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provable, the legends that taught him of a kingdom where love and youth and beauty are immortal. Is it lost forever, that wonder-land to which he sometimes gropes his way back through dreams? He seems to hear the myriad murmurs of an invisible host attendant upon his steps. The sounds of the pulsing darkness, the sigh of reeds by the stream, the cry of tides that come and go, the viewless wind, that bodiless voice of rage and wild laughter and infinite grieving, all speak to him as of yore, but the clue to their signification has been snapped off short. What means that shudder before the mystery of infinite beauty ?—and what the sudden leap in the heart, as of some captive thing straining at the leash ?
Though the dreamer's philosophy bears about the same relation to the sober business of existence as astrology to astronomy, and ornithomancy to ornithology, and he is not an active helper forward of progress, he has his uses. However light his weight may be, it is needed to preserve the balance of power. His influence prevents the world from becoming hopelessly ugly and brutal and matter-of-fact. His year is full of days that may not be forgotten, marked in memory by the dawn-bright blush of April peach boughs or the long lights wavering across fields of ripened wheat. The pageant of the seasons is his : autumn's fire-dropping torch; the ghostly silence of winter; summer revels that die in a dazzle of rose and gold; or peaceful evenings of the springtime, when twilight steals pensively over the dew-wet sward, and one great, bright star points the hour midway between the zenith and horizon. If we take him from his green fields to the clamorous town, he is no whit poorer. In the foundry-fires he hears the chant of singing flame. He notes how the glow of the setting sun transmutes the volumes of smoke that roll from the furnacechimneys into a hundred metallic tints and lustres. He sees something more than bricks and mortar. And when the night is full of echoing footsteps, and the vast rumor of life comes to him as to one who stands upon the edge of a storm, he feels that the secret of humanity has touched him in passing and something inarticulate strives within him for speech.
Because he cannot endure that anything should be barren and desolate, he is always covering the arid places of the world with the blossoms of his fancy and heaping flowers high upon the graves of buried hopes. He can find green grass and fresh-water pools even in the infinite thirst of the desert, where the sand-column soars above the burning plain. If we dispossess him of the earth, he smiles, and paints the empty sky with the mirage of his dreams. Let those who will preach their gloomy creed that “Heaven is a gas; God a force; the second world a grave;" death to him means not dust and dull extinction and the conqueror worm, but the flight of an upward-winging soul. Like the bird of night, he can “sing darkling." He needs no day-spring; for an inward impulse bids the song break forth. Not of his own will, but through some hidden instinct, rises the strain potent to "witch the heart out of things evil.” It is a wandering voice of poesy, giving us back the lost tears and laughter of youth, the thrill of dawn, and the immortal pang of love.
Is it but an idle dream,--a vision vain as bright? What is life, at best? Man, surrounded by terrific forces which may destroy him at any moment, plays ignorantly among them like a child, and is sometimes pleased at fancying himself their master. To-morrow may disabuse him of the flattering idea, but still the valorous pygmy continues to rear his puny defences, -an ant-hill against an avalanche, a cobweb against a whirlwind. Can all his intelligence check the flood or stay the tempest?—can his cunning prevail against the warfare of blind and enraged Titans? When the hour of destruction strikes, his utmost wisdom will carry him little farther than the folly of the estray from dream-land, who calls those mighty powers giants and sorcerers and magicians.
J. K. Wetherill.
WHERE IS MR. STEVENSON?
SOME months ago it was amusing to hear the trained writers of two lands sing the praises of Mr. Robert Louis Stevenson. It was a tuneful choir, with a robust soprano in the person of Miss Sophia Kirk and a fine tenor in that of Mr. Henry James. It was a ringing All Hail to the master of a perfect style; it was a vindication of the character of the professional author; it said, for the first time in ages, that Petty Jealousy was not the secret dictator in the republic of letters. For a week and a day Mr. Stevenson really wore the laurel crown. It was quite the fashion to speak of his “antiseptic" style; to think of him and Mr. Howells as the leaders of two hostile camps; to shrug the shoulders at mention of Mr. Haggard, and scoff at the comparison. Comparison, indeed! It was a contrast. That, we say, was some months ago. And have we changed all that? Lies homage in a new quarter? Perhaps a greater than Stevenson is here and I do not know it. At any rate, Where is Mr. Stevenson ?
Trustworthy tidings of his appearance somewhere in Polynesia have nothing to do with my question. It is a frivolous reply to say that he has been seen in Honolulu. It is, however, quite to the point to say that one may find him in company with Mr. Lloyd Osbourne in “The Wrong Box.” I have deliberately read this piece of farcical fiction to learn the whereabouts of Mr. Stevenson. It gave me the news I sought, but in a provokingly fragmentary way. It is plain, in the first place, that Mr. Stevenson is alive; but it is not so clear that he is well. He never wrote like this before; it will be a surprise to a thousand of his friends that he can write like this at all. Not altogether a disagreeable surprise. There are many reasons for esteeming “The Wrong Box” one of the very cleverest of his always clever stories; and it matters little that not all of the authorship of it is his. It is Stevenson's style and Stevenson's humor, and if it is not Stevenson's ingenuity too his collaborateur should say so and receive the high credit he deserves. But “The Wrong Box” is only of interest to us here as a source of
It tells us the whereabouts of Mr. Stevenson. Where is he, then, to-day? Doubtless many others who write for a living may not read the message as I do, and I know of many things more probable than that I read the message aright; but it seems clear as crystal to me that the author of “Kidnapped” and “Treasure Island” is foremost in the ranks of living English writers of fiction. If that is really where Robert Louis Stevenson is to-day, then it is worth while inquiring how he got there. Not that I believe for an instant, Mr. Hack, that you and I, by ascertaining to a nicety the cunning method of this master, can employ it successfully in putting ourselves in his place; but methods are good things to learn, and in learning Mr. Stevenson's method I am sure we shall be learning a very valuable lesson.
It is the easiest imaginable, too. Perhaps if we had it from his own lips it would read something like this: Words are primary colors; blocks of stone; bags
of coin. Mix them harmoniously; carve them carefully; spend them wisely. This teaches nothing new, to be sure, but it brings home to us our own bad taste, our carelessness, our improvidence. Robert Louis Stevenson has assuredly hugged the alphabet to his heart as a miser would hug his purse. There is not the least doubt that he has broken as a burglar into the complicated lock of our idiom; that he has taken apart the phrases of many a perfect page in the same spirit in which a lad with a taste for mechanics would take apart the works of a watch. That is the only way to master a watch ; the only way to master a style. It is patent that Stevenson did this; but so, for the matter of that, did Walter Pater and Henry James. These three have sat at the feet of the Sphinx of style and melted its inscrutable face with their eager, scorching eyes. And yet they have not learned their trade in the same way.
It was one thing for Stevenson to study Newman and the Book of Job; that was work. I haven't the least doubt that “The Pilgrim's Progress” and “The Bible in Spain,” which he professes to have enjoyed, were a duty. But when it came to “The Egoist” and the “Vicomte de Bragelonne," the inner circle of his intimates, he was no longer a workman; he was one of us ; his eye, perforce, eased of straining, ran gladly and naturally as ours along the magic lines. Dumas he absorbed ; there was nothing of style to be learned there, -only the delight of contact with a creative genius more exuberant than his own; and it stimulated him,-even to mimicry.
I don't know whether I have said anything helpful to writers of my lowly rank. At least it is something to believe that a distinct and meritorious style may be formed after the method of Mr. Stevenson. Then, if one has only that mysterious prompting,—that precious plant which flowers in the brain and sends its eager roots itching to the slothful fingers,—if one has this at times, why, indeed, shouldn't one aspire to get where Mr. Stevenson is ?
MODERN French literature has a reputation of its own: it has qualities which cannot, without offence, be introduced into literature that is English, or even American. In this respect it resembles poetry, which, in all languages, is a chartered libertine and offers an asylum for indiscretions which would be too indiscreet in prose. To use another simile, a ballet-dancer in gauze skirts and behind the foot-lights is all right,—at least, we have agreed to tolerate her thus and 80,—but a ballet-dancer in Quaker costume and amid the sanctities of a private drawing-room would scandalize the most bald-headed frequenter of frontrow orchestra-chairs.
So much will be readily conceded. But there is another aspect of the matter which deserves earnest consideration. Suppose the ballet-dancer were to adopt the Quaker dress in good faith, and to leave the bald-heads without, so to speak, a leg to stand on. Suppose poetry were to cease rehearsing the esoteric allurements of passion and frailty, and to confine itself to a sober and strict chronicle of the time,-or, say, to that “criticism of life” which is all that the late Matthew Arnold professed to be able to find in it. And suppose, to come to the point, that modern French literature were to become even as the English for young persons : should we rejoice in our hearts and devour it, or should we only go through the motions of rejoicing, while really lamenting, and quietly letting it alone?
Nor is this all. The question also arises whether the French genius, such as it is, is good for anything except to be improper. Is it capable of interest, of brilliance,-in a word, of readableness,-otherwise than in the treatment of The Illicit,--of those pungent and poignant topics at which our guileless AngloSaxon tongue stumbles and falters ? Certain amiable philosophers have remarked concerning Our Lady of Pain, whom Mr. Swinburne so melodiously apostrophizes, that she is practically one of the most efficient preservers of our domestic peace and security. May it not likewise be true that if Messrs. Zola, De Maupassant, and Daudet were to forego their Cyprian rhapsodies, and settle down to the demure jog-trot of homespun household novel-writing, those spotless English pages of ours, which are now laid open without hesitation to the perusal of our unmarried daughters, might become defiled with crude and unsavory efforts to imitate the lost Gallic lubricity? Nay, is it not already the case that some of our writers have begun to betray obliviousness of the traditions bequeathed to us by our Puritan ancestors ?
These are not idle speculations. Even admitting that the American erotic school, so called, is but an accidental and baseless efflorescence, we have still to confront the fact that the French romancers have actually begun to act in a manner calculated to afford our erotics an excuse for being. M. Zola, a few months since, published a novel called (in translation) “The Dream,” which was destitute of every quality that made his “ L'Assommoir” and “La Terre" so popular in two hemispheres; and now M. Georges Ohnet has written, and Messrs. Lippincott have printed in English, a story with the title " Antoinette," which is, if anything, more disastrously unobjectionable than “The Dream.” Lest I be suspected of exaggeration, I give a summary of M. Ohnet's plot. The idea of it is not new; it is, in fact, at least as old as that of “Romeo and Juliet." Antoinette is the daughter and heiress of a proud and aristocratic French family, which, however, thanks to the inventive crankiness of its male representative, has nothing better to bequeath her than debts and mortgages. The latter have all been bought up by the mortal enemy of the house, one Carvajan, a plebeian capitalist and money-lender, who, in revenge for an insult put upon him many years before, has dedicated his life and energies to working the ruin of his titled foe. But the implacable Carvajan has a son who is all goodness and mercy, and who is, moreover, desperately and sublimely in love with Antoinette. He is an eminent barrister, and when the crisis comes, instead of siding with his father, he espouses the cause of the aristocrats, paying their debts out of his own pocket, and triumphantly vindicating Antoinette's brother from an unfounded but plausible charge of murder. Hereupon Antoinette gently but firmly dismisses a suitor of her own rank, and declares her unalterable preference for the noble but plebeian lawyer, just as he is on the point of fleeing to America, there to be wasted away by his unavowed passion. The pair are married, and everybody is content except old Carvajan, and even he solaces himself with the reflection that the castle of his enemy has, after all, fallen into the possession of his own immediate descendant.
This is not only unobjectionable, it is positively ideal and paradisiacal. Everybody is good except Carvajan, and the worst that can be said of him is that he is a good hater. Antoinette recalls the most immaculate of Walter Scott's heroines: as for the two lovers, they vie with each other in honor and self-abne
gation. It may fairly be asked, What is the use of the French language, if such novels as this are to be written in it? It is enough to shake Paris to its foundations, and force good Americans, when they die, to seek some more congenial sphere. A serious remonstrance should at once be addressed to M. Ohnet. It should be explained to him and to all who would imitate him that not only are virtuous French stories not interesting, but also that persistence in them threatens to endanger the integrity of American literary morals. We must have naughtiness somewhere, and the French do it so nicely that we are willing to allow them the monopoly in its production. But if they fail us, we shall be constrained to try our hand at it ourselves; and this, to judge by the character of our existing tentative efforts, will be an unmixed calamity to all concerned.
In the days of Queen Elizabeth, theatrical performances began at three o'clock in the afternoon. As the theatres were exposed and the stage and galleries were open to the sky, artificial lighting was not an absolute necessity. Nevertheless, wax lights appear to have been used for this purpose. In the pastoral play of “ The Faithful Shepherdess," Fletcher has these lines :
Nor want there those who, as the boy doth dance
Malone, in his edition of Shakespeare, describes the stage as formerly lighted by means of two large branches “of a form similar to those hung in churches." But it was soon found out that the branches obstructed the view of the spectators and were otherwise inconvenient: so they gave way to small circular wooden frames furnished with eight candles, four on each side.
The frontispiece to the Dublin edition of Chetwood's “History of the Stage” (1749) shows the stage lighted by hoops of candles in this way, suspended from the proscenium, with no foot-lights between the actors and the musicians in the orchestra. The body of the house, according to Malone, was lighted" by cressets or large open lanthorns of nearly the same size as those which are fixed in the poop of a ship."
The use of candles involved the employment of a candle-snuffer, who came on at certain pauses of the performance, to tend and rectify the lighting of the stage. His appearance was usually greeted with the same derision which now marks the entrance of the “supe” who carries chairs on or off the stage, spreads or removes a carpet, etc.,—the same derision, only rather more obstreperous, for the audience were wont to even go so far as hurling missiles at the unfortunate candle-snuffer. In Foote's comedy of “The Minor," Shift, one of the characters, ascribes the courage which was a component part of his character to the experience gained as a candle-snuffer in Drury Lane: “For I think, sir, he who dares stand the shot of the gallery, in lighting, snuffing, and sweeping, the first night of a new play, may bid defiance to the pillory, with all its customary