Letters to Dead Authors
Andrew Lang

Part 1 out of 2

This etext was prepared from the 1886 Longmans, Green, and Co.
edition by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk



To W. M. Thackeray
To Charles Dickens
To Pierre de Ronsard
To Herodotus
Epistle to Mr. Alexander Pope
To Lucian of Samosata
To Maitre Francoys Rabelais
To Jane Austen
To Master Isaak Walton
To M. Chapelain
To Sir John Maundeville, Kt.
To Alexandre Dumas
To Theocritus
To Edgar Allan Poe
To Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
To Eusebius of Caesarea
To Percy Bysshe Shelley
To Monsieur de Moliere
To Robert Burns
To Lord Byron
To Omar Khayyam
To Q. Horatius Flaccus


Sixteen of these Letters, which were written at the suggestion of
the Editor of the "St. James's Gazette," appeared in that journal,
from which they are now reprinted, by the Editor's kind permission.
They have been somewhat emended, and a few additions have been made.
The Letters to Horace, Byron, Isaak Walton, Chapelain, Ronsard, and
Theocritus have not been published before.

The gem on the title-page, now engraved for the first time, is a red
cornelian in the British Museum, probably Graeco-Roman, and treated
in an archaistic style. It represents Hermes Psychagogos, with a
Soul, and has some likeness to the Baptism of Our Lord, as usually
shown in art. Perhaps it may be post-Christian. The gem was
selected by Mr. A. S. Murray.

It is, perhaps, superfluous to add that some of the Letters are
written rather to suit the Correspondent than to express the
writer's own taste or opinions. The Epistle to Lord Byron,
especially, is "writ in a manner which is my aversion."

LETTER--To W. M. Thackeray

Sir,--There are many things that stand in the way of the critic when
he has a mind to praise the living. He may dread the charge of
writing rather to vex a rival than to exalt the subject of his
applause. He shuns the appearance of seeking the favour of the
famous, and would not willingly be regarded as one of the many
parasites who now advertise each movement and action of contemporary
genius. "Such and such men of letters are passing their summer
holidays in the Val d'Aosta," or the Mountains of the Moon, or the
Suliman Range, as it may happen. So reports our literary "Court
Circular," and all our Precieuses read the tidings with enthusiasm.
Lastly, if the critic be quite new to the world of letters, he may
superfluously fear to vex a poet or a novelist by the abundance of
his eulogy. No such doubts perplex us when, with all our hearts, we
would commend the departed; for they have passed almost beyond the
reach even of envy; and to those pale cheeks of theirs no
commendation can bring the red.

You, above all others, were and remain without a rival in your many-
sided excellence, and praise of you strikes at none of those who
have survived your day. The increase of time only mellows your
renown, and each year that passes and brings you no successor does
but sharpen the keenness of our sense of loss. In what other
novelist, since Scott was worn down by the burden of a forlorn
endeavour, and died for honour's sake, has the world found so many
of the fairest gifts combined? If we may not call you a poet (for
the first of English writers of light verse did not seek that
crown), who that was less than a poet ever saw life with a glance so
keen as yours, so steady, and so sane? Your pathos was never cheap,
your laughter never forced; your sigh was never the pulpit trick of
the preacher. Your funny people--your Costigans and Fokers--were
not mere characters of trick and catch-word, were not empty comic
masks. Behind each the human heart was beating; and ever and again
we were allowed to see the features of the man.

Thus fiction in your hands was not simply a profession, like
another, but a constant reflection of the whole surface of life: a
repeated echo of its laughter and its complaint. Others have
written, and not written badly, with the stolid professional
regularity of the clerk at his desk; you, like the Scholar Gipsy,
might have said that "it needs heaven-sent moments for this skill."
There are, it will not surprise you, some honourable women and a few
men who call you a cynic; who speak of "the withered world of
Thackerayan satire;" who think your eyes were ever turned to the
sordid aspects of life--to the mother-in-law who threatens to "take
away her silver bread-basket;" to the intriguer, the sneak, the
termagant; to the Beckys, and Barnes Newcomes, and Mrs. Mackenzies
of this world. The quarrel of these sentimentalists is really with
life, not with you; they might as wisely blame Monsieur Buffon
because there are snakes in his Natural History. Had you not
impaled certain noxious human insects, you would have better pleased
Mr. Ruskin; had you confined yourself to such performances, you
would have been more dear to the Neo-Balzacian school in fiction.

You are accused of never having drawn a good woman who was not a
doll, but the ladies that bring this charge seldom remind us either
of Lady Castlewood or of Theo or Hetty Lambert. The best women can
pardon you Becky Sharp and Blanche Amory; they find it harder to
forgive you Emmy Sedley and Helen Pendennis. Yet what man does not
know in his heart that the best women--God bless them--lean, in
their characters, either to the sweet passiveness of Emmy or to the
sensitive and jealous affections of Helen? 'Tis Heaven, not you,
that made them so; and they are easily pardoned, both for being a
very little lower than the angels and for their gentle ambition to
be painted, as by Guido or Guercino, with wings and harps and
haloes. So ladies have occasionally seen their own faces in the
glass of fancy, and, thus inspired, have drawn Romola and Consuelo.
Yet when these fair idealists, Mdme. Sand and George Eliot, designed
Rosamund Vincy and Horace, was there not a spice of malice in the
portraits which we miss in your least favourable studies?

That the creator of Colonel Newcome and of Henry Esmond was a
snarling cynic; that he who designed Rachel Esmond could not draw a
good woman: these are the chief charges (all indifferent now to
you, who were once so sensitive) that your admirers have to contend
against. A French critic, M. Taine, also protests that you do
preach too much. Did any author but yourself so frequently break
the thread (seldom a strong thread) of his plot to converse with his
reader and moralise his tale, we also might be offended. But who
that loves Montaigne and Pascal, who that likes the wise trifling of
the one and can bear with the melancholy of the other, but prefers
your preaching to another's playing!

Your thoughts come in, like the intervention of the Greek Chorus, as
an ornament and source of fresh delight. Like the songs of the
Chorus, they bid us pause a moment over the wider laws and actions
of human fate and human life, and we turn from your persons to
yourself, and again from yourself to your persons, as from the odes
of Sophocles or Aristophanes to the action of their characters on
the stage. Nor, to my taste, does the mere music and melancholy
dignity of your style in these passages of meditation fall far below
the highest efforts of poetry. I remember that scene where Clive,
at Barnes Newcome's Lecture on the Poetry of the Affections, sees
Ethel who is lost to him. "And the past and its dear histories, and
youth and its hopes and passions, and tones and looks for ever
echoing in the heart and present in the memory--these, no doubt,
poor Clive saw and heard as he looked across the great gulf of time,
and parting and grief, and beheld the woman he had loved for many

not heard these tones, who does not hear them as he turns over your
books that, for so many years, have been his companions and
comforters? We have been young and old, we have been sad and merry
with you, we have listened to the mid-night chimes with Pen and
Warrington, have stood with you beside the death-bed, have mourned
at that yet more awful funeral of lost love, and with you have
prayed in the inmost chapel sacred to our old and immortal
affections, e leal souvenir! And whenever you speak for yourself,
and speak in earnest, how magical, how rare, how lonely in our
literature is the beauty of your sentences! "I can't express the
charm of them" (so you write of George Sand; so we may write of
you): "they seem to me like the sound of country bells, provoking I
don't know what vein of music and meditation, and falling sweetly
and sadly on the ear." Surely that style, so fresh, so rich, so
full of surprises--that style which stamps as classical your
fragments of slang, and perpetually astonishes and delights--would
alone give immortality to an author, even had he little to say. But
you, with your whole wide world of fops and fools, of good women and
brave men, of honest absurdities and cheery adventurers: you who
created the Steynes and Newcomes, the Beckys and Blanches, Captain
Costigan and F. B., and the Chevalier Strong--all that host of
friends imperishable--you must survive with Shakespeare and
Cervantes in the memory and affection of men.

LETTER--To Charles Dickens

Sir,--It has been said that every man is born a Platonist or an
Aristotelian, though the enormous majority of us, to be sure, live
and die without being conscious of any invidious philosophic
partiality whatever. With more truth (though that does not imply
very much) every Englishman who reads may be said to be a partisan
of yourself or of Mr. Thackeray. Why should there be any
partisanship in the matter; and why, having two such good things as
your novels and those of your contemporary, should we not be
silently happy in the possession? Well, men are made so, and must
needs fight and argue over their tastes in enjoyment. For myself, I
may say that in this matter I am what the Americans do NOT call a
"Mugwump," what English politicians dub a "superior person"--that
is, I take no side, and attempt to enjoy the best of both.

It must be owned that this attitude is sometimes made a little
difficult by the vigour of your special devotees. They have ceased,
indeed, thank Heaven! to imitate you; and even in "descriptive
articles" the touch of Mr. Gigadibs, of him whom "we almost took for
the true Dickens," has disappeared. The young lions of the Press no
longer mimic your less admirable mannerisms--do not strain so much
after fantastic comparisons, do not (in your manner and Mr.
Carlyle's) give people nick-names derived from their teeth, or their
complexion; and, generally, we are spared second-hand copies of all
that in your style was least to be commended. But, though improved
by lapse of time in this respect, your devotees still put on little
conscious airs of virtue, robust manliness, and so forth, which
would have irritated you very much, and there survive some press men
who seem to have read you a little (especially your later works),
and never to have read anything else. Now familiarity with the
pages of "Our Mutual Friend" and "Dombey and Son" does not precisely
constitute a liberal education, and the assumption that it does is
apt (quite unreasonably) to prejudice people against the greatest
comic genius of modern times.

On the other hand, Time is at last beginning to sift the true
admirers of Dickens from the false. Yours, Sir, in the best sense
of the word, is a popular success, a popular reputation. For
example, I know that, in a remote and even Pictish part of this
kingdom, a rural household, humble and under the shadow of a sorrow
inevitably approaching, has found in "David Copperfield" oblivion of
winter, of sorrow, and of sickness. On the other hand, people are
now picking up heart to say that "they cannot read Dickens," and
that they particularly detest "Pickwick." I believe it was young
ladies who first had the courage of their convictions in this
respect. "Tout sied aux belles," and the fair, in the confidence of
youth, often venture on remarkable confessions. In your "Natural
History of Young Ladies" I do not remember that you describe the
Humorous Young Lady. {1} She is a very rare bird indeed, and humour
generally is at a deplorably low level in England.

Hence come all sorts of mischief, arisen since you left us; and it
may be said that inordinate philanthropy, genteel sympathy with
Irish murder and arson, Societies for Badgering the Poor, Esoteric
Buddhism, and a score of other plagues, including what was once
called AEstheticism, are all, primarily, due to want of humour.
People discuss, with the gravest faces, matters which properly
should only be stated as the wildest paradoxes. It naturally
follows that, in a period almost destitute of humour, many
respectable persons "cannot read Dickens," and are not ashamed to
glory in their shame. We ought not to be angry with others for
their misfortunes; and yet when one meets the cretins who boast that
they cannot read Dickens, one certainly does feel much as Mr. Samuel
Weller felt when he encountered Mr. Job Trotter.

How very singular has been the history of the decline of humour! Is
there any profound psychological truth to be gathered from
consideration of the fact that humour has gone out with cruelty? A
hundred years ago, eighty years ago--nay, fifty years ago--we were a
cruel but also a humorous people. We had bull-baitings, and badger-
drawings, and hustings, and prize-fights, and cock-fights; we went
to see men hanged; the pillory and the stocks were no empty "terrors
unto evil-doers," for there was commonly a malefactor occupying each
of these institutions. With all this we had a broad-blown comic
sense. We had Hogarth, and Bunbury, and George Cruikshank, and
Gilray; we had Leech and Surtees, and the creator of Tittlebat
Titmouse; we had the Shepherd of the "Noctes," and, above all, we
had YOU.

From the old giants of English fun--burly persons delighting in
broad caricature, in decided colours, in cockney jokes, in swashing
blows at the more prominent and obvious human follies--from these
you derived the splendid high spirits and unhesitating mirth of your
earlier works. Mr. Squeers, and Sam Weller, and Mrs. Gamp, and all
the Pickwickians, and Mr. Dowler, and John Browdie--these and their
immortal companions were reared, so to speak, on the beef and beer
of that naughty, fox-hunting, badger-baiting old England, which we
have improved out of existence. And these characters, assuredly,
are your best; by them, though stupid people cannot read about them,
you will live while there is a laugh left among us. Perhaps that
does not assure you a very prolonged existence, but only the future
can show.

The dismal seriousness of the time cannot, let us hope, last for
ever and a day. Honest old Laughter, the true LUTIN of your
inspiration, must have life left in him yet, and cannot die; though
it is true that the taste for your pathos, and your melodrama, and
plots constructed after your favourite fashion ("Great Expectations"
and the "Tale of Two Cities" are exceptions) may go by and never be
regretted. Were people simpler, or only less clear-sighted, as far
as your pathos is concerned, a generation ago? Jeffrey, the hard-
headed shallow critic, who declared that Wordsworth "would never
do," cried, "wept like anything," over your Little Nell. One still
laughs as heartily as ever with Dick Swiveller; but who can cry over
Little Nell?

Ah, Sir, how could you--who knew so intimately, who remembered so
strangely well the fancies, the dreams, the sufferings of childhood-
-how could you "wallow naked in the pathetic," and massacre
holocausts of the Innocents? To draw tears by gloating over a
child's death-bed, was it worthy of you? Was it the kind of work
over which our hearts should melt? I confess that Little Nell might
die a dozen times, and be welcomed by whole legions of Angels, and I
(like the bereaved fowl mentioned by Pet Marjory) would remain

She was more than usual calm,
She did not give a single dam,

wrote the astonishing child who diverted the leisure of Scott. Over
your Little Nell and your Little Dombey I remain more than usual
calm; and probably so do thousands of your most sincere admirers.
But about matter of this kind, and the unseating of the fountains of
tears, who can argue? Where is taste? where is truth? What tears
are "manly, Sir, manly," as Fred Bayham has it; and of what
lamentations ought we rather to be ashamed? Sunt lacrymae rerum;
one has been moved in the cell where Socrates tasted the hemlock; or
by the river-banks where Syracusan arrows slew the parched Athenians
among the mire and blood; or, in fiction, when Colonel Newcome says
Adsum, or over the diary of Clare Doria Forey, or where Aramis
laments, with strange tears, the death of Porthos. But over Dombey
(the Son), or Little Nell, one declines to snivel.

When an author deliberately sits down and says, "Now, let us have a
good cry," he poisons the wells of sensibility and chokes, at least
in many breasts, the fountain of tears. Out of "Dombey and Son"
there is little we care to remember except the deathless Mr. Toots;
just as we forget the melodramatics of "Martin Chuzzlewit." I have
read in that book a score of times; I never see it but I revel in
it--in Pecksniff, and Mrs. Gamp, and the Americans. But what the
plot is all about, what Jonas did, what Montagu Tigg had to make in
the matter, what all the pictures with plenty of shading illustrate,
I have never been able to comprehend. In the same way, one of your
most thorough-going admirers has allowed (in the licence of private
conversation) that "Ralph Nickleby and Monk are too steep;" and
probably a cultivated taste will always find them a little

"Too steep:"--the slang expresses that defect of an ardent genius,
carried above itself, and out of the air we breathe, both in its
grotesque and in its gloomy imaginations. To force the note, to
press fantasy too hard, to deepen the gloom with black over the
indigo, that was the failing which proved you mortal. To take an
instance in little: when Pip went to Mr. Pumblechook's, the boy
thought the seedsman "a very happy man to have so many little
drawers in his shop." The reflection is thoroughly boyish; but then
you add, "I wondered whether the flower-seeds and bulbs ever wanted
of a fine day to break out of those jails and bloom." That is not
boyish at all; that is the hard-driven, jaded literary fancy at

"So we arraign her; but she," the Genius of Charles Dickens, how
brilliant, how kindly, how beneficent she is! dwelling by a fountain
of laughter imperishable; though there is something of an alien salt
in the neighbouring fountain of tears. How poor the world of fancy
would be, how "dispeopled of her dreams," if, in some ruin of the
social system, the books of Dickens were lost; and if The Dodger,
and Charley Bates, and Mr. Crinkle, and Miss Squeers and Sam Weller,
and Mrs. Gamp, and Dick Swiveller were to perish, or to vanish with
Menander's men and women! We cannot think of our world without
them; and, children of dreams as they are, they seem more essential
than great statesmen, artists, soldiers, who have actually worn
flesh and blood, ribbons and orders, gowns and uniforms. May we not
almost welcome "Free Education"? for every Englishman who can read,
unless he be an Ass, is a reader the more for you.

P.S.--Alas, how strangely are we tempered, and how strong is the
national bias! I have been saying things of you that I would not
hear an enemy say. When I read, in the criticism of an American
novelist, about your "hysterical emotionality" (for he writes in
American), and your "waste of verbiage," I am almost tempted to deny
that our Dickens has a single fault, to deem you impeccable!

LETTER--To Pierre de Ronsard (Prince of Poets)

Master And Prince of Poets,--As we know what choice thou madest of a
sepulchre (a choice how ill fulfilled by the jealousy of Fate), so
we know well the manner of thy chosen immortality. In the Plains
Elysian, among the heroes and the ladies of old song, there was thy
Love with thee to enjoy her paradise in an eternal spring.

Le du plaisant Avril la saison immortelle
Sans eschange le suit,
La terre sans labour, de sa grasse mamelle,
Toute chose y produit;
D'enbas la troupe sainte autrefois amoureuse,
Nous honorant sur tous,
Viendra nous saluer, s'estimant bien-heureuse
De s'accointer de nous.

There thou dwellest, with the learned lovers of old days, with
Belleau, and Du Bellay, and Baif, and the flower of the maidens of
Anjou. Surely no rumour reaches thee, in that happy place of
reconciled affections, no rumour of the rudeness of Time, the
despite of men, and the change which stole from thy locks, so early
grey, the crown of laurels and of thine own roses. How different
from thy choice of a sepulchre have been the fortunes of thy tomb!

I will that none should break
The marble for my sake,
Wishful to make more fair
My sepulchre!

So didst thou sing, or so thy sweet numbers run in my rude English.
Wearied of Courts and of priories, thou didst desire a grave beside
thine own Loire, not remote from

The caves, the founts that fall
From the high mountain wall,
That fall and flash and fleet,
With silver feet.

Only a laurel tree
Shall guard the grave of me;
Only Apollo's bough
Shall shade me now!

Far other has been thy sepulchre: not in the free air, among the
field flowers, but in thy priory of Saint Cosme, with marble for a
monument, and no green grass to cover thee. Restless wert thou in
thy life; thy dust was not to be restful in thy death. The
Huguenots, ces nouveaux Chretiens qui la France ont pillee,
destroyed thy tomb, and the warning of the later monument,


has not scared away malicious men. The storm that passed over
France a hundred years ago, more terrible than the religious wars
that thou didst weep for, has swept the column from the tomb. The
marble was broken by violent hands, and the shattered sepulchre of
the Prince of Poets gained a dusty hospitality from the museum of a
country town. Better had been the laurel of thy desire, the
creeping vine, and the ivy tree.

Scarce more fortunate, for long, than thy monument was thy memory.
Thou hast not encountered, Master, in the Paradise of Poets,
Messieurs Malherbe, De Balzac, and Boileau-- Boileau who spoke of
thee as Ce poete orgueilleux trebuche de si haut!

These gallant gentlemen, I make no doubt, are happy after their own
fashion, backbiting each other and thee in the Paradise of Critics.
In their time they wrought thee much evil, grumbling that thou
wrotest in Greek and Latin (of which tongues certain of them had but
little skill), and blaming thy many lyric melodies and the free flow
of thy lines. What said M. de Balzac to M. Chapelain? "M. de
Malherbe, M. de Grasse, and yourself must be very little poets, if
Ronsard be a great one." Time has brought in his revenges, and
Messieurs Chapelain and De Grasse are as well forgotten as thou art
well remembered. Men could not always be deaf to thy sweet old
songs, nor blind to the beauty of thy roses and thy loves. When
they took the wax out of their ears that M. Boileau had given them
lest they should hear the singing of thy Sirens, then they were deaf
no longer, then they heard the old deaf poet singing and made answer
to his lays. Hast thou not heard these sounds? have they not
reached thee, the voices and the lyres of Theophile Gautier and
Alfred de Musset? Methinks thou hast marked them, and been glad
that the old notes were ringing again and the old French lyric
measures tripping to thine ancient harmonies, echoing and replying
to the Muses of Horace and Catullus. Returning to Nature, poets
returned to thee. Thy monument has perished, but not thy music, and
the Prince of Poets has returned to his own again in a glorious

Through the dust and smoke of ages, and through the centuries of
wars we strain our eyes and try to gain a glimpse of thee, Master,
in thy good days, when the Muses walked with thee. We seem to mark
thee wandering silent through some little village, or dreaming in
the woods, or loitering among thy lonely places, or in gardens where
the roses blossom among wilder flowers, or on river banks where the
whispering poplars and sighing reeds make answer to the murmur of
the waters. Such a picture hast thou drawn of thyself in the summer

Je m'en vais pourmener tantost parmy la plaine,
Tantost en un village, et tantost en un bois,
Et tantost par les lieux solitaires et cois.
J'aime fort les jardins qui sentent le sauvage,
J'aime le flot de l'eau qui gazouille au rivage.

Still, methinks, there was a book in the hand of the grave and
learned poet; still thou wouldst carry thy Horace, thy Catullus, thy
Theocritus, through the gem-like weather of the Renouveau, when the
woods were enamelled with flowers, and the young Spring was lodged,
like a wandering prince, in his great palaces hung with green:

Orgueilleux de ses fleurs, enfle de sa jeunesse,
Loge comme un grand Prince en ses vertes maisons!

Thou sawest, in these woods by Loire side, the fair shapes of old
religion, Fauns, Nymphs, and Satyrs, and heard'st in the
nightingale's music the plaint of Philomel. The ancient poets came
back in the train of thyself and of the Spring, and learning was
scarce less dear to thee than love; and thy ladies seemed fairer for
the names they borrowed from the beauties of forgotten days, Helen
and Cassandra. How sweetly didst thou sing to them thine old
morality, and how gravely didst thou teach the lesson of the Roses!
Well didst thou know it, well didst thou love the Rose, since thy
nurse, carrying thee, an infant, to the holy font, let fall on thee
the sacred water brimmed with floating blossoms of the Rose!

Mignonne, allons voir si la Rose,
Qui ce matin avoit desclose
Sa robe de pourpre au soleil,
A point perdu ceste vespree
Les plis de sa robe pourpree,
Et son teint au votre pareil.

And again,

La belle Rose du Printemps,
Aubert, admoneste les hommes
Passer joyeusement le temps,
Et pendant que jeunes nous sommes,
Esbattre la fleur de nos ans.

In the same mood, looking far down the future, thou sangest of thy
lady's age, the most sad, the most beautiful of thy sad and
beautiful lays; for if thy bees gathered much honey 'twas somewhat
bitter to taste, like that of the Sardinian yews. How clearly we
see the great hall, the grey lady spinning and humming among her
drowsy maids, and how they waken at the word, and she sees her
spring in their eyes, and they forecast their winter in her face,
when she murmurs "'Twas Ronsard sang of me."

Winter, and summer, and spring, how swiftly they pass, and how early
time brought thee his sorrows, and grief cast her dust upon thy

Adieu ma Lyre, adieu fillettes,
Jadis mes douces amourettes,
Adieu, je sens venir ma fin,
Nul passetemps de ma jeunesse
Ne m'accompagne en la vieillesse,
Que le feu, le lict et le vin.

Wine, and a soft bed, and a bright fire: to this trinity of poor
pleasures we come soon, if, indeed, wine be left to us. Poetry
herself deserts us; is it not said that Bacchus never forgives a
renegade? and most of us turn recreants to Bacchus. Even the bright
fire, I fear, was not always there to warm thine old blood, Master,
or, if fire there were, the wood was not bought with thy book-
seller's money. When autumn was drawing in during thine early old
age, in 1584, didst thou not write that thou hadst never received a
sou at the hands of all the publishers who vended thy books? And as
thou wert about putting forth thy folio edition of 1584, thou didst
pray Buon, the bookseller, to give thee sixty crowns to buy wood
withal, and make thee a bright fire in winter weather, and comfort
thine old age with thy friend Gallandius. And if Buon will not pay,
then to try the other booksellers, "that wish to take everything and
give nothing."

Was it knowledge of this passage, Master, or ignorance of everything
else, that made certain of the common steadfast dunces of our days
speak of thee as if thou hadst been a starveling, neglected
poetaster, jealous forsooth of Maitre Francoys Rabelais? See how
ignorantly M. Fleury writes, who teaches French literature withal to
them of Muscovy, and hath indited a Life of Rabelais. "Rabelais
etait revetu d'un emploi honorable; Ronsard etait traite en
subalterne," quoth this wondrous professor. What! Pierre de
Ronsard, a gentleman of a noble house, holding the revenue of many
abbeys, the friend of Mary Stuart, of the Duc d'Orleans, of Charles
IX., HE is traite en subalterne, and is jealous of a frocked or
unfrocked manant like Maitre Francoys! And then this amazing Fleury
falls foul of thine epitaph on Maitre Francoys and cries, "Ronsard a
voulu faire des vers mechants; il n'a fait que de mechants vers."
More truly saith M. Sainte-Beuve, "If the good Rabelais had returned
to Meudon on the day when this epitaph was made over the wine, he
would, methinks, have laughed heartily." But what shall be said of
a Professor like the egregious M. Fleury, who holds that Ronsard was
despised at Court? Was there a party at tennis when the king would
not fain have had thee on his side, declaring that he ever won when
Ronsard was his partner? Did he not give thee benefices, and many
priories, and call thee his father in Apollo, and even, so they say,
bid thee sit down beside him on his throne? Away, ye scandalous
folk, who tell us that there was strife between the Prince of Poets
and the King of Mirth. Naught have ye by way of proof of your
slander but the talk of Jean Bernier, a scurrilous, starveling
apothecary, who put forth his fables in 1697, a century and a half
after Maitre Francoys died. Bayle quoted this fellow in a note, and
ye all steal the tattle one from another in your dull manner, and
know not whence it comes, nor even that Bayle would none of it and
mocked its author. With so little knowledge is history written, and
thus doth each chattering brook of a "Life" swell with its tribute
"that great Mississippi of falsehood," Biography.

LETTER--To Herodotus

To Herodotus of Halicarnassus, greeting.--Concerning the matters set
forth in your histories, and the tales you tell about both Greeks
and Barbarians, whether they be true, or whether they be false, men
dispute not little but a great deal. Wherefore I, being concerned
to know the verity, did set forth to make search in every manner,
and came in my quest even unto the ends of the earth. For there is
an island of the Cimmerians beyond the Straits of Heracles, some
three days' voyage to a ship that hath a fair following wind in her
sails; and there it is said that men know many things from of old:
thither, then, I came in my inquiry. Now, the island is not small,
but large, greater than the whole of Hellas; and they call it
Britain. In that island the east wind blows for ten parts of the
year, and the people know not how to cover themselves from the cold.
But for the other two months of the year the sun shines fiercely, so
that some of them die thereof, and others die of the frozen mixed
drinks; for they have ice even in the summer, and this ice they put
to their liquor. Through the whole of this island, from the west
even to the east, there flows a river called Thames: a great river
and a laborious, but not to be likened to the River of Egypt.

The mouth of this river, where I stepped out from my ship, is
exceedingly foul and of an evil savour by reason of the city on the
banks. Now this city is several hundred parasangs in circumference.
Yet a man that needed not to breathe the air might go round it in
one hour, in chariots that run under the earth; and these chariots
are drawn by creatures that breathe smoke and sulphur, such as
Orpheus mentions in his "Argonautica," if it be by Orpheus. The
people of the town, when I inquired of them concerning Herodotus of
Halicarnassus, looked on me with amazement, and went straightway
about their business--namely, to seek out whatsoever new thing is
coming to pass all over the whole inhabited world, and as for things
old, they take no keep of them.

Nevertheless, by diligence I learned that he who in this land knew
most concerning Herodotus was a priest, and dwelt in the priests'
city on the river which is called the City of the Ford of the Ox.
But whether Io, when she wore a cow's shape, had passed by that way
in her wanderings, and thence comes the name of that city, I could
not (though I asked all men I met) learn aught with certainty. But
to me, considering this, it seemed that Io must have come thither.
And now farewell to Io.

To the City of the Priests there are two roads: one by land; and
one by water, following the river. To a well-girdled man, the land
journey is but one day's travel; by the river it is longer but more
pleasant. Now that river flows, as I said, from the west to the
east. And there is in it a fish called chub, which they catch; but
they do not eat it, for a certain sacred reason. Also there is a
fish called trout, and this is the manner of his catching. They
build for this purpose great dams of wood, which they call weirs.
Having built the weir they sit upon it with rods in their hands, and
a line on the rod, and at the end of the line a little fish. There
then they "sit and spin in the sun," as one of their poets says, not
for a short time but for many days, having rods in their hands and
eating and drinking. In this wise they angle for the fish called
trout; but whether they ever catch him or not, not having seen it, I
cannot say; for it is not pleasant to me to speak things concerning
which I know not the truth.

Now, after sailing and rowing against the stream for certain days, I
came to the City of the Ford of the Ox. Here the river changes his
name, and is called Isis, after the name of the goddess of the
Egyptians. But whether the Britons brought the name from Egypt or
whether the Egyptians took it from the Britons, not knowing I prefer
not to say. But to me it seems that the Britons are a colony of the
Egyptians, or the Egyptians a colony of the Britons. Moreover, when
I was in Egypt I saw certain soldiers in white helmets, who were
certainly British. But what they did there (as Egypt neither
belongs to Britain nor Britain to Egypt) I know not, neither could
they tell me. But one of them replied to me in that line of Homer
(if the Odyssey be Homer's), "We have come to a sorry Cyprus, and a
sad Egypt." Others told me that they once marched against the
Ethiopians, and having defeated them several times, then came back
again, leaving their property to the Ethiopians. But as to the
truth of this I leave it to every man to form his own opinion.

Having come into the City of the Priests, I went forth into the
street, and found a priest of the baser sort, who for a piece of
silver led me hither and thither among the temples, discoursing of
many things.

Now it seemed to me a strange thing that the city was empty, and no
man dwelling therein, save a few priests only, and their wives, and
their children, who are drawn to and fro in little carriages dragged
by women. But the priest told me that during half the year the city
was desolate, for that there came somewhat called "The Long," or
"The Vac," and drave out the young priests. And he said that these
did no other thing but row boats, and throw balls from one to the
other, and this they were made to do, he said, that the young
priests might learn to be humble, for they are the proudest of men.
But whether he spoke truth or not I know not, only I set down what
he told me. But to anyone considering it, this appears rather to
jump with his story--namely, that the young priests have houses on
the river, painted of divers colours, all of them empty.

Then the priest, at my desire, brought me to one of the temples,
that I might seek out all things concerning Herodotus the
Halicarnassian, from one who knew. Now this temple is not the
fairest in the city, but less fair and goodly than the old temples,
yet goodlier and more fair than the new temples; and over the roof
there is the image of an eagle made of stone--no small marvel, but a
great one, how men came to fashion him; and that temple is called
the House of Queens. Here they sacrifice a boar once every year;
and concerning this they tell a certain sacred story which I know
but will not utter.

Then I was brought to the priest who had a name for knowing most
about Egypt, and the Egyptians, and the Assyrians, and the
Cappadocians, and all the kingdoms of the Great King. He came out
to me, being attired in a black robe, and wearing on his head a
square cap. But why the priests have square caps I know, and he who
has been initiated into the mysteries which they call "Matric"
knows, but I prefer not to tell. Concerning the square cap, then,
let this be sufficient. Now, the priest received me courteously,
and when I asked him, concerning Herodotus, whether he were a true
man or not, he smiled and answered "Abu Goosh," which, in the tongue
of the Arabians, means "The Father of Liars." Then he went on to
speak concerning Herodotus, and he said in his discourse that
Herodotus not only told the thing which was not, but that he did so
wilfully, as one knowing the truth but concealing it. For example,
quoth he, "Solon never went to see Croesus, as Herodotus avers; nor
did those about Xerxes ever dream dreams; but Herodotus, out of his
abundant wickedness, invented these things."

"Now behold," he went on, "how the curse of the Gods falls upon
Herodotus. For he pretends that he saw Cadmeian inscriptions at
Thebes. Now I do not believe there were any Cadmeian inscriptions
there: therefore Herodotus is most manifestly lying. Moreover,
this Herodotus never speaks of Sophocles the Athenian, and why not?
Because he, being a child at school, did not learn Sophocles by
heart: for the tragedies of Sophocles could not have been learned
at school before they were written, nor can any man quote a poet
whom he never learned at school. Moreover, as all those about
Herodotus knew Sophocles well, he could not appear to them to be
learned by showing that he knew what they knew also." Then I
thought the priest was making game and sport, saying first that
Herodotus could know no poet whom he had not learned at school, and
then saying that all the men of his time well knew this poet, "about
whom everyone was talking." But the priest seemed not to know that
Herodotus and Sophocles were friends, which is proved by this, that
Sophocles wrote an ode in praise of Herodotus.

Then he went on, and though I were to write with a hundred hands
(like Briareus, of whom Homer makes mention) I could not tell you
all the things that the priest said against Herodotus, speaking
truly, or not truly, or sometimes correctly and sometimes not, as
often befalls mortal men. For Herodotus, he said, was chiefly
concerned to steal the lore of those who came before him, such as
Hecataeus, and then to escape notice as having stolen it. Also he
said that, being himself cunning and deceitful, Herodotus was easily
beguiled by the cunning of others, and believed in things manifestly
false, such as the story of the Phoenix-bird.

Then I spoke, and said that Herodotus himself declared that he could
not believe that story; but the priest regarded me not. And he said
that Herodotus had never caught a crocodile with cold pig, nor did
he ever visit Assyria, nor Babylon, nor Elephantine; but, saying
that he had been in these lands, said that which was not true. He
also declared that Herodotus, when he travelled, knew none of the
Fat Ones of the Egyptians, but only those of the baser sort. And he
called Herodotus a thief and a beguiler, and "the same with intent
to deceive," as one of their own poets writes. And, to be short,
Herodotus, I could not tell you in one day all the charges which are
now brought against you; but concerning the truth of these things,
YOU know, not least, but most, as to yourself being guilty or
innocent. Wherefore, if you have anything to show or set forth
whereby you may be relieved from the burden of these accusations,
now is the time. Be no longer silent; but, whether through the
Oracle of the Dead, or the Oracle of Branchidae, or that in Delphi,
or Dodona, or of Amphiaraus at Oropus, speak to your friends and
lovers (whereof I am one from of old) and let men know the very

Now, concerning the priests in the City of the Ford of the Ox, it is
to be said that of all men whom we know they receive strangers most
gladly, feasting them all day. Moreover, they have many drinks,
cunningly mixed, and of these the best is that they call Archdeacon,
naming it from one of the priests' offices. Truly, as Homer says
(if the Odyssey be Homer's), "when that draught is poured into the
bowl then it is no pleasure to refrain."

Drinking of this wine, or nectar, Herodotus, I pledge you, and pour
forth some deal on the ground, to Herodotus of Halicarnassus, in the
House of Hades.

And I wish you farewell, and good be with you. Whether the priest
spoke truly, or not truly, even so may such good things betide you
as befall dead men.

LETTER--Epistle to Mr. Alexander Pope

From mortal Gratitude, decide, my Pope,
Have Wits Immortal more to fear or hope?
Wits toil and travail round the Plant of Fame,
Their Works its Garden, and its Growth their Aim,
Then Commentators, in unwieldy Dance,
Break down the Barriers of the trim Pleasance,
Pursue the Poet, like Actaeon's Hounds,
Beyond the fences of his Garden Grounds,
Rend from the singing Robes each borrowed Gem,
Rend from the laurel'd Brows the Diadem,
And, if one Rag of Character they spare,
Comes the Biographer, and strips it bare!

Such, Pope, has been thy Fortune, such thy Doom.
Swift the Ghouls gathered at the Poet's Tomb,
With Dust of Notes to clog each lordly Line,
Warburton, Warton, Croker, Bowles, combine!
Collecting Cackle, Johnson condescends
To INTERVIEW the Drudges of your Friends.
Thus though your Courthope holds your merits high,
And still proclaims your Poems POETRY,
Biographers, un-Boswell-like, have sneered,
And Dunces edit him whom Dunces feared!

They say, "what say they?" Not in vain You ask;
To tell you what they say, behold my Task!
"Methinks already I your Tears survey"
As I repeat "the horrid Things they say." {2}

Comes El-n first: I fancy you'll agree
Not frenzied Dennis smote so fell as he;
For El-n's Introduction, crabbed and dry,
Like Churchill's Cudgel's {3} marked with LIE, and LIE!

"Too dull to know what his own System meant,
Pope yet was skilled new Treasons to invent;
A Snake that puffed himself and stung his Friends,
Few Lied so frequent, for such little Ends;

His mind, like Flesh inflamed, {4} was raw and sore,
And still, the more he writhed, he stung the more!
Oft in a Quarrel, never in the Right,
His Spirit sank when he was called to fight.
Pope, in the Darkness mining like a Mole,
Forged on Himself, as from Himself he stole,
And what for Caryll once he feigned to feel,
Transferred, in Letters never sent, to Steele!
Still he denied the Letters he had writ,
And still mistook Indecency for Wit.
His very Grammar, so De Quincey cries,
"Detains the Reader, and at times defies!'"

Fierce El-n thus: no Line escapes his Rage,
And furious Foot-notes growl 'neath every Page:
See St-ph-n next take up the woful Tale,
Prolong the Preaching, and protract the Wail!
"Some forage Falsehoods from the North and South,
But Pope, poor D-l, lied from Hand to Mouth; {5}
Affected, hypocritical, and vain,
A Book in Breeches, and a Fop in Grain;
A Fox that found not the high Clusters sour,
The Fanfaron of Vice beyond his power,
Pope yet possessed"--(the Praise will make you start) -
"Mean, morbid, vain, he yet possessed a Heart!
And still we marvel at the Man, and still
Admire his Finish, and applaud his Skill:
Though, as that fabled Barque, a phantom Form,
Eternal strains, nor rounds the Cape of Storm,
Even so Pope strove, nor ever crossed the Line
That from the Noble separates the Fine!"

The Learned thus, and who can quite reply,
Reverse the Judgment, and Retort the Lie?
You reap, in armed Hates that haunt your Name,
Reap what you sowed, the Dragon's Teeth of Fame:
You could not write, and from unenvious Time
Expect the Wreath that crowns the lofty Rhyme,
You still must fight, retreat, attack, defend,
And oft, to snatch a Laurel, lose a Friend!

The Pity of it! And the changing Taste
Of changing Time leaves half your Work a Waste!
My Childhood fled your Couplet's clarion tone,
And sought for Homer in the Prose of Bohn.
Still through the Dust of that dim Prose appears
The Flight of Arrows and the Sheen of Spears;
Still we may trace what Hearts heroic feel,
And hear the Bronze that hurtles on the Steel!
But, ah, your Iliad seems a half-pretence,
Where Wits, not Heroes, prove their Skill in Fence,
And great Achilles' Eloquence doth show
As if no Centaur trained him, but Boileau!

Again, your Verse is orderly,--and more, -
"The Waves behind impel the Waves before;"
Monotonously musical they glide,
Till Couplet unto Couplet hath replied.
But turn to Homer! How his Verses sweep!
Surge answers Surge and Deep doth call on Deep;
This Line in Foam and Thunder issues forth,
Spurred by the West or smitten by the North,
Sombre in all its sullen Deeps, and all
Clear at the Crest, and foaming to the Fall,
The next with silver Murmur dies away,
Like Tides that falter to Calypso's Bay!

Thus Time, with sordid Alchemy and dread,
Turns half the Glory of your Gold to Lead;
Thus Time,--at Ronsard's wreath that vainly bit, -
Has marred the Poet to preserve the Wit,
Who almost left on Addison a stain,
Whose Knife cut cleanest with a poisoned pain, -
Yet Thou (strange Fate that clings to all of Thine!)
When most a Wit dost most a Poet shine.
In Poetry thy Dunciad expires,
When Wit has shot "her momentary Fires."
'Tis Tragedy that watches by the Bed
"Where tawdry Yellow strove with dirty Red,"
And Men, remembering all, can scarce deny
To lay the Laurel where thine Ashes lie!

LETTER--To Lucian of Samosata

In what bower, oh Lucian, of your rediscovered Islands Fortunate are
you now reclining; the delight of the fair, the learned, the witty,
and the brave? In that clear and tranquil climate, whose air
breathes of "violet and lily, myrtle, and the flower of the vine,"

Where the daisies are rose-scented,
And the Rose herself has got
Perfume which on earth is not,

among the music of all birds, and the wind-blown notes of flutes
hanging on the trees, methinks that your laughter sounds most
silvery sweet, and that Helen and fair Charmides are still of your
company. Master of mirth, and Soul the best contented of all that
have seen the world's ways clearly, most clear-sighted of all that
have made tranquillity their bride, what other laughers dwell with
you, where the crystal and fragrant waters wander round the shining
palaces and the temples of amethyst?

Heine surely is with you; if, indeed, it was not one Syrian soul
that dwelt among alien men, Germans and Romans, in the bodily
tabernacles of Heine and of Lucian. But he was fallen on evil times
and evil tongues; while Lucian, as witty as he, as bitter in
mockery, as happily dowered with the magic of words, lived long and
happily and honoured, imprisoned in no "mattress-grave." Without
Rabelais, without Voltaire, without Heine, you would find, methinks,
even the joys of your Happy Islands lacking in zest; and, unless
Plato came by your way, none of the ancients could meet you in the
lists of sportive dialogue.

There, among the vines that bear twelve times in the year, more
excellent than all the vineyards of Touraine, while the song-birds
bring you flowers from vales enchanted, and the shapes of the
Blessed come and go, beautiful in wind-woven raiment of sunset hues;
there, in a land that knows not age, nor winter, midnight, nor
autumn, nor noon, where the silver twilight of summer-dawn is
perennial, where youth does not wax spectre-pale and die; there, my
Lucian, you are crowned the Prince of the Paradise of Mirth.

Who would bring you, if he had the power, from the banquet where
Homer sings: Homer, who, in mockery of commentators, past and to
come, German and Greek, informed you that he was by birth a
Babylonian? Yet, if you, who first wrote Dialogues of the Dead,
could hear the prayer of an epistle wafted to "lands indiscoverable
in the unheard-of West," you might visit once more a world so worthy
of such a mocker, so like the world you knew so well of old.

Ah, Lucian, we have need of you, of your sense and of your mockery!
Here, where faith is sick and superstition is waking afresh; where
gods come rarely, and spectres appear at five shillings an
interview; where science is popular, and philosophy cries aloud in
the market-place, and clamour does duty for government, and Thais
and Lais are names of power--here, Lucian, is room and scope for
you. Can I not imagine a new "Auction of Philosophers," and what
wealth might be made by him who bought these popular sages and
lecturers at his estimate, and vended them at their own?

HERMES: Whom shall we put first up to auction?

ZEUS: That German in spectacles; he seems a highly respectable man.

HERMES: Ho, Pessimist, come down and let the public view you.

ZEUS: Go on, put him up and have done with him.

HERMES: Who bids for the Life Miserable, for extreme, complete,
perfect, unredeemable perdition? What offers for the universal
extinction of the species, and the collapse of the Conscious?

A PURCHASER: He does not look at all a bad lot. May one put him
through his paces?

HERMES: Certainly; try your luck.

PURCHASER: What is your name?

PESSIMIST: Hartmann.

PURCHASER: What can you teach me?

PESSIMIST: That Life is not worth Living.

PURCHASER: Wonderful Most edifying! How much for this lot?

HERMES: Two hundred pounds.

PURCHASER: I will write you a cheque for the money. Come home,
Pessimist, and begin your lessons without more ado.

HERMES: Attention! Here is a magnificent article--the Positive
Life, the Scientific Life, the Enthusiastic Life. Who bids for a
possible place in the Calendar of the Future?

PURCHASER: What does he call himself? he has a very French air.

HERMES: Put your own questions.

PURCHASER: What's your pedigree, my Philosopher, and previous

POSITIVIST: I am by Rousseau out of Catholicism, with a strain of
the Evolution blood.

PURCHASER: What do you believe in?

POSITIVIST: In Man, with a large M.

PURCHASER: Not in individual Man?

POSITIVIST: By no means; not even always in Mr. Gladstone. All
men, all Churches, all parties, all philosophies, and even the other
sect of our own Church, are perpetually in the wrong. Buy me, and
listen to me, and you will always be in the right.

PURCHASER: And, after this life, what have you to offer me?

POSITIVIST: A distinguished position in the Choir Invisible; but
not, of course, conscious immortality.

PURCHASER: Take him away, and put up another lot.

Then the Hegelian, with his Notion, and the Darwinian, with his
notions, and the Lotzian, with his Broad Church mixture of Religion
and Evolution, and the Spencerian, with that Absolute which is a
sort of a something, might all be offered with their divers wares;
and cheaply enough, Lucian, you would value them in this auction of
Sects. "There is but one way to Corinth," as of old; but which that
way may be, oh master of Hermotimus, we know no more than he did of
old; and still we find, of all philosophies, that the Stoic route is
most to be recommended. But we have our Cyrenaics too, though they
are no longer "clothed in purple, and crowned with flowers, and fond
of drink and of female flute-players." Ah, here too, you might
laugh, and fail to see where the Pleasure lies, when the Cyrenaics
are no "judges of cakes" (nor of ale, for that matter), and are
strangers in the Courts of Princes. "To despise all things, to make
use of all things, in all things to follow pleasure only:" that is
not the manner of the new, if it were the secret of the older

Then, turning from the philosophers to the seekers after a sign,
what change, Lucian, would you find in them and their ways? None;
they are quite unaltered. Still our Peregrinus, and our Peregrina
too, come to us from the East, or, if from the West, they take India
on their way--India, that secular home of drivelling creeds, and of
religion in its sacerdotage. Still they prattle of Brahmins and
Buddhism; though, unlike Peregrinus, they do not publicly burn
themselves on pyres, at Epsom Downs, after the Derby. We are not so
fortunate in the demise of our Theosophists; and our police, less
wise than the Hellenodicae, would probably not permit the Immolation
of the Quack. Like your Alexander, they deal in marvels and
miracles, oracles and warnings. All such bogy stories as those of
your "Philopseudes," and the ghost of the lady who took to table-
rapping because one of her best slippers had not been burned with
her body, are gravely investigated by the Psychical Society.

Even your ignorant Bibliophile is still with us--the man without a
tinge of letters, who buys up old manuscripts "because they are
stained and gnawed, and who goes, for proof of valued antiquity, to
the testimony of the book-worms." And the rich Bibliophile now, as
in your satire, clothes his volumes in purple morocco and gay
dorures, while their contents are sealed to him.

As to the topics of satire and gay curiosity which occupy the lady
known as "Gyp," and M. Halevy in his "Les Petites Cardinal," if you
had not exhausted the matter in your "Dialogues of Hetairai," you
would be amused to find the same old traits surviving without a
touch of change. One reads, in Halevy's French, of Madame Cardinal,
and, in your Greek, of the mother of Philinna, and marvels that
eighteen hundred years have not in one single trifle altered the
mould. Still the old shabby light-loves, the old greed, the old
luxury and squalor. Still the unconquerable superstition that now
seeks to tell fortunes by the cards, and, in your time, resorted to
the sorceress with her magical "bull-roarer" or turndun. {6}

Yes, Lucian, we are the same vain creatures of doubt and dread, of
unbelief and credulity, of avarice and pretence, that you knew, and
at whom you smiled. Nay, our very "social question" is not altered.
Do you not write, in "The Runaways," "The artisans will abandon
their workshops, and leave their trades, when they see that, with
all the labour that bows their bodies from dawn to dark, they make a
petty and starveling pittance, while men that toil not nor spin are
floating in Pactolus"?

They begin to see this again as of yore; but whether the end of
their vision will be a laughing matter, you, fortunate Lucian, do
not need to care. Hail to you, and farewell!

LETTER--To Maitre Francoys Rabelais. Of the coming of the

Master,--In the Boreal and Septentrional lands, turned aside from
the noonday and the sun, there dwelt of old (as thou knowest, and as
Olaus voucheth) a race of men, brave, strong, nimble, and
adventurous, who had no other care but to fight and drink. There,
by reason of the cold (as Virgil witnesseth), men break wine with
axes. To their minds, when once they were dead and gotten to
Valhalla, or the place of their Gods, there would be no other
pleasure but to swig, tipple, drink, and boose till the coming of
that last darkness and Twilight, wherein they, with their deities,
should do battle against the enemies of all mankind; which day they
rather desired than dreaded.

So chanced it also with Pantagruel and Brother John and their
company, after they had once partaken of the secret of the Dive
Bouteille. Thereafter they searched no longer; but, abiding at
their ease, were merry, frolic, jolly, gay, glad, and wise; only
that they always and ever did expect the awful Coming of the
Coqcigrues. Now concerning the day of that coming, and the nature
of them that should come, they knew nothing; and for his part
Panurge was all the more adread, as Aristotle testifieth that men
(and Panurge above others) most fear that which they know least.
Now it chanced one day, as they sat at meat, with viands rare,
dainty, and precious as ever Apicius dreamed of, that there
fluttered on the air a faint sound as of sermons, speeches,
orations, addresses, discourses, lectures, and the like; whereat
Panurge, pricking up his ears, cried, "Methinks this wind bloweth
from Midlothian," and so fell a trembling.

Next, to their aural orifices, and the avenues audient of the brain,
was borne a very melancholy sound as of harmoniums, hymns, organ-
pianos, psalteries, and the like, all playing different airs, in a
kind most hateful to the Muses. Then said Panurge, as well as he
might for the chattering of his teeth: "May I never drink if here
come not the Coqcigrues!" and this saying and prophecy of his was
true and inspired. But thereon the others began to mock, flout, and
gird at Panurge for his cowardice. "Here am I!" cried Brother John,
"well-armed and ready to stand a siege; being entrenched, fortified,
hemmed-in and surrounded with great pasties, huge pieces of salted
beef, salads, fricassees, hams, tongues, pies, and a wilderness of
pleasant little tarts, jellies, pastries, trifles, and fruits of all
kinds, and I shall not thirst while I have good wells, founts,
springs, and sources of Bordeaux wine, Burgundy, wine of the
Champagne country, sack and Canary. A fig for thy Coqcigrues!"

But even as he spoke there ran up suddenly a whole legion, or rather
army, of physicians, each armed with laryngoscopes, stethoscopes,
horoscopes, microscopes, weighing machines, and such other tools,
engines, and arms as they had who, after thy time, persecuted
Monsieur de Pourceaugnac! And they all, rushing on Brother John,
cried out to him, "Abstain! Abstain!" And one said, "I have well
diagnosed thee, and thou art in a fair way to have the gout." "I
never did better in my days," said Brother John. "Away with thy
meats and drinks!" they cried. And one said, "He must to Royat;"
and another, "Hence with him to Aix;" and a third, "Banish him to
Wiesbaden;" and a fourth, "Hale him to Gastein;" and yet another,
"To Barbouille with him in chains!"

And while others felt his pulse and looked at his tongue, they all
wrote prescriptions for him like men mad. "For thy eating," cried
he that seemed to be their leader, "No soup!" "No soup!" quoth
Brother John; and those cheeks of his, whereat you might have warmed
your two hands in the winter solstice, grew white as lilies. "Nay!
and no salmon, nor any beef nor mutton! A little chicken by times,
pericolo tuo! Nor any game, such as grouse, partridge, pheasant,
capercailzie, wild duck; nor any cheese, nor fruit, nor pastry, nor
coffee, nor eau de vie; and avoid all sweets. No veal, pork, nor
made dishes of any kind." "Then what may I eat?" quoth the good
Brother, whose valour had oozed out of the soles of his sandals. "A
little cold bacon at breakfast--no eggs," quoth the leader of the
strange folk, "and a slice of toast without butter." "And for thy
drink"--("What?" gasped Brother John)--"one dessert-spoonful of
whisky, with a pint of the water of Apollinaris at luncheon and
dinner. No more!" At this Brother John fainted, falling like a
great buttress of a hill, such as Taygetus or Erymanthus.

While they were busy with him, others of the frantic folk had built
great platforms of wood, whereon they all stood and spoke at once,
both men and women. And of these some wore red crosses on their
garments, which meaneth "Salvation;" and others wore white crosses,
with a little black button of crape, to signify "Purity;" and others
bits of blue to mean "Abstinence." While some of these pursued
Panurge others did beset Pantagruel; asking him very long questions,
whereunto he gave but short answers. Thus they asked:-

Have ye Local Option here?--Pan.: What?

May one man drink if his neighbour be not athirst?--Pan.: Yea!

Have ye Free Education?--Pan.: What?

Must they that have, pay to school them that have not?--Pan.: Nay!

Have ye free land?--Pan.: What?

Have ye taken the land from the farmer, and given it to the tailor
out of work and the candlemaker masterless?--Pan.: Nay!

Have your women folk votes?--Pan.: Bosh!

Have ye got religion?--Pan.: How?

Do you go about the streets at night, brawling, blowing a trumpet
before you, and making long prayers?--Pan.: Nay!

Have you manhood suffrage?--Pan.: Eh?

Is Jack as good as his master?--Pan.: Nay!

Have you joined the Arbitration Society?--Pan.: Quoy?

Will you let another kick you, and will you ask his neighbour if you
deserve the same?--Pan.: Nay!

Do you eat what you list?--Pan.: Ay!

Do you drink when you are athirst?--Pan.: Ay!

Are you governed by the free expression of the popular will?--Pan.:

Are you servants of priests, pulpits, and penny papers?--Pan.: NO!

Now, when they heard these answers of Pantagruel they all fell, some
a weeping, some a praying, some a swearing, some an arbitrating,
some a lecturing, some a caucussing, some a preaching, some a faith-
healing, some a miracle-working, some a hypnotising, some a writing
to the daily press; and while they were thus busy, like folk
distraught, "reforming the island," Pantagruel burst out a laughing;
whereat they were greatly dismayed; for laughter killeth the whole
race of Coqcigrues, and they may not endure it.

Then Pantagruel and his company stole aboard a barque that Panurge
had ready in the harbour. And having provisioned her well with
store of meat and good drink, they set sail for the kingdom of
Entelechy, where, having landed, they were kindly entreated; and
there abide to this day; drinking of the sweet and eating of the
fat, under the protection of that intellectual sphere which hath in
all places its centre and nowhere its circumference.

Such was their destiny; there was their end appointed, and thither
the Coqcigrues can never come. For all the air of that land is full
of laughter, which killeth Coqcigrues; and there aboundeth the herb
Pantagruelion. But for thee, Master Francoys, thou art not well
liked in this island of ours, where the Coqcigrues are abundant,
very fierce, cruel, and tyrannical. Yet thou hast thy friends, that
meet and drink to thee, and wish thee well wheresoever thou hast
found thy grand peut-etre.

LETTER--To Jane Austen

Madam,--If to the enjoyments of your present state be lacking a view
of the minor infirmities or foibles of men, I cannot but think (were
the thought permitted) that your pleasures are yet incomplete.
Moreover, it is certain that a woman of parts who has once meddled
with literature will never wholly lose her love for the discussion
of that delicious topic, nor cease to relish what (in the cant of
our new age) is styled "literary shop." For these reasons I attempt
to convey to you some inkling of the present state of that agreeable
art which you, madam, raised to its highest pitch of perfection.

As to your own works (immortal, as I believe), I have but little
that is wholly cheering to tell one who, among women of letters, was
almost alone in her freedom from a lettered vanity. You are not a
very popular author: your volumes are not found in gaudy covers on
every bookstall; or, if found, are not perused with avidity by the
Emmas and Catherines of our generation. 'Tis not long since a blow
was dealt (in the estimation of the unreasoning) at your character
as an author by the publication of your familiar letters. The
editor of these epistles, unfortunately, did not always take your
witticisms, and he added others which were too unmistakably his own.
While the injudicious were disappointed by the absence of your
exquisite style and humour, the wiser sort were the more convinced
of your wisdom. In your letters (knowing your correspondents) you
gave but the small personal talk of the hour, for them sufficient;
for your books you reserved matter and expression which are
imperishable. Your admirers, if not very numerous, include all
persons of taste, who, in your favour, are apt somewhat to abate the
rule, or shake off the habit, which commonly confines them to but
temperate laudation.

'Tis the fault of all art to seem antiquated and faded in the eyes
of the succeeding generation. The manners of your age were not the
manners of to-day, and young gentlemen and ladies who think Scott
"slow," think Miss Austen "prim" and "dreary." Yet, even could you
return among us, I scarcely believe that, speaking the language of
the hour, as you might, and versed in its habits, you would win the
general admiration. For how tame, madam, are your characters,
especially your favourite heroines! how limited the life which you
knew and described! how narrow the range of your incidents! how
correct your grammar!

As heroines, for example, you chose ladies like Emma, and Elizabeth,
and Catherine: women remarkable neither for the brilliance nor for
the degradation of their birth; women wrapped up in their own and
the parish's concerns, ignorant of evil, as it seems, and
unacquainted with vain yearnings and interesting doubts. Who can
engage his fancy with their match-makings and the conduct of their
affections, when so many daring and dazzling heroines approach and
solicit his regard?

Here are princesses dressed in white velvet stamped with golden
fleurs-de-lys --ladies with hearts of ice and lips of fire, who
count their roubles by the million, their lovers by the score, and
even their husbands, very often, in figures of some arithmetical
importance. With these are the immaculate daughters of itinerant
Italian musicians--maids whose souls are unsoiled amidst the
contaminations of our streets, and whose acquaintance with the art
of Phidias and Praxiteles, of Daedalus and Scopas, is the more
admirable, because entirely derived from loving study of the
inexpensive collections vended by the plaster-of-Paris man round the
corner. When such heroines are wooed by the nephews of Dukes, where
are your Emmas and Elizabeths? Your volumes neither excite nor
satisfy the curiosities provoked by that modern and scientific
fiction, which is greatly admired, I learn, in the United States, as
well as in France and at home.

You erred, it cannot be denied, with your eyes open. Knowing Lydia
and Kitty so intimately as you did, why did you make of them almost
insignificant characters? With Lydia for a heroine you might have
gone far; and, had you devoted three volumes, and the chief of your
time, to the passions of Kitty, you might have held your own, even
now, in the circulating library. How Lyddy, perched on a corner of
the roof, first beheld her Wickham; how, on her challenge, he
climbed up by a ladder to her side; how they kissed, caressed, swung
on gates together, met at odd seasons, in strange places, and
finally eloped: all this might have been put in the mouth of a
jealous elder sister, say Elizabeth, and you would not have been
less popular than several favourites of our time. Had you cast the
whole narrative into the present tense, and lingered lovingly over
the thickness of Mary's legs and the softness of Kitty's cheeks, and
the blonde fluffiness of Wickham's whiskers, you would have left a
romance still dear to young ladies.

Or, again, you might entrance fair students still, had you
concentrated your attention on Mrs. Rushworth, who eloped with Henry
Crawford. These should have been the chief figures of "Mansfield
Park." But you timidly decline to tackle Passion. "Let other
pens," you write, "dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious
subjects as soon as I can." Ah, THERE is the secret of your
failure! Need I add that the vulgarity and narrowness of the social
circles you describe impair your popularity? I scarce remember more
than one lady of title, and but very few lords (and these
unessential) in all your tales. Now, when we all wish to be in
society, we demand plenty of titles in our novels, at any rate, and
we get lords (and very queer lords) even from Republican authors,
born in a country which in your time was not renowned for its
literature. I have heard a critic remark, with a decided air of
fashion, on the brevity of the notice which your characters give
each other when they offer invitations to dinner. "An invitation to
dinner next day was despatched," and this demonstrates that your
acquaintance "went out" very little, and had but few engagements.
How vulgar, too, is one of your heroines, who bids Mr. Darcy "keep
his breath to cool his porridge." I blush for Elizabeth! It were
superfluous to add that your characters are debased by being
invariably mere members of the Church of England as by law
established. The Dissenting enthusiast, the open soul that glides
from Esoteric Buddhism to the Salvation Army, and from the Higher
Pantheism to the Higher Paganism, we look for in vain among your
studies of character. Nay, the very words I employ are of unknown
sound to you; so how can you help us in the stress of the soul's

You may say that the soul's travailings are no affair of yours;
proving thereby that you have indeed but a lowly conception of the
duty of the novelist. I only remember one reference, in all your
works, to that controversy which occupies the chief of our
attention--the great controversy on Creation or Evolution. Your
Jane Bennet cries: "I have no idea of there being so much Design in
the world as some persons imagine." Nor do you touch on our mighty
social question, the Land Laws, save when Mrs. Bennet appears as a
Land Reformer, and rails bitterly against the cruelty "of settling
an estate away from a family of five daughters, in favour of a man
whom nobody cared anything about." There, madam, in that cruelly
unjust performance, what a text you had for a tendenz-romanz. Nay,
you can allow Kitty to report that a Private had been flogged,
without introducing a chapter on Flogging in the Army. But you
formally declined to stretch your matter out, here and there, "with
solemn specious nonsense about something unconnected with the
story." No "padding" for Miss Austen! in fact, madam, as you were
born before Analysis came in, or Passion, or Realism, or Naturalism,
or Irreverence, or Religious Open-mindedness, you really cannot hope
to rival your literary sisters in the minds of a perplexed
generation. Your heroines are not passionate, we do not see their
red wet cheeks, and tresses dishevelled in the manner of our frank
young Maenads. What says your best successor, a lady who adds fresh
lustre to a name that in fiction equals yours? She says of Miss
Austen: "Her heroines have a stamp of their own. THEY HAVE A
Love with them does not mean a passion as much as an interest, deep
and silent." I think one prefers them so, and that Englishwomen
should be more like Anne Elliot than Maggie Tulliver. "All the
privilege I claim for my own sex is that of loving longest when
existence or when hope is gone," said Anne; perhaps she insisted on
a monopoly that neither sex has all to itself. Ah, madam, what a
relief it is to come back to your witty volumes, and forget the
follies of to-day in those of Mr. Collins and of Mrs. Bennet! How
fine, nay, how noble is your art in its delicate reserve, never
insisting, never forcing the note, never pushing the sketch into the
caricature! You worked, without thinking of it, in the spirit of
Greece, on a labour happily limited, and exquisitely organised.
"Dear books," we say, with Miss Thackeray--"dear books, bright,
sparkling with wit and animation, in which the homely heroines
charm, the dull hours fly, and the very bores are enchanting."

LETTER--To Master Isaak Walton

Father Isaac,--When I would be quiet and go angling it is my custom
to carry in my wallet thy pretty book, "The Compleat Angler." Here,
methinks, if I find not trout I shall find content, and good
company, and sweet songs, fair milkmaids, and country mirth. For
you are to know that trout be now scarce and whereas he was ever a
fearful fish, he hath of late become so wary that none but the
cunningest anglers may be even with him.

It is not as it was in your time, Father, when a man might leave his
shop in Fleet Street, of a holiday, and, when he had stretched his
legs up Tottenham Hill, come lightly to meadows chequered with
waterlilies and lady-smocks, and so fall to his sport. Nay, now
have the houses so much increased, like a spreading sore (through
the breaking of that excellent law of the Conscientious King and
blessed Martyr, whereby building beyond the walls was forbidden),
that the meadows are all swallowed up in streets. And as to the
River Lea, wherein you took many a good trout, I read in the news
sheets that "its bed is many inches thick in horrible filth, and the
air for more than half a mile on each side of it is polluted with a
horrible, sickening stench," so that we stand in dread of a new
Plague, called the Cholera. And so it is all about London for many
miles, and if a man, at heavy charges, betake himself to the fields,
lo you, folk are grown so greedy that none will suffer a stranger to
fish in his water.

So poor anglers are in sore straits. Unless a man be rich and can
pay great rents, he may not fish in England, and hence spring the
discontents of the times, for the angler is full of content, if he
do but take trout, but if he be driven from the waterside, he falls,
perchance, into evil company, and cries out to divide the property
of the gentle folk. As many now do, even among Parliament-men, whom
you loved not, Father Isaak, neither do I love them more than Reason
and Scripture bid each of us be kindly to his neighbour. But,
behold, the causes of the ill content are not yet all expressed, for
even where a man hath licence to fish, he will hardly take trout in
our age, unless he be all the more cunning. For the fish, harried
this way and that by so many of your disciples, is exceeding shy and
artful, nor will he bite at a fly unless it falleth lightly, just
above his mouth, and floateth dry over him, for all the world like
the natural ephemeris. And we may no longer angle with worm for
him, nor with penk or minnow, nor with the natural fly, as was your
manner, but only with the artificial, for the more difficulty the
more diversion. For my part I may cry, like Viator in your book,
"Master, I can neither catch with the first nor second Angle: I
have no fortune."

So we fare in England, but somewhat better north of the Tweed, where
trout are less wary, but for the most part small, except in the
extreme rough north, among horrid hills and lakes. Thither, Master,
as methinks you may remember, went Richard Franck, that called
himself Philanthropus, and was, as it were, the Columbus of anglers,
discovering for them a new Hyperborean world. But Franck,
doubtless, is now an angler in the Lake of Darkness, with Nero and
other tyrants, for he followed after Cromwell, the man of blood, in
the old riding days. How wickedly doth Franck boast of that leader
of the giddy multitude, "when they raged, and became restless to
find out misery for themselves and others, and the rabble would herd
themselves together," as you said, "and endeavour to govern and act
in spite of authority." So you wrote; and what said Franck, that
recreant angler? Doth he not praise "Ireton, Vane, Nevill, and
Martin, and the most renowned, valorous, and victorious conqueror,
Oliver Cromwell"? Natheless, with all his sins on his head, this
Franck discovered Scotland for anglers, and my heart turns to him
when he praises "the glittering and resolute streams of Tweed."

In those wilds of Assynt and Loch Rannoch, Father, we, thy
followers, may yet take trout, and forget the evils of the times.
But, to be done with Franck, how harshly he speaks of thee and thy
book. "For you may dedicate your opinion to what scribbling
putationer you please; the Compleat Angler if you will, who tells
you of a tedious fly story, extravagantly collected from antiquated
authors, such as Gesner and Dubravius." Again he speaks of "Isaac
Walton, whose authority to me seems alike authentick, as is the
general opinion of the vulgar prophet," &c.

Certain I am that Franck, if a better angler than thou, was a worse
man, who, writing his "Dialogues Piscatorial" or "Northern Memoirs"
five years after the world welcomed thy "Compleat Angler," was
jealous of thy favour with the people, and, may be, hated thee for
thy loyalty and sound faith. But, Master, like a peaceful man
avoiding contention, thou didst never answer this blustering Franck,
but wentest quietly about thy quiet Lea, and left him his roaring
Brora and windy Assynt. How could this noisy man know thee--and
know thee he did, having argued with thee in Stafford--and not love
Isaak Walton? A pedant angler, I call him, a plaguy angler, so let
him huff away, and turn we to thee and to thy sweet charm in fishing
for men.

How often, studying in thy book, have I hummed to myself that of
Horace -

Laudis amore tumes? Sunt certa piacula quae te
Ter pure lecto poterunt recreare libello.

So healing a book for the frenzy of fame is thy discourse on
meadows, and pure streams, and the country life. How peaceful, men
say, and blessed must have been the life of this old man, how lapped
in content, and hedged about by his own humility from the world!
They forget, who speak thus, that thy years, which were many, were
also evil, or would have seemed evil to divers that had tasted of
thy fortunes. Thou wert poor, but that, to thee, was no sorrow, for
greed of money was thy detestation. Thou wert of lowly rank, in an
age when gentle blood was alone held in regard; yet thy virtues made
thee hosts of friends, and chiefly among religious men, bishops, and
doctors of the Church. Thy private life was not unacquainted with
sorrow; thy first wife and all her fair children were taken from
thee like flowers in spring, though, in thine age, new love and new
offspring comforted thee like "the primrose of the later year." Thy
private griefs might have made thee bitter, or melancholy, so might
the sorrows of the State and of the Church, which were deprived of
their heads by cruel men, despoiled of their wealth, the pious
driven, like thee, from their homes; fear everywhere, everywhere
robbery and confusion: all this ruin might have angered another
temper. But thou, Father, didst bear all with so much sweetness as
perhaps neither natural temperament, nor a firm faith, nor the love
of angling could alone have displayed. For we see many anglers (as
witness Richard Franck aforesaid) who are angry men, and myself,
when I get my hooks entangled at every cast in a tree, have come
nigh to swear prophane.

Also we see religious men that are sour and fanatical, no rare thing
in the party that professes godliness. But neither private sorrow
nor public grief could abate thy natural kindliness, nor shake a
religion which was not untried, but had, indeed, passed through the
furnace like fine gold. For if we find not Faith at all times easy,
because of the oppositions of Science, and the searching curiosity
of men's minds, neither was Faith a matter of course in thy day.
For the learned and pious were greatly tossed about, like worthy Mr.
Chillingworth, by doubts wavering between the Church of Rome and the
Reformed Church of England. The humbler folk, also, were invited,
now here, now there, by the clamours of fanatical Nonconformists,
who gave themselves out to be somebody, while Atheism itself was not
without many to witness to it. Therefore, such a religion as thine
was not, so to say, a mere innocence of evil in the things of our
Belief, but a reasonable and grounded faith, strong in despite of
oppositions. Happy was the man in whom temper, and religion, and
the love of the sweet country and an angler's pastime so
conveniently combined; happy the long life which held in its hand
that threefold clue through the labyrinth of human fortunes! Around
thee Church and State might fall in ruins, and might be rebuilded,
and thy tears would not be bitter, nor thy triumph cruel.

Thus, by God's blessing, it befell thee

Nec turpem senectam
Degere, nec cithara carentem.

I would, Father, that I could get at the verity about thy poems.
Those recommendatory verses with which thou didst grace the Lives of
Dr. Donne and others of thy friends, redound more to the praise of
thy kind heart than thy fancy. But what or whose was the pastoral
poem of "Thealma and Clearchus," which thou didst set about printing
in 1678, and gavest to the world in 1683? Thou gavest John
Chalkhill for the author's name, and a John Chalkhill of thy kindred
died at Winchester, being eighty years of his age, in 1679. Now
thou speakest of John Chalkhill as "a friend of Edmund Spenser's,"
and how could this be?

Are they right who hold that John Chalkhill was but a name of a
friend, borrowed by thee out of modesty, and used as a cloak to
cover poetry of thine own inditing? When Mr. Flatman writes of
Chalkhill, 'tis in words well fitted to thine own merit:

Happy old man, whose worth all mankind knows
Except himself, who charitably shows
The ready road to virtue and to praise,
The road to many long and happy days.

However it be, in that road, by quiet streams and through green
pastures, thou didst walk all thine almost century of years, and we,
who stray into thy path out of the highway of life, we seem to hold
thy hand, and listen to thy cheerful voice. If our sport be worse,
may our content be equal, and our praise, therefore, none the less.
Father, if Master Stoddard, the great fisher of Tweedside, be with
thee, greet him for me, and thank him for those songs of his, and
perchance he will troll thee a catch of our dear River.

Tweed! winding and wild! where the heart is unbound,
They know not, they dream not, who linger around,
How the saddened will smile, and the wasted rewin
From thee--the bliss withered within.

Or perhaps thou wilt better love,

The lanesome Tala and the Lyne,
And Manor wi' its mountain rills,
An' Etterick, whose waters twine
Wi' Yarrow frae the forest hills;
An' Gala, too, and Teviot bright,
An' mony a stream o' playfu' speed,
Their kindred valleys a' unite
Amang the braes o' bonnie Tweed!

So, Master, may you sing against each other, you two good old
anglers, like Peter and Corydon, that sang in your golden age.

LETTER--To M. Chapelain

Monsieur,--You were a popular poet, and an honourable, over-
educated, upright gentleman. Of the latter character you can never
be deprived, and I doubt not it stands you in better stead where you
are, than the laurels which flourished so gaily, and faded so soon.

Laurel is green for a season, and Love is fair for a day,
But Love grows bitter with treason, and laurel outlives not May.

I know not if Mr. Swinburne is correct in his botany, but YOUR
laurel certainly outlived not May, nor can we hope that you dwell
where Orpheus and where Homer are. Some other crown, some other
Paradise, we cannot doubt it, awaited un si bon homme. But the
moral excellence that even Boileau admitted, la foi, l'honneur, la
probite, do not in Parnassus avail the popular poet, and some
luckless Glatigny or Theophile, Regnier or Gilbert, attains a kind
of immortality denied to the man of many contemporary editions, and
of a great commercial success.

If ever, for the confusion of Horace, any Poet was Made, you, Sir,
should have been that fortunately manufactured article. You were,
in matters of the Muses, the child of many prayers. Never, since
Adam's day, have any parents but yours prayed for a poet-child.
Then Destiny, that mocks the desires of men in general, and fathers
in particular, heard the appeal, and presented M. Chapelain and
Jeanne Corbiere his wife with the future author of "La Pucelle." Oh
futile hopes of men, O pectora caeca! All was done that education
could do for a genius which, among other qualities, "especially
lacked fire and imagination," and an ear for verse--sad defects
these in a child of the Muses. Your training in all the mechanics
and metaphysics of criticism might have made you exclaim, like
Rasselas, "Enough! Thou hast convinced me that no human being can
ever be a Poet." Unhappily, you succeeded in convincing Cardinal
Richelieu that to be a Poet was well within your powers, you
received a pension of one thousand crowns, and were made Captain of
the Cardinal's Minstrels, as M. de Treville was Captain of the
King's Musketeers.

Ah, pleasant age to live in, when good intentions in poetry were
more richly endowed than ever is Research, even Research in
Prehistoric English, among us niggard moderns! How I wish I knew a
Cardinal, or even, as you did, a Prime Minister, who would praise
and pension ME; but envy be still! Your existence was made happy
indeed; you constructed odes, corrected sonnets, presided at the
Hotel Rambouillet, while the learned ladies were still young and
fair, and you enjoyed a prodigious celebrity on the score of your
yet unpublished Epic. "Who, indeed," says a sympathetic author, M.
Theophile Gautier, "who could expect less than a miracle from a man
so deeply learned in the laws of art--a perfect Turk in the science
of poetry, a person so well pensioned, and so favoured by the
great?" Bishops and politicians combined in perfect good faith to
advertise your merits. Hard must have been the heart that could
resist the testimonials of your skill as a poet offered by the Duc
de Montausier, and the learned Huet, Bishop of Avranches, and
Monseigneur Godeau, Bishop of Vence, and M. Colbert, who had such a
genius for finance.

If bishops and politicians and Prime Ministers skilled in finance,
and some critics (Menage and Sarrazin and Vaugelas), if ladies of
birth and taste, if all the world in fact, combined to tell you that
you were a great poet, how can we blame you for taking yourself
seriously, and appraising yourself at the public estimate?

It was not in human nature to resist the evidence of the bishops
especially, and when every minor poet believes in himself on the
testimony of his own conceit, you may be acquitted of vanity if you
listened to the plaudits of your friends. Nay, you ventured to
pronounce judgment on contemporaries--whom Posterity has preferred
to your perfections. "Moliere," said you, "understands the genius
of comedy, and presents it in a natural style. The plot of his best
pieces is borrowed, but not without judgment; his morale is fair,
and he has only to avoid scurrility."

Excellent, unconscious, popular Chapelain!

Of yourself you observed, in a Report on contemporary literature,
that your "courage and sincerity never allowed you to tolerate work
not absolutely good." And yet you regarded "La Pucelle" with some

On the "Pucelle" you were occupied during a generation of mortal
men. I marvel not at the length of your labours, as you received a
yearly pension till the Epic was finished, but your Muse was no
Alcmena, and no Hercules was the result of that prolonged night of
creation. First you gravely wrote out all the composition in prose:
the task occupied you for five whole years. Ah, why did you not
leave it in that commonplace but appropriate medium? What says the
Precieuse about you in Boileau's satire?

In Chapelain, for all his foes have said,
She finds but one defect, he can't be read;
Yet thinks the world might taste his Maiden's woes,
If only he would turn his verse to prose!

The verse had been prose, and prose, perhaps, it should have
remained. Yet for this precious "Pucelle," in the age when
"Paradise Lost" was sold for five pounds, you are believed to have
received about four thousand. Horace was wrong, mediocre poets may
exist (now and then), and he was a wise man who first spoke of aurea
mediocritas. At length the great work was achieved, a work thrice
blessed in its theme, that divine Maiden to whom France owes all,
and whom you and Voltaire have recompensed so strangely. In folio,
in italics, with a score of portraits and engravings, and culs de
lampe, the great work was given to the world, and had a success.
Six editions in eighteen months are figures which fill the poetic
heart with envy and admiration. And then, alas! the bubble burst.
A great lady, Madame de Longueville, hearing the "Pucelle" read
aloud, murmured that it was "perfect indeed, but perfectly
wearisome." Then the satires began, and the satirists never left
you till your poetic reputation was a rag, till the mildest Abbe at
Menage's had his cheap sneer for Chapelain.

I make no doubt, Sir, that envy and jealousy had much to do with the
onslaught on your "Pucelle." These qualities, alas! are not strange
to literary minds; does not even Hesiod tell us that "potter hates
potter, and poet hates poet"? But contemporary spites do not harm
true genius. Who suffered more than Moliere from cabals? Yet
neither the court nor the town ever deserted him, and he is still
the joy of the world. I admit that his adversaries were weaker than
yours. What were Boursault and Le Boulanger, and Thomas Corneille
and De Vise, what were they all compared to your enemy, Boileau?
Brossette tells a story which really makes a man pity you. You
remember M. de Puimorin, who, to be in the fashion, laughed at your
once popular Epic. "It is all very well," said you, "for a man to
laugh who cannot even read." Whereon M. de Puimorin replied:
"Qu'il n'avoit que trop su lire, depuis que Chapelain s'etoit avise
de faire imprimer." A new horror had been added to the
accomplishment of reading since Chapelain had published. This
repartee was applauded, and M. de Puimorin tried to turn it into an
epigram. He did complete the last couplet,

Helas! pour mes peches, je n'ai su que trop lire
Depuis que tu fais imprimer.

But by no labour would M. de Puimorin achieve the first two lines of
his epigram. Then you remember what great allies came to his
assistance. I almost blush to think that M. Despreaux, M. Racine,
and M. de Moliere, the three most renowned wits of the time,
conspired to complete the poor jest, and assail you. Well, bubble
as your poetry was, you may be proud that it needed all these
sharpest of pens to prick the bubble. Other poets, as popular as
you, have been annihilated by an article. Macaulay put forth his
hand, and "Satan Montgomery" was no more. It did not need a
Macaulay, the laughter of a mob of little critics was enough to blow
him into space; but you probably have met Montgomery, and of
contemporary failures or successes I do not speak.

I wonder, sometimes, whether the consensus of criticism ever made
you doubt for a moment whether, after all, you were not a false
child of Apollo? Was your complacency tortured, as the complacency
of true poets has occasionally been, by doubts? Did you expect
posterity to reverse the verdict of the satirists, and to do you
justice? You answered your earliest assailant, Liniere, and, by a
few changes of words, turned his epigrams into flattery. But I
fancy, on the whole, you remained calm, unmoved, wrapped up in
admiration of yourself. According to M. de Marivaux, who reviewed,
as I am doing, the spirits of the mighty dead, you "conceived, on
the strength of your reputation, a great and serious veneration for
yourself and your genius." Probably you were protected by the
invulnerable armour of an honest vanity, probably you declared that
mere jealousy dictated the lines of Boileau, and that Chapelain's
real fault was his popularity, and his pecuniary success,

Qu'il soit le mieux rente de tous les beaux-esprits.

This, you would avow, was your offence, and perhaps you were not
altogether mistaken. Yet posterity declines to read a line of
yours, and, as we think of you, we are again set face to face with
that eternal problem, how far is popularity a test of poetry? Burns
was a poet: and popular. Byron was a popular poet, and the world
agrees in the verdict of their own generations. But Montgomery,
though he sold so well, was no poet, nor, Sir, I fear, was your
verse made of the stuff of immortality. Criticism cannot hurt what
is truly great; the Cardinal and the Academy left Chimene as fair as
ever, and as adorable. It is only pinchbeck that perishes under the
acids of satire: gold defies them. Yet I sometimes ask myself,
does the existence of popularity like yours justify the malignity of
satire, which blesses neither him who gives, nor him who takes? Are
poisoned arrows fair against a bad poet? I doubt it, Sir, holding
that, even unpricked, a poetic bubble must soon burst by its own
nature. Yet satire will assuredly be written so long as bad poets
are successful, and bad poets will assuredly reflect that their
assailants are merely envious, and (while their vogue lasts) that
the purchasing public is the only judge. After all, the bad poet
who is popular and "sells" is not a whit worse than the bad poets
who are unpopular, and who deride his songs.


Votre tres-humble serviteur, &c.

LETTER--To Sir John Maundeville, Kt. (OF THE WAYS INTO YNDE.)

Sir John,--Wit you well that men holden you but light, and some
clepen you a Liar. And they say that you never were born in
Englond, in the town of Seynt Albones, nor have seen and gone
through manye diverse Londes. And there goeth an old knight at
arms, and one that connes Latyn, and hath been beyond the sea, and
hath seen Prester John's country. And he hath been in an Yle that
men clepen Burmah, and there bin women bearded. Now men call him
Colonel Henry Yule, and he hath writ of thee in his great booke, Sir
John, and he holds thee but lightly. For he saith that ye did pill
your tales out of Odoric his book, and that ye never saw snails with
shells as big as houses, nor never met no Devyls, but part of that
ye say, ye took it out of William of Boldensele his book, yet ye
took not his wisdom, withal, but put in thine own foolishness.
Nevertheless, Sir John, for the frailty of Mankynde, ye are held a
good fellow, and a merry; so now, come, let me tell you of the new
ways into Ynde.

In that Lond they have a Queen that governeth all the Lond, and all
they ben obeyssant to her. And she is the Queen of Englond; for
Englishmen have taken all the Lond of Ynde. For they were right
good werryoures of old, and wyse, noble, and worthy. But of late
hath risen a new sort of Englishman very puny and fearful, and these
men clepen Radicals. And they go ever in fear, and they scream on
high for dread in the streets and the houses, and they fain would
flee away from all that their fathers gat them with the sword. And
this sort men call Scuttleres, but the mean folk and certain of the
baser sort hear them gladly, and they say ever that Englishmen
should flee out of Ynde.

Fro Englond men gon to Ynde by many dyverse Contreyes. For
Englishmen ben very stirring and nymble. For they ben in the
seventh climate, that is of the Moon. And the Moon (ye have said it
yourself, Sir John, natheless, is it true) is of lightly moving, for
to go diverse ways, and see strange things, and other diversities of
the Worlde. Wherefore Englishmen be lightly moving, and far
wandering. And they gon to Ynde by the great Sea Ocean. First come
they to Gibraltar, that was the point of Spain, and builded upon a
rock; and there ben apes, and it is so strong that no man may take
it. Natheless did Englishmen take it fro the Spanyard, and all to
hold the way to Ynde. For ye may sail all about Africa, and past
the Cape men clepen of Good Hope, but that way unto Ynde is long and
the sea is weary. Wherefore men rather go by the Midland sea, and
Englishmen have taken many Yles in that sea.

For first they have taken an Yle that is clept Malta; and therein
built they great castles, to hold it against them of Fraunce, and
Italy, and of Spain. And from this Ile of Malta Men gon to Cipre.
And Cipre is right a good Yle, and a fair, and a great, and it hath
4 principal Cytees within him. And at Famagost is one of the
principal Havens of the sea that is in the world, and Englishmen
have but a lytel while gone won that Yle from the Sarazynes. Yet
say that sort of Englishmen where of I told you, that is puny and
sore adread, that the Lond is poisonous and barren and of no avail,
for that Lond is much more hotter than it is here. Yet the
Englishmen that ben werryoures dwell there in tents, and the skill
is that they may ben the more fresh.

From Cypre, Men gon to the Lond of Egypte, and in a Day and a Night
he that hath a good wind may come to the Haven of Alessandrie. Now
the Lond of Egypt longeth to the Soudan, yet the Soudan longeth not
to the Lond of Egypt. And when I say this, I do jape with words,
and may hap ye understond me not. Now Englishmen went in shippes to
Alessandrie, and brent it, and over ran the Lond, and their
soudyours warred agen the Bedoynes, and all to hold the way to Ynde.
For it is not long past since Frenchmen let dig a dyke, through the
narrow spit of lond, from the Midland sea to the Red sea, wherein
was Pharaoh drowned. So this is the shortest way to Ynde there may
be, to sail through that dyke, if men gon by sea.

But all the Lond of Egypt is clepen the Vale enchaunted; for no man
may do his business well that goes thither, but always fares he
evil, and therefore clepen they Egypt the Vale perilous, and the
sepulchre of reputations. And men say there that is one of the
entrees of Helle. In that Vale is plentiful lack of Gold and
Silver, for many misbelieving men, and many Christian men also, have
gone often time for to take of the Thresoure that there was of old,
and have pilled the Thresoure, wherefore there is none left. And
Englishmen have let carry thither great store of our Thresoure,
9,000,000 of Pounds sterling, and whether they will see it agen I
misdoubt me. For that Vale is alle fulle of Develes and Fiendes
that men clepen Bondholderes, for that Egypt from of olde is the
Lond of Bondage. And whatsoever Thresoure cometh into the Lond,
these Devyls of Bondholders grabben the same. Natheless by that
Vale do Englishmen go unto Ynde, and they gon by Aden, even to
Kurrachee, at the mouth of the Flood of Ynde. Thereby they send
their souldyours, when they are adread of them of Muscovy.

For, look you, there is another way into Ynde, and thereby the men
of Muscovy are fain to come, if the Englishmen let them not. That
way cometh by Desert and Wildernesse, from the sea that is clept
Caspian, even to Khiva, and so to Merv; and then come ye to Zulfikar
and Penjdeh, and anon to Herat, that is called the Key of the Gates
of Ynde. Then ye win the lond of the Emir of the Afghauns, a great
prince and a rich, and he hath in his Thresoure more crosses, and
stars, and coats that captains wearen, than any other man on earth.

For all they of Muscovy, and all Englishmen maken him gifts, and he
keepeth the gifts, and he keepeth his own counsel. For his lond
lieth between Ynde and the folk of Muscovy, wherefore both
Englishmen and men of Muscovy would fain have him friendly, yea, and
independent. Wherefore they of both parties give him clocks, and
watches, and stars, and crosses, and culverins, and now and again
they let cut the throats of his men some deal, and pill his country.
Thereby they both set up their rest that the Emir will be
independent, yea, and friendly. But his men love him not, neither
love they the English, nor the Muscovy folk, for they are
worshippers of Mahound, and endure not Christian men. And they love
not them that cut their throats, and burn their country.

Now they of Muscovy ben Devyls, and they ben subtle for to make a
thing seme otherwise than it is, for to deceive mankind. Wherefore
Englishmen putten no trust in them of Muscovy, save only the
Englishmen clept Radicals, for they make as if they loved these
Develes, out of the fear and dread of war wherein they go, and would
be slaves sooner than fight. But the folk of Ynde know not what
shall befall, nor whether they of Muscovy will take the Lond, or
Englishmen shall keep it, so that their hearts may not enduren for
drede. And methinks that soon shall Englishmen and Muscovy folk put
their bodies in adventure, and war one with another, and all for the
way to Ynde.

But St. George for Englond, I say, and so enough; and may the
Seyntes hele thee, Sir John, of thy Gowtes Artetykes, that thee
tormenten. But to thy Boke I list not to give no credence.


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