LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Passages of a Working Life during Half a Century
Chapter IX

Contents Vol. I
Prelude 1
Prelude 2
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Contents Vol. II
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV
Note to Chapter XV
Contents Vol. III
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Note to Chapter VIII
‣ Chapter IX
Note to Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Note to Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Index of Persons
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FIVE summers ago, I was staying for a month at Langley in Buckinghamshire. The immediate neighbourhood had objects of abiding interest. At Richings, Pope and Addison, Gay and Prior, capped verses amongst the trees which Bathurst planted. The young Milton dwelt with his father at Horton. A venerable church is that of Langley—with restorations in good taste. Beautiful, as well as spacious, is its churchyard. The low-roofed parsonage—a primitive cottage, such as George Herbert would have rejoiced in—is on the west. The churchyard itself is a very “garden of roses.” The cluster-rose and the china-rose climb over the railings of the well-preserved tombs. The one yew, of six or eight centuries’ growth, is decaying amidst scores of rose trees, the grafts of the last six or eight autumns. The wearied labourer, and the giddy schoolboy, pass reverently by these rose trees, and touch not a flower; for some they recognise as tokens of love, and every tree that sheds its rich June blossoms over the grassy mounds soothingly whispers “all must die.”

I was told that the small building abutting on the church is a Library. I found from a County History that Sir John Kedermister had “prepared and adjoined” a Library to Langley church, and there, by his will dated 1631, he provided for some additions
to the existing books. I had no difficulty in obtaining admission to this Library, for its guardian was a good-humoured dame dwelling in an adjacent almshouse, who was seldom troubled with the visits of strangers resorting to the village, dignified in the will of the founder as a “Town.” I pass through the family pew of the lords of the manor of Langley, and find myself in a tolerably spacious room, of a very singular character. Five presses, enclosed with panelled doors, line this room. The doors are painted, outside and inside, in various styles of ornamentation—escutcheons, trophies, small figures of apostles and prophets. The figures—in which we recognise the traditional forms which some of the great masters have handed down from the middle ages—are rather coarsely painted; but they are dashed in with a freedom that might not be unworthy of the hand of some minor Flemish or Italian artist, who came to England, as
Tempesta came, to paint landscapes and groups upon the wainscoting of great houses. It was a fashion of the day of Charles I. The effect of the coloured panels of this library is not out of character with the purpose of the room. The Great Eye, that looks upon all in heaven and earth, is here attempted to be represented. On the pupil of the eye we read Deus videt. Behind the ornamented doors stand, in their proper numerical order, long files of folios, ranged shelf over shelf—well preserved, clean. Crabbe has described the externals of such a collection:—
“That weight of wood, with leathern coat o’erlaid;
Those ample clasps, of solid metal made;
The close-press’d leaves, unclosed for many an age;
The dull red edging of the well-fill’d page.”


It is a brilliant morning, this last of June. I am alone in this antique library. I read the catalogue of the books, written on vellum, which hangs on the wall:—‘Catalogus Librorum Omnium in hac Bibliotheca—Aprill, 1638.’ What curious volume shall I take down from its seldom disturbed resting-place? Not one of the Greek or Latin classics is here; there is only one secular English writer. It is essentially a library for divinity scholars. Here is a large part of the armoury of the great controversialists of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries—plain names in this catalogue, without any saintly prefix even to the greatest of the Fathers of the Church. What a delicious place for study! The solemn yew shuts out the glare of the noonday sun from these quarried windows. A place for study—and for reverie. I take down, in a dreamy mood, four folio volumes of “Purchas, his Pilgrimes.” I turn over the pages that used to delight my boyhood—those marvellous explorations by land and sea which this laborious old compiler got together with so much taste and judgment. I look at his pilgrimages in India. I light upon the high turrets of Agra, overlaid with pure massive gold! In the chapter upon ‘the Magnificence of the Great Mogoll,’ I see the gorgeous despot, covered with ‘huge gems’—diamonds, emeralds, pearls, rubies. I see fifty elephants, with turrets of gold, bearing ladies looking through ‘grates of gold wire,’ canopies over them of ‘cloth of silver.’ Jehanghir is giving audience. I half unconsciously repeat:—
“High on a throne of royal state, which far
Outshone the wealth of Ormus and of Ind,
Or where the gorgeous East with richest hand
Showers on her kings barbaric pearl and gold.”


I turn to “The Holy Land Described”—Jerusalem, Emaus, Bethlehem, Sinai. . . . . Let me think. Can He have conversed with these suggestive Pilgrimes in this solitary room? He who, old and blind, ceased not “to wander where the Muses haunt,”
“but chief
Thee, Sion, and the flowery brooks beneath,
That wash thy hallow’d feet and warbling flow.”

And why not? He who wrote L’Allegro, Il Penseroso, Lycidas, Comus, Arcades, wrote them in his father’s house at Horton, within little more than two miles from this spot. From 1632, after Sir John Kedermister founded this library, to 1638, when that broad vellum catalogue was hung upon these walls, John Milton could walk over here through pleasant fields, and pass sweet solitary hours in this room.

The local associations connected with Milton’s seven years at Horton were familiar to me in my own youthful time. This passing fancy renews them—all with memories of happy hours when I strolled upon the banks of the Colne—his
“daily walks and ancient neighbourhood.”

I sit upon one of the high-backed carved chairs of the days of James I. Why should not the fair-haired young man have sat in this high-backed carved chair, when, having left Cambridge, he came, as he records, to dwell “at my father’s country residence, whither he had retired to pass his old age? In that house” he continues, “I, with every advantage of leisure, spent a complete holiday in turning over the Greek and Latin authors.” He sometimes
exchanged the country for the town, either for the purpose of buying books, or for that of learning something new in mathematics or music. He was irresolute, during the earlier portion of his sojourn with his father at Horton, as to the especial dedication of the intellectual power of which he was conscious. He had not altogether matured his resolution not to become a minister of the church. He might still pursue the study of the old theologians as a preparation for future duties; we know how accurately he must have studied them for controversial purposes. In the days before he had made up his mind that “he who would take orders must subscribe slave,” a friend at Cambridge had admonished him that the hours of the night pass on, and that the day with him is at hand, “wherein Christ commands all to labour while there is light.” To that friend he sends the “Petrarchian stanza, the autobiographical sonnet,” on his being arrived at the age of twenty-three. One might be almost tempted to indulge the fancy that, musing in this Langley library amongst these three hundred folios—not altogether dreading the fate of him that “hid the talent,” but yet having compunctious fears that his “late spring no bud or blossom show’th,”—he might see the emblem upon the wall beneficently regarding him who prayed for grace to use his lot—
as ever in my great task-master’s eye.”

The paternal home in the village of Horton is gone. Its very site is doubtful. Forty years ago I believed in an apple tree which grew, or rather decayed, in the traditional garden of Milton. Nothing distinctive is left of him or of his family,
but the blue stone in the chancel of the church which covers the remains of “Sara Milton, the wife of John Milton, who died the 3rd of April, 1637.” The young man who mourned for his mother did not long remain at Horton after her death. Early in 1638 he went abroad. The aspect of the fields on which we may track his footsteps has greatly changed. The smart villa here and there has taken the place of the yeoman’s homestead; but still the sweet-brier or the vine at the cottage window bids good morrow. The Colne still flows through willow banks. Still, but somewhat rarely now,
“Young and old come forth to play
On a sunshine holiday.”

Such a holiday was anticipated by the side of the Colne on Queen Victoria’s Coronation day of 1859. There was a holiday, but no sunshine. On that day the new Public Rooms of Colnbrook were to be first opened—of Colnbrook no longer hated by outside passengers on fast coaches for its rough pavement, but now a quiet village street. The rain poured down. The jocund rebecks were mute. There was no dancing in the chequered shade. But there were speeches in the new building from men of rank and zealous clergymen, who came there to aid the desire of the tradesmen and farmers and mechanics of this district to have a place of intellectual resort—a news-room, a lecture-room, a concert-room, a library. That library has no broad foundation of ancient learning like its neighbour of Langley. A hundred or two of cheap volumes well-thumbed, sent about from subscriber to subscriber—no magnificent folios, never to be taken out of the room provided for them.
But the inerudite readers of this humbler institution have fountains of knowledge which were not unlocked even for the young scholar of Horton, who wrote to
Diodati, in 1637, “where I am now, as you know, I live obscurely, and in a cramped manner.” Great questions were stirring the heart of England. The indications of vast social changes were agitating all thoughtful men. “I want,” he said, “a more suitable habitation among some companions.” He pined for the talk of London—for its news. He wanted to learn there something more than mathematics or music—something that belonged to that exciting time of conflicting opinions. Hampden had refused to pay ship-money, and the great case was to be solemnly argued before the judges. The Star-Chamber had cut off Prynne’s ears. Scotland had declared against episcopacy. What a time for a young man, burning with enthusiasm about the rights which a high-spirited nation claimed as its inheritance—what a time for him to learn nothing of the outer world, but from the meagre ‘Weeklie Newes’ of Nathaniel Butter, which every now and then the Licenser suppressed! The subscribers to the Public Rooms of Colnbrook can watch every pulsation of the great heart of English life, day by day, almost hour by hour. The wondrous agency of the newspaper has made us a nation “apt to learn;” and when the newspaper satisfies the daily curiosity, emulation is roused, even in the imperfectly educated, to search in books for knowledge of which the newspaper opens the long vista in the hitherto dense woods. But upon such old foundations as that of Sir John Kedermister’s library, has whatever is noble and enduring in letters been raised. Let us never
forget when we look upon ancient learning thus entombed—with whatever departments of human knowledge such volumes deal—that “Books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them, to be as active as that soul whose progeny they are: nay, they do preserve, as in a vial, the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them.”*

I have introduced this episode of an Old-Church Library to mark the difference between past times of few books and diligent students, and the present times, of which it may be truly said, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” It has been the business of my life to aid the progress of that almost universal diffusion of printed matter which has been attained by cheapness. I do not repent of my work. It is the duty of every one to endeavour to make good things cheap. All the fiscal obstacles to the cheapness of journals and books having been removed, their literary quality ought to be proportionally advanced towards excellence. I proceed to take a broad survey of the Book Trade of this country.

Catalogues supply the only authentic materials for estimates of the number of books published at any given period. I have a catalogue,—the first compiled in this country—“of all the books printed in England since the dreadful fire of 1666, to the end of Trinity Term, 1680.” The whole number of books printed during these fourteen years was three thousand five hundred and fifty; the yearly average was two hundred and fifty-three, but, deducting reprints, pamphlets, single sermons, and maps, I come to the

* Areopagitica.

conclusion that the yearly average of new hooks was much under a hundred. “The English Catalogue of Books published from January, 1835, to January, 1863,”—a closely printed octavo volume of nine hundred pages—gives the title, size, price, number of volumes, publisher’s name, and date of publication, of sixty-seven thousand five hundred distinct works. During the eight years—1855 to 1862, inclusive,—twenty-one thousand three hundred and sixty books were published, giving an average of two thousand six hundred and seventy per annum. From this enumeration all reprints are excluded.

It is not easy to calculate how large a portion of the commerce of books, whether for their production or distribution, is devoted to reprints. A few years ago, being examined by a Committee of the House of Commons, I was asked what English book I thought, next to the Bible, had the largest sale. I hesitated between the ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ and ‘Robinson Crusoe.’ What an immense contribution have Bunyan and Defoe made to the Book-trade of England! They had little reward in their generation, for each of them fell upon “evil tongues and evil days.” Ten years ago I found the lineal descendant of one of these in a state of extreme poverty. In January, 1854, an old man called upon me at my office, and requested me to look at a book which he held in his hand. It was the third volume of the Life of Daniel Defoe, by Walter Wilson. He pointed to the account of the descendants of Defoe, by which it appeared that Samuel, his grandson, had a son James, who, says Wilson, “is living at this time (1830) a box-maker and undertaker, in Hungerford Market, London.” The old man who addressed me
was this great-grandson of Daniel Defoe. The most pressing wants of his three remaining years were relieved by a subscription which I set on foot. Since his death the Queen’s Bounty of a hundred pounds has been granted to his daughters, through the exertions of
Mr. John Forster, who, as well as Mr. Dickens, assisted me in the endeavour to benefit the old man. At the head of the List of Subscribers which I issued, stands “A Publisher of Robinson Crusoe, £1 0s. 0d.” In that list I only find the name of one other bookseller and publisher. “Prince Posterity” is too magnificent a personage to exhibit any vulgar gratitude to those who have clothed him with his richest robes. The times in which we live, happily for the readers as well as the writers, have called forth such a general demand for books that “the patron and the jail” are no longer the common curses of the scholar.

The importance of the commerce of literature, with reference merely to its industrial development, may be estimated from the returns, in the Population Tables of 1861, of the Occupations of the People. We therein find that there are fifty-four thousand persons working in books, of which number forty-seven thousand are males, and seven thousand females. These are the Printers, Bookbinders, and Booksellers. Under the general term “Books” are included Newspapers. We may gather some idea of the extension, since the days of the Tonsons, of the trade in Books, when these returns of Occupations show that the producers and vendors of food for the mind are precisely the same number as the Bakers, and only fourteen thousand fewer than the Butchers and dealers in meat. But we cannot arrive at any
thing like the same exactness when we attempt to find even an approximation to the number of those who set the printers, bookbinders, and booksellers in motion—the writers. In the Professional Class, whilst we find thirty-eight thousand persons connected with Divinity, thirty-four thousand with Law, thirty-eight thousand with Medicine; whilst we have thirteen thousand artists and fifteen thousand musicians, we have only three thousand five hundred and eighty authors and literary persons, including one hundred and eighty-five female authors. Surely all those who write books, or are contributors to Reviews and Magazines, are not comprised in this enumeration. Certainly not. The author or the journalist, in many cases, has a more definite rank as a clergyman, a lawyer, or a physician. He may be a Lion in fashionable parties, but the writer, quà writer, does not go to court. Female authors were never so abundant, whether as Novelists, or Poetesses, or Biographers. They wisely claim to belong to the Domestic Class—and find their place amongst the Wives, Mothers, and Daughters of the English households. They have no distinctive place in the Census like “the Shoemaker’s Wife.”

It is a hundred and thirty-three years since the first Magazine—The Gentleman’s—was produced in England. It is a hundred and fifteen years since the first Review—The Monthly—was started. These were more ambitious publications in point of size than their illustrious predecessors, the Essayists, who rose up to form the taste of an age possessing very little general knowledge; when “Men not professing learning were not ashamed of ignorance; and in the female world any acquaintance with books was dis-
tinguished only to be censured.” Johnson thus describes the age of
Addison and Steele. These periodical writers came to take the patronage of men of letters out of the hands of the great and the fashionable, to confide it to the people.

The periodical literature of the present day is almost as wonderful as its newspapers. I have glanced at the extent of this species of literature in 1844, when there were sixty weekly periodical works issued in London, two hundred and twenty-seven monthly, and thirty-eight quarterly; (Vol. ii. p. 278.) To Mitchell’s Newspaper Press Directory is now added “A Directory of Magazines, Reviews, and Periodicals.” There were in 1863, four hundred and fifty-three Weekly and Monthly Periodicals, and eighty-four Quarterly. Of these five hundred and thirty-seven publications, a hundred and ninety-six are of a decidedly theological character, in which the Church of England is adequately represented, and almost every sect has its peculiar organs.

It would be impossible for me to present even the most superficial analysis of this list of five hundred and thirty-seven periodical works. Many of them are devoted to special branches of science, art, or industry—such as Civil Engineering, Botany and Gardening, Music, Photography; Magazines for Trades wholesale and retail, and for Artisans of various degrees. We have Law Magazines, and Magazines of Medicine and Surgery, and Nautical Magazines. Magazines for the young present themselves in manifold shapes—of Boys’ Journals, and English Girls’ Journals, and Child’s Own Magazines. We have every variety of Temperance Advocates, and so earnest is proselytism in this direction that
we have an Anti-tobacco Journal. The Religious Tract Society has five Penny Periodicals, and the Christian Knowledge Society has also its cheap organs of amusement and instruction. These divide the market with a shoal of Half-penny and Penny Weeklies, which have acquired the name of Kitchen Literature. This name is, with some injustice, exclusively applied to these delights of the Servants’-hall; for their unnatural incidents and their slip-slop writing may be traced in the literature for the parlour. Some who are fashionable and popular have arrived at such a pitch of exaggeration, that no form of writing that is plain and simple is judged fit to stir the minds of masculine girls and effeminate lads. In a remarkable French book, published in 1840, “
Les Classes Dangereuses,” the writer laments over the “immondices” of the popular literature of Paris. In another ten years or more, there were amongst ourselves too many cheap publications which went upon the principle that the Penny Readers would like something low. They found their error, and in the endeavour to be moral contrived for a long while to be preternaturally silly. I rejoice to find it asserted that the aggregate weekly sale of immoral publications is now estimated at no more than nine thousand copies, whilst three years ago their circulation was estimated at fifty-two thousand.* The unnatural style of the penny literature—the three sorts of style “provided for imbecility,” described by Johnson as the bombastic, the affected, and the weak,—will gradually give place to attempts to rival the higher ability which now

* Publishers’ Circular, May 16, 1864.

marks the cheap Numbers, and almost equally cheap Monthly Magazines, which are avowedly conducted by writers of the first eminence, or by other editors whose names are no secret in the community of letters.

I have intimated that some of the faults of taste, which characterise the humblest species of periodical literature, have penetrated into those regions where authorship is better paid for, and may therefore be presumed to be of a higher quality. But there are faults of a less pardonable nature in the writer of fiction, than a total ignorance of the habits of good society, or a total incapacity to touch the subjects, or to reflect the style, that mark the discourse of educated persons. The grosser evils of the attractive reading that may be purchased for a penny in every street of London have spread, as an epidemic spreads from the hovel to the mansion. The current demand for “sensation novels,” to be provided for the Circulating Libraries at half a guinea a volume, has been absolutely generated by the weekly sheets that commanded a sale by suiting their contents to the palates which demanded the coarsest dishes highly seasoned. The diseased taste, which appears to be now common to the sanded kitchen and the carpeted drawing room, has been stimulated by the same class of writers. They have seen that the incessant whirl of the social machine produces an influence upon most domestic circles, which demands a continued excitement inthe hours of leisure. The newspaper, exciting as it is, is not enough. In a sensation novel of the genuine sort, are to be found a pleasant distillation of the topics that daily present themselves in the
records of the criminal courts and police offices, all so softened down and made easy to juvenile capacities, that murders, forgeries, burglaries, arson, breach of trust, adulteries, seductions, elopements, appear the common incidents of an English household. It is not the taste for horrors that characterised a former age of sensation novels, when murders and ghosts always went together. Crime is not now an exceptional thing, but the normal condition of common life. The dramatists before
Shakspere dabbled in blood. There are violent deaths in abundance even in Shakspere. But he saw how the vulgar element could be raised into grandeur by the poetical; how crime could be taken out of the region of horrors, by being surrounded by those accessories which belong to love and pity. There are writers of novels amongst us who deal with “sensation” incidents in that higher spirit. But the number of those who grossly administer to a corrupt taste seems increasing.
“England! the time is come when thou shouldst wean
Thy heart from its emasculating food.”

There is an Appendix to the English Catalogue which exhibits what are termed “Collections, Libraries, Series, etc.” It includes those published from 1835 to 1863. Nearly all the leading publishers appear to have engaged, during this period of twenty-eight years, in a species of publication in which Constable led the way. We have four Library Series of Bentley, one of Standard Novels; cheap editions of celebrated publications, by Blackwood. We have eleven Libraries and Series issued by Bohn—Antiquarian; British Classics, Cheap Series; Classical Library; Ecclesiastical Library; English Gentleman’s
Library,—Extra Volumes (not Ladies’ reading); Historical Library; Illustrated Library; Philological and Philosophical Library: Scientific Library; and Standard Library. It cannot be doubted that many of Mr. Bonn’s volumes, which may be counted by hundreds, have brought books of authority, whose scarcity or high price precluded their general circulation, within the reach of the great body of readers.
William and Robert Chambers, with whose useful labours during more than thirty years the world is well acquainted, have their Educational Series, their Library for Young People, and their People’s Edition. Chapman and Hall have their Standard Editions of Popular Authors, in which we find the works of W. H. Ainsworth, Mrs. Gaskell, Miss Mulock, Thackeray, and Trollope. Murray’s Family Library of eighty separate books is still in demand. His Home and Colonial Library, his Railway Reading, and his British Classics, of later date, hold their place amongst the books that have not a mere ephemeral popularity. Knight takes his place as a publisher of the Library of Entertaining Knowledge; of Classics; of Journey-books; of Library for the Times; of Weekly and Monthly Volumes. Longmans have Lardner’s Cabinet Cyclopædia of 132 volumes, now issued at a reduced rate, as the collections of many other publishers have been reduced, to meet the pressure of new competition. They have the more modern series of the Traveller’s Library, comprising about 150 books. The Parlour Library, chiefly of novels, good, bad, and indifferent, comprises about 300 separate books. The Religious Tract Society has an extensive series of volumes, not professedly religious, in which it is very difficult to see what is
the difference between their adopted children and the best of their secular competitors. The same may be said of the general publications of the Christian Knowledge Society.
Routledge has Collections and Libraries almost bewildering from their extent:—American Poets; Books for the Country; British Poets; Cheap Series, of 269 Works; Railway Library, of 327 Works,—amongst which we find Bulwer’s Novels, purchased at what was deemed an extravagant price for the right of re-printing, but the value of which concession was better estimated by the publisher than by his critics. Routledge gives us another series of Standard Novels; and by way of a “half-pennyworth of bread to this intolerable deal of sack,” we have the Useful Library. Smith, Elder, and Company have their Shilling Series of Standard Works of Fiction. I conclude this enumeration with Weale’s Rudimentary Series, which comprises 144 works, chiefly on scientific subjects.

In the first volume of my Weekly Series, published in 1844, I said, “The literary returns of the United Kingdom in 1743, were unquestionably little more than 100,000l. per annum. What has multiplied them twenty-fold? Is it the contraction or the widening of the market—the exclusion or the diffusion of knowledge? The whole course of our literature has been that of a gradual and certain spread from the few to the many—from a luxury to a necessary—as much so as the spread of the cotton or the silk trade.” What may be the literary returns of the United Kingdom twenty years later I will not presume to calculate. The 2,000,000l. of 1844 might be guessed as 4,000,000l. in 1864, without any great violation of probability. The sale of books, so largely
increased during these twenty years, has been concurrent with the vast increase in the means of distribution. The railway stations, not only adapted for the sale of books, but for their more general diffusion upon the principle of the circulating libraries; the more frequent intercourse of the country districts with the towns, where new books, especially the cheaper ones, may be purchased; the rapid conveyance of the country bookseller’s parcel, which formerly came lagging once a week, and in many cases, is now daily; and last, though not least in importance, the facilities of the book-post—all have contributed to this great change. There are still those who lament over this general diffusion of knowledge, and say that it will extinguish the race of original writers. In the second chapter of this Volume I have enumerated some of those who had then taken their rank in the honourable roll of English literature. Let me enumerate a few of those—and I mean to draw no invidious distinctions with regard to many whom I omit—who have subsequently inscribed their names upon tablets that may be durable as brass, or perishable as wax, when another generation or two rise up to believe in them as we still believe in
Pope or Fielding, or to dismiss them to oblivion, as we have dismissed Hayley or Pratt.

The names of modern writers, especially those whom I have known, given by me in the second chapter of this Volume, had reference to their position in my “Half Hours with the Best Authors.” Robert Browning and his wife (then Elizabeth Barrett) were not included in that collection; but I cannot pass them over here without doing injustice to him who is in many respects the most distin-
guished rival of
Tennyson, and to her “who gave a double immortality to the name of Browning.” The novels of Disraeli are also not found in my selection. They still preserve their popularity, and I am not quite sure that he might not have attained a more durable reputation as a writer, than that which will rest upon his brilliant success as an orator.

The new poets of this epoch have scarcely yet achieved such a position as those who took their places earlier and still hold them. The novelists have been pressing forward with surprising vigour to compete for such honours as have been showered upon Dickens and Thackeray. Amongst the most remarkable is Wilkie Collins. He had begun to write works of fiction when I was brought into most pleasant intercourse with him in our Guild progresses. Though his talent was undoubted, it never occurred to me that the author of “Basil,” and of “Hide and Seek,” would have achieved such a position as he has acquired by “The Woman in White.” It is not the plot or the style which constitutes the fascination of this book. It is the full possession of that power, which is the chief charm of Richardson to those who have patience to make their way through his involved stories—the power of throwing down, as it were, a hundred incidents which appear to be perfectly unconnected, and gradually gathering them together to produce the circumstantial or cumulative evidence which removes the veil from a great mystery. The incidents were “like a tangled chain, nothing impaired, but all disordered.” He gathers them up, and then all is symmetrical. This is to possess the legal mind in one of its most remarkable qualities, which, after all, is essentially dependent upon the imagi-
native faculty, whether in a lawyer or a novelist.
Anthony Trollope is to many a pleasanter writer than Thackeray, because his views of society are less caustic. If the painters in water-colours had not of late years made a great stride in equalling the force of colour in the painters in oil, I might say that Trollope is a water-colour follower of Thackeray. This opinion has reference more to the general features of social life which he presents than to his incidents or his characters. He chiefly deals with the upper middle class, and here we find a good-natured presentation of the quiet tenour of that life which is characteristic of so great a number of the English people—nothing very brilliant, but nothing revolting; little wit, but no vulgarity; quiet occupation, with some frivolity; women mostly well informed and amiable, with an occasional touch of the insipid. His collegiate clergymen are master-pieces of a great portrait-painter.

No one who is familiar with the more recent writers of fiction, will hesitate to place Charles Kingsley amongst the highest in purpose and in tone, and Shirley Brooks in a class far above that of mediocrity. But I pass them by, to glance at that remarkable band of female novelists—the amazonian army of letters—who are not only well-qualified to fight by the side of the best of the male writers of fiction, but to win victories of themselves, and carry off the highest spoils. Elizabeth Gaskell was a worthy successor in the work begun by Harriet Martineau, of making the rich and the poor more clearly understand their mutual relations, and of bringing the great industrial classes into which society is divided—the capitalist and the labourer—into a better comprehension of each other’s
actions and motives. Miss Martineau had to establish certain principles of political economy, and she had to illustrate them by showing their actual working in common life. Mrs. Gaskell lived amidst our greatest manufacturing population; and out of her perfect acquaintance with their feelings, habits, and prejudices, with a rare command of the provincial dialect, she produced a marked effect by her “
Mary Barton.” In her desire to awaken our minds to the old oppressions, the ignorance, and the sufferings of the factory-workers, she exhibited a picture which would not be a faithful one if taken at the present day. In “North and South” she has dealt more equally between the conflicting parties, and has shown how the tendencies of the age have been to bring them closer together in mutual interest, and mutual respect. Although the general tendency of the writings of Mr. Dickens is to unite classes in feelings of a common brotherhood, I have sometimes thought that he bore too hardly upon those who held that the great truths of political economy,—even if worked out in a right spirit, which regarded the distribution of wealth to be as important as its accumulation,—were not an insufficient foundation for the improvement of society. Before I published in 1854 my volume of “Knowledge is Power,” I sent a copy to my eminent friend with somewhat of apprehension, for he was then publishing his “Hard Times.” I said I was afraid that he would set me down as a cold-hearted political economist. His reply of the 30th of January, 1854, was very characteristic; and I venture to extract it, as it not only may correct some erroneous notions as to his opinions on such subjects, but proclaims a great truth, which has
perhaps not been sufficiently attended to by some of the dreary and dogmatic professors of what has been called the dismal science:—“My satire is against those who see figures and averages, and nothing else—the representatives of the wickedest and most enormous vice of this time—the men who, through long years to come, will do more to damage the really useful truths of political economy, than I could do (if I tried) in my whole life—the addled heads who would take the average of cold in the Crimea during twelve months, as a reason for clothing a soldier in nankeen on a night when he would be frozen to death in fur—and who would comfort the labourer in travelling twelve miles a-day to and from his work, by telling him that the average distance of one inhabited place from another on the whole area of England, is not more than four miles. Bah! what have you to do with these!”

Charlotte Bronté came upon the world in 1848 as a great surprise. Her “Jane Eyre” took the reading public by storm. She had adventured before upon an experiment of her capacity to produce what would sell, by submitting the manuscript of “The Professor” to that publishing experience which is not infallible. In a fortunate hour for her speedy success Mr. Thackeray appreciated the real power that belonged to this young woman—child-like in her figure, and simple as a child in her demeanour. I have heard Miss Martineau relate that when she met Currer Bell by appointment, after being doubtful, as most were, whether the name was that of a man or a woman, the modest authoress placed herself upon a low stool by her side, and looked up to her with a sort of timid admiration. It was the homage of one
quite unused to companionship with her intellectual equals. Had she not died at a comparatively early age, it is probable that the crude, eccentric, and morbid tone of thought, which denoted seclusion from the world operating upon latent disease, would have become a healthier manifestation of great and original genius. In a year after the publication of “Jane Eyre,”
Dinah Mulock appeared as a novelist. Her reputation has been steadily growing; never impaired by extravagant incidents or rash opinions. Her pictures of social life, as exhibited in the career of a Writer to the Signet, and a Manufacturer who had fought his way out of the slough of poverty, are as truthful as they are vigorous. “The Head of the Family,” and “John Halifax, Gentleman,” will hold their place when many flashy productions have had their little hour of popularity, and are then no more seen. One more I must mention, who in some of the highest intellectual qualities,—in knowledge extensive as it is accurate; in power of delineating character, whether of the educated or uneducated classes; in picturesque description—has no equal amongst her own sex, and very few amongst the other sex. Under the assumed name of “George Eliot” appeared five years ago “Adam Bede.” This production placed the writer, who could draw the little Methody and Mrs. Poyser, in the same rank of portrait-painters as the great masters of a past age, who produced Parson Adams and Dr. Primrose. “Silas Marner” is another example of such rare delineations, as vigorous as they are truthful. “Romola” is in a grander style—in many respects wonderful, but certainly not so interesting as subjects belonging to more recent times, and more familiar
scenes. But ail have been produced out of the same close observation, the same ability to seize upon the picturesque in art or in nature, and, above all, the same humour—that quality which can only be traced in writers of the highest mark.

Fiction now occupies so large a share of the commerce of literature that I may be excused for having almost exclusively dwelt upon the novel-writers, as the most prominent amongst the present race of distinguished authors. It will scarcely be necessary for me to attempt more than a brief mention of a few amongst the many who, since my notice in the previous pages of this volume, have most commanded the public attention.

It appeared like a heresy when John Ruskin, in 1843, entered the lists of Art-criticism with a sort of challenge to all comers. “Modern Painters, their superiority in the Art of Landscape-painting to all the ancient Masters,” was a bold proclamation for a graduate of Oxford, twenty-four years of age. Characterised by equal self-reliance was his “Lamps of Architecture,” which appeared six years later. But the mere assertion of peculiar opinions would not have secured Mr. Ruskin his great reputation, had it not been accompanied by a power of eloquent and picturesque writing, of which very few of his contemporaries, in any forms of composition, have an equal command. He unquestionably lifted Art-criticism out of the region of pedantic rules, and caused many to think that Reynolds did exceeding well when he turned his deafest ear to the art-critics of his time:
“When they talk’d of their Raphaels, Correggios, and stuff,
He shifted his trumpet, and only took snuff.”


Mr. Ruskin has a host of disciples, and possibly also an equal number of unbelievers in him. So it is with another of our most original thinkers, in a very different walk. John Stuart Mill has, to a great extent, revolutionised our political economy. He has done, upon scientific principles, what writers of fiction have been labouring, not unworthily, to accomplish by one-sided pictures of individual suffering from the unequal distribution of wealth. Mr. Mill has indicated the way by which the claims of capital and labour, too long conflicting, may be ultimately reconciled, by the participation of those who ostensibly are non-capitalists in the profits of well-directed labour. A survey of the present state of industrial society amongst us, compared with what it was even ten years ago, will show the strides that have been making, under disadvantageous circumstances, by direct co-operation, and by that modified form of the same principle, which is now so familiar to us as Limited Liability. The old race of Political Economists—with one of the most acute and orthodox of their leaders—Mr. M’Culloch—are distinctly opposed to these innovations, once considered so chimerical, and now, in their realization, held to be so dangerous.

The Historians are a numerous band. In Ancient History, Thirlwall, by his eloquent style and felicity of illustration, is deservedly popular; Grote, by his unswerving determination to work out the importance of the democratic principle in the most intellectual community of the Old World, has thoroughly routed the old believers in Mitford’s aristocratic views, if any such remain. The writers of Modern History have, for the most part, devoted themselves to special
periods of our own or of foreign annals.
Macaulay’s great work, unprecedented in popularity, is essentially a history of the expulsion of the Stuarts. Mr. Froude’s History of England from the Fall of Wolsey, is essentially a history of the growth and progress of Protestantism amongst us. The genius of the writer, his beauty of style, his vivid descriptions, have concealed what to many appear his one-sided estimate of character, and his paradoxical assertion of principles upon which subjects maybe drilled into loyalty, and the adverse elements of a State made compact and firm by the pressure of authority. But with these possible defects, it cannot be denied that Mr. Froude has attained a mastery over facts imperfectly known, and has rendered them more interesting by lucid arrangement and picturesque description. I should occupy too much of this very imperfect sketch of our current literature, if I were to make the briefest mention of the authors of the semi-historical works, which take the shape of Biographies, political, literary, or artistical.

It must not be inferred that the few eminent writers I have mentioned, are representatives of the numerous departments of knowledge which give its continued and increasing activity to the Book-trade of this country. As a Note to this chapter, I subjoin an estimate made by me, upon data furnished by the “London Catalogue,” 1816 to 1851, and the “Annual Catalogue” of 1853, of the number of new books published, and the nature of the subjects which they embraced. The books on Divinity were more than four-tenths of the entire number of new publications; those of Law and Medicine were one-tenth thereof; Science, Arts, and Industry, two-tenths; school-books
and juvenile books, one-tenth. Thus eight-tenths of the whole publications of a given period are not the sort of reading which constitutes what is called Popular Literature—the Literature of Book Clubs, Circulating Libraries, and Collections. History, Biography, Travels, Novels, and Poetry, furnish the ordinary Miscellaneous Reading of our population. There are works in the class of Divinity, such as
Dr. Milman’s Ecclesiastical Histories, which really belong to the general Literature which no educated reader can neglect. There are works of Science, such as those of Sir Charles Lyell and Hugh Miller in Geology, which have some of the fascination of what is ordinarily termed light reading. Sir John Herschel’sDiscourses on the Study of Natural Philosophy” is a model for writers who desire to present Science in the most attractive garb. There is no want of the more nourishing aliment, as well as the most palatable, which the modern Press offers to unvitiated appetites.