all far too much alike ; we do not group well ;
we only mix. All this, and more, is alleged
against us. A cheerfully-disposed person might
perhaps think that, assuming the prevailing type
to be a good, plain, readable one, this uniformity
need not necessarily be a bad thing ; but had
ne the courage to give expression to this opinion
ne would most certainly be at once told, with
that mixture of asperity and contempt so
properly reserved for those who take cheerful
views of anything, that without well-defined
types of character there can be neither national
comedy nor whimsical novel ; and as it is im-
possible to imagine any person sufficiently
cheerful to carry the argument further by in-
quiring ingenuously, 'And how would that
' matter?' the position of things becomes serious,
and demands a few minutes' investigation.
As we said at the beginning, the complaint is
an old one — most complaints are. When
Montaigne was in Rome in 1580 he complained
bitterly that he was always knocking up against
his own countrymen, and might as well have
been in Paris. And yet some people would
have you believe that this curse of the Continent
is quite new. More than seventy years ago
that most quotable of English authors, Hazlitt,
wrote as follows :
' It is, indeed, the evident tendency of all
literature to generalize and dissipate character
by giving men the same artificial education
and the same common stock of ideas j so that
we see all objects from the same point of view,
and through the same reflected medium ; we
learn to exist not in ourselves, but in books; all
men become alike, mere readers- -spectators,
16 — 2
244 WORN-OUT TYPES.
1 not actors in the scene and lose all proper
' personal identity. The templar — the wit — the
1 man of pleasure and the man of fashion, the
'courtier and the citizen, the knight and the
'squire, the lover and the miser — Lovelace,
' Lothario, Will Honeycomb and Sir Roger de
'Coverley, Sparkish and Lord Foppington,
' Western and Tom Jones, my Father and my
'Uncle Toby, Millament and Sir Sampson
'Legend, Don Quixote and Sancho, Gil Bias
'and Guzman d'Alfarache, Count Fathom and
' Joseph Surface — have all met and exchanged
' commonplaces on the barren plains of the
' haute litter ature — toil slowly on to the Temple
' of Science, seen a long way off upon a level,
'and end in one dull compound of politics,
* criticism, chemistry, and metaphysics.'
Very pretty writing, certainly ;* nor can it be
disputed that uniformity of surroundings puts a
tax upon originality. To make bricks and find
your own straw are terms of bondage. Modern
* Yet in his essay On Londoners and Country People we
find Hazlitt writing : ' London is the only place in which
1 the child grows completely up into the man. I have
' known characters of this kind, which, in the way of
• childish ignorance and self-pleasing delusion, exceeded
' anything to be met with in Shakespeare or Ben Tonson,
' or the Old Comedy.'
WORN. OUT TYPES.
characters, like modern houses, are possibly
built too much on the same lines. Dickens's
description of Coketown is not easily forgotten :
'All the public inscriptions in the town were
1 painted alike, in severe characters of black and
' white. The jail might have been the infirmary,
'the infirmary might have been the jail, the
1 town hall might have been either, or both, or
'anything else, for anything that appeared to
'the contrary in the graces of their construc-
And the inhabitants of Coketown are exposed
to the same objection as their buildings. Every
one sinks all traces of what he vulgarly calls
' the shop ' (that is, his lawful calling), and
busily pretends to be nothing. Distinctions of
dress are found irksome. A barrister of feeling
hates to be seen in his robes save when actually
engaged in a case. An officer wears his uniform
only when obliged. Doctors have long since
shed all outward signs of their healing art.
Court dress excites a smile. A countess in her
jewels is reckoned indecent by the British
workman, who, all unemployed, puffs his tobacco
smoke against the window-pane of the carriage
that is conveying her ladyship to a drawing
room ; and a West-end clergyman is with difii-
246 WORN-OUT TYPES.
culty restrained from telling his congregation
what he had been told the British workman
said on that occasion. Had he but had the
courage to repeat those stirring words, his
hearers (so he said) could hardly have failed to
have felt their force — so unusual in such a
place; but he had not the courage, and that
sermon of the pavement remains unpreached.
The toe of the peasant is indeed kibing the heel
of the courtier. The passion for equality in
externals cannot be denied. We are all woven
strangely in the same piece, and so it comes
about that, though our modern society has
invented new callings, those callings have not
created new types. Stockbrokers, directors,
official liquidators, philanthropists, secretaries —
not of State, but of companies — speculative
builders, are a new kind of people known to
many — indeed, playing a great part among us —
but who, for all that, have not enriched the stage
with a single character. Were they to disappear
to-morrow, to be blown dancing away like the
leaves before Shelley's west wind, where in
reading or playgoing would posterity encounter
them? Alone amongst the children of men.
the pale student of the law, burning the mid
night oil in some one of the 'high lonely towers '
WORN-OUT TYPES. 247
recently built by the Benchers of the Middle
Temple (in the Italian taste), would, whilst
losing his youth over that interminable series,
The Law Reports, every now and again strike
across the old track, once so noisy with the
hayings of the well-paid hounds of justice, and,
pushing his way along it, trace the history of the
bogus company, from the acclamations attendant
upon its illegitimate birth to the hour of dis-
grace when it dies by strangulation at the hands
of the professional wrecker. The pale student
will not be a wholly unsympathetic reader.
Great swindles have ere now made great reputa-
tions, and lawyers may surely be permitted to
take a pensive interest in such matters.
' Not one except the Attorney was amused —
He, like Achilles, faithful to the tomb,
So there were quarrels, cared not for the cause,
Knowing they must be settled by the laws.'
But our elder dramatists would not have
let any of these characters swim out of their
ken. A glance over Ben Jonson, Massinger,
Beaumont and Fletcher, is enough to reveal
their frank and easy method. Their characters,
like an apothecary's drugs, wear labels round
their necks. Mr. Justice Clement and Mr.
248 WORN-OUT TYPES
Justice Greedy; Master Matthew, the town
gull ; Sir Giles Overreach, Sir Epicure Mam-
mon, Mr. Plenty, Sir John Frugal, need no
explanatory context. Are our dramatists to
blame for withholding from us the heroes of
our modern society ? Ought we to have —
' Sir Moses, Sir Aaron, Sir Jamramagee,
Two stock-jobbing Jews, and a shuffling Parsee ' ?
Baron Contango, the Hon. Mr. Guinea-Pig,
poor Miss Impulsia Allottee, Mr. Jeremiah
Builder — Rare Old Ben, who was fond of the
the city, would have given us them all and
many more ; but though we may well wish he
were here to do it, we ought, I think, to confess
that the humour of these typical persons who so
swell the dramatis perso?ice of an Elizabethan
is, to say the least of it, far to seek. There is a
certain warm-hearted tradition about their very
names which makes disrespect painful. It
seems a churl's part not to laugh, as did our
fathers before us, at the humours of the conven-
tional parasite or impossible serving-man ; but
we laugh because we will, and not because we
Genuine comedy — the true tickling scene,
exquisite absurdity, soul-rejoicing incongruity —
WORN-OUT TYPES. 249
has really nothing to do with types, prevailing
fashions, and such-like vulgarities. Sir Andrew
Aguecheek is not a typical fool ; he is a fool,
seised in fee simple of his folly.
Humour lies not in generalizations, but in
the individual ; not in his hat nor in his hose,
even though the latter be ' cross-gartered ' ;
but in the deep heart of him, in his high-flying
vanities, his low-lying oddities — what we call his
' ways ' — nay, in the very motions of his back as
he crosses the road. These stir our laughter
whilst he lives and our tears when he dies, for
in mourning over him we know full well we are
taking part in our own obsequies. ' But indeed,'
wrote Charles Lamb, 'we die many deaths
'before we die, and I am almost sick when I
1 think that such a hold as I had of you is gone. :
Literature is but the reflex of life, and the
humour of it lies in the portrayal of the individual,
not the type ; and though the young man in
Locksley Hall no doubt observes that the
' individual withers,' we have but to take down
George Meredith's novels to find the fact is
otherwise, and that we have still one amongst
us who takes notes, and against the battery of
whose quick wits even the costly raiment of
Poole is no protection. We are forced as we
250 WORN-OUT TYPES.
read to exclaim with Petruchio : ' Thou hast
hit it ; come sit on me.' No doubt the task ot
the modern humorist is not so easy as it was.
The surface ore has been mostly picked up.
In order to win the precious metal you must
now work with in-stroke and out-stroke after the
most approved methods. Sometimes one
would enjoy it a little more if we did not hear
quite so distinctly the snorting of the engine,
and the groaning and the creaking of the gear
as it painfully winds up its prize : but what
would you ? Methods, no less than men,
must have the defects of their qualities.
If, therefore, it be the fact that our national
comedy is in decline, we must look for some
other reasons for it than those suggested by
Hazlitt in t 8 1 7. When Mr. Chadband inquired,
' Why can we not fly, my friends ?' Mr. Snagsby
ventured to observe, ' in a cheerful and rather
' knowing tone, " No wings !" ' but he was
immediately frowned down by Mrs. Snagsby.
We lack courage to suggest that the somewhat
heavy-footed movements of our recent dramatists
are in any way due to their not being provided
with those twin adjuncts indispensable for the
genius who would soar.
CAMBRIDGE AND THE POETS.
Why all the English poets, with a barely decent
number of exceptions, have been Cambridge
men, has always struck me, as did the abstin-
ence of the Greeks from malt Mr. Calverley,
'as extremely curious.' But in this age of
detail, one must, however reluctantly, submit to
prove one's facts, and I, therefore, propose to
institute a ' Modest Inquiry ' into this subject.
Imaginatively, I shall don proctorial robes, and
armed with a duster, saunter up and down the
library, putting to each poet as I meet him the
once dreaded question, ' Sir, are you a member
' of this University ?'
But whilst I am arranging myself for this
function, let me utilize the time by making two
preliminary observations — the first one being
that, as to-day is Sunday, only such free libraries
are open as may happen to be attached to
public-houses, and I am consequently confined
252 CAMBRIDGE AND THE POETS.
to my own poor shelves, and must be forgiven
even though I make some palpable omissions.
The second is that I exclude from my survey
living authors. I must do so ; their very names
would excite controversy about a subject which,
when wisely handled, admits of none.
I now pursue my inquiry. That Chaucei
was a Cambridge man cannot be proved. It
is the better opinion that he was (how else
should he have known anything about the
Trumpington Road ?), but it is only an opinion,
and as no one has ever been found reckless
enough to assert that he was an Oxford man,
he must be content to ' sit out ' this inquiry
along with Shakspeare, Webster, Ford, Pope,
Cowper, Burns, and Keats, no one of whom
ever kept his terms at either University. Spenser
is, of course, the glory of the Cambridge
Pembroke, though were the fellowships of that
college made to depend upon passing a yearly
examination in the Faerie Queen, to be con-
ducted by Dean Church, there would be wailing
and lamentation within her rubicund walls.
Sir Thomas Wyatt was at St. John's, Fulke
Greville Lord Brooke at Jesus, Giles and
Phineas Fletcher were at King's, Herrick was
first at St. John's, but migrated to the Hall,
CAMBRIDGE AND THE POETS. 253
where he is still reckoned very pretty reading,
even by boating men. Cowley, most precocious
of poets, and Suckling were at Trinity, Waller
at King's, Francis Quarles was of Christ's.
The Herbert family were divided, some going
to Oxford and some to Cambridge, George,
of course, falling to the lot of Cambridge.
John Milton's name alone would deify the
University where he pursued his almost sacred
studies. Andrew Marvell, a pleasant poet
and savage satirist, was of Trinity. The
author of Hudibras is frequently attributed to
Cambridge, but, on being interrogated, he
declined to name his college — always a suspicious
I must not forget Richard Crashaw, of
Peterhouse. Willingly would I relieve the
intolerable tedium of this dry inquiry by
transcribing the few lines of his now beneath
my eye. But I forbear, and ' steer right on.'
Of dramatists we find Marlowe (untimelier
death than his was never any) at Corpus ;
Greene (I do not lay much stress on Greene)
was both at St. John's and Clare. Ben Jonson
was at St. John's, so was Nash. John Fletcher
(whose claims to be considered the senior
partner in his well-known firm are simply
254 CAMBRIDGE AND THE POETS.
paramount) was at Corpus. James Shirley, the
author of The Maid's Revenge and of the
beautiful lyric beginning 'The glories of our
1 birth and state,' in the innocence of his heart
first went to St. John's College, Oxford, from
whence he was speedily sent down, for reasons
which the delightful author of Athena Oxonienses
must really be allowed to state for himself.
'At the same time (1612) Dr. William Laud
1 presiding at that house, he had a very great
' affection for Shirley, especially for the pregnant
1 parts that were visible in him, but then, having
'a broad or large mole upon his left cheek,
1 which some esteemed a deformity, that worthy
1 doctor would often tell him that he was an
'unfit person to take the sacred function
' upon him, and should never have his consent
1 to do so.' Thus treated, Shirley left Oxford,
that • home of lost causes,' but not apparently of
large moles, and came to Cambridge, and
entered at St. Catharine's Hall, where, either
because the authorities were not amongst those
who esteemed a broad or large mole upon the
left cheek to be a deformity, or because a mole,
more or less, made no sort of difference in the
personal appearance of the college, or for other
good and sufficient reasons, poor Shirley was
CAMBRIDGE AND THE POETS. 255
allowed, without, I trust, being often told of his
mole, to proceed to his degree and to Holy
Starting off again, we find John Dryden,
whose very name is a tower of strength (were
he to come to life again he would, like Mr.
Brown of Calaveras, ' clean out half the town '),
at Trinity. In this poet's later life he said he
liked Oxford better. His lines on this subject
are well known :
4 Oxford to him a dearer name shall be
Than his own Mother-University.
Thebes did his rude, unknowing youth engage,
He chooses Athens in his riper age.'
But idle preferences of this sort are beyond the
scope of my present inquiry. After Dryden
we find Garth at Peterhouse and charming
Matthew Prior at John's. Then comes the
great name of Gray. Perhaps I ought not to
mention poor Christopher Smart, who was a
Fellow of Pembroke ; and yet the author of
JDavid, under happier circumstances, might have
conferred additional poetic lustre even upon
the college of Spenser.*
* This passage was written before Mr. Browning' >
4 Parleyings' had appeared. Christopher is now *a
* person of importance,' and needs no apology.
256 CAMBRIDGE AND THE POETS.
In the present century, we find Byron and
his bear at Trinity, Coleridge at Jesus, and
Wordsworth at St. John's. The last-named
poet was fully alive to the honour of belong-
ing to the same University as Milton. In
language not unworthy of Mr. Trumbull, the
well-known auctioneer in Middle7?iarch % he has
recorded as follows :
' Among the band of my compeers was one
Whom chance had stationed in the very room
Honoured by Milton's name. O temperate Bard .
Be it confest that for the first time seated
Within thy innocent lodge and oratory,
One of a festive circle, I poured out
Libations, to thy memory drank, till pride
And gratitude grew dizzy in a brain
Never excited by the fumes of wine
Before that hour or since.'*
I know of no more amiable trait in the
character of Cambridge men than their willing-
ness to admit having been drunk once.
After the great name of Wordsworth any
other must seem small, but I must, before
concluding, place on record Praed, Macaulay,
Kingsley, and Calverley.
A glorious Roll-call indeed !
* TM Prelude, p. 55.
CAMBRIDGE AND THE POETS. 257
' Earth shows to Heaven the names by thousands told
That crown her fame.'
So may Cambridge.
Oxford leads off with one I could find it
in my heart to grudge her, beautiful as she
is — Sir Philip Sidney. Why, I wonder, did he
not accompany his friend and future biographer,
Fulke Greville, to Cambridge ? As Dr. Johnson
once said to Boswell, ' Sir, you may wonder !'
Sidney most indisputably was at Christchurch.
Old George Chapman, who I suppose was young
once, was (I believe) at Oxford, though I have
known Cambridge to claim him. Lodge and
Peele were at Oxford, so were Francis Beau-
mont and his brother Sir John. Philip Mas-
singer, Shakerley Marmion, and John Marston
are of Oxford, also Watson and Warner. Henry
Vaughan the Silurist, Sir John Davies, George
Sandys, Samuel Daniel, Dr. Donne, Lovelace,
and Wither belong to the sister University, so
did Dr. Brady — but Oxford must not claim all
the merit of the metrical version of the Psalms,
for Brady's colleague, Dr. Nahum Tate, was a
Dublin man. Otway and Collins, Young,
Johnson, Charles Wesley, Southey, Landor,
Hartley Coleridge, Beddoes, Keble, Isaac
Williams, Faber. and Clough are names oi
258 CAMBRIDGE AND THE POETS.
which their University may well be proud. But
surely, when compared with the Cambridge list,
a falling-off must be admitted.
A poet indeed once came into residence at
University College, whose single name — for,
after all, poets must be weighed and not counted
— would have gone far to right the balance, but
is Oxford bold enough to claim Shelley as her
own ? She sent him down, not for riotous
living, for no purer soul than his ever haunted
her courts, but for wanting to discuss with those
whose business it was to teach him questions of
high philosophy. Had Shelley only gone to
Trinity in 1810, I feel sure wise and witty old
Dr. Mansel would never have sent him down.
Spenser, Milton, and Shelley ! What a triad
of immortal fames they would have made. As
it is, we expect Oxford, with her accustomed
composure, will insist upon adding Shelley to
her score — but even when she has been allowed
to do so, she must own herself beaten both in
men and metal.
But this being so — why was it so ? It is
now my turn to own myself defeated. I cannot
for the life of me tell how it happened.
The most distinguished of living Englishmen,
who, great as he is in many directions, is per-
haps inherently more a man of letters than any-
thing else, has been overheard mournfully to
declare that there were more booksellers' shops
in his native town sixty years ago, when he was
a boy in it, than are to-day to be found within its
boundaries. And yet the place ' all unabashed '
now boasts its bookless self a city !
Mr. Gladstone was, of course, referring to
second-hand bookshops. Neither he nor any
other sensible man puts himself out about new
books. When a new book is published, read
an old one, was the advice of a sound though
surly critic. It is one of the boasts of letters to
have glorified the term ' second-hand,' which
other crafts have ' soiled to all ignoble use.' But
why it has been able to do this is obvious. AD
the best books are necessarily second-hand
The writers of to-day need not grumble. Let
them * bide a wee.' If their books are worth
anything, they, too, one day will be second-hand.
If their books are not worth anything there are
ancient trades still in full operation amongst us
— the pastrycooks and the trunkmakers — who
must have paper.
But is there any substance in the plaint that
nobody now buys books, meaning thereby
second-hand books ? The late Mark Pattison,
who had 16,000 volumes, and whose lightest
word has therefore weight, once stated that he
had been informed, and verily believed, that
there were men of his own University of Oxford
who, being in uncontrolled possession of annual
incomes of not less than ^500, thought they
were doing the thing handsomely if they ex-
pended ^50 a year upon their libraries. But
we are not bound to believe this unless we like.
There was a touch of morosity about the late
Rector of Lincoln which led him to take gloomy
views of men, particularly Oxford men.
No doubt arguments d priori may readily be
found to support the contention that the habit
of book-buying is on the decline. I confess to
knowing one or two men, not Oxford men
either, but Cambridge men (and the passion of
Cambridge for literature is a by-word), who, on
the plea of being pressed with business, or
because they were going to a funeral, have
passed a bookshop in a strange town without so
much as stepping inside 'just to see whether
' the fellow had anything.' But painful as facts
of this sort necessarily are, any damaging in-
ference we might feel disposed to draw from
them is dispelled by a comparison of price-lists.
Compare a bookseller's catalogue of 1862 with
one of the present year, and your pessimism is
washed away by the tears which unrestrainedly
flow as you see what bonnes fortunes you have
lost. A young book-buyer might well turn out
upon Primrose Hill and bemoan his youth,
after comparing old catalogues with new.
Nothing but American competition, grumble
some old stagers.
Well! why not? This new battle for the
books is a free fight, not a private one, and
Columbia has 'joined in.' Lower prices are
not to be looked for. The book-buyer of 1900
will be glad to buy at to-day s prices. I take
pleasure in thinking he will not be able to do
so. Good finds grow scarcer and scarcer.
262 BOOK- BUYING.
True it is that but a few short weeks ago I
picked up (such is the happy phrase, most
apt to describe what was indeed a 'street
casualty') a copy of the original edition of
Endymion (Keats's poem — O subscriber to
Mudie's ! — not Lord Beaconsfield's novel) for the
easy equivalent of half-a-crown — but then that
was one of my lucky days. The enormous in-
crease of booksellers' catalogues and their wide
circulation amongst the trade has already pro-
duced a hateful uniformity of prices. Go where
you will it is all the same to the odd sixpence.
Time was when you could map out the country
for yourself with some hopefulness of plunder.
There were districts where the Elizabethan
dramatists were but slenderly protected. A raid
into the ' bonnie North Countrie' sent you
home again cheered with chap-books and
weighted with old pamphlets of curious in-
terests ; whilst the West of England seldom
failed to yield a crop of novels. I remember
getting a complete set of the Bronte books in
the original issues at Torquay, I may say, for
nothing. Those days are over. Your country
bookseller is, in fact, more likely, such tales
does he hear of London auctions, and such
BOOK-BUYING. a6 3
catalogues does he receive by every post, to
exaggerate the value of his wares than to part
vith them pleasantly, and as a country book-
;eller should, 'just to clear my shelves, you
'know, and give me a bit of room.' The only
compensation for this is the catalogues them-
selves. You get them, at least, for nothing, and
it cannot be denied that they make mighty pretty
These high prices tell their own tale, and force
upon us the conviction that there never were so