תמונות בעמוד
[blocks in formation]


A somewhat bitter cry has lately gone mediate sensation" are no more a criterion up from a popular writer that in England, of intellectual appreciation than the popuas distinguished from other countries, larity of Tom Thumb or the revelations of

men cannot write as they would (unless a divorce trial. They are simply the offthey are rich and can afford to publish, spring of curiosity, or of a morbid craving like Orion' Horne, at a farthing a copy), after what is abnormal or naughty. The because the public and its distributing writer from whom I am quoting, indeed, agents dictate to them so absolutely how goes on to ask, “Do we want obscenity? and what they are to produce that they Do we want adultery? Do we want Zocan't escape froin it." Consequently laism in its ugliest developments ?” And “letters, as a whole, in Britain have a

he answers,

“ Not at all.” Then why his great injustice done them by their inartis

soon after at the British bourtic environments.” Authors in other geoisie? The said bourgeoisie, we are countries have the advantage of address- told, can kick a fellow when he's down ing a cosmopolitan public because they are most effectively. It gave sinister evidence allowed to write what they please ; but of its power the other day when it man

can anybody pretend that any English aged almost to overthrow the strongest work of imagination of the last thirty man in Ireland for a breach of etiquetteyears has ever produced anything like the if I remember aright, he'd bruken an egg immediate sensation produced on Europe at the little end, or he'd got out of a house by the ‘ Kreutzer Sonata,' by ` Thermi- without the aid of a footman.” So, then, dor,' by . Les Rois en Exil,' by ` Hedda the seduction of your friend's wife under Gabler ?'

What a national dis- your friend's roof, and then a precipitate grace !" Why? Is “ immediate sensa exit by a fire-escape to avoid the outraged tion' the test of literary excellence? Do husband's chastisement, is but“ a breach the“ Kreutzer Sonata” and “ Hedda Gab. of etiquette," no more blameworthy than ler” owe their popularity to their artistic “ breaking an egg at the little end !" merits? They owe it rather to the spice And it is because the British public will of impropriety which is supposed to gar not pay for the glorification of such exnish them. The “ Kreutzer Sonata” is ploits, or give their confidence to the by no means Tolstoi's chef d'ouvre, but it heroes of them, that it is to be denounced has been far more widely read than any as“ stodgy," and its conduct as sinisother of his works ; and any one who finds ter !” evidence of great dramatic talent or literary This complaint against the "inartistic excellence in “ Hedda Gabler" must be environments,” which are supposed to feteasy to plea e. These epidemics of “im. ter the genius of the British novelist, raises

the question of the relation of novels to * The Wages of Sin. A Novel, by Lucas Malet. London : Swan Sonnenschein & Co.

morals. Can a novel be simply un1891.

moral,"' to quote the cant phrase now in


[ocr errors]

vogue ? From a Christian point of view forms in the manuscript of one of his it may be said that it is hardly possible Dialogues. But so far was Plato from for any work of a rational human being to thinking that an artist has no ethical be unmoral ; and not merely from a Chris- sympathies at all,” that he emphatically tian point of view. I believe that all great declared that he was no true artist who muralists, Pagan as well as Christian, worked without a moral purpose ; and a would say so.

Plato and Aristotle cer moral purpose runs through all bis own tainly would. The critic, of course, has Dialogues. In fact, a novelist cannot help nothing to do with the moral character of showing his moral sympathies in his an author, but he is within his rights in creations ;* and he who can regard his passing judgment on the moral character characters with the same ethical indifferof his work. This is pereinptorily denied ence as the painter does the colors on his by those who contend that a novelist need palette is no artist at all : he is a mere not, and ought not to, concern himself artisan, and his characters will bave no with the moral consequences of his work. more life in them than the inarionettes of "The artist,” says one of these apologists a conjurer. The greatest critic of ancient of “unmoral” ait, works with his eye Greece, perhaps of the world—the on the object. Nothing else interests ter of all who know”-says that the true him. ... An artist has no ethical sym end of tragedy is to purify the passions, pathies at all.

Virtue and wickedness are and he condemns as bad art any work that to him sinply what the colors on his pal- has

immoral tendency” ( ette are to the painter. They are no more, Baaßepà)t ; which is but another way of and they are no less. He sees that by saying that morality is the end of the these means a certain effect can be pro dramatic art. The greatest of English duced, and he produces it. Iago may be art-critics insists on the same truth. The inorally horrible, and Imogene stainless highest thing," says Ruskin, “that art purity. Shakespeare had as much delight can do is to set before you the true image in creating the one as he had in creating of the presence of a noble human being. the other.

It has never done more than this, and it There is bere a strange confusion of ought not to do less."| And to illustrate thought. The question is not whether the essential relations of art to moraldramatist or novelist may delight in creat- ity,” he quotes a fine passage in which ing a bad character, but whether he en Plato lays it down that the business of a gages our sympathies on behalf of bad poet, and, indeed, of every artist, is to characters. Shakespeare never does so. create for us the image of a noble If his artistic mind had not been charged morality, so that the young men, livwith ethical sympathies’' he could never ing in a wholesome atmosphere, may be have created Iago. Doubtless he delighted profited by everything that, in work fairy in that superb creation ; but he delighted wrought, may touch them through hearin it just because of its extraordinary ing or sight—as if it were a breeze bringethical interest, and he would have con- ing health to them from places strong for sidered his creation a failure if he found

life.” § the public applauding the conduct of Iago. Another great authority on the same And what is true of Shakespeare is true of side is Lessing, a critic to whom Goethe, all great artists. Who can read Sophocles Herder, and Macaulay owned their obligawithout being touched by the contagion tions more than to any other writer. of his ethical sympathies ! Hence the “ To act with a purpose," says Lessing, Jaudatory dictum

dictum of

of Aristotle, that " is what raises man above the brutes ; to Sophocles drew men as they ought to be, invent with a purpose, to imitate with a Euripides as they actually are. This does not mean that Sophocles never paints bad

*“ It is, of course, true that many of the characters, but that he gives us ideals of

strong masters had deep faults of character ;

but their faults show in their works. It is moral conduct for our guidance and en true that some could not govern their pascouragement Plato was probably, on the sions ; if so, they died young, or they painted whole, the greatest literary artist the world ill when old."-Ruskin, " Lectures on Art," has yet seen. So much' value did he set p. 96.

Aristotle, Poet,” c. iv. 26. on style that, after his death, a sentence “ Lectures on Art," p. 96. was found written in seventy different Ibid., 46, 50.

purpose, is that which distinguishes genius perament." * Schiller may not have had from the petty artists who only invent to a distinct moral aim before his mind as he invent, imitate to imitate. Genius aims wrote “ The Robbers,” but Hazlitt says at working on our powers of desire and of that drama that it“ gave him a deep abhorrence with objects that deserve these sense of suffering and a strong desire after feelings, and ever strives to show these good which haunted bim ever since.”' | objects in their true light, in order that no The habitual attitude of the poet's mind false light may lead us to what we should was in a moral direction ; his art, theredesire and abhor.” Accordingly he fore, was contagious for good. damns Marmontel's" Soliman” with stern To claim, then, that novels are not censure, because we see in that play a amenable to criticism on moral, but only couple of persons whom we ought to de on artistic grounds, is an absurdity. But spise, one of whom should fill us with dis- what do we mean when we condemn a gust and the other with anger-a blunted novel as “immoral''! It is not necessasensualist and a prostitute-painted in the rily immoral because it deals with immoral most seductive and attractive colors." * subjects or paints immoral characters. Goethe seems to take an opposite view The morality or immorality of the work when he says

that a good work of art depends on the bias which it is calculated ! may and will have moral results ; but to give to our sympathies. If that bias is to require of the artist a moral aim is toward evil, the novel is immoral ; if to spoil his work.'' But there is no toward good, it is moral. The subject real contradiction. Lessing would has little or nothing to do with it. There not deny that an artist is likely to is hardly any subject with which a great spoil his work by being intent on teaching artist may not deal in such a way as to ina specific moral lesson ; nor would Goethe fluence for good those who contemplate it ; deny that an habitual moral purpose on the and if his own soul is pure his tact may part of the artist is essential to all good be trusted to guide him aright. All deart. He advises the artist to live with pends, therefore, not on the subject, but steady purpose in the Whole, the Good, on the artist's treatment of it. Compare the Beautiful ;” and he made this bis own in this respect the art of classic Paganism aim. “ The fashion of this world,” he in its prime and in its decadence. In the says, passes, and I would fain occupy one we sec, for example, the nude figure myself with that only which constitutes represented with such purity of conception abiding relations”—that is, with the true and such grace and refinement in execuand good, for nought else abides eternally. tion as to excite feelings of admiration and Similarly Milton declares that the poet's reverence. In the other (e.g., the pornomission is “to allay the perturbation of graphic sculpture and mural decorations the mind and set the affections in right found in Pompeii) we see men and women tune.” But this mission need not be pres. -ges, and young children of both sexes ent to the poet's mind as he writes. If - depicted in a way that degrades humanhis own character be set in the right key ity below the level of the brutes. No exhe will of necessity “set the affections in cellence in style or execution can redeem right tune.” His own character will in- from the just stigma of vile art any work evitably permeate his work. “The point of which the conception and treatment are to fix on is that the artist's mind cannot immoral. And what a picture these be inoperative in the processes of art. Pompeiian objects give of the moral abyss The important element of subjectivity will into which the civilized world of Paganism be definite or vague according to the in- had fallen in the beginning of the Christensity of the artist's character, and ac tian era, when exhausted bumanity needed cording to the amount of purpose or con those foul incentives, in its public rooms viction which he felt while working; it and private chambers, to inflame its dewill be genial or repellent, tender or aus- graded imaginations and jaded lusts! tere, humane or barbarous, depraving or ennobling, chaste or licentious, sensual or spiritual, according to the bias of his tem

*"Essays Speculative and Suggestive," by

J. A. Symonds, i. 205
Hamburg Dramaturgy," No. 34.

{"Lect. on Lit. of Age of Elizabeth," p. Dichtung und Wahrheit," ii. 112. 265.

was a

more anon,

“ On that hard Pagan world disgust self absolutely and solely responsible for And secret loathing fell.

the retribution which pursues him. His Deep weariness and sated lust Made human life a hell."

nature had in childhood and adolescence

received a twist from which it never reco.ySee, on the other hand, in the “Edipus” ered, and which goes some way to explain, of Sophocles, how a great artist can deal and so far extenuate, his moral aberrawith a subject, loathsome in itself, in a 'tions. His father, who held a living“ in way to purify our emotions, as Aris- the gift of the Simeon trustees,' totle says, by means of pity and terror. Calvinist of the most rigid type, and “ the See, too, how an artist like Juvenal, just blighting eschatology that had been the in virtue of his" ethical sympathies," can bugbear of his youth” outraged his moral touch upon some of the nameless vices of sense when he reached manhood, and his day with such scorching scorn as to caused him, as it has caused many others, communicate his own indignation to his to reject what he mistook for Christianity. readers, instead of alluring thein to vice. And his was specially a nature that could A Zola, without "ethical sympathies," ill afford to dispense with the motives and would have seen nothing but what was safeguards of Christianity. “He revelled coarse and bestial in an old gladiatorial in incongruities. There was unquestionshow, and would have given a revolting ably a sinister vein in him, a rather morbid and demoralizing picture of the scene. ^ enjoyment of all that is strange, jarring, true artist saw the pity of it,” saw the unexpected, abnormal.” “ His view of immortal, the divine, behind the mask of beauty was an original one," of wbich bleeding flesh, and, moved by “ethical

" Yet he invariably rejected sympathies," expressed in imperishable that which was unnatural or unsavory, unmarble the wickedness and tragic pathos less the presentation of it formed so essenof the amusement which went to make tial a part of his subject that to omit it. a Roman holiday.”'

was to spoil the point of the story. If it Morality, therefore, cannot be divorced was a necessary part of the story, he porfrom art without mortal injury to the lat- trayed it with an honest and fearless hand." ter. But it does not follow that the artist The recoil from Calvinism had made hinn must have a specific moral purpose before "an intellectual and moral universalist of him consciously as he works. Let bis own a very advanced kind.” “The narrow nature be pure, his aims and ideals moral, Calvinistic creed of his youth," had “suland his work will grow spontaneously lenly placed things lovely, lively, agreeable: toward moral ends—all the more surely to the senses or wit, within the dreary catfrom the absence of self-conscious pur- egories of sin.” And“ in his revulsion pose. “A good tree cannot bring forth from all this Colthurst undoubtedly risked. evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring losing his sense of proportion and relative forth good fruit." An instrument which value.” In fact, his inoral nature was in is internally in order must needs discourse a state of chaos, which was all the more harmonious music ; but that which is out uniortunate since it was decidedly a com-of tune will of necessity give out discord- plex and ill-balanced nature. The emoant sounds.

tional side of him was “ ardent, passionIt is possible that Lucas Malet had con- ate, reckless, sensuous, sensitive." The sciously no special purpose in writing her intellectual side was “strong, hard, ambi. last novel ; but no one can read it without tious, doggedly self-confident and selffinding a high moral purpose pervading it assertive. And these “two distinct -a fact which she recognizes in her title. sides of his nature were forever playing a. Her hero marches to his doom under an game of skill with each other,” wrecking inexorable law of moral retribution, as of the harmony of his being, because there Fate in Greek tragedy, and his doom is was no enlightened and stable moral conthe necessity of paying “the wages of science to regulate the will. sin." He is in the clutches of a relent Thus badly equipped for the battle of less destiny from which he cannot escape, life, the young artist, in disgust at the for all his efforts, till the uttermost farth- public lack of appreciation of his realistic ing of the debt has been paid. And he pictures, retires to a fishing village on the has this further resemblance to a victim of Devonshire coast to practise his art in Fate in Greek tragedy, that he is not him. seclusion, and finds hiinself one evening NEW SERIES. – VOL LIV., No. 3.


suddenly surprised into an avowal of love our own conscience ; next it struck blight by a handsome village maiden who occa- and mischief into the consciences of those sionally sat to him as model, and told him about us, and they too were perverted by on this eventful evening, with the impetu- the evil bias of our will. And so the inosity of her half Celtic, balf Spanish blood, fection is passed on; and we, meanwhile, that she “ would walk round the world have gone our way, and perhaps recovered barefoot after him.” In an unguarded ourselves and begun to act with healthier moment he promised her marriage, and purpose, ignorant of the mischief we have realized his mistake even before sleeping done. But, by and by, evil seems to on it. But he could not make up his gather round us. We find that others, mind to tell her so. He preferred that who once worked well with us, now work Jenny Parris “should remain faithful, yet ill. Embarrassments and perplexities beset he remain free.” Motherless, ignorant, our path and seem to bang on our limbs and without any rational guidance or sym- and impede our movements, just as some pathy from her balf-crazy father, a fanat- strong swimmer may be retarded by the ical Calvinistic fisherman and local tangled network of a weedy sea. Then in preacher, Jenny Parris followed Colthurst our ignorance we grow angry and impa. to London, and became his model and tient. We wonder why our schemes will paramour-still, however, under promise not succeed, and are vexed and disappointof marriage. And when he and the child ed at their failure, and vent our anger on of their sin are dying of fever and starva- others, and curse our destiny. Colthurst tion in Paris, she sells her honor to save is fond of cursing his destiny. He sees a their lives. "For Jim," as she explained cat playing with a mouse, letting it run a years afterward in the highly dramatic in- bit, and then picking it up again ; and he terview with the young lady wbom Col- finds in the incident a parable of himself thurst was engaged to marry, " is not the making sport for a cruel destiny which man you'll let die if there's a way to help will not kill him outright, nor yet let him it."

This self-sacrifice, hateful to Jenny go. And in his fury he rushes on the cat -a fine character at bottom, in whose to rescue its victim. But the cat jumps “ faulty, impulsive nature there was, even down an area with the mouse between its yet, a great longing after things pure, teeth, and Colthurst hears the crunching lovely, and of good report”—yet innocent, of the creature's bones. And the area, he and even noble, from her crude, unin- finds, happens to belong to the house of structed point of view, irritated and revolt- the pure girl whom he longs to make bis ed Colthurst, and made her presence so bride. And when he goes on the morintolerable to him that he separated from row to propose marriage to her, “ filled by her. A purer nature than his could have a glorious renewal of hope," "he reinemafforded to forgive, and let bygones be bers, though he fought against the remembygones. He could not afford it because brance, how, while he stood on Miss he knew the grossness of his own lower Crookenden's doorstep, he had heard the nature, to which Jenny's sensuous beauty cat growling to herself down in the area as and impetuous affection had ministered, she crunched up the mouse." Conscience though he had never realized its vileness warned him against the self-indulgence of till this humiliation revealed it. His seeking union with Mary Crookenden. He higher nature craved for redemption from knew that the path of duty lay another the flesh, and he now felt that union with way ; but the messengers of King Pleasure Jenny would make recovery impossible for were urgent and their

glittering offers irreeither. So he “hated Jenny with the sistibly alluring. So Colthurst, like the intensity with which we can only hate that hapless prophet who is the prototype of which compels us to fall back on our all who allow the sophistries of a self-seeklower nature.” This is one of the touches, ing spirit to silence the voice of conscience, frequent in this book, which shows Lucas goes to his doom with good resolutions on Malet's profound insight into the secret his lips but self-will in his heart. Balaam springs of character. Sin often comes would have gone back when he found the back to us, even when we have forgotten angel of God with drawn sword in his it, in most just but disastrous recoil. We path ; but he was bidden to go on. There committed the sin, and thought little of was moral confusion in his nature, and it; but first it imprinted its foul stain on there were two voices calling him different

« הקודםהמשך »