Appreciations, With An Essay on Style
Walter Horatio Pater

Part 4 out of 4

seen with my own eyes. I swear that I have said nothing but
what is absolutely true." She paused. I could not answer her.
I seized her old wrinkled and trembling hands and pressed them
to my forehead, and wept like a child.

May 10.--She died believing me guilty! The thought is terrible
to me. I know not what to do. A creature so frail, so
delicate, so sweet. "Yes!" she said to herself, "my husband
is a murderer; what he is giving me is poison, and he knows
it." She died with that thought in her mind--her last thought.
And she will never, never know that it was not so; that I am
innocent; that the thought is torment to me: that I am the most
unhappy of men. Ah! God, all-powerful! if you indeed exist,
you see what I suffer. Have pity on me!

Ah! how I wish I could believe that all is not over between
[239] her and me; that she sees and hears me; that she knew
the truth. But I find it impossible! impossible!

June.--That I was a criminal was her last thought, and she
will never be undeceived.

All seems so completely ended when one dies. All returns to
its first elements. How credit that miracle of a personal
resurrection? and yet in truth all is mystery,--miracle,
around us, about us, within ourselves. The entire universe
is but a continuous miracle. Man's new birth from the womb
of death--is it a mystery less comprehensible than his birth
from the womb of his mother?

Those lines are the last written by Bernard de Vaudricourt.
His health, for some time past disturbed by grief, was
powerless against the emotions of the last terrible trial
imposed on him. A malady, the exact nature of which was
not determined, in a few days assumed a mortal character.
Perceiving that his end was come, he caused Monseigneur
de Courteheuse to be summoned--he desired to die in the
religion of Aliette. Living, the poor child had been
defeated: she prevailed in her death.

Two distinguished souls! deux êtres d'élite--M. Feuillet thinks--
whose fine qualities properly brought them together. When
Mademoiselle de Courteheuse said of the heroes of her favourite age,
that their passions, their errors, did but pass over a ground of what
was solid and serious, and which always discovered itself afresh, she
was unconsciously describing Bernard. Singular young brother of
Monsieur de Camors--after all, certainly, more fortunate than he--he
belongs to the age, which, if it had great faults, had also great
repentances. In appearance, frivolous; with all the light charm of
the world, yet with that impressibility to great things, according to
the law which makes the best of M. Feuillet's [240] characters so
interesting; above all, with that capacity for pity which almost
everything around him tended to suppress; in real life, if he exists
there, and certainly in M. Feuillet's pages, it is a refreshment to
meet him.



ainei de palaion men oinon, anthea d' hymnon neôterôn+

[241] THE words, classical and romantic, although, like many other
critical expressions, sometimes abused by those who have understood
them too vaguely or too absolutely, yet define two real tendencies
in the history of art and literature. Used in an exaggerated sense,
to express a greater opposition between those tendencies than really
exists, they have at times tended to divide people of taste into
opposite camps. But in that House Beautiful, which the creative
minds of all generations--the artists and those who have treated
life in the spirit of art--are always building together, for the
refreshment of the human spirit, these oppositions cease; and the
Interpreter of the House Beautiful, the true aesthetic critic, uses
these divisions, only so far as they enable him to enter into the
peculiarities of the objects with which he has to do. The term
classical, fixed, as it is, to a well-defined literature, and a well-
defined group in art, is clear, indeed; but then it has often been
used in a hard, and merely scholastic [242] sense, by the praisers of
what is old and accustomed, at the expense of what is new, by critics
who would never have discovered for themselves the charm of any work,
whether new or old, who value what is old, in art or literature, for
its accessories, and chiefly for the conventional authority that has
gathered about it--people who would never really have been made glad
by any Venus fresh-risen from the sea, and who praise the Venus of
old Greece and Rome, only because they fancy her grown now into
something staid and tame.

And as the term, classical, has been used in a too absolute, and
therefore in a misleading sense, so the term, romantic, has been used
much too vaguely, in various accidental senses. The sense in which
Scott is called a romantic writer is chiefly this; that, in
opposition to the literary tradition of the last century, he loved
strange adventure, and sought it in the Middle Age. Much later, in a
Yorkshire village, the spirit of romanticism bore a more really
characteristic fruit in the work of a young girl, Emily Brontë, the
romance of Wuthering Heights; the figures of Hareton Earnshaw, of
Catherine Linton, and of Heathcliffe--tearing open Catherine's grave,
removing one side of her coffin, that he may really lie beside her in
death--figures so passionate, yet woven on a background of delicately
beautiful, moorland scenery, being typical examples of that spirit.
In Germany, again, [243] that spirit is shown less in Tieck, its
professional representative, than in Meinhold, the author of Sidonia
the Sorceress and the Amber-Witch. In Germany and France, within the
last hundred years, the term has been used to describe a particular
school of writers; and, consequently, when Heine criticises the
Romantic School in Germany--that movement which culminated in
Goethe's Goetz von Berlichingen; or when Théophile Gautier criticises
the romantic movement in France, where, indeed, it bore its most
characteristic fruits, and its play is hardly yet over where, by a
certain audacity, or bizarrerie of motive, united with faultless
literary execution, it still shows itself in imaginative literature,
they use the word, with an exact sense of special artistic qualities,
indeed; but use it, nevertheless, with a limited application to the
manifestation of those qualities at a particular period. But the
romantic spirit is, in reality, an ever-present, an enduring
principle, in the artistic temperament; and the qualities of thought
and style which that, and other similar uses of the word romantic
really indicate, are indeed but symptoms of a very continuous and
widely working influence.

Though the words classical and romantic, then, have acquired an
almost technical meaning, in application to certain developments of
German and French taste, yet this is but one variation of an old
opposition, which may be traced from the [244] very beginning of the
formation of European art and literature. From the first formation
of anything like a standard of taste in these things, the restless
curiosity of their more eager lovers necessarily made itself felt, in
the craving for new motives, new subjects of interest, new
modifications of style. Hence, the opposition between the
classicists and the romanticists--between the adherents, in the
culture of beauty, of the principles of liberty, and authority,
respectively--of strength, and order or what the Greeks called

Sainte-Beuve, in the third volume of the Causeries du Lundi, has
discussed the question, What is meant by a classic? It was a
question he was well fitted to answer, having himself lived through
many phases of taste, and having been in earlier life an enthusiastic
member of the romantic school: he was also a great master of that
sort of "philosophy of literature," which delights in tracing
traditions in it, and the way in which various phases of thought and
sentiment maintain themselves, through successive modifications, from
epoch to epoch. His aim, then, is to give the word classic a wider
and, as he says, a more generous sense than it commonly bears, to
make it expressly grandiose et flottant; and, in doing this, he
develops, in a masterly manner, those qualities of measure, purity,
temperance, of which it is the especial function of classical art
[245] and literature, whatever meaning, narrower or wider, we attach
to the term, to take care.

The charm, therefore, of what is classical, in art or literature, is
that of the well-known tale, to which we can, nevertheless, listen
over and over again, because it is told so well. To the absolute
beauty of its artistic form, is added the accidental, tranquil, charm
of familiarity. There are times, indeed, at which these charms fail
to work on our spirits at all, because they fail to excite us.
"Romanticism," says Stendhal, "is the art of presenting to people the
literary works which, in the actual state of their habits and
beliefs, are capable of giving them the greatest possible pleasure;
classicism, on the contrary, of presenting them with that which gave
the greatest possible pleasure to their grandfathers." But then,
beneath all changes of habits and beliefs, our love of that mere
abstract proportion--of music--which what is classical in literature
possesses, still maintains itself in the best of us, and what pleased
our grandparents may at least tranquillise us. The "classic" comes
to us out of the cool and quiet of other times; as the measure of
what a long experience has shown will at least never displease us.
And in the classical literature of Greece and Rome, as in the
classics of the last century, the essentially classical element is
that quality of order in beauty, which they possess, indeed, [246] in
a pre-eminent degree, and which impresses some minds to the exclusion
of everything else in them.

It is the addition of strangeness to beauty, that constitutes the
romantic character in art; and the desire of beauty being a fixed
element in every artistic organisation, it is the addition of
curiosity to this desire of beauty, that constitutes the romantic
temper. Curiosity and the desire of beauty, have each their place in
art, as in all true criticism. When one's curiosity is deficient,
when one is not eager enough for new impressions, and new pleasures,
one is liable to value mere academical proprieties too highly, to be
satisfied with worn-out or conventional types, with the insipid
ornament of Racine, or the prettiness of that later Greek sculpture,
which passed so long for true Hellenic work; to miss those places
where the handiwork of nature, or of the artist, has been most
cunning; to find the most stimulating products of art a mere
irritation. And when one's curiosity is in excess, when it
overbalances the desire of beauty, then one is liable to value in
works of art what is inartistic in them; to be satisfied with what is
exaggerated in art, with productions like some of those of the
romantic school in Germany; not to distinguish, jealously enough,
between what is admirably done, and what is done not quite so well,
in the writings, for instance, of Jean Paul. And if I had to give
[247] instances of these defects, then I should say, that Pope, in
common with the age of literature to which he belonged, had too
little curiosity, so that there is always a certain insipidity in the
effect of his work, exquisite as it is; and, coming down to our own
time, that Balzac had an excess of curiosity--curiosity not duly
tempered with the desire of beauty.

But, however falsely those two tendencies may be opposed by critics,
or exaggerated by artists themselves, they are tendencies really at
work at all times in art, moulding it, with the balance sometimes a
little on one side, sometimes a little on the other, generating,
respectively, as the balance inclines on this side or that, two
principles, two traditions, in art, and in literature so far as it
partakes of the spirit of art. If there is a great overbalance of
curiosity, then, we have the grotesque in art: if the union of
strangeness and beauty, under very difficult and complex conditions,
be a successful one, if the union be entire, then the resultant
beauty is very exquisite, very attractive. With a passionate care
for beauty, the romantic spirit refuses to have it, unless the
condition of strangeness be first fulfilled. Its desire is for a
beauty born of unlikely elements, by a profound alchemy, by a
difficult initiation, by the charm which wrings it even out of
terrible things; and a trace of distortion, of the grotesque, may
perhaps linger, as an additional element of expression, about its
[248] ultimate grace. Its eager, excited spirit will have strength,
the grotesque, first of all--the trees shrieking as you tear off the
leaves; for Jean Valjean, the long years of convict life; for
Redgauntlet, the quicksands of Solway Moss; then, incorporate with
this strangeness, and intensified by restraint, as much sweetness, as
much beauty, as is compatible with that. Énergique, frais, et
dispos--these, according to Sainte-Beuve, are the characteristics of
a genuine classic--les ouvrages anciens ne sont pas classiques parce
qu'ils sont vieux, mais parce qu'ils sont énergiques, frais, et
dispos. Energy, freshness, intelligent and masterly disposition:--
these are characteristics of Victor Hugo when his alchemy is
complete, in certain figures, like Marius and Cosette, in certain
scenes, like that in the opening of Les Travailleurs de la Mer, where
Déruchette writes the name of Gilliatt in the snow, on Christmas
morning; but always there is a certain note of strangeness
discernible there, as well.

The essential elements, then, of the romantic spirit are curiosity
and the love of beauty; and it is only as an illustration of these
qualities, that it seeks the Middle Age, because, in the over-charged
atmosphere of the Middle Age, there are unworked sources of romantic
effect, of a strange beauty, to be won, by strong imagination, out of
things unlikely or remote.

Few, probably, now read Madame de Staël's [249] De l'Allemagne,
though it has its interest, the interest which never quite fades out
of work really touched with the enthusiasm of the spiritual
adventurer, the pioneer in culture. It was published in 1810, to
introduce to French readers a new school of writers--the romantic
school, from beyond the Rhine; and it was followed, twenty-three
years later, by Heine's Romantische Schule, as at once a supplement
and a correction. Both these books, then, connect romanticism with
Germany, with the names especially of Goethe and Tieck; and, to many
English readers, the idea of romanticism is still inseparably
connected with Germany--that Germany which, in its quaint old towns,
under the spire of Strasburg or the towers of Heidelberg, was always
listening in rapt inaction to the melodious, fascinating voices of
the Middle Age, and which, now that it has got Strasburg back again,
has, I suppose, almost ceased to exist. But neither Germany, with
its Goethe and Tieck, nor England, with its Byron and Scott, is
nearly so representative of the romantic temper as France, with
Murger, and Gautier, and Victor Hugo. It is in French literature
that its most characteristic expression is to be found; and that, as
most closely derivative, historically, from such peculiar conditions,
as ever reinforce it to the utmost.

For, although temperament has much to do with the generation of the
romantic spirit, and [250] although this spirit, with its curiosity,
its thirst for a curious beauty, may be always traceable in excellent
art (traceable even in Sophocles) yet still, in a limited sense, it
may be said to be a product of special epochs. Outbreaks of this
spirit, that is, come naturally with particular periods--times, when,
in men's approaches towards art and poetry, curiosity may be noticed
to take the lead, when men come to art and poetry, with a deep thirst
for intellectual excitement, after a long ennui, or in reaction
against the strain of outward, practical things: in the later Middle
Age, for instance; so that medieval poetry, centering in Dante, is
often opposed to Greek and Roman poetry, as romantic poetry to the
classical. What the romanticism of Dante is, may be estimated, if we
compare the lines in which Virgil describes the hazel-wood, from
whose broken twigs flows the blood of Polydorus, not without the
expression of a real shudder at the ghastly incident, with the whole
canto of the Inferno, into which Dante has expanded them, beautifying
and softening it, meanwhile, by a sentiment of profound pity. And it
is especially in that period of intellectual disturbance, immediately
preceding Dante, amid which the romance languages define themselves
at last, that this temper is manifested. Here, in the literature of
Provence, the very name of romanticism is stamped with its true
signification: here we have indeed a romantic world, grotesque [251]
even, in the strength of its passions, almost insane in its curious
expression of them, drawing all things into its sphere, making the
birds, nay! lifeless things, its voices and messengers, yet so
penetrated with the desire for beauty and sweetness, that it begets a
wholly new species of poetry, in which the Renaissance may be said to
begin. The last century was pre-eminently a classical age, an age in
which, for art and literature, the element of a comely order was in
the ascendant; which, passing away, left a hard battle to be fought
between the classical and the romantic schools. Yet, it is in the
heart of this century, of Goldsmith and Stothard, of Watteau and the
Siècle de Louis XIV.--in one of its central, if not most
characteristic figures, in Rousseau--that the modern or French
romanticism really originates. But, what in the eighteenth century
is but an exceptional phenomenon, breaking through its fair reserve
and discretion only at rare intervals, is the habitual guise of the
nineteenth, breaking through it perpetually, with a feverishness, an
incomprehensible straining and excitement, which all experience to
some degree, but yearning also, in the genuine children of the
romantic school, to be énergique, frais, et dispos--for those
qualities of energy, freshness, comely order; and often, in Murger,
in Gautier, in Victor Hugo, for instance, with singular felicity
attaining them.

It is in the terrible tragedy of Rousseau, in [252] fact, that French
romanticism, with much else, begins: reading his Confessions we seem
actually to assist at the birth of this new, strong spirit in the
French mind. The wildness which has shocked so many, and the
fascination which has influenced almost every one, in the squalid,
yet eloquent figure, we see and hear so clearly in that book,
wandering under the apple-blossoms and among the vines of Neuchâtel
or Vevey actually give it the quality of a very successful romantic
invention. His strangeness or distortion, his profound subjectivity,
his passionateness--the cor laceratum--Rousseau makes all men in love
with these. Je ne suis fait comme aucun de ceux que j'ai sus. Mais
si je ne vaux pas mieux, au moins je suis autre. "I am not made like
any one else I have ever known: yet, if I am not better, at least I
am different." These words, from the first page of the Confessions,
anticipate all the Werthers, Renés, Obermanns, of the last hundred
years. For Rousseau did but anticipate a trouble in the spirit of
the whole world; and thirty years afterwards, what in him was a
peculiarity, became part of the general consciousness. A storm was
coming: Rousseau, with others, felt it in the air, and they helped to
bring it down: they introduced a disturbing element into French
literature, then so trim and formal, like our own literature of the
age of Queen Anne.

In 1815 the storm had come and gone, but had left, in the spirit of
"young France," the [253] ennui of an immense disillusion. In the
last chapter of Edgar Quinet's Revolution Française, a work itself
full of irony, of disillusion, he distinguishes two books,
Senancour's Obermann and Chateaubriand's Génie du Christianisme, as
characteristic of the first decade of the present century. In those
two books we detect already the disease and the cure--in Obermann the
irony, refined into a plaintive philosophy of "indifference"--in
Chateaubriand's Génie du Christianisme, the refuge from a tarnished
actual present, a present of disillusion, into a world of strength
and beauty in the Middle Age, as at an earlier period--in René and
Atala--into the free play of them in savage life. It is to minds in
this spiritual situation, weary of the present, but yearning for the
spectacle of beauty and strength, that the works of French
romanticism appeal. They set a positive value on the intense, the
exceptional; and a certain distortion is sometimes noticeable in
them, as in conceptions like Victor Hugo's Quasimodo, or Gwynplaine,
something of a terrible grotesque, of the macabre, as the French
themselves call it; though always combined with perfect literary
execution, as in Gautier's La Morte Amoureuse, or the scene of the
"maimed" burial-rites of the player, dead of the frost, in his
Capitaine Fracasse--true "flowers of the yew." It becomes grim
humour in Victor Hugo's combat of Gilliatt with the devil-fish, or
the incident, with all its ghastly comedy drawn [254] out at length,
of the great gun detached from its fastenings on shipboard, in
Quatre-Vingt-Trieze (perhaps the most terrible of all the accidents
that can happen by sea) and in the entire episode, in that book, of
the Convention. Not less surely does it reach a genuine pathos; for
the habit of noting and distinguishing one's own most intimate
passages of sentiment makes one sympathetic, begetting, as it must,
the power of entering, by all sorts of finer ways, into the intimate
recesses of other minds; so that pity is another quality of
romanticism, both Victor Hugo and Gautier being great lovers of
animals, and charming writers about them, and Murger being unrivalled
in the pathos of his Scènes de la Vie de Jeunesse. Penetrating so
finely into all situations which appeal to pity, above all, into the
special or exceptional phases of such feeling, the romantic humour is
not afraid of the quaintness or singularity of its circumstances or
expression, pity, indeed, being of the essence of humour; so that
Victor Hugo does but turn his romanticism into practice, in his
hunger and thirst after practical Justice!--a justice which shall no
longer wrong children, or animals, for instance, by ignoring in a
stupid, mere breadth of view, minute facts about them. Yet the
romanticists are antinomian, too, sometimes, because the love of
energy and beauty, of distinction in passion, tended naturally to
become a little bizarre, plunging into the [255] Middle Age, into the
secrets of old Italian story. Are we in the Inferno?--we are tempted
to ask, wondering at something malign in so much beauty. For over
all a care for the refreshment of the human spirit by fine art
manifests itself, a predominant sense of literary charm, so that, in
their search for the secret of exquisite expression, the romantic
school went back to the forgotten world of early French poetry, and
literature itself became the most delicate of the arts--like
"goldsmith's work," says Sainte-Beuve, of Bertrand's Gaspard de la
Nuit--and that peculiarly French gift, the gift of exquisite speech,
argute loqui, attained in them a perfection which it had never seen

Stendhal, a writer whom I have already quoted, and of whom English
readers might well know much more than they do, stands between the
earlier and later growths of the romantic spirit. His novels are
rich in romantic quality; and his other writings--partly criticism,
partly personal reminiscences--are a very curious and interesting
illustration of the needs out of which romanticism arose. In his
book on Racine and Shakespeare, Stendhal argues that all good art was
romantic in its day; and this is perhaps true in Stendhal's sense.
That little treatise, full of "dry light" and fertile ideas, was
published in the year 1823, and its object is to defend an entire
independence and liberty in the choice and treatment of subject, both
in [256] art and literature, against those who upheld the exclusive
authority of precedent. In pleading the cause of romanticism,
therefore, it is the novelty, both of form and of motive, in writings
like the Hernani of Victor Hugo (which soon followed it, raising a
storm of criticism) that he is chiefly concerned to justify. To be
interesting and really stimulating, to keep us from yawning even, art
and literature must follow the subtle movements of that nimbly-
shifting Time-Spirit, or Zeit-Geist, understood by French not less
than by German criticism, which is always modifying men's taste, as
it modifies their manners and their pleasures. This, he contends, is
what all great workmen had always understood. Dante, Shakespeare,
Molière, had exercised an absolute independence in their choice of
subject and treatment. To turn always with that ever-changing
spirit, yet to retain the flavour of what was admirably done in past
generations, in the classics, as we say--is the problem of true
romanticism. "Dante," he observes, "was pre-eminently the romantic
poet. He adored Virgil, yet he wrote the Divine Comedy, with the
episode of Ugolino, which is as unlike the Aeneid as can possibly be.
And those who thus obey the fundamental principle of romanticism, one
by one become classical, and are joined to that ever-increasing
common league, formed by men of all countries, to approach nearer and
nearer to perfection."

Romanticism, then, although it has its epochs, [257] is in its
essential characteristics rather a spirit which shows itself at all
times, in various degrees, in individual workmen and their work, and
the amount of which criticism has to estimate in them taken one by
one, than the peculiarity of a time or a school. Depending on the
varying proportion of curiosity and the desire of beauty, natural
tendencies of the artistic spirit at all times, it must always be
partly a matter of individual temperament. The eighteenth century in
England has been regarded as almost exclusively a classical period;
yet William Blake, a type of so much which breaks through what are
conventionally thought the influences of that century, is still a
noticeable phenomenon in it, and the reaction in favour of naturalism
in poetry begins in that century, early. There are, thus, the born
romanticists and the born classicists. There are the born
classicists who start with form, to whose minds the comeliness of the
old, immemorial, well-recognised types in art and literature, have
revealed themselves impressively; who will entertain no matter which
will not go easily and flexibly into them; whose work aspires only to
be a variation upon, or study from, the older masters. "'Tis art's
decline, my son!" they are always saying, to the progressive element
in their own generation; to those who care for that which in fifty
years' time every one will be caring for. On the other hand, there
are the born romanticists, who start with an original, [258] untried
matter, still in fusion; who conceive this vividly, and hold by it as
the essence of their work; who, by the very vividness and heat of
their conception, purge away, sooner or later, all that is not
organically appropriate to it, till the whole effect adjusts itself
in clear, orderly, proportionate form; which form, after a very
little time, becomes classical in its turn.

The romantic or classical character of a picture, a poem, a literary
work, depends, then, on the balance of certain qualities in it; and
in this sense, a very real distinction may be drawn between good
classical and good romantic work. But all critical terms are
relative; and there is at least a valuable suggestion in that theory
of Stendhal's, that all good art was romantic in its day. In the
beauties of Homer and Pheidias, quiet as they now seem, there must
have been, for those who confronted them for the first time,
excitement and surprise, the sudden, unforeseen satisfaction of the
desire of beauty. Yet the Odyssey, with its marvellous adventure, is
more romantic than the Iliad, which nevertheless contains, among many
other romantic episodes, that of the immortal horses of Achilles, who
weep at the death of Patroclus. Aeschylus is more romantic than
Sophocles, whose Philoctetes, were it written now, might figure, for
the strangeness of its motive and the perfectness of its execution,
as typically romantic; while, of Euripides, it may be said, that his
method in [259] writing his plays is to sacrifice readily almost
everything else, so that he may attain the fulness of a single
romantic effect. These two tendencies, indeed, might be applied as a
measure or standard, all through Greek and Roman art and poetry, with
very illuminating results; and for an analyst of the romantic
principle in art, no exercise would be more profitable, than to walk
through the collection of classical antiquities at the Louvre, or the
British Museum, or to examine some representative collection of Greek
coins, and note how the element of curiosity, of the love of
strangeness, insinuates itself into classical design, and record the
effects of the romantic spirit there, the traces of struggle, of the
grotesque even, though over-balanced here by sweetness; as in the
sculpture of Chartres and Rheims, the real sweetness of mind in the
sculptor is often overbalanced by the grotesque, by the rudeness of
his strength.

Classicism, then, means for Stendhal, for that younger enthusiastic
band of French writers whose unconscious method he formulated into
principles, the reign of what is pedantic, conventional, and narrowly
academical in art; for him, all good art is romantic. To Sainte-
Beuve, who understands the term in a more liberal sense, it is the
characteristic of certain epochs, of certain spirits in every epoch,
not given to the exercise of original imagination, but rather to the
working out of refinements of manner on some [260] authorised matter;
and who bring to their perfection, in this way, the elements of
sanity, of order and beauty in manner. In general criticism, again,
it means the spirit of Greece and Rome, of some phases in literature
and art that may seem of equal authority with Greece and Rome, the
age of Louis the Fourteenth, the age of Johnson; though this is at
best an uncritical use of the term, because in Greek and Roman work
there are typical examples of the romantic spirit. But explain the
terms as we may, in application to particular epochs, there are these
two elements always recognisable; united in perfect art--in
Sophocles, in Dante, in the highest work of Goethe, though not always
absolutely balanced there; and these two elements may be not
inappropriately termed the classical and romantic tendencies.

Material for the artist, motives of inspiration, are not yet
exhausted: our curious, complex, aspiring age still abounds in
subjects for aesthetic manipulation by the literary as well as by
other forms of art. For the literary art, at all events, the problem
just now is, to induce order upon the contorted, proportionless
accumulation of our knowledge and experience, our science and
history, our hopes and disillusion, and, in effecting this, to do
consciously what has been done hitherto for the most part too
unconsciously, to write our English language as the Latins wrote
theirs, as the [261] French write, as scholars should write.
Appealing, as he may, to precedent in this matter, the scholar will
still remember that if "the style is the man" it is also the age:
that the nineteenth century too will be found to have had its style,
justified by necessity--a style very different, alike from the
baldness of an impossible "Queen Anne" revival, and an incorrect,
incondite exuberance, after the mode of Elizabeth: that we can only
return to either at the price of an impoverishment of form or matter,
or both, although, an intellectually rich age such as ours being
necessarily an eclectic one, we may well cultivate some of the
excellences of literary types so different as those: that in
literature as in other matters it is well to unite as many diverse
elements as may be: that the individual writer or artist, certainly,
is to be estimated by the number of graces he combines, and his power
of interpenetrating them in a given work. To discriminate schools,
of art, of literature, is, of course, part of the obvious business of
literary criticism: but, in the work of literary production, it is
easy to be overmuch occupied concerning them. For, in truth, the
legitimate contention is, not of one age or school of literary art
against another, but of all successive schools alike, against the
stupidity which is dead to the substance, and the vulgarity which is
dead to form.


241. +Transliteration: ainei de palaion men oinon, anthea d' hymnon
neôterôn. Translation: "Praise wine for its age, but the song in first
bloom. Pindar, Odes, Book O, Poem 9, Line 47.

244. +Transliteration: kosmiotês. Liddell and Scott definition:
"propriety, decorum, orderly behavior."


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