The Tragic Comedians, Complete
George Meredith

Part 4 out of 4

mixed of good and evil, of generous ire and mutinous, of the passion for
the future of mankind and vanity of person, magnanimity and sensualism,
high judgement, reckless indiscipline, chivalry, savagery, solidity,
fragmentariness, was dust.

The two men composing it, the untamed and the candidate for citizenship,
in mutual dissension pulled it down. He perished of his weakness, but it
was a strong man that fell. If his end was unheroic, the blot does not
overshadow his life. His end was a derision because the animal in him
ran him unchained and bounding to it. A stormy blood made wreck of a
splendid intelligence. Yet they that pronounce over him the ordinary
fatalistic epitaph of the foregone and done, which is the wisdom of men
measuring the dead by the last word of a lamentable history, should pause
to think whether fool or madman is the title for one who was a zealous
worker, respected by great heads of his time, acknowledged the head of
the voluminous coil of the working people, and who, as we have seen,
insensibly though these wrought within him, was getting to purer fires
through his coarser when the final intemperateness drove him to ruin.
As little was he the vanished God whom his working people hailed
deploringly on the long procession of his remains from city to city under
charge of the baroness. That last word of his history ridicules the
eulogy of partisan and devotee, and to commit the excess of worshipping
is to conjure up by contrast a vulgar giant: for truth will have her just
proportions, and vindicates herself upon a figure over-idealized by
bidding it grimace, leaving appraisers to get the balance of the two
extremes. He was neither fool nor madman, nor man to be adored: his last
temptation caught him in the season before he had subdued his blood, and
amid the multitudinously simple of this world, stamped him a tragic
comedian: that is, a grand pretender, a self-deceiver, one of the lividly
ludicrous, whom we cannot laugh at, but must contemplate, to distinguish
where their character strikes the note of discord with life; for
otherwise, in the reflection of their history, life will seem a thing
demoniacally inclined by fits to antic and dive into gulfs. The
characters of the hosts of men are of the simple order of the comic; not
many are of a stature and a complexity calling for the junction of the
two Muses to name them.

While for his devotees he lay still warm in the earth, that other, the
woman, poor Clotilde, astonished her compatriots by passing comedy and
tragic comedy with the gift of her hand to the hand which had slain
Alvan. In sooth, the explanation is not so hard when we recollect our
knowledge of her. It was a gentle youth; her parents urged her to it: a
particular letter, the letter of the challenge to her father, besliming
her, was shown;--a hideous provocation pushed to the foullest. Who can
blame Prince Marko? who had ever given sign of more noble bravery than
he? He had stood to defend her name and fame. He was very love, the
never extinguished torch of love. And he hung on her for the little of
life appearing to remain to him. Before heaven he was guiltless. He was
good. Her misery had shrunk her into nothingness, and she rose out of
nothingness cold and bloodless, bearing a thought that she might make a
good youth happy, or nurse him sinking--be of that use. Besides he was a
refuge from the roof of her parents. She shut her eyes on the past, sure
of his goodness; goodness, on her return to some sense of being, she
prized above other virtues, and perhaps she had a fancy that to be allied
to it was to be doing good. After a few months she buried him. From
that day, or it may be, on her marriage day, her heart was Alvan's.
Years later she wrote her version of the story, not sparing herself so
much as she supposed. Providence and her parents were not forgiven. But
as we are in her debt for some instruction, she may now be suffered to


A tragic comedian: that is, a grand pretender, a self-deceiver
At the age of forty, men that love love rootedly
Hosts of men are of the simple order of the comic
Men in love are children with their mistresses
Providence and her parents were not forgiven
She ran through delusion and delusion, exhausting each
Trick for killing time without hurting him
Weak souls are much moved by having the pathos on their side


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