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It is now a complaint of quite respect- English authors, Hazlitt,
, , wrote as able antiquity that the types in which follows :humanity was originally set up by a humour-loving Providence are
“It is, indeed, the evident tendency of all out and require recasting. The sur.
literature to generalise and dissipate character
by giving men the same artificial education face of society has become smooth. It and the same common stock of ideas ; so that ought to be a bas-relief-it is a plane. we see all objects from the same point of view, Even a Chaucer (so it is said) could
and through the same reflected medium ; we
learn to exist not in ourselves, but in books ;make nothing of us as we wend our
all men become alike, mere readers--spectaway to Brighton. We have tempers, tors, not actors, in the scene, and lose all it is true—bad ones for the most part; proper personal identity. The templar,—the but no humours to be in or out of. wit, -the man of pleasure and the man of We are all far too much alike; we do
fashion, the courtier and the citizen, the
knight and the squire, the lover and the not group well; we only mix. All
miser-Lovelace, Lothario, Will Honeycomb this, and more, is alleged against us. and Sir Roger de Coverley, Sparkish and Lord A cheerfully disposed person might Foppington, Western and Tom Jones, my perhaps think that, assuming the pre
Father and my Uncle Toby, Millamant and
Sir Sampson Legend, Don Quixote and Sancho, vailing type to be a good, plain, read
Gil Blas and Guzman d'Alfarache, Count able one, this uniformity need not Fathom and Joseph Surface, - have all met and necessarily be a bad thing; but had exchanged commonplaces on the barren he the courage to give expression to
plains of the haute littérature, -toil slowly on
to the Temple of Science, seen a long way off this opinion he would most certainly upon a level, and end in one dull compound be at once told, with that mixture of of politics, criticism, chemistry and metaasperity and contempt so properly physics!” reserved for those who take cheerful
Very pretty writing, certainly ; views of anything, that without well
nor can it be disputed that uniformity defined types of character there can
of surroundings puts a tax upon be neither National Comedy nor Whimsical Novel; and as it is im
originality. To make bricks and find possible to imagine any person suffi
your own straw are terms of bondage.
Modern characters like modern houses ciently cheerful to carry the argument
are possibly built too much on the further by inquiring ingenuously,
same lines. Dickens's description of “And how would that matter ?” the
Coketown is not easily forgotten position of things becomes serious and demands a few minutes' investigation. “ All the public inscriptions in the town As we said at the beginning the
were painted alike, in severe characters of black complaint is an old one-most com
and white. The jail might have been the in
firmary, the infirmary might have been the plaints are. When Montaigne was in jail, the town hall might have been either, Rome in 1580 he complained bitterly or both, or anything else, for anything that that he was always knocking up
appeared to the contrary in the graces of their
construction." against his own countrymen, and might as well have been in Paris. And the inhabitants of Coketown And yet some people would have you are exposed to the same objection as believe that this curse of the Conti- their buildings. Every one sinks all nent is quite new. More than seventy traces of what he vulgarly calls “ the years ago that most quotable of shop" (that is, his lawful calling), and The pale
busily pretends to be nothing. Dis- that interminable series The Law tinctions of dress are found irksome. Reports,' every now and again strike A barrister of feeling hates to be seen across the old track, once so noisy in his robes save when actually en- with the bayings of the well-paid gaged in a case. An officer wears his hounds of justice, and, pushing his uniform only when obliged. Doctors way along it, trace the history, to have long since shed all outward signs us so familiar, of the bogus Company of their healing art. Court dress from the acclamations attendant upon excites a smile. A countess in her its illegitimate birth to the hour of jewels is reckoned indecent by the disgrace when it dies in a dull court British workman, who, all unem- by strangulation at the hands of ployed, puffs his tobacco smoke against the professional wrecker. the window-pane of the carriage that student will not be a wholly unsymis conveying her ladyship to a drawing- pathetic reader. Great swindles have room; and a West-end clergyman is ere now made great reputations, and with difficulty restrained from telling lawyers may surely be permitted to his congregation what he had been take pensive interest in such told the British workman said on that matters. occasion. Had he but had the
courage “Not one except the Attorney was amusedto repeat those stirring words, his
He, like Achilles faithful to the tomb, hearers (so he said) could hardly have So there were quarrels, cared not for the failed to have felt their force—so
Knowing they must be settled by the laws." unusual in such a place; but he had not the courage, and the sermon of But our elder dramatists would not the pavement remains unpreached. have let any of these characters swim The toe of the peasant is indeed kibing
out of their ken. A glance over Ben the heel of the courtier. The passion Jonson, Massinger, Beaumont and for equality in externals cannot be Fletcher, is enough to reveal their denied. We are all woven strangely frank and easy method. Their charin the same piece, and so it comes
acters, like an apothecary's drugs, about that, though our modern society
wear labels round their necks. Mr. has invented new callings, those call
Justice Clement and Mr. Justice ings have not created new types.
Greedy ; Master Matthew, the town Stockbrokers, directors, official liqui- gull; Sir Giles Overreach ; Sir Epicure dators, philanthropists, secretaries, Mammon; Mr. Plenty; Sir John not of State, but of Companies, Frugal, need no explanatory context. speculative builders, are a new kind our dramatists to blame for of people known to many, indeed withholding from us the heroes of playing a great part among us, but
our modern society? Ought we to who, for all that, have not enriched
have the stage with a single character, “ Sir Moses, Sir Aaron, Sir Jamramagee, Were they to disappear to-morrow Two_stock-jobbing Jews, and a shuffling
Parsee?" (hey! and the rue grows bonnie wi' thyme), to be blown dancing away Baron Contango, the Hon. Mr. Guinealike the leaves before Shelley's west Pig, poor Miss Impulsia Allottee, Mr. wind, where in reading or play-going Jeremiah Builder-Rare Old Ben, who would posterity encounter them ? was fond of the City, would have Almost alone amongst the childre
of given us them all and many more; men, the pale student of the law, but though we may well wish he were burning the midnight oil in some here to do it, we ought, I think, to
of the high lonely towers confess, under cover of anonymity, recently built by the benchers of the that the humour of these typical perMiddle Temple (in the Italian taste), sons who so swell the dramatis personce would, whilst losing his youth over of an Elizabethan is, to say
least of it, not obvious. Thero that the “individual withers, is a certain warm-hearted tradition have but to take down George Mereabout their very names which makes dith's novels to find the fact is otherdisrespect painful. It seems a churl's wise, and that we have still part not to laugh, as did our fathers amongst us who takes notes, and before us, at the humours of the con- against the battery of whose quick ventional parasite or impossible serv- wits even the costly raiments of Poole ing-man; but we laugh because we are no protection. We are forced as will, and not because we must. we read to exclaim with Petruchio,
Genuine comedy—the true tickling “Thou hast hit it; come, sit on me." scene, exquisite absurdity, soul-re- No doubt, the task of the modern joicing incongruity—has really nothing humourist is not so easy as it was. to do with types, prevailing fashions. The surface ore has been mostly and such like vulgarities. Sir Andrew picked up. In order to win the Aguecheek is not a typical fool ; he precious metal you must now work is a fool, seised in fee simple of his with in-stroke and out-stroke after the folly.
most approved methods. Sometimes Humour lies not in generalisations one would enjoy it a little more if we but in the individual ; not in his hat did not hear quite so distinctly the nor in his hose, even though the latter snorting of the engine, and the groan
cross-gartered”; but in the deep ing and the creaking of the gear as it heart of him, in his high-flying vani- painfully winds up its prize : but ties, his low-lying oddities—what we what would you l Methods, no less call his “ways”—nay, in the very than men, must have the defects of motions of his back as he crosses the their qualities. road. These stir our laughter whilst If, therefore, it be the fact that our he lives and our tears when he dies, National Comedy is in a decline, we for in mourning over him we know must look for some other reasons for full well we are taking part in our it than those suggested by Hazlitt in own obsequies. “But indeed," wrote 1817. When Mr. Chadband inquired Charles Lamb (may the devil—the Why can we not fly, my friends ? expression is the gentle Elia's—jug Mr. Snagsby ventured to observe “in those who ever write poor Charles a cheerful and rather knowing tone, Lamb), "we die many deaths before • No wings !'” but he was immediately we die, and I am almost sick when I frowned down by Mrs. Snagsby. We think that such a hold as I had of lack courage to suggest that the some. you is gone."
what heavy-footed movements of our Literature is but the reflex of life, recent dramatists are in any way due and the humour of it lies in the to their not being provided with those portrayal of the individual not the twin adjuncts indispensable for the type ; and though the young man in genius who would soar. Locksley Hall' no doubt observes
TAERE is interest about
or a village; a stiff clay soil, so localities in which great ideas were obdurate that after heavy rain the conceived almost greater than that water lies in the fields for some time attaching to the places where they before it can soak away; a land of were carried out. With however slow, silent, brimming streams, like reverent an excitement we look at the the Coln, fringed with innumerable walls of Jerusalem, our sensations are pollards; a country inexpressibly dreary almost more poignant at the first sight in the gloomy November days, canopied of the low, bare hills with the over by an impenetrable mist for week scrubby olives and rounded terebinths after week, or with a dull river fog, where Jesus of Nazareth went apart settling in clammy moisture on stones
There is often a sensation and palings, and running in drops of vulgarity attaching to the concrete about the deposits of rotting leaves. realisation of a grand design—a vul- And even on such days as that on garity inseparable from the materials which I last visited it, when a boisteremployed and the instruments used. ous warm south wind was tearing and But there is nothing vulgar about the rolling up the clouds in all directions, quiet and
of a retreat in which there is a feeling of listlessness about so many a great ideal shaped itself in the region. In summer, on the still a noble mind. We are liable, too, to dry days, over the western horizon comprehend in such localities the full lies a long, low, unchanging bank of vastness of great ideas, the unap- dun cloud or mist, which, when stirred proachableness of genius. The woods, by a westerly breeze, rises like the the waters, farms and fields, such a genie of the Arabian Nights, and landscape as we have known and hangs a heavy garment half across the loved all our lives ; and in the midst sky—the smoke of London. of these a human mind, like, yet so The pleasantest way to approach unlike ours, dreaming, devising, creat- Horton is across the fields from ing—we do not feel tempted to say, Datchet. As you near the village at the centres of old
across a gigantic pollard enthusiasm, the scenes of past world- oak, remnant of the antique tragedies—“If these advantages had chase of Ditton (a similar monster been mine, if I had lived in such a stands at the corner of the Duke crisis, if I had moved in the midst of of Buccleuch's park, half - a - mile those fiery thoughts, those inspiring across the fields); then you become individualities, I might have risen to aware by sight of laurestinus and greatness too." But alone in the feathery pampas, and a certain trimhomely country, face to face with ness in the privet-hedge in front, that Nature at her mildest, such a temp- you are approaching a mansion of tation vanishes ; we wonder, and are some kind; and now it is seenoverwhelmed.
a stately villa of Queen Anne's time, Horton is such a place. It is in the with that air of old-world genial comextreme south of Buckinghamshire, fort about it, that mellow brick and in a little jutting angle of that county. flat-topped windows contrive to give. It has the Buckinghamshire charac- This is a sort of out-post; a moment teristics in the highest degree. A more, and, picking your way across a broad, flat, expanse, dotted with dis- piece of marshy ground-full of dry tant wood, denoting either a park bulrush now, and in summer of fig-wort,
willow-herb, and meadow-sweet, and advertisements than any other existing even the tall ostentatious spikes of residence. loose-strife, haunted by water-rats in After gazing a little at the church dozens—you come upon a grand, old- locked, of course, and we are in too fashioned farm; a snipe at this desultory a mood to hunt for the moment flicks out of the rushes, and Rectory and the key, though there is dodges out of sight across the a certain inscribed blue-slate tombmarsh we have just left, a sign that stone that we ought to see—we lanHorton is not much disturbed by guidly inquire of a rustic, who has wandering mankind.
suspended what little occupation he The road leads past two or three had been engaged in, firmly planting more rambling brick houses, each with his spade in the ground the while to the gravel sweep up to the front door, watch our movements with microscopic each delightfully unlike the rest, at interest, if he can direct us to the varying distances from the road ; one principal object of our pilgrimage. all front and no back, another with Receiving a somewhat ambiguous an unpromising portico, but row after answer, we retrace our steps, and row of huddling windows, stretching passing the farm from whose back we away to the cedar on the back lawn; had struck into the road, we set our houses that defy conjecture as to faces resolutely to the country. The possible or even likely denizens; that road is dotted with Buckinghamshire suggest finally old maids of settled cottages, woodwork and brick and habits, and a very close scrutiny of delicious dilapidation; over the fallow life from their own or one another's and orchards at the right we can see parlour windows, the parson and the the red roofs and yellow walls of doctor their ideals of saintliness and Colnbrook. There is not a hill in sanity.
sight, and overhead, as though to mark A three-cornered green, and a great, the solitude of the place, floats a heron broad high-shouldered, irregular church, down the wind, with an occasional flap built of grey stone and mottled flints, of the great wings, towards the soliwith a chantry all out of proportion tudes of Ditton or Black Park. Then a both in style and size to the rest of flock of peewits whirl querulously out the building, giving it a peculiar and of a ploughed field on the left with yet indefinable charm. The church- their thin, hopeless note, and in a few yard is bounded on both sides, though seconds are sixty feet up in air, unmisopen to the road, by more brick walls takable still by their curved wings and
-in this case older still of the date almost invisible bodies. And at last when they have begun to be more we draw up opposite a square yellowyellow than red, dotted all over with brick villa of the pretentious, and yet crinkled rosettes of lichen, and tufted slipshod, kind; hencoops and scattered at the top with snapdragon and wall- provender on the lawn ; a rank of flower. In the middle of one side are ducks come clamouring out of a two gigantic stone-topped gateposts, wicket, and indolent - looking the intervening space unhappily now spaniel saunters inquiringly down to bricked up-probably by the same the gate, to do the honours of the proprietor who pulled down the house if he feels disposed. Elizabethan manor-house, with its “ Milton villa," horrible juxtagables and mullions, that lurked amid position ! yet this is the only trace moats and fishponds among the chest- beside the blue-slate stone in the nuts behind the church, and substi- church, of the presence that gives tuted the stainless white house, with Horton its significance and sacredness. its circular pillared porch and double It stands, it is said, upon the very flight of steps, in style more like the And the view, too, is probably mansion depicted in house-moving little altered. Across the fields you