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as well as precious material, as Walter Scott had them,
as Balzac had them. If one reads Turgenieff's stories
with the knowledge that they were composed or
rather that they came into being in this way, one
can trace the process in every line. Story, in the
conventional sense of the word a fable constructed,
like Wordsworth's phantom, "to startle and way-
lay" there is as little as possible. The thing
consists of the motions of a group of selected crea-
tures, which are not the result of a preconceived
action, but a consequence of the qualities of the
actors. Works of art are produced from every
possible point of view, and stories, and very good
ones, will continue to be written in which the evolu-


tion is that of a dance a series of steps the more
complicated and lively the better, of course, deter-
mined from without and forming a figure. This
figure will always, probably, find favour with many
readers, because it reminds them enough, without
reminding them too much, of life. On this opposi-
tion many young talents in France are ready to
rend each other, for there is a numerous school on
either side. We have not yet in England and
America arrived at the point of treating such ques-
tions with passion, for we have not yet arrived at
the point of feeling them intensely, or indeed, for
that matter, of understanding them very well. It is
not open to us as yet to discuss whether a novel
had better be an excision from life or a structure
built up of picture-cards, for we have not made up
our mind as to whether life in general may be
described. There is evidence of a good deal of shy-
ness on this point a tendency rather to put up
fences than to jump over them. Among us, there-
fore, even a certain ridicule attaches to the considera-
tion of such alternatives. But individuals may feel
their way, and perhaps even pass unchallenged, if they
remark that for them the manner in which Turge"niefF
worked will always seem the most fruitful. It has
the immense recommendation that in relation to any
human occurrence it begins, as it were, further back.
It lies in its power to tell us the most about
men and women. Of course it will but slenderly
satisfy those numerous readers among whom the


answer to this would be, " Hang it, we don't care
a straw about men and women : we want a good
story ! "

And yet, after all, Elena is a good story, and Lisa
and Virgin Soil are good stories. Reading over lately
several of Turge'niefFs novels and tales, I was struck
afresh with their combination of beauty and reality.
One must never forget, in speaking of him, that he
was both an observer and a poet. The poetic element
was constant, and it had great strangeness and power.
It inspired most of the short things that he wrote
during the last few years of his life, since the publi-
cation of Virgin Soil, things that are in the highest
degree fanciful and exotic. It pervades the frequent
little reveries, visions, epigrams of the Seniiia. It
was no part of my intention, here, to criticise his
writings, having said my say about them, so far as
possible, some years ago. But I may mention that in
re-reading them I find in them all that I formerly
found of two other elements their richness and their
sadness. They give one the impression of life itself,
and not of an arrangement, a rechauffe of life. I
remember Turge"nieff's once saying in regard to
Homais, the little Norman country apothecary, with
his pedantry of "enlightened opinions," in Madame
Bovary, that the great strength of such a portrait
consisted in its being at once an individual, of the
most concrete sort, and a type. This is the great
strength of his own representations of character;
they are so strangely, fascinatingly particular, and yet


they are so recognisably general. Such a remark as
that about Homais makes me wonder why it was that
Turgenieff should have rated Dickens so high, the
weakness of Dickens being in regard to just that
point. If Dickens fail to live long, it will be because
his figures are particular without being general ;
because they are individuals without being types ;
because we do not feel their continuity with the rest
of humanity see the matching of the pattern with
the piece out of which all the creations of the novelist
and the dramatist are cut. I often meant, but
accidentally neglected, to put Turg6nieff on the sub-
ject of Dickens again, and ask him to explain his
opinion. I suspect that his opinion was in a large
measure merely that Dickens diverted him, as well
he might. That complexity of the pattern was in
itself fascinating. I have mentioned Flaubert, and I
will return to him simply to say that there was some-
thing very touching in the nature of the friendship
that united these two men. It is much to the honour
of Flaubert, to my sense, that he appreciated Ivan
Turgenieff. There was a partial similarity between
them. Both were large, massive men, though the
Russian reached to a greater height than the Norman ;
both were completely honest and sincere, and both
had the pessimistic element in their composition.
Each had a tender regard for the other, and I think
that I am neither incorrect nor indiscreet in saying
that on Turgenieff' s part this regard had in it a strain
of compassion. There was something in Gustave


Flaubert that appealed to such a feeling. He had
failed, on the whole, more than he had succeeded, and
the great machinery of erudition, the great polishing
process, which he brought to bear upon his produc-
tions, was not accompanied with proportionate results.
He had talent without having cleverness, and imagin-
ation without having fancy. His effort was heroic,
but except in the case of Madame Bovary, a master-
piece, he imparted something to his works (it was as
if he had covered them with metallic plates) which
made them sink rather than saiL He had a passion
for perfection of form and for a certain splendid
suggestiveness of style. He wished to produce perfect
phrases, perfectly interrelated, and as closely woven
together as a suit of chain-mail. He looked at life
altogether as an artist, and took his work with a
seriousness that never belied itself. To write an
admirable page and his idea of what constituted an
admirable page was transcendent seemed to him
something to live for. He tried it again and again,
and he came very near it ; more than once he
touched it, for Madame Bovary surely will live. But
there was something ungenerous in his genius. He
was cold, and he would have given everything he had
to be able to glow. There is nothing in his novels
like the passion of Elena for Inssaroff, like the purity
of Lisa, like the anguish of the parents of Bazaroff,
like the hidden wound of Tatiana ; and yet Flaubert
yearned, with all the accumulations of his vocabulary,
to touch the chord of pathos. There were some parts


of his mind that did not " give," that did not render a
sound. He had had too much of some sorts of experi-
ence and not enough of others. And yet this failure
of an organ, as I may call it, inspired those who knew
him with a kindness. If Flaubert was powerful and
limited, there is something human, after all, and even
rather august in a strong man who has not been able
completely to express himself.

After the first year of my acquaintance with Tur-
g6nieff I saw him much less often. I was seldom in
Paris, and sometimes when I was there he was absent.
But I neglected no opportunity of seeing him, and
fortune frequently assisted me. He came two or
three times to London, for visits provokingly brief.
He went to shoot in Cambridgeshire, and he passed
through town in arriving and departing. He liked
the English, but I am not sure that he liked London,
where he had passed a lugubrious winter in 1870-71.
I remember some of his impressions of that period,
especially a visit that he had paid to a " bishopess "
surrounded by her daughters, and a description of the
cookery at the lodgings which he occupied. After
1876 I frequently saw him as an invalid. He was
tormented by gout, and sometimes terribly besieged ;
but his account of what he suffered was as charming
I can apply no other word to it as his description
of everything else. He had so the habit of observa-
tion, that he perceived in excruciating sensations all
sorts of curious images and analogies, and analysed
them to an extraordinary fineness. Several times I


found him at Bougival, above the Seine, in a very
spacious and handsome chalet a little unsunned, it
is true which he had built alongside of the villa
occupied by the family to which, for years, his life
had been devoted. The place is delightful ; the two
houses are midway up a long slope, which descends,
with the softest inclination, to the river, and behind
them the hill rises to a wooded crest. On the left,
in the distance, high up and above an horizon of
woods, stretches the romantic aqueduct of Marly. It
is a very pretty domain. The last time I saw him,
in November 1882, it was at Bougival. He had
been very ill, with strange, intolerable symptoms, but
he was better, and he had good hopes. They were
not justified by the event. He got worse again, and
the months that followed were cruel. His beautiful
serene mind should not have been darkened and
made acquainted with violence ; it should have been
able to the last to take part, as it had always done,
in the decrees and mysteries of fate. At the moment
I saw him, however, he was, as they say in London,
in very good form, and my last impression of him was
almost bright. He was to drive into Paris, not being
able to bear the railway, and he gave me a seat in
the carriage. For an hour and a half he constantly
talked, and never better. When we got into the
city I alighted on the boulevard exterieur, as we
were to go in different directions. I bade him good-
bye at the carriage window, and never saw him
again. There was a kind of fair going on, near by,


in the chill November air, beneath the denuded little
trees of the Boulevard, and a Punch and Judy show,
from which nasal sounds proceeded. I almost regret
having accidentally to mix up so much of Paris
with this perhaps too complacent enumeration of
occasions, for the effect of it may be to suggest that
Ivan Turgenieff had been Gallicised. But this was not
the case ; the French capital was an accident for him,
not a necessity. It touched him at many points, but it
let him alone at many others, and he had, with that
great tradition of ventilation of the Russian mind,
windows open into distances which stretched far
beyond the banlieue. I have spoken of him from the
limited point of view of my own acquaintance with
him, and unfortunately left myself little space to
allude to a matter which filled his existence a good
deal more than the consideration of how a story
should be written his hopes and fears on behalf of
his native land. He wrote fictions and dramas, but
the great drama of his life was the struggle for a
better state of things in Russia. In this drama he
played a distinguished part, and the splendid obse-
quies that, simple and modest as he was, have un-
folded themselves over his grave, sufficiently attest
the recognition of it by his countrymen. His
funeral, restricted and officialised, was none the less
a magnificent " manifestation." I have read the
accounts of it, however, with a kind of chill, a feeling
in which assent to the honours paid him bore less
part than it ought. All this pomp and ceremony


seemed to lift him out of the range of familiar recol-
lection, of valued reciprocity, into the majestic posi-
tion of a national glory. And yet it is in the
presence of this obstacle to social contact that those
who knew and loved him must address their farewell
to him now. After all, it is difficult to see how the
obstacle can be removed. He was the most generous,
the most tender, the most delightful, of men; his
large nature overflowed with the love of justice : but
he also was of the stuff of which glories are made.




MANY years ago a small American child, who lived in
New York and played in Union Square, which was
then inclosed by a high railing and governed by a
solitary policeman a strange, superannuated, dilapi-
dated functionary, carrying a little cane and wear-
ing, with a very copious and very dirty shirt-front,
the costume of a man of the world a small American
child was a silent devotee of Punch. Half an hour
spent to-day in turning over the early numbers
transports him quite as much to old New York as to
the London of the first Crystal Palace and the years
that immediately followed it. From about 1850 to
1855 he lived, in imagination, no small part of his
time, in the world represented by the pencil of
Leech. He pored over the pictures of the people
riding in the Row, of the cabmen and the coster-
mongers, of the little pages in buttons, of the bathing-
machines at the sea-side, of the small boys in tall hats
and Eton jackets, of the gentlemen hunting the fox,
of the pretty girls in striped petticoats and coiffures
of the shape of the mushroom. These things were


the features of a world which he longed so to behold,
that the familiar woodcuts (they were not so good
in those days as they have become since) grew at
last as real to him as the furniture of his home ; and
when he at present looks at the Punch of thirty
years ago he finds in it an odd association of
mediaeval New York. He remembers that it was in
such a locality, in that city, that he first saw such a
picture : he recalls the fading light of the winter
dusk, with the red fire and the red curtains in the
background, in which more than once he was bidden
to put down the last numbers of the humorous sheet
and come to his tea. Punch was England ; Punch
was London; and England and London were at
that time words of multifarious suggestion to this
small American child. He liked much more to think
of the British Empire than to indulge in the sports
natural to his tender age, and many of his hours
were spent in making mental pictures of the society
of which the recurrent woodcuts offered him speci-
mens and revelations. He had from year to year
the prospect of really beholding this society (he heard
every spring, from the earliest period, that his parents
would go to Europe, and then he heard that they
would not), and he had measured the value of the
prospect with a keenness possibly premature. He
knew the names of the London streets, of the
theatres, of many of the shops : the dream of his
young life was to take a walk in Kensington Gardens
and go to Drury Lane to see a pantomime. There


was a great deal in the old Punch about the panto-
mimes, and harlequins and columbines peopled the
secret visions of this perverted young New Yorker.
It was a mystic satisfaction to him that he had lived
in Piccadilly when he was a baby ; he remembered
neither the period nor the place, but the name of
the latter had a strange delight for him. It had been
promised him that he should behold once more that
romantic thoroughfare, and he did so by the time he
was twelve years old. Then he found that if Punch
had been London (as he lay on the hearth-rug inhal-
ing the exotic fragrance of the freshly-arrived journal),
London was Punch and something more. He re-
members to-day vividly his impression of the London
streets in the summer of 1855 ; they had an extra-
ordinary look of familiarity, and every figure, every
object he encountered, appeared to have been drawn
by Leech. He has learned to know these things
better since then ; but his childish impression is
subject to extraordinary revivals. The expansive
back of an old lady getting into an omnibus, the
attitude of a little girl bending from her pony in the
park, the demureness of a maid-servant opening a
street-door in Brompton, the top-heavy attitude of
the small " Ameliar-Ann," as she stands planted with
the baby in her arms on the corner of a Westminster
slum, the coal-heavers, the cabmen, the publicans,
the butcher-boys, the flunkeys, the guardsmen, the
policemen (in spite of their change of uniform), are
liable at this hour, in certain moods, to look more


like sketchy tail-pieces than natural things. (There
are moments indeed not identical with those we
speak of in which certain figures, certain episodes,
in the London streets, strike an even stranger, deeper
note of reminiscence. They remind the American
traveller of Hogarth : he may take a walk in Oxford
Street on some dirty winter afternoon and find
everything he sees Hogarthian.)

We know not whether the form of infantine nos-
talgia of which we speak is common, or was then
common, among small Americans ; but we are sure
that, when fortune happens to favour it, it is a very
delightful pain. In those days, in America, the
manufacture of children's picture-books was an
undeveloped industry ; the best things came from
London, and brought with them the aroma of a
richer civilisation. The covers were so beautiful and
shining, the paper and print so fine, the coloured
illustrations so magnificent, that it was easy to see
that over there the arts were at a very high point.
The very name of the publisher on the title-page
(the small boy we speak of always looked at that)
had a thrilling and mystifying effect. But, above
all, the contents were so romantic and delectable !
There were things in the English story-books that
one read as a child, just as there were things in
Punch, that one couldn't have seen in New York,
even if one had been fifty years old. The age had
nothing to do with it ; one had a conviction that they
were not there to be seen we can hardly say why.


It is, perhaps, because the plates in the picture-books
were almos't always coloured; but it was evident
that there was a great deal more colour in that other
world. We remember well the dazzling tone of a
little Christmas book by Leech, which was quite in
the spirit of Punch, only more splendid, for the plates
were plastered with blue and pink. It was called
Young Troublesome; or, Master Jacky' s Holidays, and
it has probably become scarce to-day. It related the
mischievous pranks of an Eton school-boy while at
home for his Christmas vacation, and the exploit we
chiefly recollect was his blacking with a burnt
stick the immaculate calves of the footman who is
carrying up some savoury dish to the banquet from
which (in consequence of his age and his habits),
Master Jacky is excluded. Master Jacky was so
handsome, so brilliant, so heroic, so regardless of
dangers and penalties, so fertile in resources; and
those charming young ladies, his sisters, his cousins
the innocent victims of his high spirits had such
golden ringlets, such rosy cheeks, such pretty shoulders,
such delicate blue sashes over such fresh muslin gowns.
Master Jacky seemed to lead a life all illumined
with rosy Christmas fire. A little later came Richard
Doyle's delightful volume, giving the history of
Brown, Jones, and Robinson, and it would be difficult
to exaggerate the action of these remarkable designs
in forming the taste of our fantastic little amateur.
They told him, indeed, much less about England than
about the cities of the continent ; but that was not


a drawback, for he could take in the continent too
Moreover, he felt that these three travellers were
intensely British; they looked at everything from
the London point of view, and it gave him an im-
mense feeling of initiation to be able to share their
susceptibilities. Was there not also a delightful
little picture at the end, which represented them as
restored to British ground, each holding up a tankard
of foaming ale, with the boots, behind them, rolling
their battered portmanteaux into the inn? This
seemed somehow to commemorate one's own possible
arrival in old England, even though it was not likely
that overflowing beer would be a feature of so modest
an event ; just as all the rest of it was a foretaste of
Switzerland, of the Ehine, of North Italy, which
after this would find one quite prepared. We are
sorry to say that when, many years later, we as-
cended, for the first time, to the roof of Milan
Cathedral, what we first thought of was not the
" waveless plain of Lombardy " nor the beauty of the
edifice, but the " little London snob " whom Brown,
Jones, and Robinson saw writing his name on one of
the pinnacles of the church. We had our preferences
in this genial trio. We adored little Jones, the
artist if memory doesn't betray us (we haven't seen
the book for twenty years), and Jones was the
artist. It is difficult to say why we adored him, but
it was certainly the dream of our life at that foolish
period to make his acquaintance. We did so, in
fact, not very long after. We were taken in due


course to Europe, and we met him on a steamboat on
the Lake of Geneva. There was no introduction,
we had no conversation, but he was the Jones we
had prefigured and loved. Thackeray's Christmas
books (The Rose and the Ring apart it dates from
1854) came before this: we remember them in our
earliest years. They, too, were of the family of
Punch which is my excuse for this superfluity of
preface and they were a revelation of English
manners. "English manners," for a child, could of
course only mean certain individual English figures
the figures in Our Street, in Doctor Birch and his
Young Friends (we were glad we were not of the
number), in Mrs. Perkins's Ball. In the first of these
charming little volumes there is a pictorial exposi-
tion of the reason why the nurse-maids in Our Street
like Kensington Gardens. When in the course of
time we were taken to walk in those lovely shades,
we looked about us for a simpering young woman
and an insinuating soldier on a bench, with a bawling
baby sprawling on the path hard by, and we were not
slow to discover the group.

Many people in the United States, and doubtless
in other countries, have gathered their knowledge of
English life almost entirely from Punch, and it would
be difficult to imagine a more abundant, and on the
whole a more accurate, informant. The accumu-
lated volumes of this periodical contain evidence on a
multitude of points of which there is no mention in
the serious works not even in the novels of the


day. The smallest details of social habit are depicted
there, and the oddities of a race of people in whom
oddity is strangely compatible with the dominion of
convention. That the ironical view of these things
is given does not injure the force of the testimony,
for the irony of Punch, strangely enough, has always
been discreet, even delicate. It is a singular fact
that, though taste is not supposed to be the strong
point of the English mind, this eminently represent-
ative journal has rarely been guilty of a violation
of decorum. The taste of Punch, like its good-
humour, has known very few lapses. The London
Charivari we remember how difficult it was (in
1853) to arrive at the right pronunciation has in
this respect very little to envy its Parisian original.
English comedy is coarse, French comedy is fine
that would be the general assumption, certainly, on
the part of a French critic. But a comparison
between the back volumes of the Charivari and the
back volumes of Punch would make it necessary to
modify this formula. English humour is simple,
innocent, plain, a trifle insipid, apt to sacrifice to the
graces, to the proprieties ; but if Punch be our witness
English humour is not coarse. We are fortunately
not obliged to declare just now what French humour
appears to be in the light of the Charivari, the Jour-
nal Amusant, the Journal Pour Eire. A Frenchman
may say, in perfect good faith, that (to his sense)
English drollery has doubtless every merit but that
of being droll. French drollery, he may say, is


salient, saltatory ; whereas the English comic effort
has little freedom of wing. The French, in these
matters, like a great deal of salt ; whereas the Eng-
lish, who spice their food very highly and have a
cluster of sharp condiments on the table, take their
caricatures comparatively mild. Punch, in short, is
for the family Punch may be sent up to the nursery.
This surely may be admitted ; and it is the fact that

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Online LibraryHenry JamesPartial portraits → online text (page 19 of 24)