תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

6. The

As a novelist, Mr. James is necessarily surface to state an untenable proposition ; concerned with the manifestation of any he is genial (one might rather say), he is particular phase with which he is dealing, good-humored, he is indifferent, he is at through the experience of individuals; inoments extraordinarily tender ; it would, but it is obvious that for this a large can- we believe, be impossible to find froin bevas, a complex scheme is needed, in which ginning to end of his works one cruel or perfection of forın has in some degree to sarcastic word. It is only by degrees we yield to the exigencies of the spectacle of come to a perception of the profound the huge haphazard activities, the appar- irony implied by that attitude of goodently crude fatalities of human existence. humored neutrality, of genial indifference. There are readers who will always prefer llis books, on the whole, strike one as Mr. James's shorter stories, their delicate optimistic ; a certain kindly view of the manipulation, their exquisite style, and events and accidents of life pervades perfect proportion ; there are others who them ; they deal by preference with the will find a deeper interest in the larger saner rather than with the more morbid issues brought before them in his longer side of humanity ; but they create finally narratives. The question is not one that a sense of aloofness on the part of the need trouble us ; it is the privilege of an writer that seems to imply a profound disartist to affect men's minds in very various enchantinent, what we have ventured to ways, and there is no danger. ibat Mr. call a profound irony lurking at the root James's admirers will quarrel among them- of his conception of life, a sense of the selves.

singular sadness, futility and ranity on the A novelist's presentment of life, or whole, of the beings whom he observes more justly, perhaps, his choice, his selec- and depicts as they cross and recross the lion ont of life, is one thing ; the way in stage of the world. As might be expectwhich he personally looks at life and ap- ed, this is less apparent in his earlier than preciates it, is obviously another. A dis. in his later work; it is nowhere more aptinction has always to be sought between parent than in his latest novel, a writer's mental attitude and the results Tragic Muse.” In that remarkable book, given to the world ; and to disengage the modern to a degree that makes all other man from the artist, the artist from the novels seem for the moment old fashioned man, must not unfrequently present itself and out-of-date, by comparison, what is as a problein a little resenibling that of termed the general and the particular is Shylock's pound of flesh.

With some

carried to the last point ; the central figwriters, indeed, the task is sufficiently ure and the central motive, that is to say, easy ; it may simply be abandoned. The being a woman of an artistic type common author puts, as it is called, his whole soul to all time, brought into contact with the into bis work ; the shaping artist plays a newest modes and developments of culture secondary part; the result may be brill- and society. The theme is one that lends iant, charming, passionate, sentimental or itself with particular felicity to the author's the reverse ; but it at least presents no especial genius for unimpassioned observaparticular problem ; the author and his tion ; it is developed with the mature work are one. To others, again, the pic- strength of a splendid and virile talent ; turesque, the emotional, the moral or the but the final impression it creates is of sensational side of existence may appeal so something a little hard, perhaps, a little strongly, that an irresistible impulse leads too irresponsible. thern inevitably to reveal their idiosyncrasy The impression, we must inninediately through their presentation of life. With add, arises in great measure from the fact a writer so impersonal as Mr. James, the that the scheme of the story does not hapcase is different, the problem more com

any

of those characters that plicated. He bas to be considered prima- Mr. James knows how to treat with a parrily in his artistic capacity ; it is his su- ticular kindness, with a genial warmth preme distinction that he invariably even, springing from a larger sympathy includes and excludes as an artist, not with human nature than the most disas a man ; and his work lends itself to criminating observation can supply. It is negative deductions, as it were, rather entirely characteristic of the author, that than to positive ones. To speak, for in- it is not, as a rule, in the delineation of stance, of his writing as ironical, is on the his principal heroes and heroines that we

pen to include

discover this kindly and sympathetic note, or that other chapter in “ The Princess but in that of his humbler characters

. Casamassima,” where the tenderly humorThere is no commoner or cheaper device ous cuhances the pathetic, as the devoted of the inferior novelist than to seize upon little dress-maker comforts herself on her one or another wcak or absurd side of a death-bed with the illusions of her adopted human being and hold it up to scorn ; to son's greatness ; or again, in altogether pillory a character for some physical or another key, the scenes darkening to the mental defect, to paint the smaller vices tragic close of the same novel. These with an air of being above the human passages, of an absolute simplicity, show race, in colors as false as the follies that how far Mr James's genius can, with his are described. Mr. James not only (it rare perinission, carry him in that direcneed not be said) has nothing to do with tion; though the very rarity of the occavulgarities such as these, not only hesions on which he indulges it, enhances never laughs at, but always with his char- perhaps its final value. acters; he does much more. In his treat

III. ment of the old, the poor, the humble, the disgraced by fortune, such as come This, indeed, may be said in general of into all work that embraces wide fields of what is emotional and of what is descriphuman action, there is a tenderness tive in Mr. James's novels. No one can equalled by no other writer that we can describe better than he can ; but he has recall

. We feel disposed to insist upon apparently decided, and we think on the this quality because it is the most per- whole justly, that novels are not the proper sonal, perhaps the only personal note he vehicle for descriptions of scenery as such, allows to modify the rigor of disinterested and we seldom come across more than is observation. Sometimes, in fact, he requisite for the mere mise en scène. We dramatizes it, so to speak, by leaving the say justly, on the whole ; because while story to be narrated by an imaginary per- accepting the theory as true, it is possible son, as where he deals with the disillu- to recall novelists who indulge in a richer sioned painter in “The Madonna of the decoration for their characters than Mr. Future ;" with Mr. Ruck, the ruined James does, and with whom we find no American father, in “ The Pension Beau- ground for quarrel on that score. In the repas ;' or Caroline Spencer, in “ Four same way with the emotional ; Mr. James Meetings. Elsewhere, however, those for the most part avoids it, travels round humbler individuals who have the honor it, gets at bis effects without it ; and conto hold (as we judge) an especial place in sidering the floods of futile words, the the arithor's regard, take their place among pages of sentiment that do duty for pasthe other characters in an impersonal nar- sion and feeling, we are again disposed to rative ; we need only mention Madame say that he is right. Nevertheless, emoGrandoni, in “ Roderick Hudson ;'? Miss tion is a great weapon in the hand of a Birdseye, in “ The Bostonians ;" the old master ; Mr. James, as he proves in pasviolinist, Lady Aurora, Miss Pynsent, in sages here and there, wields it with as “Princess Casamassima,” to illustrate our much mastery as any one ; there are momeaning. And in connection with this ments when we find ourselves wishing he point may be mentioned the particular would wield it a little oftener. power of pathos shown by Mr. James on A novelist, however, is obviously wbat the very rare occasions—not balf a dozen the grace of heaven and his own wit make perhaps in the whole course of his books him. Mr. James may be only sometimes --that he cares to exercise it ; that pathos descriptive and occasionally emotional ; which, in its entire freedom from self-con- but he is witty, he is humorous, he is sciousness, from the implied invitation, epigrainmatic; he is learned-consum

Come, let us weep, for this is a melan- mately learned in human nature. He is, choly occasion,” is among the rarer gifts in brief, pre-eminently the novelist of of the novelist. Few people, we should character and observation. Of the ordithink, could read uninoved the death of nary resources of the story-teller, indeed, Miss Birdseye, which in simple and sug- Mr. James is apt to avail himself but spargestive beauty recalls the description of ingly. Of love-making proper, for inthe passage of Christiana across the river stance, there is but little in his volumes. of death in the “ Pilgrim's Progress ;"! There are lovers, of course, and marriages -often unhappy ones ; but these are not attitude of “ detachunent," of a somewhat the main business on hand. That lies in warmer character ; we are sure that he is tracing through delicate and minute ob. on terins of the friendliest intimacy with servation of the surface, the hidden sources Ralph Touchett and Lord Warburton, with that determine action. His imagination, Nick Dormer, and even with poor little which may be held to be wanting in rich Hyacinth Robinson. ness in certain directions, is of extraordi- For the rest, we can feel nothing but nary strength in the conception of these gratitude for the lorg and varied successprings of motive and of conduct, of the sion of portraits that Mr. James hangs beaction and interaction of the human mind. fore our eyes ; his portraiture is always In the same way, the brilliant procession true and brilliant ; he seizes the salient of heroines that passes through his pages, points with unerring skill, and there are seem to be there less to illustrate a charm- faces and figures in his books that live in ing side of life, than because no picture of our memory as part of the more intimate life, charming or the reverse, is complete experience of life. We can imagine cerwithout them. A good deal might be said tain of his women, in the future, forming about Mr. James's treatment of women. part of the furniture of the nineteenth One's first impression (and even one's last century, as in another at the women of impression, perhaps) is that he treats thein Lely and of Reynolds furnish for us the coldly ; that in his moments of keenest court of Charles II., and the social life of insight into their motives and sentiments, George III. It is needless to say that he still views them, as it were, from out- none of these portraits are made to order ; side, and at a distance. This, of course, more than that, Mr. James, as we baro may simply be taken as part of his disin- intimated, shows no special predilection terested treatment in general ; but the for one type over another ; that is the impression of coldness remains, even with good side of the rather melancholy indifthe fresh memory of the tenderness of ference of which we were accusing him touch that goes to the delineation of Miss just now. One of his earliest successes Birdseye and Miss Pynsent, of the genial associated hiin with a certain exceptional mood in which he gives us Olive Chancel- type of the American girl; but admirably lor and the incomparable Henrietta Stack- as he depicts her, we cannot perceive that pole, and the mingled humor and gentle- he scores successes less admirable, in his ness of his presentment of Pansy Osmond, delineation of types who bave little in that peerless little flower among jeunes common with Daisy Miller. Nevertheless, filles. For while other authors often leave his heroines being almost exclusively of on our mind a sense of their affection, one nationality--with the exception of the their sympathy with, their admiration for charming Biddy Dormer, English, and their heroines, of their endowing them English again to her very finger-tips, he with delightful qualities for private ends has given us no heroine of importance who of friendship, Mr. James stands aloof from is not American—one or two characterall that. lIis women, good and bail, pass istics appear in almost all ; though varybefore him, and he views each in turn ing so much in color and degree in one with a careful and impartial eye ; he cares, and another, that we hardly know how to he gives us to believe, no more for Isabel define the otherwise than as the breath Archer or Madame de Cinué than for of New England animating its daughters. Madaine Merle, or Mademoiselle Noémie. This is vague, but i ot more vague perhaps The method has its advantages; the read than the impalpable spirit that Mr. James er is never torn in two by the antagonism has caught with so certain an instinct and between his own preferences and those communicated so delicately to every woinforced upon him by the author ; Le could an, young or old, who hails from the never hate the worst of Mr. James's wom- Transatlantic shores in his novels. . It is en, and he has one or two very bad ones, companion to that hardly less vague, but as he hates the virtuous Laura Bell. And no less certain breath of what we may venyet there are moments when we feel that ture to term the American tradition that he might maintain a rather less distant futters through Mr. James's volumes ; a attitude. We feel it, because we feel that breath too litile deliberate, too l tl: conthe author's position toward certain of his scious of itself to be named Pur sm, heroes is, without any detriment to the but associated with a certain conception

man,

of the American character that no one has

To quote his own words : “ There illustrated more happily than Mr. James is one point where the nioral sense and himself. It might, we say again, be hard the artistic sense lie very pear together ; to define ; it might be difficult to put one's that is, in the light of the very obvious finger on a passage and say : “ It is here truth that the deepest quality of a work or there ;" it may be sumined up finally, of art will always be the quality of the perhaps, in the impression left by the vol- mind of the producer." It is in this sense umes, as a whole, that the good and evil that we seem to distinguish throughout of the world indifferent to the author as Mr. James's work the faint aroma of the an artist, are not indifferent to him as a Puritan tradition.-Murray's Magazine.

IS MAN THE ONLY REASONER ?

BY JAMES SULLY.

ers.

THE " whirligig of time" may be said modern biologist. There is not the least to be bringing to the much-neglected doubt that the wide and accurate observabrutes an ample revenge.

The first naïve tion of animal habits by the naturalists of view of the animal mind entertained by the last century has tended to raise very the savage and the child is a respectful greatly our estimate of their mental powone, and may perhaps be roughly summed So that it would seem as if in the up in the formula in which a little boy estimation of animal intelligence, scientific once set forth his estimate of equine intel- knowledge is coming round to the opinion ligence : “All horses know soine things of the vulgar, and as if “ the conviction that people don't know, and some horses which forces itself upon the stupid and the know inore things than a great many peo. ignorant, is fortified by the reasonings of ple.” But this pristine unsophisticated the intelligent, and has its foundation view of the animal world, though its sur- deepened by every increase of knowlvival may be traced in mythology and re- edge."'* ligious custom, has long since been scouted Definiteness has been given to the quesby philosophers. Thinkers, from Plato tion of the nature of animal intelligence downward, have, not unnaturally perhaps, by the new doctrine of Evolution. If regarded the faculty of rational ihought, man is descended from some lower or. which they themselves exhibited in the ganic form, we ought to be able to make highest degree, as the distinguishing pre- ont not merely a physical, but a psychical rogative of man. The Christian religion, kinship between him and the lower cretoo, with its doctrine of immortality for ation ; and the more favorable estimate of nian and for man alone, has confirmed the the animal mind taken by the modern tendency to put the animal mind as far savant is of great assistance here. Mr. below the human is possible. And so we Darwin bas, inderd, shown in his valuable find Descartes setting forth the hypothesis contributions to the subject, that the rude that animals are unthinking automata. germ of all the more characteristic fea

Not forever, however, was the animal tures of the human niind may be discovworld to suffer this indignity at the bands ered in animals. At the same time, Mr. of inan.

Thinkers themselves prepared Darwin's investigations in this direction the way for a rapprochement between the amounted only to a beginning. The crux two. More particularly the English pbi. of the evolutionist, the tracing of the conlosophers from Locke onwards, togeibertinuity of crude, formless animal inferwith their French followers, pursuing their ence, up to the highest structural developmodest task of tracing back our most ab- ments of logical or conceptual thought, stract ideas to impressions of sense, may still remained. And so, the most powerbe said by a sort of levelling.down proc- ful attack on the theory of man's descent ess, to hare favored the idea of a mental has come from the philosopher, the logikinship between man and brute. This cian, and the metaphysical philologist, work of the philosophers has been supplemented by the levelling-up work of the * Professor Huxley, Hume, p. 104.

who bave combined to urge the old argu- number of psychological distinctions of a ment that conceptual thought indissolubly somewhat technical kind. Of these the bound up with language sets an impassable most important perhaps is that between barrier between man and brute.

the time-honored concept of the logician Mr. Darwin's unfinished work has now and the recept. This last corresponds to been taken up by one who adds to the Mr. Galton's generic image or ihe combiological knowledge of the expert a con- mon image (Gemeinbild) of the German siderable acquaintance with psychology. psychologists. It is an image formed out In his previous volume, "Mental Evolu- of a number of slightly dissimilar percepts tion in Animals,” Dr. Romanes took a corresponding to different members of a careful psychological survey of the animal narrow concrete class, such as dog or world for the purpose of tracing out the water. According to our author animal successive grades of its mental life. In reasoning remains on the plane of recepts. his recent volume, “ Mental Evolution in It is carried on by pictorial representaMan" (Origin of Human Faculty), he es- tions. At the same time it involves a tays to trace forward this general more- process of classification or generalizing. ment of mental evolution to the point A diving-bird must be supposed to have a where logical reasoning or “conceptual generalized idea (recept) of water, a duy thought” may be distinctly seen to å generalized idea of man, and so forth. emerge. That is to say, he adroitly seeks Nay more, this receptual ideation enables to leap the “impassable" barrier by the animal to reach "unperceived abstracmerely denying its existence. Human tions," as the idea of the quality of holreasoning and animal inference are not lowness in the ground, and even generic two widely dissimilar modes of intellec- ideas of principles," as when the writer's tion. The one is merely a more complex own monkey having discovered the way expansion of the other. If you start to take the handle out of the hearth-brush either at the human or the animal bank by unscrewing it, proceeded to apply the you can pass to the opposite one by a principle of the screw to the fire-irons, series of stepping-stones. In other words, bell-bandle, etc. the higher human product can be seen to The author's whole account of this rehave been evolved out of the lower by a ceptual ideation or the logic of recepts is continuous process of growth.

interesting and persuasive. He bas, it Dr. Romanes' present contribution to must be owned, clearly made out the exthe theory of evolution is thus emphati- istence of a very creditable power among cally the construction of hypothetical step- aniinals of carrying out processes analogous ping-stones for the purpose of passing to our own reasonings without any aid smoothly from the territory of animal to from language. Yet a doubt inay be enthat of human reasoning. In order to tertained whether the author has really this, he has on the one hand to follow up got at the bottom of these mental feats. animal intellection to its most noteworthy The whole account of the recept is a little achievements, and on the other hand to unsatisfactory, owing to the circumstance trace the process of human intellection that the writer does not make it quite down to its crudest forms in the individ. clear in what sense it involves generalizaual and in the race.

tion. He writes in sonje places as if the As it is obviously langnage which marks fact of the generic image having been off human thought from its analogue in formed out of a number of percepts correthe animal world, our author is naturally sponding to different members of a class, concerned to liinit the function of lan- e.g. different sheets of water seen by the guage. While allowing as a matter of diving-bird, gives it a general representacourse that the conceptual thought” of tive character. But this, as indeed Dr. the logician involves language as its proper Romanes himself appears to recognize in instrument or vehicle, he urges that there other places, is by no means a necessary is a good deal of rudimentary generalizing consequence. A generic image may form prior to, and therefore independent of, itself more readily than a particular one, language. To establish this a careful ex- just because the animal is unable to noté amination of the higher processes of ani- differences sufficiently to distinguish one mal ideation” has to be carried out. sheet of water or one man from another. In doing this Dr. Romanes introduces a A baby's application of the common epi

« הקודםהמשך »