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tender-hearted old grandmother Yvonne, and the rest of them, signify so little, that whether they suffered or rejoiced was all one to the deaf and blind nature of things? Is the last idol that men worship not even a blood-stained Moloch, but the Supreme Indifference? So judged Spinoza, so repeat after him the sect of the Unknowable, to whom it appears beyond belief that the heart of man should divine by its deepest emotions what is at the heart of Nature. A little moment of promise and passion, great fears, irremediable losses ;—and then, the sea overwhelms and swallows down what the earth has brought forth. Seed-time and harvest return, return for ever; but there is no garner of life. Endless generations, no immortality. The spiritual creed, relying on which men have dared and done noble things for thousands of years, has at length, these writers tell us, been shattered, dissolved, explained away, by science running out into nescience, like a stream losing itself in mid Atlantic. The veil of Maya being lifted shows us, in Amiel's astonishing phrase, “the illusion of the great Death.' For all alike is illusion, death as well as life, good and evil, pleasure and pain, love, righteousness, remorse, penitence, and beyond all other things, hope. •En voilà pour jamais.'
What are we to think, now the procession has gone by, with its music and its banners, a thousand fantastic figures, in sable and scarlet, the carnival of Paris or of France, representing, as we said, the life of a nation ? Here are the prophets, apostles, martyrs of the new time, each bearing his illuminated scroll, written within and without, professing to have the secret hidden from the beginning, and to publish it gratis. Are we justified in asserting a family likeness between them all? Is Rousseau their father, be they Realists or Romanticists? or would he disown them as impostors ?
The question must be decided by evidence such as we have brought forward. Rousseau was a compound of mysticism and sensuality ;' no law was sacred to him but the gratification of instinct. He grafted every virtue upon a vice. He treated adultery as one of the fine arts, and abounded in theatrical sentiment while forwarding his children to the Foundling Hospital, duly as they arrived. He was full of a mad vanity which could brook no interference, and drove him into solitude where he devoured his own heart. He had cruel as well as cynical instincts which men like Couthon and Robespierre inherited. He was vulgar, obscene, furious; all sentiment and sensation, upon which he founded a malignant logic subversive of human institutions,-or if mechanically constructive, never yet equal to organic creation. In his view, society was one monstrous pile of
falsehood. falsehood. He would have laid the axe to the root and brought it down, as the generation in fact did which followed his guidance. He was of a despairing temperament, defended suicide, lived at the mercy of impulse, and at last, as is probable, committed the supreme act of cowardice involved in self-destruction. If we enlarge this picture till it becomes a national autobiography, shall we not see in it the literary, artistic, and philosophical France which the novelists have drawn? It
appears so to us. Balzac, Stendhal, Flaubert, Zola, Bourget, Pierre Loti, Daudet, greatly as they differ in character and style, do yet agree in the general resemblance. Negatively, they are not controlled by that reason which discerns the laws of life, morality, and the Divine Presence in the world. Positively, they write under the pressure of passion and instinct. The man they delineate is not a being of large discourse looking before and after; he is la bête humaine.
Well, let us draw the conclusion. Those who cannot regard history in the light of an old almanack, but who judge that the future will be governed by the laws which have moulded the past, will be reminded, as this long procession moves off the stage, of certain words written by Lord Chesterfield on Christmas Day, 1753, when the Revolution was only murmuring like distant thunder :-* All the symptoms,' he observed, which I have ever met with in history, previous to great changes and revolutions in government, now exist and daily increase in France, But revolution' is not the word which falls from French lips in our time. There is something beyond revolution; and the Renans, Bourgets, and Daudets are not slow to pronounce it—the word “decadence.' A putrescent civilization, a corruption of high and low, a cynical shamelessness meet us at every turn, from the photographs which insult modesty in the shop windows on the Boulevards, and the pornographic literature on the bookstalls, to the multiplication of divorces and the drama of adultery' accepted as a social ordinance. What difference of view is there between Jacques' and · Un Disciple,' save that George Sand was a sentimental artist and M. Bourget is a student of psychology? What between • Sapho ’ and Les Parents Pauvres,' or between La Terre' and Les Paysans'? And is not Flaubert's disdain of Emma Bovary surpassed by his still deeper disdain of himself? The civilizing bond of the moral law has burst asunder in France; and the whole beast-nature it kept in check is stripping itself of the last shreds of decency that it may go about naked and not ashamed. All has ended in the mire, in the abyss of the eternal nothingness,' cries the hero of Le Mariage de Loti.' The litera
ture of a nation possessed with that belief has become either a Psalm of Death, or, as M. Renan proves in “L'Abbesse de Jouarre,' a wild outburst of Epicurean sensuality. With Leopardi it exclaims, Omai per l'ultima volta dispera,' or with Baudelaire,
* Resigne-toi, mon cour; dors ton sommeil de brute.' The question is whether we are witnessing, not the tragedy of a will which thinks,' exemplified in the rejuvenescence of a great nation struggling against adversity, but something at once hideous and beyond all description pitiable, the comedy of delirium tremens, of foul dreams and spasmodic efforts, with which M. Zola makes his hero die in L'Assommoir.' These are not merely symptoms of revolution ; they are prognostics of an intellectual and moral suicide. To find a parallel to modern French literature we must go back to Martial and Petronius. But when Martial and Petronius wrote, society was sinking down into its ashes like a spent fire, suffocating in the stench of its own abominations. M. Zola has shown us the barbarians ready to break out from the Ventre de Paris.' And in Sapho,' • Les Rois en Exil,' • Un Disciple,' . La Morte,' and the rest, we learn the temper and the moral resources of that governing part of France which will be called upon to withstand, or to civilize them. M. Richepin, moreover, has vehemently declared in · Les Blasphèmes,' that so long as science, art, or principle is believed in, the old superstition which he calls Theism and Christianity will return. We may invert the reasoning and assert, that when Christianity has been cast out, science, art, and principle will follow it. For man to sleep the sleep of the brute,' means not only the decadence, but the end of a civilization.
Art. IV.-1. Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories,
and Tragedies, published according to the True Original Copies. London: Printed by Isaac Laggard and Edward
Blount, 1623. 2. Notes and Lectures upon Shakespeare, etc., of S. T. Coleridge.
London, 1849. 3. Shakespeare's Hamlet, a methodical Analysis of the Play. By
Edward Strachey. Privately printed, 1848.
WHERE are two ways, as Dr. Johnson has pointed out, and
there is even a third, of reading Shakespeare. We may rise on the wing of our awakened imagination, and enjoy the glorious view which the poet has opened before us, without caring to make out all those details of the prospect which are obscure and unintelligible to us. Or we may prefer to examine and acquaint ourselves with all those details, one by one, till in the end they form themselves into a great whole, perhaps not less splendid than the other. Or, lastly, we may combine the two methods, and so still more perfectly see and comprehend the picture, when we make out and recognise all the details, and yet see them from that distance which is necessary in order that we may see them in their true perspective of form and colour and distinctness, and in their proper relations to each other and to the whole. We shall not disdain the minute learning of a Stevens or a Malone, nor fancy that we are thereby less, instead of more, able to follow Coleridge when he looks on what Shakespeare has written from the region of his transcendental philosophy. And here we are bound to mention the great Variorum Shakespeare of Mr. Furness, now in course of publication. It gives us the substance of the old Variorum edition of 1821, adding to this all the like verbal criticisms of the following fifty or sixty years; a critically collated text, of which the Cambridge Shakespeare was the only previous instance; and a very large selection from what Mr. Furness calls the æsthetic criticisms of all dates and countries. But encyclopædic as this work is, we hope to put before our readers something which they will not find there on the special subject which we have taken in hand—what Shakespeare tells us about Ghosts, Witches, and Fairies.
What Shakespeare tells us : for we shall hardly be able to take a step without being confronted with those never-to-besilenced critics, Common Sense and Dryasdust. They will at once ask us, Do you believe, or wish us to believe, that Shakespeare meant all that ?' We might reply to those critics
that Shakespeare did mean a great deal more than they may be able to discover in his words. But we would rather assert that we have Shakespeare's own authority for maintaining that he said more than he meant. And it is our business to look for the meaning, for all the meanings, which his words contain, and not merely what we may suppose him to have consciously intended. So the judge discovers and declares the law, not by trying to find out what the legislators meant, but what is the meaning of the words in which they have embodied the statute. Men call the poet inspired ;' they speak of the vision and the faculty divine' with which he is gifted; they believe that under the power of this inspiration and in the exercise of this insight the poet rises above himself and is greater than he knows, and that then his words contain a meaning and a truth beyond what he is, or can be, distinctly conscious of while in the act of utterance. How this can be-how the finite can thus be linked with the infinite—we may not be able to explain, but must we—nay, can we—therefore deny the fact ? If some Hebrew or Greek poet of two or even three thousand years ago has left us words which at once rouse and express our deepest thoughts and feelings, it must be because we have found a life and a meaning in those words which are really there, and are no inventions of ours, whether he who originally uttered them could, or could not, have said that this was what he
We might indeed suspect the reality of our discovery, if no one but ourselves had made it: but when we find that in every country and in every age to which those words have come, they have been welcomed by men and women for conveying to them essentially the same meaning as to us, we may and must believe that the meaning is in the words, and not in our fancy. Or take the host of criticisms on the play of Hamlet. This is the test to which we may fairly bring every criticism of the play, and with which we may answer the question whether this is the meaning of what Shakespeare has written. Does it accord in the main with what we and the other men have hitherto known of that Hamlet who has been more or less familiar to us these many years? If it tells us of a new and strange Hamlet whom neither we nor our fathers have known, we may well decline to listen : but if it helps us to understand the old Hamlet better, to see a method and a consistency in parts of his conduct which were previously obscure to us, and to give a reason to ourselves for our faith that here, as always, Shakespeare is true to nature, and has employed his art in depicting the real, though perhaps the subtlest and most intricate, workings of the human soul: if