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world you knew so well of old.

Ah, Lucian, we have need of you, of your sense and of your mockery!
Here, where faith is sick and superstition is waking afresh; where gods
come rarely, and spectres appear at five shillings an interview; where
science is popular, and philosophy cries aloud in the market-place,
and clamour does duty for government, and Thais and Lais are names of
power - here, Lucian, is room and scope for you. Can I not imagine a
new 'Auction of Philosophers,' and what wealth might be made by him who
bought these popular sages and lecturers at his estimate, and vended
them at their own?

HERMES: Whom shall we put first up to auction?

ZEUS: That German in spectacles; he seems a highly respectable man.

HERMES: Ho, pessimist, come down and let the public view you.

ZEUS: Go on, put him up and have done with him.

HERMES: Who bids for the Life Miserable, for extreme, complete, perfect,
unredeemable perdition? What offers for the universal extinction of the
species, and the collapse of the Conscious?

A PURCHASER: He does not look at all a bad lot. May one put him through
his paces?

HERMES: Certainly; try your luck.

PURCHASER: What is your name?

PESSIMIST: Hartmann.

PURCHASER: What can you teach me?

PESSIMIST: That Life is not worth Living.

PURCHASER: Wonderful! Most edifying! How much for this lot?

HERMES: Two hundred pounds.

PURCHASER: I will write you a cheque for the money. Come home,
Pessimist, and begin your lessons without more ado.

HERMES: Attention! Here is a magnificent article - the Positive Life, the
Scientific Life, the Enthusiastic Life. Who bids for a possible place in
the Calendar of the Future?

PURCHASER: What does he call himself? he has a very French air.

HERMES: Put your own questions.

PURCHASER: What's your pedigree, my Philosopher, and previous

POSITIVIST: I am by Rousseau out of Catholicism, with a strain of the
Evolution blood.

PURCHASER: What do you believe in?

POSITIVIST: In Man, with a large M.

PURCHASER: Not in individual Man?

POSITIVIST: By no means; not even always in Mr. Gladstone. All men, all
Churches, all parties, all philosophies, and even the other sect of our
own Church, are perpetually in the wrong. Buy me, and listen to me, and
you will ahvays be in the right.

PURCHASER: And, after this life, what have you to offer me?

POSITIVIST: A distinguished position in the Choir Invisible: but not, of
course, conscious immortality.

PURCHASER: Take him away, and put up another lot.

Then the Hegelian, with his Notion, and the Darwinian, with his
notions, and the Lotzian, with his Broad Church mixture of Religion and
Evolution, and the Spencerian, with that Absolute which is a sort of
a something, might all be offered with their divers wares; and cheaply
enough, Lucian, you would value them in this auction of Sects. 'There is
but one way to Corinth,' as of old; but which that way may be, oh master
of Hermotimus, we know no more than he did of old; and still we find, of
all philosophies, that the Stoic route is most to be recommended. But
we have our Cyrenaics too, though they are no longer 'clothed in
purple, and crowned with flowers, and fond of drink and of female
flute-players.' Ah, here too, you might laugh, and fail to see where the
Pleasure lies, when the Cyrenaics are no 'judges of cakes' (nor of
ale, for that matter), and are strangers in the Courts of Princes. 'To
despise all things, to make use of all things, in all things to follow
pleasure only:' that is not the manner of the new, if it were the secret
of the older Hedonism.

Then, turning from the philosophers to the seekers after a sign, what
change, Lucian, would you find in them and their ways? None; they are
quite unaltered. Still our Perigrinus, and our Perigrina too, come to
us from the East, or, if from the West, they take India on their
way - India, that secular home of drivelling creeds, and of religion in
its sacerdotage. Still they prattle of Brahmins and Buddhism; though,
unlike Peregrinus, they do not publicly burn themselves on pyres, at
Epsom Downs, after the Derby. We are not so fortunate in the demise of
our Theosophists; and our police, less wise than the Hellenodicae, would
probably not permit the Immolation of the Quack. Like your Alexander,
they deal in marvels and miracles, oracles and warnings. All such bogy
stories as those of your 'Philopseudes,' and the ghost of the lady who
took to table-rapping because one of her best slippers had not been
burned with her body, are gravely investigated by the Psychical Society.

Even your ignorant Bibliophile is still with us - the man without a tinge
of letters, who buys up old manuscripts 'because they are stained and
gnawed, and who goes, for proof of valued antiquity, to the testimony
of the book-worms.' And the rich Bibliophile now, as in your satire,
clothes his volumes in purple morocco and gay _dorures_, while their
contents are sealed to him.

As to the topics of satire and gay curiosity which occupy the lady known
as 'Gyp,' and M. Halévy in his 'Les Petites Cardinal,' if you had not
exhausted the matter in your 'Dialogues of Hetairai,' you would be
amused to find the same old traits surviving without a touch of change.
One reads, in Halévy's French, of Madame Cardinal, and, in your Greek,
of the mother of Philinna, and marvels that eighteen hundred years
have not in one single trifle altered the mould. Still the old shabby
light-loves, the old greed, the old luxury and squalor. Still the
unconquerable superstition that now seeks to tell fortunes by the
cards, and, in your time, resorted to the sorceress with her magical
'bull-roarer' or '_turndun_.' (1)

(1)The Greek _rombos_ [transliterated], mentioned by Lucian
and Theocritus, was the magical weapon of the Australians -
the _turndun_.

Yes, Lucian, we are the same vain creatures of doubt and dread, of
unbelief and credulity, of avarice and pretence, that you knew, and at
whom you smiled. Nay, our very 'social question' is not altered. Do
you not write, in 'The Runaways,' 'The artisans will abandon their
workshops, and leave their trades, when they see that, with all the
labour that bows their bodies from dawn to dark, they make a petty and
starveling pittance, while men that toil not nor spin are floating in

They begin to see this again as of yore; but whether the end of their
vision will be a laughing matter, you, fortunate Lucian, do not need to
care. Hail to you, and farewell!

VII. To Maitre Francoys Rabelais.

Of the Coming of the Coqcigrues.

Master, - In the Boreal and Septentrional lands, turned aside from the
noonday and the sun, there dwelt of old (as thou knowest, and as Olaus
voucheth) a race of men, brave, strong, nimble, and adventurous, who had
no other care but to fight and drink. There, by reason of the cold (as
Virgil witnesseth), men break wine with axes. To their minds, when once
they were dead and gotten to Valhalla, or the place of their Gods, there
would be no other pleasure but to swig, tipple, drink, and boose till
the coming of that last darkness and Twilight, wherein they, with their
deities, should do battle against the enemies of all mankind; which day
they rather desired than dreaded.

So chanced it also with Pantagruel and Brother John and their company,
after they had once partaken of the secret of the _Dive Bouteille_.
Thereafter they searched no longer; but, abiding at their ease, were
merry, frolic, jolly, gay, glad, and wise; only that they always and
ever did expect the awful Coming of the Coqcigrues. Now concerning the
day of that coming, and the nature of them that should come, they knew
nothing; and for his part Panurge was all the more adread, as Aristotle
testifieth that men (and Panurge above others) most fear that which they
know least. Now it chanced one day, as they sat at meat, with viands
rare, dainty, and precious as ever Apicius dreamed of, that there
fluttered on the air a faint sound as of sermons, speeches, orations,
addresses, discourses, lectures, and the like; whereat Panurge, pricking
up his ears, cried, 'Methinks this wind bloweth from Midlothian,' and so
fell a trembling.

Next, to their aural orifices, and the avenues audient of the brain,
was borne a very melancholy sound as of harmoniums, hymns, organ-pianos,
psalteries, and the like, all playing different airs, in a kind most
hateful to the Muses. Then said Panurge, as well as he might for
the chattering of his teeth: 'May I never drink if here come not the
Coqcigrues!' and this saying and prophecy of his was true and inspired.
But thereon the others began to mock, flout, and gird at Panurge for
his cowardice. 'Here am I!' cried Brother John, 'well-armed and ready
to stand a siege; being entrenched, fortified, hemmed-in and surrounded
with great pasties, huge pieces of salted beef, salads, fricassees,
hams, tongues, pies, and a wilderness of pleasant little tarts, jellies,
pastries, trifles, and fruits of all kinds, and I shall not thirst
while I have good wells, founts, springs, and sources of Bordeaux wine,
Burgundy, wine of the Champagne country, sack and Canary. A fig for thy

But even as he spoke there ran up suddenly a whole legion, or rather
army, of physicians, each armed with laryngoscopes, stethoscopes,
horoscopes, microscopes, weighing machines, and such other tools,
engines, and arms as they had who, after thy time, persecuted Monsieur
de Pourceaugnac! And they all, rushing on Brother John, cried out to
him, 'Abstain! Abstain!' And one said, 'I have well diagnosed thee,
and thou art in a fair way to have the gout.' 'I never did better in my
days,' said Brother John. 'Away with thy meats and drinks!' they cried.
And one said, 'He must to Royat;' and another, 'Hence with him to Aix;'
and a third, 'Banish him to Wiesbaden;' and a fourth, 'Hale him to
Gastein;' and yet another, 'To Barbouille with him in chains!'

And while others felt his pulse and looked at his tongue, they all wrote
prescriptions for him like men mad. 'For thy eating,' cried he that
seemed to be their leader, 'No soup!' 'No soup!' quoth Brother John; and
those cheeks of his, whereat you might have warmed your two hands in the
winter solstice, grew white as lilies. 'Nay! and no salmon nor any beef
nor mutton! A little chicken by times, but _periculo tuo_! Nor any game,
such as grouse, partridge, pheasant, capercailzie, wild duck; nor any
cheese, nor fruit, nor pastry, nor coffee, nor eau de vie; and avoid all
sweets. No veal, pork, nor made dishes of any kind.' 'Then what may I
eat?' quoth the good Brother, whose valour had oozed out of the soles
of his sandals. 'A little cold bacon at breakfast - no eggs,' quoth the
leader of the strange folk, 'and a slice of toast without butter.' 'And
for thy drink' - ('What?' gasped Brother John) - 'one dessert-spoonful of
whisky, with a pint of the water of Apollinaris at luncheon and dinner.
No more!' At this Brother John fainted, falling like a great buttress of
a hill, such as Taygetus or Erymanthus.

While they were busy with him, others of the frantic folk had built
great platforms of wood, whereon they all stood and spoke at once, both
men and women. And of these some wore red crosses on their garments,
which meaneth 'Salvation;' and others wore white crosses, with a little
black button of crape, to signify 'Purity;' and others bits of blue to
mean 'Abstinence.' While some of these pursued Panurge others did beset
Pantagruel; asking him very long questions, whereunto he gave but short
answers. Thus they asked:

Have ye Local Option here? - Pan.: What?

May one man drink if his neighbour be not athirst? - Pan.: Yea!

Have ye Free Education? - Pan.: What?

Must they that have, pay to school them that have not? - Pan.: Nay

Have ye free land? - Pan.: What?

Have ye taken the land from the farmer, and given it to the tailor out
of work and the candlemaker masterless? - Pan.: Nay!

Have your women folk votes? - Pan.: Bosh!

Have ye got religion? - Pan.: How?

Do you go about the streets at night, brawling, blowing a trumpet before
you, and making long prayers? - Pan.: Nay

Have you manhood suffrage? - Pan.: Eh?

Is Jack as good as his master? Pan.: Nay!

Have you joined the Arbitration Society? - Pan.: _Quoy?_?

Will you let another kick you, and will you ask his neighbour if you
deserve the same? - Pan.: Nay?

Do you cat what you list? - Pan.: Ay!

Do you drink when you are athirst? Pan.: Ay!

Are you governed by the free expression of the popular will? - Pan.:

Are you servants of priests, pulpits, and penny papers? - Pan.: No!

Now, when they heard these answers of Pantagruel they all fell, some a
weeping, some a praying, some a swearing, some an arbitrating, some a
lecturing, some a caucussing, some a preaching, some a faith-healing,
some a miracle-working, some a hypnotising, some a writing to the daily
press; and while they were thus busy, like folk distraught, 'reforming
the island,' Pantagruel burst out a laughing; whereat they were greatly
dismayed; for laughter killeth the whole race of Coqcigrues, and they
may not endure it.

Then Pantagruel and his company stole aboard a barque that Panurge had
ready in the harbour. And having provisioned her well with store of
meat and good drink, they set sail for the kingdom of Entelechy, where,
having landed, they were kindly entreated; and there abide to this day;
drinking of the sweet and eating of the fat, under the protection of
that intellectual sphere which hath in all places its centre and nowhere
its circumference.

Such was their destiny; there was their end appointed, and thither
the Coqcigrues can never come. For all the air of that land is full
of laughter, which killeth Coqcigrues; and there aboundeth the herb
Pantagruelion. But for thee, Master Francoys, thou art not well liked
in this island of ours, where the Coqcigrues are abundant, very fierce,
cruel, and tyrannical. Yet thou hast thy friends, that meet and drink
to thee and wish thee well wheresoever thou hast found thy _grand

VIII. To Jane Austen.

Madame, - If to the enjoyments of your present state be lacking a view
of the minor infirmities or foibles of men, I cannot but think (were the
thought permitted) that your pleasures are yet incomplete. Moreover, it
is certain that a woman of parts who has once meddled with literature
will never wholly lose her love for the discussion of that delicious
topic, nor cease to relish what (in the cant of our new age) is styled
'literary shop.' For these reasons I attempt to convey to you some
inkling of the present state of that agreeable art which you, madam,
raised to its highest pitch of perfection.

As to your own works (immortal, as I believe), I have but little that
is wholly cheering to tell one who, among women of letters, was almost
alone in her freedom from a lettered vanity. You are not a very popular
author: your volumes are not found in gaudy covers on every bookstall;
or, if found, are not perused with avidity by the Emmas and Catherines
of our generation. 'Tis not long since a blow was dealt (in the
estimation of the unreasoning) at your character as an author by the
publication of your familiar letters. The editor of these epistles,
unfortunately, did not always take your witticisms, and he added
others which were too unmistakably his own. While the injudicious were
disappointed by the absence of your exquisite style and humour, the
wiser sort were the more convinced of your wisdom. In your letters
(knowing your correspondents) you gave but the small personal talk of
the hour, for them sufficient; for your books you reserved matter and
expression which are imperishable. Your admirers, if not very numerous,
include all persons of taste, who, in your favour, are apt somewhat to
abate the rule, or shake off the habit, which commonly confines them to
but temperate laudation.

'T is the fault of all art to seem antiquated and faded in the eyes of
the succeeding generation. The manners of your age were not the manners
of to-day, and young gentlemen and ladies who think Scott 'slow,' think
Miss Austen 'prim' and 'dreary.' Yet, even could you return among us, I
scarcely believe that, speaking the language of the hour, as you might,
and versed in its habits, you would win the general admiration. For how
tame, madam, are your characters, especially your favourite heroines!
how limited the life which you knew and described! how narrow the range
of your incidents! how correct your grammar!

As heroines, for example, you chose ladies like Emma, and Elizabeth,
and Catherine: women remarkable neither for the brilliance nor for
the degradation of their birth; women wrapped up in their own and the
parish's concerns, ignorant of evil, as it seems, and unacquainted with
vain yearnings and interesting doubts. Who can engage his fancy with
their match-makings and the conduct of their affections, when so many
daring and dazzling heroines approach and solicit his regard?

Here are princesses dressed in white velvet stamped with golden
fleurs-de-lys - ladies with hearts of ice and lips of fire, who count
their roubles by the million, their lovers by the score, and even their
husbands, very often, in figures of some arithmetical importance. With
these are the immaculate daughters of itinerant Italian musicians, maids
whose souls are unsoiled amidst the contaminations of our streets, and
whose acquaintance with the art of Phidias and Praxiteles, of Daedalus
and Scopas, is the more admirable, because entirely derived from loving
study of the inexpensive collections vended by the plaster-of-Paris man
round the corner. When such heroines are wooed by the nephews of Dukes,
where are your Emmas and Elizabeths? Your volumes neither excite nor
satisfy the curiosities provoked by that modern and scientific fiction,
which is greatly admired, I learn, in the United States, as well as in
France and at home.

You erred, it cannot be denied, with your eyes open. Knowing Lydia
and Kitty so intimately as you did, why did you make of them almost
insignificant characters? With Lydia for a heroine you might have gone
far; and, had you devoted three volumes, and the chief of your time, to
the passions of Kitty, you might have held your own, even now, in the
circulating library. How Lyddy, perched on a corner of the roof, first
beheld her Wickham; how, on her challenge, he climbed up by a ladder to
her side; how they kissed, caressed, swung on gates together, met at odd
seasons, in strange places, and finally eloped: all this might have been
put in the mouth of a jealous elder sister, say Elizabeth, and you would
not have been less popular than several favourites of our time. Had you
cast the whole narrative into the present tense, and lingered lovingly
over the thickness of Mary's legs and the softness of Kitty's cheeks,
and the blonde fluffiness of Wickham's whiskers, you would have left a
romance still dear to young ladies.

Or again, you might entrance your students still, had you concentrated
your attention on Mrs. Rushworth, who eloped with Henrv Crawford. These
should have been the chief figures of 'Mansfield Park.' But you timidly
decline to tackle Passion. 'Let other pens,' you write, 'dwell on guilt
and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can.' Ah, _there_
is the secret of your failure! Need I add that the vulgarity and
narrowness of the social circles you describe impair your popularity? I
scarce remember more than one lady of title, and but very few lords (and
these unessential) in all your tales. Now, when we all wish to be in
society, we demand plenty of titles in our novels, at any rate, and we
get lords (and very queer lords) even from Republican authors, born in
a country which in your time was not renowned for its literature. I have
heard a critic remark, with a decided air of fashion, on the brevity
of the notice which your characters give each other when they
offer invitations to dinner. 'An invitation to dinner next day was
despatched,' and this demonstrates that your acquaintance 'went out'
very little, and had but few engagements. How vulgar, too, is one
of your heroines, who bids Mr. Darcy 'keep his breath to cool his
porridge.' I blush for Elizabeth! It were superfluous to add that your
characters are debased by being invariably mere members of the Church of
England as by law established. The Dissenting enthusiast, the open soul
that glides from Esoteric Buddhism to the Salvation Army, and from the
Higher Pantheism to the Higher Paganism, we look for in vain among your
studies of character. Nay, the very words I employ are of unknown sound
to you; so how can you help us in the stress of the soul's travailings?

You may say that the soul's travailings are no affair of yours; proving
thereby that you have indeed but a lowly conception of the duty of the
novelist. I only remember one reference, in all your works, to that
controversy which occupies the chief of our attention - the great
controversy on Creation or Evolution. Your Jane Bennet cries: 'I have
no idea of there being so much Design in the world as some persons
imagine.' Nor do you touch on our mighty social question, the Land Laws,
save when Mrs. Bennet appears as a Land Reformer, and rails bitterly
against the cruelty 'of settling an estate away from a family of five
daughters, in favour of a man whom nobody cared anything about.' There,
madam, in that cruelly unjust performance, what a text you had for a
_Tendenz-Roman_. Nay, you can allow Kitty to report that a Private had
been flogged, without introducing a chapter on Flogging in the Army. But
you formally declined to stretch your matter out, here and there, 'with
solemn specious nonsense about something unconnected with the story.'
No 'padding' for Miss Austen! In fact, madam, as you were born before
Analysis came in, or Passion, or Realism, or Naturalism, or Irreverence,
or Religious Open-mindedness, you really cannot hope to rival your
literary sisters in the minds of a perplexed generation. Your heroines
are not passionate, we do not see their red wet cheeks, and tresses
dishevelled in the manner of our frank young Maenads. What says your
best successor, a lady who adds fresh lustre to a name that in fiction
equals yours? She says of Miss Austen: 'Her heroines have a stamp of
their own. They have a _certain gentle self-respect and humour and
hardness of heart_... Love with them does not mean a passion as much as
an interest, deep and silent.' I think one prefers them so, and that
Englishwomen should be more like Anne Elliot than Maggie Tulliver. 'All
the privilege I claim for my own sex is that of loving longest when
existence or when hope is gone,' said Anne; perhaps she insisted on a
monopoly that neither sex has all to itself. Ah, madam, what a relief it
is to come back to your witty volumes, and forget the follies of to-day
in those of Mr. Collins and of Mrs. Bennet! How fine, nay, how noble is
your art in its delicate reserve, never insisting, never forcing the
note, never pushing the sketch into the caricature! You worked without
thinking of it, in the spirit of Greece, on a labour happily limited,
and exquisitely organised. 'Dear books,' we say, with Miss
Thackeray - 'dear books, bright, sparkling with wit and animation, in
which the homely heroines charm, the dull hours fly, and the very bores
are enchanting.'

IX. To Master Isaak Walton.

Father Isaak, - When I would be quiet and go angling it is my custom
to carry in my wallet thy pretty book, 'The Compleat Angler.' Here,
methinks, if I find not trout I shall find content, and good company,
and sweet songs, fair milkmaids, and country mirth. For you are to know
that trout be now scarce, and whereas he was ever a fearful fish, he
hath of late become so wary that none but the cunningest anglers may be
even with him.

It is not as it was in your time, Father, when a man might leave his
shop in Fleet Street, of a holiday, and, when he had stretched his legs
up Tottenham Hill, come lightly to meadows chequered with waterlilies
and lady-smocks, and so fall to his sport. Nay, now have the houses
so much increased, like a spreading sore (through the breaking of that
excellent law of the Conscientious King and blessed Martyr, whereby
building beyond the walls was forbidden), that the meadows are all
swallowed up in streets. And as to the River Lea, wherein you took many
a good trout, I read in the news sheets that 'its bed is many inches
thick in horrible filth, and the air for more than half a mile on each

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Online LibraryAndrew LangLetters to Dead Authors → online text (page 3 of 9)