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The curious ease with which, nowadays, every puny whipster gets the sword of Sir Walter has already been remarked. If any Tom o' Bedlam chooses to tell the world that all the new Scottish novelists are Sir Walter's masters, what does it matter to anybody? It is shamelessly silly and impertinent, of course, and it brings newspaper criticism into contempt; but there is an end of it. If the writers who are thus made ridiculous choose to pluck the straws out of their critics' hair and
stick them in their own, they are poorer creatures than I take them for. The thing makes us laugh, or makes us mourn, just as it happens to hit our humour; but it really matters very little. It establishes one of two things
-the critic is hopelessly incapable or hopelessly dishonest. The dilemma is absolute. The peccant gentleman may choose his horn, and no honest and capable reader cares one copper which he takes.
But with regard to Stevenson the case is very different. Stevenson has made a bid for lasting fame. He is formally entered in the list of starters
for the great prize of literary immortality. No man alive can say with certainty whether he will get it. Every forced eulogy handicaps his chances. Every exaggeration of his merits will tend to obscure them. The pendulum of taste is remorseless. Swing it too far on one side, it will swing itself too far on the other.
In his case it has unfortunately become a critical fashion to set him side by side with the greatest master of narrative fiction the world has ever seen. In the interests of a true artist, whom this abuse of praise will greatly injure if it be persisted in, it will be well to endeavour soberly and quietly to measure the man, and to arrive at some approximate estimate of his stature.
It may be assumed that the least conscientious and instructed of our professional guides has read something of the history of Sir Walter Scott, and is, if dimly, aware of the effect he produced in the realm of literature in his lifetime. Sir Walter (who is surpassed or equalled by six writers of our own day, in the judgment of those astounding gentlemen who periodically tell us what we ought to think) was the founder of three great schools. He founded the school of romantic mediæval poetry; he founded the school of antiquarian romance; and he founded the school of Scottish-character romance. He did odds and ends of literary work, such as the compilation and annotation of "The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border," and the notes to the poems and the Waverley Series. These were sparks from his great stithy, but a man of industry and talent might have shown them proudly as a lifetime's labour. The great men in literature are the epoch makers, and Sir Walter is the only man in the literary history of the world who was an epoch maker in more than one direction. It is the fashion to-day to decry Sir Walter as a poet. There are critics who, setting a high value on the verse of Wordsworth or of Browning, for example, cannot concede the name of poetry to any modern work which is not subtle, profound, metaphysical, or analytical. But as a
mere narrative poet few men whose judgment is of value will deny Scott the next place to Homer. As a poet he created an epoch. It filled no great space in point of time, but we owe to Sir Walter's impetus "The Giaour," "The Corsair," "The Bride of Abydos." In his second character of antiquarian romancist, he awoke the elder Dumas, and such a host of imitators, big and little, as no writer ever had at his heels before or since. When he turned to Scottish character he made Galt, and Robert Louis Stevenson, and Dr. George Macdonald, and all the modern gentlemen who, gleaning modesty in the vast field he found, and broke, and sowed, and reaped, are now his rivals.
Do the writers who claim to guide our opinions read Scott at all? Do they know the scene of the hidden and revealed forces in the Trossach glen— the carriage of the Fiery Cross-the sentence on the erring nun—the last fight of her betrayer? Do they know the story of Jeannie Deans? But it is useless to ask these questions or to multiply these instances. Scott is placed. Master of laughter, master of tears, giant of swiftness and terror, crowned king, without one all-round rival.
One of those astonishing and yet natural things which sometimes startle us is the value some minds attach to mere modernity in art. An old thing is tossed up in a new way, and there are those who set more value on the way than the thing, and are instantly agape with admiration at originality. But originality and modishness are different things. People who have a right to guide public opinion discern the difference.
The absurd and damaging comparison between Scott and Stevenson has been gravely offered by the latter's friends. They are doing a beautiful artist a serious injustice. You could place Stevenson's ravishing assortment of cameos in any chamber of Scott's feudal castle. It is an intaglio beside a cathedral, a humming-bird beside an eagle. It is anything exquisite beside anything nobly huge.
Let any man who may be strongly of opinion that I am mistaken conceive Scott and Stevenson living in the same age, and working in complete ignorance of each other. Scott would still have set the world on fire. Stevenson, with his deft, swift, adaptive spirit, and his not easily over-praised perfection in his craft, would have still done something; but he would have missed his loftiest inspiration; his style would have been far other than it is.
As a bit of pure literary enjoyment, there are not many things better than to turn from Stevenson's more recent pages to Scott's letters in Lockhart's "Life," and to see where the modern found the staple of his best and latest style.
The comparison which has been urged so often will not stand a moment's examination. Stevenson is not a great creative artist. He is not an epoch maker. He cannot be set shoulder to shoulder with any of the giants. It is no defect in him which prompts this protest. Except in the sense in which his example of purity, delicacy and finish in verbal work will inspire other artists, Stevenson will have no imitators, as original men always have. He has done delicious things," but he has done nothing new. He has, with astonishing labour and felicity, built a composite style out of the style of every good writer of English. Even in a single page he sometimes reflected many manners. He is the embodiment of the literary as distinguished from the originating intellect. His method is almost perfect, but it is devoid of personality. He says countless things which are the very echo of Sir Walter's epistolary manner. He says things like Lamb, and sometimes they are as good as the original could have made them. He says things like Defoe, like Montaigne, like Rochefoucauld. His bouquet is culled in every garden, and set in leaves which have grown in all forests of literature. He is deft, apt, sprightly, and always sincerely a man. He is just and brave, and essentially a gentleman. He has the right imitative
romance, and he can so blend Defoe and Dickens with a something of himself which is almost, but not quite, creative that he can present you with a blind old Pugh or a John Silver. He is a litterateur born-and made. A verbal invention is meat and drink to him. There are places where you see him actively in pursuit of one, as when Markheim stops the clock "with an interjected finger," or when John Silver's half-shut, cunning, and cruel eye sparkles "like a crumb of glass." Stevenson has run across the Channel for that crumb, and it is worth the jour
Stevenson certainly had that share of genius which belongs to the man who can take infinite pains. Add to this a beautiful personal character, and an almost perfect receptivity. Add again the power of sympathetic realization in a purely literary sense, and you have the man. Let me make my last addition clear. It is a common habit of his to think as his literary favourites would have thought. He could think like Lamb. He could think like Defoe. He could even fuse two minds in this way, and make it, as it were, a composite mind for himself to think with. His intellect was of a very rare and delicate sort, and whilst he was essentially a reproducer, he was in no sense an imitator, or even for a single second a plagiarist. He had an alembic of his own which made old things new. His best possession was that very real sense of proportion which was at the root of all his humour. "Why doesn't God explain these things to a gentleman like me?" There a profound habitual reverence of mind suddenly encounters with a ludicrous perception of his own momentary self-importance. The two electric opposites meet, and emit that flash of summer lightning.
Stevenson gave rare honour to his work, and the artist who shows his self-respect in that best of ways will always be respected by the world. He has fairly won our affection and esteem, and we give them ungrudgingly. In seeming to belittle him I have taken an ungrateful piece of work in hand. But
in the long run a moderately just esti-
as a writer in whose works stand reyealed a lovable, sincere and brave
'HE blue skies palled on me; the rolling sea,
I paced the heaving deck impatiently.
Then like a breath blown from a mellower clime,
I heard a Scottish maiden speak. Of Burns
In him, while men shall pass and years shall roll,
John Stuart Thomson.
DOES MISTRUST GIVE STRENGTH TO AUTHORITY? A Criticism of Republicanism.
BEGINNING with the English writer,
period of control is limited by a term
the 16th century, who turned to the reverse side of the mantle of Empedocles, it is with him virtuously considered that war, the result of human distrust, is the condition of man in a state of nature. He, as the most gifted author who regards underground suspicion as the basis of national organization, begins after this
of years, those who have the means of adding to this term have the loudest voice in the administration, until, continued in this manner, a weak and periodically formed government becomes anarchic in its tendencies, and is entirely managed by faction. It must be acknowledged, then, that the ordinances being first formed to protect the citizens against each other's avarice and iniquity represent the dominance of Force to keep them straight. All the while there are bodies of men expecting to be benefited by the perversion of a just administration, and who are continually trying to persuade the administrating power to act with them. It is Fraud conniving to reduce Force to his own behests.
The natural condition of man is to desire. He is born with a faculty of attempting to satisfy his desires, and proceeds to the task, each according to his own idea.
Material by which to live, having been gained, must be protected from others in search of the same. He who has not makes an assault on him who has, to get what he wants. He who has takes arms into his hands to defend his goods. Thus war is declared immediately when men meet in a state of
So soon as government loses its independent authority and is limited by the connivance of faction or majorities, then does fraud begin to manifest itself by using the primary ordinances for a one party purpose. Actual violence gives place to class legislation. A man is no longer knocked on the head and deprived of his goods, but is robbed by being in the minority, by the exaction of a majority in power. If he is poor, the rich man or corporation electing a judge beats him in the courts and turns the law inside out by interpretations, based on fallacies, for the sake of the most influential party in politics. Politics, with a weak government, is then the power in the name of Fraud
Alliances were first made for plunder, then for protection. It is within the bosom of such alliances that ordinances were first instituted to guarantee to each member protection of goods from every other member. Physical power
was conferred on some commander to enforce these ordinances.
Whatever may be brought to bear on the position of the commander influences the administration of these ordinances. In proportion as his position is independent his administration is more difficult to influence. If his