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panied by its epithet; great, pompous words peal like an organ; every proposition is set forth balanced by a proposition of equal length; thought is developed with the compassed regularity and official splendour of a procession. Classical prose attains its perfection in him, as classical poetry in Pope. Art cannot be more consummate, or nature more forced. No one has confined ideas in more strait compartments; none has given stronger relief to dissertation and proof; none has imposed more despotically on story and dialogue the forms of argumentation and violent declamation; none has more generally mutilated the flowing liberty of conversation and life by antitheses and technical words. It is the completion and the excess, the triumph and the tyranny, of oratorical style.1 We understand now that an oratorical age would recognise him as a master, and attribute to him in eloquence the primacy which it attributed to Pope in verse.
We wish to know what ideas have made him popular. Here the astonishment of a Frenchman redoubles. We vainly turn over the pages of his Dictionary, his eight volumes of essays, his ten volumes of biographies, his numberless articles, his conversation so carefully collected; we yawn. His truths are too true; we already knew his precepts by heart. We learn from him that life is short, and we ought to improve the few moments accorded to us; that a mother ought not to bring up her son as a dandy; that a man ought to repent of his crimes, and yet avoid superstition; that in everything we ought to be active, and not hurried. We thank him for these sage counsels, but we mutter to ourselves that we could have done very well without them. We should like to know who could have been the lovers of ennui who have bought up thirteen thousand copies. We then remember that sermons are liked in England, and that these Essays are sermons. We discover that men of reflection do not need bold or striking ideas, but palpable and profitable truths. They demand to be furnished with a useful provision of authentic documents on man and his existence, and demand nothing more. No matter if the idea is vulgar; meat and bread are vulgar too, and are no less good. They wish to be taught the kinds and degrees of happiness and unhappiness, the varieties and results of characters and conditions, the advantages and inconveniences
1 Here is a celebrated phrase, which will give some idea of his style (Boswell's Journal, ch. xliii. 381): We were now treading that illustrious island, which was once the luminary of the Caledonian regions, whence savage clans and roving barbarians derived the benefits of knowledge and the blessings of religion. To abstract the mind from all local emotion would be impossible if it were endeavoured, and would be foolish if it were possible. . . . Far from me and from my friends be such frigid philosophy as may conduct us indifferent and unmoved over any ground which has been dignified by wisdom, bravery, or virtue. The man is little to be envied, whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plain of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warmer among the ruins of Iona.'
* Rambler, 108, 109, 110, 111.
of town and country, knowledge and ignorance, wealth and poverty, because they are moralists and utilitarians; because they look in a book for the knowledge to turn them from folly, and motives to confirm them in uprightness; because they cultivate in themselves sense, that is to say, practical reason. A little fiction, a few portraits, the least amount of amusement, will suffice to adorn it. This substantial food only needs a very simple seasoning. It is not the novelty of the dishes, nor dainty cookery, but solidity and wholesomeness, which they seek. For this reason the Essays are a national food. It is because they are insipid and dull for us that they suit the taste of an Englishman. We understand now why they take for a favourite the respectable, the unbearable Samuel Johnson.
I would fain bring together all these features, see these figures; only colours and forms complete an idea; to know, we must see. Let us go to the print-room. Hogarth, the national painter, the friend of Fielding, the contemporary of Johnson, the exact imitator of manners, will show us the externals, as these authors have shown us the internals.
We enter these great archives of art. Painting is a noble thing! It embellishes all, even vice. On the four walls, under transparent and brilliant glass, the torsos rise, flesh palpitates, the blood's warm dew circulates under the veined skin, speaking likenesses stand out in the light; it seems that the ugly, the vulgar, the odious, have disappeared from the world. I no more criticise characters; I have done with moral rules. I am no longer tempted to approve or to hate. A man here is but a smudge of colour, at most a handful of muscles; I know no longer if he be a murderer.
Life, the happy, complete, overflowing display, the expansion of natural and corporal powers; this from all sides floods and rejoices our eyes. Our limbs instinctively move by contagious imitation of movements and forms. Before these lions of Rubens, whose deep growls rise like thunder to the mouth of the cave, before these colossal contorting torsos, these snouts which grope about skulls, the animal in us quivers through sympathy, and it seems as if we were about to emit from our chests a roar to equal their own.
What though art has degenerated, even amongst Frenchmen, epigrammatists, the bepowdered abbés of the eighteenth century, it is art still. Beauty is gone, gracefulness remains. These pretty arch faces, these slender waspish waists, these delicate arms buried in a nest of lace, these careless wanderings amongst thickets and warbling fountains, these gallant dreams in a lofty chamber festooned with garlands, all this refined and coquettish society is still charming. The artist, then as always, gathers the flower of things, recks not of the rest.
But Hogarth, what did he mean? who ever saw such a painter? Is he a painter? Others make us wish to see what they represent; he
makes us wish not to see it.
Nothing can be more agreeable to paint than a drunken debauch
by night; the jolly, careless faces; the rich light, drowned in shadows which flicker over rumpled garments and weighed-down bodies. With Hogarth, on the other hand, what figures! Wickedness, stupidity, all the vile poison of the vilest human passions, drops and distils from them. One is shaking on his legs as he stands, sick, whilst a hiccup half opens his belching lips; another howls hoarsely, like a wretched cur; another, with bald and broken head, patched up in places, falls forward on his chest, with the smile of a sick idiot. We turn over the leaves of Hogarth's works, and the train of odious or beastly faces appears to be inexhaustible; features distorted or deformed, foreheads lumpy or puffed out with perspiring flesh, hideous grins distended by ferocious laughter: one has had his nose bitten off; the next, one-eyed, squareheaded, spotted over with bleeding warts, whose red face looks redder under the white wig, smokes silently, full of rancour and spleen; another, an old man with a crutch, scarlet and puffed, his chin falling on his breast, gazes with the fixed and starting eyes of a crab. Hogarth shows the beast in man, and worse, the mad and murderous, the feeble or enraged beast. Look at this murderer standing over the body of his butchered mistress, with squinting eyes, distorted mouth, grinding his teeth at the thought of the blood which stains and denounces him; or this ruined gambler, who has torn off his wig and kerchief, and is crying on his knees, with closed teeth, and fist raised against heaven. Look again at this madhouse: the dirty idiot, with muddy face, filthy hair, stained claws, who thinks he is playing on the violin, and has a sheet of music for a cap; the religious madman, who writhes convulsively on his straw, with clasped hands, feeling the claws of the devil in his bowels; the naked and haggard raving lunatic whom they are chaining up, and who is tearing out his flesh with his nails. Detestable Yahoos that you are, who presume to usurp the blessed light, in what brain can you have arisen, and why did a painter sully his eyes with the sight of you?
It is because his eyes were English, and the senses are barbarous. Let us leave our repugnance behind us, and look at things as Englishmen do, not from without, but from within. The whole current of public thought tends here toward observation of the soul, and painting is dragged along with literature in the same course. Forget then the forms, they are but lines; the body is here only to translate the mind. This twisted nose, these pimples on a vinous cheek, these stupefied gestures of a drowsy brute, these wrinkled features, these degraded forms, only make the character, the trade, the whim, the habit stand out clear. The artist shows us no longer limbs and heads, but debauchery, drunkenness, brutality, hatred, despair, all the diseases
1 When a character is strongly marked in the living face, it may be considered as an index to the mind, to express which with any degree of justness in painting, requires the utmost efforts of a great master.—Analysis of Beauty.
and deformities of these too harsh and hard wills, the mad menagerie of all the passions. Not that he lets them loose; this rude, dogmatic, and Christian citizen handles more vigorously than any of his brethren the heavy club of morality. He is a beef-eating policeman charged with instructing and correcting drunken pugilists. From such a man to such men ceremony is superfluous. At the bottom of every cage where he imprisons a vice, he writes its name and adds the condemnation pronounced by Scripture; he displays that vice in its ugliness, buries it in its filth, drags it to its punishment, so that there is no conscience so perverted as not to recognise it, none so hardened as not to be horrified at it.
Look well, these are lessons which have force. This one is against gin: on a step, in the open street, lies a drunken woman, half naked, with hanging breasts, scrofulous legs; she smiles idiotically, and her child, which she lets fall on the pavement, breaks its skull. Beneath, a pale skeleton, with closed eyes, sinks down with her glass in her hand. Round about, dissipation and frenzy drive the tattered spectres one against another. A wretch who has hung himself sways to and fro in a garret. Gravediggers are putting a naked woman into a coffin. A starveling is gnawing side by side with a dog a bone destitute of meat. By his side a young woman is making her suckling swallow gin. A madman pitchforks his child, and raises it aloft; he dances and laughs, and the mother sees it.
Another picture and lesson, this time against cruelty. A young murderer has been hung, and is being dissected. He is there, on a table, and the lecturer calmly points out with his wand the places where the students are to work. At this sign the dissectors cut the flesh and pull. One is at the feet; the second man of science, a sardonic old butcher, seizes a knife with a hand that looks as if it would do its duty, and thrusts the other hand into the entrails, which, lower down, are being taken out to be put in a bucket. The last medical student takes out the eye, and the distorted mouth seems to howl under his hand. Meanwhile a dog seizes the heart, which is dragging on the ground; thigh-bones and skull boil, by way of concert, in a copper; and the doctors around coolly exchange surgical jokes on the subject which, piecemeal, is passing away under their scalpels.
Frenchmen will say that such lessons are good for barbarians, and that they only half-like these official or lay preachers, De Foe, Hogarth, Smollett, Richardson, Johnson, and the rest. I reply that moralists are useful, and that these have changed a state of barbarism into one of civilisation.
I. Rule and realm of the classical spirit-Its characters, works, scope, and limits -How it is centred in Pope.
II. Pope-Education-Precocity-Beginnings-Pastoral poems-Essay on Criti cism-Personal appearance-Mode of life-Character-Mediocrity of his passions and ideas-Largeness of his vanity and talent-Independent fortune and assiduous labour.
III. Epistle of Eloisa to Abelard-What the passions become in artificial poetry -The Rape of the Lock-Society and the language of society in France and England-Wherein Pope's badinage is painful and displeasing-The Dunciad-Obscenity and vulgarities-Wherein the English imagination and drawing-room wit are irreconcilable.
IV. Descriptive talent-Oratorical talent-Didactic poems-Why these poems are the final work of the classical spirit-The Essay on Man-His deism and optimism-Value of his conceptions-How they are connected with the dominant style-How they are deformed in Pope's hands-Methods and perfection of his style-Excellence of his portraits-Why they are superior -Translation of the Iliad-Change of taste during the past century.
V. Incommensurability of the English mind and the classical decorum-PriorGay—Ancient pastoral impossible in northern climates-Moral conception natural in England—Thomson.
VI. Discredit of the drawing-room-Entrance of the man of sensations-Why the return to nature is more precocious in England than in France-SterneRichardson-Mackenzie-Macpherson-Gray, Akenside, Beattie, Collins, Young, Shenstone-Persistence of the classical form-Domination of the period-Johnson-The historical school-Robertson, Gibbon, Hume-Their talent and their limits--Beginning of the modern age.
HEN we take in in one view the vast literary region in England, extending from the restoration of the Stuarts to the French Revolution, we perceive that all the productions, independently of the English character, bear a classical impress, and that this impress, special to this region, is met with neither in the preceding nor in the succeeding time. This dominant form of thought is imposed on all writers from Waller to Johnson, from Hobbes and Temple to Robertson and Hume: there is an art to which they all aspire; the work of a hundred years, practice and theory, inventions and imitations, examples and criticism, are employed in attaining it. They comprehend only one kind of beauty; they estab