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DEBIT AND CREDIT.
A NOVEL ushered in by a Preface an existing state of society in which from Chevalier Bunsen demands light it will be chiefly acceptable to some peculiar attention. The Intro- the English reader), and he also lays duction itself is not without a grave great stress on the artistic developand political interest, nor can it be ment of the whole story, and its skil. said to be an unnecessary appendix ful dénouement. Here he introduces to the novel ; for not only does it some general observations on the give us the assurance that we have novel which are worthy of our attenhere before us a literary work es- tion, and to which we shall venture teemed by intelligent Germans, but to append an observation of our we meet with observations which assist the English reader in appreciat
“In all this the author proves ing the scope and purpose of the nar- himself to be a perfect artist and a rative he is about to peruse. The true poet; not only in the treatment Chevalier has also delivered some of separate events, but in the far more critical opinions, both on the novel, as rare and higher art of leading his a species of literary composition, and conception to a satisfactory developon some of our own modern novelists, ment and dénouement. As this rewhich, coming from so distinguished quirement does not seem to be genea man, cannot fail to be read with rally apprehended, either by the curiosity at least, if not with implicit writers or the critics of our modern assent.
novels, I shall take the liberty of The novel of Debit and Credit is somewhat more earnestly attempting one which we can safely commend to its vindication. the English reader, because he will “The romance of modern times, if find himself transported into new at all deserving of the name it inherits scenes, new positions, and gain some from its predecessors in the romantic insights into the social condition and middle ages, represents the latest social movements of a foreign country stadium of the epic. But whatever its rank may be in the “Every romance is intended or higher literature of Germany, it can ought to be a new Iliad or Odyssey; take only a secondary place amongst in other words, a poetic representaEnglish novels. Germany, which is tion of a course of events consistent so rich in works of profound learning, with the highest laws of moral govof historical research, and historical ernment, whether it delineate the criticism, may very cheerfully confess general history of a people, or narrate her inferiority in this department of the fortunes of a chosen hero. If we novel-writing; nor could there be a in review the romances of the clearer proof of this inferiority than last three centuries, we shall find the great success which has attended that those only have arrested the atDebit and Credit--Soll und Haben tention of more than one or two gen-in its own country. Merits it un- erations, which have satisfied this doubtedly has, but they are rather requirement. Every other romance, the merits of a practised writer con- let it moralise ever so loudly, is still scientiously working out his purpose, immoral ; let it offer ever so much of than of the man of genius writing so-called wisdom, is still irrational. from his own abundant and irrepres- The excellence of a romance, like that sible spontaneity of thought and of an epic or a drama, lies in the apfeeling. It is often dull, and never prehension and truthful exhibition of very interesting.
the course of human things." The Chevalier Bunsen has particu- To this last sentence we most corlarly commended the work of Gustav dially subscribe : fidelity to nature, Freytag as à faithful portraiture of as an essential truth of representa
Debit and Credit. Translated from the German of Gustav FREYTAG by L. C. C. With a Preface by CHRISTIAN CHARLES JOSIAS BUNSEN.
tion, is the first and indispensable inner as well as the outer life of man, requirement. But has not the Cheva- that the high morality of any work of lier mingled together, in this passage fiction is to be found. and in others that follow, two very Now this fidelity to nature, this different things—that artificial com representation of human character pleteness at which the artist aims in and human events as they really do the structure and winding-up of his exist, as they really do follow each narrative, and that faithful adherence other in this world of God's creation, to truth and probability, both of cha- is, we repeat, of the utmost value and racter and events, which may very importance. But that skilful déwell cohere with a slovenly or care- nouement or development of a story less construction of the plot? We do which our artists and our critics are not say for a moment that the Cheva- said to be neglectful of, is quite anlier has, in his own thoughts, con- other matter, and, in our opinion, a founded these two together, but very subordinate business. An artmerely that he seems to have left to ist may be unable to collect together us the task of carefully discriminat- the various threads of his narrative ing between them.
so as to exhibit a neat and rounded We presume that nothing more is whole within the compass of his nomeant by a course of events con- vel, and yet the actors and their sistent with the highest laws of moral doings, so far as he has depicted government,” than is conveyed in that them, may have the highest truth of other expression, “ a truthful exhibi- representation; or, on the other hand, tion of the course of human things.” he may very dexterously combine A really faithful exhibition of life-in and interweave events that are in the feelings as well as the external themselves improbable, and by the fortunes of the actor-cannot be very dexterity with which he makes otherwise than consistent with the them dovetail the one into the other, laws of moral government. It is not disguise from us their inherent falsethe old-fashioned poetical justice or hood. A painter who has been unretribution at the end of the fifth act, able to group all his figures within that the Chevalier is contending for; the limits of his canvass, and who on this matter all men are pretty at both ends of his picture leaves a well agreed : the real morality of a straggling procession of men and ani. fiction depends on the nature of the mals, some of them curtailed of half characters we have been brought to their proportions, may be sadly defisympathise with, and very little on cient in the art of composition, and the list of deaths and marriages that yet may exhibit throughout his work closes the narrative. If an artist, by a genuine love of nature and of truth. false representations, or by those half There may be as much fidelity to revelations of a man which are the real life in a story fashioned on the most dangerous kind of falsehood, type of the Arabian Nights, as in engages our sympathies in behalf of one constructed on the model which misanthropes and coxcombs, volup- the Author of Waverley gave to the tuaries and murderers, he is doing us world. The ter or the novelist all the evil he possibly can ; and the who is in every respect a consumevil will not in the least be remedied mate master of his art, must, of by any amount of hanging and quar- course, take the highest place in the tering, or any sentence he chooses to world's admiration ; but there is a pass upon them in the few words vast difference between the several which dismiss them from the scene. merits that raise him to that high The novelist has the same power over pre-eminence. We, from our critical us as the poet : he can make us, if chair, are not about to promulgate he pleases, for hours together, the the heresy to all our rising novelists, wisest and most generous of men; and that they may throw to the winds all something of that virtuousenthusiasm care and toil about the plot and he has kindled in us may remain after structure of their works. But we the book is closed, and follow us into are heretics enough to concern ourour daily life. It is therefore as a selves very little about this so-called true and complete reflection of the artistic structure. We demand of a novelist that he shall not be false and interwoven with the progress we demand, also, that he shall not of the story, that if there should be dull; we give him wide discre- be occasionally an improbability in tion, or indiscretion, if you please, as the events or in the dialogue, the to the manner in which he amuses whole looks so true that the improus, and, in amusing, instructs. bability is not detected. It does not
The Chevalier gives a lofty descrip- seem possible that events could have tion of what our modern novelists happened in any other way than is are to accomplish, and we hope they there recorded. will profit by it. Homers they are After the school which the Author to be, every one of them. And if of Waverley may be said to have mere construction of a story would founded, had lasted for some time, constitute a resemblance to the old our modern novel developed itself in bard, we will venture to say-how- two new directions. 1. The past ever profanely this may sound to the was discarded for the present, perclassical ear-that many a novelist, sons from the lower classes were whose work has lived its year or two brought prominently forward, and in the circulating library, and then portraiture was aimed at more than been heard of no more, has out-plot- narrative. 2. The interest both of ted the Iliad. Indeed, when we narrative and character was suborread on, and observe the examples dinated to some thoughtful purpose, which the learned critic gives us of or some system of opinions which the what he conceives to be the well- author was desirous of forwarding or constructed novel, we feel at a loss expounding. to understand what construction,
Sir Walter Scott had many worthy after all, can be otherwise than good. successors : he who rose to found a Gil Blas, it seems, is one pattern of new dynasty was Charles Dickens. excellence, and Gil Blas is nothing Enough of history, enough of courts; but a string of adventures, or collec- enough of your Stuarts, their piety tion of separate stories. You have or their profligacy; the stream of as much sense of completeness if you life is passing by us, broader than read half the novel, as if you read ever, and we can look at it with our the whole ; and we suspect that you eyes : let us look at our own profliwill carry away the best impression gates, they may be quite as well of the book by contenting yourself worth studying as those of the Stuart with somewhat less than half. dynasty; and whereas the life of la
In our own literature, the novel dies and gentlemen, young and old, (regarded as a skilfully-constructed appears to be almost exhausted, let narrative, whose predominant inter- us look at large over mere men and est lies in the issue of events) reached women ; haply wherever there is a its perfection in Sir Walter Scott. In face grinning with delight, or wan his works we have the utmost va- with sorrow, there may be something riety of character; we have political worth our knowledge, our sympathy, and religious opinions of various perhaps our admiration. Dickens shades brought before us, though led the Muse out into the street, or generally evoked from the past ; we the Muse led him ; she took her have kings and priests, Cavaliers and course up Fleet Street, dived into Roundheads; we have even the learn- the Borough, and turned into the ing of the antiquary embodied in the courtyard of a miserable old inn; Laird of Monkbarns,—but over all there she found Sam Weller cleaning rises predominant the interest of the boots. Many an elegant novelist, story, and we are carried on, if not while the travelling-carriage stopped with the force of a torrent, yet with to change horses, had glanced at the swift unpausing current of a some such figure, and noted an accistrong river. We look at the scene dental oddity of manner or of speech; we traverse, we admire the person- Charles Dickens loitered up the yard, ages we meet, but still we hurry on entered into conversation, got into with breathless curiosity. So perfect the very heart of the man, chose him is the art of narration, so skilfully for his hero, and presented him beare the incidents linked together, fore the world at large. The world
at large received him with open arms. of religious novels, adopted this form The Pickwick Papers not only have of composition as a mode of diffusing no skilfully-constructed plot, but a their speculative opinions. disaster occurred to such plot or plan Now, whether this is a legitimate as had been formed, and it stands use of fiction, depends entirely on the before us like a half-built house, of manner in which the design is exewhich one wing only has been com- cuted. If, to the total disregard of pleted. No one troubles himself faithful representation of men and about this; no one seems at all af- women, and the circumstances of life, flicted by this imperfect dénouement, an author makes his characters mere this “arrested development” of the puppets-mere mouthpieces for the story. Every reader will tell you exposition of his views_his work is that all he knows about the matter neither essay, nor novel, nor any deis, that he has made acquaintance scribable production whatever. “A with Sam Weller and several other mere tendency novel," says Chevalier remarkable persons, and that he Bunsen, “is in itself a monster;" shall never forget them as long as he and we presume that by a mere tenlives. There lies the greatest triumph dency novel is meant the sort of coma novelist can have. A more artistic position we have been describing, structure would have been an addi- where everything is sacrificed to the tional charm, and other novels of tendency of the work.
But if a Dickens possess this additional me- faithful representation is given of rit; but it is a merit we scarcely any section of society; if men, so far think of; we are engrossed with a as they differ in their sentiments or few favourite personages, are de their creeds, are truly portrayed ; lighted when they appear, look with if the influence upon our social relaeagerness for their return, and, when tions of diversities of speculative the book is closed, have some vague opinion is accurately traced,—then impression that we may possibly the reflective or the “tendency catch sight of them somewhere about novel takes a legitimate and a high the world. The truthful representa- place in literature. But here also we tion, and the artistic structure of the may notice that, in this species of story, are, we see, two very different composition, the artistic structure, or things. Sir Bulwer Lytton will ex- dexterous evolution of the incidents
. cuse us for passing over his name of the story, becomes a very subordihere. He is not easily classified ; he nate matter. Consciously or uncondisturbs, by the variety of his works, sciously, the artist tones down the inthe neatness of our programme, and terest of his narrative. An anxious so accomplished an author will at interest in the dénouement, such as once admit the validity of this ex- the Author of Waverley excites in us,
He may, perhaps, be said to would be incompatible with his main represent the transition period. By purpose ; for if he should once raise the skilful conduct of his narrative in us this breathless curiosity in the he belongs to the Waverley school; issue of events, we can no longer be by the great diversity of scenes and patient listeners to any of that recharacters he has portrayed, to all Hective wisdom he wishes to instil schools. Just when his critics had into us. We cannot go upon a geosatisfied themselves that they had logical excursion, examining strata duly catalogued and described him, and collecting specimens, and feel at he broke loose from all bounds, and the same time that it is a matter of produced a new variety, and the life and death that we push on with most charming of all his works, the all speed to the end of our journey. Caxtons.
The story being thrown thus in the Contemporaneously with the esta- background, it is no wonder that blishment of the Pickwickian dynas- both writer and critic become very ty, another development of the novel lax in their requirements as to a was taking place. It was used as a satisfactory or skilful development. vehicle for setting forth the author's Our canon of criticism is here, opinions, political or religious. Ward therefore, very brief and very inand Disraeli, and the many writers dulgent. We require truthfulness
fidelity to human nature. What grave Chevalier disguised some sly shall be represented, or in what humour and love of mischief here, manner, the artist must determine and that he delivered himself of this at his own peril. Here it is he who decree-just as some of our countryteaches the critic-teaches him what men indulge themselves, in their tracan be done. A Tristram Shandy vels, in certain eccentricities—“to is a thing altogether unknown till astonish the natives.” The eloquent a Sterne writes it. From the writing of Anastasius has always reIliad down to the narrative of ceived its full share of praise; but a Esther Summerson in Bleak House delineation of character which re(which, as an artistic invention, solves itself into the mere black and would be pronounced utterly inde- white of unrestrained passion, has fensible, but over which old men's never amongst us been exalted above eyes have filled with tears), it is the the portraiture of subtler shades and poet who teaches us what can be more complex varieties of human done or created in art. The critic, character, whether national or indiwe will presume, is a philosopher vidual. If mere breadth and univerwho has had his eye on man and on sality is to prevail, shall we not end the history of man, who has studied at last by proclaiming that Rasselas, human nature, its passions, its pre- Prince of Abyssinia, is the greatjudices, its grandeurs, and its follies, est novel in the English language ? and who will therefore know, when What is still more embarrassing, we the poet's creation comes before him, find that “the only work worthy to how far it resembles the original. be named along with Anastasius," But what the poet can create he is Kingsley's Hypatia. The Chevamust learn from the poet himself. lier gives us too many riddles at once. In fine, we are obliged to come to the We hardly know which is the greater conclusion that everything must be difficulty, to discover the resemblance permitted to the novelist except the between Anastasius and Ilypatia, or fault of being untruthful, and that the superiority of Kingsley to Scott. other fault, which perhaps is con- The purpose of Debit and Credit sidered by most men as still more may be broadly stated to be this : heinous—that of being dull. For to exalt the middle and commercial ourselves, we give carte blanche to classes in their own appreciation; to the whole tribe, in all their agreeable teach them that they essentially form varieties, to be amusing, exciting, in the State ; to give them confidence structive, in whatever way they think in themselves as one of the first refit. Let them mingle narrative and quisites for political freedom, or what reflection in whatever proportions we term, in modern days, a constithey please-portray whatever suits tutional government. The purpose them in finished picture or unfinish- is good and highly rational, and we ed sketch-we will heartily forgive in this country, of whatever shade of them for ministering to our delight, politics, can raise no objection to it. though in the most irregular manner. We presume that the middle classes
There are some remarks of Cheva- in Germany need this lesson ; we lier Bunsen's on our own novelists do not. Here in England the comand on their comparative merits, mercial community has not the least which we should have liked, in a want of confidence in itself; neither, friendly spirit, to have canvassed ; on the other hand, is there the least but we have a long task before us, pretension, on the part of the nobiWe should prefer to linger over the lity or the landed proprietors, to the Preface, but we must proceed, as in exclusive exercise of political power. duty bound, to the novel itself of There is an understood copartnerGustav Freytag. Yet there is one ship between commercial and territo. critical judgment of the Chevalier's rial wealth; and though the partners which cannot but occasion an ex- do occasionally contend with much pression of surprise. Hope's Anas- apparent animosity, there is on both tasius, it seems, is vastly superior to sides a strong unshaken conviction the Rob Roy and Guy Mannering of that each is necessary to the other. Scott. We half suspect that our Such political partnership does not