« PredošláPokračovať »
her inmost soul to me in her reply, so simply spoken, so full of quiet dignity and right feeling.
“It is my place,” she said, “to remain- -as I am, and look after George and Tom until they are of an age to keep themselves. I cannot saddle any man with the burden of supporting my brothers. Nor would it be fair on my part to ask any man-to-to wait for me."
Oh Stella, if he have one grain of common-sense, if he but possess even a dim perception of what is good, and blessed, and sweet in life, he will wait and wait, even as Jacob waited for Rachel, and be glad and proud in the waiting, until he have won for wife one of the truest helpmates that ever man could possess.
As if you
The room was a veritable receptacle of studies in carving. All these things I saw together for the first time when I returned from my summer holiday. Stella's embarrassment became apparent as soon as I entered the doorway. When she saw my astonishment, a blush, rosy-red, suffused her face. Now, Polly was not the kind of girl to play the tell-tale; but I had become very friendly with the family by this time, and Polly could not repress a laugh when she saw Stella look so distressfully self-conscious.
I stared at the wood-carvings in irrepressible curiosity.
“ The truth is, miss,” said Polly, looking at Stella, “she's ashamed to tell you, but there's a young man as wants her, and he's always sending her these things. He's a turner and wood-carver living next door.”
Stella's face was a succession of hot blushes. I could see them spreading even to her small ears.
“Oh you naughty Stella !” said I at last. “ I have a very good mind to tease you unmercifully for trying to keep it a secret from me! could keep it a secret with all these things about the room !"
Stella managed to look up.
“I can't help it !” she said piteously. “ I've never even spoken to him ! He leaves them all outside the door! If I didn't take them in, people would see them, and—and
She paused, and then added, with a culminating air of pathetic distress :
“ There are more in the other room !”
A moment's silence, and then another tragic outburst.
“I—1—was foolish enough to take the first one because I did not want to hurt his feelings by sending it back. He gave it to George, and told him to bring it to me—and ever since he has been leaving these other things outside the door—and what could I do? People would be all talking about it if I did not remove them. I sent the three last things back, but found them outside the door again.”
“ Poor Stella!” said I, "you are indeed encompassed by woes. But do not look so frightened. Women have borne up against that sort of thing before now."
But Stella was in no mood for banter. Something about her mouth told me she was very near crying. Her mind was not modelled in the same groove as that of many girls, and this was no joke to her. It was rather a great, solemn, serious business, involving much exercise of mind in its settlement. She was too tender and kindly of heart to deal lightly with the feelings of another. “But tell me,” I said,
what sort of young man is he? Is he kind and steady ?”
“He's very steady, miss,” said Polly, “and he's a good workman at his trade, but Stella
Here Polly paused and looked at her sister.
“It is impossible,” said Stella, in a low voice, her face still burning.
“But why impossible, Stella ?” I asked. “ If he is a kind, steady fellow-if you feel you can like him
Stella looked up through her tears, and bared
Two years have passed since then, but Stella remains firm in her decision. Perhaps you do not see anything so very particular about her course of action! Then you know nothing about the struggles of the poor, nor what a temptation it is to decent girls, battling alone with the forces of life, buffeted hither and thither in the struggle for existence, to take, when the first opportunity offers, the shelter of some honest fellow's heart and home and protecting arms.
Stella, I say, remains firm in her decision. But the young turner and carver still lives “next door”; and he appears to be saving money; and he seems in no hurry to get married ; and, in short, I heard—but to tell you what I heard might be a breach of confidence. I will tell you intead what I think.
I think he is waiting.
On reading the Queen's Letter of
February 14, 1896.
“... I lose a dearly lored and helpful Son, whose presence was like a bright sunbeam iu My Home. ."-VICTORIA R. I.
Who taught Thy queenly pen its perfect art ?
Which in Thine hour of suffering can impart Tenderest meaning ! even as sweetest sound Full oft in minor cadences is found.
We mourn with Thee and with Thy faithful Child.
Thy widowed hour no mother's love beguiled, A mother's love enfolds Thy daughter round.
When, like the dear and gallant Prince who died,
Ending the weary march, we crave for rest,
We too may covet such poetic praise.
Cheer all day long; and lo! at xventide
THE PLACE OF CRITICISM.
HAVE made a it must be taken as it was meant as a whimsical
literary dis- exaggeration.”
,” confessed the Philo- Mrs. Arnold, “ that it is very arrogant and presopher.
sumptuous for men to criticise, and cut to pieces, is Balzac that things which they cannot do themselves. I really says
• Critics think an author, or musician or painter, must feel are the men it very maddening. Do you not find it so ?" she
have naïvely inquired of our host. “Of course, I know failed in litera- they praise you—at least generally," she continued, ture and art."
getting rather involved, and colouring as she His face spoke, “but still—_”
radiant “I never take that view of it at all,” said Mr.
with exulta- Beauchamp, smiling. “It is obviously impossible tion ; his spectacles seemed to glisten as he looked to combine the two functions, executive and round the library to observe the effect of his critical, in the majority of cases; and criticism announcement.
could hardly exist at all if your theory were “ And is the author of that statement not gene- carried to its logical conclusion. To do anything rally known?” inquired Mr. Merton, quizzically. really well, time and attention must be absorbed "No!” thundered Mr. Scrymgeour.
6. If he
No nature can be inspired and selfhad been, I should scarcely have informed you. restrained, enthusiastic and critical, at, one and The sentence occurs in ‘Lothair,' in the mouth of the same moment. Probably the critical and Mr. Phæbus the artist, but I have traced it to its executive faculties are largely independent of each original source.”
other ; but even if they do always exist side by “Very likely Balzac, in his turn, cribbed it side in the same person, they cannot be both from some other fellow," suggested Mr. Merton. cultivated to the same degree, simply for lack of A withering glance was the only response.
time." “Well, whoever said it, it is not in the least “I think a little of both must exist always, true," remarked Helen Hoffman : “so I do not side by side,” said Helen. “ You can hardly see what is the use of being so particular as to fancy a person, with no power at all of drawing, where it comes from."
would be a capable critic on art; or any one “When you are older, my dear young lady,” with no ear for music, and no talent for performobserved the Philosopher, with a soothing patron- ing, a musical critic; or any one with no literary age that was specially exasperating, “ you will faculty, a reviewer.” understand that a sentence need not be absolutely "No," rejoined Mr. Beauchamp; “all I am true to the letter before being very valuable to attacking is a popular fallacy one sometimes hears, the student: also, that accuracy is precious for its when it is said of a severe critic of any performown sake. “Verify your quotations,' was, I believe, ance : "Let him only try to do as well himself, a legacy of Dr. Routh, President of Magdalen that is all !' It needs to be pointed out that it is College, Oxford, to a young literary aspirant; and not his business to try and do as well himself ; it a choice legacy it was !”
is his business to criticise, which, if worthily done, “But, surely that applied chiefly to the matter is an art in itself of no mean order." of such quotations," said Mr. Merton; "and a “When I go to a Popular Concert,” observed most remarkable thing it is that even familiar Mr. Merton, “I can enjoy a sonata by Beethoven, quotations, unless verified, invariably do go and know when it is finely rendered; but I could wrong."
not play a couple of bars myself if my life depended “I should rejoice to believe," breathed Mr. Vavasour, “that my critics were men who had “ That is hardly the sort of criticism we are failed in literature and in art.”
talking about," objected the Philosopher, scorn“His one book of poems had some very slashing fully, reviews, I have no doubt : that is, if any good “No, but the illustration will serve,” said Mr. paper deigned to notice it at all,” murmured Mr. Beauchamp. “And the whole subject, of the Scrymgeour, who seemed in a hostile mood. His right place of criticism, is very interesting. I literary discovery had not met with the success he have often thought what an immense part criticism expected. Mr. Beauchamp, however, cast oil on plays in the life of each one of us It has it in the troublel waters by saying, “ It is very in- its power to exalt into ecstacy or to depress into teresting to know that Balzac and Lord Beacons- wretchedness and powerlessness. From our cradle field are each responsible for that onslaught on to our grave it is about us, personally, training the unhappy critics ; but one of the two at least and moulding ourcharacters in the form of domestic, does not utter it in propria personâ, and, of course, educational, and friendly criticism; while, should
we come forward in riper years to challenge the attention of the public in any way by artistic work-above all, should we try to serve country by devoting our time and strength to her service-criticism of another sort assumes its sway; the newspaper and professional criticism. Again, the indirect influence of criticism, not of ourselves, but of others and their work, is the very atmosphere we breathe, forming our taste, directing our opinions, moulding us, in short, into what we are. We cannot be independent of it any more than we can be independent of the sort of air in which we live."
“I never thought of it in that light before,” said Mrs. Arnold, “ but, of course, it is true. It would be rather interesting to discuss the right place of criticism under those two heads : domestic and social criticism on the one hand; professional criticism on the other."
“I am quite sure," exclaimed Mrs. Beauchamp, “that there is a great deal to be said about domestic criticism, in the first place.”
"My opinion as to that," said Mrs. Vivian, emphatically —we know she had “ views” as to education-“is that, with growing boys and girls, the critical tendency of parents and guardians should be kept under severe restraint !”
“ That is scarcely the ordinary view," said the Philosopher, frowning.
“Well, I don't know,” observed Mr. Arnold.
Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged,' is very high authority."
“Of course, I am not thinking of the necessary fault-finding, which is so trying a part of parental duty,” continued Mrs. Vivian, “though I am sure that ought to be practised with the utmost care and sympathy. I was thinking rather of the incessant petty criticism which is so difficult to endure, and so dreadfully discouraging."
know, from morning to night. Boys are especially the victims, because they come more into conflict than girls with the established proprieties. Why is your hair so rough? Why is
y? Why have you got that tie on? Why cannot you sit still for five minutes together? Just look at your muddy boots! How noisily you come into the room ! How untidy, discreditable, troublesome, generally a nuisance you are!' And the worst is that the unlucky boy, hearing this sort of thing from morning to night, comes to believe it ! He gets callous, on the one hand, it is true, but on the other, he quite fails to realise the tender parental affection which is supposed to underly all this irritable fault-finding; he doesn't believe he is cared for, prized, or loved, but comes to regard himself as a sort of invention for universal annoyance."
“ And so, in nine cases out of ten, he is !” ejaculated the Philosopher. “It really is (pardon me) rather absurd and highly dangerous to suppose the young person of today is so thin-skinned that he must either be taken as perfect, or mortally offended !”
“Oh, I don't mean that one bit!” protested Mrs. Vivian earnestly. “And I am not thinking of the ordinary happy home where nobody minds or resents occasional blame, just because the affection is visible all day long. I mean, the 'nagging at lively, restless, growing children, which is, I am afraid, on the increase as people's nerves get more highly strung and anxieties multiply. We know, among my husband's patients, several wellmeaning homes of this sort ; one where, when the father has exhausted every possible criticism on his wretched boys, he just looks at them and gasps out 'Oh ! don't, don't !' Don't breathe, or don't exist, my husband supposes, must be understood.
very well to laugh," she continued, “but those boys cannot possibly love their father ; they exult when he goes away, and if their mother were the same, they would simply be miserable !"
“Not merely that,” said Mrs. Arnold indignantly, “but it would be no wonder if they were spoiled for life. Spoiling is quite as much the effect of too much censure as of over-indulgence."
“Domestic criticism is like the east wind," remarked Helen Hoffman, “a little of it is bracing and all very well, but if it prevailed incessantly, every growth would be blighted."
“At the same time,” said Mrs. Waldegrave, a lady who had not yet spoken, “I cannot help feeling (from experience) a little sympathy for the parent. It is a dreadful care and anxiety to be responsible for the right behaviour, right appearance, right conduct of a number of young people, and when one is constantly seeing things that might so easily be altered, it is very difficult to avoid that over-censorious way which has been described.”
“And that natural feeling of incessant responsibility and anxiety indicates a very good reason why properly qualified strangers are often the best people to train and educate the young," said Mrs. Vivian, “they come to it more as a
"In such a time as this it is not meet
That every nice offence should bear his comment,"
quoted Mr. Beauchamp.
“Do you not think," asked Mrs. Arnold, “that, in spite of a popular delusion to the contrary, parents are apt to be the severest critics of their own children?
They are more anxious about them than any one else can be; hence every little blemish strikes their attention at once."
A dispute arose at this point, some of our party, especially tke men, demurring, and quoting ludicrous instances of parental pride and delusion. But, on the whole, it seemed agreed that the critical tendency was apt to be most fully developed with regard to the nearest and dearest, and Mr. Vavasour quoted the
passage from Paracelsus
“I say, such love is never blind; but rather
“No, love is not blind,” said Mrs. Vivian,“ but love, if it is worthy the name, will surely eschew the sort of thing which goes on in some homes I
business matter and are not necessarily prompted at all points to
“Give their worst of thoughts the worst of words.'
“In fact their criticism is under the control of habit and of method and profession,
This seemed a new idea to some of the people, especially Mr. Vavasour, who murmured that surely the ideal mother should be content to see her child develop beautifully into the beauty of nature's own devising, or words to that effect.
* Apropos of domestic criticism, here is a passage from the Apocrypha which will suit some of you tender-hearted ladies,” growled the Philosopher. “ • Be not as a lion in thy house, nor frantic among thy servants.'
“ I know I am frantic among mine often enough ; and an excellent thing too !” We could not help smiling.
Leaving domestic criticism alone, what do you think about the social criticism that makes conventionality ?” enquired Mr. Arnold.
“ A fetter, a scourge, and a curse ! ” dramatically exclaimed Mr. Vavasour.
“Well,” there are two ways of looking at it, of course," said Mr. Beauchamp, “and Mrs. Grundy, who is its embodiment, often does become a very tiresome personage, unjust in her strictures."
A lively debate immediately arose about “ Mrs. Grundy,” and the amount of attention that should be paid to her. One point was brought out; that a very great deal of harm is caused by unsympathetic or ignorant criticism, and also by the assertion of an individual taste, like or dislike, as something to which all the world must necessarily conform. This sort of thing prevails, of course, rather in country towns or in small coteries, than in the world of men and women at large, yet there is too much of it everywhere. People are criticised, severely and heartlessly, for not conforming to some one decree of an unwritten social code ; whereas there may be an excellent reason for their not doing so, even if the decree in question be good; or, it may be, that it is foolish or bad, and can only be effaced from the code by a general revolt, which some one must head.
"I have known," said Mr. Waldegrave, man severely censured for penuriousness, while he was, in reality, the most generous and noble of souls, striving day by day, and year by year, perhaps for the whole of his life, to atone for the sin of others. Not only had he to labour early and late, and bear a crushing load of anxiety, but he had, in addition, to endure this social criticism, of which he was as fully aware as any one else, but which he could not disperse by the word of information which would have cleared his character in a moment.”
“Have we not all known," said Mrs. Vivian, “ the severity of criticism which is evoked in a little community by disregard of some perfectly trivial custom? For instance, it may suit a young wife, who keeps only one servant, to open the front door herself on occasion, but she must undergo any amount of inconvenience rather than commit such a breach of the proprieties' in certain
circles. The custom disregarded may be really hurtful, such as the former lavish expenditure on crape and on funerals, incurred whether people could afford it or not. I am sure the first widow who wore lighter weeds must have endured a very suttee' of criticism."
“A thought strikes me," observed Helen. “We use the term criticism' as almost synonymous with fault-finding, but surely the word should signify praise as well as blame.”
“A very good point,” answered Mr. Beauchamp. Criticism, from the Greek word kpívo, to discern, to judge, should mean 'discrimination or judging,' whether favourable or the reverse; but its ordinary acceptation certainly leans towards one extreine. If we speak of a person as of a critical turn of mind, we never mean that he is given to praising; rather the opposite. How has this come about?”
“I suppose,” said Helen, “because there is so much more to blame than to praise in everything."
“Is there?” said Mr. Beauchamp. “Well, I am quite certain that criticism misses its true vocation- no matter what sort of criticism it be when it becomes fault-finding merely."
“ You know my fondness for Ruskin-will you bear with me when I read an extract from • Modern Painters'?” asked Mrs. Beauchamp, taking down a volume.
“Men have commonly more pleasure in the criticism which hurts, than in that which is innocuous; and are more tolerant of the severity which breaks hearts and ruins fortunes, than of that which falls impotently on the grave."
“That is true," Mabel murmured, ingenuously. " It is so much more interesting to hear people pick holes in other people than praise them."
“ And so pleasant to think that you will become the subject of the same process, behind your back, in a very short while," said Mrs. Beauchamp.
Mabel coloured, but said she should not mind, so long as she did not know it.
“ It is to be minded, nevertheless," said Mr. Beauchamp. “ And, in brief, I think we agree that both domestic and social criticism should be criticism in the double sense-praise, as well as blame-if it is not to become intolerable as well as unjust. As to social criticism, I confess I think strictures and fault-finding should be, as far as possible, practised on one's own self alone. This is not only good breeding-the best bred people do not speak ill of each other — but Christianity."
“ May we not pass on now,” sighed Mr. Vavasour, " to the aspect of criticism which, I confess, interests me most-that on books and on art ? "
“I should like to be allowed to read a paragraph from a greatly neglected author, to whom I have had the honour to be compared—I mean Walter Savage Landor," said the Philosopher, who had been fumbling in a volume of “Imaginary Conversations.”
“A perfect piece of criticism must exhibit where a work is good or bad ; why it is good or bad; in what degree it is good or bad ; must also demonstrate in what
manner, and to what extent, the same ideas or reflections have come to others, and if they be clothed in poetry, why by an apparently slight variation, what in one author is mediocrity, in another is excellence.”
“ That is rather a large order,” remarked Mr. Merton, flippantly. “I don't believe a critic can do as much as that. We know when we read great poetry, but can we say exactly why, or in what degree, it is good ?”
“ Landor himself seems to contradict what he says," replied Mr. Beauchamp, observing that Mr. Scrymgeour was preparing to fly at the hapless youth. “He says somewhere, that every one can see what is very bad in a poem, and almost every man can see what is very good, but no critic can fix the exact degrees of excellence above a certain point, because the eyes of no one are on a level with it."
We now fell to discussing the function and scope of true literary and artistic criticism. Every one had something to say about it, but we all agreed that the power wielded by the professional critic was a most important and tremendous one.
Many a person in high position has influence which is his only by convention, he may exercise power though himself weak : the critic's sway is in the realm of mind, and is no fiction. To direct the public to see the good, and eschew the bad ; to encourage nascent genius ; to bid masters of their craft give forth the best that is in them, and never tempt them to stoop to base work—what power is greater than this? It is a terrible thing to enslave or slay a fellow creature; is it not as terrible to enslave or slay a genius? The Philosopher grew vehement, and turned again to his “Imaginary Conversations.”
“There have been in all ages, and in all there will be, sharp and slender heads, made purposely and peculiarly for creeping into the crevices of our nature. While we contemplate the magnificence of the universe, and mensurate the fitness and adaptation of one part to another, the small philosopher hangs upon a hair or creeps within a wrinkle, and cries out shrilly from his elevation that we are blind and superficial. He discovers a wart, he pries into a pore, and he calls it knowledge of man."
“That is only said of the mean critic,” observed Mr. Arnold. “ As a rule literary critics in our day do not merit any such description.”
“But not only in literature and art-throughout all life this microscopic criticism is to be deprecated,” said Mr. Beauchamp. “ When I was a young fellow I once walked to the head of a wild Alpine valley with a companion. The glaciers came sweeping almost to our feet, the torrents were thundering from the snow; in the forest close about us the beauty of flower and butterfly was wonderful. I had never seen anything like it, and as we stood in the door of the little chalet inn, I looked at my friend-unable to speak for awe and delight. I thought he was sympathising with me, but he broke out pettishly, What à nuisance these flies are, buzzing round us! and the taste of that goat's milk was simply abominable.'
“I really think,” declared Helen with conviction, that if I had had such a companion, I should have slain him on the spot.”
“ Rather hard on him," said Mr. Merton, “for, after all, Englishmen don't gush, and he was, perhaps, smothering his feelings.”
“No, he wasn't," said Mr. Beauchamp.
“ The hypercritical faculty is a great curse for any one who gives way to it; it is exactly like the near sight, the ignoble prying into blemishes of which Landor speaks,” observed Mr. Waldegrave, who had listened with interest to our debate. “ It leads to sneering and to cynicism. Surely it is significant that the modern representation of the spirit of evil should be Mephistopheles : no embodiment of brutal, violent ferocity, but a cold, polished, scoffing fiend : the 'cynic' par excellence.
, Carlyle says that sarcasm is, in general, the language of the devil !”
But,” said Helen, rather nervously, “is not the critical disposition, after all, the intelligent disposition ? And for lack of it, do not even educated people make very odd mistakes; write foolish poetry, for example, or 'give themselves away' somehow or other? Are not the people who are never heard to speak evil of any one' rather colourless and uninteresting as a rule-in fact, stupid ? I cannot help agreeing with Mabel in preferring the society of critical people, even if one has to come in for an occasional thrust oneself."
· Why, the critical spirit is of course most valuable in its place,” cried Mr. Arnold. " Without it, how would the common standards of lifesocial, æsthetic, intellectual, even spiritual-be kept up? I don't believe, for instance, in the exclusion of
criticism because the preacher is such an excellent man'! And the value to the young of a judicious, discerning critic as mentor is, of course, enormous. Only it is so remarkably easy to overdo criticism in these various ways !”
“Particularly where the preacher is concerned," said Mr. Waldegrave; “for, after all, if he is doing his best, it is heartbreaking to see the good he might do, thwarted by the coldly critical spirit. And it is a cruel thing to keep highly-wrought
too intense a strain of production by ever demanding from them more and more intellectual effort. The hearer in such a case becomes a mere critic--hardly, after all, what he ought to be.”
“Well, there is a legend quoted by Plato in the Protagoras' that will perhaps be suggestive on the whole question," said Mr. Beauchamp. “Zeus, perceiving great disorder in human affairs, sent down Hermes to bear reverence and justice to mankind; and bade him not distribute them to a few here and there, as talents were distributed, but give them to all men, for they were indispensable to every human being." So the critic, too, must possess justice and reverence if he is to be worthy of the name. Criticism, in short, is in its true place when it is exerted by those who have power and right to exert it, tempered with sympathy, reverence, and understanding: the power of judging, it must be, but of judging well, mercifully, and rightly. He who exerts it other