« PrethodnaNastavi »
uity, he calls attention to the following:
From what has been here said, it will be
* A HISTORY OF EIGHTEENTH CENTURY LITERATURE (1660 TO 1780). By Edmund Gosse, M.A., Clark Lecturer in English Literature at Trinity College, Cambridge. New York: Macmillan & Co.
Literature," in THE DIAL (vol. viii. p. 259), I found good reason to hope that the completed work would constitute a more satisfactory surof the whole field of our literature than we had hitherto possessed. It is pleasant now, after the lapse of fourteen months, to be able
say that Mr. Gosse's contribution fully bears out the promise of Mr. Saintsbury's. Indeed, by its freedom from the glaring imperfections which it has been more than once my duty to point out in Mr. Saintsbury's style, the present volume is, negatively, a marked advance upon its predecessor. Not that Mr. Gosse's style is, in Saintsburian phrase, “impeccable." It is sometimes feeble, now and then negligent, and occasionally marred by far-sought similes which are too plainly stuck-on for decorative effect. But barring these lapses, which are so far from being penetrative that they might easily be corrected in a later edition, Mr. Gosse's mode of expression is singularly clear, pure, and polished. If he fails anywhere, it is in enthusiasm and strength; always interesting and sensible, he seldom betrays any warmth of feeling. Enthusiasm and strength are perhaps the sole qualities in which this volume falls short of its predecessor. It should, however, be borne in mind that Mr. Saintsbury had to deal with a period of abounding intellectual life, -a period when genius actually appeared to be "catchIn the period treated in the volume before us, on the other hand, the human mind seldom rises very high above what Matthew Arnold calls "our ordinary selves." And if in Mr. Saintsbury's style there is something of the want of measure characterizing the age of which he treats, in Mr. Gosse's narrative there is a sobriety, a symmetry, an evenness of movement, eminently suited to the historian of “ an age of prose and reason."
Mr. Gosse is to be commended, I insist, for his abstention from the literary argot, the intolerable affectations, the foreign interlardings, which make the old jest inevitable in its application to Mr. Saintsbury, "He has been at a great feast of languages, and stolen the scraps. This purity of speech is itself the sign of a
EIGHTEENTH CENTURY LITERATURE.*
Mr. Gosse's "Eighteenth Century Litera- deeper excellence. Mr. Gosse has evidently
ture" is intended to serve as the third volume of a history of English Literature in four volumes, by as many different hands. Reviewing the second volume, Saintsbury's "Elizabethan
reflected much more deeply than his predecessor upon the aims and limitations of such a rhetorical mandate to adapt yourself to your work as this. He has obeyed the good old audience, a precept that becomes more binding and more arduous in proportion as the written word tends to usurp the place of oratory. Mr. Gosse has evidently made the
important discovery that his audience is not mainly to be composed of littérateurs, nor yet of widely-read people like Macaulay's formidable schoolboy. This work will probably be mainly consulted by college-students, by ladies in search of "culture," by people who have examinations to pass, and by those who, having heard much and read little of our great authors, desire to know what to think of them. This vast reading public addressed by the modern historian of literature, although immensely patient under instruction, has a shocking propensity to yawn, and is capable of voting a very learned man a bore. It is so much easier to close a book than to steal away from a tedious discourse or to elude the bony finger of the button-holder! Without any sacrifice of severe allegiance to his didactic aim, without swerving from scientific accuracy of exposition, Mr. Gosse has had the taste and tact to make the necessary concessions to his audience and to charm while he instructs. From this point of From this point of view, it is to be hoped that those who are entrusted with the remaining volumes of this history will study to imitate our author rather than his predecessor.
By virtue of what qualities does this writer succeed in making a work of popular exposition so graceful and attractive? To the chief qualities of his style I have already referred. As to thought, it is to be remarked that the work owes none of its interest to paradox, to startling theories, to personal judgments, to brilliant obiter dicta, or to literary heresy of any kind. In some of these respects this book is a great improvement upon the sketchy preliminary study entitled "From Shakspere to Pope," a book that added little to Mr. Gosse's fame. In a work like the present one a wise conservatism is peculiarly appropriate, while the temptation to eccentricities of some kind is peculiarly difficult to resist. It is so much easier to be epigrammatic than to be accurate, so much harder to say the right thing than to say the brilliant thing! That he has been sufficiently imbued with the scientific spirit to resist this insidious temptation to win a cheap and flimsy reputation for "originality," is perhaps the highest praise that can nowadays be bestowed upon an author; and Mr. Gosse has fairly earned it.
In answer to the question with which the preceding paragraph began, I can only remind the reader that Mr. Gosse, being a poet as well as a critic, has the rare gift of concrete and pictorial generalization. Long after we close
the book we are haunted by many a charming image, many an unobtrusive bit of coloring, by means of which the artistic historian contrives to convey the general impression of a masterpiece, or the tang of a satire, or the aroma of some gracious character. One is tempted to quote some of these beautiful summary statements, in formulating which the poet hastens to the aid of the critic and rescues generalization from bald abstraction. Examples are, the estimate of Dryden as a prose-writer, of Addison's influence and character, of Fielding's "Tom Jones," of Thomson's "Castle of Indolence." Indeed, Mr. Gosse's whole temper seems so subdued to what it works in, that he becomes an almost ideal critic of such poets as Dryden and Pope, and of such prosaists as Addison and Fielding. This poetic sensibility is united with catholicity of taste, and with sufficient flexibility of mind to enable him to do full justice to the sentimental veins of Sterne and Richardson, on the one hand, and to Johnson's impatience of cant, on the other. Burke is the only first-rate figure to which he does something less than justice. Mr. Gosse's half-feminine genius shrinks from Burke as a lark might shrink from a tornado. He quietly dissents from the laudation Burke has received from Mr. John Morley and others, while he fails to adorn his study of the great orator with any of those exquisite touches wherewith he illumines the figures of those he loves.
In perusing this book, I have accumulated a too considerable collection of slips and errors, typographical and other, in which I can hardly believe that readers of THE DIAL will be much interested. One of Mr. Gosse's slips deserves, however, to be recorded among the minor curiosities of criticism. He, the biographer and editor of Gray, actually manages to misquote a well-known line from "The Progress of Poesy," one of the few poems with which everyone is expected to be familiar (p. 25). It is as bad as if Professor Sylvester were caught tripping on an elementary proposition in Euclid. Since I have begun to find fault, I will mention one or two other matters of detail. At p. 123 we are informed that Theobald's edition of Shakespeare "was far more scholarly than Pope's." Turning the leaf, we are confronted with the inconsistent statement that "Theobald might justly claim" to be both dull and a dunce. This reminds us of Macaulay's notorious paradox about Boswell. Another inconsistency: at p. 9 the author positively states Dryden to be
"the greatest poet in English literature between Milton and Wordsworth." When he reaches Pope he begins to doubt it: Pope is perhaps the greatest poet with whom we have to deal in the present volume." Similarly, although without the contradiction, Thomson is introduced by the formula, "the most original and influential poetic figure which exists between Pope and Gray," while Gray carries forward the apostolic succession as "the most important poetical figure in our literature between Pope and Wordsworth." In defence of these rather soulless formulas, it is to be said that they are a part of the general system of perspicuity which is one of the excellences of the book. To make the general outline of a book clear to a fault is certainly, to say the least, pardonable.
There is but one example of what seems to me fanciful theorizing. It occurs on the first page of the "Conclusion" : " But still, throughout the seventeenth century, poetry remained the normal class of expression, while prose retained its conscious character as something which had to compete with poetry and share its graces." Now the plain fact is that English prose failed to become precise and clear in the seventeenth century, simply because scarcely anyone took the task of writing English prose seriously enough. So soon as men began to take the task seriously, prose began to get free its hinder parts" from the bog of Latin in which it had been mired. In other words, English prose was written, as Milton wrote it, "" with the left hand," by men trained in the Latin school, who despised the vulgar tongue" and who disdained to take the pains with English prose that they willingly took with Latin prose. Bacon and Sir Thomas Browne wrote carefully and produced measured and precise English prose. As Latin scholarship declined, as the resources of the vernacular became better known, and as the influence of French classic prose began to tell, men like Cowley, Temple, and Dryden, were led to take the task of English prose composition seriously. From that moment our classic prose style was formed, and the flounderings of such men of genius as Milton and Jeremy Taylor became thenceforth impossible.
praised Mr. Gosse for his freedom from the itch of "originality," it would not become me to censure him for failure to break new ground. To reproduce in an agreeable summary the best results of the labors of other critics, to inform such a summary with the freshness of first-hand work, to betray no crudeness, no lack of liberal equipment for a task so extensive,this is indeed a very honorable achievement. Mr. Gosse's book is not likely to be completely superseded by future labors in the same field. MELVILLE B. ANDERSON.
THE CRITICAL PERIOD OF AMERICAN HISTORY.*
Professor Fiske occupies a unique place in the field of historical authorship. He unites with the literary skill of the essayist something of the profundity of the original investigator. His writings rarely fail to impress one as the expression of mature conviction attained only after research, and his opinions are the more readily granted a hearing since they come to us in a form that is fitted to please and instruct, rather than to dogmatize.
The volume before us is a popular treatise on a most interesting theme, "The Critical Period of American History" (1783-89). As the preface states, the author's aim is simply to group the events of the six years succeeding the conclusion of peace with Great Britain in such an order as may best bring out their causal sequence. The culmination of the period, of course, is the constitution itself, and its adoption. The book is chiefly occupied with a setting forth of the train of important facts and conditions that made the Federal Convention of 1787 possible, and its results on the whole acceptable. While the work was clearly intended for the general reader, the special student of American history cannot fail to find in it much suggestive and stimulating material. The full bibliographical note at the end of the volume is to be especially commended.
One of the most noteworthy chapters of the book is the first. In this the reader is made acquainted with the "Results of Yorktown"— not in America, but in old England. To many this vivid statement of the close relation between the success of the Continental arms and the strifes and falls of British parties will reveal, perhaps for the first time, a most instruct
The chapter dealing with the development of English prose after the Restoration is the least satisfactory one in the book. But the subject has never, so far as my reading goes, been adequately treated, a recent American attempt in that direction being something worse than a distinct disappointment. Having just By John Fiske. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co.
THE CRITICAL PERIOD OF AMERICAN HISTORY, 1783-1789.
ive page in the history of Imperial politics. The brilliant diplomatic triumph won by Franklin, Adams, and Jay, is all the more keenly appreciated when viewed in the historical setting which these events give it.
The conclusion of peace, in 1783, as it seems to us now, should have ushered in an era of prosperity in America. This was the hour of victory; but we are not to forget that it was also a time of the deepest despondency. Prof. Fiske has little difficulty in convincing us of the fitness of the title which he has chosen for his studies. It was indeed the "Critical Period." The second and third chapters are devoted to a summary of the social and political life of the times, and an analysis of the status of the States under the Confederation. The discussion of
fully realized this, they might not have provided for a Congress, President, and Judiciary, each with clearly defined powers. The peculiarly American feature of our system, as Professor Fiske conceives it, consists in intrusting to the Judiciary the interpretation of the supreme law of the land.
these topics is for the most part admirable. In recognizing the connection between constitutional and social history, the writer allies himself with the representatives of certain characteristic tendencies in modern historical writing. We cannot but regret, in view of the comprehensive survey of religious establishments, that no light is thrown upon the state of education under the Confederation. A better understanding of the attitude of the people in different parts of the Union toward public education might do much to clarify our ideas concerning this long-neglected period.
The chapter entitled "Drifting toward Anarchy" records the utter degradation to which a weak and irresponsible form of government led us; while "Germs of National Sovereignty" reflects the gropings after security resulting at last in the Convention of 1787. Much importance is attached to the national land question and the Ordinance of 1787. "Without studying this creation of a national domain between the Alleghanies and the Mississippi,' says Professor Fiske, "we cannot understand how our Federal Union came to be formed." In the account of the framing of the Constitution, the influence of the slavery question is clearly traced. The comparative study of the English and American forms of government is skilful, and in some respects original. The point is emphasized that while our Constitution was to a great extent modelled after the British, it still differs from it in essential particulars because the fathers mistook the apparent for the real in their pattern. Thus, in the British government, as everyone now knows, the executive is not really separated from the legislative. The separation is only apparent. Had the American imitators of England in 1787
The concluding chapter, "Crowning the Work," narrates the battle that was fought out in each of the States before a ratification was obtained. obtained. Hamilton never appeared to better advantage than in the New York Convention at Poughkeepsie, working against tremendous odds, winning at length by sheer intellectual might. With 1789-that year of evil portent to continental Europe-our crisis in America has been passed. Our author began his history with the fall of Lord North's ministry in England,―on a day of good omen, as he said, to the whole English race; and now, seven years later, he leaves Washington standing in front of Federal Hall in New York City, and hailed by a thousand voices as "President of the United States." W. B. SHAW.
THE HEART OF ASIA.*
The motive with which Messrs. Bonvalot, Pépin and Capus undertook the interesting journey, the fortunes of which are narrated in these handsome volumes, was "to penetrate into the heart of Asia, and to shed as much light as possible upon its history with the torch of geography." Such an announcement as this excites the highest degree of interest; for although it cannot be said that the history of Asia is bound up in its geography more than that of other continent, it is true that the any problems of geography which stand in close relation to the history of Central Asia are peculiarly obscure. Some of the mightiest of historical phenomena had their origin or received their impulse in these distant and unexplored regions; and although it would be unsafe to affirm that the geography alone will explain these phenomena, there can be no
doubt that we shall understand them better when we know the region better.
The work before us contains only half of M. Bonvalot's contribution to this important field of knowledge. In 1880-82 he made a journey with M. Capus through the countries
*THROUGH THE HEART OF ASIA. Over the Pamir to India. By Gabriel Bonvalot. With 250 Illustrations by Albert Pépin. Translated from the French by C. B. Pitnian. In two volumes. New York: A. C. Armstrong & Son.
north of the Oxus, publishing an account of it afterward in a work entitled "En Asie Centrale." In this journey, as in the present, he visited Samarcand and Bokhara-towns whose names excite the highest historical curiosity and interest; and it may be supposed that certain historical questions which we are disappointed not to find discussed in the work before us, may have been fully treated there. It would be ungracious, at any rate, to quarrel with a book so full of interest and information, for what it does not contain. It is enough to say in general that we have here a vivid picture of life, character, and scenery along this long route, from Marseilles, by way of Constantinople and Trebizond, by the great ́historical way running from west to east, in the company of pilgrims bound at once on prayer and traffic as in the Middle Ages," and then by an incredibly daring and laborious, even perilous, route in winter over the very "roof of the world" into India.
The most interesting of the special historical questions which should have been treated in this work was excluded by the jealousy of the Afghan government, which turned our travellers back just as they were almost in sight of Balkh, the ancient Bactra. It was only when they were thus cut off from the route through Afghanistan, that they changed their plans, and determined to reach India through the Pamïr-coming very near, in this passage, to meeting with a repulse at the hands of Chinese officials, similar to that which they had already sustained from the Afghans.
The great fact which impresses the student of history-the important part played at various epochs by these now sterile and thinly inhabited regions is hardly touched upon in these volumes, having no doubt been treated in the previous work. Twice, however, we find significant statements. Of Termis (the ancient Termes) it is said (vol. ii. p. 4), "It is clearly demonstrable that it was abandoned for want of water"; and soon after (p. 11) they came to the ruins of a dyke and an aqueduct. Clearly we have here, as in many other parts of the world, evidence of an early industrious population, which redeemed for cultivation and habitation a tract which the fierce conquerors of a later age suffered to fall into disuse and ruin.
Perhaps it is too much to say that these deserts now could not supply material for the hordes of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, to say nothing of the Huns, Avars, Magyars, and
Seljuks, who preceded them; for it is an immense tract, and if its population could be now gathered under the banner of an imperious ruler, it would perhaps surprise us by its multitude. It is not the capacity of sending out swarms of savage invaders, that is the point of importance, but the traditions and memories of peaceful occupation, prosperity, industry, and wealth. If our ancestors of the Aryan race had their origin here, as is generally believed, it must have been then a very different country from what it is now.
The present work is a book of travels, pure and simple, not a systematic treatise; the reader often wishes, even, that the author took more pains to explain his allusions and situations. For example, in the first volume (p. 205) a conversation is introduced with an aged Uzbeg, touching a recent change in the Emirate of Bokhara. A brief note would have made this conversation more intelligible; but the incident is not explained until twentyfive pages further on. In like manner, a short paragraph as to political relations in the great Pamir region would throw light upon many incidents of the thrilling narrative. The whole book is a series of object-lessons in historical geography, and in the manners and institutions of primitive nations. Apart from the general picture, there are special incidents and remarks in the same line. in the same line. An interesting account is given (i. p. 220) of the springing up of a village of Cabulis in the Uzbeg country. Of the Turkomans of the Amu, we are told (ii. p. 7) that they "are as a rule too poor to be nomad ; they have not enough cattle to have any need to move from place to place, and their tents, put up between four walls, are chiefly used by them in the summer months." The familiar principle of the supreme importance of the family organization in early society is illustrated by the remark (p. 26), "In Central Asia the people of Turkish blood despise those who have lost their race.'" We have on page 179 an interesting account of a mixture of "As the Wakhis are not very rich, and they sell their daughters very cheap, the Kirghis marry them, and learn their language. From these cross-marriages are born a fair race of men, tall, with comparatively large eyes, and small men who have sometimes a long nose like the stem of a jug, not at all of the Mongol shape."
The illustrations in the volume are graphic and vigorously drawn-reproduced by some process. process. The map is excellent, but in the