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Ch. 8: Tendencies and Results

It has been mentioned that romanticism was not purely a matter of aesthetics, without relation to the movement of religious and political thought.[1] But it has also been pointed out that, as compared with what happened in Germany, English romanticism was almost entirely a literary or artistic, and hardly at all a practical force, that there was no such Zusammenhang between poetry and life as was asserted by the German romantic school to be one of their leading principles. Walter Scott, e.g., liked the Middle Ages because they were picturesque; because their social structure rested on a military basis, permitted great individual freedom of action and even lawlessness, and thus gave chances for bold adventure; and because classes and callings were so sharply differentiated—each with its own characteristic manners, dialect, dress—that the surface of society presented a rich variety of colour, in contrast with the drab uniformity of modern life. Perhaps to Scott the ideal life was that of a feudal baron, dwelling in a Gothic mansion, surrounded by retainers and guests, keeping open house, and going a-hunting; and he tried to realise this ideal—so far as it was possible under modern conditions—at Abbotsford. He respected rank and pedigree, and liked to own land. He was a Tory and, in Presbyterian Scotland, he was an Episcopalian. But his mediaeval enthusiasms were checked by all kinds of good sense. He had no wish to restore mediaeval institutions in practice. In spite of the glamour which he threw over feudal life, he knew very well what that life must have been in reality: its insecurity from violence and oppression, its barbarous discomfort; the life of nobles in unplumbed stone castles; the life of burghers in walled towns, without lighting, drainage, or police; the life of countrymen who took their goods to market over miry roads impassable half the year for any wheeled vehicle. As to the English poets whom we have passed in review, from Coleridge to Swinburne, not one of them joined the Catholic Church; and most of them found romantic literary tastes quite consistent with varying shades of political liberalism and theological heterodoxy.

THE ANGLO-CATHOLIC MOVEMENT.—Still even in England, the mediaeval revival in art and letters was not altogether without influence on practice and belief in other spheres of thought. Thus the Oxford Tractarians of 1833 correspond somewhat to the throne-and-altar party in Germany. At Newcastle in 1845, William Bell Scott visited a painted-glass manufactory where he found his friend, Francis Oliphant—afterwards husband of Margaret Oliphant, the novelist—engaged as a designer. He describes Oliphant as no artist by nature, but a man of pietistic feelings who had "thrown himself into the Gothic revival which was, under the Oxford movement, threatening to become a serious antagonist to our present freedom from clerical domination." Scott adds that the master of this glass-making establishment was an uncultivated tradesman, who yet had the business shrewdness to take advantage of "the clerical and architectural proclivities of the day," and had visited and studied the French cathedrals. "These workshops were a surprise to me. Here was the Scotch Presbyterian working-artist, with a short pipe in his mouth, cursing his fate in having to elaborate continual repetitions of saints and virgins—Peter with a key as large as a spade, and a yellow plate behind his head—yet by constant drill in the groove realising the sentiment of Christian art, and at last able to express the abnegation of self, the limitless sadness and even tenderness, in every line of drapery and every twist of the lay figure."

Here is one among many testimonies to the influence of the Oxford movement on the fine arts. It would be easy to call witnesses to prove the reverse—the influence of romance upon the Oxford movement. Newman[2] quotes an article contributed by him to the British Critic for April, 1839, in which he had spoken of Tractarianism "as a reaction from the dry and superficial character of the religious teaching and the literature of the last generation, or century. . . . First, I mentioned the literary influence of Walter Scott, who turned men's minds to the direction of the Middle Ages. 'The general need,' I said, 'of something deeper and more attractive than what had offered itself elsewhere may be considered to have led to his popularity; and by means of his popularity he reacted on his readers, stimulating their mental thirst, feeding their hopes, setting before them visions which, when once seen, are not easily forgotten, and silently indoctrinating them with nobler ideas, which might afterwards be appealed to as first principles.'" Of Coleridge he spoke, in the same paper, as having laid a philosophical basis for church feelings and opinions, and of Southey and Wordsworth as "two living poets, one of whom in the department of fantastic fiction, the other in that of philosophical meditation, have addressed themselves to the same high principles and feelings, and carried forward their readers in the same direction." Newman, like Ruskin, was fond of Scott's verse as well as of his prose.[3]

Professor Gates has well recognised that element in romantic art which affiliates with Catholic tendencies. "Mediaevalism . . . was a distinctive note of the Romantic spirit, and, certainly, Newman was intensely alive to the beauty and the poetic charm of the life of the Middle Ages. One is sometimes tempted to describe him as a great mediaeval ecclesiastic astray in the nineteenth century and heroically striving to remodel modern life in harmony with his temperamental needs. His imagination was possessed with the romantic vision of the greatness of the Mediaeval Church—of its splendour and pomp and dignity, and of its power over the hearts and lives of its members; and the Oxford movement was in its essence an attempt to reconstruct the English Church in harmony with this romantic ideal. . . . As Scott's imagination was fascinated with the picturesque paraphernalia of feudalism—with its jousts, and courts of love, and its coats of mail and buff-jerkins—so Newman's imagination was captivated by the gorgeous ritual and ceremonial, the art and architecture of mediaeval Christianity. . . . Newman sought to revive in the Church a mediaeval faith in its own divine mission and the intense spiritual consciousness of the Middle Ages; he aimed to restore to religion its mystical character, to exalt the sacramental system as the divinely appointed means for the salvation of souls, and to impose once more on men's imaginations the mighty spell of a hierarchical organisation, the direct representative of God in the world's affairs. . . . Both he and Scott substantially ruined themselves through their mediaevalism. Scott's luckless attempt was to place his private and family life upon a feudal basis and to give it mediaeval colour and beauty; Newman undertook a much nobler and more heroic but more intrinsically hopeless task—that of re-creating the whole English Church in harmony with mediaeval conceptions." [4]

All this is most true, and yet it is easy to exaggerate the share which romantic feeling had in the Oxford movement. In his famous apostrophe to Oxford, Matthew Arnold personifies the university as a "queen of romance," an "adorable dreamer whose heart has been so romantic," "spreading her gardens to the moonlight, and whispering from her towers the last enchantments of the Middle Age," and "ever calling us nearer to . . . beauty." Newman himself was a poet, as well as one of the masters of English prose. The movement left an impress upon general literature in books like Keble's "Christian Year" (1827) and "Lyra Innocentium" (1847); in Newman's two novels, "Callista" and "Loss and Gain" (1848), and his "Verses on Various Occasions" (1867); and even found an echo in popular fiction. Grey in Hughes' "Tom Brown at Oxford" represents the Puseyite set. Miss Yonge's "Heir of Redcliffe" and Shorthouse's "John Inglesant" are surcharged with High-Church sentiment. Newman said that Keble made the Church of England poetical. "The author of 'The Christian Year' found the Anglican system all but destitute of this divine element [poetry]; . . . vestments chucked off, lights quenched, jewels stolen, the pomp and circumstances of worship annihilated; . . . the royal arms for the crucifix; huge ugly boxes of wood, sacred to preachers, frowning on the congregation in place of the mysterious altar; and long cathedral aisles unused, railed off, like the tombs (as they were) of what had been and was not." [5] Newman praises in "The Christian Year" what he calls its "sacramental system"; and to the unsympathetic reader it seems as though Keble saw all outdoors through a stained-glass window. The movement had its aesthetic side, and coincided with the revival of church Gothic and with the effort to make church music and ritual richer and more impressive. But, upon the whole, it was more intellectual than aesthetic, an affair of doctrine and church polity rather than of ecclesiology; while the later phase of ritualism into which it has tapered down appears to the profane to be largely a matter of upholstery, given over to people who concern themselves with the carving of lecterns and the embroidery of chasubles and altar cloths; with Lent lilies, antiphonal choirs, and what Carlyle calls the "singular old rubrics" of the English Church and the "three surplices at All-Hallowmas."

Newman was, above all things, a theologian; a subtle reasoner whose relentless logic led him at last to Rome. "From the age of fifteen," he wrote, "dogma has been the fundamental principle of my religion; I know no other religion; I cannot enter into the idea of any other sort of religion; religion, as a mere sentiment, is to me a dream and a mockery." Discussions concerning church ceremonies, liturgy, ritual, he put aside with some impatience. His own tastes were simple to asceticism. Mozley says that Newman and Hurrell Froude induced several of the Oriel fellows to discontinue the use of wine in the common room. "When I came up at Easter, 1825, one of the first standing jokes against the college all over the university was the Oriel tea-pot." [6] Dean Church testifies to the plainness of the services at St. Mary's.[7] Aubrey de Vere reports his urging Newman to make an expedition with him among the Wicklow Mountains, and the latter's "answering with a smile that life was full of work more important than the enjoyment of mountains and lakes. . . . The ecclesiastical imagination and the mountain-worshipping imagination are two very different things. Wordsworth's famous 'Tintern Abbey' describes the river Wye, etc. . . . The one thing which it did not see was the great monastic ruin; . . . and now here is this great theologian, who, when within a few miles of Glendalough Lake, will not visit it." [8]

There is much gentle satire in "Loss and Gain" at the expense of the Ritualistic set in the university who were attracted principally by the external beauty of the Roman Catholic worship. One of these is Bateman, a solemn bore, who takes great interest in "candlesticks, ciboriums, faldstools, lecterns, ante-pend turns, piscinas, roodlofts, and sedilia": wears a long cassock which shows absurdly under the tails of his coat; and would tolerate no architecture but Gothic in English churches, and no music but the Gregorian. Bateman is having a chapel restored in pure fourteenth-century style and dedicated to the Royal Martyr. He is going to convert the chapel into a chantry, and has bought land about it for a cemetery, which is to be decorated with mediaeval monuments in sculpture and painting copied from the frescoes in the Campo Santo at Pisa, of which he has a portfolio full of drawings. "It will be quite sweet," he says, "to hear the vesper-bell tolling over the sullen moor every evening." Then there is White, a weak young aesthete who shocks the company by declaring: "We have no life or poetry in the Church of England; the Catholic Church alone is beautiful. You would see what I mean if you went into a foreign cathedral, or even into one of the Catholic churches in our large towns. The celebrant, deacon and sub-deacon, acolytes with lights, the incense and the chanting all combine to one end, one act of worship." White is much exercised by the question whether a sacristan should wear the short or the long cotta. But he finally marries and settles down into a fat preferment.

Newman's sensitiveness to the beauty of Catholic religion is acute. "Her very being is poetry," he writes. But equally acute is his sense of the danger under which religion lies from the ministration of the arts, lest they cease to be handmaids, and "give the law to Religion." Hence he praises, from an ecclesiastical point of view, the service of the arts in their rudimental state—the rude Gothic sculpture, the simple Gregorian chant.[9] A similar indifference to the merely aesthetic aspects of Catholicism is recorded of many of Newman's associates; of Hurrell Froude, e.g., and of Ward. When Pugin came to Oxford in 1840 to superintend some building at Balliol, he saw folio copies of St. Buenaventura and Aquinas' "Summa Theologiae" lying on Ward's table, and exclaimed, "What an extraordinary thing that so glorious a man as Ward should be living in a room without mullions to the windows!" This being reported to Ward, he asked, "What are mullions? I never heard of them." Ward cared nothing about rood-screens and lancet windows; Newman and Faber preferred the Palladian architecture to the Gothic.[10] Pugin, on the other hand, who had been actually converted to the Roman Church through his enthusiasm for pointed architecture; and who, when asked to dinner, stipulated for Gothic puddings, for which he enclosed designs, was greatly distressed at the carelessness about such matters which he found at Oxford. A certain Dr. Cox was going to pray for the conversion of England, in an old French cope. "What is the use," asked Pugin, "of praying for the Church of England in that cope?" [11]

Of the three or four hundred Anglican clergymen who went over with Newman in 1845, or some years later with Manning, on the decision in the Gorham controversy, few were influenced in any assignable degree by poetic motives. "As regards my friend's theory about my imaginative sympathies having led me astray," writes Aubrey de Vere, "I may remark that they had been repelled, not attracted, by what I thought an excess of ceremonial in the churches and elsewhere when in Italy. . . . It seemed to me too sensuous." [12] Indeed, at the outset of the movement it was not the mediaeval Church, but the primitive Church, the Church of patristic discipline and doctrine, that appealed to the Tractarians. It was the Anglican Church of the seventeenth century, the Church of Andrewes and Herbert and Ken, to which Keble sought to restore the "beauty of holiness"; and those of the Oxford party who remained within the establishment continued true to this ideal. "The Christian Year" is the genuine descendant of George Herbert's "Temple" (1632). What impressed Newman's imagination in the Roman Catholic Church was not so much the romantic beauty of its rites and observances as its imposing unity and authority. He wanted an authoritative standard in matters of belief, a faith which had been held semper et ubique et ab omnibus. The English Church was an Elizabethan compromise. It was Erastian, a creature of the state, threatened by the Reform Bill of 1832, threatened by every liberal wind of opinion. The Thirty-nine Articles meant this to one man and that to another, and there was no court of final appeal to say what they meant. Newman was a convert not of his imagination, but of his longing for consistency and his desire to believe.

There is nothing romantic in either temper or style about Newman's poems, all of which are devotional in subject, and one of which—"The Pillar of the Cloud" ("Lead, Kindly Light") (1833)—is a favourite hymn in most Protestant communions. The most ambitious of these is "The Dream of Gerontius," a sort of mystery play which Sir Henry Taylor used to compare with the "Divine Comedy." Indeed, none but Dante has more poignantly expressed the purgatorial passion, the desire for pain, which makes the spirits in the flames of purification unwilling to intermit their torments even for a moment. The "happy, suffering soul" of Gerontius lies before the throne of the Crucified and sings:

"Take me away, and in the lowest deep
There let me be,
And there in hope the lone night-watches keep
Told out for me." [13]

Some dozen years before the "Tracts for the Times" began to appear at Oxford, a sporadic case of conversion at the sister university offers a closer analogy with the catholicising process among the German romantics. Kenelm Henry Digby, who took his degree at Trinity College in 1819, and devoted himself to the study of mediaeval antiquities and scholastic philosophy, was actually led into the Catholic fold by his enthusiasm for the chivalry romances, as Pugin was by his love of Gothic architecture. His singular book, "The Broad Stone of Honour," was first published in 1822, and repeatedly afterwards in greatly enlarged form. In its final edition it consists of four books entitled respectively "Godefridus," "Tancredus," "Morus" (Sir Thomas More), and "Orlandus," after four representative paladins of Christian chivalry. The title of the whole work was suggested by the fortress of Ehrenbreitstein, the "Gibraltar of the Rhine." Like Fouqué, Digby was inspired by the ideal of knighthood, but he emphasises not so much the gallantry of the knight-errant as his religious character as the champion of Holy Church. The book is, loosely speaking, an English "Genié du Christianisme," less brilliantly rhetorical than Chateaubriand, but more sincerely devout. It is poetic and descriptive rather than polemical, though the author constantly expresses his dislike of modern civilisation, and complains with Burke that this is an age of sophists, calculators, and economists. He quotes profusely from German and French reactionaries, like Busching,[14] Fritz Stolberg, Görres, Friedrich Schlegel, Lamennais, and Joseph de Maistre, and illustrates his topic at every turn from mediaeval chronicles, legendaries, romances, and manuals of chivalry; from the lives of Charlemagne, St. Louis, Godfrey of Bouillon, the Chevalier Bayard, St. Anselm, King Rene, etc., and above all, from the "Morte Darthur." He defends the Crusades, the Templars, and the monastic orders against such historians as Muller, Sismondi, and Hume; is very contemptuous of the Protestant concessions of Bishop Hurd's "Letters on Chivalry and Romance";[15] and, in short, fights a brave battle against the artillery of "the moderns" with weapons borrowed from "the armoury of the invincible knights of old." The book is learned, though unsystematic and discursive, but its most interesting feature is its curiously personal note, its pure spirit of honour and Catholic piety. The enthusiasm of the author extends itself from the institutes of chivalry and the Church to the social and political constitution of the Middle Ages. He is anti-democratic as well as anti-Protestant; upholds monarchy, nobility, the interference of the popes in the affairs of kingdoms, and praises the times when the doctrines of legislation and government all over Europe rested on the foundations of the Church.

A few paragraphs from "The Broad Stone of Honour" will illustrate the author's entrance into the Church through the door of beauty, and his identification of romantic art with "the art Catholic." "It is much to be lamented," he writes, "that the acquaintance of the English reader with the characters and events of the Middle Ages should, for the most part, be derived from the writings of men who were either infidels, or who wrote on every subject connected with religion, with the feelings and opinions of Scotch Presbyterian preachers of the last century." [16] "A distinguishing characteristic of everything belonging to the early and Middle Ages of Christianity is the picturesque. Those who now struggle to cultivate the fine arts are obliged to have recourse to the despised, and almost forgotten, houses, towns, and dresses of this period. As soon as men renounced the philosophy of the Church, it was inevitable that their taste, that the form of objects under their control, should change with their religion; for architects had no longer to provide for the love of solitude, of meditation between sombre pillars, of modesty in apartments with the lancet-casement. They were not to study duration and solidity in an age when men were taught to regard the present as their only concern. When nothing but exact knowledge was sought, the undefined sombre arches were to be removed to make way for lines which would proclaim their brevity, and for a blaze of light which might correspond with the mind of those who rejected every proposition that led beyond the reach of the senses. . . . So completely is it beyond the skill of the painter or the poet to render bearable the productions of the moderns, . . . and so fast are the poor neglected works of Christian antiquity falling to ruin, that it is hard to conceive how the fine arts can be cultivated after another century has elapsed; for when children are taught in infant schools to love accounts from their cradle, and to study political economy before they have heard of the Red Cross Knight or the Wild Hunter, the manner and taste of such an age will smother the sparks of nature." [17] The Church summoned all natural beauty to the ministry of religion. "Flowers bloomed on the altars; men could behold the blue heaven through those tall, narrow-pointed eastern windows of the Gothic choir as they sat at vespers. . . . The cloud of incense breathed a sweet perfume; the voice of youth was tuned to angelic hymns; and the golden sun of the morning, shining through the coloured pane, cast its purple or its verdant beam on the embroidered vestments and marble pavement." [18] Or read the extended rhapsody which closes the first volume, where, to counteract the attractions of classic lands, the author passes in long review the sites and monuments of romance in England, Germany, Spain, Italy, and France. Aubrey de Vere says that nothing had been so "impressive, suggestive, and spiritually helpful" to him as Newman's "Lectures on Anglican Difficulties" (1850), "with the exception of the 'Divina Commedia' and Kenelm Digby's wholly uncontroversial 'Mores Catholici'" (1831-40).

THE STUDY OF MEDIAEVAL ART.—The correlation of romantic poetry, Catholic worship, and mediaeval art has been indicated in the chapter upon the Pre-Raphaelites, as well as in the foregoing section of the present chapter. But the three departments have other tangential points which should not pass without some further mention. The revival of Gothic architecture which began with Horace Walpole[19] went on in an unintelligent way through the eighteenth century. One of the queerest monuments of this new taste—a successor on a larger scale to Strawberry Hill—was Fonthill Abbey, near Salisbury, that prodigious folly to which Beckford, the eccentric author of "Vathek," devoted a great share of his almost fabulous wealth. It was begun in 1796, took nearly thirty years in building, employed at one time four hundred and sixty men, and cost over 273,000 pounds. Its most conspicuous feature was an octagonal tower 278 feet high, so ill constructed that it shortly tumbled down into a heap of ruins.[20]

The growing taste for mediaeval architecture was powerfully reinforced by the popularity of Walter Scott's writings. But Abbotsford is evidence enough of the superficiality of his own knowledge of the art; and during the first half of the nineteenth century, Gothic design was applied not to churches, but to the more ambitious classes of domestic architecture. The country houses of the nobility and landed gentry were largely built or rebuilt in what was known as the castellated style.[21] Meanwhile a truer understanding of the principles of pointed architecture was being helped by the publication of archaeological works like Britton's "Cathedral Antiquities" (1814-35), Milner's "Treatise on Ecclesiastical Architecture" (1811), and Rickman's "Ancient Examples of Gothic Architecture" (1819). The parts of individual buildings, such as Westminster Abbey and Lincoln Cathedral, were carefully studied and illustrated with plans and sections drawn to scale, and measurement was substituted for guesswork. But the real restorer of ecclesiastical Gothic in England was Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, an enthusiast, nay, a fanatic, in the cause; whose "Contrasts" (1836) is not only a landmark in the history of the revival of mediaeval art, but a most instructive illustration of the manner in which an aesthetic admiration of the Middle Ages has sometimes involved an acceptance of their religious beliefs and social principles. Three generations of this family are associated with the rise of modern Gothic. The elder Pugin (Augustus Charles) was a French emigré who came to England during the Revolution, and gained much reputation as an architectural draughtsman, publishing, among other things, "Specimens of Gothic Architecture," in 1821. The son of A. W. N. Pugin, Edward Welby (1834-73), also carried on his father's work as a practical architect and a writer.

Pugin joined the Roman Catholic Church just about the time when the "Tracts for the Times" began to be issued. His "Contrasts: or a Parallel between the Architecture of the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Centuries" is fiercely polemical, and displays all the zeal of a fresh convert. In the preface to the second edition he says that "when this work was first brought out [1836], the very name of Christian art was almost unknown"; and he affirms, in a footnote, that in the whole of the national museum, "there is not even one room, one shelf, devoted to the exquisite productions of the Middle Ages." The book is a jeremiad over the condition to which the cathedrals and other remains of English ecclesiastical architecture had been reduced by the successive spoliations and mutilations in the times of Henry VIII., Edward VI., and Cromwell, and by the "vile" restorations of later days. It maintains the thesis that pointed architecture is not only vastly superior artistically, but that it is the only style appropriate to Christian churches; "in it alone we find the faith of Christianity embodied and its practices illustrated." Pugin denounces alike the Renaissance and the Reformation, "those two monsters, revived Paganism and Protestantism." There is no chance, he thinks, for a successful revival of Gothic except in a return to Catholic faith. "The mechanical part of Gothic architecture is pretty well understood, but it is the principles which influenced ancient compositions, and the soul which appears in all the former works, which is so lamentably deficient. . . . 'Tis they alone that can restore pointed architecture to its former glorious state; without it all that is done will be a tame and heartless copy." He points out the want of sympathy between "these vast edifices" and the Protestant worship, which might as well be carried on in a barn or conventicle or square meeting-house. Hence, the nave has been blocked up with pews, the choir or transept partitioned off to serve as a parish church, roodloft and chancel screen removed, the altar displaced by a table, and the sedilia scattered about in odd corners. The contrast between old and new is strikingly presented, by way of object lessons, in a series of plates, arranged side by side, and devised with a great deal of satirical humour. There is, e.g., a Catholic town in 1440, rich with its ancient stone bridge, its battlemented wall and city gate, and the spires and towers of St. Marie's Abbey, the Guild Hall, Queen's Cross, St. Cuthbert's Church, and the half-timbered, steep-roofed, gabled houses of the burgesses. Over against it is the picture of the same town in 1840, hideous with the New Jail, Gas Works, Lunatic Asylum, Wesleyan Chapel, New Town Hall, Iron Works, Quaker Meeting-house, Socialist Hall of Science, and other abominations of a prosperous modern industrial community. Or there is the beautiful old western doorway of St. Mary Overies, destroyed in 1838. The door stands invitingly open, showing the noble interior with kneeling worshippers scattered here and there over the unobstructed pavement. Opposite is the new door, grimly closed, with a printed notice nailed upon it: "Divine Service on Sundays. Evening lecture." A separate plate exhibits a single compartment of the old door curiously carved in oak; and beside it a compartment of the new door in painted deal and plain as a pike-staff.

But the author is forced to confess that the case is not much better in Catholic countries, where stained windows have been displaced by white panes, frescoed ceilings covered with a yellow wash, and the "bastard pagan style" introduced among the venerable sanctities of old religion. English travellers return from the Continent disgusted with the tinsel ornament and theatrical trumperies that they have seen in foreign churches. "I do not think," he concludes, "the architecture of our English churches would have fared much better under a Catholic hierarchy. . . . It is a most melancholy truth that there does not exist much sympathy of idea between a great portion of the present Catholic body in England and their glorious ancestors. . . . Indeed, such is the total absence of solemnity in a great portion of modern Catholic buildings in England, that I do not hesitate to say that a few crumbling walls and prostrate arches of a religious edifice raised during the days of faith will convey a far stronger religious impression to the mind than the actual service of half the chapels in England."

In short, Pugin's Catholicism, though doubtless sincere, was prompted by his professional feelings. His reverence was given to the mediaeval Church, not to her—aesthetically—degenerate daughter; and it extended to the whole system of life and thought peculiar to the Middle Ages. "Men must learn," he wrote, "that the period hitherto called dark and ignorant far excelled our age in wisdom, that art ceased when it is said to have been revived, that superstition was piety, and bigotry faith." In many of his views Pugin anticipates Ruskin. He did not like St. Peter's at Rome, and said: "If those students who journey to Italy to study art would follow the steps of the great Overbeck,[22] . . . they would indeed derive inestimable benefit. Italian art of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries is the beau ideal of Christian purity, and its imitation cannot be too strongly inculcated; but when it forsook its pure, mystical, and ancient types, to follow those of sensual Paganism, it sunk to a fearful state of degradation."

As a practising architect Pugin naturally received and executed many commissions for Catholic churches. But the Catholic Church in England did much less, even in proportion to its resources, than the Anglican establishment towards promoting the Gothic revival. Eastlake says that Pugin's "strength as an artist lay in the design of ornamental detail"; and that he helped importantly in the revival of the mediaeval taste in stained glass, metal work, furniture, carpets, and paper-hangings. Several of his works have to do with various departments of ecclesiology; chancel-screens, roodlofts, church ornaments, symbols and costumes, and the like. But the only one that need here be mentioned is the once very influential "True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture" (1841). This revival of ecclesiastical Gothic fell in with the reform of Anglican ritual, which was one of the features or sequences of the Oxford movement, and the two tendencies afforded each other mutual support.

Evidence of a newly awakened interest in mediaeval art is furnished by a number of works of a more systematic character which appeared about the middle of the century, dealing not only with architecture, but with the early schools of sculpture and painting. One of these was "Sketches of the History of Christian Art" (3 vols., 1847) by Alexander William Crawford Lindsay, twenty-fifth Earl of Crawford. In the preface to the reprint of this book in 1885, Lady Crawford speaks of it as a pioneer in an "early time of unawakened interest." Ruskin refers to it repeatedly—always with respect—and acknowledges in "Praeterita" that Lord Lindsay knew a great deal more about Italian art than he himself did. The book reviews in detail the works of Christian builders, sculptors and painters, both in Italy and north of the Alps, from the time of the Roman catacombs and basilicas down to the Renaissance. It gives likewise a history of Christian mythology, iconography and symbolism; all that great body of popular beliefs about angels, devils, saints, martyrs, anchorites, miracles, etc., which Protestant iconoclasm and the pagan spirit of the cinque-cento had long ago swept into the dust-bin as sheer idolatry and superstition. Lord Lindsay's treatment of these matters is reverential, though his own Protestantism is proof against their charm. His tone is moderate; he has no quarrel with the Renaissance, and professes respect for classical art, which seems to him, however, on a lower spiritual plane than the Christian. He remarks that all mediaeval art was religious; the only concession to the secular being found in the illuminations of some of the chivalry romances. Gothic architecture was the expression of Teutonic genius, which is realistic and stands for the reason, while Italian sacred painting was idealistic and stands for the imagination. In the most perfect art, as in the highest type of religion, reason and imagination are in balance. Hence, the influence of Van Eyck, Memling, and Dürer on Italian painters was wholesome; and the Reformation, the work of the reasoning Teutonic mind, is not to be condemned. Reason is to blame only when it goes too far and extinguishes imagination.[23]

"The sympathies of the North, or of the Teutonic race, are with Death, as those of the Southern, or classic, are with Life. . . . The exquisitely beautiful allegorical tale of 'Sintram and His Companions' by La Motte Fouqué, was founded on the 'Knight and Death' of Albert Dürer, and I cannot but think that Milton had the 'Melancholy' in his remembrance while writing 'Il Penseroso.'" [24] The author thinks that, whatever may be true of Gothic architecture—an art less national than ecclesiastical—"sculpture and painting, on the one hand, and the spirit of chivalry on the other, have usually flourished in an inverse ratio one to the other, and it is not therefore in England, France, or Spain, but among the free cities of Italy and Germany that we must look for their rise." [25] I give these conclusions—so opposite to those of Catholic mediaevalists like Digby and Pugin—because they illustrate the temper of Lindsay's book. One more quotation I will venture to add for its agreement with Uvedale Price's definition of the picturesque:[26] "The picturesque in art answers to the romantic in poetry; both stand opposed to the classic or formal school—both may be defined as the triumph of nature over art, luxuriating in the decay, not of her elemental and ever-lasting beauty, but of the bonds by which she had been enthralled by man. It is only in ruin that a building of pure architecture, whether Greek or Gothic, becomes picturesque." [27]

Lord Lindsay's "Sketches" contained no illustrations. Mrs. Jameson's very popular series on "Sacred and Legendary Art" was profusely embellished with wood-cuts and etchings. The first number of the series, "Legends of the Saints and Martyrs," was begun in 1842, but issued only in 1848. "Legends of the Monastic Orders" followed in 1850; "Legends of the Madonna" in 1852; and the "History of Our Lord" (completed by Lady Eastlake) in 1860. Mrs. Jameson had an imperfect knowledge of technique, and her work was descriptive rather than critical. But it probably did more to enlist the interest of the general reader in Christian art than Lord Lindsay's more learned volumes; or possibly even than the brilliant but puzzling rhetoric of Ruskin.

With Pugin's "Contrasts" began the "Battle of the Styles." This was soon decided in Pugin's favour, so far as ecclesiastical buildings were concerned. Fergusson, who is hostile to Gothic, admits that wherever clerical influence extended, the style came into fashion. The Cambridge Camden Society was founded in 1839 for the study of church architecture and ritual, and issued the first number of its magazine, The Ecclesiologist, in 1841. But the first national triumph for secular Gothic was won when Barry's design for the new houses of Parliament was selected from among ninety-seven competing plans. The corner-stone was laid at Westminster in 1840, and much of the detail, as the work went on, was furnished by Pugin.

It was not long before the Gothic revival found an ally in the same great writer who had already come forward as the champion of Pre-Raphaelite painting. The masterly analysis of "The Nature of Gothic" in "The Stones of Venice" (vol. i., 1851; vols. ii. and iii., 1853), and the eloquence and beauty of a hundred passages throughout the three volumes, fascinated a public which cared little about art, but knew good literature when they saw it. Eastlake testifies that Ruskin had some practical influence on English building. Young artists went to Venice to study the remains of Italian Gothic, and the results of their studies were seen in the surface treatment of many London facades, especially in the cusped window arches, and in the stripes of coloured bricks which give a zebra-like appearance to the architecture of the period. But, in general, working architects were rather contemptuous of Ruskin's fine-spun theories, which they ridiculed as fantastic, self-contradictory, and super-subtle; rhetoric or metaphysics, in short, and not helpful art criticism.

Ruskin's adhesion to Gothic was without compromise. It was "not only the best, but the only rational architecture." "I plead for the introduction of the Gothic form into our domestic architecture, not merely because it is lovely, but because it is the only form of faithful, strong, enduring, and honourable building, in such materials as come daily to our hands." [28] On the other hand, Roman architecture is essentially base; the study of classical literature is "pestilent"; and most modern building is the fruit of "the Renaissance poison tree." "If . . . any of my readers should determine . . . to set themselves to the revival of a healthy school of architecture in England, and wish to know in few words how this may be done, the answer is clear and simple. First, let us cast out utterly whatever is connected with the Greek, Roman, or Renaissance architecture, in principle or in form. . . . The whole mass of the architecture, founded on Greek and Roman models, which we have been in the habit of building for the last three centuries, is utterly devoid of all life, virtue, honourableness, or power of doing good. It is base, unnatural, unfruitful, unenjoyable, and impious. Pagan in its origin, proud and unholy in its revival, paralysed in its old age." [29]

Ruskin loved the religious spirit of the mediaeval builders, Byzantine, Lombard, or Gothic; and the pure and holy faith of the early sacred painters like Fra Angelico, Orcagna, and Perugino. He thought that whatever was greatest even in Raphael, Leonardo, and Michelangelo came from their training in the old religious school, not from the new science of the Renaissance. "Raphael painted best when he knew least." He deplored the harm to Catholic and Protestant alike of the bitter dissensions of the Reformation. But he sorrowfully acknowledged the corruption of the ancient Church, and had no respect for modern Romanism. Against the opinion that Gothic architecture was fitted exclusively for ecclesiastical uses, he strongly protested. On the contrary, he advised its reintroduction, especially in domestic building. "Most readers . . . abandon themselves drowsily to the impression that Gothic is a peculiarly ecclesiastical style. . . . The High Church and Romanist parties . . . have willingly promulgated the theory that, because all the good architecture that is now left is expressive of High Church or Romanist doctrines, all good architecture ever has been and must be so—a piece of absurdity. . . . Wherever Christian Church architecture has been good and lovely, it has been merely the perfect development of the common dwelling-house architecture of the period. . . . The churches were not separated by any change of style from the buildings round them, as they are now, but were merely more finished and full examples of a universal style. . . . Because the Gothic and Byzantine styles are fit for churches, they are not therefore less fit for dwellings. They are in the highest sense fit and good for both, nor were they ever brought to perfection except when they were used for both." [30]

The influence of Walter Scott upon Ruskin is noteworthy. As a child he read the Bible on Sundays and the Waverley Novels on week-days, and he could not recall the time when either had been unknown to him. The freshness of his pleasure in the first sight of the frescoes of the Campo Santo he describes by saying that it was like having three new Scott novels.[31] Ruskin called himself a "king's man," a "violent illiberal," and a "Tory of the old-fashioned school, the school of Walter Scott." Like Scott, he was proof against the religious temptations of mediaevalism. "Although twelfth-century psalters are lovely and right," he was not converted to Catholic teachings by his admiration for the art of the great ages; and writes, with a touch of contempt, of those who are "piped into a new creed by the squeak of an organ pipe." If Scott was unclassical, Ruskin was anti-classical. The former would learn no Greek; and the latter complained that Oxford taught him all the Latin and Greek that he would learn, but did not teach him that fritillaries grew in Iffley meadow.[32] Even that fondness for costume which has been made a reproach against Scott finds justification with Ruskin. "The essence of modern romance is simply the return of the heart and fancy to the things in which they naturally take pleasure; and half the influence of the best romances, of 'Ivanhoe,' or 'Marmion,' or 'The Crusaders,' or 'The Lady of the Lake,' is completely dependent upon the accessories of armour and costume." [33] Still Ruskin had the critical good sense to rate such as they below the genuine Scotch novels, like "Old Mortality" and "The Heart of Mid-Lothian"; and he is quite stern towards the melodramatic Byronic ideal of Venice. "The impotent feelings of romance, so singularly characteristic of this century, may indeed gild, but never save the remains of those mightier ages to which they are attached like climbing flowers, and they must be torn away from the magnificent fragments, if we would see them as they stood in their own strength. . . . The Venice of modern fiction and drama is a thing of yesterday, a mere efflorescence of decay, a stage dream." [34] For it cannot be too often repeated that the romance is not in the Middle Ages themselves, but in their strangeness to our imagination. The closer one gets to them, the less romantic they appear.

MEDIEVAL SOCIAL IDEALS.—It is obvious how a fondness for the Middle Ages, in a man of Scott's conservative temper, might confirm him in his attachment to high Tory principles and to an aristocratic-feudal ideal of society; or how, in an enthusiastic artist like Pugin, and a gentleman of high-strung chivalric spirit like Sir Kenelm Digby, it might even lead to an adoption of the whole mediaeval religious system. But it is not so easy, at first sight, to understand why the same thing should have conducted Ruskin and William Morris to opinions that were more "advanced" than those of the most advanced Liberal. Orthodox economists looked upon the theories put forward in Ruskin's "Unto this Last" (1860), "Munera Pulveris" (1862-63), and "Fors Clavigera" (1871-84), as the eccentricities of a distinguished art critic, disporting himself in unfamiliar fields of thought. And when in 1883 the poet of "The Earthly Paradise" joined the Democratic Federation, and subsequently the Socialist League, and was arrested and fined one shilling and costs for addressing open-air meetings, obstructing public highways, and striking policemen, amusement was mingled with disapproval. What does this dreamer of dreams and charming decorative artist in a London police court?

But Socialism, though appearing on the face of it the most modern of doctrines, is in a sense reactionary, like Catholicism, or knight-errantry, or Gothic architecture. That is, those who protest against the individualism of the existing social order are wont to contrast it unfavourably with the principle of association which is found everywhere in the Middle Ages. No mediaeval man was free or independent; all men were members one of another. The feudal system itself was an elaborate network of interdependent rights and obligations, in which service was given in return for protection. The vassal did homage to his lord—became his homme or man—and his lord was bound to take care of him. In theory, at least, every serf was entitled to a living. In theory, too, the Church embraced all Christendom. None save Jews were outside it or could get outside it, except by excommunication; which was the most terrible of penalties, because it cut a man off from all spiritual human fellowship. The same principle of co-operation prevailed in mediaeval industry and commerce, organised into guilds of craftsmen and trading corporations, which fixed the prices and quality of goods, the number of apprentices allowed, etc. The manufacturer was not a capitalist, but simply a master workman. Government was paternal and interfered continually with the freedom of contract and the rights of the individual. Here was where Carlyle took issue with modern Liberalism, which proclaims that the best government is that which governs least. According to the laissez-faire doctrine, he said, the work of a government is not that of a father, but of an active parish constable. The duty of a government is to govern, but this theory makes it its duty to refrain from governing. Not liberty is good for men, but obedience and stern discipline under wise rulers, heroes, and heaven-sent kings. Carlyle took no romantic view of the Middle Ages. He is rather contemptuous of Scott's mediaeval-picturesque,[35] and his Scotch Calvinism burns fiercely against the would-be restorers of mediaeval religious formularies and the mummeries of "the old Pope of Rome"—a ghastly survival of a dead creed.[36] He said that Newman had the brain of a good-sized rabbit. But in this matter of collectivism versus individualism, Carlyle was with the Middle Ages. "For those were rugged, stalwart ages. . . . Gurth, born thrall of Cedric, it is like, got cuffs as often as pork-parings; but Gurth did belong to Cedric; no human creature then went about connected with nobody; left to go his way into Bastilles or worse, under Laissez-faire. . . . That Feudal Aristocracy, I say, was no imaginary one. . . . It was a Land Aristocracy; it managed the Governing of this English People, and had the reaping of the Soil of England in return. . . . Soldiering, Police and Judging, Church-Extension, nay, real Government and Guidance, all this was actually done by the Holders of Land in return for their Land. How much of it is now done by them; done by anybody? Good Heavens! 'Laissez faire, Do ye nothing, eat your wages and sleep,' is everywhere the passionate half-wise cry of this time." [37]

From 1850 onwards, in which year Ruskin made Carlyle's acquaintance, the former fell under the dominion of these ideas, and began to preach a species of Aristocratic Socialism.[38] He denounced competition and profit-seeking in commerce; the factory system; the capitalistic organisation of industry. His scheme of a regenerated society, however, was by no means so democratic as that imagined by Morris in "News from Nowhere." It was a "new feudalism" with a king at the head of it and a rural nobility of "the great old families," whose relations to their tenantry are not very clearly defined.[39] Ruskin took some steps towards putting into practice his plans for a reorganisation of labour under improved conditions. "Fors Clavigera" consisted of a series of letters to workingmen, inviting them to join him in establishing a fund for rescuing English country life from the tyranny and defilement of machinery. In pursuance of this project, the St. George's Guild was formed, about 1870, Ruskin devoting to it 7,000 pounds of his own money. Trustees were chosen to administer the fund; a building was bought at Walkley, in the suburbs of Sheffield, for use as a museum; and the money subscribed was employed in promoting co-operative experiments in agriculture, manufacturing, and education.

In 1848 the widespread misery among the English working class, both agricultural labourers and the operatives in cities, broke out in a startling way in the Chartist movement. Sympathy with some of the aims of this movement found literary expression in Charles Kingsley's novels, "Yeast" and "Alton Locke", in his widely circulated tract, "Cheap Clothes and Nasty"; in his letters in Politics for the People over the signature "Parson Lot"; in some of his ballads like "The Three Fishers"; and in the writings of his friends, F. D. Maurice and Thomas Hughes. But the Christian Socialism of these Broad Churchmen was by no means of the mediaeval type. Kingsley was an exponent of "Muscular Christianity." He hated the asceticism and sacerdotalism of the Oxford set, and challenged the Tractarian movement with all his might.[40] Neither was this Christian Socialism of a radical nature, like Morris'. It limited itself to an endeavour to alleviate distress by an appeal to the good feeling of the upper classes; and by setting on foot trade-unions, co-operative societies, and workingmen's colleges. Kingsley himself, like Ruskin, believed in a landed gentry; and like both Ruskin and Carlyle, he defended Governor Eyre of Jamaica against the attacks of the radical press.[41]

Ruskin and Morris travelled to Socialism by the pathway of art. Carlyle had early begun his complaints against the mechanical spirit of the age, and its too great reliance on machinery in all departments of thought and life.[42] But Ruskin made war on machinery for different reasons. As a lover of the beautiful, he hated its ugly processes and products. As a student of art, he mourned over the reduction of the handicraftsman to a slave of the machine. Factories had poisoned the English sky with their smoke, and blackened English soil and polluted English rivers with their refuse. The railroad had spoiled Venice and vulgarised Switzerland. He would like to tear up all the railroads in Wales and most of those in England, and pull down the city of New York. He could not live in America two months—a country without castles. Modern architecture, modern dress, modern manufactures, modern civilisation, were all utterly hideous. Worst of all was the effect on the workman, condemned by competitive commercialism to turn out cheap goods, condemned by division of labour to spend his life in making the eighteenth part of a pin. Work without art, said Ruskin, is brutalising. To take pleasure in his work, said Morris, is the workman's best inducement to labour and his truest reward. In the Middle Ages every artisan was an artist; the art of the Middle Ages was popular art. Now that the designer and the handicraftsman are separate persons, the work of the former is unreal, and of the latter merely mechanical.

This point of view is eloquently stated in that chapter on "The Nature of Gothic" in "The Stones of Venice," which made so deep an impression on Morris when he was in residence at Oxford.[43] "It is verily this degradation of the operative into a machine which, more than any other evil of the times, is leading the mass of the nations everywhere into vain, incoherent, destructive struggling for a freedom of which they cannot explain the nature to themselves. Their universal outcry against wealth and against nobility is not forced from them either by the pressure of famine or the sting of mortified pride. These do much, and have done much in all ages; but the foundations of society were never yet shaken as they are at this day. It is not that men are ill-fed, but that they have no pleasure in the work by which they make their bread, and therefore look to wealth as the only means of pleasure. It is not that men are pained by the scorn of the upper classes, but they cannot endure their own; for they feel that the kind of labour to which they are condemned is verily a degrading one, and makes them less than men. . . . We have much studied and much perfected, of late, the great civilised invention of the division of labour; only we give it a false name. It is not, truly speaking, the labour that is divided; but the men—divided into mere segments of men—broken into small fragments and crumbs of life, so that all the little piece of intelligence that is left in a man is not enough to make a pin, or a nail, but exhausts itself in making the point of a pin, or the head of a nail. . . . And the great cry that rises from all our manufacturing cities, louder than their furnace blast, is all, in very deed, for this—that we manufacture everything there except men. . . . And all the evil to which that cry is urging our myriads can be met only . . . by a right understanding, on the part of all classes, of what kinds of labour are good for men, raising them, and making them happy; by a determined sacrifice of such convenience, or beauty, or cheapness as is to be got only by the degradation of the workman." [44]

Morris' contributions to the literature of Socialism include, besides his romance, "News from Nowhere," two volumes of verse, "Poems by the Way" (1891)and "The Dream of John Ball"; together with "Socialism: Its Growth and Outcome" (1893), an historical sketch of the subject written in collaboration with Mr. E. Belfort Bax. Mackail also describes a satirical interlude, entitled "The Tables Turned, or Nupkins Awakened," which was acted thrice at Farringden Road in the autumn of 1887—a Socialistic farce in the form of a mediaeval miracle play—a conjunction quite typical of the playwright's political principles and literary preferences. Morris' ideal society, unlike Ruskin's, included no feudal elements; there was no room in it for kings, or nobles, or great cities, or a centralised government. It was primitive Teutonic rather than mediaeval; resembling the communal type described in "The House of the Wolfings." There were to be no more classes—no rich or poor. To ordinary Socialists the reform means a fairer distribution of the joint product of capital and labour; higher wages for the workingman, shorter hours, better food and more of it, better clothes, better houses, more amusements—in short, "beer and skittles" in reasonable amount. The Socialism of Ruskin and Morris was an outcome of their aesthetic feeling. They liked to imagine the work people of the future as an intelligent and artistic body of handicraftsmen, living in pretty Gothic cottages among gardens of their own, scattered all over England in small rural towns or villages, and joyfully engaged in making sound and beautiful objects of use, tools, furniture, woven goods, etc. To the followers of Mr. Hyndman these motives, if not these aims, must have seemed somewhat unpractical. And in reading "Fors Clavigera," one sometimes has a difficulty in understanding just what sort of person Ruskin imagined the British workman to be.

THE NEO-ROMANTICISTS.—The literature of each new generation is apt to be partly an imitation of the last, and partly a reaction against it. The impulse first given by Rossetti was communicated, through Morris and Swinburne, to a group of younger poets whom Mr. Stedman distinguishes as "Neo-Romanticists." [45] The most noteworthy among these are probably Arthur O'Shaughnessy,[46] John Payne,[47] and Théophile Marzials;[48] though mention (want of space forbids more) should also be made of George Augustus Simcox, whose "Poems and Romances" (1869) are in the Pre-Raphaelite tradition. The work of each of these has pronounced individuality; yet, as a whole, it reminds one continually now of Rossetti, now of Morris, and again of Swinburne; not infrequently, too, of Keats or Leigh Hunt, but never of the older romanticism, never of Scott nor even of Coleridge or Tennyson. The reminder comes sometimes through a turn of phrase or the trick of the verse; but more insistently in the choice of subject and the entire attitude of the poet towards art and life, an attitude that may be vaguely described as "aesthetic." Even more distinctly than in Swinburne, English romanticism in these latest representatives is seen to be taking a French direction. They show the influence not only of Hugo and Gautier, but of those more recent schools of "decadents" which exhibit French romanticism in its deliquescent stage; writers like Theodore de Banville and Charles Baudelaire; books like Aloysius Bertrand's "Gaspard de la Nuit." Morbid states of passion, the hectic bloom of fever, heady perfumes of the Orient and the tropics; the bitter-sweet blossom of love; forced fruits of the hot-house (serres chaudes); the iridescence of standing pools; the fungoidal growths of decay; such are some of the hackneyed metaphors which render the impression of this neo-romantic poetry.

Marzials was born at, Brussels, of French parents. His "Gallery of Pigeons" is inscribed to the modern Provençal poet Aubanel, and introduced by a French sonnet. O'Shaughnessy "was half a Frenchman in his love for, and mastery of, the French language";[49] and on his frequent visits to Paris, made close acquaintance with Victor Hugo and the younger school of French poets. O'Shaughnessy and Payne were intimate friends, and dedicated their first books to each other. In 1870-72 they were members of the literary circle that assembled at the house of Ford Madox Brown, and there they met the Rossettis, Morris, Swinburne, and William Bell Scott. O'Shaughnessy emerges most distinctly from the group by reason of his very original and exquisite lyrical gift—a gift not fully recognised till Mr. Palgrave accorded him, in the second series of his "Golden Treasury" (1897), a greater number of selections than any Victorian poet but Tennyson: a larger space than he gave either to Browning or Rossetti or Matthew Arnold.[50] Comparatively little of O'Shaughnessy's work belongs to the department of mediaeval-romantic. His "Lays of France," five in number, are founded upon the lais of Marie de France, the Norman poetess of the thirteenth century whose little fable, "Du coq et du werpil," Chaucer expanded into his "Nonne Prestes Tale." O'Shaughnessy's versions are not so much paraphrases as independent poems, following Marie's stories merely in outline.

The verse is the eight-syllabled couplet with variations and alternate riming, the style follows the graceful, fluent simplicity of the Old French; and in its softly articulated, bright-coloured prolixity, the narrative frequently suggests "The Earthly Paradise" or "The Story of Rimini." The most remarkable of these pieces is "Chaitivel," in which the body of a bride is carried away by a dead lover, while another dead lover comes back from his grave in Palestine and fights with the bridegroom for possession of her soul. The song which the lady sings to the buried man is true to that strange mediaeval materialism, the cleaving of "soul's love" to "body's love," the tenderness intense that pierces the "wormy circumstance" of the tomb, and refuses to let the dead be dead, which was noted in Keats' "Isabella":

"Hath any loved you well, down there,
Summer or winter through?
Down there, have you found any fair
Laid in the grave with you?
Is death's long kiss a richer kiss
Than mine was wont to be—
Or have you gone to some far bliss
And quite forgotten me?"

Of similar inspiration, but more pictorially and externally Gothic, are such tales as "The Building of the Dream" and "Sir Floris" in Payne's volume, "The Masque of Shadows." The former of these, introduced by a quotation from Jehan du Mestre, is the history of a certain squire of Poitou, who devotes himself to necromancy and discovers a spell in an old Greek manuscript, whereby, having shod his horse with gold and ridden seven days into the west, he comes to the enchanted land of Dame Venus and dwells with her a season. But the bliss is insupportable by a mortal, and he returns to his home and dies. The poem has analogies with "The Earthly Paradise" and the Tannhäuser legend. The ancient city of Poitou, where the action begins, is elaborately described, with its "lazy grace of old romance";

"Fair was the place and old
Beyond the memory of man, with roofs
Tall-peak'd and hung with woofs
Of dainty stone-work, jewell'd with the grace
Of casements, in the face
Of the white gables inlaid, in all hues
Of lovely reds and blues.
At every corner of the winding ways
A carven saint did gaze,
With mild sweet eyes, upon the quiet town,
From niche and shrine of brown;
And many an angel, graven for a charm
To save the folk from harm
Of evil sprites, stood sentinel above
High pinnacle and roof."

"Sir Floris" is an allegorical romaunt founded on a passage in "Le Violier des Histoires Provenciaux." The dedication, to the author of "Lohengrin," praises Wolfram von Eschenbach, the poet of "Parzival," as "the sweetest of all bards." Sir Floris, obeying a voice heard in sleep, followed a white dove to an enchanted garden, where he slew seven monsters, symbolic of the seven deadly sins; from whose blood sprang up the lily of chastity, the rose of love, the violet of humility, the clematis of content, the marigold of largesse, the mystic marguerite, and the holy vervain "that purgeth earth's desire." Sir Galahad then carries him in a magic boat to the Orient city of Sarras, where the Grail is enshrined and guarded by a company of virgin knights, Percival, Lohengrin, Titurel, and Bors. Sir Floris sees the sacred chalice—a single emerald—lays his nosegay upon the altar, witnesses the mystery of the eucharist, and is kissed upon the mouth by Christ. This poet is fond of introducing old French words "to make his English sweet upon his tongue"; accueillade, valiantise, faineant, allegresse, gentilesse, forte et dure, and occasionally a phrase like dieu vous doint felicité. Payne's ballads are less characteristic.[51] Perhaps the most successful of them is "The Rime of Redemption"—in "The Masque of Shadows" volume. Sir Loibich's love has died in her sins, and he sits by the fire in bitter repentance. He hears the voice of her spirit outside in the moonlight, and together they ride through the night on a black steed, first to Fairyland, then to Purgatory, and then to the gate of Heaven. Each of these in turn is offered him, but he rejects them all—

"With thee in hell, I choose to dwell"—

and thereby works her redemption. The wild night ride has an obvious resemblance to "Lenore":

"The wind screams past; they ride so fast,
Like troops of souls in pain
The snowdrifts spin, but none may win
To rest upon the twain."

Very different from these, and indeed with no pretensions to the formal peculiarities of popular minstrelsy, is O'Shaughnessy's weird ballad "Bisclaveret," [52] suggested by the superstition concerning were-wolves:

"The splendid fearful herds that stray
By midnight"—
"The multitudinous campaign
Of hosts not yet made fast in Hell."

Bisclaveret is the Breton word for loup garou; and the poem is headed with a caption to this effect from the "Lais" of Marie. The wild, mystical beauty of which the Celtic imagination holds the secret is visible in this lyrist; but it would perhaps be going too far to attribute his interest in the work of Marie de France to a native sympathy with the song spirit of that other great branch of the Celtic race, the ancient Cymry.

Payne's volume of sonnets, "Intaglios" (a title perhaps prompted by the chiselled workmanship of Gautier's "Emaux et Camées") bears the clearest marks of Rossetti's influence—or of the influence of Dante through Rossetti. The inscription poem is to Dante, and the series named "Madonna dei Sogni" is particularly full of the imagery and sentiment of the "Purgatorio" and the "Vita Nuova." Several of the sonnets in the collection are written for pictures, like Rossetti's. Two are on Spenserian subjects, "Belphoebe" and "The Garden of Adonis", and one, "Bride-Night" is suggested by Wagner's "Tristram und Isolde." Payne's work as a translator is of importance, and includes versions of the "Decameron," "The Thousand and One Nights," and the poems of François Villon, all made for the Villon Society.

Jewels and flowers are set thickly enough in the pages of all this school; but it is in Théophile Marzials' singular, yet very attractive, verses that the luxurious colour in which romance delights, and the decorative features of Pre-Raphaelite art run into the most bizarre excesses. He wantons in dainty affectations of speech and eccentricities of phantasy. Here we find again the orchard closes, the pleached pleasances, and all those queer picture paradises, peopled with tall lilied maidens, angels with peacock wings and thin gold hoops above their heads, and court minstrels thrumming lutes, rebecks, and mandolins—

"I dreamed I was a virginal—
The gilt one of Saint Cecily's."

The book abounds in nocturnes, arabesques, masquerades, bagatelles, rococo pastorals. The lady in "The Gallery of Pigeons" sits at her broidery frame and works tapestries for her walls. At night she sleeps in the northern tower where

"Above all tracery, carven flower,
And grim gurgoil is her bower-window";

and higher up a griffin clings against a cornice,

"And gnashes and grins in the green moonlight,"

and higher still, the banderolle flutters

"At the top of the thinnest pinnacle peak."

In a Pre-Raphaelite heaven the maidens sit in the blessed mother's chamber and spin garments for the souls in Limbo, or press sweet wine for the sacrament, or illuminate missals with quaint phantasies. Mr. Stedman quotes a few lines which he says have the air of parody:

"They chase them each, below, above,—
Half madden'd by their minstrelsy,—
Thro' garths of crimson gladioles;
And, shimmering soft like damoisels,
The angels swarm in glimmering shoals,
And pin them to their aureoles,
And mimick back their ritournels."

This reads, indeed, hardly less like a travesty than the well-known verses in Punch:

"Glad lady mine, that glitterest
In shimmer of summer athwart the lawn;
Canst tell me whether is bitterest,
The glamour of eve, or the glimmer of dawn?"

This stained-glass imagery was so easy to copy that, before long, citoles and damoisels and aureoles and garths and glamours and all the rest of the picturesque furniture grew to be a burden. The artistic movement had invaded dress and upholstery, and Pre-Raphaelitism tapered down into aestheticism, domestic art, and the wearing of sunflowers. Du Maurier became its satirist; Bunthorn and Postlethwaite presented it to the philistine understanding in a grotesque mixture of caricature and quackery.

THE REACTION.—Literary epochs overlap at the edges, and contrasting literary modes coexist. There was some romantic poetry written in Pope's time; and in the very heat and fury of romantic predominance, Landor kept a cool chamber apart, where incense was burned to the ancient gods.[53] But it is the master current which gives tinge and direction to lesser confluents; and romanticism may be said to have had everything its own way down to the middle of the century. Then reaction set in and the stream of romantic tendency ceased to spread itself over the whole literary territory, but flowed on in the narrower and deeper channels of Pre-Raphaelitism and its allied movements. This reaction expressed itself in different ways, of which it will be sufficient here to mention three: realistic fiction, classical criticism, and the Queen Anne revival.

The leading literary form of the past fifty years has been the novel of real life. The failure of "Les Burgraves" in 1843 not more surely signalised the end of French romanticism, than the appearance of "Vanity Fair" in 1848 announced that in England, too, the reign of romance was over. Classicism had given way before romanticism, and now romanticism in turn was yielding to realism. Realism sets itself against that desire of escape from actual conditions into an ideal world, which is a note of the romantic spirit in general; and consequently it refuses to find the past any more interesting than the present, and has no use for the Middle Ages. The temperature, too, had cooled; not quite down to the Augustan grade, yet to a point considerably below the fever heat registered by the emotional thermometer of the late Georgian era. Byron's contemporaries were shocked by his wickedness and dazzled by his genius. They remonstrated admiringly with him; young ladies wept over his poetry and prayed for the poet's conversion. But young university men of Thackeray's time discovered that Byron was a poseur; Thackeray himself describes him as "a big, sulky dandy." "The Sorrows of Werther," which made people cry in the eighteenth century, made Thackeray laugh; and he summed it up in a doggerel ballad:

"Charlotte was a married woman
And a moral man was Werther,
And for nothing in creation
Would do anything to hurt her."

     *     *     *     *     *

"Charlotte, having seen his body
Borne before her on a shutter,
Like a well-conducted woman,
Went on cutting bread and butter."

Mr. Howells in Venice sneers at Byron's theatrical habit of riding horseback on the Lido in "conspicuous solitude," as recorded in "Julian and Maddalo." He notices the local traditions about Byron—a window from which one of his mistresses was said to have thrown herself into the canal, etc.—and confesses that these matters interest him very little.

As to the Walter Scott kind of romance, we know what Mr. Howells thinks of it; and have read "Rebecca and Rowena," Thackeray's travesty of "Ivanhoe." Thackeray took no print from the romantic generation; he passed it over, and went back to Addison, Fielding, Goldsmith, Swift. His masters were the English humourists of the eighteenth century. He planned a literary history of that century, a design which was carried out on other lines by his son-in-law, Leslie Stephen. If he wrote historical novels, their period was that of the Georges, and not of Richard the Lion Heart. It will not do, of course, to lay too much stress on Thackeray, whose profession was satire and whose temper purely anti-romantic. But if we turn to the leaders of the modern schools of fiction, we shall find that some of them, like George Eliot and Anthony Trollope, are even more closely realistic than Thackeray—who, says Mr. Howells, is a caricaturist, not a true realist—and of others such as Dickens and Meredith, we shall find that, in whatever way they deviate from realism as strictly understood, it is not in the direction of romance.

In Matthew Arnold's critical essays we meet with a restatement of classical principles and an application of them to the literature of the last generation. There was something premature, he thinks, about the burst of creative activity in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Byron was empty of matter, Shelley incoherent, Wordsworth wanting in completeness and variety. He finds much to commend in the influence of a literary tribunal like the French Academy, which embodies that ideal of authority so dear to the classical heart. Such an institution acts as a salutary check on the lawlessness, eccentricity, self-will, and fantasticality which are the besetting intellectual sins of Englishmen. It sets the standard and gives the law. "Work done after men have reached this platform is classical; and that is the only work which, in the long run, can stand." For want of some such organ of educated opinion, to take care of the qualities of order, balance, measure, propriety, correctness, English men of genius like Ruskin and Carlyle, in their national impatience of prescription and routine, run on into all manner of violence, freak, and extravagance.

Again, in the preface of the 1853 edition of his poems, Arnold asserts the superiority of the Greek theory of poetry to the modern. "They regarded the whole; we regard the parts. With them the action predominated over the expression of it; with us the expression predominates over the action. . . . We have poems which seem to exist merely for the sake of single lines and passages; not for the sake of producing any total impression."

"Faust" itself, judged as a whole, is defective. Failing a sure guide, in the confusion of the present times, the wisest course for the young writer is to fix his attention upon the best models. But Shakspere is not so safe a model as the ancients. He has not their purity of method, and his gift of expression sometimes leads him astray. "Mr. Hallam, than whom it is impossible to find a saner and more judicious critic, has had the courage (for at the present day it needs courage) to remark, how extremely and faultily difficult Shakspere's language often is." Half a century earlier it would have needed courage to question Hallam's remark; but the citation shows how thoroughly Coleridge and Hazlitt and Lamb had shifted the centre of orthodoxy in matters of Shaksperian criticism. Now the presumption was against any one who ventured a doubt of Shakspere's impeccability. The romantic victory was complete. "But, I say," pursues the essayist, "that in the sincere endeavour to learn and practise . . . what is sound and true in poetical art, I seemed to myself to find the only sure guidance, the only solid footing, among the ancients." All this has a familiar look to one at all read in eighteenth-century criticism; but in 1853 it sounds very much like heresy.

As an instance of the inferiority of romantic to classical method in narrative poetry, Arnold refers to Keats' "Isabella." [54] "This one short poem contains, perhaps, a greater number of happy single expressions which one could quote than all the extant tragedies of Sophocles. But the action, the story? The action in itself is an excellent one; but so feebly is it conceived by the poet, so loosely constructed, that the effect produced by it, in and for itself, is absolutely null. Let the reader, after he has finished the poem of Keats, turn to the same story in the 'Decameron'; he will then feel how pregnant and interesting the same action has become in the hands of a great artist who, above all things, delineates his object; who subordinates expression to that which it is designed to express."

A sentence or two from Arnold's essay on Heinrich Heine, and we may leave this part of our subject. "Mr. Carlyle attaches, it seems to me, far too much importance to the romantic school of Germany—Tieck, Novalis, Jean Paul Richter. . . . The mystic and romantic school of Germany lost itself in the Middle Ages, was overpowered by their influence, came to ruin by its vain dreams of renewing them. Heine, with a far profounder sense of the mystic and romantic charm of the Middle Age than Görres, or Brentano, or Arnim; Heine, the chief romantic poet of Germany, is yet also much more than a romantic poet; he is a great modern poet, he is not conquered by the Middle Age, he has a talisman by which he can feel, along with but above the power of the fascinating Middle Age itself, the power of modern ideas."

And, finally, the oscillation of the pendulum has brought us back again for a moment to the age of gayety, and to that very Queen Anne spirit against which the serious and sentimental Thomson began the revolt. There is not only at present a renewed appreciation of what was admirable in the verse of Pope and the prose of Swift, but we discover a quaint attractiveness in the artificiality of Augustan manners, dress, and speech. Lace and brocade, powder and patch, Dutch gardens, Reynolds' portraits, Watteau fans, Dresden china, the sedan chair, the spinet, the hoop-skirt, the talon rouge—all these have receded so far into the perspective as to acquire picturesqueness. To Scott's generation they seemed eminently modern and prosaic, while buff jerkins and coats of mail were poetically remote. But so the whirligig of time brings in its revenges, and the old-fashioned, as distinguished from the antique, begins to have a romanticness of its own. It is now some quarter century since people took to building Queen Anne cottages, and gentlemen at costume parties to treading minuets in small clothes and perukes, with ladies in high-cushioned hair and farthingales. Girl babies in large numbers were baptised Dorothy and Belinda. Book illustrators like Kate Greenaway, Edwin Abbey, and Hugh Thomson carried the mode into art. The date of the Queen Anne revival in literature and the beginnings of the bric-à-brac school of verse are marked with sufficient precision by the publication of Austin Dobson's "Vignettes in Rhyme" (1873), "Proverbs in Porcelain" (1877), and the other delightful volumes of the same kind that have followed. Mr. Dobson has also published, in prose, lives of Steele, Fielding, Hogarth, and Goldsmith; "Eighteenth-Century Vignettes," and the like. But his particular ancestor among the Queen Anne wits was Matthew Prior, of whose metrical tales, epigrams, and vers de société he has made a little book of selections, and whose gallantry, lightness, and tone of persiflage, just dashed with sentiment, he has reproduced with admirable spirit in his own original work.

It was upon the question of Pope that romantics and classics first joined issue in the time of Warton, and that the critical battle was fought in the time of Bowles and Byron; the question of his real place in literature, and of his title to the name of poet. Mr. Dobson has a word to say for Pope, and with this our enquiries may fittingly end:

"Suppose you say your Worst of POPE, declare
His Jewels Paste, his Nature a Parterre,
His Art but Artifice—I ask once more
Where have you seen such artifice before?
Where have you seen a Parterre better grac'd,
Or gems that glitter like his Gems of Paste?
Where can you show, among your Names of Note,
So much to copy and so much to quote?
And where, in Fine, in all our English Verse,
A Style more trenchant and a Sense more terse?"

"So I, that love the old Augustan Days
Of formal courtesies and formal Phrase;
That like along the finish'd Line to feel
The Ruffle's Flutter and the Flash of Steel;
That like my Couplet as Compact as Clear;
That like my Satire sparkling tho' severe,
Unmix'd with Bathos and unmarr'd by trope,
I fling my Cap for Polish—and for POPE!" [55]

But ground once gained in a literary movement is never wholly lost; and a reversion to an earlier type is never complete. The classicism of Matthew Arnold is not at all the classicism of the eighteenth century; Thackeray's realism is not the realism of Fielding. It is what it is, partly just because Walter Scott had written his Waverley Novels in the mean while. Apart from the works for which it is directly responsible, the romantic movement had enriched the blood of the literature, and its results are seen even in writings hostile to the romantic principles. As to the absolute value of the great romantic output of the nineteenth century, it may be at once acknowledged that, as "human documents," books which reflect contemporary life have a superior importance to the creations of the modern imagination, playing freely over times and places distant, and attractive through their distance; over ancient Greece or the Orient or the Middle Age. But that a very beautiful and quite legitimate product of literary art may spring from this contact of the present with the past, it is hoped that our history may have shown.


FOOTNOTES:


[1] See vol. i., pp. 31-32.

[2] "Apologia pro Vita Sua," p. 139.

[3] "It would require the . . . magic pen of Sir Walter to catalogue and to picture . . . that most miserable procession" ("Callista: a Sketch of the Third Century," 1855; chapter, "Christianos ad Leones"). It is curious to compare this tale of the early martyrs, Newman's solitary essay in historical romance, with "Hypatia." It has the intellectual refinement of everything that came from its author's pen; and it has strong passages like the one describing the invasion of the locusts. But, upon the whole, Newman was as inferior to Kingsley as a novelist as he was superior to him in the dialectics of controversy.

[4] See the entire section "Selections from Newman," by Lewis G. Gates, New York, 1895. Introduction, pp. xlvi-lix.

[5] "Essays Critical and Historical" (1846).

[6] "Reminiscences," Thomas Mozley, Boston, 1882.

[7] "Life and Letters of Dean Church," London, 1894.

[8] "Recollections of Aubrey de Vere," London, 1897.

[9] "Idea of a University" (1853). See also in "Parochial and Plain Sermons" the discourse on "The Danger of Accomplishments," and that on "The Gospel Palaces." In the latter he writes, speaking of the cathedrals: "Unhappy they who, while they have eyes to admire, admire them only for their beauty's sake; . . . who regard them as works of art, not fruits of grace."

[10] Cardinal Wiseman had a decided preference for Renaissance over Gothic, and the churches built under his authority were mostly in Italian styles.

[11] "William George Ward and the Oxford Movement," London, 1889, pp. 153-55.

[12] "Recollections," p. 309.

[13] Frederick William Faber, one of the Oxford men who went over with Newman in 1845, and became Superior of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, was a religious poet of some distinction. A collection of his hymns was published in 1862.

[14] "Ritterzeit und Ritterwesen."

[15] See vol. i., pp. 221-26.

[16] Vol. i., p. 44 (ed. 1846).

[17] Ibid., pp. 315-16.

[18] Ibid., p. 350.

[19] See vol. i., chap. vii., "The Gothic Revival."

[20] A view of Fonthill Abbey, as it appeared in 1822, is given in Fergusson's "History of Modern Architecture," vol. ii., p. 98 (third ed.).

[21] For Scott's influence on Gothic see Eastlake's "Gothic Revival," pp. 112-16. A typical instance of this castellated style in America was the old New York University in Washington Square, built in the thirties. This is the "Chrysalis College" which Theodore Winthrop ridicules in "Cecil Dreeme" for its "mock-Gothic" pepper-box turrets, and "deciduous plaster." Fan traceries in plaster and window traceries in cast iron were abominations of this period.

[22] Vide supra, p. 153.

[23] "A blast from the icy jaws of Reason, the wolf Fenris of the Teutonic mind, swept one and all into the Limbo of oblivion—that sole ante-chamber spared by Protestantism in spoiling Purgatory. Perhaps this was necessary and inevitable. If we would repair the column, we must cut away the ivy that clings around the shaft, the flowers and brushwood that conceal the base; but it does not follow that, when the repairs are completed, we should isolate it in a desert,—that the flowers and brushwood should not be allowed to grow up and caress it as before" (vol. ii., p. 380, second ed.).

[24] Vol. ii., p. 364, note; and vide supra, p. 152.

[25] Ibid., p. 289.

[26] Vide supra, p. 34.

[27] Ibid., p. 286, note.

[28] "Stones of Venice," vol. ii., p. 295 (American ed. 1860).

[29] Ibid., vol. iii., p. 213.

[30] Ibid., vol. ii., pp. 109-14.

[31] See the final instalment of "Praeterita" for an extended eulogy of Scott's verse and prose.

[32] "I know what white, what purple fritillaries
The grassy harvest of the river-fields
Above by Ensham, down by Sandford, yields."
—Matthew Arnold, "Thyrsis."

[33] "Stones of Venice," vol. iii., p. 211.

[34] Ibid., vol. ii., p. 4.

[35] Vide supra, p. 35.

[36] "I reckon him the remarkablest Pontiff that has darkened God's daylight. . . . Here is a Supreme Priest who believes God to be—what, in the name of God, does he believe God to be?—and discerns that all worship of God is a scenic phantasmagory of wax-candles, organ-blasts, Gregorian chants, mass-brayings, purple monsignori, etc." ("Past and Present," Book iii., chap. i.).

[37] Ibid., Book iv., chap. i.

[38] With Morris, too, when an Oxford undergraduate, "Carlyle's 'Past and Present,'" says his biographer, "stood alongside of 'Modern Painters' as inspired and absolute truth."

[39] For a systematic exposition of Ruskin's social and political philosophy, the reader should consult "John Ruskin, Social Reformer," by J. A. Hobson, London, 1898.

[40] Vide supra, pp. 279, 280.

[41] For a number of years, beginning with 1854, Ruskin taught drawing classes in Maurice's Working Man's College.

[42] See "Characteristics" and "Signs of the Times."

[43] Vide supra, p. 321.

[44] Vol. ii., chap. vi., section xv., xvi. Morris reprinted the whole chapter on the Kelmscott Press.

[45] "Victorian Poets," chap. vii., section vi.

[46] "An Epic of Women" (1870); "Lays of France" (1872); "Music and Moonlight" (1874); "Songs of a Worker" (1881).

[47] "A Masque of Shadows" (1870): "Intaglios" (1871); "Songs of Life and Death" (1872); "Lautrec" (1878); "New Poems" (1880).

[48] "A Gallery of Pigeons" (1873).

[49] "Arthur O'Shaughnessy." By Louise Chandler-Moulton, Cambridge and Chicago, 1894.

[50] Swinburne, as a living author, is not represented in the "Treasury." O'Shaughnessy's metrical originality is undoubted. But one of his finest lyrics, "The Fountain of Tears," has an echo of Baudelaire's American master, Edgar Poe, as well as of Swinburne;

"Very peaceful the place is, and solely
For piteous lamenting and sighing,
And those who come living or dying
Alike from their hopes and their fears:
Full of cypress-like shadows the place is,
And statues that cover their faces;
But out of the gloom springs the holy
And beautiful Fountain of Tears."

[51] See especially "Sir Erwin's Questing," "The Ballad of May Margaret," "The Westward Sailing," and "The Ballad of the King's Daughter" in "Songs of Life and Death."

[52] In "An Epic of Women."

[53] "From time to time bright spirits, intolerant of the traditional, try to alter the bournes of time and space in these respects, and to make out that the classical, whatever the failings on its part, was always in its heart rather Romantic, and that the Romantic has always, at its best, been just a little classical. . . . But such observations are only of use as guards against a too wooden and matter-of-fact classification; the great general differences of the periods remain, and can never be removed in imagination without loss and confusion" ("A Short History of English Literature," Saintsbury, p. 724).

[54] Vide supra, pp. 123-25.

[55] "A Dialogue to the Memory of Mr. Alexander Pope."



THE END.



Henry Augustin Beers