Confessions and Criticisms
Julian Hawthorne

Part 2 out of 3

the philosophical discovery, made by or communicated to the hermetic
philosophers, that every material object in nature answers to or
corresponds with a certain one or group of philosophical truths. Viewed in
this light, the science of symbols or of correspondences ceases to be an
arbitrary device, susceptible of alteration according to fancy, and
avouches itself an essential and consistent relation between the things of
the mind and the things of the senses. There is a complete mental
creation, answering to the material creation, not continuously evolved
from it, but on a different or detached plane. The sun,--to take an
example,--the source of light and heat, and thereby of physical nature, is
in these fables always the symbol of God, of love and wisdom, by which the
spirit of man is created. Light, then, answers to wisdom, and heat to
love. And since all physical substances are the result of the combined
action of light and heat, we may easily perceive how these hermetic sages
were enabled to use every physical object as a cloak of its corresponding
philosophical truth,--with no other liability to error than might result
from the imperfect condition of their knowledge of physical laws.

To return, however, to the children, I need scarcely remark that the cause
of children's taking so kindly to hermetic writing is that it is actually
a living writing; it is alive in precisely the same way that nature, or
man himself, is alive. Matter is dead; life organizes and animates it. And
all writing is essentially dead which is a mere transcript of fact, and is
not inwardly organized and vivified by a spiritual significance. Children
do not know what it is that makes a human being smile, move, and talk; but
they know that such a phenomenon is infinitely more interesting than a
doll; and they prove it by themselves supplying the doll with speech and
motions out of their own minds, so as to make it as much like a real
person as possible. In the same way, they do not perceive the
philosophical truth which is the cause of existence of the hermetic fable;
but they find that fable far more juicy and substantial than the ordinary
narrative of every-day facts, because, however fine the surface of the
latter may be, it has, after all, nothing but its surface to recommend it.
It has no soul; it is not alive; and, though they cannot explain why, they
feel the difference between that thin, fixed grimace and the changing
smile of the living countenance.

It would scarcely be practicable, however, to confine the children's
reading to hermetic literature; for not much of it is extant in its pure
state. But it is hardly too much to say that all fairy stories, and
derivations from these, trace their descent from an hermetic ancestry.
They are often unaware of their genealogy; but the sparks of that primal
vitality are in them. The fairy is itself a symbol for the expression of a
more complex and abstract idea; but, once having come into existence, and
being, not a pure symbol, but a hybrid between the symbol and that for
which it stands, it presently began an independent career of its own. The
mediaeval imagination went to work with it, found it singularly and
delightfully plastic to its touch and requirements, and soon made it the
centre of a new and charming world, in which a whole army of graceful and
romantic fancies, which are always in quest of an arena in which to
disport themselves before the mind, found abundant accommodation and
nourishment. The fairy land of mediaeval Christianity seems to us the most
satisfactory of all fairy lands, probably because it is more in accord
with our genius and prejudices than those of the East; and it fitted in so
aptly with the popular mediaeval ignorance on the subject of natural
phenomena, that it became actually an article of belief with the mass of
men, who trembled at it while they invented it, in the most delicious
imaginable state of enchanted alarm. All this is prime reading for
children; because, though it does not carry an orderly spiritual meaning
within it, it is more spiritual than material, and is constructed entirely
according to the dictates of an exuberant and richly colored, but,
nevertheless, in its own sphere, legitimate imagination. Indeed, fairy
land, though as it were accidentally created, has the same permanent right
to be that Beauty has; it agrees with a genuine aspect of human nature,
albeit one much discountenanced just at present. The sequel to it, in
which romantic human personages are accredited with fairy-like attributes,
as in the "Faerie Queene," already alluded to, is a step in the wrong
direction, but not a step long enough to carry us altogether outside of
the charmed circle. The child's instinct of selection being vast and
cordial,--he will make a grain of true imagination suffuse and glorify a
whole acre of twaddle,---we may with security leave him in that fantastic
society. Moreover, some children being less imaginative than others, and
all children being less imaginative in some moods and conditions than at
other seasons, the elaborate compositions of Tasso, Cervantes, and the
others, though on the boundary line between what is meat for babes and the
other sort of meat, have also their abiding use.

The "Arabian Nights" introduced us to the domain of the Oriental
imagination, and has done more than all the books of travel in the East to
make us acquainted with the Asiatic character and its differences from our
own. From what has already been said on the subject of spiritual intuition
in relation to these races, one is prepared to find that all the Eastern
literature that has any value is hermetic writing, and therefore, in so
far, proper for children. But the incorrigible subtlety of the Oriental
intellect has vitiated much of their symbology, and the sentiment of sheer
wonder is stimulated rather than that of orderly imagination. To read the
"Arabian Nights" or the "Bhagavad-Gita" is a sort of dissipation; upon the
unhackneyed mind of the child it leaves a reactionary sense of depression.
The life which it embodies is distorted, over-colored, and exciting; it
has not the serene and balanced power of the Western productions.
Moreover, these books were not written with the grave philosophic purpose
that animated our own hermetic school; it is rather a sort of jugglery
practised with the subject---an exercise of ingenuity and invention for
their own sake. It indicates a lack of the feeling of responsibility on
the writers' part,--a result, doubtless, of the prevailing fatalism that
underlies all their thought. It is not essentially wholesome, in short;
but it is immeasurably superior to the best of the productions called
forth by our modern notions of what should be given to children to read.

But I can do no more than touch upon this branch of the subject; nor will
it be possible to linger long over the department of our own literature
which came into being with "Robinson Crusoe." No theory as to children's
books would be worth much attention which found itself obliged to exclude
that memorable work. Although it submits in a certain measure to
classification, it is almost _sui generis_; no book of its kind,
approaching it in merit, has ever been written. In what, then, does its
fascination consist? There is certainly nothing hermetic about it; it is
the simplest and most studiously matter-of-fact narrative of events,
comprehensible without the slightest effort, and having no meaning that is
not apparent on the face of it. And yet children, and grown people also,
read it again and again, and cannot find it uninteresting. I think the
phenomenon may largely be due to the nature of the subject, which is
really of primary and universal interest to mankind. It is the story of
the struggle of man with wild and hostile nature,--in the larger sense an
elementary theme,--his shifts, his failures, his perils, his fears, his
hopes, his successes. The character of Robinson is so artfully generalized
or universalized, and sympathy for him is so powerfully aroused and
maintained, that the reader, especially the child reader, inevitably
identifies himself with him, and feels his emotions and struggles as his
own. The ingredient of suspense is never absent from the story, and the
absence of any plot prevents us from perceiving its artificiality. It is,
in fact, a type of the history of the human race, not on the higher plane,
but on the physical one; the history of man's contest with and final
victory over physical nature. The very simplicity and obviousness of the
details give them grandeur and comprehensiveness: no part of man's
character which his contact with nature can affect or develop is left
untried in Robinson. He manifests in little all historical earthly
experiences of the race; such is the scheme of the book; and its
permanence in literature is due to the sobriety and veracity with which
that scheme is carried out. To speak succinctly, it does for the body what
the hermetic and cognate literature does for the soul; and for the healthy
man, the body is not less important than the soul in its own place and
degree. It is not the work of the Creator, but it is contingent upon

But poor Robinson has been most unfortunate in his progeny, which at this
day overrun the whole earth, and render it a worse wilderness than ever
was the immortal Crusoe Island. Miss Edgeworth, indeed, might fairly pose
as the most persistently malignant of all sources of error in the design
of children's literature; but it is to be feared that it was Defoe who
first made her aware of the availability of her own venom. She foisted her
prim and narrow moral code upon the commonplace adventures of a priggish
little boy and his companions; and straightway the whole dreary and
disastrous army of sectarians and dogmatists took up the cry, and have
been ringing the lugubrious changes on it ever since. There is really no
estimating the mortal wrong that has been done to childhood by Maria
Edgeworth's "Frank" and "The Parent's Assistant"; and, for my part, I
derive a melancholy joy in availing myself of this opportunity to express
my sense of my personal share in the injury. I believe that my affection
for the human race is as genuine as the average; but I am sure it would
have been greater had Miss Edgeworth never been born; and were I to come
across any philosophical system whereby I could persuade myself that she
belonged to some other order of beings than the human, I should be
strongly tempted to embrace that system on that ground alone.

After what has been advanced in the preceding pages, it does not need that
I should state how earnestly I deprecate the kind of literary food which
we are now furnishing to the coming generation in such sinister abundance.
I am sure it is written and published with good and honorable motives; but
at the very best it can only do no harm. Moreover, however well
intentioned, it is bad as literature; it is poorly conceived and written,
and, what is worse, it is saturated with affectation. For an impression
prevails that one needs to talk down to children;--to keep them constantly
reminded that they are innocent, ignorant little things, whose consuming
wish it is to be good and go to Sunday-school, and who will be all
gratitude and docility to whomsoever provides them with the latest fashion
of moral sugarplums; whereas, so far as my experience and information
goes, children are the most formidable literary critics in the world.
Matthew Arnold himself has not so sure an instinct for what is sound and
good in a book as any intelligent little boy or girl of eight years old.
They judge absolutely; they are hampered by no comparisons or relative
considerations. They cannot give chapter and verse for their opinion; but
about the opinion itself there is no doubt. They have no theories; they
judge in a white light. They have no prejudices nor traditions; they come
straight from the simple source of life. But, on the other hand, they are
readily hocussed and made morbid by improper drugs, and presently, no
doubt, lose their appetite for what is wholesome. Now, we cannot hope that
an army of hermetic philosophers or Mother-Gooses will arise at need and
remedy all abuses; but at least we might refrain from moralizing and
instruction, and, if we can do nothing more, confine ourselves to plain
stories of adventure, say, with no ulterior object whatever. There still
remains the genuine literature of the past to draw upon; but let us
beware, as we would of forgery and perjury, of serving it up, as has been
done too often, medicated and modified to suit the foolish dogmatism of
the moment. Hans Christian Andersen was the last writer of children's
stories, properly so called; though, considering how well married to his
muse he was, it is a wonder as well as a calamity that he left no



The producers of modern fiction, who have acquiesced more or less
completely in the theory of art for art's sake, are not, perhaps, aware
that a large class of persons still exist who hold fiction to be
unjustifiable, save in so far as the author has it at heart not only (or
chiefly) to adorn the tale, but also (and first of all) to point the
moral. The novelist, in other words, should so mould the characters and
shape the plot of his imaginary drama as to vindicate the wisdom and
integrity of the Decalogue: if he fail to do this, or if he do the
opposite of this, he deserves not the countenance of virtuous and God-
fearing persons.

Doubtless it should be evident to every sane and impartial mind, whether
orthodox or agnostic, that an art which runs counter to the designs of God
toward the human race, or to the growth of the sentiment of universal
human brotherhood, must sooner or later topple down from its fantastic and
hollow foundation. "Hitch your wagon to a star," says Emerson; "do not lie
and steal: no god will help." And although, for the sake of his own
private interests of the moment, a man will occasionally violate the moral
law, yet, with mankind at large, the necessity of vindicating the superior
advantages of right over wrong is acknowledged not only in the interests
of civilized society, but because we feel that, however hostile "goodness"
may seem to be to my or your personal and temporary aims, it still remains
the only wholesome and handsome choice for the race at large: and
therefore do we, as a race, refuse to tolerate--on no matter how plausible
an artistic plea--any view of human life which either professes
indifference to this universal sentiment, or perversely challenges it.

The true ground of dispute, then, does not lie here. The art which can
stoop to be "procuress to the lords of hell," is art no longer. But, on
the other hand, it would be difficult to point to any great work of art,
generally acknowledged to be such, which explicitly concerns itself with
the vindication of any specific moral doctrine. The story in which the
virtuous are rewarded for their virtue, and the evil punished for their
wickedness, fails, somehow, to enlist our full sympathy; it falls flatly
on the ear of the mind; it does not stimulate thought. It does not
satisfy; we fancy that something still remains to be said, or, if this be
all, then it was hardly worth saying. The real record of life--its terror,
its beauty, its pathos, its depth--seems to have been missed. We may admit
that the tale is in harmony with what we have been taught ought to happen;
but the lessons of our private experience have not authenticated our moral
formulas; we have seen the evil exalted and the good brought low; and we
inevitably desire that our "fiction" shall tell us, not what ought to
happen, but what, as a matter of fact, does happen. To put this a little
differently: we feel that the God of the orthodox moralist is not the God
of human nature. He is nothing but the moralist himself in a highly
sublimated state, but betraying, in spite of that sublimation, a fatal
savor of human personality. The conviction that any man--George
Washington, let us say--is a morally unexceptionable man, does not in the
least reconcile us to the idea of God being an indefinitely exalted
counterpart of Washington. Such a God would be "most tolerable, and not to
be endured"; and the more exalted he was, the less endurable would he be.
In short, man instinctively refuses to regard the literal inculcation of
the Decalogue as the final word of God to the human race, and much less to
the individuals of that race; and when he finds a story-teller proceeding
upon the contrary assumption, he is apt to put that story-teller down as
either an ass or a humbug.

As for art--if the reader happen to be competent to form an opinion on
that phase of the matter--he will generally find that the art dwindles in
direct proportion as the moralized deity expatiates; in fact, that they
are incompatible. And he will also confess (if he have the courage of his
opinions) that, as between moralized deity and true art, his choice is
heartily and unreservedly for the latter.

I do not apprehend that the above remarks, fairly interpreted, will
encounter serious opposition from either party to the discussion; and yet,
so far as I am aware, neither party has as yet availed himself of the
light which the conclusion throws upon the nature of art itself. It should
be obvious, however, that upon a true definition of art the whole argument
must ultimately hinge: for we can neither deny that art exists, nor affirm
that it can exist inconsistently with a recognition of a divinely
beneficent purpose in creation. It must, therefore, in some way be an
expression or reflection of that purpose. But in what does the purpose in
question essentially consist?

Broadly speaking--for it would be impossible within the present limits to
attempt a full analysis of the subject--it may be considered as a gradual
and progressive Purification, not of this or that particular individual in
contradistinction to his fellows, but of human nature as an entirety. The
evil into which all men are born, and of which the Decalogue, or
conscience, makes us aware, is not an evil voluntarily contracted on our
part, but is inevitable to us as the creation of a truly infinite love and
wisdom. It is, in fact, our characteristic nature as animals: and it is
only because we are not only animal, but also and above all human, that we
are enabled to recognize it as evil instead of good. We absolve the cat,
the dog, the wolf, and the lion from any moral responsibility for their
deeds, because we feel them to be deficient in conscience, which, is our
own divinely bestowed gift and privilege, and which has been defined as
the spirit of God in the created nature, seeking to become the creature's
own spirit. Now, the power to correct this evil does not abide in us as
individuals, nor will a literal adherence to the moral law avail to purify
any mother's son of us. Conscience always says "Do not,"--never "Do"; and
obedience to it neither can give us a personal claim on God's favor nor
was it intended to do so: its true function is to keep us innocent, so
that we may not individually obstruct the accomplishment of the divine
ends toward us as a race. Our nature not being the private possession of
any one of us, but the impersonal substratum of us all, it follows that it
cannot be redeemed piecemeal, but only as a whole; and, manifestly, the
only Being capable of effecting such redemption is not Peter, or Paul, or
George Washington, or any other atomic exponent of that nature, be he who
he may; but He alone whose infinitude is the complement of our finiteness,
and whose gradual descent into human nature (figured in Scripture under
the symbol of the Incarnation) is even now being accomplished--as any one
may perceive who reads aright the progressive enlightenment of conscience
and intellect which history, through many vicissitudes, displays. We find,
therefore, that art is, essentially, the imaginative expression of a
divine life in man. Art depends for its worth and veracity, not upon its
adherence to literal fact, but upon its perception and portrayal of the
underlying truth, of which fact is but the phenomenal and imperfect
shadow. And it can have nothing to do with personal vice or virtue, in the
way either of condemning the one or vindicating the other; it can only
treat them as elements in its picture--as factors in human destiny. For
the notion commonly entertained that the practice of virtue gives us a
claim upon the Divine Exchequer (so to speak), and the habit of acting
virtuously for the sake of maintaining our credit in society, and ensuring
our prosperity in the next world,--in so thinking and acting we
misapprehend the true inwardness of the matter. To cultivate virtue
because its pays, no matter what the sort of coin in which payment is
looked for, is to be the victims of a lamentable delusion. For such virtue
makes each man jealous of his neighbor; whereas the aim of Providence is
to bring about the broadest human fellowship. A man's physical body
separates him from other men; and this fact disposes him to the error that
his nature is also a separate possession, and that he can only be "good"
by denying himself. But the only goodness that is really good is a
spontaneous and impersonal evolution, and this occurs, not where self-
denial has been practised, but only where a man feels himself to be
absolutely on the same level of desert or non-desert as are the mass of
his fellow-creatures. There is no use in obeying the commandments, unless
it be done, not to make one's self more deserving than another of God's
approbation, but out of love for goodness and truth in themselves, apart
from any personal considerations. The difference between true religion and
formal religion is that the first leads us to abandon all personal claims
to salvation, and to care only for the salvation of humanity as a whole;
whereas the latter stimulates is to practise outward self-denial, in order
that our real self may be exalted. Such self-denial results not in
humility, but in spiritual pride.

In no other way than this, it seems to me, can art and morality be brought
into harmony. Art bears witness to the presence in us of something purer
and loftier than anything of which we can be individually conscious. Its
complete expression we call inspiration; and he who is the subject of the
inspiration can account no better than any one else for the result which
art accomplishes through him. The perfect poem is found, not made; the
mind which utters it did not invent it. Art takes all nature and all
knowledge for her province; but she does not leave it as she found it; by
the divine necessity that is upon her, she breathes a soul into her
materials, and organizes chaos into form. But never, under any
circumstances, does she deign to minister to our selfish personal hope or
greed. She shows us how to love our neighbor, never ourselves. Shakspeare,
Homer, Phidias, Raphael, were no Pharisees--at least in so far as they
were artists; nor did any one ever find in their works any countenance for
that inhuman assumption--"I am holier than thou!" In the world's darkest
hours, art has sometimes stood as the sole witness of the nobler life that
was in eclipse. Civilizations arise and vanish; forms of religion hold
sway and are forgotten; learning and science advance and gather strength;
but true art was as great and as beautiful three thousand years ago as it
is to-day. We are prone to confound the man with the artist, and to
suppose that he is artistic by possession and inheritance, instead of
exclusively by dint of what he does. No artist worthy the name ever dreams
of putting himself into his work, but only what is infinitely distinct
from and other than himself. It is not the poet who brings forth the poem,
but the poem that begets the poet; it makes him, educates him, creates in
him the poetic faculty. Those whom we call great men, the heroes of
history, are but the organs of great crises and opportunities: as Emerson
has said, they are the most indebted men. In themselves they are not
great; there is no ratio between their achievements and them. Our judgment
is misled; we do not discriminate between the divine purpose and the human
instrument. When we listen to Napoleon fretting his soul away at Elba, or
to Carlyle wrangling with his wife at Chelsea, we are shocked at the
discrepancy between the lofty public performance and the petty domestic
shortcoming. Yet we do wrong to blame them; the nature of which they are
examples is the same nature that is shared also by the publican and the

Instead, therefore, of saying that art should be moral, we should rather
say that all true morality is art--that art is the test of morality. To
attempt to make this heavenly Pegasus draw the sordid plough of our
selfish moralistic prejudices is a grotesque subversion of true order. Why
should the novelist make believe that the wicked are punished and the good
are rewarded in this world? Does he not know, on the contrary, that
whatsoever is basest in our common life tends irresistibly to the highest
places, and that the selfish element in our nature is on the side of
public order? Evil is at present a more efficient instrument of order
(because an interested one) than good; and the novelist who makes this
appear will do a far greater and more lasting benefit to humanity than he
who follows the cut-and-dried artificial programme of bestowing crowns on
the saint and whips of scorpions on the sinner.

As a matter of fact, I repeat, the best influences of the best literature
have never been didactic, and there is no reason to believe they ever will
be. The only semblance of didacticism which can enter into literature is
that which conveys such lessons as may be learned from sea and sky,
mountain and valley, wood and stream, bird and beast; and from the broad
human life of races, nations, and firesides; a lesson that is not obvious
and superficial, but so profoundly hidden in the creative depths as to
emerge only to an apprehension equally profound. For the chatter and
affectation of sense disturb and offend that inward spiritual ear which,
in the silent recesses of meditation, hears the prophetic murmur of the
vast ocean of human nature that flows within us and around us all.



During the winter of 1879, when I was in London, it was my fortune to
attend, a social meeting of literary men at the rooms of a certain eminent
publisher. The rooms were full of tobacco-smoke and talk, amid which were
discernible, on all sides, the figures and faces of men more or less
renowned in the world of books. Most noticeable among these personages was
a broad-shouldered, sturdy man, of middle height, with a ruddy
countenance, and snow-white tempestuous beard and hair. He wore large,
gold-rimmed spectacles, but his eyes were black and brilliant, and looked
at his interlocutor with a certain genial fury of inspection. He seemed to
be in a state of some excitement; he spoke volubly and almost
boisterously, and his voice was full-toned and powerful, though pleasant
to the ear. He turned himself, as he spoke, with a burly briskness, from
one side to another, addressing himself first to this auditor and then to
that, his words bursting forth from beneath his white moustache with such
an impetus of hearty breath that it seemed as if all opposing arguments
must be blown quite away. Meanwhile he flourished in the air an ebony
walking-stick, with much vigor of gesticulation, and narrowly missing, as
it appeared, the pates of his listeners. He was clad in evening dress,
though the rest of the company was, for the most part, in mufti; and he
was an exceedingly fine-looking old gentleman. At the first glance, you
would have taken him to be some civilized and modernized Squire Western,
nourished with beef and ale, and roughly hewn out of the most robust and
least refined variety of human clay. Looking at him more narrowly,
however, you would have reconsidered this judgment. Though his general
contour and aspect were massive and sturdy, the lines of his features were
delicately cut; his complexion was remarkably pure and fine, and his face
was susceptible of very subtle and sensitive changes of expression. Here
was a man of abundant physical strength and vigor, no doubt, but carrying
within him a nature more than commonly alert and impressible. His
organization, though thoroughly healthy, was both complex and high-
wrought; his character was simple and straightforward to a fault, but he
was abnormally conscientious, and keenly alive to others' opinion
concerning him. It might be thought that he was overburdened with self-
esteem, and unduly opinionated; but, in fact, he was but overanxious to
secure the good-will and agreement of all with whom he came in contact.
There was some peculiarity in him--some element or bias in his composition
that made him different from other men; but, on the other hand, there was
an ardent solicitude to annul or reconcile this difference, and to prove
himself to be, in fact, of absolutely the same cut and quality as all the
rest of the world. Hence he was in a demonstrative, expository, or
argumentative mood; he could not sit quiet in the face of a divergence
between himself and his associates; he was incorrigibly strenuous to
obliterate or harmonize the irreconcilable points between him and others;
and since these points remained irreconcilable, he remained in a constant
state of storm and stress on the subject.

It was impossible to help liking such a man at first sight; and I believe
that no man in London society was more generally liked than Anthony
Trollope. There was something pathetic in his attitude as above indicated;
and a fresh and boyish quality always invested him. His artlessness was
boyish, and so were his acuteness and his transparent but somewhat belated
good-sense. He was one of those rare persons who not only have no
reserves, but who can afford to dispense with them. After he had shown you
all he had in him, you would have seen nothing that was not gentlemanly,
honest, and clean. He was a quick-tempered man, and the ardor and hurry of
his temperament made him seem more so than he really was; but he was never
more angry than he was forgiving and generous. He was hurt by little
things, and little things pleased him; he was suspicious and perverse, but
in a manner that rather endeared him to you than otherwise. Altogether, to
a casual acquaintance, who knew nothing of his personal history, he was
something of a paradox--an entertaining contradiction. The publication of
his autobiography explained many things in his character that were open to
speculation; and, indeed, the book is not only the most interesting and
amusing that its author has ever written, but it places its subject before
the reader more completely and comprehensively than most autobiographies
do. This, however, is due much less to any direct effort or intention on
the writer's part, than to the unconscious self-revelation which meets the
reader on every page. No narrative could be simpler, less artificial; and
yet, everywhere, we read between the lines, and, so to speak, discover
Anthony Trollope in spite of his efforts to discover himself to us.

The truth appears to be that the youthful Trollope, like a more famous
fellow-novelist, began the world with more kicks than half-pence. His
boyhood, he affirms, was as unhappy as that of a young gentleman could
well be, owing to a mixture of poverty and gentle standing on his father's
part, and, on his own, to "an utter lack of juvenile manhood"--whatever
that may be. His father was a lawyer, who frightened away all his clients
by his outrageous temper, and who encountered one mischance after another
until he landed himself and his family in open bankruptcy; from which they
were rescued, partly by death, which carried away four of them (including
the old gentleman), and partly by Mrs. Trollope, who, at fifty years of
age, brought out her famous book on America, and continued to make a fair
income by literature (as she called it) until 1856, when, being seventy-
six years old, and having produced one hundred and fourteen volumes, she
permitted herself to retire. This extraordinary lady, in her youth,
cherished what her son calls "an emotional dislike to tyrants"; but when
her American experience had made her acquainted with some of the seamy
aspects of democracy, and especially after the aristocracy of her own
country had begun to patronize her, she confessed the error of her early
way, "and thought that archduchesses were sweet." But she was certainly a
valiant and indefatigable woman,--"of all the people I have ever known,"
says her son, "the most joyous, or, at any rate, the most capable of joy";
and he adds that her best novels were written in 1834-35, when her husband
and four of her six children were dying upstairs of consumption, and she
had to divide her time between nursing them and writing. Assuredly, no son
of hers need apprehend the reproach--"_Tydides melior matre_"; though
Anthony, and his brother Thomas Adolphus, must, together, have run her
pretty hard. The former remarks, with that terrible complacency in an
awful fact which is one of his most noticeable and astounding traits, that
the three of them "wrote more books than were probably ever before
produced by a single family." The existence of a few more such families
could be consistent only with a generous enlargement of the British

The elder Trollope was a scholar, and to make scholars of his sons was one
of his ruling ideas. Poor little Anthony endured no less than twelve
mortal years of schooling--from the time he was seven until he was
nineteen--and declares that, in all that time, he does not remember that
he ever knew a lesson. "I have been flogged," he says, "oftener than any
other human being." Nay, his troubles began before his school-days; for
his father used to make him recite his infantile tasks to him while he was
shaving, and obliged him to sit with his head inclined in such a manner
"that he could pull my hair without stopping his razor or dropping his
shaving-brush." This is a depressing picture; and there are plenty more
like it. Dr. Butler, the master of Harrow, meeting the poor little
draggletail urchin in the yard, desired to know, in awful accents, how so
dirty a boy dared to show himself near the school! "He must have known me,
had he seen me as he was wont to see me, for he was in the habit of
flogging me constantly. Perhaps," adds his victim, "he did not recognize
me by my face!" But it is comforting to learn, in another place, that
justice overtook the oppressor. "Dr. Butler only lived to be Dean of
Peterborough; but his successor (Dr. Longley) became Archbishop of
Canterbury." There is a great deal of Trollopian morality in the fate of
these two men, the latter of whom "could not have said anything ill-
natured if he had tried."

Black care, however, continued to sit behind the horseman with harrowing
persistence. A certain Dr. Drury (another schoolmaster) punished him on
suspicion of "some nameless horror," of which the unfortunate youngster
happened to be innocent. When, afterward, the latter fact began to be
obvious, "he whispered to me half a word that perhaps he had been wrong.
But, with a boy's stupid slowness, I said nothing, and he had not the
courage to carry reparation farther." The poverty of Anthony's father
deprived the boy of all the external advantages that might have enabled
him to take rank with his fellows: and his native awkwardness and
sensitiveness widened the breach. "I had no friend to whom I could pour
out my sorrows. I was big, awkward and ugly, and, I have no doubt, skulked
about in a most unattractive manner. Something of the disgrace of my
school-days has clung to me all through life. When I have been claimed as
school-fellow by some of those many hundreds who were with me either at
Harrow or at Winchester, I have felt that I had no right to talk of things
from most of which I was kept in estrangement. I was never a coward, but
to make a stand against three hundred tyrants required a moral courage
which I did not possess." Once, however, they pushed him too far, and he
was driven to rebellion. "And then came a great fight--at the end of which
my opponent had to be taken home to be cured." And then he utters the
characteristic wish that some one, of the many who witnessed this combat,
may still be left alive "who will be able to say that, in claiming this
solitary glory of my school-days, I am making no false boast." The lonely,
lugubrious little champion! One would almost have been willing to have
received from him a black eye and a bloody nose, only to comfort his sad
heart. It is delightful to imagine the terrific earnestness of that
solitary victory: and I would like to know what boy it was (if any) who
lent the unpopular warrior a knee and wiped his face.

After he got through his school-days, his family being then abroad, he had
an offer of a commission in an Austrian cavalry regiment; and he might
have been a major-general or field-marshal at this day had his schooling
made him acquainted with the French and German languages. Being, however,
entirely ignorant of these, he was obliged to study them in order to his
admission; and while he was thus employed, he received news of a vacant
clerkship in the General Post-Office, with the dazzling salary of L90 a
year. Needless to say that he jumped at such an opening, seeing before him
a vision of a splendid civil and social career, at something over twenty
pounds a quarter. But London, even fifty years ago, was a more expensive
place than Anthony imagined. Moreover, the boy was alone in the wilderness
of the city, with no one to advise or guide him. The consequence was that
these latter days of his youth were as bad or worse than the beginning. In
reviewing his plight at this period, he observes: "I had passed my life
where I had seen gay things, but had never enjoyed them. There was no
house in which I could habitually see a lady's face or hear a lady's
voice. At the Post-Office I got credit for nothing, and was reckless. I
hated my work, and, more than all, I hated my idleness. Borrowings of
money, sometimes absolute want, and almost constant misery, followed as a
matter of course. I Had a full conviction that my life was taking me down
to the lowest pits--a feeling that I had been looked upon as an evil, an
encumbrance, a useless thing, a creature of whom those connected with me
had to be ashamed. Even my few friends were half-ashamed of me. I
acknowledge the weakness of a great desire to be loved--a strong wish to
be popular. No one had ever been less so." Under these circumstances, he
remarks that, although, no doubt, if the mind be strong enough, the
temptation will not prevail, yet he is fain to admit that the temptation
prevailed with him. He did not sit at home, after his return from the
office, in the evening, to drink tea and read, but tramped out in the
streets, and tried to see life and be jolly on L90 a year. He borrowed
four pounds of a money-lender, to augment his resources, and found, after
a few years, that he had paid him two hundred pounds for the
accommodation. He met with every variety of absurd and disastrous
adventure. The mother of a young woman with whom he had had an innocent
flirtation in the country appeared one day at his desk in the office, and
called out before all the clerks, "Anthony Trollope, when are you going to
marry my daughter?" On another occasion a sum of money was missing from
the table of the director. Anthony was summoned. The director informed him
of the loss--"and, by G--!" he continued, thundering his fist down on the
table, "no one has been in the room but you and I." "Then, by G--!" cried
Anthony, thundering _his_ fist down upon something, "you have taken it!"
This was very well; but the thing which Anthony had thumped happened to
be, not a table, but a movable desk with an inkstand on it, and the ink
flew up and deluged the face and shirt-front of the enraged director.
Still another adventure was that of the Queen of Saxony and the Half-
Crown; but the reader must investigate these matters for himself.

So far there has been nothing looking toward the novel-writer. But now we
learn that from the age of fifteen to twenty-six Anthony kept a journal,
which, he says, "convicted me of folly, ignorance, indiscretion, idleness,
and conceit, but habituated me to the rapid use of pen and ink, and taught
me how to express myself with facility." In addition to this, and more to
the purpose, he had formed an odd habit. Living, as he was forced to do,
so much to himself, if not by himself, he had to play, not with other
boys, but with himself; and his favorite play was to conceive a tale, or
series of fictitious events, and to carry it on, day after day, for months
together, in his mind. "Nothing impossible was ever introduced, or
violently improbable. I was my own hero, but I never became a king or a
duke, still less an Antinous, or six feet high. But I was a very clever
person, and beautiful young women used to be very fond of me. I learned in
this way to live in a world outside the world of my own material life."
This is pointedly, even touchingly, characteristic. Never, to the day of
his death, did Mr. Trollope either see or imagine anything impossible, or
violently improbable, in the world. This mortal plane of things never
dissolved before his gaze and revealed the mysteries of absolute Being;
his heavens were never rolled up as a scroll, and his earth had no bubbles
as the water hath. He took things as he found them; and he never found
them out. But if the light that never was on sea or land does not
illuminate the writings of Mr. Trollope, there is generally plenty of that
other kind of light with which, after all, the average reader is more
familiar, and which not a few, perhaps, prefer to the transcendental
lustre. There is no modern novelist who has more clearly than Trollope
defined to his own apprehension his own literary capabilities and
limitations. He is thoroughly acquainted with both his fortes and his
foibles; and so sound is his good sense, that he is seldom beguiled into
toiling with futile ambition after effects that are beyond him. His proper
domain is a sufficiently wide one; he is inimitably at home here; and when
he invites us there to visit him, we may be sure of getting good and
wholesome entertainment. The writer's familiarity with his characters
communicates itself imperceptibly to the reader; there are no difficult or
awkward introductions; the toning of the picture (to use the painter's
phrase) is unexceptionable; and if it be rather tinted than colored, the
tints are handled in a workmanlike manner. Again, few English novelists
seem to possess so sane a comprehension of the modes of life and thought
of the British aristocracy as Trollope. He has not only made a study of
them from the observer's point of view, but he has reasoned them out
intellectually. The figures are not vividly defined; the realism is
applied to events rather than to personages: we have the scene described
for us but we do not look upon it. We should not recognize his characters
if we saw them; but if we were told who they were, we should know, from
their author's testimony, what were their characteristic traits and how
they would act under given circumstances. The logical sequence of events
is carefully maintained; nothing happens, either for good or for evil,
other than might befall under the dispensations of a Providence no more
unjust, and no more far-sighted, than Trollope himself. There is a good
deal of the _a priori_ principle in his method; he has made up his mind as
to certain fundamental data, and thence develops or explains whatever
complication comes up for settlement. But to range about unhampered by any
theories, concerned only to examine all phenomena, and to report
thereupon, careless of any considerations save those of artistic
propriety, would have been vanity and striving after wind to Trollope, and
derivatively so, doubtless, to his readers.

Considered in the abstract, it is a curious question what makes his novels
interesting. The reader knows, in a sense, just what is in store for him,
--or, rather, what is not. There will be no astonishment, no curdling
horror, no consuming suspense. There may be, perhaps, as many murders,
forgeries, foundlings, abductions, and missing wills, in Trollope's novels
as in any others; but they are not told about in a manner to alarm us; we
accept them philosophically; there are paragraphs in our morning paper
that excite us more. And yet they are narrated with art, and with dramatic
effect. They are interesting, but not uncourteously--not exasperatingly
so; and the strangest part of it is that the introductory and intermediate
passages are no less interesting, under Trollope's treatment, than are the
murders and forgeries. Not only does he never offend the modesty of
nature,--he encourages her to be prudish, and trains her to such evenness
and severity of demeanor that we never know when we have had enough of
her. His touch is eminently civilizing; everything, from the episodes to
the sentences, moves without hitch or creak: we never have to read a
paragraph twice, and we are seldom sorry to have read it once.

Amusingly characteristic of Trollope is his treatment of his villains. His
attitude toward them betrays no personal uncharitableness or animosity,
but the villain has a bad time of it just the same. Trollope places upon
him a large, benevolent, but unyielding forefinger, and says to us:
"Remark, if you please, how this inferior reptile squirms when pressure is
applied to him. I will now augment the pressure. You observe that the
squirmings increase in energy and complexity. Now, if you please, I will
bear down yet a little harder. Do not be alarmed, madam; the reptile
undoubtedly suffers, but the spectacle may do us some good, and you may
trust me not to let him do you any harm. There!--Yes, evisceration by
means of pressure is beyond question painful; but every one must have
observed the benevolence of my forefinger during the operation; and I
fancy even the subject of the experiment (were he in a condition to
express his sentiments) would have admitted as much. Thank you, ladies and
gentlemen. I shall have the pleasure of meeting you again very shortly.
John, another reptile, please!" Upon the whole, it is much to Trollope's
credit that he wrote somewhere about fifty long novels; and to the credit
of the English people that they paid him three hundred and fifty thousand
dollars for these novels--and read them!

But his success as a man of letters was still many years in the future.
After seven years in the London office, he went to Ireland as assistant
surveyor, and thenceforward he began to enjoy his business, and to get on
in it. He was paid sixpence a mile, and he would ride forty miles a day.
He rode to hounds, incidentally, whenever he got a chance, and he kept up
the practice, with enthusiasm, to within a few years of his death. "It
will, I think, be accorded to me," he says, "that I have ridden hard. I
know very little about hunting; I am blind, very heavy, and I am now old;
but I ride with a boy's energy, hating the roads, and despising young men
who ride them; and I feel that life cannot give me anything better than
when I have gone through a long run to the finish, keeping a place, not of
glory, but of credit, among my juniors." Riding, working, having a jolly
time, and gradually increasing his income, he lived until 1842, when he
became engaged; and he was married on June 11, 1844. "I ought to name that
happy day," he declares, "as the commencement of my better life." It was
at about this date, also, that he began and finished, not without delay
and procrastination, his first novel. Curiously enough, he affirms that he
did not doubt his own intellectual sufficiency to write a readable novel:
"What I did doubt was my own industry, and the chances of a market."
Never, surely, was self-distrust more unfounded. As for the first novel,
he sent it to his mother, to dispose of as best she could; and it never
brought him anything, except a perception that it was considered by his
friends to be "an unfortunate aggravation of the family disease." During
the ensuing ten years, this view seemed to be not unreasonable, for, in
all that time, though he worked hard, he earned by literature no more than
L55. But, between 1857 and 1860, he received for various novels, from L100
to L1000 each; and thereafter, L3000 or more was his regular price for a
story in three volumes. As he maintained his connection with the post-
office until 1867, he was in receipt of an income of L4500, "of which I
spent two-thirds and put by one." We should be doing an injustice to Mr.
Trollope to omit these details, which he gives so frankly; for, as he
early informs us, "my first object in taking to literature was to make an
income on which I and those belonging to me might live in comfort." Nor
will he let us forget that novel-writing, to him, was not so much an art,
or even a profession, as a trade, in which all that can be asked of a man
is that he shall be honest and punctual, turning out good average work,
and the more the better. "The great secret consists in"--in what?--why,
"in acknowledging myself to be bound to rules of labor similar to those
which an artisan or mechanic is forced to obey." There may be, however,
other incidental considerations. "I have ever thought of myself as a
preacher of sermons, and my pulpit as one I could make both salutary and
agreeable to my audience"; and he tells us that he has used some of his
novels for the expression of his political and social convictions. Again--
"The novelist must please, and he must teach; a good novel should be both
realistic and sensational in the highest degree." He says that he sees no
reason why two or three good novels should not be written at the same
time; and that, for his own part, he was accustomed to write two hundred
and fifty words every fifteen minutes, by the watch, during his working
hours. Nor does he mind letting us know that when he sits down to write a
novel, he neither knows nor cares how it is to end. And finally, one is a
little startled to hear him say, epigrammatically, that a writer should
not have to tell a story, but should have a story to tell. Beyond a doubt,
Anthony Trollope is something of a paradox.

The world has long ago passed its judgment on his stories, but it is
interesting, all the same, to note his own opinion of them; and though
never arrogant, he is generally tolerant, if not genial. "A novel should
be a picture of common life, enlivened by humor and sweetened by pathos. I
have never fancied myself to be a man of genius," he says; but again, with
strange imperviousness, "A small daily task, if it be daily, will beat the
labors of a spasmodic Hercules." Beat them, how? Why, in quantity. But how
about quality? Is the travail of a work of art the same thing as the
making of a pair of shoes? Emerson tells us that--

"Ever the words of the gods resound,
But the porches of man's ear
Seldom, in this low life's round,
Are unsealed, that he may hear."

No one disputes, however, that you may hear the tapping of the cobbler's
hammer at any time.

To the view of the present writer, how much good soever Mr. Trollope may
have done as a preacher and moralist, he has done great harm to English
fictitious literature by his novels; and it need only be added, in this
connection, that his methods and results in novel-writing seem best to be
explained by that peculiar mixture of separateness and commonplaceness
which we began by remarking in him. The separateness has given him the
standpoint whence he has been able to observe and describe the
commonplaceness with which (in spite of his separateness) he is in vital

But Trollope the man is the abundant and consoling compensation for
Trollope the novelist; and one wishes that his books might have died, and
he lived on indefinitely. It is charming to read of his life in London
after his success in the _Cornhill Magazine_. "Up to that time I had lived
very little among men. It was a festival to me to dine at the 'Garrick.' I
think I became popular among those with whom I associated. I have ever
wished to be liked by those around me--a wish that during the first half
of my life was never gratified." And, again, in summing up his life, he
says: "I have betrayed no woman. Wine has brought to me no sorrow. It has
been the companionship, rather than the habit of smoking that I loved. I
have never desired to win money, and I have lost none. To enjoy the
excitement of pleasure, but to be free from its vices and ill-effects--to
have the sweet, and to leave the bitter untasted--that has been my study.
I will not say that I have never scorched a finger; but I carry no ugly

A man who, at the end of his career, could make such a profession as this
--who felt the need of no further self-vindication than this--such a man,
whatever may have been his accountability to the muse of Fiction, is a
credit to England and to human nature, and deserves to be numbered among
the darlings of mankind. It was an honor to be called his friend; and what
his idea of friendship was, may be learned from the passage in which he
speaks of his friend Millais--with the quotation of which this paper may
fitly be concluded:--

"To see him has always been a pleasure; his voice has always been a sweet
sound in my ears. Behind his back I have never heard him praised without
joining the eulogist; I have never heard a word spoken against him without
opposing the censurer. These words, should he ever see them, will come to
him from the grave, and will tell him of my regard--as one living man
never tells another."



Before criticising Mr. Mallock's little essay, let us summarize its
contents. The author begins with an analysis of the aims, the principles,
and the "pseudo-science" of modern Democracy. Having established the evil
and destructive character of these things, he sets himself to show by
logical argument that the present state of social inequality, which
Democrats wish to disturb, is a natural and wholesome state; that the
continuance of civilization is dependent upon it; and that it could only
be overturned by effecting a radical change--not in human institutions,
but in human character. The desire for inequality is inherent in the human
character; and in order to prove this statement, Mr. Mallock proceeds to
affirm that there is such a thing as a science of human character; that of
this science he is the discoverer; and that the application of this
science to the question at issue will demonstrate the integrity of Mr.
Mallock's views, and the infirmity of all others. In the ensuing chapters
the application is made, and at the end the truth of the proposition is
declared established.

This is the outline; but let us note some of the details. Mr. Mallock
asserts (Chap. I.) that the aim of modern Democracy is to overturn "all
that has hitherto been connected with high-breeding or with personal
culture"; and that "to call the Democrats a set of thieves and
confiscators is merely to apply names to them which they have no wish to
repudiate." He maintains (Chap. II.) that the first and foremost of the
Democratic principles is "that the perfection of society involves social
equality"; and that "the luxury of one man means the deprivation of
another." He credits the Democrats with arguing that "the means of
producing equality are a series of changes in existing institutions"; that
"by changing the institutions of a society we are able to change its
structure"; that "the cause of the distribution of wealth" is "laws and
forms of government"; and that "the wealthy classes, as such, are
connected with wealth in no other way but as the accidental appropriators
of it." In his third chapter he tells us that "the entire theory of modern
Democracy ... depends on the doctrine that the cause of wealth is labor";
that Democrats believe we "may count on a man to labor, just as surely as
we may count on a man to eat"; that "the man who does not labor is
supported by the man who does"; and that the pseudo-science of modern
Democracy "starts with the conception of man as containing in himself a
natural tendency to labor." And here Mr. Mallock's statement of his
opponent's position ends.

In the fourth chapter we are brought within sight of "The Missing
Substitute." "A man's character," we are told, "divides into his desires
on the one hand, and his capacities on the other"; and it is observed that
"various as are men's desires and capacities, yet if talent and ambition
commanded no more than idleness and stupidity, all men practically would
be idle and stupid." "Men's capacities," we are reminded, "are practically
unequal, because they develop their own potential inequalities; they do
this because they desire to place themselves in unequal external
circumstances,--which result the condition of society renders possible."

Coming now to the Science of Human Character itself, we find that it
"asserts a permanent relationship to exist between human character and
social inequality"; and the author then proceeds at some length to show
how near Herbert Spencer, Buckle, and other social and economic
philosophers, came to stumbling over his missing science, and yet avoided
doing so. Nevertheless, argues Mr. Mallock, "if there be such a thing as a
social science, or a science of history, there must be also a science of
biography"; and this science, though it "cannot show us how any special
man will act in the future," yet, if "any special action be given us, it
can show us that it was produced by a special motive; and conversely, that
if the special motive be wanting, the special action is sure to be wanting
also." As an example how to distinguish between those traits of human
character which are available for scientific purposes, and those which are
not, Mr. Mallock instances a mob, which temporarily acts together for some
given purpose: the individual differences of character then "cancel out,"
and only points of agreement are left. Proceeding to the sixth chapter, he
applies himself to setting to rest the scruples of those who find
something cynical in the idea that the desire for Inequality is compatible
with a respectable form of human character. It is true, he says, that man
does not live by bread alone; but he denies that he means to say "that all
human activity is motived by the desire for inequality"; he would assert
that only "of all productive labor, except the lowest." The only actions
independent of the desire for inequality, however, are those performed in
the name of art, science, philanthropy, and religion; and even in these
cases, so far as the actions are not motived by a desire for inequality,
they are not of productive use; and _vice versa_. In the remaining
chapters, which we must dismiss briefly, we meet with such statements as
"labor has been produced by an artificial creation of want of food, and by
then supplying the want on certain conditions"; that "civilization has
always been begun by an oppressive minority"; that "progress depends on
certain gifted individuals," and therefore social equality would destroy
progress; that inequality influences production by existing as an object
of desire and as a means of pressure; that the evils of poverty are caused
by want, not by inequality; and that, finally, equality is not the goal of
progress, but of retrogression; that inequality is not an accidental evil
of civilization, but the cause of its development; the distance of the
poor from the rich is not the cause of the former's poverty as distinct
from riches, but of their civilized competence as distinct from barbarism;
and that the apparent changes in the direction of equality recorded in
history, have been, in reality, none other than "a more efficient
arrangement of inequalities."

* * * * *

Now, let us inquire what all this ingenious prattle about Inequality and
the Science of Human Character amounts to. What does Mr. Mallock expect?
His book has been out six months, and still Democracy exists. But does any
such Democracy as he combats exist, or could it conceivably exist? Have
his investigations of the human character failed to inform him that one of
the strongest natural instincts of man's nature is immovably opposed to
anything like an equal distribution of existing wealth?--because whoever
owns anything, if it be only a coat, wishes to keep it; and that wish
makes him aware that his fellow-man will wish to keep, and will keep at
all hazards, whatever things belong to him. What Democrats really desire
is to enable all men to have an equal chance to obtain wealth, instead of
being, as is largely the case now, hampered and kept down by all manner of
legal and arbitrary restrictions. As for the "desire for Inequality," it
seems to exist chiefly in Mr. Mallock's imagination. Who does desire it?
Does the man who "strikes" for higher wages desire it? Let us see. A
strike, to be successful, must be not an individual act, but the act of a
large body of men, all demanding the same thing--an increase in wages. If
they gain their end, no difference has taken place in their mutual
position; and their position in regard to their employers is altered only
in that an approach has been made toward greater equality with the latter.
And so in other departments of human effort: the aim, which the man who
wishes to better his position sets before himself, is not to rise head and
shoulders above his equals, but to equal his superiors. And as to the
Socialist schemes for the reorganization of society, they imply, at most,
a wish to see all men start fair in the race of life, the only advantages
allowed being not those of rank or station, but solely of innate capacity.
And the reason the Socialist desires this is, because he believes, rightly
or wrongly, that many inefficient men are, at present, only artificially
protected from betraying their inefficiency; and that many efficient men
are only artificially prevented from showing their efficiency; and that
the fair start he proposes would not result in keeping all men on a dead
level, but would simply put those in command who had a genuine right to be

* * * * *

But this is taxing Mr. Mallock too seriously: he has not written in
earnest. But, as his uncle, Mr. Froude, said, when reading "The New
Republic,"--"The rogue is clever!" He has read a good deal, he has an
active mind, a smooth redundancy of expression, a talent for caricature, a
fondness for epigram and paradox, a useful shallowness, and an amusing
impudence. He has no practical knowledge of mankind, no experience of
life, no commanding point of view, and no depth of insight. He has no
conception of the meaning and quality of the problems with whose exterior
aspects he so prettily trifles. He has constructed a Science of Human
Character without for one moment being aware that, for instance, human
character and human nature are two distinct things; and that, furthermore,
the one is everything that the other is not. As little is he conscious of
the significance of the words "society" and "civilization"; nor can he
explain whether, or why, either of them is desirable or undesirable, good
or bad. He has never done, and (judging from his published works) we do
not believe him capable of doing, any analytical or constructive thinking;
at most, as in the present volume, he turns a few familiar objects upside
down, and airily invites his audience to believe that he has thereby
earned the name of Discoverer, if not of Creator.



On an accessible book-shelf in my library, stand side by side four volumes
whose contents I once knew by heart, and which, after the lapse of twenty
years, are yet tolerably distinct in my memory. These are stoutly bound in
purple muslin, with a stamp, of Persian design apparently, on the centre
of each cover. They are stained and worn, and the backs have faded to a
brownish hue, from exposure to the light, and a leaf in one of the volumes
has been torn across; but the paper and the sewing and the clear bold type
are still as serviceable as ever. The books seem to have been made to
last,--to stand a great deal of reading. Contrasted with the aesthetically
designed covers one sees nowadays, they would be considered inexcusably
ugly, and the least popular novelist of our time would protest against
having his lucubrations presented to the public in such plain attire.
Nevertheless, on turning to the title-pages, you may see imprinted, on the
first, "Fourteenth Edition"; on the second, "Twelfth Edition"; and on the
others, indications somewhat less magnificent, but still evidence of very
exceptional circulation. The date they bear is that of the first years of
our civil war; and the first published of them is prefaced by a
biographical memoir of the author, written by his friend George William
Curtis. This memoir was originally printed in the _Atlantic Monthly_, two
or three months after the death of its subject, Theodore Winthrop.

For these books,--three novels, and one volume of records of travel,--came
from his hand, though they did not see the light until after he had passed
beyond the sphere of authors and publishers. At that time, the country was
in an exalted and heroic mood, and the men who went to fight its battles
were regarded with a personal affection by no means restricted to their
personal acquaintances. Their names were on all lips, and those of them
who fell were mourned by multitudes instead of by individuals. Winthrop's
historic name, and the influential position of some of his nearest
friends, would have sufficed to bring into unusual prominence his brief
career and his fate as a soldier, even had his intrinsic qualities and
character been less honorable and winning than they were. But he was a
type of a young American such as America is proud to own. He was high-
minded, refined, gifted, handsome. I recollect a portrait of him published
soon after his death,--a photograph, I think, from a crayon drawing; an
eloquent, sensitive, rather melancholy, but manly and courageous face,
with grave eyes, the mouth veiled by a long moustache. It was the kind of
countenance one would wish our young heroes to have. When, after the
catastrophe at Great Bethel, it became known that Winthrop had left
writings behind him, it would have been strange indeed had not every one
felt a desire to read them.

Moreover, he had already begun to be known as a writer. It was during
1860, I believe, that a story of his, in two instalments, entitled "Love
on Skates," appeared in the "Atlantic." It was a brilliant and graphic
celebration of the art of skating, engrafted on a love-tale as full of
romance and movement as could be desired. Admirably told it was, as I
recollect it; crisp with the healthy vigor of American wintry atmosphere,
with bright touches of humor, and, here and there, passages of sentiment,
half tender, half playful. It was something new in our literature, and
gave promise of valuable work to come. But the writer was not destined to
fulfil the promise. In the next year, from the camp of his regiment, he
wrote one or two admirable descriptive sketches, touching upon the
characteristic points of the campaigning life which had just begun; but,
before the last of these had become familiar to the "Atlantic's" readers,
it was known that it would be the last. Theodore Winthrop had been killed.

He was only in his thirty-third year. He was born in New Haven, and had
entered Yale College with the class of '48. The Delta Kappa Epsilon
Fraternity was, I believe, founded in the year of his admission, and he
must, therefore, have been among its earliest members. He was
distinguished as a scholar, and the traces of his classic and
philosophical acquirements are everywhere visible in his books. During the
five or six years following his graduation, he travelled abroad, and in
the South and West; a wild frontier life had great attractions for him, as
he who reads "John Brent" and "The Canoe and the Saddle" need not be told.
He tried his hand at various things, but could settle himself to no
profession,--an inability which would have excited no remark in England,
which has had time to recognize the value of men of leisure, as such; but
which seems to have perplexed some of his friends in this country. Be that
as it may, no one had reason to complain of lack of energy and promptness
on his part when patriotism revealed a path to Winthrop. He knew that the
time for him had come; but he had also known that the world is not yet so
large that all men, at all times, can lay their hands upon the work that
is suitable for them to do.

Let us, however, return to the novels. They appear to have been written
about 1856 and 1857, when their author was twenty-eight or nine years old.
Of the order in which they were composed I have no record; but, judging
from internal evidence, I should say that "Edwin Brothertoft" came first,
then "Cecil Dreeme," and then "John Brent." The style, and the quality of
thought, in the latter is more mature than in the others, and its tone is
more fresh and wholesome. In the order of publication, "Cecil Dreeme" was
first, and seems also to have been most widely read; then "John Brent,"
and then "Edwin Brothertoft," the scene of which was laid in the last
century. I remember seeing, at the house of James T. Fields, their
publisher, the manuscripts of these books, carefully bound and preserved.
They were written on large ruled letter-paper, and the handwriting was
very large, and had a considerable slope. There were scarcely any
corrections or erasures; but it is possible that Winthrop made clean
copies of his stories after composing them. Much of the dialogue,
especially, bears evidence of having been revised, and of the author's
having perhaps sacrificed ease and naturalness, here and there, to the
craving for conciseness which has been one of the chief stumbling-blocks
in the way of our young writers. He wished to avoid heaviness and
"padding," and went to the other extreme. He wanted to cut loose from the
old, stale traditions of composition, and to produce something which
should be new, not only in character and significance, but in manner of
presentation. He had the ambition of the young Hafiz, who professed a
longing to "tear down this tiresome old sky." But the old sky has good
reasons for being what and where it is, and young radicals finally come to
perceive that, regarded from the proper point of view, and in the right
spirit, it is not so tiresome after all. Divine Revelation itself can be
expressed in very moderate and commonplace language; and if one's thoughts
are worth thinking, they are worth clothing in adequate and serene attire.

But "culture," and literature with it, have made such surprising advances
of late, that we are apt to forget how really primitive and unenlightened
the generation was in which Winthrop wrote. Imagine a time when Mr. Henry
James, Jr., and Mr. W. D. Howells had not been heard of; when Bret Harte
was still hidden below the horizon of the far West; when no one suspected
that a poet named Aldrich would ever write a story called "Marjorie Daw";
when, in England, "Adam Bede" and his successors were unborn;--a time of
antiquity so remote, in short, that the mere possibility of a discussion
upon the relative merit of the ideal and the realistic methods of fiction
was undreamt of! What had an unfortunate novelist of those days to fall
back upon? Unless he wished to expatriate himself, and follow submissively
in the well worn steps of Dickens, Thackeray, and Trollope, the only
models he could look to were Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Foe, James
Fenimore Cooper, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. "Elsie Venner" had scarcely made
its appearance at that date. Irving and Cooper were, on the other hand,
somewhat antiquated. Poe and Hawthorne were men of very peculiar genius,
and, however deep the impression they have produced on our literature,
they have never had, because they never can have, imitators. As for the
author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," she was a woman in the first place, and, in
the second place, she sufficiently filled the field she had selected. A
would-be novelist, therefore, possessed of ambition, and conscious of not
being his own father or grandfather, saw an untrodden space before him,
into which he must plunge without support and without guide. No wonder if,
at the outset, he was a trifle awkward and ill-at-ease, and, like a raw
recruit under fire, appeared affected from the very desire he felt to look
unconcerned. It is much to his credit that he essayed the venture at all;
and it is plain to be seen that, with each forward step he took, his self-
possession and simplicity increased. If time had been given him, there is
no reason to doubt that he might have been standing at the head of our
champions of fiction to-day.

But time was not given him, and his work, like all other work, if it is to
be judged at all, must be judged on its merits. He excelled most in
passages descriptive of action; and the more vigorous and momentous the
action, the better, invariably, was the description; he rose to the
occasion, and was not defeated by it. Partly for this reason, "Cecil
Dreeme," the most popular of his books, seems to me the least meritorious
of them all. The story has little movement; it stagnates round Chrysalis
College. The love intrigue is morbid and unwholesome, and the characters
(which are seldom Winthrop's strong point) are more than usually
artificial and unnatural. The _dramatis personae_ are, indeed, little more
than moral or immoral principles incarnate. There is no growth in them, no
human variableness or complexity; it is "Every Man in his Humor" over
again, with the humor left out. Densdeth is an impossible rascal; Churm, a
scarcely more possible Rhadamanthine saint. Cecil Dreeme herself never
fully recovers from the ambiguity forced upon her by her masculine attire;
and Emma Denman could never have been both what we are told she was, and
what she is described as being. As for Robert Byng, the supposed narrator
of the tale, his name seems to have been given him in order wantonly to
increase the confusion caused by the contradictory traits with which he is
accredited. The whole atmosphere of the story is unreal, fantastic,
obscure. An attempt is made to endow our poor, raw New York with something
of the stormy and ominous mystery of the immemorial cities of Europe. The
best feature of the book (morbidness aside) is the construction of the
plot, which shows ingenuity and an artistic perception of the value of
mystery and moral compensation. It recalls, in some respects, the design
of Hawthorne's "Blithedale Romance,"--that is, had the latter never been
written, the former would probably have been written differently. In spite
of its faults, it is an interesting book, and, to the critical eye, there
are in almost every chapter signs that indicate the possession of no
ordinary gifts on the author's part. But it may be doubted whether the
special circumstances under which it was published had not something to do
with its wide popularity. I imagine "John Brent" to have been really much
more popular, in the better sense; it was read and liked by a higher class
of readers. It is young ladies and school-girls who swell the numbers of
an "edition," and hence the difficulty in arguing from this as to the
literary merit of the book itself.

"Edwin Brothertoft," though somewhat disjointed in construction, and jerky
in style, is yet a picturesque and striking story; and the gallop of the
hero across country and through the night to rescue from the burning house
the woman who had been false to him, is vigorously described, and gives us
some foretaste of the thrill of suspense and excitement we feel in reading
the story of the famous "Gallop of three" in "John Brent." The writer's
acquaintance with the history of the period is adequate, and a romantic
and chivalrous tone is preserved throughout the volume. It is worth noting
that, in all three of Winthrop's novels, a horse bears a part in the
crisis of the tale. In "Cecil Dreeme" it is Churm's pair of trotters that
convey the party of rescuers to the private Insane Asylum in which
Densdeth had confined the heroine. In "Edwin Brothertoft," it is one of
Edwin's renowned breed of white horses that carries him through almost
insuperable obstacles to his goal. In "John Brent," the black stallion,
Don Fulano, who is throughout the chief figure in the book, reaches his
apogee in the tremendous race across the plains and down the rocky gorge
of the mountains, to where the abductors of the heroine are just about to
pitch their camp at the end of their day's journey. The motive is fine and
artistic, and, in each of the books, these incidents are as good as, or
better then, anything else in the narrative.

"John Brent" is, in fact, full enough of merit to more than redeem its
defects. The self-consciousness of the writer is less noticeable than in
the other works, and the effort to be epigrammatic, short, sharp, and
"telling" in style, is considerably modified. The interest is lively,
continuous, and cumulative; and there is just enough tragedy in the story
to make the happy ending all the happier. It was a novel and adventurous
idea to make a horse the hero of a tale, and the manner in which the idea
is carried out more than justifies the hazard. Winthrop, as we know, was
an ideal horseman, and knows what he is writing about. He contrives to
realize Don Fulano for us, in spite of the almost supernatural powers and
intelligence that he ascribes to the gallant animal. One is willing to
stretch a point of probability when such a dashing and inspiring end is in
view. In the present day we are getting a little tired of being brought to
account, at every turn, by Old Prob., who tyrannizes over literature quite
as much as over the weather. Theodore Winthrop's inspiration, in this
instance at least, was strong and genuine enough to enable him to feel
what he was telling as the truth, and therefore it produces an effect of
truth upon the reader. How distinctly every incident of that ride remains
stamped on the memory, even after so long an interval as has elapsed since
it was written! And I recollect that one of the youthful devourers of this
book, who was of an artistic turn, was moved to paint three little water-
color pictures of the Gallop; the first showing the three horses,--the
White, the Gray, and the Black, scouring across the prairie, towards the
barrier of mountains behind which the sun was setting; the second
depicting Don Fulano, with Dick Wade and John Brent on his back, plunging
down the gorge upon the abductors, one of whom had just pulled the trigger
of his rifle; while the third gives the scene in which the heroic horse
receives his death-wound in carrying the fugitive across the creek away
from his pursuers. At this distance of time, I am unable to bear any
testimony as to the technical value of the little pictures; I am inclined
to fancy that they would have to be taken _cum grano amoris_, as they
certainly were executed _con amore_. But, however that may be, the
instance (which was doubtless only one of many analogous to it) shows that
Winthrop possessed the faculty of stimulating and electrifying the
imagination of his readers, which all our recent improvements in the art
and artifice of composition have not made too common, and for which, if
for nothing else, we might well feel indebted to him.



It is not with Americans as with other peoples. Our position is more vague
and difficult, because it is not primarily related to the senses. I can
easily find out where England or Prussia is, and recognize an Englishman
or German when we meet; but we Americans are not, to the same extent as
these, limited by geographical and physical boundaries. The origin of
America was not like that of the European nations; the latter were born
after the flesh, but we after the spirit. It is of the first consequence
to them that their frontiers should be defended, and their nationality
kept distinct. But, though I esteem highly all our innumerable square
miles of East and West, North and South, and our Pacific and Atlantic
coasts, I cannot help deeming them quite a secondary consideration. If
America is not a great deal more than these United States, then the United
States are no better than a penal colony. It is convenient, no doubt, for
a great idea to find a great embodiment--a suitable incarnation and stage;
but the idea does not depend upon these things. It is an accidental--or, I
would rather say, a Providential--matter that the Puritans came to New
England, or that Columbus discovered the continent in time for them; but
it has always happened that when a soul is born it finds a body ready
fitted to it. The body, however, is an instrument merely; it enables the
spirit to take hold of its mortal life, just as the hilt enables us to
grasp the sword. If the Puritans had not come to New England, still the
spirit that animated them would have lived, and made itself a place
somehow. And, in fact, how many Puritans, for how many ages previous, had
been trying to find standing-room in the world, and failed! They called
themselves by many names; their voices were heard in many countries; the
time had not yet come for them to be born--to touch their earthly
inheritance; but, meantime, the latent impetus was accumulating, and the
Mayflower was driven across the Atlantic by it at last. Nor is this all--
the Mayflower is sailing still between the old world and the new. Every
day it brings new settlers, if not to our material harbors--to our Boston
Bay, our Castle Garden, our Golden Gate--at any rate, to our mental ports
and wharves. We cannot take up a European newspaper without finding an
American idea in it. It is said that a great many of our countrymen take
the steamer to England every summer. But they come back again; and they
bring with them many who come to stay. I do not refer specially to the
occupants of the steerage--the literal emigrants. One cannot say much
about them--they may be Americans or not, as it turns out. But England and
the continent are full of Americans who were born there, and many of whom
will die there. Sometimes they are better Americans than the New Yorker or
the Bostonian who lives in Beacon Street or the Bowery and votes in the
elections. They may be born and reside where they please, but they belong
to us, and, in the better sense, they are among us. Broadway and
Washington Street, Vermont and Colorado extend all over Europe. Russia is
covered with them; she tries to shove them away to Siberia, but in vain.
We call mountains and prairies solid facts; but the geography of the mind
is infinitely more stubborn. I dare say there are a great many oblique-
eyed, pig-tailed New Englanders in the Celestial Empire. They may never
have visited these shores, or even heard of them; but what of that? They
think our thought--they have apprehended our idea, and, by and by, they or
their heirs will cause it to prevail.

It is useless for us to hide our heads in the grass and refuse to rise to
the height of our occasion. We are here as the realization of a truth--the
fulfilment of a prophecy; we must attest a new departure in the moral and
intellectual development of the human race; for whichever of us does not,
must suffer annihilation. If I deny my birthright as an American, I shall
disappear and not be missed, for an American will take my place. It is not
altogether a luxurious position to find yourself in. You cannot sit still
and hold your hands. All manner of hard and unpleasant things are expected
of you, which you neglect at your peril. It is like the old fable of the
mermaid. She loved a mortal youth, and, in order that she might win his
affection, she prayed that she might have the limbs and feet of a human
maiden. Her prayer was answered, and she met her prince; but every step
she took was as if she trod on razors. It is a fine thing to sit in your
chair and reflect on being an American; but when you have to rise up and
do an American's duty before the world--how sharp the razors are!

Of course, we do not always endure the test; the flesh and blood on this
side of the planet is not, so far as I have observed, of a quality
essentially different from that on the other. Possibly our population is
too many for us. Out of fifty million people it would be strange if here
and there one appeared who was not at all points a hero. Indeed, I am
sometimes tempted to think that that little band of original Mayflower
Pilgrims has not greatly multiplied since their disembarkation. However it
may be with their bodily offspring, their spiritual progeny are not
invariably found in the chair of the Governor or on the floor of the
Senate. What are these Irish fellow-creatures doing here? Well, Bridget
serves us in the kitchen; but Patrick is more helpful yet; he goes to the
legislature, and is the servant of the people at large. It is very
obliging of him; but turn and turn about is fair play; and it would be no
more than justice were we, once in a while, to take off our coat and serve
Patrick in the same way.

When we get into a tight place we are apt to try to slip out of it under
some plea of a European precedent. But it used to be supposed that it was
precisely European precedents that we came over here to avoid. I am not
profoundly versed in political economy, nor is this the time or place to
discuss its principles; but, as regards protection, for example, I can
conceive that there may be arguments against it as well as for it. Emerson
used to say that the way to conquer the foreign artisan was not to kill
him but to beat his work. He also pointed out that the money we made out
of the European wars, at the beginning of this century, had the result of
bringing the impoverished population of those countries down upon us in
the shape of emigrants. They shared our crops and went on the poor-rates,
and so we did not gain so much after all. One cannot help wishing that
America would assume the loftiest possible ground in her political and
commercial relations. With all due respect to the sagacity and ability of
our ruling demagogues, I should not wish them to be quoted as typical
Americans. The domination of such persons has an effect which is by no
means measurable by their personal acts. What they can do is of
infinitesimal importance. But the mischief is that they incline every one
of us to believe, as Emerson puts it, in two gods. They make the morality
of Wall Street and the White House seem to be a different thing from that
of our parlors and nurseries. "He may be a little shady on 'change," we
say, "but he is a capital fellow when you know him." But if he is a
capital fellow when I know him, then I shall never find much fault with
his professional operations, and shall end, perhaps, by allowing him to
make some investments for me. Why should not I be a capital fellow too--
and a fellow of capital, to boot! I can endure public opprobrium with
tolerable equanimity so long as it remains public. It is the private cold
looks that trouble me.

In short, we may speak of America in two senses--either meaning the
America that actually meets us at the street corners and in the
newspapers, or the ideal America--America as it ought to be. They are not
the same thing; and, at present, there seems to be a good deal more of the
former than of the latter. And yet, there is a connection between them;
the latter has made the former possible. We sometimes see a great crowd
drawn together by proclamation, for some noble purpose--to decide upon a
righteous war, or to pass a just decree. But the people on the outskirts
of the crowd, finding themselves unable to hear the orators, and their
time hanging idle on their hands, take to throwing stones, knocking off
hats, or, perhaps, picking pockets. They may have come to the meeting with
as patriotic or virtuous intentions as the promoters themselves; nay,
under more favorable circumstances, they might themselves have become
promoters. Virtue and patriotism are not private property; at certain
times any one may possess them. And, on the other hand, we have seen
examples enough, of late, of persons of the highest respectability and
trust turning out, all at once, to be very sorry scoundrels. A man changes
according to the person with whom he converses; and though the outlook is
rather sordid to-day, we have not forgotten that during the Civil War the
air seemed full of heroism. So that these two Americas--the real and the
ideal--far apart though they may be in one sense, may, in another sense,
be as near together as our right hand to our left. In a greater or less
degree, they exist side by side in each one of us. But civil wars do not
come every day; nor can we wish them to, even to show us once more that we
are worthy of our destiny. We must find some less expensive and quieter
method of reminding ourselves of that. And of such methods, none, perhaps,
is better than to review the lives of Americans who were truly great; to
ask what their country meant to them; what they wished her to become; what
virtues and what vices they detected in her. Passion may be generous, but
passion cannot last; and when it is over, we are cold and indifferent
again. But reason and example reach us when we are calm and passive; and
what they inculcate is more likely to abide. At least, it will be only
evil passion that can cast it out.

I have said that many a true American is doubtless born, and lives,
abroad; but that does not prevent Emerson from having been born here. So
far as the outward accidents of generation and descent go, he could not
have been more American than he was. Of course, one prefers that it should
be so. A rare gem should be fitly set. A noble poem should be printed with
the fairest type of the Riverside Press, and upon fine paper with wide
margins. It helps us to believe in ourselves to be told that Emerson's
ancestry was not only Puritan, but clerical; that the central and vital
thread of the idea that created us, ran through his heart. The nation, and
even New England, Massachusetts, Boston, have many traits that are not
found in him; but there is nothing in him that is not a refinement, a
sublimation and concentration of what is good in them; and the selection
and grouping of the elements are such that he is a typical figure. Indeed,
he is all type; which is the same as saying that there is nobody like him.
And, mentally, he produces the impression of being all force; in his
writings, his mind seems to have acted immediately, without natural
impediment or friction; as if a machine should be run that was not
hindered by the contact of its parts. As he was physically lean and narrow
of figure, and his face nothing but so many features welded together, so
there was no adipose tissue in his thought. It is pure, clear, and
accurate, and has the fault of dryness; but often moves in forms of
exquisite beauty. It is not adhesive; it sticks to nothing, nor anything
to it; after ranging through all the various philosophies of the world, it
comes out as clean and characteristic as ever. It has numberless
affinities, but no adhesion; it does not even adhere to itself. There are
many separate statements in any one of his essays which present no logical
continuity; but although this fact has caused great anxiety to many
disciples of Emerson, it never troubled him. It was the inevitable result
of his method of thought. Wandering at will in the flower-garden of
religious and moral philosophy, it was his part to pluck such blossoms as
he saw were beautiful; not to find out their botanical interconnection. He
would afterward arrange them, for art or harmony's sake, according to
their color or their fragrance; but it was not his affair to go any
farther in their classification.

This intuitive method of his, however little it may satisfy those who wish
to have all their thinking done for them, who desire not only to have
given to them all the cities of the earth, but also to have straight roads
built for them from one to the other, carries with it its own
justification. "There is but one reason," is Emerson's saying; and again
and again does he prove without proving it. We confess, over and over,
that the truth which he asserts is indeed a truth. Even his own variations
from the truth, when he is betrayed into them, serve to confirm the rule.
For these are seldom or never intuitions at first hand--pure intuitions;
but, as it were, intuitions from previous intuitions--deductions. The form
of statement is the same, but the source is different; they are from
Emerson, instead of from the Absolute; tinted, not colorless. They show a
mental bias, very slight, but redeeming him back to humanity. We love him
the more for them, because they indicate that for him, too, there was a
choice of ways, and that he must struggle and watch to choose the right.

We are so much wedded to systems, and so accustomed to connect a system
with a man, that the absence of system, either explicit or implicit, in
Emerson, strikes us as a defect. And yet truth has no system, nor the
human mind. This philosopher maintains one, that another thesis. Both are
true essentially, and yet there seems a contradiction between them. We
cannot bear to be illogical, and so we enlist some under this banner, some
under that. By so doing we sacrifice to consistency at least the half of
truth. Thence we come to examine our intuitions, and ask them, not whether
they are true in themselves, but what are their tendencies. If it turn out
that they will lead us to stultify some past conclusion to which we stand
committed, we drop them like hot coals. To Emerson, this behavior appeared
the nakedest personal vanity. Recognizing that he was finite, he could not
desire to be consistent. If he saw to-day that one thing was true, and to-
morrow that its opposite was true, was it for him to elect which of the
two truths should have his preference? No; to reject either would be to
reject all; it belonged to God alone to reconcile these contradictious.
Between infinite and finite can be no ratio; and the consistency of the
Creator implies the inconsistency of the creature.

Emerson's Americanism, therefore, was Americanism in its last and purest
analysis, which is giving him high praise, and to America great hope. But
I do not mean to pay him, who was so full of modesty and humility, the
ungrateful compliment of holding him up as the permanent American ideal.
It is his tendencies, his quality, that are valuable, and only in a minor,
incipient degree his actual results. All human results must be strictly
limited, and according to the epoch and outlook. Emerson does not solve
for all time the problem of the universe; he solves nothing; but he does
what is far more useful--he gives a direction and an impetus to lofty
human endeavor. He does not anticipate the lessons and the discipline of
the ages, but he shows us how to deal with circumstances in such a manner
as to secure the good instead of the evil influence. New conditions, fresh
discoveries, unexpected horizons opening before us, will, no doubt, soon
carry us beyond the scope of Emerson's surmise; but we shall not so easily
improve upon his aim and attitude. In the spaces beyond the stars there
may be marvels such as it has not entered into the mind of man to
conceive; but there, as here, the right way to look will still be upward,
and the right aspiration be still toward humbleness and charity. I have
just spoken of Emerson's absence of system; but his writings have
nevertheless a singular coherence, by virtue of the single-hearted motive
that has inspired them. Many will, doubtless, have noticed, as I have
done, how the whole of Emerson illustrates every aspect of him.

Whether your discourse be of his religion, of his ethics, of his relation
to society, or what not, the picture that you draw will have gained color
and form from every page that he has written. He does not lie in strata;
all that he is permeates all that he has done. His books cannot be
indexed, unless you would refer every subject to each paragraph. And so he
cannot treat, no matter what subject, without incorporating in his
statement the germs at least of all that he has thought and believed. In
this respect he is like light--the presence of the general at the
particular. And, to confess the truth, I find myself somewhat loath to
diffract this pure ray to the arbitrary end of my special topic. Why
should I speak of him as an American? That is not his definition. He was
an American because he was himself. America, however, gives less
limitation than any other nationality to a generous and serene

I am sometimes disposed to think that Emerson's "English Traits" reveal
his American traits more than anything else he has written. We are
described by our own criticisms of others, and especially by our
criticisms of another nation; the exceptions we take are the mould of our
own figures. So we have valuable glimpses of Emerson's contours throughout
this volume. And it is in all respects a fortunate work; as remarkable a
one almost for him to write as a volume of his essays for any one else.
Comparatively to his other books, it is as flesh and blood to spirit;
Emersonian flesh and blood, it is true, and semi-translucent; but still it
completes the man for us: he would have remained too problematical without
it. Those who have never personally known him may finish and solidify
their impressions of him here. He likes England and the English, too; and
that sympathy is beyond our expectation of the mind that evolved "Nature"
and "The Over-Soul." The grasp of his hand, I remember, was firm and
stout, and we perceive those qualities in the descriptions and cordiality
of "English Traits." Then, it is an objective book; the eye looks outward,
not inward; these pages afford a basis not elsewhere obtainable of
comparing his general human faculty with that of other men. Here he
descends from the airy heights he treads so easily and, standing foot to
foot with his peers, measures himself against them. He intends only to
report their stature, and to leave himself out of the story; but their
answers to his questions show what the questions were, and what the
questioner. And we cannot help suspecting, though he did not, that the
Englishmen were not a little put to it to keep pace with their clear-
faced, penetrating, attentive visitor.

He has never said of his own countrymen the comfortable things that he
tells of the English; but we need not grumble at that. The father who is
severe with his own children will freely admire those of others, for whom
he is not responsible. Emerson is stern toward what we are, and arduous
indeed in his estimate of what we ought to be. He intimates that we are
not quite worthy of our continent; that we have not as yet lived up to our
blue china. "In America the geography is sublime, but the men are not."
And he adds that even our more presentable public acts are due to a money-
making spirit: "The benefaction derived in Illinois and the great West
from railroads is inestimable, and vastly exceeding any intentional
philanthropy on record." He does not think very respectfully of the
designs or the doings of the people who went to California in 1849, though
he admits that "California gets civilized in this immoral way," and is
fain to suppose that, "as there is use in the world for poisons, so the
world cannot move without rogues," and that, in respect of America, "the
huge animals nourish huge parasites, and the rancor of the disease attests
the strength of the constitution." He ridicules our unsuspecting
provincialism: "Have you seen the dozen great men of New York and Boston?
Then you may as well die!" He does not spare our tendency to spread-
eagleism and declamation, and having quoted a shrewd foreigner as saying
of Americans that, "Whatever they say has a little the air of a speech,"
he proceeds to speculate whether "the American forest has refreshed some
weeds of old Pictish barbarism just ready to die out?" He finds the foible
especially of American youth to be--pretension; and remarks, suggestively,
that we talk much about the key of the age, but "the key to all ages is
imbecility!" He cannot reconcile himself to the mania for going abroad.
"There is a restlessness in our people that argues want of character....
Can we never extract this tapeworm of Europe from the brain of our
countrymen?" He finds, however, this involuntary compensation in the
practice--that, practically "we go to Europe to be Americanized," and has
faith that "one day we shall cast out the passion for Europe by the
passion for America." As to our political doings, he can never regard them
with complacency. "Politics is an afterword," he declares--"a poor
patching. We shall one day learn to supersede politics by education." He
sympathizes with Lovelace's theory as to iron bars and stone walls, and
holds that freedom and slavery are inward, not outward conditions. Slavery
is not in circumstance, but in feeling; you cannot eradicate the irons by
external restrictions; and the truest way to emancipate the slave would be
to educate him to a comprehension of his inviolable dignity and freedom as
a human being. Amelioration of outward circumstances will be the effect,
but can never be the means of mental and moral improvement. "Nothing is
more disgusting," he affirms, generalizing the theme, "than the crowing
about liberty by slaves, as most men are, and the flippant mistaking for
freedom of some paper preamble like a 'Declaration of Independence' or the
statute right to vote." But, "Our America has a bad name for
superficialness. Great men, great nations, have not been boasters and
buffoons, but perceivers of the terrors of life, and have nerved
themselves to face it." He will not be deceived by the clamor of blatant
reformers. "If an angry bigot assumes the bountiful cause of abolition,
and comes to me with his last news from Barbadoes, why should I not say
to him: 'Go love thy infant; love thy wood-chopper; be good-natured and
modest; have that grace, and never varnish your hard, uncharitable
ambition with this incredible tenderness for black folk a thousand miles

He does not shrink from questioning the validity of some of our pet
institutions, as, for instance, universal suffrage. He reminds us that in
old Egypt the vote of a prophet was reckoned equal to one hundred hands,
and records his opinion that it was much underestimated. "Shall we, then,"
he asks, "judge a country by the majority or by the minority? By the
minority, surely! 'Tis pedantry to estimate nations by the census, or by
square miles of land, or other than by their importance to the mind of the
time." The majority are unripe, and do not yet know their own opinion. He
would not, however, counsel an organic alteration in this respect,
believing that, with the progress of enlightenment, such coarse
constructions of human rights will adjust themselves. He concedes the
sagacity of the Fultons and Watts of politics, who, noticing that the
opinion of the million was the terror of the world, grouped it on a level,
instead of piling it into a mountain, and so contrived to make of this
terror the most harmless and energetic form of a State. But, again, he
would not have us regard the State as a finality, or as relieving any man
of his individual responsibility for his actions and purposes. We are to
confide in God--and not in our money, and in the State because it is guard
of it. The Union itself has no basis but the good pleasure of the majority
to be united. The wise and just men impart strength to the State, not
receive it; and, if all went down, they and their like would soon combine
in a new and better constitution. Yet he will not have us forget that only
by the supernatural is a man strong; nothing so weak as an egotist. We are
mighty only as vehicles of a truth before which State and individual are
alike ephemeral. In this sense we, like other nations, shall have our
kings and nobles--the leading and inspiration of the best; and he who
would become a member of that nobility must obey his heart.

Government, he observes, has been a fossil--it should be a plant; statute
law should express, not impede, the mind of mankind. In tracing the course
of human political institutions, he finds feudalism succeeding monarchy,
and this again followed by trade, the good and evil of which is that it
would put everything in the market, talent, beauty, virtue, and man
himself. By this means it has done its work; it has faults and will end as
the others. Its aristocracy need not be feared, for it can have no
permanence, it is not entailed. In the time to come, he hopes to see us
less anxious to be governed, in the technical sense; each man shall govern
himself in the interests of all; government without any governor will be,
for the first time, adamantine. Is not every man sometimes a radical in
politics? Men are conservatives when they are least vigorous, or when they
are most luxurious; conservatism stands on man's limitations, reform on
his infinitude. The age of the quadruped is to go out; the age of the
brain and the heart is to come in. We are too pettifogging and imitative
in our legislative conceptions; the Legislature of this country should
become more catholic and cosmopolitan than any other. Let us be brave and
strong enough to trust in humanity; strong natures are inevitable
patriots. The time, the age, what is that, but a few prominent persons and
a few active persons who epitomize the times? There is a bribe possible
for any finite will; but the pure sympathy with universal ends is an
infinite force, and cannot be bribed or bent. The world wants saviors and
religions; society is servile from want of will; but there is a Destiny by
which the human race is guided, the race never dying, the individual never
spared; its law is, you shall have everything as a member, nothing to
yourself. Referring to the communities of various kinds, which were so
much in vogue some years ago, he holds such to be valuable, not for what
they have done, but for the indication they give of the revolution that is
on the way. They place great faith in mutual support, but it is only as a
man puts off from himself all external support and stands alone, that he
is strong and will prevail. He is weaker by every recruit to his banner. A
man ought to compare advantageously with a river, an oak, or a mountain.
He must not shun whatever comes to him in the way of duty; the only path
of escape is--performance. He must rely on Providence, but not in a timid
or ecclesiastical spirit; it is no use to dress up that terrific
benefactor in a clean shirt and white neckcloth of a student of divinity.
We shall come out well, whatever personal or political disasters may
intervene. For here in America is the home of man. After deducting our
pitiful politics--shall John or Jonathan sit in the chair and hold the
purse?--and making due allowance for our frivolities and insanities, there
still remains an organic simplicity and liberty, which, when it loses its
balance, redresses itself presently, and which offers to the human mind
opportunities not known elsewhere.

Whenever he touches upon the fundamental elements of social and rational
life, it is always to enlarge and illuminate our conception of them. We
are not wont to question the propriety of the sentiment of patriotism, for
instance. We are to swear by our own _lares_ and _penates_, and stand up
for the American eagle, right or wrong. But Emerson instantly goes beneath
this interpretation and exposes its crudity. The true sense of patriotism,
according to him, is almost the reverse of its popular sense. He has no
sympathy with that boyish egotism, hoarse with cheering for our side, for
our State, for our town; the right patriotism consists in the delight
which springs from contributing our peculiar and legitimate advantages to
the benefit of humanity. Every foot of soil has its proper quality; the
grape on two sides of the fence has new flavors; and so every acre on the
globe, every family of men, every point of climate, has its distinguishing
virtues. This being admitted, however, Emerson will yield in patriotism to
no one; his only concern is that the advantages we contribute shall be the
most instead of the least possible. "This country," he says, "does not lie
here in the sun causeless, and though it may not be easy to define its
influence, men feel already its emancipating quality in the careless self-
reliance of the manners, in the freedom of thought, in the direct roads by
which grievances are reached and redressed, and even in the reckless and
sinister politics, not less than in purer expressions. Bad as it is, this
freedom leads onward and upward to a Columbia of thought and art, which is
the last and endless end of Columbus's adventure." Nor is this poet of
virtue and philosophy ever more truly patriotic, from his spiritual
standpoint, than when he throws scorn and indignation upon his country's
sins and frailties. "But who is he that prates of the culture of mankind,
of better arts and life? Go, blind worm, go--behold the famous States
harrying Mexico with rifle and with knife! Or who, with accent bolder,
dare praise the freedom-loving mountaineer? I found by thee, O rushing
Contoocook! and in thy valleys, Agiochook! the jackals of the negro-
holder.... What boots thy zeal, O glowing friend, that would indignant
rend the northland from the South? Wherefore? To what good end? Boston Bay
and Bunker Hill would serve things still--things are of the snake. The
horseman serves the horse, the neat-herd serves the neat, the merchant
serves the purse, the eater serves his meat; 'tis the day of the chattel,
web to weave, and corn to grind; things are in the saddle, and ride

But I must not begin to quote Emerson's poetry; only it is worth noting
that he, whose verse is uniformly so abstractly and intellectually
beautiful, kindles to passion whenever his theme is of America. The
loftiest patriotism never found more ardent and eloquent expression than
in the hymn sung at the completion of the Concord monument, on the 19th of
April, 1836. There is no rancor in it; no taunt of triumph; "the foe long
since in silence slept"; but throughout there resounds a note of pure and
deep rejoicing at the victory of justice over oppression, which Concord
fight so aptly symbolized. In "Hamatreya" and "The Earth Song," another
chord is struck, of calm, laconic irony. Shall we too, he asks, we Yankee
farmers, descendants of the men who gave up all for freedom, go back to
the creed outworn of medieval feudalism and aristocracy, and say, of the
land that yields us its produce, "'Tis mine, my children's, and my
name's"? Earth laughs in flowers at our boyish boastfulness, and asks "How
am I theirs if they cannot hold me, but I hold them?" "When I heard 'The
Earth Song,' I was no longer brave; my avarice cooled, like lust in the
child of the grave" Or read "Monadnoc," and mark the insight and the power
with which the significance and worth of the great facts of nature are
interpreted and stated. "Complement of human kind, having us at vantage
still, our sumptuous indigence, oh, barren mound, thy plenties fill! We
fool and prate; thou art silent and sedate. To myriad kinds and times one
sense the constant mountain doth dispense; shedding on all its snows and
leaves, one joy it joys, one grief it grieves. Thou seest, oh, watchman
tall, our towns and races grow and fall, and imagest the stable good for
which we all our lifetime grope; and though the substance us elude, we in
thee the shadow find." ... "Thou dost supply the shortness of our days,
and promise, on thy Founder's truth, long morrow to this mortal youth!" I
have ignored the versified form in these extracts, in order to bring them
into more direct contrast with the writer's prose, and show that the
poetry is inherent. No other poet, with whom I am acquainted, has caused
the very spirit of a land, the mother of men, to express itself so
adequately as Emerson has done in these pieces. Whitman falls short of
them, it seems to me, though his effort is greater.

Emerson is continually urging us to give heed to this grand voice of hills
and streams, and to mould ourselves upon its suggestions. The difficulty
and the anomaly are that we are not native; that England is our mother,
quite as much as Monadnoc; that we are heirs of memories and traditions
reaching far beyond the times and the confines of the Republic. We cannot
assume the splendid childlikeness of the great primitive races, and
exhibit the hairy strength and unconscious genius that the poet longs to
find in us. He remarks somewhere that the culminating period of good in
nature and the world is in just that moment of transition, when the
swarthy juices still flow plentifully from nature, but their astringency
or acidity is got out by ethics and humanity.

It was at such a period that Greece attained her apogee; but our
experience, it seems to me, must needs be different. Our story is not of
birth, but of regeneration, a far more subtle and less obvious
transaction. The Homeric California of which Bret Harte is the reporter
does not seem to me in the closest sense American. It is a comparatively
superficial matter--this savage freedom and raw poetry; it belongs to all
pioneering life, where every man must stand for himself, and Judge Lynch
strings up the defaulter to the nearest tree. But we are only incidentally
pioneers in this sense; and the characteristics thus impressed upon us
will leave no traces in the completed American. "A sturdy lad from New
Hampshire or Vermont," says Emerson, "who in turn tries all the
professions--who teams it, farms it, peddles, keeps a school, preaches,
edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in
successive years, and always, like a cat, falls on his feet--is worth a
hundred of these city dolls. He walks abreast with his days, and feels no
shame in not studying a 'profession,' for he does not postpone his life,
but lives already." That is stirringly said: but, as a matter of fact,
most of the Americans whom we recognize as great did not have such a
history; nor, if they had it, would they be on that account more American.
On the other hand, the careers of men like Jim Fiske and Commodore
Vanderbilt might serve very well as illustrations of the above sketch. If
we must wait for our character until our geographical advantages and the
absence of social distinctions manufacture it for us, we are likely to
remain a long while in suspense. When our foreign visitors begin to evince
a more poignant interest in Concord and Fifth Avenue than in the
Mississippi and the Yellowstone, it may be an indication to us that we are
assuming our proper position relative to our physical environment. "The
_land_," says Emerson, "is a sanative and Americanizing influence which
promises to disclose new virtues for ages to come." Well, when we are
virtuous, we may, perhaps, spare our own blushes by allowing our
topography, symbolically, to celebrate us, and when our admirers would
worship the purity of our intentions, refer them to Walden Pond; or to
Mount Shasta, when they would expatiate upon our lofty generosity. It is,
perhaps, true, meanwhile, that the chances of a man's leading a decent
life are greater in a palace than in a pigsty.

But this is holding our author too strictly to the letter of his message.
And, at any rate, the Americanism of Emerson is better than anything that
he has said in vindication of it. He is the champion of this commonwealth;
he is our future, living in our present, and showing the world, by
anticipation, as it were, what sort of excellence we are capable of
attaining. A nation that has produced Emerson, and can recognize in him
bone of her bone and flesh of her flesh--and, still more, spirit of her
spirit--that nation may look toward the coming age with security. But he
has done more than thus to prophesy of his country; he is electric and
stimulates us to fulfil our destiny. To use a phrase of his own, we
"cannot hear of personal vigor of any kind, great power of performance,
without fresh resolution." Emerson, helps us most in provoking us to help
ourselves. The pleasantest revenge is that which we can sometimes take
upon our great men in quoting of themselves what they have said of others.

It is easy to be so revenged upon Emerson, because he, more than most
persons of such eminence, has been generous and cordial in his
appreciation of all human worth. "If there should appear in the company,"
he observes, "some gentle soul who knows little of persons and parties, of
Carolina or Cuba, but who announces a law that disposes these particulars,
and so certifies me of the equity which checkmates every false player,
bankrupts every self-seeker, and apprises me of my independence on any
conditions of country, or time, or human body, that man liberates me....
I am made immortal by apprehending my possession of incorruptible goods."
Who can state the mission and effect of Emerson more tersely and aptly
than those words do it?

But, once more, he does not desire eulogiums, and it seems half ungenerous
to force them upon him now that he can no longer defend himself. I prefer
to conclude by repeating a passage characteristic of him both as a man and
as an American, and which, perhaps, conveys a sounder and healthier
criticism, both for us and for him, than any mere abject and nerveless
admiration; for great men are great only in so far as they liberate us,
and we undo their work in courting their tyranny. The passage runs thus:--

"Let me remind the reader that I am only an experimenter. Do not set the
least value on what I do, or the least discredit on what I do not, as if I
pretended to settle anything as true or false. I unsettle all things. No
facts to me are sacred; none are profane. I simply experiment--an endless
seeker, with no Past at my back!"



Human nature enjoys nothing better than to wonder--to be mystified; and it
thanks and remembers those who have the skill to gratify this craving. The
magicians of old knew that truth and conducted themselves accordingly. But
our modern wonder-workers fail of their due influence, because, not
content to perform their marvels, they go on to explain them. Merlin and
Roger Bacon were greater public benefactors than Morse and Edison. Man is
--and he always has been and will be--something else besides a pure
intelligence: and science, in order to become really popular, must
contrive to touch man somewhere else besides on the purely intellectual
side: it must remember that man is all heart, all hope, all fear, and all
foolishness, quite as much as he is all brains. Otherwise, science can
never expect to take the place of superstition, much less of religion, in
mankind's affection. In order to be a really successful man of science, it
is first of all indispensable to make one's self master of everything in
nature and in human nature that science is not.

What must one do, in short, in order to become a magician? I use the term,
here, in its weightiest sense. How to make myself visible and invisible at
will? How to present myself in two or more places at once? How answer your
question before you ask it, and describe to you your most secret thoughts
and actions? How shall I call spirits from the vasty deep, and make you
see and hear and feel them? How paralyze your strength with a look, heal
your wound with a touch, or cause your bullet to rebound harmless from my
unprotected flesh? How shall I walk on the air, sink through the earth,
pass through stone walls, or walk, dry-shod, on the floor of the ocean?
How shall I visit the other side of the moon, jump through the ring of
Saturn, and gather sunflowers in Sirius? There are persons now living who
profess to do no less remarkable feats, and to regard them as incidental
merely to achievements far more important. A school of hierophants or
adepts is said to exist in Tibet, who, as a matter of daily routine, quite
transcend everything that we have been accustomed to consider natural
possibility. What is the course of study, what are the ways and means
whereby such persons accomplish such results?

The conventional attitude towards such matters is, of course, that of
unconditional scepticism. But it is pleasant, occasionally, to take an
airing beyond the bounds of incredulity. For my own part, it is true, I
must confess my inability to believe in anything positively supernatural.
The supernatural and the illusory are to my mind convertible terms: they
cannot really exist or take place. Let us be sure, however, that we are
agreed as to what supernatural means. If a magician, before my eyes,
transformed an old man into a little girl, I should call that
supernatural; and nothing should convince me that my senses had not been
grossly deceived. But were the magician to leave the room by passing
through the solid wall, or "go out" like an exploding soap-bubble,--I
might think what I please, but I should not venture to dogmatically
pronounce the thing supernatural; because the phenomenon known as "matter"
is scientifically unknown, and therefore no one can tell what
modifications it may not be susceptible of:--no one, that is to say,
except the person who, like the magician of our illustration, professes to
possess, and (for aught I can affirm to the contrary) may actually possess
a knowledge unshared by the bulk of mankind. The transformation of an old
man into a little girl, on the other hand, would be a transaction
involving the immaterial soul as well as the material body; and if I do
not know that that cannot take place, I am forever incapable of knowing
anything. These are extreme examples, but they serve to emphasize an
important distinction.

The whole domain of magic, in short, occupies that anomalous neutral
ground that intervenes between the facts of our senses and the truths of
our intuitions. Fact and truth are not convertible terms; they abide in
two distinct planes, like thought and speech, or soul and body; one may
imply or involve the other, but can never demonstrate it. Experience and
intuition together comprehend the entire realm of actual and conceivable
knowledge. Whatever contradicts both experience and intuition may,
therefore, be pronounced illusion. But this neutral ground is the home of
phenomena which intuition does not deny, and which experience has not
confirmed. It is still a wide zone, though not so wide as it was a hundred
years ago, or fifty, or even ten. It narrows every day, as science, or the
classification of experience, expands. Are we, then, to look for a time
when the zone shall have dwindled to a mathematical line, and magic
confess itself to have been nothing but the science of an advanced school
of investigators? Will the human intellect acquire a power before which
all mysteries shall become transparent? Let us dwell upon this question a
little longer.

A mystery that is a mystery can never, humanly speaking, become anything
else. Instances of such mysteries can readily be adduced. The universe
itself is built upon them and is the greatest of them. They lie before the
threshold and at the basis of all existence. For example:--here is a lump
of compact, whitish, cheese-like substance, about as much as would go into
a thimble. From this I profess to be able to produce a gigantic, intricate
structure, sixty feet in height and diameter, hard, solid, and enduring,
which shall furthermore possess the power of extending and multiplying
itself until it covers the whole earth, and even all the earths in the
universe, if it could reach them. Is such a profession as this credible?
It is entirely credible, as soon as I paraphrase it by saying that I
propose to plant an acorn. And yet all magic has no mystery which is so
wonderful as this universal mystery of growth: and the only reason we are
not lost in amazement at it is that it goes quietly on all the time, and
perfects itself under uniform conditions. But let me eliminate from the
phenomenon the one element of time--which is logically the least essential
factor in the product, unreal and arbitrary, based on the revolution of
the earth, and conceivably variable to any extent--grant me this, and the
world would come to see me do the miracle. But, with time or without it,
the mystery is just as mysterious.

Natural mysteries, then,--the mysteries of life, death, creation, growth,
--do not fall under our present consideration: they are beyond the
legitimate domain of magic: and no intellectual development to which we
may hereafter attain will bring us a step nearer their solution. But with
the problems proper to magic, the case is different. Magic is
distinctively not Divine, but human: a finite conundrum, not an Infinite
enigma. If there has ever been a magician since the world began, then all
mankind may become magicians, if they will give the necessary time and
trouble. And yet, magic is not simply an advanced region of the path which
science is pursuing. Science is concerned with results,--with material
phenomena; whereas magic is, primarily, the study of causes, or of
spiritual phenomena; or, to use another definition,--of phenomena which
the senses perceive, not in themselves, but only in their results. So long
as we restrict ourselves to results, our activity is confined to analysis;
but when we begin to investigate causes, we are on the road not only to
comprehend results, but (within limits) to modify or produce them.

Science, however, blocks our advance in this direction by denying, or at
least refusing to admit, the existence of the spiritual world, or world of
causes: because, being spiritual, it is not sensible, or cognizable in
sense. Science admits only material causes, or the changes wrought in
matter by itself. If we ask what is the cause of a material cause, we are
answered that it is a supposed entity called Force, concerning which there
is nothing further to be known.

At this point, then, argument (on the material plane) comes to an end, and
speculation or assumption begins. Science answers its own questions, but
neither can nor will answer any others. And upon what pretence do we ask
any others? We ask them upon two grounds. The first is that some people,--
we might even say, most people,--would be glad to believe in supersensuous
existence, and are always on the alert to examine any plausible hypothesis
pointing in that direction: and secondly, there exists a vast amount of
testimony (we need not call it evidence) tending to show that the
supersensuous world has been discovered, and that it endows its
discoverers with sundry notable advantages. Of course, we are not obliged
to credit this testimony, unless we want to: and--for some reason, never
fully explained--a great many people who accept natural mysteries quite
amiably become indignant when requested to examine mysteries of a much
milder order. But it is not my intention to discuss the limits of the
probable; but to swallow as much as possible first, and endeavor to
account for it afterwards.

There is, as every reader knows, a class of phenomena--such as hypnotism,
trance, animal magnetism, and so forth--the occurrence of which science
has conceded, though failing as yet to offer any intelligent explanation
of them. It is suggested that they are peculiar states of the brain and
nerve-centres, physical in their nature and origin, though evading our
present physical tests. Be that as it may, they afford a capital
introduction to the study of magic; if, indeed, they, and a few allied
phenomena, do not comprise the germs of the whole matter. Apropos of this
subject, a society has lately been organized in London, with branches on
the Continent and in this country, composed of scientific men, Fellows of
the Royal Society, members of Parliament, professors, and literary men,
calling themselves the "Psychical Research Society," and making it their
business to test and investigate these very marvels, under the most
stringent scientific conditions. But the capacity to be deceived of the
bodily senses is almost unlimited; in fact, we know that they are
incapable of telling us the ultimate truth on any subject; and we are able
to get along with them only because we have found their misinformation to
be sufficiently uniform for most practical purposes. But once admit that
the origin of these phenomena is not on the physical plane, and then, if
we are to give any weight at all to them, it can be only from a spiritual
standpoint. In other words, unless we can approach such questions by an _a
priori_ route, we might as well let them alone. We can reason from spirit
to body--from mind to matter--but we can never reverse that process, and
from matter evolve mind. The reason is that matter is not found to contain
mind, but is only acted upon by it, as inferior by superior; and we cannot
get out of the bag more than has been put into it. The acorn (to use our
former figure) can never explain the oak; but the oak readily accounts for
the acorn. It may be doubted, therefore, whether the Psychical Research
Society can succeed in doing more than to give a respectable endorsement
to a perplexing possibility,--so long as they adhere to the inductive
method. Should they, however, abandon the inductive method for the
deductive, they will forfeit the allegiance of all consistently scientific
minds; and they may, perhaps, make some curious contributions to
philosophy. At present, they appear to be astride the fence between
philosophy and science, as if they hoped in some way to make the former
satisfy the latter's demands. But the difference between the evidence that
demonstrates a fact and the evidence that confirms a truth is, once more,
a difference less of degree than of kind. We can never obtain sensible
verification of a proposition that transcends sense. We must accept it
without material proof, or not at all. We may believe, for instance, that
Creation is the work of an intelligent Divine Being; or we may disbelieve
it; but we can never prove it. If we do believe it, innumerable
confirmations of it meet us at every turn: but no such confirmations, and
no multiplication of them, can persuade a disbeliever. For belief is ever
incommunicable from without; it can be generated only from within. The
term "belief" cannot be applied to our recognition of a physical fact: we
do not believe in that--we are only sensible of it.

In this connection, a few words will be in order concerning what is called
Spiritism,--a subject which has of late years been exciting a good deal of
remark. Its disciples claim for it the dignity of a new and positive
revelation,--a revelation to sense of spiritual being. Now, the entire
universe may be described as a revelation to sense of spiritual being--for
those who happen to believe _a priori_, or from spontaneous inward
conviction, in spiritual being. We may believe a man's body, for example,
to be the effect of which his soul is the cause; but no one can reach that
conviction by the most refined dissection of the bodily tissues. How,
then, does the spiritists' Positive Revelation help the matter? Their
answer is that the physical universe is a permanent and orderly phenomenon
which (setting aside the problem of its First Cause) fully accounts for
itself; whereas the phenomena of Spiritism, such as rapping, table-
tipping, materializing, and so forth, are, if not supernatural, at any
rate extra-natural. They occur in consequence of a conscious effort to


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