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He adds, as to motive:

"Yet malice never was his aim;
He lash'd the vice, but spared the name;
*****

His satire points at no defect,
But what all mortals may correct;
For he abhorr'd that senseless tribe
Who call it humour when they gibe:
*****

True genuine dullness moved his pity,
Unless it offer' d to be witty."

3 Preface to The Intriguing Chambermaid: Epistle to Mrs. Give.



THE SATIRIC SPIRIT 23

" But while I hold the pen, it will be a maxim with me, that
vice can never be too great to be lashed, nor virtue too obscure
to be commended; in other words, that satire can never rise
too high, nor panegyric stoop too low."

He also makes the same point in a historical review: l

"In ancient Greece, the infant muses' school,
Where Vice first felt the pen of ridicule,
With honest freedom and impartial blows
The Muse attacked each Vice as it arose:
No grandeur could the mighty villain screen
From the just satire of the comic scene."

Although vice is now too powerful for such censure, he
dares the lion in his den, and comforts the virtuous with
reassurances:

"And while these scenes the conscious knave displease,
Who feels within the criminal he sees,
The uncorrupt and good must smile, to find
No mark for satire in his generous mind."

The nineteenth century is full of straws still blowing in
the direction of Vice and Folly: such as Taine's 2 "Satire
is the sister of elegy; if the second pleads for the oppressed,
the first combats the oppressors." And Lionel Johnson 3
comments that Erasmus "had something in common with
Matthew Arnold: a like satiric yet profoundly felt im-
patience with intellectual pedantry and social folly."

We may, however, see satire as opposition, and more-
over opposition to vice and folly, and still be taking for
granted that which demands more probing. For even if
it were so simple a crusade as that, no crusade is as simple
as it looks, and this one is particularly open to suspicion.

1 Prologue to The Coffee-House Politician.

2 Hist, of Eng. Lit.: on Dickens, - 3 Post Liminium.



24 SATIRE IN THE VICTORIAN NOVEL

It is therefore not wholly superfluous to ask why vice
and folly are the favorite satiric goals. Psychologically it
would be sufficient to say that it is because anything a
man disapproves of naturally seems to him foolish if not
actually vicious. But socialized man cannot admit that
his reaction to anything is based on mere temperamental
prejudice. Condemnation of vice and folly is of course
its own justification, and humor is its own reward. Un-
fortunately, however, humorous condemnation is not al-
ways applicable to these offenders against taste and mor-
ality. Folly is sometimes too artless to be censured, and
vice is often too serious to be ridiculed. Evidently then, yet
another solution is needed, a least common denominator
that will go into both, even if it does leave a remainder.

Now it happens that a body of explicit testimony, sub-
stantiated by a review of satiric practice, does indicate
the existence of this unifying bond, this thing which, when
present, makes both vice and folly criticizably absurd;
and its generic name is deception.

This fraudulent family has two main branches: the in-
tentional type, including hypocrisy and humbug; and the
unconscious, represented by sentimentality and other
forms of self-befoolment; besides a half-conscious variety,
whence come vanity, snobbishness, superstition, vul-^\
garity, and other children of perverted ambition and false/
reasoning. All these give plenty of scope to the satirist,
even when we subtract some possibilities by the impor-
tant qualification that not all that deceives is ludicrous;
deception being sometimes too innocent and even altruistic
and sometimes too tragic and cruel. 1

According to this test, anything which assumes a vir-

1 These relationships may be suggested by a graphic diagram. Not all folly
is vicious, though all vice is foolish. Not all deception is either vicious or foolish,



THE SATIRIC SPIRIT 25

tue when it has it not may draw satiric fire. It is the as-
sumption itself, the pose, that furnishes the shining mark
loved by the satirist^**
On this point we again have Horatian testimony: 1

" Quid, cum est Lucilius ausus
Primus in hunc operis componere carmina morem,
Detrahere et pellem, nitidus qua quisque per ora
Cederety introrsum turpis, * * *

Gascoigne 2 symbolised by his steel glass that which re-
flected the beholders as they were, not flattered as by the
plated mirror; and said his effort was to "sing a verse to
make them see themselves." He also identified the root
of all evil with hypocrisy; "So that they seem, and covet
not to be."

Cervantes 3 spoke of his "Herculean labor" as being
"nothing more nor less than to banish mediocrity from the
realm of Spanish poetry, and to sweep from its sacred pre-
cincts, which had become as foul as an Augean stable, all
shams, lies, hypocrisies, and vulgar baseness whatsoever."

But the first to stress this idea with discriminating anal-
ysis was, quite appropriately, the first in his own satirical
field: 4

though folly and vice are for the most part deceitful. The circle of the satirizible
practically coincides with that portion of the
deception-circle which falls within vice and
folly, a small margin being left outside to safe-
guard against inelasticity.

The connection between these two pairs of
subdivisions is evident; hypocrisy belonging
on the whole to the vicious branch, and senti-
mentality, to the foolish.

1 Satires ; II, i.

2 The Steele Glas.

3 Preface to The Journey to Parnassus. Gibson's translation.

4 Fielding: Tom Jones.

The phrase omitted from the Dryden citation above is, "where the very




26 SATIRE IN THE VICTORIAN NOVEL

"The only source of the true Ridiculous (as it appears
to me) is affectation. * * * Now affectation proceeds
from one of these two causes, vanyy or hypocrisy; for as
vanity puts us on affecting false characters, in order to pur-
chase applause; so hypocrisy sets us on an endeavour to avoid
censure, by concealing our vices under an appearance of their
opposite virtues. * * *

"From the discovery of this affectation arises the Ridiculous;
* * * I might observe, that our Ben Jonson, who of all
men understood the Ridiculous the best, hath chiefly used the
hypocritical affectation."

He remarks that this is more amusing than vanity, from
the sharper contrast with reality, and adds:

"Now, from affectation only, the misfortunes and calamities
of life, or the imperfections of nature, may become the objects
of ridicule. * * *

"The poet carries this very far:

'None are for being what they are in fault,
But for not being what they would be thought.'"

He concludes:

"Great vices are the proper objects of our detestation, smaller
faults of our pity; but affectation appears to me the only true
source of the Ridiculous."

Fielding's comment on Jonson is in turn applied to him
by a modern critic: 1

"All Fielding's evil characters, it may be remarked, are
accomplished hypocrites; on pure vanity or silliness he spends
very few of his shafts."

name of satire is formidable to those persons, who would appear to the world
what they are not in themselves:"
1 Raleigh: The English Novel.



THE SATIRIC SPIRIT 2J

Taine l would find boi t/^asy to account for, on racial
grounds:

"The first-fruits of English society is hypocrisy. It ripens
here under the double breath of religion and morality; we know
their popularity and sway across the channel. * * * This
vice is therefore English. Mr. Pecksniff is not found in
France. * * * Since Voltaire, Tartuffe is impossible."

Landor 2 has Lucian say:

"I have ridiculed the puppets of all features, all colours,
all sizes, by which an impudent and audacious set of impos-
tors have been gaining an easy livelihood these two thousand
years. * * *

"The falsehood that the tongue commits is slight in com-
parison with what is conceived by the heart, and executed by
the whole man, throughout life."

Meredith's portrait of The Comic Spirit is applicable to
satire, for throughout the essay he gives to the term comic
the connotation generally allowed to the term satiric:

"Men's future upon earth does not attract it; their honesty
and shapeliness in the present does; and whenever they wax out
of proportion, overblown, affected, pretentious, bombastical,

1 Hist, of Eng. Lit.: on Dickens.

2 Imaginary Conversations: Lucian and Timotheus.

Timotheus, exultant over the Dialogues, remarks that "Nothing can be so
gratifying and satisfactory to a rightly disposed mind, as the subversion of im-
posture by the force of ridicule." Disappointed, however, in his assumption
that Lucian is now ready to embrace the true faith, which turns out to be a
non sequiter, he accuses the inflexible pagan of sacrilege, ready to turn into
ridicule the true and the holy. To which Lucian in turn replies "In other
words, to turn myself into a fool. He who brings ridicule to bear against Truth,
finds in his hands a blade without a hilt. The most sparkling and pointed flame
of wit flickers and expires against the incombustible walls of her sanctuary."

Lucian himself, in The Angler, declares it his business to hate quacks, jugglery,
lies, and conceit.



28 SATIRE IN THE VICTORIAN NOVEL

hypocritical, pedantic, fantastica| e delicate; whenever it sees
them self-deceived or hoodwinked, given to run riot in idolatries,
drifting into vanities, congregating in absurdities, planning
short-sigh tedly, plotting dementedly; whenever they are at
variance with their professions, * * * whenever they of-
fend sound reason, fair justice; are false in humility or mined
with conceit, * * * they are detected and ridiculed."

Meredith l also reiterates the distinction made by Swift
and Fielding in regard to misfortune:

"Poverty, says the satirist, has nothing harder in itself than
that it makes men ridiculous. But poverty is never ridiculous
to Comic perception until it attempts to make its rags conceal
its bareness in a forlorn attempt at decency, or foolishly to
rival ostentation."

And he remarks of Moliere:

"He strips Folly to the skin, displays the imposture of the
creature, and is content to offer her better clothing."

Of the two forms of affectation, Fielding chooses hyp-
ocrisy as better satirical game, but Bergson 2 votes for the
other:

"In this respect it might be said that the specific remedy for
vanity is laughter, and that the one failing that is essentially
laughable is vanity."

Fuess 3 makes for the last great poetic satirist the fam-
iliar conventional claim:

"Byron is attacking not virtue, but false sentiment, false
idealism, and false faith. His satiric spirit is engaged in * * *
tearing down what is sham and pretence and fraud."

1 Essay on Comedy. z Laughter, 174. 3 Byron as a Satirist, 180.



THE SATIRIC SPIRIT 29

Previte-Orton * applie: the test to politics:

"Finally, there is another service political satires render,
which is peculiarly necessary to a government based on discus-
sion. One of the greatest evils in such a state is the presence
of mere words and phrases, and of the vague Pecksniffian
virtues. Now to satire cant and humbug are proper game.
It brings fine professions down to fact, points the contrast
between the commonplace reality and its tinsel dress, and by
the dread of ridicule raises the standard of plain-dealing.
Other means of criticism as well act as a check on more oppro-
brious faults in public life. But satire is the best agent to keep *
us free from taking words for substance."

Apparently, then, we may conclude that decer>tioji
in some form is, so far as any one thing can be, the basic
object of satire, or at least is so considered by those who
reflect upon it. But we must admit here as elsewhere that
to recognise a phenomenon is easier than to account for it.

Not that it is difficult to account for the deception it-
self. No instinct is more fundamental and irresistible than
that of concealment. The primary fear of molestation or
harm in which it originates becomes, in a social state of
sophistication and artifice, fear of exposure. With in-
creased development, such complex and opposing factors
as pride and shame, avarice and genemsky^stentation
and modesty^ lead us to hidejKmgs. We hide all sorts of
things, good ancP&ad; faultsTVirtues, deficiencies, accom-
plishments, hoardings, and charities. We hide from our-
selves as well as from others. The left hand is as a rule
not on terms of confiding intimacy with the right, whether

1 Political Satire in English Poetry, 240.

In his Temper of the Seventeenth Century in English Literature, Wendell con-
tributes another link to the chain of evidence:

" Sincere or not, satire is essentially a kind of writing which pretends to un-
mask pretense."



30 SATIRE IN THE VICTORIAN NOVEL

it is scattering seeds of kindness -or getting into mischief.
In the mental realm the same trick of camouflage prevails.
Out of spiritual cowardice we conceal from ourselves the
disturbing facts of life, and purchase optimism at the easy
price of sentimentalism.

But just why this ubiquitous habit should be the pecu-
liar province of the satirist, is another psychological prob-
lem; and as such, is best reached through a psychological
solution. Why is there about deception something in-
herently repugnant and at the same time automatically
amusing? Why is our incorrigible human predilection for
belonging to the Great Order of Shams equalled only
by our incorrigible human predilection for joyous ex-
posure of others? The game seems to be mutual and
perpetual, and the honors about even.

The repugnance undoubtedly comes less from a noble
devotion to truth than from the dislike we all have of be-
ing deceived. Nothing do we discover with more exasper-
ation, and admit with more reluctance than the fact that
we have been fooled or hoodwinked. It is an experience
that fosters present irritation and future distrust; but one
which, from its very nature, demands the retort ironic
rather than the lofty indignation accorded to an open
injury. Most emphatically "We all hate fustian and
affectation/' and any knavish trickery, especially in
others.

The amusement arises from the triumph of frustrating
this attempt at deceptive concealment, intensified by the
pleasure in perceiving an incongruity in this case, be-
tween the assumed and the actual which is the essence
of humor. 1 The zest lies in the endless sport of hide and

1 Hazlett, in his essay on Wit and Humour , remarks that "it has appeared
that the detection and exposure of difference, particularly where this implies



THE SATIRIC SPIRIT 3!

seek, veiling and unveiling, blowing bubbles and prick-
ing them, which is exhilarating through the play of wits
and the fun of outwitting. 1

This would perhaps be a sufficient account were it not
for a certain left-handed yet inseparable connection of the
psychology of the question with its ethics. Whether or
not an intruder, the latter has entered in and firmly en-
trenched herself. When therefore she maintains that her
satiric discontent is divine, she must be given a respect-
ful hearing; though after it we seem unable to concede
more than the possibility.

A lively enthusiasm for showing up the ingenuous sent-
imentalist or the crafty hypocrite may or may not argue a
freedom on the exposer's part from these or other modes
of hiding or distorting the truth; or a disinterested love
for truth itself. It does go without saying that real re-
spect and admiration for honesty and sincerity is a funda-
mental human trait, as witness the glowing encomiums
bestowed on those guileless virtues, and it might follow
that our unmoral impulses are half consciously focussed
through a moral function. We must have a sin offering;
and deceit is in the most eligible. Thus the satirist may^
deliberately or unthinkingly, read deception into his dis-
approved, in order to have an excuse for laughter, just as
he may read vice and folly into his disliked, in order to
condemn. Nevertheless it is possible to enjoy the process
of unmasking without making it a corollary that masking
is wrong and therefore deserving of exposure.

Some observers are more impressed with the resem-

nice and subtle observation, as in discriminating between pretence and practice,
between appearance and reality, is common to wit and satire with judgment
and reasoning."

1 Meredith characterises the chase of Folly by the Comic Spirit as conducted
"with the springing delight of hawk over heron, hound after fox."



32 SATIRE IN THE VICTORIAN NOVEL

blances among the members of the great human family,
and some more sensitive to the differences. When a con-
sciousness of this variance is dissolved in a humorous
solution, it precipitates a satire. The satirist is not always
a victorious Saint George, and the satirized a downed and
disgraced Dragon. Still, if the Saint could be secularized
to the extent of a mocking light in his eye, and a taunt-
ing finger pointing at a removed disguise under which the
Dragon had been masquerading, we might take the pic-
ture as a symbol of an ideal relationship between them,
both ethically and artistically.

For there is an ideal in this as in all things that have
variation and flexibility; and, as in them all, the question
of quality is the most important one. Without some
sort of criterion we can form no judgments as to value.
The points we have been considering, what satire is made
of, why and how made, against what directed, and in what
effective, all lead to the final one, what is the highest
type?

The trend of testimony seems to converge on three re-
quirements for that satire which would disarm criticism
while indulging in it: purity of purpose, kindliness of tem-
per, and discrimination as to objects of ridicule.

The first is not to be confused with the reformatory mo-
tive. It means simply freedom from the very affectation
censured in others. What it rules out is not so much the
railing to gratify one's spleen, as the pose of altrusim while
doing it; the grieved this-hurts-me-more-than-it-does-you
attitude so particularly annoying to the castigated. It
also discounts the selfish vanity which courts applause for
wit, regardless of the means by which it is won.

On this point Horace * again heads the list. He denies

1 Satires: I, IV, 78 ff.



THE SATIRIC SPIRIT 33

the accusation that the satirist is spiteful, and con-
tinues:

" Liberius si

Dixero quid, si forte jocosius, hoc mihi juris
Cum venia dabis"

From the nature of English satire up to the eighteenth
century, we do not expect, nor do we find, much interest
in this phase of it. Then comes Young, 1 reviving the
Horatian caution:

"Who, for the poor renown of being smart,
Would leave a sting within a brother's heart?"

And Cowper 2 completes the portrait:

"Unless a love of virtue light the flame,
Satire is, more than those he brands, to blame;
He hides behind a magisterial air
His own offenses, and strips others bare;
Affects, indeed, a most humane concern,
That men, if gently tutor'd, will not learn;
That mulish folly, not to be reclaimed
By softer methods, must be made ashamed;"

De Quincey 3 uses Pope as a horrible example of this
failing, contrasting him with the indignant Juvenal:

"Pope, having no such internal principle of wrath boiling
in his breast, * * * was unavoidably a hypocrite of the
first magnitude when he affected (or sometimes really con-
ceited himself) to be in a dreadful passion with offenders as a
body. It provokes fits of laughter * * * to watch him in
the process of brewing the storm that spontaneously will not
come; whistling, like a mariner, for a wind to fill his satiric

1 Universal Passion.

2 Charity.

3 Literary Theory and Criticism. The Poetry of Pope.



34 SATIRE IN THE VICTORIAN NOVEL

sails; and pumping up into his face hideous grimaces in order
to appear convulsed with histrionic rage. * * * As it is,
the short puffs of anger, the uneasy snorts of fury in Pope's
satires, give one painfully the feeling of a locomotive-engine
with unsound lungs."

Whether these strictures are just or not, the principle
back of them is sound; and more pithily summed up by
Lander's x "Nobody but an honest man has a right to
scoff at anything."

Browning 2 carries the idea a step farther, and sounds
a warning to dwellers in glass houses:

"Have you essayed attacking ignorance,
Convicting folly, by their opposites,
Knowledge and wisdom ? Not by yours for ours,
Fresh ignorance and folly, new for old,
Greater for less, your crime for our mistake!"

The demand for kindliness of temper may seem para-
doxical, but for that very reason it is the more insistent.
Being under suspicion of unkindness, vindictive spite,
retaliation, satire must either admit the charge or prove
the contrary, for the real paradox lies in the highest
moral claim being made for the literary genre of the
greatest immoral possibilities.

However, until the modern humanitarian cult came in,
it seemed content to admit the charge. After Horace,
with a few isolated exceptions, as Swift 3 and Cowper, 4

1 Imag. Conv. Lucian to Timotheus.

2 Arist. Apol.

3 In spite of Cowper's and Byron's assertions to the contrary.

4 "All zeal for a reform that gives offense

To peace and charity, is mere pretense;

A bold remark; but which, if well applied,

Would humble many a tow' ring poet's pride." (Charity.)



THE SATIRIC SPIRIT 35

satire seemed rather to cherish malice and glory in rude-
ness, often mistaking peevish scolding for noble scorn.
Its keynote was "A flash of that satiric rage/' or, ac-
cording to Hall,

"The Satire should be like the porcupine,
That shoots sharp quills out in each angry line."

Byron was the last example of both the professional,
concentrated form and the truculent mood. Tennyson 1
voices the new spirit of his century:

"I loathe it: he had never kindly heart,
Nor ever cared to better his own kind,
Who first wrote satire, with no pity in it."

Birrell, 2 less caustic than De Quincey about Pope, still
uses him as an instance of how not to do it:

"Dr. Johnson is more to my mind as a sheer satirist than
Pope, for in satire character tells more than in any other form
of verse. We want a personality behind a strong, gloomy,
brooding personality; soured and savage, if you will * * *
but spiteful never."

Even the traits of gloom and savagery might be dis-
pensed with, and room made for an infusion of sweetness
and light. This is implied in the condition laid down by
Lionel Johnson: 3

"To tilt at superstition, to shoot at folly, is seldom a grateful
or a gratifying pursuit, if there be no depth of purpose in it,
nothing but pleasure in the consciousness of destructive power,
no feeling of sympathetic pity, no tenderness somewhere in the
heart, no cordiality sweetening the work of overthrow."

1 Sea Dreams. 2 Collected Essays, I, 187. 3 Post Liminium.



36 SATIRE IN THE VICTORIAN NOVEL

And Garnett 1 concludes:

"Satirists have met with much ignorant and invidious de-
preciation, as though a talent for ridicule was necessarily the
index of an unkindly nature. The truth is just the reverse."

Discrimination as to objects of satire has reference not
to their nature, as foolish, vicious, deceitful, but to their
legitimacy as objects. It is a matter of taste and justice
on the part of the satirist.

The first definite reproof of heedlessness on this score
is given in the memorial tribute to Pope: 2

"Dart not on Folly an indignant eye:
Whoe'er discharged artillery on a fly?
Deride not Vice: absurd the thought and vain,
To bind the tyger in so weak a chain.

********

The Muse's labour then success shall crown,
When Folly feels her smile, and Vice her frown.

********

Let SATIRE then her proper object know,
And ere she strikes, be sure she strikes a foe.
Nor fondly deem the real fool confest,
Because blind Ridicule conceives a jest."

Another critic 3 of that time utters a similar caution:

1 Preface to Headlong Hall, in the Aldine edition of Peacock, 40. In his
Essay on Comedy, Meredith goes beyond mere absence of hate:

"You may estimate your capacity for comic perception by being able to
detect the ridicule of them you love, without loving them the less; and more by
being able to see yourself somewhat ridiculous in dear eyes, and accepting the
correction their image of you proposes," 72.

It is true that on the next page he differentiates, "If you detect the ridicule,
and your kindliness is chilled by it, you are slipping into the grasp of satire."



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