George H. Calvert.

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him - a literary sketch - by himself. This we find in the fifth volume
of the "Nouveaux Lundis," in a paper on Molière, published in July,
1863. A man who, in the autumnal ripeness of his powers, thus frankly
tells us his likes and dislikes, tells us what he is. While by
reflected action the passage becomes a self-portraiture, it is a
sample of finest criticism.

"To make Molière loved by more people is in my judgment to do a public
service.

"Indeed, to love Molière - I mean to love him sincerely and with all
one's heart - it is, do you know? to have within one's self a guarantee
against many defects, much wrong-headedness. It is, in the first
place, to dislike what is incompatible with Molière, all that was
counter to him in his day, and that would have been insupportable to
him in ours.

"To love Molière is to be forever cured - do not say of base and
infamous hypocrisy, but of fanaticism, of intolerance, and of that
kind of hardness which makes one anathematize and curse; it is to
carry a corrective to admiration even of Bossuet, and for all who,
after his example, exult, were it only in words, over their
enemy dead or dying; who usurp I know not what holy speech, and
involuntarily believe themselves to be, with the thunderbolt in their
hand, in the region and place of the Most High. Men eloquent and
sublime, you are far too much so for me!

"To love Molière, is to be sheltered against, and a thousand leagues
away from, that other fanaticism, the political, which is cold, dry,
cruel, which never laughs, which smells of the sectary, which, under
pretext of Puritanism, finds means to mix and knead all that is
bitter, and to combine in one sour doctrine the hates, the spites, and
the Jacobinism of all times. It is to be not less removed, on the
other hand, from those tame, dull souls who, in the very presence of
evil, cannot be roused to either indignation or hatred.

"To love Molière, is to be secured against giving in to that pious and
boundless admiration for a humanity which worships itself, and which
forgets of what stuff it is made, and that, do what it will, it is
always poor human nature. It is, not to despise it too much, however,
this common humanity, at which one laughs, of which one is, and into
which we throw ourselves through a healthful hilarity whenever we are
with Molière.

"To love and cherish Molière, is to detest all mannerism in
language and expression; it is, not to take pleasure in, or to be
arrested by, petty graces, elaborate subtlety, superfine finish,
excessive refinement of any kind, a tricky or artificial style.

"To love Molière, it is to be disposed to like neither false wit nor
pedantic science; it is to know how to recognize at first sight our
_Trissotins_[6] and our _Vadius_ even under their rejuvenated jaunty
airs; it is, not to let one's self be captivated at present any more
than formerly by the everlasting _Philaminte_, that affected pretender
of all times, whose form only changes and whose plumage is incessantly
renewed; it is, to like soundness and directness of mind in others as
well as in ourselves. I only give the first movement and the pitch; on
this key one may continue, with variations.

[6] Trissotin, Vadius, and Philaminte, are personages in Molière's
comedy of _Les Femmes Savantes_ (The Blue-Stockings).


"To love and openly to prefer Corneille, as certain minds do, is no
doubt a fine thing, and, in one sense, a very legitimate thing; it is,
to dwell in, and to mark one's rank in, the world of great souls: but
is it not to run the risk of loving together with the grand
and sublime, false glory a little, to go so far as not to detest
inflation and magniloquence, an air of heroism on all occasions? He
who passionately loves Corneille cannot be an enemy to a little
boasting.

"On the other hand, to love and prefer Racine, ah! that is, no doubt,
to love above all things, elegance, grace, what is natural and true
(at least relatively), sensibility, touching and charming passion; but
at the same time is it not also, to allow your taste and your mind to
be too much taken with certain conventional and over-smooth beauties,
a certain tameness and petted languidness, with certain excessive and
exclusive refinements? In a word, to love Racine so much, it is to run
the risk of having too much of what in France is called taste, and
which brings so much distaste.

"To love Boileau - but no, one does not love Boileau, one esteems him,
one respects him; we admire his uprightness, his understanding, at
times his animation, and if we are tempted to love him, it is solely
for that sovereign equity which made him do such unshaken justice to
the great poets his contemporaries, and especially to him whom he
proclaims the first of all, Molière.

"To love La Fontaine, is almost the same thing as to love
Molière; it is, to love nature, the whole of nature, humanity
ingenuously depicted, a representation of the grand comedy "of a
hundred different acts," unrolling itself, cutting itself up before
our eyes into a thousand little scenes with the graces and freedoms
that are so becoming, with weaknesses also, and liberties which are
never found in the simple, manly genius of the master of masters. But
why separate them? La Fontaine and Molière - we must not part them, we
love them united."

* * * * *

The number of "Putnam's Magazine," containing this paper, was sent to
M. Sainte-Beuve accompanied by a note. In due time I received an
answer to the note, saying that the Magazine had not reached him.
Hereupon I sent the article by itself. On receiving it he wrote the
following acknowledgment.

In my note I referred to a rumor of his illness. His disease was, by
_post-mortem_ examination, discovered to be as the newspapers had
reported, the stone. But a consultation of physicians declared that it
was what he states it to be in his letter. Had they not made so gross
a mistake, his life might have been prolonged.


"PARIS, 6 _Decembre_, 1868, No. 11 Rue Mont Parnasse.

"CHER MONSIEUR: -

"Oh! Cette fois je reçois bien décidément le très aimable et si bien
etudié portrait du _critique_. Comment exprimer comme je le
sens ma gratitude pour tant de soin, d'attention pénétrante, de désir
d'être agréable tout en restant juste? Il y avait certes moyen
d'insister bien plus sur les variations, les disparates et les
défaillances momentanées de la pensée et du jugement à travers cette
suite de volumes. C'est toujours un sujet d'étonnement pour moi, et
cette fois autant que jamais, de voir comment un lecteur ami et un
juge de goût parvient à tirer une figure une et consistante de ce qui
ne me parait à moi même dans mon souvenir que le cours d'un long
fleuve qui va s'épandant un pen au hazard des pentes et désertant
continuellement ses rives. De tels portraits comme celui que vous
voulez bien m'offrir me rendent un point d'appui et me feraient
véritablement croire à moi-même. Et quand je songe a l'immense
quantité d'esprits auxquels vous me présentez sous un aspect si
favorable et si magistral dans ce nouveau monde de tant de jeunesse et
d'avenir, je me prends d'une sorte de fierté et de courageuse
confiance comme en présence déjà de la postérité.

"Le mal auquel vous voulez bien vous intéresser est tout simplement
une hypertrophie de la prostate. Les souffrances ne sont pas vives,
mais l'incommodité est grande, ne pouvant supporter à aucun degré le
mouvement de la voiture, ce qui restreint ma vie sociale à un bien
court rayon.

"Veuillez agreéer, cher Monsieur, l'assurance de ma cordiale
gratitude, et de mes sentiments les plus distingués.

SAINTE-BEUVE."




VI.

THOMAS CARLYLE.


A brain ever aglow with self-kindled fire - a cerebral battery
bristling with magnetic life - such is Thomas Carlyle. Exceptional
fervor of temperament, rare intellectual vivacity, manful
earnestness - these are the primary qualifications of the man. He has
an uncommon soul-power. Hence his attractiveness, hence his influence.
Every page, every paragraph, every sentence, throbs with his own
being. Themselves all authors put, of course, more or less, into what
they write: few, very few, can make their sentences quiver with
themselves. This Mr. Carlyle does by the intenseness of a warm
individuality, by the nimble vigor of his mental life, and, be it
added, by the rapture of his spirituality. The self, in his case, is a
large, deep self, and it sends an audible pulse through his pen into
his page.

To all sane men is allotted a complete endowment of mental faculties,
of capacities of intellect and feeling; the degree to which
these are energized, are injected with nervous flame, makes the
difference between a genius and a blockhead. There being high vital
pressure at a full, rich, interior source, and thence, strong mental
currents, through what channels the currents shall flow depends on
individual aptitudes, these aptitudes shaping, in the one case, a
Dante, in another, a Newton, in another, a Mirabeau. And Nature, with
all her generosity, being jealous of her rights, allows no interchange
of gifts. Even the many-sided Goethe could not, by whatever force of
will and practice, have written a bar in a symphony of Beethoven. In
his dominant aptitudes, Mr. Carlyle is not more one-sided than many
other intellectual potentates; but, like some others, his activity and
ambition have at times led him into paths where great deficiencies
disclose themselves by the side of great superiorities. His mind is
biographical, not historical; stronger in details than in
generalization; more intuitive than scientific; critical, not
constructive; literary, not philosophical. Mr. Carlyle is great at a
picture, very great; he can fail in a survey or an induction. Wealth
of thought, strokes of tenderness, clean insight into life, satire,
irony, humor, make his least successful volumes to teem with
passages noteworthy, beautiful, wise, as do his "Cromwell" and his
"Frederick." Such giants carrying nations on their broad fronts, Mr.
Carlyle, in writing their lives with duteous particularity, has
embraced the full story of the epoch in which each was the leader. To
him they are more than leaders. Herein he and Mr. Buckle stand at
opposite poles; Mr. Buckle underrating the protagonists of history,
them and their share of agency; Mr. Carlyle overrating them, - a
prejudicial one-sidedness in both cases. Leader and led are the
complements the one of the other.

History is a growth, and a slow growth. Evils in one age painfully sow
the seed that is to come up good in another. The historian, and still
more the critical commentator on his own times, needs to be patient,
calm, judicial, hopeful. Mr. Carlyle is impatient, fervid, willful,
nay, despotic, and he is not hopeful, not hopeful enough. One
healthily hopeful, and genuinely faithful, would not be ever betaking
him to the past as a refuge from the present; would not tauntingly
throw into the face of contemporaries an Abbot Sampson of the twelfth
century as a model. A judicial expounder would not cite one
single example as a characteristic of that age in contrast with this.
A patient, impartial elucidator, would not deride "ballot-boxes,
reform bills, winnowing machines:" he would make the best of these and
other tools within reach; or, if his part be to write and not to act,
would animate, not dishearten, those who are earnestly doing, and who,
by boldly striking at abuses, by steadily striving for more justice,
by aiming to lift up the down-trodden, prepare, through such means as
are at hand, a better ground for the next generation. If to such
workers, instead of God-speed, a writer of force and influence gives
jeers and gibes, and ever-repeated shrieks about "semblance and
quackery, and cant and speciosity, and dilettantism," and deems
himself profound and original, as well as hopeful, when he exclaims:
"Dim all souls of men to the divine, the high and awful meaning of
human worth and truth, we shall never by all the machinery in
Birmingham discover the true and worthy:" in that case, does he not
expose him to the taunt of being himself very like a mouthing quack,
and his words, which should be cordial, brotherly, do they not partake
of the hollow quality of what Mr. Carlyle holds in such abhorrence,
namely, of cant? The sick lion crouches growling in his lair;
he cannot eat, and he will not let others eat.

Many grateful and admiring readers Mr. Carlyle wearies with his
ever-recurrent fallacy that might is right. In Heaven's name, what are
all the shams whose presence he so persistently bemoans, - worldly
bishops, phantasm-aristocracies, presumptuous upstarts, shallow
sway-wielding dukes, - what are all these, and much else, but so many
exemplications of might that is not right? When might shall cease to
bully, to trample on right, we shall be nearing Utopia. Utopia may be
at infinite distance, not attainable by finite men; but as surely as
our hearts beat, we are gradually getting further from its opposite,
the coarse rule of force and brutality, such rule as in the twelfth
century was rife all around "Abbot Sampson."

Like unto this moral fallacy is an æsthetic fallacy which, through
bright pages of criticism, strikes up at times to vitiate a judgment.
"I confess," says Mr. Carlyle, "I have no notion of a truly great man
that could not be all sorts of men." Could Newton have written the
"Fairy Queen?" Could Spenser have discovered the law of gravitation?
Could Columbus have given birth to "Don Quixote?" One of Mr.
Carlyle's military heroes tried hard to be a poet. Over Frederick's
verses, how his friend Voltaire must have grinned. "I cannot
understand how a Mirabeau, with that great glowing heart, with the
fire that was in it, with the bursting tears that were in it, could
not have written verses, tragedies, poems, and touched all hearts in
that way, had his course of life and education led him thitherward."
Thus Mr. Carlyle writes in "Heroes and Hero-Worship." If Mirabeau, why
not Savonarola, or Marcus Aurelius. In that case a "Twelfth Night," or
an "Othello," might have come from Luther. Nature does not work so
loosely. Rich is she, unspeakably rich, and as artful as she is
profuse in the use of her riches. She delights in variety, thence her
ineffable radiance, and much of her immeasurable efficiency.
Diverseness in unity is a source of her power as well as of her
beauty. Her wealth of material being infinite, her specifications are
endless, countless, superfinely minute. Even no two of the commonest
men does she make alike; her men of genius she diversifies at once
grandly and delicately, broadly and subtly. "Petrarch and Boccaccio
did diplomatic messages," says Mr. Carlyle. We hope they did,
or could have done, in the prosaic field, much better than that. We
Americans know with what moderate equipment diplomatic messages may be
done.

On poetry and poets Mr. Carlyle has written many of his best pages,
pages penetrating, discriminative, because so sympathetic, and
executed with the scholar's care and the critic's culture. His early
papers on Goethe and Burns, published more than forty years ago, made
something like an epoch in English criticism. Seizing the value and
significance of genuine poetry, he exclaims in "Past and
Present," - "Genius, Poet! do we know what these words mean? An
inspired soul once more vouchsafed us, direct from Nature's own great
fire-heart, to see the truth, and speak it and do it." On the same
page he thus taunts his countrymen: "We English find a poet, as brave
a man as has been made for a hundred years or so anywhere under the
sun; and do we kindle bonfires, thank the gods? Not at all. We, taking
due counsel of it, set the man to gauge ale-barrels in the Burgh of
Dumfries, and pique ourselves on our 'patronage of genius.'" "George
the Third is Defender of something we call 'the Faith' in
those years. George the Third is head charioteer of the destinies of
England, to guide them through the gulf of French Revolutions,
American Independences; and Robert Burns is gauger of ale in
Dumfries." Poor George the Third! One needs not be a craniologist to
know that the eyes which looked out from beneath that retreating
pyramidal forehead could see but part even of the commonest men and
things before them. How could they see a Robert Burns? To be sure, had
Dundas, or whoever got Burns the place of gauger, given him one of the
many sinecures of two or three hundred pounds a year that were wasted
on idle scions of titled families, an aureole of glory would now shine
through the darkness that environs the memory of George III. So much
for George Guelf. Now for Thomas Carlyle.

If, for not recognizing Burns, _poor_ George is to be blamed,
what terms of stricture will be too harsh for _rich_ Thomas, that
by him were not recognized poets greater than Burns, at a time when
for England's good, full, sympathetic recognition of them was just
what was literarily most wanted? Here was a man, for the fine function
of poetic criticism how rarely gifted is visible in those
thorough papers on Burns and Goethe, written so early as 1828,
wherein, besides a masterly setting forth of their great subjects, are
notable passages on other poets. On Byron is passed the following
sentence, which will, we think, be ever confirmed by sound criticism.
"Generally speaking, we should say that Byron's poetry is not true. He
refreshes us, not with the divine fountain, but too often with vulgar
strong waters, stimulating indeed to the taste, but soon ending in
dislike, or even nausea. Are his Harolds and Giaours, we would ask,
real men; we mean, poetically consistent and conceivable men? Do not
these characters, does not the character of their author, which more
or less shines through them all, rather appear a thing put on for the
occasion; no natural or possible mode of being, but something intended
to look much grander than nature? Surely, all these stormful agonies,
this volcanic heroism, superhuman contempt, and moody desperation,
with so much scowling and teeth-gnashing, and other sulphurous humor,
is more like the brawling of a player in some paltry tragedy, which is
to last three hours, than the bearing of a man in the business of
life, which is to last threescore and ten years. To our minds,
there is a taint of this sort, something which we should call
theatrical, false, affected, in every one of these otherwise so
powerful pieces."

In the same paper, that on Burns, Mr. Carlyle thus opened the ears of
that generation, - partially opened, for the general æsthetic ear is
not fully opened yet, - to a hollowness which was musical to the many:
"Our Grays and Glovers seemed to write almost as if _in vacuo_;
the thing written bears no mark of place; it is not written so much
for Englishmen as for men; or rather, which is the inevitable result
of this, for certain generalizations which philosophy termed men." And
in the paper on Goethe, he calls Gray's poetry, "a laborious mosaic,
through the hard, stiff lineaments of which, little life or true grace
could be expected to look." Thus choicely endowed was Mr. Carlyle to
be, what is the critic's noblest office, an interpreter between new
poets and the public. Such an interpreter England grievously needed,
to help and teach her educated and scholarly classes to prize the
treasures just lavished upon them by Wordsworth, and Coleridge, and
Shelley, and Keats. The interpreter was there, but he spoke not.
Better than any man in England Mr. Carlyle could, if he would,
have taught the generation that was growing up with him, whose ear he
had already gained, what truth and fresh beauty and deep humanity
there was in the strains of this composite chorus of superlative
singers. Of such teaching, that generation stood in especial need, to
disabuse its ear of the hollowness which had been mistaken for
harmony; to refresh, with clear streams from "the divine fountain,"
hearts that were fevered by the stimulus of Byronic "strong waters;"
to wave before half-awakened eyes the torch which lights the way to
that higher plane where breathe great poets, whose incomparable
function it is, to impart to their fellow-men some of the enlargement
and the purification of consciousness in which themselves exult
through the influx of fresh ideas and the upspringing of prolific
sentiment. The gifted interpreter was dumb. Nay, he made diversions
into Scotland and Germany, to bring Burns and Scott more distinctly
before Englishmen, and to make Schiller and Goethe and Richter better
known to them. And it pleased him to write about "Corn-law rhymes."
That he did these tasks so well, proves how well he could have done,
by the side of them, the then more urgent task. In 1828, Mr.
Carlyle wrote for one of the quarterly reviews an exposition of
"Goethe's Helena," which is a kind of episode in the second part of
"Faust," and was first published as a fragment. This takes up more
than sixty pages in the first volume of the "Miscellanies," about the
half being translations from "Helena," which by no means stands in the
front rank of Goethe's poetic creations, which is indeed rather a high
artistic composition than a creation. At that time there lay, almost
uncalled for, on the publisher's shelf, where it had lain for five
years, ever since its issue, a poem of fifty-five Spenserian stanzas,
flushed with a subtler beauty, more divinely dyed in pathos, than any
in English literature of its rare kind, or of any kind out of
Shakespeare, - a poem in which all the inward harvests of a tender,
deep, capacious, loving, and religious life, all the heaped hoards of
feeling and imagination in a life most visionary and most real, are
gathered into one sheaf of poetic affluence, to dazzle and subdue with
excess of light, - or gathered rather into a bundle of sheaves, stanza
rising on stanza, each like a flame fresh shooting from a hidden bed
of Nature's most precious perfumes, each shedding a new and
a richer fragrance; I mean the "Adonais" of Shelley. For this
glittering masterpiece, - a congenial commentary on which would have
illuminated the literary atmosphere of England, - Mr. Carlyle had no
word; no word for Shelley, no word for Coleridge, no word for
Wordsworth. For Keats he had a word in the paper on Burns, and here it
is: "Poetry, except in such cases as that of Keats, where the whole
consists in a weak-eyed, maudlin sensibility and a certain vague,
random timefulness of nature, is no separate faculty." A parenthesis,
short and contemptuous, is all he gives to one of whom it has been
truly said, that of no poet who has lived, not of Shakespeare, is the
poetry written before the twenty-fifth year so good as his; and of
whom it may as truly be said, that his best poems need no apology in
the youthfulness of their author; but that for originality, power,
variety, feeling, thoughtfulness, melody, they take rank in the first
class of the poetry of the world. Is not Thomas Carlyle justly
chargeable with having committed a high literary misdemeanor? Nay,
considering his gift of poetic insight, and with it his persistent
ignoring of the great English poets of his age, considering the warm
solicitation on the one side, and the duty on the other, his
offense may be termed a literary crime. He knew better.

Mr. Carlyle somewhere contrasts his age with that of Elizabeth, after
this fashion; "For Raleighs and Shakespeares we have Beau Brummell and
Sheridan Knowles." Only on the surmise that Mr. Carlyle owed poor
Knowles some desperate grudge, can such an outburst be accounted for.
Otherwise it is sheer fatuity, or an impotent explosion of literary
spite. For the breadth and brilliancy of the poetic day shed upon it,
no period in the history of any nation, not that of Pericles or of
Elizabeth, is more resplendent than that which had not yet faded for
England when Mr. Carlyle began his career; nor in the field of public
action can the most prolific era of Greece or of England hold up, for
the admiration of the world and the pride of fellow-countrymen, two
agents more deservedly crowned with honor and gratitude than Nelson
and Wellington. Here are two leaders, who, besides exhibiting rare
personal prowess and quick-eyed military genius on fields of vast
breadth, and in performances of unwonted magnitude and momentousness,
were, moreover, by their great, brave deeds, most palpably
saving England, saving Europe, from the grasp of an inexorable despot.
Surely these were heroes of a stature to have strained to its utmost
the reverence and the love of a genuine hero-worshipper. On the ten


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