Journalism

[For the first two installments of Sir Leslie Stephen’s reminiscent papers, see the ATLANTIC for September and October. — THE EDITORS.]

III.

MY Cambridge life was cut short by my inability, unfortunate or otherwise, to come to terms with the ThirtyNine Articles. I was not, indeed, cast out by the orthodox indignation of my colleagues. At Cambridge, I have said, there was no bigotry ; I was treated with all possible kindness ; and for a time continued to reside in college and to take part in the work. But I had to resign the tutorship which involved specifically clerical functions, and at that time a university career offered few prospects to a layman. A Fellow, who was also a clergyman, might soar upwards toward the episcopal bench ; and I am often tempted to regret that I did not swallow my scruples and aim at some modest ecclesiastical preferment. Bishops indeed have fallen upon evil days : they no longer enjoy the charming repose of the comfortable dignitaries of the eighteenth century. But I should dearly like a deanery. To hold such a position as Milman or Stanley seems to me the very ideal aim for a man of any literary taste; and, what with the broad church and the " higher criticism ” of later days, it does not seem that it need have been very hard to follow old Hobbes’s advice and swallow your pill without chewing it. However it was not to be ; and I had to accept the only practicable alternative, and exchange the pulpit for the press.

I therefore cannot boast that I took to the literary profession from an overpowering love of letters. I had to scribble for the sufficient but not elevated reason that no other honest profession was open to me. Possibly I do not think so highly of the calling as some men whom I envy and admire, because in adopting it they are obeying their spontaneous vocation. A friend, only too partial a friend, lately attributed to me the opinion, that, on the whole, books ought not to be written. I do not accept that rather sweeping theory as an accurate interpretation of my view. I should have been glad to write some books — a new Paradise Lost, for example, or, say a Wealth of Nations — if I had seen my way to such achievements ; but I rather doubt whether the familiar condemnation of mediocre poetry should not be extended to mediocrity in every branch of literature. In other walks of life a man may be doing something useful even if his walk be of the humblest. The world is the better, no doubt, even for an honest crossing sweeper. But I often think that the value of second-rate literature is — not small, but — simply zero. I would not, said the promising young painter, Clive Newcome, give a straw to be a Caracci or Caravaggio. Original genius is invaluable ; but echoes — and few can hope to be more than echoes — are worthless. Why swell the multitudinous chorus of “ words, words, words ” which rather tend to drown the few voices that have a right to be heard ? If one does not profess to be a genius, is it not best to console one’s self with the doctrine that silence is golden, and take, if possible, to the spade or the pickaxe, leaving the pen to one’s betters ? Such doubts, I confess, did not trouble me at the time ; perhaps they only impress one at the age when illusions vanish.

I joined the great army of literature, because I was forced into the ranks, but also with no little pride in my being accepted as a recruit. I took up the trade at a time when the leaders of the profession were worthy of their position. There were giants in those days, as we have been recently told. Sir Edward Clarke hurt the susceptibilities of modern authors by proclaiming their inferiority to the men of forty or fifty years ago. He gave a long list of the masterpieces published in the decade 1850-1860 ; by Tennyson and Browning and Arnold, by Dickens and Thackeray and George Eliot and Bulwer and Kingsley, by Carlyle and Macaulay and Ruskin and Froude and Buckle ; and declared that they had left no worthy successors to-day. We have not, he declared, one great poet or novelist or historian. I should be afraid to express an opinion on so delicate a point: it might seem ungracious if I were to condemn my junior comrades; and it may be that fifty years hence the reputations of some of them will have developed, and our successors be marveling at our failure to recognize the great writers who are now with us. It is, however, undeniable that we could not now make out such a list of established and acknowledged reputations. That seems to those who can remember it to have been like a period when every morning brought a noble chance and every chance brought out a noble knight. In the following decade, most of those mentioned were still alive and active; though Macaulay and Thackeray had died before I came to London, and Carlyle had finished his life’s work. The literary profession gained honor from its leaders. I could, of course, have no thought of treading in the footsteps of the poets or novelists. I have always had the difficulty which Jonathan Oldbuck tells us prevented him from being a poet: I could not write verses. I never, even in my boyhood, composed an epic upon King Arthur or a tragedy with Mary, Queen of Scots, for a heroine. If my schoolfellows had compelled me, as they apparently compel all sucking novelists, to act as Scheherezade, they would not have prolonged my existence in order to hear my stories finished. Preaching perhaps was more in my line, and I had my dreams of helping to set the world right upon various philosophical, political, and economic problems. A good many young men of those days were enthusiastically expecting the speedy advent of a democratic millennium. I was, as I have said, sitting like most of my friends at the feet of J. S. Mill, then beginning his brief parliamentary career.

But I saw more personally of the prophet who was at the opposite pole of thought. Carlyle was still to be seen tramping sturdily enough the Chelsea and Kensington region with an admirer or two — Froude or the charming Irish poet Allingham — forming a little bodyguard to the “ grand old Diogenes,” as Huxley called him. Certainly he looked the character. His love of portraits fortunately included a love of his own ; and, though they were apt to remind him rather of a “flayed horsehead ” than of the original features, they seemed to others to give a vivid enough impression. The grand brow overhanging the keen eyes and the worn features told sufficiently that his long pilgrimage had led through regions of gloom and sorrow and the many hard struggles by which he had won his way to fame. I was then, like most people, very slightly acquainted with his personal history ; but for me he was the object of fascination tempered by no little alarm. I saw him occasionally in the little house in Cheyne Row, now consecrated to his memory, in the sad and solitary years which succeeded the loss of his wife. My alarm was due partly, let us hope, to the natural modesty of a young author in the presence of a great veteran ; and partly to a lurking fear of probable disapproval. I might at some rash moment let out that I had leanings toward the pig-philosophy and even some belief in the “ dismal science ” ! I felt something like the editor of some Sadducees’ Gazette interviewing St. John the Baptist. I was not less impressed than a true disciple by the personal dignity of the man. When indeed the old gentleman got on to his high horse of declamation and insisted upon the vitality and the ubiquity of the devil in modern times, one could only “ lie low ” and let the thunder pass over one’s head. No man above seventy — as I now hold still more strongly — should ever be contradicted. It was pleasant, too, as many hearers have remarked, to hear the rare but hearty laugh — reminding one of Johnson’s “ rhinoceros ” explosion — which showed that the humorist could be conscious of his own extravagances.

But he was more attractive in the vein represented by the inimitable Life of Sterling and the pathetic passages in the Reminiscences. The unequaled power of graphic portraiture and the profound tenderness for the old days were not marred — so far as I ever heard — by those petulant outbreaks which would have been excised from the posthumous book if his directions had been obeyed, and which gave to the respectable world an impression of sardonic misanthropy. One cannot, indeed, expect a John the Baptist to adopt the orthodox tone about the popular idols whom it was his special function to denounce. He did in all seriousness think many people fools, though when he asserted that Newman had the brains of a moderate-sized rabbit, he was not pronouncing a reasoned judgment. But one went to Carlyle to be roused, — not to get cool scientific formulas, and so rare a phenomenon as a prophet-humorist must be taken on his own ground. Of that, however, enough has been said, and I will only add that I never had to complain of roughness, even such as Johnson bestowed upon Boswell. Age, I suppose, had diminished the old overbearing manner, and I always found him thoroughly courteous. I may be excused if I correct an anecdote for which I am responsible. When I asked leave to introduce Stevenson to his famous countryman, the old man, it is said, refused to let another interviewer come to look upon his “ wretched old carcass.” That is true, but there is an appendix to the story. I had refused to introduce another admirer on the ground that I was not sufficiently acquainted with the great man. By a blunder, however, this person was presented to him as coming from me. Carlyle received him civilly, but found him to be a full-blown specimen of the bore, — not one of the many millions of that species whom he took to inhabit the United States. I happened to meet Carlyle a day or two later, when he intimated to me the nature of the infliction. Idiotically enough, instead of disavowing the responsibility, I thereupon proposed to introduce the then unknown young gentleman who has since become famous. It was, I suppose, the usual case of shyness blundering into impudence; and I feel that I deserved a rather testy reply. Anyhow it was the one bit of irritability which I ever had to notice; though I felt, as I have said, that I was a rather questionable intruder upon the inner circle.

I have diverged a little because Carlyle remains to me the most interesting of all the eminent men whom I have seen, and because his career points a moral. He once remarked to me — as one stating a plain matter of fact — that the newspaper articles of the day were so much “ dithwater,” not, I suppose, springs of living thought, but stagnant canals of vapid platitudes. No one had a better right to condemn the weaknesses of journalists, for his early life had been a stern struggle against the temptations that most easily beset those who have to make a living by the trade. He had never condescended in his worst straits to scamp his work : he always wrote his very best ; and instead of courting the taste of popular readers, gradually extorted recognition of his peculiar powers, — at the price, it is true, of exaggerated mannerism. He was, on this occasion, repeating the opinion which he had formed from his early impressions of the literary circles of London. Those impressions were severe enough. When Jeffrey, the greatest light among journalists, complained of him for being so desperately in earnest, he was only saying what the average literary hack was pretty certain to feel. Mill has rather quaintly compared the Hebrew prophets to the newspaper press; but the comparison can hardly be inverted. There are not many modern journalists who impress one by their likeness to a Jeremiah or a John the Baptist. The man who comes to denounce the world is not likely to find favor with the class which lives by pleasing it; and except to one or two ingenuous young gentlemen, like Sterling and Mill, Carlyle appeared as an eccentric, mystical, and unintelligible fanatic. I can understand, on the other side, why Charles Lamb seemed to him the most futile of idols, making puns and drinking gin and water, and not prepared to listen to a Scottish sermon. The cockneys were lamentably given to chaff and levity : their earnestness, when they had any, was apt to take the form of savage personality ; of smashing an unfortunate poet who belonged to the other side, or pouring out voluminous abuse like the stalwart but often foul-mouthed Cobbett. There were some able and honest writers in the newspapers; but too many were of the Bohemian free lance variety, ready to take service on either side, and to recommend their services by reckless abuse. The profession, in fact, had not yet shaken off the vices generated in the old Grub Street days, when a writer had often to choose between selling himself and starving.

A great change had followed the Reform Bill, and the newspaper had improved as it became the organ of the middle class which then rose to power. Delane of the Times had to be courted by the statesmen who had professed simple contempt for his predecessors ; and in the fifties the influence of the paper had culminated till it was taken to be the authentic incarnation of public opinion. Kinglake gives a graphic (I do not say an authentic) account of the secret of the authority which enabled it to order the siege of Sebastopol. It employed, he declares, a shrewd, idle clergyman to frequent places of common resort and discover what was the obvious thought that was finding acceptance with the average man. The thought was then put as though it were the suggestion of ripe political philosophy ; while the public so delicately flattered wondered at its own wisdom. That, no doubt, is a very telling method. There is an instructive comment in Coleridge’s Aids to Reflection upon a passage of Leighton. He begins by saying that Leighton speaks so well that he could believe him to be divinely inspired, and he ends by remarking that he agrees with the passage so fully that he could think that he had written it himself. The two observations are exactly identical in meaning. Other journals, I fancy, act on the same principle. The difference was that they generally represent a party, whereas the Times seemed to utter the voice of the nation at large. By my time, however, it had no longer the old authority. Cheap newspapers had sprung into existence upon the abolition of the stamp duty and interpreted the sentiments of the classes which were gaining political power.

Another less noticeable change was taking place. The profession of journalism was becoming respectable. Thackeray gives in Pendennis a portrait of the newspaper world, with which nobody was better acquainted in the years which succeeded the Reform Bill. Captain Shandon is supposed to represent the brilliant and reckless Maginn, one of the most typical figures of the class. No doubt there were other originals for the minor contributors to the fictitious Pall Mall Gazette. The scholar and gentleman Warrington associates with them, but as it were under protest. He is supposed to write in the best paper of his day, but he only admits the fact to Pendennis in confidence, and confesses that he is half ashamed of writing for money. Periodical literature is hardly considered to give fitting employment for a gentleman. Then, and previously of course, it was a feather in a man’s cap to have contributed to one of the great quarterlies. At first, indeed, Jeffrey had been afraid to let it be known that he was editing the Edinburgh lest it should injure his professional prospects. But in the days of Macaulay, there could be no thought of derogation. Yet even Macaulay when collecting his essays (in 1843) apologizes for apparently claiming a permanent place in literature for mere review articles which presumably belonged to the ephemeral class. He protests that he was forced to take the step by American reprints. Sydney Smith, I think, was the only Edinburgh reviewer who had anticipated him in collecting his articles. There was still, I take it, a lingering impression that periodicals were the proper sphere for the inferior caste, and that a serious author was rather condescending if he cooperated with the regular literary hack. At the present day we seem to be reversing the order, and the presumption is coming to be that an author publishes in book shape because he cannot get admission to a magazine.

One symptom of the change was the success of the Saturday Review, started in 1855. Like the Edinburgh Review, or, indeed, like Addison’s Spectator, it meant that as the reading class multiplied, there was a growing movement of literary talent toward the periodical press. In each case, the cultivated critics found that there was a new audience prepared to accept their authority. The Saturday Reviewers, like Jeffrey and his friends, laid on the lash with a will: they showed themselves to be superior persons by exposing the pretenders of the day. When their victims shrieked like the victims of the Dunciad, and called them cynical, superfine, and so forth, they felt that they were doing a service to mankind. They accepted complacently the name of Saturday “ Revilers.” The outcry proved that they were smiting the Philistines under the fifth rib ; and they specially rejoiced in trampling upon the idols of the less cultivated classes, who wept over Dickens’s sentimentalism, or believed in the old-fashioned Puritanism which Dickens detested.

Few journals, as Mr. Bryce has lately remarked, have ever had so brilliant a staff as the Saturday Review in its early period. When I was accepted a little later, I felt like a schoolboy promoted to the Sixth Form, which he has been regarding with awful reverence. Many of them were men, young enough to be still surrounded with the halo of brilliant achievements at the University, — and, therefore, as we confidently believed, about to astonish the universe at large. While waiting to blaze out in the political or legal world, they could turn an honest penny, and raise the general standard of enlightenment, though shining as under a bushel in the anonymous state. They formed, indeed, a very miscellaneous body. The proprietor of the paper, Mr. Beresford Hope, was, I believe, a very amiable and cultivated man. He professed an Anglicanism of the type which suits the refined country gentleman. He converted the remains of an old monastery into a missionary college. He built churches supposed to represent the highwater mark of the ecclesiastical revival of the time, and he was a fitting representative in Parliament of the University of Cambridge, where the country clergy were then the dominant constituents. Its editor, John Douglas Cook, was an amusing contrast. The details of his career, as narrated by himself, were supposed to owe something to his creative imagination. He had been in India, and stated, I think, that he had returned on foot. Afterwards he had made himself useful to great men in the world of journalism and polities ; and had edited the Morning Chronicle, then the organ of the party which adhered to Peel after the abolition of the corn laws. He had never acquired the university polish, and, indeed, seemed to know little of any literature outside of newspapers. His manners rather suggested that he was a survivor of the old Shandon or Maginn creed. I know nothing of his religious opinions, but I can hardly imagine that he was for Mr. Beresford Hope’s creed, or ambitious of suffering martyrdom, or even injuring the paper for that or any other creed. But he was a most successful and meritorious editor. He had a keen scent for promising talent, even when he had little knowledge of the subject matter. He could give good-natured encouragement, and let one know gently when one was straying from the right path. Anyhow he managed to collect most of the promising young men, some of whom, as for example the late Lord Salisbury and Mr. Morley, have become famous, while others devoted to the paper talents which might have made them famous.

Of those who chose to remain obscure, the most remarkable, I suppose, was G. S. Venables. Few people, it is probable, know his name, though some have heard it as that of the schoolfellow who broke Thackeray’s nose at the Charterhouse. His own nose happily escaped: for he was a man of very noble presence, and the hostile encounter was succeeded by an enduring friendship with his opponent. They were contemporaries at Cambridge, where Venables became a friend of Tennyson and of the Tennysonian circle. He claimed to have been one of the first who recognized Tennyson’s genius, and long afterwards was again among the first to hail Mr. Swinburne, the next worthy successor, as he held, to the poetic throne. He had qualities other than literary culture which endeared him to a small circle of friends. One of them, the least given to gushing, declared that Venables had been to him a second father ; and he was, I have every reason to believe, a man of most chivalrous and affectionate nature. Venables obtained a leading practice at the parliamentary bar, a position which does not lead to popular fame or professional advancement. He was reserved in manner, and, like other shy men, taken by outsiders to be supercilious and sarcastic. Perhaps it was natural to one of that temperament to be content with anonymous work. He was, for many years, the chief political writer in the Saturday Review, and did, I fancy, more than any one to strike the keynote of the general style. His friends used to tell stories of the singular felicity with which he could extemporize highly polished and dignified articles. One of his fancies was a prejudice against the editorial “ we ; ” and his remarks would take the form of a series of political aphorisms, not so much expressing personal sentiment, as emanating from Wisdom in the abstract. They seemed to be judicial utterances from the loftiest regions of culture ; balanced, dignified, and authoritative, though, of course, edged by a sufficient infusion of scorn for the charlatan or the demagogue. I do not mean to suggest that he was often or generally on the right side; that is an irrelevant question in journalism, nor do I suppose that it would be worth while to search the files of the Saturday Review in the hope of finding, as in Burke’s writings, maxims of deep philosophical value, even when enlisted in the service of error. What Venables’s articles really did, I take it, was to embody, in finished and scholarlike style, the opinions prevalent among the most intelligent circles of the London society of which Holland House had been the centre in the preceding generation. The aristocratic patron was now less conspicuous, but the class represented the fine flower of the universities, the leaders of the great professions and in the civil service, the men who are familiar with cabinet ministers on the one side, and with the great literary and scientific lights on the other. The popular view personified them vaguely as “ the Clubs,” —institutions in which cynics sneer at all enthusiasm and are dead to the great impulses which “ stir the great heart of the people.” To me, I confess, they appear to be a valuable social stratum, though more likely to supply negative criticism than to give an impulse to reform. Zealots should perhaps be more grateful than they are to those whose function it should be to purify zeal from the alloy of demagogue humbug. In fact, they irritated rather than influenced.

The Saturday Review doctrine was embodied in Parliament at this time by the brilliant speeches in which Robert Lowe denounced the extension of the suffrage, carried by Disraeli. The result attributed to his agitation was that the measure actually carried was more decisively democratic. It may be held that such opponents only acted like the picador who worries the bull into a more savage and blindfolded charge. Yet on the whole I think that they contributed a useful element to the contemporary discussions. In another sphere, I take it, the Saturday Review did a less questionable service. It enlisted the great Freeman, who brought down his sledge-hammer upon poor Froude and upon all whom he took to be historical charlatans. That Freeman was a bit of a pedant, and had a rough and uncouth surface, is, I suppose, undeniable. I came in contact with him only once, and at a later period. He wrote a life of Alfred for the Dictionary of National Biography under my editorship, but declined to do more because we had a difference of opinion as to whether Athelstane should be spelled with an A. That was, I confess, a question to which I was culpably indifferent; but I had taken competent advice, and my system (I forget what it was !) had been elsewhere sanctioned by the great historian Stubbs. Now as Freeman was never tired of asserting the infallibility of Stubbs, I innocently thought that I might take refuge behind so eminent an authority. The result was that for once Freeman blasphemed Stubbs, and refused to cooperate any longer in an unscliolarlike enterprise.

In the Saturday Review Freeman’s pet crotchets became rather tiresome. One did not want to be reminded every week that Charlemagne was not a Frenchman, and that there was no such thing as an “ Anglo-Saxon ” nation. I felt a certain malicious pleasure when Freeman tripped for once in correcting Froude, and declared it impossible that a ship should have been named the Ark Raleigh. As it happened, it was. Freeman’s insistence upon such punctilios was, however, a symptom of most commendable thirst for thorough workmanship. Freeman tried to raise the English standard of historical research to a level with the German. Whether that has been done, I cannot say; but the conscience of the British student has certainly been screwed up to a much higher pitch, and Freeman’s articles — as well as his voluminous books — must be counted as one of the most effective stimulants in the cause. Pretenders became afraid of being exposed on so conspicuous a pillory. If Freeman’s wrath against Froude burnt a little too fiercely and frequently, he was making an example of a leading offender ; and he showed fully equal warmth in “ blowing the trumpet ” of good workers. He was delighted to come across young men of promise such as J. R. Green, and did his best to spread their reputation. His biography shows sufficiently that, besides his stupendous industry, he had a warm heart and real tenderness under the rough outside. His politics, right or wrong, were those of a generous lover of justice, and he left the Saturday Review, giving up an important source of income, when it supported the Beaconsfield government in what he thought an immoral policy.

There were other contributors who did a similar service. Mark Pattison, for example, as the Life of Casaubon suggests, had the veneration for the giants of learning which religious zealots keep for the saints. Scholarship, one almost fancied, was his religion : a fastidious and, in some respects, morbid temperament prevented him doing justice to a singularly fine intellect, and perhaps with an infusion of Freeman’s robustness he might have done more work, and assailed successfully defects in the academic system which he pointed out with a rather pessimistic despair. He certainly would not have given up a favorite literary task because he had been anticipated by a learned German. His friends, I think, regretted that his want of self-confidence led him to waste talent upon anonymous journalism. I do not know how much he actually wrote ; but he was one of the accomplished writers who could make the Saturday Review a really effective literary tribunal. When he had, among others, such collaborators as Sir Henry Maine and Mr. Goldwin Smith, there could be no lack of scholarship or grace of style.

One other element in the paper was the so-called “ middle ” or lay sermon upon things in general. The most frequent occupants of the pulpit at the early period were T. C. Sandars and my brother FitzJames. Sandars, like Venables, remained in obscurity and turned his talents to business. He was a burly, broad-shouldered man, full of witty and genial talk, and obviously running over with good nature. He could, however, lay on the lash with singular dexterity. I happened to hear one day how one of his victims, author of a highly popular and sentimental work, had written to the editor complaining that his prospects in life had been ruined by one of Sandars’s critiques. I happened to meet the author about the same time, who told me what a hearty laugh he had enjoyed over the treatment of his work. He was, I thought, stretching excusable hypocrisy a little too far ; but of course, far from being ruined, he succeeded well enough to regain, I fancy, a comfortable self-complacency. My brother, if less incisive, could be at least equally vigorous. Some of his articles were republished in a volume called Essays by a Barrister, a test to which few newspaper articles are worth exposing. They could not have been popular, for they were directly deficient in the sentimental optimism which attracts a virtuous public.

Strong realistic common sense of the Johnson variety implies contempt for the unctuous phrases by which a popular preacher passes over ugly facts, and suspicion of the ostentatious philanthropy in which he indulges. The devil, it holds, is not yet dead, and we will not be subdued by sprinkling of rosewater. The epithet cynical applied to the Saturday Review is entirely inappropriate to that attitude of mind. Most readers, I fancy, will be more inclined to condemn it, as Jeffrey condemned Carlyle, for an excess of earnestness. It savored of the pulpit. In the case of other articles there was levity enough to give rise to the charge of cynicism. The paper had its established butts : unlucky victims kept like the bag fox of huntsmen, such as Tupper the poet, or that Dr. Cumming who was daily expecting the battle of Armageddon, who could be turned out for a day’s sport whenever game was scarce. The fun was perhaps occasionally cruel and apt to be one-sided. You might ridicule the evangelicism which was gone out of fashion, but in the organ of a sound Anglican you could not attack the foibles (I suppose they had foibles) of the high church party. It was, indeed, only necessary to read between the lines to see that much of the polemic might receive a wider application. Most of the contributors, I suspect, had little enough orthodoxy, though they could not be avowedly skeptical. But the public does not read between the lines. The journalist who is anxious about his soul ought, I suppose, to have an enthusiastic belief in the causes which he advocates. There are, of course, many such men. At this time, for example, the admirable R. H. Hutton, who had in 1861 taken command of the Spectator and impressed upon it his own personality. If his enthusiasms a little outran his discretion, he atoned for such weakness by thorough candor to his antagonists. The late Mr. Godkin devoted a sturdier intellect to his self-imposed duty as censor of the morals of American politicians. Such men, expressing strong personal convictions, deserve the highest respect, and may justify Mill’s theory about the prophetic office. But that singular entity, called a newspaper, when not dominated by an individual mind, always presents some problems in casuistry to a conscientious contributor. It may be the organ of the party to which you belong, but you must be very fortunate if you can really believe that your party represents the whole truth or does not demand uncomfortable sacrifices of fair play. I certainly did not believe in the creed, so far as it had any, of the Saturday Review.

I disapproved of its political tendencies; and many of its best contributors, keener politicians and certainly not less honest men than I, must have quite agreed with me. I do not know whether we took the trouble to frame any theory in self-justification. We might have urged that the opinions were such as had a good right to be uttered, and possibly have added the Machiavelian suggestion that the utterance was not likely to propagate them. It was Heine, I think, who said that he believed in atheism till he came to know atheists : and I have generally found that nothing alienates one from a creed so much as the writings of its apologists. That, however, is a refinement. It would be a better argument that the Review represented a real attempt to raise the intellectual level of journalism and claimed to be an organ of what is now called culture. Anyhow, I am impenitent as regards my share in it. I was never, so far as I can remember, dishonest in the sense of ever defending what I took to be the wrong side. I am afraid that I may have been guilty of some over-confidence in my own infallibility. I wrote with a certain happy audacity ; I gave my view of things in general. I had nothing to do with politics or theology, but it seems to me that I ranged over most branches of human knowledge, from popular metaphysics to the history of the last university boatrace. I reviewed countless books, poems, novels, travels, economic treatises, and literary history. I fancy that I was pretty harmless. I have some reason to think that I saved one gentleman from adding an indefinite series of cantos to a poem ; and I may have indulged in a flout or two at well-meaning people, which I should now be hardly prepared to justify. My chief impression, however, is different. I had not long ago to turn over the files of the paper for another purpose. Incidentally I looked for my own contributions, and was startled to find that I could rarely distinguish them by internal evidence. I had unconsciously adopted the tone of my colleagues, and, like some inferior organisms, taken the coloring of my “environment.” That, I suppose, is the common experience. The contributor occasionally assimilates ; he sinks his own individuality, and is a small wheel in a big machine. If he believes in an honest wheel, neither lying nor scamping, he may be satisfied. The newspaper press is anyhow a necessity even if the “ public opinion ” which it utters has not that transcendental wisdom and infallibility which enthusiasts claim for it; and a man who helps to maintain a wholesome tone is doing good service. Perhaps he may give thanks that his anonymity saves him from some of the temptations which have weakened the moral fibre and injured the work of so many men of letters who do not wear the mask.

The Saturday Review, meanwhile, was not the only medium through which I endeavored to illuminate the world. The Pall Mall Gazette was started just as I was becoming a journalist, and it was in some ways a more congenial organ. The first editor, Mr. Frederick Greenwood, who had suggested the scheme to its proprietor, Mr. George Smith, was a man under whom it was a pleasure to serve. He encouraged me with a cordiality for which I shall always be grateful, and had a cheering confidence in his contributors and a belief in the goodness of their work. The paper was supposed to represent in the daily press the same social stratum which had the Saturday for its weekly organ. It did not, however, meet with the same successfor some time; and, rather oddly, gained its first start by a famous article in which a gentleman described his experiences in the “ casual ward ” of a workhouse. That, however, called attention to the writing of a more ambitious kind. My brother threw himself into the work with amazing energy. He could express his view upon ecclesiastical matters without the reticence enforced in the Saturday : and I venture to think that he had few equals in good downright sledge-hammer controversy. He was less interested in the purely political questions of that time, but he wrote with a sturdy common sense which gave a characteristic flavor to the paper. He had able coöperators, specially the gigantic Higgins, or “ Jacob Omnium,” who was unrivaled for his skill in composing “ occasional notes,” — then a novelty,— the miniature articles which condense into a sentence or two the pith of a couple of columns. That, to say the truth, must often be easy enough. A long list of other eminent contributors is given in the Life of George Smith prefixed to the supplementary volumes of the Dictionary of National Biography. Following in the wake of such leaders, I felt that [ was under less restraint than in the Saturday. But I had certain ambitions to make a few remarks in my own person, and felt that the kind of superficial omniscience demanded from the journalist becomes in the long run rather distracting. A newspaper article, too, can be written in a very short time, but it seems to exhaust a disproportionate amount of energy, and excellence in the craft requires that a man should be more inclined to act the part of Kinglake’s shrewd clergyman — absorbing the various manifestations of public opinion.

My work in the Pall Mall Gazette had made me acquainted with George Smith, and the acquaintance soon ripened into one of the most valuable friendships of my life. He had in the highest degree some of the qualities which one desires in a friend. He was the stanchest, most straightforward, and heartiest of men; pugnacious enough to be a “good hater,” but the best of backers to those whom he really loved. Plunged into business at the age of fourteen, he had little chance for literary education, and he was ever afterwards engaged in a variety of commercial enterprises which might well have absorbed his energies. But he had from the first a keen interest in literature, and became the publisher and friend of a remarkable number of eminent writers. His earliest connections of the kind were with Leigh Hunt and “ Orion ” Horne, and one of the last, with Mrs. Humphry Ward. Few of his authors failed to become his personal friends. Miss Bronté (who, I need hardly say, was discovered by Smith and his reader Mr. Williams) drew his portrait in the Dr. John of Villette. It has not the minute fidelity of some of her sketches, but gives a characteristic sketch of the impression made upon her by the masterful and chivalrous young man. He is so genuine that the poor governess, herself in the shade, is cheered instead of depressed by the sunlight of success which seems appropriate to him. In later years, Smith won the warmest regards of such men as Browning, Matthew Arnold, and Tom Hughes, and on more than one occasion justified their affection by solid proofs of good will.

With no one had he more cordial relations than with Thackeray during the last ten years of the novelist’s life ; and Thackeray’s children then and afterwards felt Smith’s friendship to be a most valuable possession. The foundation of the Cornhill Magazine, with Thackeray as editor and chief contributor, was one of the literary landmarks of the period. Thackeray’s reputation gave it a special stamp, and he was able to secure the coöperation of many of the ablest writers. It had the advantage of a remarkable set of illustrations by such men as Millais, Leighton, Frederick Walker, and Du Maurier. It was an unprecedented shillings - worth, and achieved a brilliant success. Macmillan’s Magazine, of less dazzling pretensions, had been launched a month earlier; and their example was soon followed by the earlier of the great swarm of more or less smaller periodicals which now flourish so luxuriantly. The Cornhill was strictly limited to the inoffensive, — it was to contain nothing which could be unsuitable reading for the daughters of country parsons whom Trollope was describing in its pages. Thackeray was forced, with many twinges, to decline a poem of Mrs. Browning because it referred to facts supposed to be unknown to that interesting class of the population. Ruskin’s fierce assault upon the economists of the day had to be rejected, not because Thackeray or Smith themselves objected, but as calculated to make the hair of their public stand on end.

The rejection of Ruskin by Fraser’s Magazine, then edited by Froude, was more remarkable. They were friends besides being fellow disciples of Carlyle, and Froude could certainly not condemn Ruskin’s teaching on his own score. The case was significant of the two most famous of the older magazines of those days. Blackwood was, of course, of the Tory faith ; and Fraser, in spite of its distinguished editor, was beginning to lose its position. Froude, one would have thought, should be a model editor. Nobody could write more charming periodical essays, as he showed in his Short Studies ; no one could be more charming personally, or have a finer literary taste. He had, I think, one weakness as editor. He had not discovered, what I take to be true, that in judging our article, first thoughts are quite as likely to be right as second or third. It is best to decide at once and put your contributors out of pain, — whereas Froude would oscillate long between yes and no, from conscientiousness or, perhaps, from a certain timidity. In any case he was hardly the man to attract eager young Liberal writers. Carlylism appeared to them to be simply reactionary and cynical, as indeed Carlyle was never tired of expressing contempt for modern progress and its favorite shibboleths. His disciples agreed with him in that; but while Ruskin was stung to the passionate and stinging outbursts which gave him an influence comparable to Rousseau’s, Froude had rather the intellectual temperament which we associate with Hamlet. The world was out of joint; and he did not feel competent to set it right. In any case, not much could have been made of his organ. It is an uphill task to infuse new life into a decaying periodical. Fraser’s had become thoroughly respectable since the days of Maginn; and in public would, no doubt, have resented the Ruskinian vein.

Froude, indeed, allowed some of us (I felt honored in being one) to attack certain common enemies. When Kingsley, for example, got into his unlucky controversy with Newman, Froude and my brother tried to bring out what Kingsley ought to have said. I was permitted to preach a sermon or two upon a text from Carlyle, who had said that Arthur Stanley was going about boring holes in the bottom of the Church of England ; and to argue that that process would not succeed in keeping the ship afloat. I remember, too, undertaking to give a judicial account of Comte’s philosophy, — a daring undertaking, for, according to the believers in .that creed, no outsider can ever speak of it without grievous misunderstanding. I do not know how far I succeeded. I had been greatly impressed by Comte’s books, and have always thought that they were inadequately appreciated by men of science as well as by theologians. I have valued friends among the members of his church, and fancy that if I had been at Oxford, I might have become a convert. Still I fear that they had too much reason for thinking that I sat in the seat of the scorner. A new religion always has a comic side to the wicked. The expectations of the founder have not as yet been verified, but I am convinced that they did some good work and enforced important truths. I see from the Life of Bishop Westcott that he was much of the same opinion.

One positive doctrine, I believe, forbids anonymous writing. The Fortnightly Review, started in 1865, was the first English periodical in which the principle was adopted. After a rather unsuccessful start it took a high position when Mr. Morley became editor. It illustrates the change of which I have spoken. The impression that there was any condescension in contributing to a periodical had finally disappeared. The best writers of the day were not only willing to write, but anxious to let the fact be known. The man who writes under his own name takes the main responsibility. He is not hampered by the platform of the party to whose organ he is contributing. His editor only vouches for the readability of the article, not for the correctness of the opinions expressed. The Fortnightly writers were chiefly Liberals; but the Contemporary which followed was itself colorless. It was understood to be more or less the representative of that curious body, the Metaphysical Society, in which Catholics, Anglicans, Unitarians, Positivists, and Agnostics met for unreserved discussion of fundamental questions. Such discussions had, as I have said, become the order of the day when men’s minds were agitated by Darwinism and biblical criticism, and by the advent of great political and social questions. Undoubtedly, the change has been in many ways beneficial. When you encounter an individual human being, you have to be decently civil. I do not know whether we agree any better, but we certainly do not damn each other so savagely ; we distinguish between the man and the abstract principle which he defends, and have to admit that our enemy is after all made of flesh and blood. Periodicals, too, have had the advantage of receiving contributions into which the best writers have put their best work. Perhaps we may regret that some men of ability have been tempted to such utterances when they ought to have been composing solid masterpieces in several octavo volumes. I will not argue the point. Hawthorne, I think, argues somewhere that civilized men should live in tents instead of in houses, to be free from the bondage to the ancestral conditions. So, one may conjecture, the author of the future will give up bothering himself about posterity and be content with writing for his contemporaries and the immediate present. Perhaps his work will not in the result be the less lasting. At any rate, there came to be a good deal more journalism, which was better than “ ditchwater; ” which contained serious and powerful dealing with important problems. I do not apply these epithets to my own contributions, but, at least, I had sufficient opportunity of taking some part in the work. I had, however, before long to take up other functions.

Leslie Stephen.

(To be continued.)