The Contributors' Club

THE Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company announced an excursion to Harper’s Ferry for the third Thursday in August, “ round trip tickets one dol-

lar, five hours in Harper’s Ferry,” and made provision for three hundred tourists. Three thousand idiots sallied forth that day. By good luck more than by good management we reached Harper’s Ferry alive, uncrushed. We were bent on tranquil pleasure; therefore we resisted the enticements of tournament and boat race, and, turning a deaf ear (oh, so willingly !) on the brass band which suggested dancing somewhere, set our faces toward the Shenandoah, where we had been told there was a ferry. Such primitive customs these Virginians have ! The boat which our Charon brought us resembled nothing so much as an illmade bridge over a six-foot stream, cut from its resting-place. However, we landed in safety, and decided to go down the uninviting road, which ran beside the river, until we saw a cross-road; then we would follow that until we came to a farm - house, where we could buy some milk. The road was dusty and deserted; it was almost destitute of shade, too, as the trees were all cut down during the late war, and the young growth is not yet of much service. This lack of old or well-grown trees is, thanks to both armies, very noticeable on the banks of the Potomac as well as the Shenandoah. No cross-road opened a pleasing vista before us, but presently a turn in the road brought us to a small, solitary house without grounds. A woman was sitting on the porch, with her hands in her lap, idle, dreaming. Approaching her, we said, hesitatingly,—

“ Good - morning, madam! Can we buy a little milk of you? ”

“ Milk? Well, now, I’m right down sorry, but I ain’t got no milk. Fact is, we ain’t got ary cow.”

“ Can you direct us to any one near here who has cows ? ”

Oh, yes! There ’s some folks about quarter of a mile down yonder that ’s got a cow; reckon they’ll let you have some.”

One of us was an invalid, and another quarter mile just now was not to be thought of.

“ Is there a spring near ” —

“Yes, indeedy! ” exclaimed she, eagerly ; “ there’s a cold spring of splendid water on my land, close by. Jest wait a minute till I get a buckit, and I’ll go and show you the way,” she kindly volunteered.

Southern minutes are long. When she returned, bucket in hand, we saw that she had changed her dress, and had donned a clean calico in our honor.

The spring was in a cool, sheltered spot, overhung with tall, slender trees, and surrounded by large stones (which made comfortable seats), and one broad, flat rock, about five feet by seven, which nature evidently intended for a table; on this latter we spread the contents of our baskets, — sandwiches, biscuits, cookies, raisin bread, cake, pears, and peaches, — and prepared for a merry meal.

At our solicitation, but with much demur, the owner of the spring joined us in our feast, praising everything she ate; and as we sat there, talking, eating, laughing, what topic of conversation so naturally suggested by the surroundings as the war!

“ Yes, indeedy,” said our entertainer, in response to some question, “ they was fightin’ all round here; skirmishin’ right where you ’re settin’ now. The rebels come and burned everything — but there, now! Mebbe you ’re Southerners ? ”

“Not we,” was the unanimous response; “ we are Yankees, — Massachusetts Yankees at that.”

“ I’m powerful glad! I thought you did n’t talk like Southerners. As I was a-sayin’, the rebels burned all they could, and if it had n’t been for the Yankee soldiers camped round here we’d all ’a’ been killed. They know’d my father was Union, you see, and they had a spite against us.”

“ Are you a native of this part of the country? ”

“Yes, indeedy! I was born about twenty mile from here, but pap moved here when I was a little girl; he owned a right good bit of land round here before the war. Oh, the war has made a heap of difference here! We used to have gay times here oncet. Many and many’s tlie dance we’ve had on that there big stone your baskets is settin’ on; I’ve danced many a set there.”

We looked at the flat rock, we looked at her, and we said nothing; but we concluded that she must have worn tighter shoes when she was young, — or may be half the dancers stood aside, while the other half performed their evolutions.

Presently we rose to pursue our pilgrimage. Our hostess, whose name, age, and family history (she was unmarried) we had long since learned by her voluntary confessions, begged us to come into her house, and she would show us how her doors and walls were riddled with bullets which the gray had fired at the blue, encamped on the hills and along the road-side. She showed us, too, a hole in the head-board of her old-fashioned bedstead, and told us that her invalid mother was lying in the bed when the firing began, and that she had to take her under the bed for safety; the men were firing right through the window.

Our spinster was by no means elderly; she was but a girl when the war broke out, and she and her only brother lived alone in this solitary house, set close to the road-side. There was no vegetable garden, but a few weak bushes beside the porch — marigolds, asters, sunflowers — struggled into bloom, untended and uneared for. In front of the house, across the road, the land sloped down to the river, and was a tangle of young undergrowth. Behind it, so near that you could almost touch it with your hand as you leaned out the back windows, rose the steepest hill I ever saw; it was almost perpendicular, and it cast a heavy shadow over the house, even at high noon in August.

Can I describe the sense of utter desolation, of hopeless solitude, that this house gave us? No other dwellings in sight except those of Harper’s Ferry, across the Shenandoah; behind, the grim hill; before, the untraveled river. Inside, three rooms comprised the whole house: two were scantily-furnished bedrooms, and the third was parlor, diningroom, sitting-room, and winter kitchen beside (in summer I presume the cooking was in a small, rickety shed near the front porch), and opened directly upon the porch. On the floor of this apartment was a neat, cheap, gaudy carpet: at the three windows were green paper curtains; around the whitewashed wall five hard wooden chairs, one a rocker, were primly arranged ; between the two back windows was a table, draped with a red and black cover, on which lay a Bible and hymn-book; on the narrow wooden mantel-piece, painted black, was an oil lamp. This was all.

In this room, without even a pleasant outlook, that lone woman spends her life. No clock, no picture or engraving to relieve the staring wall, no vase or ornament on the mantel, no sign of sewing, knitting, or womanly work; even the closet (into which we had a peep when she placed therein some cake and fruit we gave her) was almost bare of dishes. What did she do through all the long winter evenings, — during the many stormy days even in summer? Read? No, she owned that she could not read, “ only to pick out a bit in the Bible, which I know right well,” when we asked for her post-office address, in order to send her a stray newspaper or magazine now and then.

Our friend was no gossip; she said she had “ most no neighbors at all,” and seemed to esteem a busy Irish family nearer the ferry as too far below her social level to be considered as acquaintances. That our chance visit was a godsend to her we could not doubt. When we went away she shook hands most warmly with us all, begged us to come again soon and see her, and thanked us over and over for the “delicious lunch.”

No accident occurred to mar our pleasure that day, yet we never think of our luncheon by the Shenandoah without sadness for the pitiful, empty, lifeless life that poor spinster endures! There still exists in Virginia, but more especially among the less educated, something of that old, before-the-war feeling that manual labor is only for the colored race, and that too much acquaintance with books unfits a woman for — what ? Equal companionship with her husband and brothers, perhaps, or contentment in such an existence as our hostess knows. — Mr. Richard Grant White’s sketch of the English farmer is good so far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. For instance, Mr. White says, “ But however prosperous, he [the English farmer] never dreams of such a thing as setting up for a gentleman; nor does he seek to acquire the tastes or the habits of one, although he may be better able to afford them than many of those who have them by birth and breeding. The truth is, they would not suit him; to be obliged to live like a gentleman would be to him a daily affliction,” etc. This is quite true of the old-fashioned, lineally descended farmer, but it is not correct of another daily-increasing class of farmer, many specimens of which may be found in the counties of Leicester, Northampton, Rutland, and Lincoln. In these splendid agricultural districts are met the representatives of the new type of English farmer, gentlemen by birth and breeding, of university education, of hereditary wealth, who have been made farmers in this wise: In an old, highlypolislied civilization it is always fashionable to affect a love for rusticity. So the over-civilized Ralph or Eadward, with a streak of romanticism ornamenting his common sense, determines to be a farmer; for are not Slume. Moor Park, the Sabine Farm, classic memories ? The facilities are providential. A well-to-do, gentleman-like farmer takes from two to six young gentlemen as boarders, at from one hundred to three hundred guineas per annum. So the over-civilized Eadward goes down to the country, followed often by bis hunter, hack, and groom. For three or four years the seasons kindly alternate, giving him an opportunity of studying the changes of the weather, a branch of knowledge eminently useful to farmers. He watches the plowman plow, the reaper reap, the thresher thresh, He gradually learns to distinguish between oats and barley, wheat and rye; his vague ideas of sturk and heifer become clarified; he becomes perfectly convinced that potatoes grow in darkness, and apples in light. Of course, now and then he has to unbend a little from these severe studies. In the liunting season he hunts; in the shooting season he shoots; in the dancing season he dances; in the flirting season he flirts; and, finally, in the marrying season he marries. The steward of Lord Ownland lets him a farm on condition that his princeps agriculturce overlooks the farm for a year or two, until things get in working order. A bailiff supplies experience; the over - civilized Eadward supplies money, and often a very valuable science. The system of give and take comes into play. Eadward, the overcivilized, acquires experience slowly but surely, and gives out money and science quickly and generously. It is marvelous the thing is not a failure, but it is not. It is a success. And no farms in the world are farmed more scientifically, more economically, more remuneratively, than those of Ralph and Eadward, who finally shelve a little of their over-civilization. Perhaps the most significant, I had almost said sinister, result of this system is the formation of large farms out of a number of small ones. The main point now is this: these men remain, as they started, gentlemen in tastes and habits; their wives and daughters are ladies. In their homes you meet with every sign of high breeding, every exquisite refinement of culture and luxury which makes the country life of England so full of simple grace and richest beauty.

— There has been considerable speculation as to whether or not Mr. Mullock, the clever author of The New Republic, is a Roman Catholic; and if not, as to what his religious belief may be. At the close of an article in The Nineteenth Century he declares himself a “literal skeptic,” but one who is “desirous, in considering the religious condition of the time, to estimate fairly and fully the character and prospects of the one existing religion that seems still capable either of appealing to or of appeasing it.” Though it is more than probable that he will not remain long a skeptic, it is not now, at least, in the interest of any theological doctrine that Mr. Mallock adds himself to the number of those writers who criticise the utterances of the scientific men of the day. Among these writers are indeed many foolish brethren, but also some most acute and profound thinkers; and by these latter it has been clearly shown, as it seems to me, that even the most distinguished scientists are really, as Mr. Mallock says, “ men whose province of knowledge is an extremely small and limited one; who outside that province are enlightened but by the merest smattering of an education; and whose thinking on general matters is that rather of a bewildered woman than a keen and collected man.” It is legitimate to retort charges of this sort which they themselves freely make against their opponents. “ Let a man,” says Tyndall, “once get a real scientific grasp of the ways of nature, and he will see and feel what drivelers even men of strenuous intellect may become through exclusively dwelling and dealing with theological chimeras.” To which Mr. Mallock justly answers, “ Let a man once get even a moderate grasp of the nature of human knowledge, the motives of human action, and the analysis of human emotion, and he will see what drivelers even men of strenuous intellect may become, when they confront the problems of life, through exclusively dwelling and dealing with the phenomenal conditions of it.” The present scientific school, having made astonishing conquests in the physical world, have also (Mr. Mallock says) “taken possession, by a kind of coup d’état, of the spiritual world” as well. They have been aided by a false prestige, and “ the first step in the right direction must be to destroy such prestige.” Mr. Mallock in this article has put his finger upon those weak points in the reasoning of Tyndall (whom he takes as a type of many scientific teachers) which others have before now detected. He shows the inconsistency of Tyndall’s assertions, and makes evident that the latter, in common with others of his school, is really in a state of “ unstable mental equilibrium;” that when these men say they are no dogmatists, and that they stand dumb before the question of the universe in reverent and appreciative wonder, “it only means that they will answer the question neither in one way nor another.” He goes on to ask why it is that on the part of these positive thinkers there is an “ emphatic protestation that there may exist an (immaterial) something, utterly unneeded by their system and destructive of its completeness,”The answer, he says, is plain: “ Though their system does not need it, the moral value of life does. As to that value they have certain foregone conclusions, which they cannot resolve to abandon, but which their system can make no room for. Two alternatives are offered them, — to admit that life has not the meaning they thought it had, or that their system has not the completeness they thought it had; and of these two alternatives they will accept neither. . . . The message they shout to us is that they have no message, at all; and that because they are without one the whole world is in the same condition.” Looked at in certain ways, Mr. Mallock observes, or rather looked from in certain ways, Tyndall’s position seems to stagger him. The problem of existence reels and grows dim before him, and for the time being bis mind is in a state of such confusion that he is incapable really of clearly meaning anything. It seems to me that Mr. Mallock has given the true cause of much of the Strange inconsistency in the language of the men of science of to-day. As a writer says in the Journal of Speculative Philosophy, speaking of Hamilton and Mansel, “ They falter at the step to positive denial, and fall hack on doubt (they call it faith), abandoning logic to talk mistily about ' a wonderful revelation which inspires belief in tlie existence of something beyond the sphere of comprehensible reality.’ ” Mr. Spencer, ibis writer continues, objects to Mr. Mansel’s process of jumping from the bush of logic, where he has scratched his eyes out, into the bush of faith, where he thinks to scratch them in again; yet Mr. Spencer himself would be glad to “reconcile” science and religion, if religion will accept his basis of reconciliation, which is “ this deepest, widest, and most certain of all facts, — that the Power which the universe manifests to us is utterly inscrutable.” In this sentence we have the assertion of absolute knowledge and absolute ignorance in the same breath. But we must accustom ourselves to this sort of thing from Mr. Spencer, as well as from writers less acute and logical than he. Without questioning Mr. Spencer’s motives, it is plain that his concession to religion is a mockery, and his reconciliation a betrayal with a kiss. But the offer draws the issue distinctly, and speaks in plain words: Choose ye this day whom ye will serve, — the phantom God of Hamilton, Mansel, and Spencer, whom you know that you cannot know, or the living God of the Bible, the heavenly Father, who is not far from every one of you. For Mr. Mallock the choice is already made, so far as denial of this “ phantom God ” goes; and given certain premises in his mind, logic will probably carry him, as it did Newman, into the Roman Catholic church, from which want of logic kept Dr. Pusey. It would be well for Mr. Mallock and many other people if they could find on the mind’s highest plane, in the pure thinking of the speculative reason, a better guide to truth than the merely logical understanding.

— It is said that we are not an artistic people; that we have none of that instinctive desire, that need, for beauty in the common surroundings of daily life which shows itself in all classes of an art-loving race. We have a certain amount of cultivated taste for art, and as this increases and spreads it will doubtless reach down from the higher classes of society to the strata beneath. Of course, the genuine love for beauty, which gives its possessor a passionate delight in presence of a beautiful object, is a natural gift, but almost all persons have it in some degree; and though culture cannot produce this feeling, it has an indefinite power to awaken and develop it. It would seem that this cultivation of the artistic feeling and judgment needs to be deep and broad, if we are to trust so much more to it than to native sensibility. A superficial knowledge of the technique of art and an acquaintance with the names and characteristics of most well-known artists will not take the place of a knowledge of the essential nature of art and a veneration for its high aims. It strikes me, as an interested observer, that just now there is among us a good deal of more or less thorough understanding of the technical qualities of artistic work, especially in painting, and not much comprehension of or care for what may be called its spiritual qualities. How little that is profound has been written by professed artists or judges of art as to what art truly is! Yet until this preliminary notion of the nature and object of art Is arrived at, how can we be fit to judge of art in the concrete and particular! Mr. Ruskin undoubtedly has a true feeling of the dignity of art, yet he has never been able to give any worthy definition of it. Most of those who have attempted to define the object of art tell us that it is to give pleasure, which is in a certain sense true, but quite inadequate; and then they go on to instruct us as to what kind of pleasure it ought to give. The insufficiency or untruth of these definitions is made plain whenever they are used to test any special work of art; and when one art critic says it ought to and does give pleasure, and another insists that it does not and ought not, there are no means of deciding between them, but each one keeps his own private opinion, and is satisfied that it is right. Most people, perhaps, and artists first of all, would smile at the suggestion that philosophy might have something to say on the subject worth listening to; yet those persons who believe that philosophy is not a useless thing, and know that it undertakes to deal with all matters, not in their detail, but in their idea, find nothing ridiculous in the claim of the philosopher. There seems to be more general interest in painting than in the other arts, and more persons who profess to know something about it; with regard to poetry and music one does not hear so many and such confident judgments pronounced. Presuming to know little of painting myself, I would like to ask if there is not a tendency nowadays to overestimate the technical. Surely, skill in drawing, coloring, and composition, though indispensable to any great work of art, does not alone constitute it great; and yet, if I am not mistaken, there are painters, highly thought of by the public, who waste their skill on trivial subjects, and who have all the means in hand for producing a groat work, and fail to produce it because they are content to show their ability to do so if they wished. Their souls remain satisfied with lavishing pure and beautiful color on the folds of some inanimate woman’s dress, or the papering of the wall behind her. Of course, we do not require of art always to be sublime, any more than we desire nature to be always grand, and give us only Alpine heights, desert wastes, storms, and fury. Schumann’s Kinderscenen and his B-flat symphony are equally works of art; and in both alike it is the thought or sentiment, as well as the external forms each takes, that makes them valuable. That there should be no selection of subject, that in painting, poetry, and fiction anything and everything should be considered worthy of representation, seems to me to mistake and degrade the meaning of art. The same subject, moreover, may be artistically treated or not. George Eliot takes two ordinary, selfish girls, like Rosamond and Gwendolen, and gives us new conceptions as to what such characters are capable of, sounds their natures to their utmost depth, and reveals to us what we, meeting them in the world, should never have seen for ourselves. Trollope puts ns down among a set of like commonplace, everyday people, and tells us about them —what? Nothing except how they looked and walked and talked. We are not made to feel anything of that sympathy which springs from profound understanding of even the commonest human beings; we know of them pretty much what we should know if we were to meet them to-morrow at dinner, and are bored by them quite as we should be in the reality. I suppose Trollope belongs to the realists, and we are told that realism in art is a fine thing; but by whatever name such art as his calls itself, it seems to me art of a low order. I have a notion that in the presence of the highest art the question whether it be ideal or real does not present itself as important; and at any rate, I think the true contrary of idealism is not realism, but materialism.

— It is not a little amusing to observe how fashion has its sway even in the domain of literature, ordering and popularizing the use of certain words and phrases for a time, to be superseded in turn by others, whenever, in its supreme capriciousness, it shall so determine.

The writer calls to mind a number of these hackneyed expressions, which, although now somewhat superannuated and out of style, were at one time immensely popular, being adopted by writers of every grade and pursuit. While it may be conceded that they have a degree more of point and fitness than the rude, unwashed, slang phrases of the day, they are nevertheless marked by the same ludicrous frequency and recklessness of use so comically characteristic of the career of their vulgar brethren.

It is not long since one could hardly take up either paper, magazine, or book, and glance over a leader, or an article which was at all of an argumentative character, without having his eye arrested by the words in the premises. After a time “in the premises” grew too common; it was worn by everybody. Like the famous ulster, though it might boast a princely origin, it descended at last to plebeian appreciation and adoption, and its successor must be sought for forthwith.

Now the use of the expression is confined mainly to occasions where its peculiar pertinency compels it, and it is avoided as rather passé by all except those obstinate old fogies who have the habit of clinging to forms and fashions long after the general public has discarded them.

Next, it was decreed that the word average should be installed as the word of the period. And it was laughable to notice how a word, originally of moderate pretensions, which as a modest member of our esteemed vocabulary had heretofore acquitted itself in a natural and becoming manner, was all at once forced into factitious prominence, and compelled to serve as an abject adjective before nouns of every character, and many of them of even questionable respectability. Soon such combinations as “ the average man,” “the average woman,” “ the average husband,” “the average wife,” “ the average girl,” “ the average hoodlum,” “ the average politician,” “ the average congressman,” “ the average voter,” and a host of other averages became distressingly frequent to the reading public. Indeed, it seemed as if our professional writers had come to a sudden realization of the general usefulness of average, and the unexpected ways in which they often applied it were rather startling to the staid old commercial marines, who had all along supposed it chiefly valuable for adjusting the accidents of commerce.

Now the average writer is not averaging ns profusely and indiscriminately as he was. It is a condiment which by its frequent and excessive use has lost somewhat of its original flavor and pungency.

At one time the word outcome was threatened with a season of this humiliating popularity; but, happily, it seems now to have been permitted to subside to its normal position, and to resume its natural functions again.

Just at this time the familiar formula all the same is quite the prevailing mode. Not only does the despised and obtrusive Celestial find it handy and efficient in his labored intercourse with the proud and repellent “ Melican man,” but even British and American writers of every degree have found in this simple combination a thing of beauty and utility, appropriate for almost every emergency of expression, —a very help in time of need. And the extravagant patronage they bestow upon it must be peculiarly gratifying to its inventor and patentee.

The latest novel of a certain renowned English author is a remarkable illustration of how composition can be made easy by a judicious and liberal use of these stereotyped phrases. He makes all the same play the prominent part of “end man” in many a felicitous paragraph. Indeed, there is scarcely a page of the book that is not embellished with repetitions of the phrase. But while he has thus used it with great freedom, he must at the same time have used it with great good judgment; else, why would not the professional critics have discovered that an awkward redundancy had marred his usual elegance and purity of style?

— I emphatically agree with the contributor in the February Atlantic who thinks that Thomas Hardy does not receive from contemporary criticism the attention which is his due. In his last published novel, The Return of the Native, are not the distinctive merits which belong more or less to all his work, as pointed out by the February contributor, very richly found; while the story, through the types of character presented in its chief personages, takes a wider, more philosophic range and suggestiveness than anything he has written before ? There is great fascination in the mere setting of this tale. Not only are Egdon heath and its cottagers, Fairway, the Cantles, Susan Nunsuch, and the rest, described with all that unique feeling for nature and quite Shakespearean art in portraying clodhoppers which this author possesses, but the higher characters in the story are all touched with some hue of their wild surroundings.

What a typical spirit of to-day is poor Clym Yeobrlght! “He had reached the stage in a young man’s life when the grimness of the general human situation first becomes clear, and the realization of this causes ambition to halt a while. . . . Yeobright loved his kind. He had a conviction that the want of most men was knowledge of a sort which brings wisdom rather than affluence. . . . In passing from the bucolic to the intellectual life, the intermediate stages are usually two at least, frequently many more; and one of these stages is almost sure to be worldly advance. . . . Yeobright’s local peculiarity was that in aiming at high thinking he still cleaved to plain living, — nay, wild and meagre living in many respects, and brotherliness with clowns. . . . To argue upon the possibility of culture before luxury to the bucolic world may be to argue truly, but it is an attempt to disturb a sequence to which humanity has been too long accustomed readily to renounce. Yeobright preaching to the Egdon eremites that they might rise to a serene comprehensiveness without going through the process of enriching themselves was not unlike arguing to the ancient Chaldeans that in ascending from earth to the pure empyrean it was not necessary to pass first into the heaven of ether.”

This young man who is going to throw up his business in Paris to come home and turn night school-master to the poor had been the famous bright boy of his region. " When his name was casually mentioned by neighboring yeomen, the listener said, ‘ Ah, Clym Yeobright: what is he doing now? ’ When the instinctive question about a person is, What is he doing? it is felt that he will not be found to be, like most of us, doing nothing in particular.”

Poor Clym does come home to make a tragical figure enough. When has the modern reformer been shown in a novel in so perfectly fresh and unhackneyed a light as Hardy has managed to throw around this young man, who is neither mobbed nor imprisoned, nor suffers any other of the regulation calamities with which such a hero is wont to be brought on the stage. He only falls in love with Eustacia, and she with him; and what a tragedy therefrom! Surely there is rare skill in creating a being so self-loving and fickle and without the slightest appreciation of what is noblest in her husband as Eustacia is, who yet in her way is so touching a figure. All her early manœuvres to make the acquaintance of Clym; her " At present, tell me of Paris,” uttered in the midst of one of their most romantic lovers’ trysts; her trailing off with all her pride to a miserable village picnic, after her marriage, in search of excitement, — in spite of all these proceedings, how subtly but immeasurably is Eustacia removed from the usual shallow conception of the idle beauty, scheming to entrap lovers, and coveting worldly glare and glitter for mere vanity. This divinity of Egdon heath with all her boarding-school education had nowhere received any training that would enable her even to sympathize with a husband’s purpose (perhaps the safest form of feminine purpose), though the husband had been a man of much more practical aspirations than Clym Yeobright. One cannot imagine Eustacia as sharing the life of any man whatever with a serious career; yet all her extended compass “ both of feeling and of making others feel,” how suggestive it is of a large nature thrown away; with what evident charity does the author himself regard her!

I believe I Hardy has been somewhat accused of taking a low estimate of women, of having a cynically sharp eye for their foibles; but merciless as his insight sometimes seems, it is an insight which I should think women, even the most “ advanced,” would recognize as, upon the whole, sympathetic. I have never seen The Hand of Ethelberta, and do not know what iniquities he may have perpetrated against the sex in that book; but in his other books I find him more or less keenly appreciative of the feminine situation as well as temperament. The situation of the reformer, too, is indicated with the more force in this story because so indirectly. Any one of the inimitable dialogues of the heathmen is the strongest possible suggestion of the task Clym undertakes in proposing to intelleclualize these delightful ignoramuses; or the scene of the Sunday morning hair-cutting before Fairway’s shop, when Clym is thus commented on by the very class whom he has sacrificed all his own interests to benefit: “ ’T is goodhearted of the young man, but, for my part, I think he had better mind his business.”

It is true, of course, that Hardy’s story is always three men, or more, in pursuit of a woman; but it matters little what his mere story is so long as he tells it with such vivid characterization, such terse and vigorous writing in the reflective passages, and with a plot which, however simple, is full of such dramatic situations as is The Return of the Native.

— It seems very singular that the Greeks, who drank so deeply at the fountains of life, and are themselves such glorious representatives of the beauty of life, should have left us that most pathetic saying that those whom the gods love die young, and the no less pathetic story of the mother who prayed to the gods for the most precious thing within their gift for her beloved sons, and was answered by finding them dead in the morning light. None of us fully understand this before the possibility of being thus beloved by the gods has passed away from us forever, — realize that it means it is well to be cut off in the first flush and rapture of existence, before the “ chill of disenchantment,” as Castellar somewhere puts it, has crept upon heart and brain. For if we live long enough, there is sure to come to us, sooner or later, a period when the cutting contrast between the real and ideal begins to make itself most painfully felt; when the hard, inexorable facts of life force themselves upon us, and we wake up, as it were, from the golden dream that childhood and early youth have woven round us. Among all the sad possibilities and melancholy necessities of life, nothing to me is more intensely tragic than this dreary time of disillusionment, that in one form or another is known to all men, though many doubtless pass through this “ blind darkness ” quietly and painlessly, and drift into another phase of being almost unconsciously; the more highly, delicately, and sensitively we are organized, the greater, of course, will be our suffering. How long the spell may remain unbroken it is impossible to measure by years, and varies, of course, entirely according to individual character. I have known men who were completely disillusionized at twenty-five, and women who at thirty had only just begun to comprehend the actual world. But I believe it is safe to say that disenchantment sets in when youth has really dropped from us, and we are born into manhood and womanhood; for this change within us seems indeed almost like a second birth, of the pangs of which we are painfully conscious. Or, if you will, it is a crisis in life, the issue of which no physician can predict. For it is very possible that in it may hopelessly perish what is best and highest in us, our idealism. Who can say how even Shelley and Keats and Schubert, and all those others of whom we like to think with a kind of sweet melancholy that they died too young, might have passed through that period when passion seems dead, and inspiration to have run dry forever; when utterance and creation become painfully difficult, if not impossible, and we for the first time wholly comprehend Solomon’s despairing cry of “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity!" Looked at in this light, no one ever dies too young, and it seems scarcely fair to judge of genius at all before it has attained to a certain maturity. For what is called by that great but much-abused name is often but the brilliant flash, the sparkling emanation, as it were, of that first evanescent fervor and ecstasy of youth. Alfred de Musset, for instance, furnishes, it seems to me, a melancholy illustration of one who “ survived himself;” or, in other words, whose genius appears to have been so closely and intimately knit and bound up with his youth that we may almost consider them as one. It then those whom the gods love die young, it is also true that they who know not the grief of disenchantment have never known any grief, or tasted of any bitterness, — have scarcely begun, indeed, to learn the lesson of life. But also they can possess nothing of the strength which comes after that sharp cup has been drained. For if we can pass through this chastening fire, not indeed unscathed, for that would be impossible, but with a germ of life left in our idealism, we may assume that it is safe in truth, and that no storms or struggles of after-life can ever affect or imperil it again.