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And the new theory of morals
The audacities of thirty years which Mr Walpole attributes ago are already demoded. Mr to his annus mirabilis, if it Joyce may appear to some were new, had little to do bolder than the rest, but the with the art of novel-writing. choice of topics, not generally It was but a reaction in favour discussed, is not a stage in the of outspokenness against the evolution of an art, and the stern convention of the nine- novel remains precisely what it teenth century. What prisons
when Apuleius found and circumlocution offices were witches in Thessaly. Whatto Dickens and his contem- ever the novelist, ancient or poraries, sexual problems were modern, discourses about, whatto the intrepid novelists of the ever secrets he uncovers, 'seventies and 'nineties who whether his speech consists of had been on a trip to Paris. "yea” or
nay,” or of the They had read the works of words which are commonly Zola, that hot gospeller, that chalked upon shutters, he must, bitter foe of artistic expression, if he is to achieve an artistic who thought that the duty of success, be master of narrative, the novelist was not to select character, and expression. but to tumble all the contents These the three tests. of a well-filled notebook out And when Mr Walpole sorrowupon paper. And the change fully admits that neither George which they pretended to in- Meredith nor Thomas Hardy augurate was a social, not an has had any part in the evoluartistic change. It matters less tion of the modern novel, we what is the theme of the novel cannot agree with him. Inthan the skill with which the fluence comes from those who theme is handled ; and if it survive, and these two have a is a mere contest of tedious better chance of survival than disclosure, one set of facts is the brave intrepid ones who not worth more than another. shrank not from dangerous The New Women, whose works themes. Truly there is nothing Mr Walpole mentions as "a sadder to contemplate than the bold challenge to British mor- havoc wrought by time among ality”—they were no challenge old novels. A century ago was to literary art, did not differ published in Paris a directory in style or boredom from their of English fiction. This direcpredecessors. They merely tory contained the titles of chose something else to write some 20,000 novels, the greater about, and their books and part of which are to-day entheir influence are buried as tirely forgotten. Again, Mr deeply in the pit of forgotten Walpole quotes a writer in 'The things as the history of the Nineteenth Century,'who makes 'Rougon - Macquarts them the bold assertion that “there selves. And as to the word are at least a hundred and realism, we understand it and fifty living novelists, men and care as little about it as does women, whose work is worthy Mr Walpole himself.
of serious attention, and, out
of these, certain writers do most which it takes to produce a definitely emerge to give us masterpiece is wholly irrelecourage. Fortunate, indeed, vant. 'Guy Mannering' took are they who do emerge, and six weeks to write ; it might though Mr Walpole does ex- have taken six years ; and all clude Meredith and Hardy from that need be said about it is the ranks of modern novelists, that it was finished when Scott we
could bet that in the took his hand from the paper. future they will seem far Scott's motive for concealing fresher, far less deeply marked the name of the author of by an iccusing date than Waverley' is not very clear, Madame Grand, Iota," and but no reader of Lockhart's all the New Women and New 'Life' can be satisfied with Men, who once hoped that they the explanation that he thought were inventing a new form. story-telling simple or childish.
It is largely a matter of He gave his life and his health definition. It is not enough to to the task, and none knew say that the modern novel is better than he how much of a a novel of idea and that the strong man's toil it cost him. old is not. It is not enough Nor can believe for a to deny the consciousness of moment that Scott and Fieldart to the great masters, who ing, ashamed in a jolly sort created easily as they of way of their art, had no breathed, and to grant it to faith in its existence. The old the writers of to-day. There fable of Fielding going to bed is no quality in any modern fuddled with claret and getting novel which may not be found up the next morning to add in • Tristram Shandy' or another chapter to 'Tom Jones'
Clarissa or Tom Jones,' carries its own refutation upon or Vanity Fair' or Great it. In that story of English Expectations. And when Mr life, which Gibbon '
thought Walpole tells us that the earlier worth more than all the glories novelists had no sense at all of the Hapsburgs, there is not of the solemnity of their task, a touch that is not calculated, we cannot but think he is nor a phrase that is not finished. making himself a victim of his When in 'Jonathan Wild' own words. Fielding and Fielding showed the world what Scott," he says, were, in a irony could achieve, he must jolly kind of way, half ashamed perforce have watched every of their art; it was, in fact, page, every line, lest there no art to them at all. Scott should be, perchance, a lapse
. wrote Guy Mannering' in six in that irony. We can imagine weeks, and concealed his name no definition of art which would as the author of those wonder- grant the sacred quality to ful novels because there was Mr George Moore, for instance, something a little childish and and withhold it from Scott and simple about story - telling.” Fielding. From Scott, who Now we would say in answer imagined a new world, and to this, firstly, that the time peopled it with men and women
of his own invention ? Scott, with the material of his art. indeed, seems to possess, not That he had faults none will to say to engross, all the deny. Can any one deny that virtues of the novelist. None as a writer of prose, as that we know has excelled him painter of landscape in words, in the art of narrative. Recall as an inventor of humorous 'The Antiquary ’or' The Heart character and humorous phrase, of Midlothian' or 'Redgaunt- he has had few rivals, Save
, let,' and ask yourself who has only Shakespeare himself ? surpassed the author of these When, as in the prose of Mi's stories in the art of narrative. Gamp, he reaches his greatest Compare "The
'The Fortunes of height, he is not far from the Nigel' with its origins—' The prose of Falstaff. He touches Squire of Alsatia' and the rest the splendour of the epic. —and try to match elsewhere Shall we say that there is no the art wherewith the wizard artistry here? translates dead history into We have disagreed with some living fiction. Do you search of Mr Walpole's conclusions. his pages for character ? Are But it is the best proof of the not Nicol Jarvie, Andrew Fair- sincerity and vitality of his service, Dandie Dinmont, our argument that it prompts disFirst James, and Meg Merrilees cussion. And even if he does reward enough for your dili- not give the older writers credit
Do you look for the for the consciousness 1 which power of expression ? Turn certainly was theirs, he takes his where you will to the pages on craft very seriously, and writes which he uses the vernacular, no word without sincerity. and confess that you cannot Moreover, he sees
no limit find a line awry to eye or
to the work which fiction may
achieve. “It is not enough, So also Mr Walpole thinks thus he concludes his lecture, that Dickens and Thackeray “for him [the Novelist] to note and their contemporaries “ were the tiny earthly changes from little aware of what they were day to day that go on around about." He says that him, not enough for him to farthest direction into which analyse the marks and scratches their consciousness led them made by events upon his own was towards the cure of social tiny personality. Having
It seems to us that created he must place his creathey cared far less for “social tions in a world that is larger evils than did their bold bad than his mortal eye can scan, successors for the “sexual prob- and that has more meaning in lem."
It towards the its truth and in its beauty practice of their art that their than his mortal brain can consciousness led them. Dick- grasp.” So he is with the ens' life was one long struggle masters in sympathy after all.
1 Was Thackeray unconscious of what he was doing, we wonder, when he beat the table with his fist at a certain passage of 'Vanity Fair,' and proclaimed that it was genius ?
Printed in Great Britain by
“I DO believe an English journalistic writing, nor its newspaper is the most various equally astonishing range and and extraordinary composition versatility. And this is one that mankind ever produced. of the little ironies of fate, for An English newspaper, while Boswell intended that long ere it informs the judicious of what this we should have known all is really doing in Europe, can about it. keep pace with the wildest I have before me as I write fancy in feigned adventures, one of the most amazing sets and amuse the most desultory of books it has ever been my taste with essays on all sub- lot to examine : Boswell's own jects and in every style.” file of the ‘London Chronicle
So wrote James Boswell, some (a newspaper which appeared time early in 1767, in the manu- three times a week) for the script of his ' Account of Cor- years 1767 to 1775 inclusive, sica'; and, as he gave the with his contributions marked last flourish with his quill, he in his own hand. This remarkmay well have smiled and able set has recently, through glanced at the last number of the munificence of Mr R. B. the ' London Chronicle,' in Adam, become the property of which several “ various and the Yale University Library, extraordinary compositions"
where I have had the opporowed their existence solely to tunity to study it thoroughly his own fertile fancy.
and at leisure. It is more than No one, I think, without the a marked file. ,
For not only evidence which I am about to has Boswell meticulously indipresent, would have suspected cated each of his own contributhe astonishing amount of his tions with a distinctive mark VOL. COXVIII. -NO. MCCCXVIII.
(a star made thus, *), but he two great desires burning in has also added occasional manu- his breast. The first was to be script notes, intimate and per- of some real service to Pascal sonal. More than this, Bos- Paoli and the brave Corsican well has drawn up in the front patriots. The second was to of the first three volumes (that write a book concerning his is, from January 1767 to June travels in Corsica-and to sell it. 1768 inclusive) complete On 9th January 1766 1 (more manuscript index of all the than a month before he landed
paragraphs and essays con- in England), the readers of tributed by James Boswell, the London Chronicle'
were Esq.” In the three volumes treated to a long paragraph there are roughly one hundred which purported to be an of these "paragraphs and tract of a letter from Rome,' essays,” ranging in length from dated 5th December 1765. It a line or two to a whole news- had really been dispatched by paper page and more. He has Boswell himself from Genoa a not been content with merely day or two after he set foot marking and listing them. In on the mainland : " You have this index every item is care- been amused with reports of fully set down as
Britain's sending an embassy “invention.” The “facts are to the island of Corsica. I can, news items with some actual however, inform you for cerbasis of truth; the “inven- tain that a British subject has tions," which have every ex- actually been there. About ternal appearance of being as the middle of October, Mr genuine, were made up by Boswell, a Scots gentleman James Boswell, Esq. There upon his travels over Europe, are, I rejoice to add, very few sailed from the port of Legparagraphs indexed fact." horn for the island of Corsica.' The greater part of the entries The letter gives a brief résumé are feigned adventures cal- of the tour, but casts a shroud culated to “keep pace with the of mystery over the real object wildest fancy."
of Mr Boswell's visit, which, As every one knows, Boswell it is more than hinted, was made a tour to Corsica, then of a political nature : The engaged in a war of independ- Genoese bave been not a little ence with the republic of Genoa, alarmed by it. People in this in the late autumn of 1765. part of the world are curious He was the first English tourist to know what will really be the ever to make the journey. He consequences of Mr Boswell's remained on the island five tour to Corsica." weeks, and he came away with This letter “from Rome
1 Boswell's marked file, as I have said, does not begin until 1767, but these items, because of the information they contain, could have been written by no