and joyous life ; they dance to the delighted eye; they are full of variety and beauty and sympathy, and once seen they immediately relate themselves to the poetry which they announce.
All but two of the pictures here are executed in pure line, and we learn that throughout the edition none others will be done in the manner reprobated on another page of this magazine by Mr. Linton as alien to the function and genius of wood-engraving. What this bad and false school is the present critic gladly leaves Mr. Linton to explain, and contents himself with stating the fact of its exclusion from the illustrated Longfellow. Mr. Anthony, whom we have already mentioned as the artistic editor, is no less than Mr. Linton the enemy of the corrupt school and the friend of pure line, and with him has rested a decision which must have a large influence on American wood-engraving. It would not be easy to explain how much the edition owes in all respects to his zeal, his taste, and his vigilance. It has been his affair not merely to suggest and place the illustrations, but often to prescribe the treatment of the subject, and to furnish the designer the historical material to work from, in accurately studied armor, costume, and locality. It is to him that the first numbers owe their perfection in this respect, and it is to his labors, otherwise tacit, that the work must owe the harmony in which its vast variety of detail unites.
— A book whose subject has long and deeply fascinated the writer has always a quality of its own, which seldom fails to prove an engaging one. The charmed interest with which objects have been regarded by him becomes in his book2 an atmosphere about them whose effect is poetic, like that of the physical atmosphere upon the objects of the landscape. This quality should be possessed in a high degree by Mr. Conway’s elaborate and unique work. Twenty years ago he was already writing and speaking upon his present subject ; and it has clung to him, rather than he to it, ever since. A stranger to superstitious terror, he has nevertheless been haunted by the monstrous shapes which the terrors of imaginative superstition have created. The spell, partly intellectual curiosity, partly an interest of a graver sort, which conjured them up wrought almost too effectually; and he found that the only means to lay them must be an elucidation of their mystery. When he should cause the light to shine through them, discovering the secret of their existence, then, and not sooner, he would be quit of his ghostly company. The task thus proposed to him, or rather imposed upon him, was by no means a light one. It is easy to laugh at the grotesque and absurd, easy to inveigh against the revolting and horrible, in the dark imaginings of mankind ; but to explain is hard, for it is to find the reason of unreason, the being and substance of unreality, the law of folly, and logic of lunacy. The difficulty which thus arises from the quality of the matter is enhanced by its quantity and variety. The human mind has been astonishingly fruitful of monstrous and menacing shapes, each with its own peculiarity of ugliness. Now a century since it might have been thought enough to show that these apparent objects are unreal, and belief in their existence is a superstition; but the scientific spirit of our day, in its search of natural origins, does not content itself so easily. Superstitions are a very interesting study, and the interest in them begins at the point where, as recognized superstitions, they quite cease to claim belief. When it is out of doubt that the seeming objects before which credulity has cowered are of its own creation ; when it is also seen that this process has been universal, and therefore due to a mental necessity, and, moreover, that it has been at least an attendant upon the spiritual development of humanity, we become aware that those apparitions, remote, strange, uncalled for, as they now appear, belong to the history of the human mind ; and one may well inquire what is the law of their apparent existence. Science says of them that they are the forms in which the human race has spontaneously and unconsciously pictured its afflictions, its temptations, and sins; as, on the other hand, its aspirations have been painted in the shapes of heroes and gods. At once, however, the further inquiry arises, Why that unconscious picturing? The answer is that it was the necessary form of primitive thinking. There is a language of the mind as well as one of the tongue; and even more than verbal speech that mental language changes from stage to stage of intellectual development. This it is which makes the difficulty of reading the most ancient books with understanding. When the Words have been translated, it is found that the thoughts must be translated also. Primitive mind, when it began to conceive of supersensual fact, produced a figure of some sort, a pictorial representation, which was taken for a real existence. Its thoughts appeared to it as external personal beings. In these forms of imagination, not known to be merely such, the ideal life of man first disengaged itself, and became pronounced. “Personification,” it is called ; but of what ? Of outward objects only, so many have said. In truth, it was always the thought and sentiment, the motion and emotion, of the human spirit, teeming with a life peculiar to itself, which were personified. In such personification, or picture-thinking, the spiritual history of our race began, and for the reason that the mind could utter its deeper import to itself in no other way. The process continues long, and its results are with us as traditions at the present time. As an immediately productive process, however, it is now discontinued ; and its traditional deposit has to all men largely, to many wholly, become recognizable as imaginary.
In this lies an intellectual revolution and a moral crisis. Mr. Conway is conscious of the change, and is among those who most participate in it. But instead of turning with light scorn away from that past, whose imaginations have become incredible to him, he is drawn toward it by a new and irresistible interest. Because he cannot believe with it, he must find in its belief the human motive, the touch of nature that makes all men kin. His is not a shallow nature, which could complacently feel itself sliced off, as it were, from the past life of mankind, even though separated by superiority. Rather, he shares the best spirit of this age, the roots of whose conscious being run deep, and which therefore would feel itself wounded by a mere “solution of continuity” in history. Besides, he is aware that the modern world, hastening forward under changed mental conditions to new and unknown destinies, will be the better prepared for its future the more intelligently and effectually it is able to interrogate its past. Thus honorably impelled, he has selected the very darkest chapter in what we have called the picture-thinking of the earlier world, with a purpose to find the human principles in what may seem the most inhuman imaginations, and to recover for the understanding that which, happily, can never be restored as belief. A hard task, it has been said; but the reader will see that it is worthy of the powers he has brought to it, of the industry he has lavished upon it, and of the absorbing interest which begot his labor.
In such an enterprise it must be the first work to search out and assemble the particular facts; and it will be the voice of all readers that in this respect the writer has rather surpassed than fallen below the measure of a reasonable expectation. From the four quarters of the world ; from places high and low, sacred and profane; from times so primitive that history, properly so called, does not extend to them ; and from times so recent that history has hardly as yet come up with them, he has drawn together, in enormous aggregate, the monstrous forms, with which the fearful sense of dependence, imperfection, or guilt, in union with the sense of all-enveloping, infinite mystery, has seemingly peopled earth and air, — places real and places as imaginary as the beings supposed to inhabit them. He has indeed quite uncommon qualifications for this labor. A diligent explorer of libraries, a rapid and tireless reader of books, he also finds books in living men, and a library wherever human beings, learned or unlearned, are to be met with. Nature has endowed him with a singular faculty of putting himself in communication with others, and with others of all degrees. Scholars and peasants, avchæologists and old wives, — he is at home with them all, and with all can give and take. He has the art of squeezing information for himself out of those who, one would say, have none for themselves. The fool, it has been said, will learn nothing from the philosopher, but, the philosopher may chance to learn much from the fool; and Mr. Conway, with his eager and alert intelligence, his wide observation and his power to open communication with men of all sorts, has often got instruction from those who themselves could neither teach nor learn. And he has been restrained in his researches hy no sentiment, whether of contempt or awe. The silliest modern superstition is fish for his net, and he takes it out with no grin, but with serious inquisitiveness and satisfaction upon his countenance. Into every traditional holy of holies, on the other hand, he thrusts the same inevitable face of inquiry, neither more reverent nor more irreverent than an interrogation point. The result of all is that he has got together a wonderful menagerie, not to be seen without astonishment by such as are in a measure new to this department of natural history. And even those more familiar with it will scarcely escape a surprise when, in the midst of the strange collection, they come upon representatives of species which might be supposed to have become extinct many ages since, or, at the utmost, to lurk now only in the wild and waste places of the earth, but which this inevitable trapper has caught running in the most cultivated lands of civilization. Who could imagine the hungerdemon extant here in America ? But within the decade it has been captured in Chicago and in Rhode Island. True, the creature is in somewhat reduced circumstances ; it has not here the luxuriant development which it attains in cannibal imaginations; but the identity of species is quite clear.
The quality, however, of a writer is more shown in his use of material than in its accumulation. It is true, indeed, that in a work like the one before us the collection of examples sufficient in number and variety to represent fairly the whole productive activity of the human mind in that direction must be a labor of high relative importance. Just in proportion to its success, however, it calls for another labor, still more arduous. The seemingly heterogeneous mass of imaginations would be little more than a bewildering curiosity, were it not simplified by some orderly arrangement. Nor would it by any means suffice for Mr. Conway’s purposes to arrange his facts in such an outward order as should render them conveniently presentable. He desires that they should be not only presentable, but intelligible. His aim is to classify them according to their interior, producing principles, so that in every group we may see at once the tie of relationship which makes its unity, and the root in human nature from which the whole has grown. Thus, the classification will be itself an elucidation, the facts explaining themselves as they come before the eye; and he will be spared the necessity of a continuous explanation in detail, which would be tedious to himself, and might probably become so to the reader. The design was excellently conceived, and has been ahly carried out. Of course, room remains for doubt with regard to some particulars amid such a multitude. The tracing of genealogies, if pushed much beyond the nearest relationships, is commonly a puzzling business, and if continued far enough ends at last in sheer obscurity. The genealogy of demons and devils is certainly not to be determined with less difficulty than that of human beings. There are independent productions of the same conception, where the relationship is natural without being historical. On the other hand, imaginations which have the same historical lineage migrate in different directions, and acquire diversities of feature that disguise their relationship almost or quite beyond recognition. In such a case, a student who has a fine aptitude for his work will obtain real identifications from hints so slight as to seem quite insufficient to one less skilled in such labor, or endowed with a scent less keen ; while at the same time no caution will secure him against apparent identifications, which, however, are apparent only. Mr. Conway gives us the impression of an intelligence rather daring and penetrating than circumspect and discreet, and we are sometimes distanced by his swift flights; but it cannot be doubted that his boldness is both intelligent and conscientious, nor that he has, on the whole, really executed his design.
First of all, he distinguishes broadly between demons and devils. The demon seeks only the satisfaction of its natural appetites, but is so constituted that it must satisfy them at the expense of the human race. It is monstrous and afflictive, but not, in the strict sense, malevolent. In the devil, on the contrary, pure malignity appears. It loves evil with disinterested affection, and does evil not only with delight, but with a kind of religious devotion. The former has its occasion in the physical, the latter in the moral, experience of mankind. The more revolting conception belongs, therefore, to the higher stage of development. This may surprise, but it is quite in the natural order. Evolution, so far from being simple, linear advance, is a highly complex movement. Roman Christianity in the eighth century was a much higher form of religion than the old Norse faith ; but, as Mr. Kemble has remarked, the Scandinavian Loki was an almost admirable figure compared with the hideous and disgusting devil of the Christianized Anglo-Saxons. The Roman Church first began to make a business of murdering heresy, not in the “ dark ages,” but at the most advanced stage of mediaeval civilization. The witchcraft craze, in which it may be seen that, though there were no witches, whole nations and ages were nevertheless but too truly bewitched, was in like manner a late product. With the higher and better comes the lower and worse ; and there would be forever an equal development upward and downward, were it not in the nature of the better to extinguish at last its odious concomitant. Mr. Conway’s distinction, therefore, between demonic and diabological representations, with their relative position, is sound and necessary, while it signifies his recognition of a complexity in the process of historical growth of which evolutionists have been too little apt to take notice ; and whether or not his terms have commonly been used in the sense he assigns them, they may be so with propriety and with advantage.
Placing the dragons as an intermediate class between the two principal ones, he begins with the most elementary, and arranges it in groups, each of which has a motive peculiar to itself. For example, hunger, heat, cold, tempest, and flood have severally begotten in human imagination a family of preternatural figures. The groups are well made out, the generating motive clearly traced, the examples abundant, striking, and often surprising. When, however, diabolical representatives are reached in the second volume, the treatment becomes still more difficult, and it may at times be seen that the writer works with less ease. Here the begetting motive is no longer outward ; only in the soul itself are the hunger and heat, the tempest and sickness, that awaken its fears and give them apparent forms. For the most part, however, he is master of his material; that he is always so we should hesitate to assert. Perhaps the proper statement would be that he now and then seems a trifle too much its master, and subjects it to a certain compulsion. His procedure is utterly frank and guileless; the facts are in no slightest degree “ doctored,”but interpretations occur that seem not to come easily from the facts, but suggest an effect of mood. We have particularly in mind his new and peculiar construction of the Abrahamic legend and the chapter upon The Holy Ghost. The latter is, moreover, disfigured by a quotation of some length from Mr. Henry G. Atkinson, who has been at pains to tell in writing of a fine thing said by him one day. He was asked, “ What is the Holy Ghost?” and he answered that it is a pigeon, and that Christianity is pigeon worship; adding that pigeons are held sacred in St. Petersburg, and following this observation with a trivial anecdote. Now, it is conceivable that to a serious, fullminded man like Mr. Conway, this delicate sally might suggest the question, really an interesting one, how the dove became the accepted symbol of the spirit or breath of God. So the barking of a dog might chance to suggest an important question concerning the origin of language; in which case it would not be necessary to fill one page of a consequent chapter upon language with bow-wows. But if our author may for once be “left” to borrow an impertinence from another, he has none of his own; if his interpretations are at times doubtful, he leaves, even in that ease, a pregnant question with the reader; and, as Bacon said, though we forget his words, he that can ask a right question is already half-way advanced on the road to knowledge. Meantime, in the intellectual and moral courage which breathes, like fresh morning air, through the book; in the vast extent of the field traversed at every point with the step of a strong man; in the broad light cast upon many dark regions; in the exhibition of definite results elicited from scattered and obscure indications; in the not infrequent examples of searching and productive criticism; and in the influences of a quickening spirit, whose every touch provokes thought or begets inquiry, — in these and kindred features, and more than all, in the ensemble of the book, the whole thought and design out of which it sprang and with which, through all details and speculations, successes and short-comings it is still luminous, it has qualities to reward richly the attention it is likely to attract.
But its general character would not be indicated, even in the very slight way here proposed, without noticing the depth and intensity of that practical interest by which it is pervaded. In the first volume, where demons and dragons are treated of, the purely scientific interest is clearly dominant, though there are keen glances at existing conditions which show that the writer is far from being unmindful of them; but in the second volume, whose sub-title is The Devil, there is a marked change of tone. Mr. Conway bears in his heart a heavy charge against the establishments of the present day, whether within Christendom or without it. He sees in the present time two great evils. The first is a profitless expenditure of spiritual force. There are quite real hells here on earth, calling loudly for a mighty labor of purification. There are demons and devils, neither supernatural nor personal, but real influences nevertheless, and not haunting disreputable places only. There is a work of reconstruction and regeneration to be done, and already too long delayed ; seeds of death to be destroyed, seeds of life to be sown, and time pressing. The moral force, that should uproot and plant, is not altogether wanting, but, as he thinks, is too largely wasted upon spectres. The eye wanders : instead of interrogating fact, it dwells upon dreams; what is before it, full of promise, of menace, of blessed and boding possibilities, it does not see, or but half sees, for it is looking elsewhere. Men bring sacrifices to dead gods, and are deaf to the living, eternal spirit. Worship walks in its sleep, and is the more idle the more busy. Many teach, few instruct: —
But, swoln with wind and the rank mist they
Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread.”
As has been remarked, Mr. Conway says little to such effect, and that little is spoken with quiet gravity; but a sense of it, not only deep but impassioned, is ever present with him; and, however widely one may differ from his judgment, it is impossible to be angry with a man whose opinion has to such a degree the dignity of moral conviction. But the higher forces of the human soul are not only wasted ; in his judgment, they are also very insufficiently developed, for the reason that the methods of moral culture are adapted to psychological conditions which are not those of our time. He is profoundly persuaded that noble, effectual duty can no longer be got out of each man’s hope and fear for himself, — hope of reward or fear of punishment hereafter. With large classes, those motives are dead, — dead utterly; with others they survive, but without moral virility; intrepid and intelligent duty they no longer beget. “ It is very difficult,” says Mr. Conway, “ to know how far simple human nature, acting its best, is capable of heroic endurance for truth and of pure passion for the right. . . . But if noble lives cannot be so lived, we may be sure that the career of the human race will be downhill henceforth. For any unbiased mind can judge whether the tendency of thought and power lies toward or away from the old hopes and fears on which the regime of the past was founded.” Seeing clearly, then, that in every age the spiritual or ideal forces are the saving ones, he believes that the great agencies through which that priceless power once operated serve now, very largely, to divert it from real to unreal objects; and, meantime, it seems clear to him that the power itself, no longer nourished by its ancient diet, and sparely fed with another, wants the vigor of health, and without a change of system is likely to want it more. Even the question whether, under the new intellectual conditions, this earth of ours can afford it the needed sustenance, — even this question he cannot answer with undoubting confidence. Such is the burden that lies upon his breast; and out of his book, even where it relates immediately to very remote matters, there issue, in another dialect, the summons of that spirit which of old might cry, “ Come up to the help of the Lord against the mighty.”
— Mr, James’s new book3 is a remarkable outpouring of profound philosophical thought and statement, in that peculiar vein which characterizes all the work of this deep and earnest writer. Those who have read the author’s former works, — his Christianity the Logic of Creation, his Substance and Shadow, and his Secret of Swedenborg, —and have succeeded in getting a definite idea of their purpose, will find this last book of his to be in several respects his most mature and satisfactory as well as his most explicit and lively work. The form of it being in a series of letters to a friend helps to make it what some persons call an exceedingly “ readable ” book. It is certainly anything but dull, though some pages require the closest attention. Like all Mr. James’s books, it is intensely earnest in expounding and enforcing the leading ideas of Swedenborg, not as the New Jerusalem church, but as the author himself, standing alone in a minority of one with respect to the Swedenborgians, conceives them. The serious reader who opens this book with the desire to see the most profound statement and illustration of the doctrines taught by the great Swedish seer will find nothing omitted by the writer that can help him over the most difficult places. A friendly hand is always extended to steady his steps and point out the road. Concise captions of subjects head every page. These letters abound in careful exegesis and plain and apt illustration, and are written with a reiteration of statement quite redeemed from monotony by their remarkable vivacity and rhetorical variety. Though so careful and eager to present his thought fully and clearly that he repeats it over and over, it is always in some new and fresh form. We do not hesitate in thinking Mr. James a master in a very original, powerful, and sonorous style. One regrets his occasional lapses into very unexpected objurgatory phrases and homely epithets, and his too impulsive flings at whatever does not agree with his convictions. The stream of his thought is far from being always clear and unruffled : it leaps up now and then in a half-playful, half-spiteful toss of foamy feeling, which is entertaining, but sometimes regrettable; yet on the whole pardonable, when we see how unavoidably feeling and thought are blended in all his utterances. He speaks in the magisterial tone of one who has a right to do so, and does not hesitate to rap soundly the knuckles of the scientific men, the sectarians, the moralists, and especially the loudly - professing churchmen and selfrighteous Pharisees.
In this brief notice it will not be possible to attempt a rèsumè of this book. Its main purpose is the same as in his other books, — only here in more definite form, perhaps,— and is concisely indicated on the title-page. It is sufficient to say that the author professes to give a solution of the very deepest and most difficult spiritual problems that can exercise the hearts, consciences, and minds of men. It is a profound work of theology no less than of philosophy. And though many readers may differ with him, or feel unprepared to admit all his statements, we think no one can fail to derive from them much valuable inward suggestion, and stimulus to his highest thought and belief.
— Prince Bismarck still reminds observers of those men who carry thoughtful provision to the extent of buying, while in the best of health, tomb-stones, on which they carve appropriate statements, leaving only the date to be put on by survivors. It is not long since there were printed, with his consent and furtherance, copies of his letters to his wife during the late war between France and Germany; and now, as if he were modest about his skill with the pen, he has authorized Boswellian reports of his talk to be published in Germany, that the world may know exactly how great a man the German chancellor is.4 In a word, the prince seems possessed with an undying curiosity about the opinions of other people, and is doing his best to keep himself a prominent figure.
The book the reader is most forcibly reminded of by these volumes is Boswell’s Johnson, and the fact is satisfactorily established that Boswells are quite as rare as Johnsons. Dr. Busch proves conclusively that he is competent to do his part. Even in a land of office-holders, his servility is as nearly as possible unrivaled. His most noticeable quality is his more than human devotion to the master, the chief, as Bismarck is continually called.
Thus, he tells us, with what some will call excessive candor, that one day, when driving with the chancellor to the battlefield, Bismarck told him “that it was not proper for me to return the military salutes of officers who passed the carriage. The salute was not to him as minister or chancellor, but simply to his rank as general, and officers might take it amiss if a civilian took their salutes as including himself.” That there will be no lack of faithfulness in the report of a man of this kind is perfectly evident. Dr. Busch occupies his busy pen with the account of all varieties of incident. Food and drink occupy perhaps the most prominent place. Bismarck has an enormous appetite, and, like the king of beasts and a physician in London who sent a letter to one of the English papers a few years ago, he takes but one meal a day, but that is a large one, and during the late war, at any rate, was washed down by copious draughts of beer, confiscated French wine, and spirits. Full details, too, are given about the chancellor’s health : at times, and often during wars and civil troubles, he cannot sleep soundly; he wakes up, after resting an hour or two and ponders over all his anxieties till daybreak, when he falls asleep again until about ten, at which hour he takes a small meal. On the 31st of August, 1870, " the chancellor was again unusually communicative, and very accessible to questions. He spoke rather as if he had a cold. He had had cramp, he said, in his legs all night, which often happened with him. He was then obliged to get up and walk about for a while in his room with bare feet, and that usually gave him cold. So it was this time. ' One devil drove out the other ; the cramp went away, and the sniveling came on.' ”
Yet Dr. Busch does not confine himself to these slight matters, which possibly have their value. He visits the scene of action and gazes at the battle from a safe distance, and writes down what he sees, but this is merely incidental; his main work lay outside of the camp. His principal occupation was manufacturing public opinion according to the inspiration he derived from Bismarck’s lips. For this purpose he prepared editorials for various newspapers, and doubtless it is with some such intent that this book is published.
Dr. Busch draws his sustenance from what is called in Germany the Reptile Fund, that being the pet name of the sums of money devoted to official work in an apparently independent press. It was his task to tell editors what they were to say, or rather to say it for them. If report can be believed, he had already shown considerable capacity for this patriotic duty. He had been in youth a flaming revolutionist, and had “left his country for his country’s good,” to visit, among other places, the United States of America. After his return, he held at one time the place of editor of a German magazine, from which it is whispered that he was removed on account of alleged plagiarism. But Prince Bismarck seems to have only condescending affection for him, and to have treated him a great deal better than he deserved. After all, even a powerful minister probably finds it easier to get men with somewhat damaged reputations to do his dirty work for him. Dr. Busch, while apparently a faithful stenographer, shows his character very clearly by his continual contemptuous reference to Abeken, a man of a very different sort.
That Bismarck’s talk is bright cannot be denied. If Busch reminds one of Boswell, there is also considerable likeness between the chancellor and Dr. Johnson. It would be foolish to trace the analogy too far, but it may be worth while to point out a certain acerbity which was common to both, and in the matter of superstitions they would both do honor to the period when witches were burnt. Bismarck almost has the making of a spiritualist in him. He does not like to sit down thirteen at table ; he thinks Friday an unlucky day; and, more than this, he knows the year in which he is going to die. It is impossible that he should be mistaken, for it is a “mystic” number. That of course settles it.
But outside of these trivialities there is much of value in what Prince Bismarck says concerning religion. One forgets his superstition when reading such a passage as this: “How without faith in a revealed religion, in a God who wills what is good, in a Supreme Judge, and a future life, men can live together harmoniously, — each doing his duty, and letting every one else do his,—I do not understand. If I were no longer a Christian, I would not remain for an hour at my post.” And he adds: “If I did not believe in a divine order, — order which has destined this German nation for something great and good,—I would at once give up the business of a diplomatist, or I would never have undertaken it.” These passages also illustrate the prince’s frankness, and his frequent outspokenness concerning German pomposity and pedantry is another side of his divergence from the usual method of the eminent diplomatist.
One of the most striking of the things that Dr. Busch has noted down is the prince’s virulence against the French. Prejudice is only natural in time of war, — something of the same kind has been seen in other countries,— but it seems to have found in Bismarck a very ready victim. Yet there are redeeming sides in this, and he is far from being wholly given up to hate of his foes. As he said of a franc-tireur who had fired from ambush and killed a soldier: “He must be hung, but we must be polite to him, — polite even to the foot of the gallows; but hung he must be.” There are also instances given of his kindness to the soldiers, and to the sick and wounded of both sides.
Of this, as of other books, it is true that what the reader will find in it depends in great measure on his own feelings. But it will be hard for him to deny that he has received the impression of a great man who is not only witty, but frank to an unusual degree. The portrait is drawn by an unskillful hand, but the prince stands out as a most striking character ; we may think him right or wrong, discreet or indiscreet, but the fact of his greatness no one will deny; and that is enough to make this book, with all its faults, its author’s garrulity and snobbishness, a most entertaining revelation.
FRENCH AND GERMAN.
A man’s letters are almost always nearly like his talk, and it is fair to suppose that in these hastily written notes5 we get a very accurate representation of the manner of the eccentric genius, Hector Berlioz. Without in the least touching the question of his value as a musician, it may be possible to call the attention of our readers to the story of a hard-working, trouble-filled life, as it is set before us in this volume. His career was a curious one. He certainly had the artistic temperament, of which we hear most frequently when it is flaunted before us Philistines in defense of all manner of self-indulgence, and his sensitiveness stands out in almost every line he wrote. A brief introduction by the editor gives us rather fuller information concerning his life than we generally get in French collections of letters. Still, the reader cannot do better than turn to the musician’s own Mémoires, which fill two really extraordinary volumes. The letters show precisely the same ties as that book, and are written with the same unbounded extravagance. It would seem as if certain qualities of the Gaul, those namely, which most strike an unfriendly observer, were never found so combined in one person as in Hector Berlioz.
His whole life was one struggle against poverty and what he considered misrepresentation. His enemies — for such he regarded all who did not admire his work — he called idiots, etc., with great freedom, but he makes it plain that he must have been what is called a hard man to get along with. His unhappiness is only too evident; he was abnormally sensitive to blame, just as he was to praise, —for in his memoirs he has put a most complete collection of the compliments that were paid him, right and left, by individuals, when the community was deaf to the merit of his music. The story of his private life, melancholy as it is, shows his character very clearly. The tale of his projected and possibly attempted suicide when he was a student, for a disappointment in love, his first marriage, etc., are curious reading. But perhaps it is in his letters to his son, a young man who was more a torment than anything else, that the poor man is most distinctly seen. The boy, Louis, was a fickle, foolish creature, apparently, and this is the way his father writes to him : “Ah, my poor Louis, if I did n’t have you — Only think, I loved you when you were a mere baby, and it is so hard for me to be fond of children ! There was something in you that attracted me. Afterwards, it grew less at that stupid age when you lacked common sense; but since then it has come back, and grown, and I love you, as you know, and it must go on growing.” There is certainly a charming simplicity in that outburst of affection.
His vanity is so clearly marked in the letters that it seems unnecessary to do more than call attention to it. For, granting that Berlioz was right in his estimation of his own merits, he should certainly have looked with more gentleness on a cold world. If his account is exact, — and it is hard to imagine that a man of his temperament could b accurate in speaking of the ill treatment he received from others, — he certainly suffered outrageously. After all, that there was suffering there can be no doubt; the only thing open to question is the victim’s right to demand admiration from every one. If he never got it in France, he certainly had the coldness of his country-people made up to him by the way the Germans and Russians treated him. Their admiration was apparently unmeasured, and the poor man had some taste of happiness and satisfied ambition in their enthusiasm. Still, the public he wanted to conquer was the Parisian public, although he knew at the same time the exact value of its opinion on musical matters.
Of anything like calmness there is no trace in the letters of Berlioz. When he reads Lear, it is with intense emotion ; he rolls convulsively in the grass to satisfy his transports, and all his failures and disappointments (and they were many) call forth bitter cries from him. He has, too, kind words for his friends. He always speaks warmly of Mendelssohn, who was a fellow-student with him at Rome. It may he said here that in Mendelssohn’s published letter, dated March 29, 1831, Berlioz is spoken of as “ a perfect caricature, without a spark of talent, groping in the darkness, and imagining himself the creator of a new world, while he composes the most shocking things, and dreams and thinks of nothing but Beethoven, Schiller, and Goethe. At the same time his vanity is unbounded, and he looks down upon Mozart and Haydn, so that all his enthusiasm seems to me very suspicious.”In his memoirs Berlioz avenges himself for this statement, which met his eyes when the letters were published; but in general, although Mendelssohn did not praise everything that Berlioz had done, Berlioz speaks of his more successful contemporary with nothing but kindness. Failure and vanity did not make Berlioz envious of other men.
What one musician has to say of another is always of interest. Here is one of the remarks Berlioz made about Wagner, in a letter dated Paris, June, 1855 : “ Wagner, who is leading the old Philharmonic Society at London, ... is succumbing under the attacks of the whole English press. But he remains calm, I hear, being convinced that he is to be the master of the musical world in fifty years.” Of Von Bülow, “one of Liszt’s sons-in-law,” he says, under date of January, 1858, “ This young man is one of the most fervent disciples of that mad school which is called in Germany the school of the future. They are most devoted to it, and insist that I shall be their leader and standard-bearer. I don’t say a word, or write a word; sensible people will be able to see how much truth there is in it.” One more expression of his views on this subject, which was possibly more interesting a short time ago than it is now, must be given ; this is from a letter dated Paris, August, 1864: “There is a great festival day after to-morrow at Carlsruhe; Liszt has gone there from Rome ; they are going to have some music that will split your ears [à arracher les orielles]. It is the conventicle of young Germany, presided over by Hans von Bülow.”
Some of his later letters, in spite of the fact that one sees under their merriment the fatigue and sense of unwillingness to fight longer that marked his later years, are amusing; as, for instance, this one, written also in August, 1864, to M. and Mme. Darucke, at Brunnen, Switzerland: “My son has gone away again, my mother-inlaw has not come back, and I am bored à grand orchestre. The city I am living in is filled with finer memories than Switzerland can offer you. There is a house in the Rue de la Victoire where lived Napoleon, young commander-in-chief of the army of Italy ; it is from there that he started one day to go to St. Cloud to throw out of window the representatives of the people. On a place called the Place Vendôme is a high column which he had built of the cannon captured from the enemy. On the left of this place is a huge palace named the Tuileries, where some very curious things have happened. As to the houses in certain streets, you can have no idea of all the ideas they call forth in me. There are countries which have great influence on the imagination. Well, I am bored all the same.
“ Marshal Vaillant gave a most magnificent dinner, the other day. He made me sit next him, and overwhelmed me with attentions ; but the dinner lasted two hours. . . .
“ How happy you would be in Switzerland if you could have for breakfast such cheeses as there are here! And have you any notion of the melons? Do you have any wine that is fit to drink ?
“ No, no ; you live like anchorites; but it is all the fashion to be in Switzerland at this season. One of these days, Heller and I are going to dine at Montmorency or at Enghien, where there is also a LAKE.”
But jollity is not the prevailing quality to be found in the letters, interesting as they all are, — not for straightforward, unbroken reading, such as histories receive, but for dipping into here and there. The reader will find something in this book by the side of which poor novels are very pallid and lifeless.
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- The Poetical Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Illustrated. [Parts I., II., and III.] Boston : Houghton, Osgood & Co. 1879.↩
- Demonology and Devil-Lore. By MONCURE DANIEL CONWAY, M. A. With Numerous Illustrations. New York : Henry Holt & Co. 1879↩
- 1 Society the Redeemed Form of Man, and the Earnest of God’s Omnipotence in Human Nature. Affirmed in Letters to a Friend. By HENRY JAMES Boston : Houghton, Osgood & Co. 1879.↩
- Bismarck in the Franco-German War, 1871. Authorized Translation from the German of Dr. MORITZ BUSCH. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1879.↩
- Correspondence lnédite de Hector Berlioz. 1819-1868. Avec Hune Notice Biographique par DANIEL BERNAR. D. Paris: C. Lévy. Boston: Schönhof. 1879.↩