« AnteriorContinuar »
with the sword (and that not from lack of trying); the faithful friend, the devoted lover of his king, his country, and woman. Here is a man whom we love as we do D'Artagnan and for the same reason, which is that our hearts go out to him who is not too far removed from earth, a man who boldly and fearlessly works out his fate. We have a sense of something lacking in a hero like Henry Esmond. Who of us does not feel some sympathy with Beatrix when she tells him he would have gotten along better with her had he not been on his knees to her so much.
Sienkiewicz's later and more popular "Quo Vadis" is far inferior as a novel to any one of the trilogy, though one must recognize the power of the descriptions, the strength of the charactersespecially that of Petronius. - and the realism of the whole, this last being the crucial test. The novel in which Sienkiewicz has last been presented to English readers, "The Knights of the Cross," is hardly up to the standard of his best, though strong and fine in every way.
The impression made by Sienkiewicz is best characterized by saying that after almost any other novelist one feels that he has been looking at a picture, or at best at a "moving picture." After Sienkiewicz one feels that he has looked on life. ALFRED SUMNER BRADFORD.
SOME NEGLECTED MATERIAL IN ANTI-SLAVERY LITERATURE.
(To the Editor of THE DIAL.)
Professor Barrett Wendell, in his "Literary History of America," seems to have neglected certain obvious opportunities in dealing with the literary history of the Anti-Slavery agitation. There died in Ohio as far back as 1833, Charles B. Storrs, President of Western Reserve College, who was the real pioneer of the remarkable Anti-Slavery or Abolition movement in that part of the country, which soon involved Giddings and Wade. Yet Professor Wendell, who devotes much space not simply to Anti-Slavery literature, but to the Anti-Slavery agitation in general, has not a word for Storrs, whose services for the cause in the West were fully recognized by the New England workers for that same cause, as is shown by Whittier's beautiful elegy. This brings me to the Harvard professor's omission of a literary landmark which is unexplainable, as it was not a Western but a distinctly New England landmark. The author dwells at length and most interestingly on Mrs. Stowe's epoch-marking "Uncle Tom's Cabin," but he makes not the slightest allusion to the initial literary work of the propaganda. In 1833, the same year when Storrs, the pioneer of Abolition in Ohio, died, Mrs. Lydia Maria Child (nee Francis), a native of Massachusetts, published "An Appeal for That Class of Americans Called Africans," which was the first Anti-Slavery book published in America. It may not be generally known as such, for Allibone does not so state, nor does he give the exact title of the
A DISTRESSING MISQUOTATION.
(To the Editor of THE DIAL.)
It is probable that the Anthology of Mr. Stedman will be regarded by the judicious as proof of the poverty of our American poetic lore rather than as convincing evidence of our riches. It will be generally conceded, however, that Edgar Allen Poe was a real poet; only his contributions are so small. But one of his most characteristic and attractive gems is marred in Mr. Stedman's book by one of the most diabolical blunders of misquotation in all the annals of printing; and this will be copied no doubt unwittingly many times. I refer to the lines "To One in Paradise":
The story is told of the third Earl of Shaftesbury that, rising to make his maiden speech in Parliament on the bill allowing counsel to a prisoner accused of treason, he became so embarrassed and confused as to break down altogether; but being encouraged by the House to go on, he made a great impression by the ingenuous remark: "If I, sir, who rise only to speak my opinion on the bill now depending, am so confounded that I am unable to express the least of what I proposed to say, what must the condition of that man be who is pleading for his life without any assistance and under apprehension of being deprived of it?" This happy turn pleased his listeners extremely, and was thought to have done more toward passing the bill than any of the more solid arguments advanced in its support. The incident is char
*THE LIFE, Unpublished LETTERS, AND PHILOSOPHICAL REGIMEN OF ANTHONY, EARL OF SHAFTESBURY. Edited by Benjamin Rand, Ph.D. New York: The Macmillan Company.
acteristic of the man, and stamps him as a worthy predecessor to the noble and philanthropic seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, his more famous descendant.
Dr. Rand's volume on the third Lord Shaftesbury deals far less with the public life of the Earl than with that inward growth revealed by his philosophical writings and private correspondence. Indeed, his delicate constitution prevented him from engaging actively in politics, although he seems to have made his mark in Parliament, and was offered the secretaryship of state by King William, whose trusted adviser he continued to be for some years. He died an early death in 1713, within a few weeks of his forty-second birthday. His son's biography of him, first published in Bayle's "General Dictionary," and now reprinted, with some additions from the biographer's manuscripts, in this volume, and Series V. of the Shaftesbury Papers, preserved in the Record Office, are the chief sources of our information regarding the Earl. Dr. Rand devotes nearly half of his portly volume to the Letters, rather more than half to the "Philosophical Regimen," and fourteen pages to the brief “Life,” — all, excepting the letters to Locke and the biography, being published for the first time from the Shaftesbury Papers.
To the non-classical student the book may seem to bristle formidably with Greek and Latin quotations, but a second glance will show that these are nearly all translated or paraphrased, so that his alarm is groundless. To the lover of the classics the volume will have a flavor of old-fashioned scholarship not ungrateful in an age which sees the editor of a leading English literary review gravely referring to the temple of Janus as closed in time of war, and an editorial writer in one of our own most scholarly journals ascribing the "Miles Gloriosus" to Terence. The disciple of Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius will be glad to give the "Philosophical Regimen" a place beside the Enchiridion" and the "Meditations." The key-note of the work is struck in the
essay on "Improvement," where, after referring to the practice of making memoranda for various less worthy uses, the author continues:
"Would one think of making any for Life? Would one think that this were a business to improve in? What if this should be the thing of all others chosen out for a pocket-book and memorandums? But so it is. . . . Begin therefore and work upon this subject. Collect, digest, methodize, abstract. How many codes,
how many volumes, how much labour, and what com
piling in the study of other laws? But in the law of life how? They who seek not any such in life, nor think that there is any rule, what are they better than vulgar?"
It is to be regretted that the style of the work is so largely that of the note-book, in which occasional memoranda are jotted down with little regard to literary form. Nearly always labored and often bombastic in his utterance, the author has repelled rather than attracted readers. Even his once famous "Characteristics" has long lain neglected. Yet we should not forget that he was admired in his own century by such critics as Hurd and Blair. That he should have had so little of Addison's elegance, of Swift's perspicuity, simplicity, and strength, of Steele's ease and vivacity, and all three of these were his immediate contemporaries, is somewhat surprising. But occasionally his manner is hardly less admirable than his matter, as when, treating of the passions, he writes thus aptly and forcibly concerning "Joy":
"There is one sort of joy which is fierce, eager, boisterous, impetuous, restless, which carries with it a sort of insatiableness, rage, madness, sting; and which afterwards is followed by disgust and discontent. There is another sort of joy which is soft, still, peaceable, serene, which has no mixture or alloy; of which there is no excess, but the more it is felt, the more perfect and refined it grows, the more content and satisfaction it yields through the whole of life. To the first of these a thousand things are necessary, a thousand outward and casual circumstances concurring, the least of which being removed, or ceasing, it also must cease. To the second there is nothing necessary but what depends upon ourselves."
It adds much to the weight of Shaftesbury's counsels to know that he practised what he preached, so far as we can learn from his contemporaries; and thus his lumbering periods make an impression where a Seneca's rhetorical flights of would-be stoicism fail to convince. "Perhaps no modern," writes Toland in his introduction to the Shaftesbury letters, "ever turned the ancients more into sap and blood, as they say, than he. Their doctrines he understood as well as themselves, and their virtues he practised better." "Just as Spinoza was 'God-intoxicated,'" says the Earl's latest editor, "so Shaftesbury was intoxicated with the idea of virtue.' He is the greatest Stoic of modern times. Into his own life he wrought the stoical virtue for virtue's sake. This exalted purpose he sought to attain by means of this Regimen. . . . The Greek slave, the Roman emperor, and the English nobleman must
abide the three great exponents of stoical philosophy."
Lord Shaftesbury's influence on the men of his time was considerable. Voltaire calls him the boldest of English philosophers- perhaps questionable praise and Diderot's "Essai sur le Mérite et la Vertu" is a free translation of the Earl's "Inquiry concerning Virtue." He enjoyed the friendship of Locke, Pope, Lord Somers, Lord Halifax, and many others eminent either in literature or in public affairs. His reputation as a free-thinker hurt him in some quarters, but his wholesome influence for liberality of thought and freedom of inquiry could not have been other than widespread.
The letters, with which the volume closes, though they have not the charm of the great letter-writers, are yet interesting reading. Their formality and stately courtesy even his own mother he always addresses as "your ladyship" -are characteristic of the period, but a little chilling to the reader, and a little tiresome.
A book, Dr. Johnson declares, should help us to enjoy life or to endure it. This noteworthy contribution to the literature of stoicism is well fitted for the latter purpose, nor, we believe, will its perusal entirely fail of accomplishing the former.
PERCY FAVOR BICKNELL.
HOMER IN THE VULGAR TONGUE.*
The adequate translation of Homer is doubtless the most imperative task set, for the classical scholar, in the interests of general culture. Very few men can ever have, and even fewer can retain, an accurate knowledge of the Greek poem. Indeed the specialist himself reaches only one certainty that he does not possess, and can never restore, the original text. The Homeric vocabulary is very large, and the meanings of many words are merely surmised, or are still fought over. Yet in the history of poetry, in mythology, even in sociological and ethnological studies, the Iliad and Odyssey must always be of peculiar and unique importance. They are the first chapters in the history of European culture. We should have an interpretation, and a comment, by a syndicate of scholars, which would have for the layman such authority as the Revised Version now enjoys.
*THE ODYSSEY. Rendered into English Prose by Samuel Butler. New York: Longmans, Green, & Co.
The present reviewer believes firmly that the poetic tone and spirit, and also the unit of the line or verse, are indispensable elements in every great poem. Hence Longfellow's Dante, which attempts to preserve both, is a better-directed effort than Mr. Norton's version, which wholly abandons the metrical form. Voss's line-for-line German version of Iliad and Odyssey is almost ideal.
But the general voice of our generation seems adverse to all this. The translation of Homer probably best-known in America is still the dignified, musical, rather slow work of the poet Bryant's old age. To the eye his rendering is "blank verse," and the ten-syllable line is quite too short to express the average contents of an Homeric hexameter. For the ear this verse has no well-defined close, and is indeed often plain prose. Furthermore, the most notable recent renderings have been avowedly prosaic. Mr. Lang and his partners still retained an archaic flavor, and somewhat elevated diction. Mr. Palmer descended to the simplest and most direct forms of contemporary English. Mr. Samuel Butler has taken a much longer stride down the same slope. He has deliberately emptied each phrase of all noble allusiveness or charm, and gives us the blunt fact in vulgar colloquial words. We do not think he would himself quarrel with this statement.
A typical instance is Odyssey, Book V., vss. 154-5, with its inimitable antithesis. Bryant indicates the contrast poetically, though he does not attempt the artistic repetition of the last word:
"Night after night
He slept constrained within the hollow cave,
Butcher and Lang rise to the occasion, and expanding slightly give us: "Howsoever by night he would sleep by her, as needs he must, in the hollow caves, unwilling lover by a willing lady." Mr. Palmer has a similar rendering. Mr. Butler offers us: "He had got tired of Calypso, and though he was forced to sleep with her in the cave by night, it was she, not he, would have it so." Words like "hurryskurrying," phrases like "There is no accounting for luck," were never meant to suggest poetry. The clearest note, perhaps, is struck at II. 20, where Antiphos, a companion of Odysseus, is mentioned. "The savage Cyclops killed him in the cave, and on him made a supper last of all," says Mr. Palmer. There may be a bit of tragic irony here, in that poor
Antiphos just failed to escape with the rest of the crew. Mr. Butler actually makes it read that the Cyclops" cooked his (Antiphos') last meal for him," and comments thus: "So we vulgarly say had cooked his goose' or 'had settled his hash.'" If this is the mature result of literal prose translation, let us by all means "hurry-skurry" back to Pope, with his deftlymanaged clattering pair of stilts!
It is fair to say that this well-printed version seems based on competent study of Greek, is as a rule carefully and faithfully done, and in the notes the translator shows personal familiarity with Mediterranean lands. The discussion of passages borrowed more or less awkwardly from the Iliad into the younger poem is often acute and stimulating, though it is startling to hear this spoken of as a newly-discovered or unworked vein of scholarship.
Mr. Butler announces this translation as a supplement to his "The Authoress of the Odyssey," published in 1897. This was an attempt to demonstrate that the Odyssey was written by a girl, who lived at Trapani on the west coast of Sicily, that all Odysseus' adventures really amounted to a mere circumnaviga
tion of that island:-and that the authoress
has put in Nausicaa as a flattering portrait of herself. He announces in the preface to the present volume that no serious criticism of these theses has reached him, and yet he by no means thinks that "scholars generally acquiesce in" his conclusions. Both these latter statements are doubtless true, and will probably remain no less so. Even the inventor himself, at least in this book, keeps up the discussion in a rather bantering spirit, calling at tention to feminine inconsistency, girlish shyness and ignorance, etc., in the Odyssean passages which seem to make for his novel and air-spun theory.
Facing p. 72 are two photographic views of S. Cusumano's salt-works, a sort of dyke on the flat Sicilian shore. The former tidal inlet, now silted up, is, it seems, the original for the beautiful river into which Ulysses swam, to land safely on the Scherian shore. But the same place was introduced, it further appears, in three other sets of passages in the Odyssey, as (1) the harbor of Rheithron in Ithaca, (2) the place where Ulysses landed in Ithaca, (3) the place where Telemachus landed in Ithaca. All these shrivel to a little muddy silted-up Sicilian tideway: ex uno disce omnia.
WILLIAM CRANSTON LAWTON.
A POETIC DRAMA.*
Critics are very apt to object strongly to what they call "closet plays." They sometimes call them "literary dramas," but that name is not a very good one, for it seems to deny the literary element in many dramas which are meant for the stage and very well suited to it. By whatever name called, however, the theatrical critic looks askance on the drama written by a man who writes because he wants to, even though he sees no particular chance of having his play presented. A recent writer deplores the "literary drama” and the fascination it had for the great English poets of the nineteenth century: he says it has a paralysing effect, although it is not clear upon
The critic, however, who is more apt to read plays than to see them, may well wonder at such a view. We have, for instance, among other books, "Ghost of Rosalys" by Mr. Charles Leonard Moore. We should regret to regard it as something not worth doing, something of a paralysing effect. Indeed it was worth doing doubtless, are really very bad: when the poet and it has no such effect. Some closet plays, divorces himself from all possibility of stage presentation, he perhaps feels a lack of restraint that is demoralizing. But after all it can hardly be a certainty with any play that it will not be times; the second part as well as the first. presented. "Faust" has been presented many
"Manfred" has been often presented, and that very effectively. "Brand" has been given a number of times. Almost anything can be presented if there are people who wish to present it. It is true that when presented, it may not be successful, for there may not be anyone that wants to see it. But then, such is the case with some plays written expressly for the stage.
There is really no very strict criterion of a closet play. The only condition (and a simple one it is) is that the writer shall have before him the absolute impossibility of stage presentation. Such was the case, probably, with Shelley in writing "Prometheus Unbound "; possibly with Swinburne in "Atalanta in Calydon." But the greater number of what are generally thought of as literary dramas are plays that one can imagine on the stage. indeed, we have done so with pleasure. The We can imagine Mr. Moore's play on the stage:
GHOST OF ROSALYS: A Play. By Charles Leonard Moore. Philadelphia: Printed for the Author.
fact that an audience of our day might not much care to see it, if it were presented, has little to do with the matter. An audience of our day would not care for many of Shakespeare's plays, nor did the audience for which Shakespeare's plays were originally written care for them more than they did for a good many other plays now forgotten save by readers. The test of a closet play cannot go much farther than has been indicated: if the writer has had a general view to stage conditions, then it is not a closet play that he writes, no matter how literary it may be and no matter how little "stage technique" it may have. Stage technique may be needful for a successful presentation, just as types and ink are needed to make a book. But both are trivial matters, as is clear when we think how little stage technique avails Massinger, Congreve, Robertson to-day, just about as little and as much as types and ink.
That a play is not written expressly for the stage, that it is not meant for immediate performance, that it has not been presented anywhere, these things, then, are not reasons why we may not have something very good. The fact of a successful stage presentation is nothing in favor of a play nowadays; it should, on the other hand, warn us against a play. If we hear that a play has been successfully presented, the chances are that it is a bad play.
Cyrano de Bergerac" succeeded, but so did "The Christian," and more plays are like the latter than like the former.
Hence, we may read with pleasure—if we like poetry-several plays which have been of late published by American writers. Mr. Moody's "Masque of Judgment," Professor Raymond's "The Aztec God," Mrs. Fields's "Orpheus," Mr. Moore's play which we have mentioned, with these books we have a possibility of finding something charming and attractive, that is lacking when we read Mr. Fitch's "Barbara Frietchie" or Mr. Thomas's "Arizona." These latter plays have already charmed and attracted in the way for which they were intended; as books they are like pressed flowers that have no sentimental associations.
After all aside from the possibility of a closet play - why should a poet not put his ideas in dramatic form? It is surely a convenience, in that it enables him, if he wishes, to present certain essential dramatic elements and to omit a great many other elements of which he does not feel the need. The dramatic
form allows one to hold the attention close to the development of the idea without the distraction of description or comment. It has its drawbacks in return for these advantages, but used with proper regard for its proper characteristics the drama is undoubtedly a powerful literary form as well as a valuable theatrical attraction.
This play of Mr. Moore's was presumably not written for the stage, but it is not a play in which the author has neglected theoretical possibilities. Whether it could be successfully presented is neither here nor there; it could be presented, undoubtedly, if there were enough persons who wished to present it, and it would be successful if enough persons were found who wished to see it. And as this is about all that one could say of any play which had not yet made its appearance on the stage, we may therefore neglect the question of presentation until the play is performed.
Mr. Moore has written his play almost entirely in verse, which is not a very common thing just now; in verse which though occasionally rough, is yet sustained with unflagging vitality and spirit, and which by its flowing movement and its adaptive character carries the reader along with it. He puts aside the stillness of a uniform metre, and as one scene changes to another we find the rhythm varying harmoniously with the thought. In some places he is less fortunate than in others, but on the whole the device is eminently successful. And although the question of the stage be dismissed, it may be allowable to point out, not so much that the stage of our day loses something by practically excluding verse (Ibsen, Maeterlinck, D'Annunzio, Pinero, and, in the main, Hauptmann and Sudermann, on the one hand, and Rostand and Stephen Phillips on the other), as that the verse of a drama generally gains by declamation. Mr. Moore's verse may be read aloud with pleasure (indeed, should be), although here and there it is not so fervent as elsewhere.
It is a romantic drama. That might be inferred from the adaptive rhythms and the rhymes. The clear definiteness of our English blank verse gives somewhat the effect of the marble material of a statue, unless it be so much broken up as to become merely pulsating prose. Romantic in form it is and also romantic in general treatment, that is, its main idea is presented not definitely and simply, but with an exuberance of accessory figure and ornament that often rather veils the idea than presents