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special evils—bad schools, bad law courts, bad workhouses and so forth. These are all now reformed or extinct and his novels suffer in consequence from a certain air of tilting at windmills. Thackeray's subject, on the other hand, was the struggle between the spirit of the world and the best instincts of the human heart, a struggle which is not likely to be concluded this year or next.
So these two very different men go down the generations bearing their very different sheaves with them; and no one can confidently say as yet which sheaf will prove more valuable in the ultimate market of posterity. Thackeray, at any rate, must fight his own battle ; for he left no successors. And since his day the novel has followed other paths. The chief, perhaps, is one that his path led us into. The worst of the good sort of realism is that it will lead to naturalism. When people have been given real life under
onditions of art, as in Vanity Fair, they soon want it without those conditions, as in Zola. In an age of science there is inevitably a confusion between the province of science and that of art. People very easily forget that art is the child of the imagination, and that, as Mr. Hardy has told us, a good work of imagination is truer than any literally exact history. But to forget that is to accept the substitution of facts for truth. The conversations in many recent novels are as stupidly true as if they had been taken down by a reporter in a boarding house. The sayings and doings in such a book as The Card are as uninteresting as the photographs in the shop-windows, as like life as they are and as empty and superficial. But naturalism, however fatal for the moment to such artistic realism as Thackeray's, can have no permanent life, because it is not art at all but a bastard kind of science intruding into the world of art.
Thackeray has, however, suffered from the arising of other needs which neither he nor Dickens could satisfy. As the novel increased in importance and became the
principal vehicle of literary expression, people naturally
All these things are against Thackeray, yet so much is for him that he triumphantly survives them. Non omnes omnia. He cannot give us what others give, but he gives us of his own no mean or ordinary gift. After all the great fact remains. Vanity Fair was written in 1847; and it is still doubtful whether, in spite of all its limitations, it is not on the whole the greatest novel in the language. A writer who is still talked of for the first prize in the race which he began to run longer ago than the historic Sixty Years Since can have no complaint to make of his treatment at the hands of Fame.
NAPOLEON IN POETRY
It is curious how little the poets have been inspired by the great men of action. It is history, not poetry, which has sung the praises of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. Our own heroes have fared rather better. Cromwell's name has received poetic preservation at the hands of Milton, Dryden and Marvell, and is enshrined in that witty apology for a poem, worth many poems such as most of his, which Waller made to Charles II. Wellington's fame is consecrated by the organ music of the great ode in which Tennyson gave a more sustained exhibition of his power of making rhythm reflect and re-create emotion than he was ever to give again, except perhaps in another poem to the glory of a famous man of action, The Revenge. But is Marlborough remembered by anything but Pope's account of how in him
guilt and greatness equal ran, And all that raised the hero sunk the man, or Johnson's finer lines
In life's last scene what prodigies surprise,
And Swift expires a driveller and a show ? What has Chatham besides Cowper's two panegyrics, the finer of which links his name with that of the hero whom he discovered ?
And Wolfe's great name compatriot with his own. Has Pitt anything worth having except Scott's splendid tribute
Now is the stately column broke,
in the introduction to the first canto of Marmion ? Fox, who was scarcely a man of action, shares that, and has, besides, Wordsworth’s beautiful lines written in expectation of his death. The hero of heroes, Nelson, besides being the third figure in Scott's Introduction, has the greater tributes of Wordsworth in The Happy Warrior, of Campbell in The Battle of the Baltic, and of Tennyson in the Wellington ode. But how little all these amount to when compared with the innumerable acts of homage which the poets have done to each other, of which Astrophel, Lycidas, Adonais, Arnold's Thyrsis and Memorial Verses, and Tennyson's tributes to Milton, Virgil and Catullus, are only the brightest stars in a vast constellation ?
Napoleon is, in some respects, the greatest of all men of action. Alexander made more splendid conquests and conquests that had much more durable results. Both he and Caesar held for a time undisputed sway over nearly the whole of the civilized world. Both rendered immense services to the world : and Caesar at any rate, if not Alexander, had gifts both of heart and head of which Napoleon had nothing. And Alexander and Caesar died in the plenitude of their power ; while Napoleon's reign was brought to its end, not by death but by his own obstinate, one may almost say stupid, incapacity to perceive the difference between the attainable and the unattainable. Yet, though his oareer ended in failure, some good judges have held him a greater man than either. He had far greater difficulties to encounter than they. Each of them found ready made to his hand a powerful machine of State, the only one of real power in the world of his day. Napoleon, on the other hand, inherited a France which had only just begun to recover from the corruption of the old régime and the subsequent incapacity
of Lord Morley's ‘pitiably incompetent spinster ', Robespierre. That France he quickly made the first nation in the world, first in all the efficiencies both of war and of peace ; with only two exceptions, that he left the sea out of his conception of war and liberty out of his conception of peace. In energy of mind and of body he has probably never had a superior. And if, as Meredith said, this ' hugest of engines was ' a much limited man', yet the thunder of the engine shook Europe out of her slumbers as she had not been shaken since she heard the disturbing voice of Luther. Still the strange fact remains that this wonderful story does not appear to have much attracted the poets. Here is the most dazzling career recorded in history. No man, certainly no man of anything like Napoleon's genius, ever had so strange a rise followed by so strange a fall. Few men have ever been more admired, adored, or loathed. And yet this daemonic being has inspired little poetry, and of that little not much is of the finer sort. Neither the angel which some saw in him, nor the devil which others saw, has won for himself that resurrection into the eternal life of art which has been achieved by so many less interesting historical figures. If Napoleon had lived a hundred years earlier, Scott might have done for him what he has done for Louis XI and Elizabeth and Richard of the Lion Heart. But contemporaries seldom succeed in fiction, and the nearest Scott could come to his own day was the Charles Edward of Waverley and Redgauntlet. So, on the whole, Napoleon must look to the historians, not to the poets, for his fame.
The most celebrated poem ever written about him is probably Manzoni’s Il Cinque Maggio. That had once an immense vogue, and not only in Italy. A hundred years ago Italian was far more commonly known in England than it is now. So when Manzoni's ode appeared it had more English readers than any Italian poem, on whatever subject, could possibly have to-day. And it was read with that passionate