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matical formality what no man has made up (as so many now are, more's yet pretended to doubt." Lastly comes the pity) of various critical disquisithe author of a style which has for its tions that have been aired before in first purpose to disguise evident truths sundry quarters where such things in such a way,
" that a man will as abound. Nothing Mr. Swinburne has easily mistake his own positions, if he written has ever missed the public ear, meets them thus transformed, as he or could miss it: one may disagree may pass in a masquerade his nearest with him, but one must hear him. acquaintance." This particular style These articles are sure to have been of writing is more explicitly described. read at first hand by all who care for “It may be called the terrific, for its that sort of writing, and some of them, chief intention is to terrify and amaze; at least, have been freely discussed, it may be termed the repulsive, for its both then and since. It is not, therenatural effect is to drive away the fore, our intention to repeat an already reader; or it may be distinguished, in more than twice-told tale; to depreplain English, by the denomination of cate Mr. Swinburne's contempt for the bugbear style, for it has more terror Byron or to re-echo his praise of than danger, and will appear less Wordsworth ; to follow him through formidable as it is more nearly ap- the dark unsavoury maze in which all proached.” Then follow some samples must lose themselves who still wish to of this sort of eloquence from a book verify the guilt or the innocence of then lately published, Letters on Mary Stuart ; or to take a seat on the Mind,' by a writer whose name sur- bench beside him as he sums up on vives only in a foot-note. To offer the rival claims of Lord Tennyson and any of these to our readers would be De Musset. To criticise Mr. Swinindeed to send owls as wonders to burne's criticisms is hardly, indeed, Athens. But the conclusion of it all one man's work. No two living men deserves to be quoted. “This, my dear can have read so much and so widely. reader, is very strange : but though it And then, his qualities as a critic are be strange, it is not new : survey these so well known. His likes, so cordial wonderful sentences again, and they and so catholic; his dislikes, equally will be found to contain nothing more catholic and even more cordial; his than very plain truths, which, till this unrivalled command of language ; his author
arose, had always been delivered wonderful keenness of vision alterin plain language.”
nated with an obliquity more wonderOne would not, as we have said, have ful still. Every quality that a critic to cast about very far to find in our should have is his, -and mixed with current literature examples in abun. each, alas! is something of every quality dance of the various styles. Illustrious a critic should not have. To borrow a examples, indeed, of nearly all of them metaphor from his own poetry, readers have lately been provided by a writer who essay to follow him through the who, many as the ways are in which perilous paths of his critical wanderhe has distinguished himself, has not ings are like those“ weak ships and yet chosen to distinguish himself by spirits” in his "Garden of Proserdiscovering the nearest way to truth. pine; Above all writers of his day Mr. Swin
They drive adrift, and whither burne has been pre-eminently “the
They wot not who make thither. man of exuberance and copiousness ;" and above all the volumes that he has No attempt, then, will here be made published, in prose and verse, his last to examine any of the critical judgperhaps displays those qualities in their ments expressed in this volume, but richest profusion.1
from it we shall venture to take an The volume is for the most part illustration or two of a phase of the
Terrific Diction not included in John1 'Miscellanies,' by Algernon Charles Swinburne. London, 1886.
son's category, by the use of which
Mr. Swinburne does more to counteract necessity. To insist on calling a spade a toothhimself than any other writer of our
pick is not more foolish than to insist on time. It is not (again to borrow his calling a toothpick a spade. All effect is de
stroyed, all force is withdrawn from the own words) “the positive worth and
strongest phrases in the language, when a actual weight of his message” that we critic who merely objects to the method or propose to consider so much as “the impugns the conclusions of an author is asmethod of its delivery.”
sailed in such terms as would be simply proper
and requisite to define the character of a The power of judging himself is one detractor who skulks aside or sneaks away of the rarest and most precious pos- from responsibility for words which he might sessions of a writer : the possession of be called upon, by the force of general opinion this
in a very remarkable or the law of literary honour, at once to power
swallow or to prove." degree (as all who have read his letters will know) was, for example, And then, in the very next paragraph, one of the most striking of the many Mr. Swinburne proceeds to call a toothstriking gifts of Keats. What is
pick a spade in terms which he himself less rare, less precious, yet perhaps has been obliging enough to define
more curious, is the power of unconsciously seeing oneself in
"A brainless and frontless trafficker in others ; and of all the conspicuous
scandal, a secret and scurrilous traducer who
strews insult and scatters defamation in the writers of our time none have pos
holes and corners of crepuscular and furtive sessed this power so vividly as Carlyle literature, behind the backs of men who have and Mr. Swinburne. A little thought met with equally contemptuous indifference will enable any one at all conversant
his previous advances and his previous imwith his writings to recall many in
pertinences, must, if he be a responsible crea
ture, know himself to be, in the eyes of any stances of it in the case of the former; one with any pretension to honour, a person in the case of the latter there is more of such unspeakably infamous character that than one signal instance of it in the
every foul word or insolent allusion which in
conscious security from all chance of reprisals present volume.
he may venture to cast at his superiors does In the paper on Charles Reade Mr.
but more loudly proclaim him a liar and a Swinburne touches on what Trollope, slanderer, a coward and a cur. Such an one with happy euphemism, has styled
is, in homely English, by common consent a Reade's amazing misconception of the
blackguard ; and a blackguard who invites duty of literary honesty, a misconcep
and challenges the chastisement of exposure
is not less indisputably a blockhead.” tion which Mr. Swinburne thinks likely to prove more injurious to A little of yelling and foaming here, Reade's fame than his “unhappy and surely : but no—“These, in such a ludicrous habit of sputtering at any case, are terms of scientific definition objection taken to any part or feature rather than of individual obloquy." of his work, of yelling and foaming at There is but one parallel that we know any reflection cast on any one who had of to this remarkable statement. In the fortune or misfortune of his friend- one of John Leech's immortal draw. ship or acquaintance." No one, he ings, a small Special Constable during says, could suppose that Reade's pil. the Chartist Riots of '48 is represented ferings were due to the “necessity of saying to some burly wuffian preparing conscious incompetence"; but, he goes for action : “ Now, if I kill you it's on,
nothing, but if you kill me, by jingo,
it's murder." “This does not improve either the morality There are other points about Mr. or the comprehensibility of his position ; nor does it justify, however fully it may explain,
Swinburne's method of delivering his the rabid virulence of his on those who differed message on which it were possible to from his theory or objected to his practice. comment, still illustrating the comStrength and plainness of speech are thoroughly mentary from his own pages. Whose commendable only when the application of plain terms and strong epithets is so mani.
style, for example, had he in his mind festly just that no man of common honesty
when he was writing of the “detestand candour will question its justice or its able as well as debateable land of pseudo-poetic rhapsody in hermaphro- has treated him not unkindly. True, ditic prose”? Did no soft compunc- in his early days there were passages tion touch him as he characterised between them; but even those carping the Spenserian metre as one which creatures called critics have not been leaves some readers, “after a dose of altogether unjust to the author of a few pages, overgorged with a sense • Atalanta in Calydon' and 'The that they have been eating a whole Garden of Proserpine;' they have hive's harvest of thick pressed honey agreed to forget The Leper,' and they by great spoonfuls, without one half- have read · Bothwell.' Mr. Swinburne pennyworth of bread to this intolerable having proved himself so strong, is it deal of sweet-stuff" } But we prefer not time now that he should be to keep to the point we originally merciful? started from the unnecessary In all seriousness, does Mr. Swinstrength and directness of the “scien- burne consider not only how hard he tific definitions" Mr. Swinburne selects is on us (which perhaps might not to explain things which really at this move him much), but how unfair he stage of human intelligence need no is to himself, how sadly he counterexplanation at all.
acts his own labours by this abnormal The age has been often congratu- method of delivery? The retorts dislated on the great improvement visible courteous that two disappointed placein its literary manners when contrasted hunters may fling at each other across with those of its predecessor. In what- the floor of the House of Commons, or ever else (if in anything) we have gone
in the columns of the newspapers, back, in this respect at least we have matter nothing. Your politician is all, in honest Joe Gargery's phrase, a chartered libertine, and in their gentlefolked amazingly. It should be Parliamentary sense words and things so; the newspapers are for ever con- take a meaning, or a no-meaning, of soling us with this comfortable fact
But in literature it is and giving us such earnest of it, too ! different. Literature has its duties, And yet with this volume before us, its responsibilities, and the word once and some recent freaks of Mr. Rus- written abides. Mr. Swinburne could kin's this way still but too fresh in be of much service to his age. His our memory, it does seem a little hard knowledge of literature, native and to believe that our literary state is foreign, ancient and modern, is imone of such perfect grace.
mense, and it is all at first hand: he Mr. Swinburne has, it is true, been has read it, not merely read about it a man of war from his youth upwards, though that knowledge, too, is his and though he must now have some in a surprising degree. His apprecia“relish of the saltness of time," it is tion is as vast as his knowledge. All very clear he has not lost the joys of sorts and conditions of writers he battle or forgotten his “swashing can find good in; in Victor Hugo blow.” “In my younger days," once as well as in Shakespeare, in Pope said the good old Johnson to Miss as well as in Keats, in George Eliot Reynolds, “it is true I was much in- as well as in Walter Scott. Nor clined to treat mankind with asperity ever man's appreciation more and contempt; but I found it answered hearty. It does one good in this no good end. I thought it wiser and Alexandrian age to hear him rolling better to take the world as it goes. out the full tide of his praise, till one Besides, as I have advanced in life I feels inclined to forgive him all his have had more reason to be satisfied faults, quia multum amavit. And with it. Mankind have treated me with when not distracted by prejudice or more kindness, and of course I have intoxicated by delight, how fine and more kindness for them." This does true is his sense of all that is good ! not seem to be Mr. Swinburne's view Imbedded and entombed in blocks of of things. Yet on the whole mankind shapeless and in harmonious burlesque
(the expression is his own) lies many their foul mouths foam over in futile and à rare jewel ; golden words, happy
furious response, reeking and rabid with viruphrases, flashing a ray of light straight Yet when, like those that swarmed at the
lent froth and exhalations of raging ribaldry. to the heart of the matter. One might heels of Milton, the vermin venture on all say of him that when he treats himself possible extremes of personal insult and impufairly he never praises wrongly. In
tation to which dulness may give ear or malice short, let us say it again, there is no
may give tongue, a man cannot reasonably be
held to derogate from the duty and dignity of one quality a critic should have of
self-respect if he spurns or scourges them out which Mr. Swinburne does not own of his way. To give these rascals rope is a at least some proportion.
needless waste of hemp. A spider's thread, And all these gifts, so useful as
spun from the inner impurity of his own
venomous vitals, will suffice for such a creature they might be made now, when criti
to hang himself.” cism is, like Mistress Doll, sick of a calm, or, a captive Samson, plods its But, in truth, it is no very dignified weary round,
ourselves “Eyeless, in Gaza, at the mill with slaves,”
engaged in, and there shall be an end
of it. After all, what is there to say all these gifts Mr. Swinburne wil
but, the pity of it?—the pity of seefully makes of no avail by freaks (to ing a writer with (to borrow the last give them no harsher name) which
popular phrase) such gifts and graces out-Reade Reade himself in the very voluntarily debasing himself to the height of those “unwise and violent
level of “ verminous fellows whom the extravagances in the field of personal higher Muses at least should be conor critical controversy,” for which he tent to leave in the native and natural so justly brings the collector of
shelter of that obscene obscurity which • Readiana' to task. How may we alone is proper to such autocoprophatake a critic seriously who can gravely
gous animalcules as make the filth assert that all who hesitate to con
they feed on.” And yet the man who firm his opinion of Lord Tennyson's wrote this wrote this also of Charles • Rizpah' must be “either cancerous Lamb: with malevolence or paralytic with stupidity"? Here, in truth, is the '- in all those qualities which most Terrific Diction in full flower : for, endear his memory to us all he holds really of when this wonderful sentence is sur
no man but himself. It is impossible merely
to like him ; you must, as Wordsworth bade veyed again, what is it more than that
the red-breast whom he saw chasing the Mr. Swinburne has no high opinion butterfly, of those who differ from him? What
"Love him, or leave him alone.' good end is served by calling the
“All men worthy to know him would seem Carlyles “ Thomas Cloacinus and his
always to have loved him in proportion to Goody," because they did not appreci- their worthiness, and this inevitable affection ate the worth of Lamb's proffered would seem again to have given them for a friendship-a blindness which surely
time the very qualities most wanting to their was its own punishment? Is it possi
usual habit of mind. It fixed the inconstancy
of Coleridge: it softened the austerity of ble to believe a man an authority on Wordsworth. It withdrew for a moment the the “duty and dignity of self-respect," author of The Friend' from contemplation of who can write in these terms of metaphysics, and the author of The Prelude' Milton's deplorable readiness
from meditation on himself.”
to engage with unworthy adversaries?
Was ever Lamb praised more finely? “It is certainly no very dignified amuse- Reading this, even with the memory ment, no very profitable expenditure of energy of so much that is otherwise stiil or time, to indulge in the easy diversion of fresh, what can one say but, “if the making such curs yelp, and watching them writhe under the chastisement which an in
rascal have not given me medicines to sulted superior may condescend to inflict, till make me lore him, I'll be hanged"!
HOMER AND RECENT ARCHÆOLOGY.
It needs some courage to undertake logical opinion is fast settling in the an article on what many people will conviction that there is one explanaconsider the interminable Homeric tion, and one only, which will account controversy. But the undertaking, for the discovery in a goldless land though bold, is not rash, if one believe like Greece of rich gold treasures of that the controversy is not intermin- prehistoric date, the explanation that able. It was so, as long as we had the precious metal came from the nothing to guide us but intrinsic other side of the Ægean, where the probabilities and the statements of sands of Pactolus literally ran with ancient writers. Grote, summing up gold, so that the kings of Phrygia and with his usual clearness and vigour Lydia became the richest monarchs in the evidence before him, decided that the world. As soon as the Mycenaan the date of the Homeric poems could treasures came to light, Mr. Newton not be fixed within four centuries. declared the style of their decoration But, since Grote wrote, the evidence to be like that of the Phrygian royal has been extended, and the new argu- tombs at Doganlu, and other archæoments are of a more satisfactory logists have frequently since published character than the old. If, for brief- the same discovery. The fact is unness sake, we may use a metaphor, we deniable, and establishes the Phrygian will say that historical science has character of the Mycenæan gold-work. let slip after the Homeric hare two When, then, tradition tells that Pelops hounds, philology and archæology. As came from Phrygia to reign over yet they have not secured the prey, Argolis, and when the sober history but they are fast approaching it. The of Thucydides records that Pelops question is now no longer whether the became master of Peloponnesus in virquarry will escape, but rather how tue of the abundant gold which he soon it will be captured, and to which brought with him from his native of the hounds the merit of the capture country, it seems unreasonable any will accrue.
This paper contains a longer to doubt that we have really brief account of recent advances in found the tombs of the Pelopid kings Homeric archæology. Mycena and of Argolis. Tiryns have now furnished such an This view will be further confirmed archæological commentary to the if we consider the fashion in which Homeric text as before did not exist. the gold is worked. The goldsmiths The able text-book of Dr. Helbig 'has who fashioned the diadems, the swordsketched out a grammar of Homeric belts, the gold-plates of Mycena were archæology which may hereafter be no tyros trying a prentice hand on a extended and amplified; the time has material new to them, but men disalready come when we can point out playing a practised, probably a hereclear landmarks and set forth the indi- ditary, skill in dealing with gold cations furnished by certain new truths. and displaying its lustre to the best
The theories of those who saw in advantage. These workmen cannot the overflowing wealth of the tombs have been trained in Greece, but must of the kings of Mycenæ the spoil accu- have come from Asia Minor. The mulated by Gauls or Goths of a later most extraordinary of all the gold age are entirely exploded. Archæo- signets of Mycenæ, that which repre1. Das Homerische Epos aus den Denk
sents a female figure seated under a mälern erläutert.' Leipzig, 1884.
tree to receive the homage of worship