Skip to main content

Full text of "Women novelists of Queen Victoria's reign : a book of appreciations"

See other formats


/Tftook ofJTppreciations cj' ^Mrs.O 
'Mrs.lynn-Linton, J/rs. JIlexanderJMrs. ^facquou 
( rs. ^farshalt, Qiarlotte tM.Yong^ Adeline 
Edna tiilL 




Women Novelists 


Queen Victoria's Reign 

A Book of Appreciations 


C <- -**"^ S& jrVXj-W \, V ^N 

Mrs. Oliphant, Mrs. Lynn Linton 

Mrs. Alexander, Mrs. Macquoid, Mrs. Parr 

Mrs. Marshall, Charlotte M. Yonge 

Adeline Sergeant * Edna Lyall 

o / 

Hurst SP Blackett, Limited 

13 Great Marlborough Street 




Printed by BALLANTYNE, HANSON & Co. 
At the Ballantyne Press 





'By MRS. LYNN LINTON p a ge 61 


'By EDNA LYALL p age 117 











'By MRS. PARR PW 217 



'By MRS. MACQUOID p age 249 


'By MRS. ALEXANDER p age 275 

"A. L. O. E." (MISS TUCKER) 

T$y MRS. MARSHALL p age 291 



TJTAVING been concerned for many years in the 
publication of works of fiction by feminine 
writers, it has occurred to us to offer, as our contri- 
bution to the celebration of " the longest Reign" a 
volume having for its subject leading Women Novelists 
of the Victorian Era. 

In the case of living lady fictionists, it is too early 
to assess the merit or forecast the future of their works. 
The present book, therefore, is restricted to Women 
Novelists deceased. 

It was further necessary to confine the volume within 
reasonable limits, and it was decided, consequently, that 
it should deal only with Women who did all their work 
in Fiction after the accession of the Queen. This 
decision excludes not only such writers as Lady 
Morgan, Mrs. Ofie, Miss Ferrier, Miss Mitford, 
Mrs. Shelley, and Miss Jane Porter, who, although 

( vii ) 6 


they died after 1837, published all their most notable 
stories early in the century ; but also such writers as 
Mrs. Gore, Mrs. Bray, Mrs. S. C. Hall, Mrs. 
Trollope, Lady Blessington, and Mrs. Marsh, who 
made their debuts as novelists between 1823 and 

As regards some of the last-named, it might be 

urged that the works they produced have now no 
interest other than historical, and can be said to live 
only so far as they embody more or less accurate 
descriptions of Society early in the Reign, tfhe 
" Deerbrook " and " The Hour and the Man " of 
Miss Martineau are still remembered, and, perhaps, 
still read; but it is as a political economist and 
miscellaneous writer, rather than as a Novelist, that 
their author ranks in literature ; while of the tales by 
Miss Par doe, Miss Geraldine Jews bury, and others 
once equally popular, scarcely the titles are now 

On the other hand, the eminence and permanence of 
the Brontes, Qeorge Eliot, and Mrs. Qaskell are 
universally recognised ; the popularity of Mrs. Craik 
and Mrs. Henry Wood is still admittedly great ; the 
personality of Mrs. Norton will always send students 
to her works; Mrs. Crowe and Mrs. Clive were 

( viii ) 


pioneers in domestic and " sensational " fiction ; Lady 
Qeorgiana Fullerton -produced a typical religious 
novel ; Miss Manning made pleasing and acceptable 
the autobiographico-historical narrative ; the authors 
of " The Valley of a Hundred Fires" of " 'Barbaras 
History" and of " Adele," have even now their 
readers and admirers ; while "A. L. 0. E." and Mrs. 
Ewing were among the most successful caterers for 
the young. 

It has seemed to us that value as well as interest 
would attach to critical estimates of, and biographical 
notes upon, these representative Novelists, supplied by 
living mistresses of the craft; and we are glad to 
have been able to secure for the purpose, the services 
of the contributors to this volume, all of whom may 
claim to discourse with some authority upon the art 
they cultivate. It is perhaps scarcely necessary to say 
that each contributor is responsible only for the essay 
to which her name is appended. 

(ix ) 



I HE effect produced upon the general mind 
by the appearance of Charlotte Bronte in 
literature, and afterwards by the record of 
her life when that was over, is one which 
it is nowadays somewhat difficult to 
understand. Had the age been deficient in the art of fiction, 
or had it followed any long level of mediocrity in that 
art, we could have comprehended this more easily. But 
Charlotte Bronte appeared in the full flush of a period 
more richly endowed than any other we know of in that 
special branch of literature, so richly endowed, indeed, 
that the novel had taken quite fictitious importance, 
and the names of Dickens and Thackeray ranked almost 
higher than those of any living writers except perhaps 
Tennyson, then young and on his promotion too. 
Anthony Trollope and Charles Reade who, though in 
their day extremely popular, have never had justice from 



a public which now seems almost to have forgotten 
them, formed a powerful second rank to these two great 
names. It is a great addition to the value of the 
distinction gained by the new comer that it was acquired 
in an age so rich in the qualities of the imagination. 

But this only increases the wonder of a triumph which had 
no artificial means to heighten it, nothing but genius on the 
part of a writer possessing little experience or knowledge 
of the world, and no sort of social training or adventitious 
aid. The genius was indeed unmistakable, and possessed 
in a very high degree the power of expressing itself in 
the most vivid and actual pictures of life. But the life 
of which it had command was seldom attractive, often 
narrow, local, and of a kind which meant keen personal 
satire more than any broader view of human existence. 
A group of commonplace clergymen, intense against their 
little parochial background as only the most real art of 
portraiture, intensified by individual scorn and dislike, 
could have made them : the circle of limited interests, small 
emulations, keen little spites and rancours, filling the 
atmosphere of a great boarding school, the Brussels 
Pensionnatdesfilles these were the two spheres chiefly por- 
trayed : but portrayed with an absolute untempered force 
which knew neither charity, softness, nor even impartiality, 
but burned upon the paper and made everything round 



dim in the contrast. I imagine it was this extraordinary 
naked force which was the great cause of a success, never 
perhaps like the numerical successes in literature of the 
present day, when edition follows edition, and thousand 
thousand, of the books which are the favourites of the 
public : but one which has lived and lasted through 
nearly half a century, and is even now potent enough to 
carry on a little literature of its own, book after book 
following each other not so much to justify as to repro- 
claim and echo to all the winds the fame originally won. 
No one else of the century, I think, has called forth this 
persevering and lasting homage. Not Dickens, though 
perhaps more of him than of any one else has been dealt 
out at intervals to an admiring public ; not Thackeray, of 
whom still we know but little ; not George Eliot, though 
her fame has more solid foundations than that of Miss 
Bronte. Scarcely Scott has called forth more continual 
droppings of elucidation, explanation, remark. Yet the 
books upon which this tremendous reputation is founded 
though vivid, original, and striking in the highest degree, 
are not great books. Their philosophy of life is that of 
a schoolgirl, their knowledge of the world almost /7, 
their conclusions confused by the haste and passion of a 
mind self-centred and working in the narrowest orbit. 
It is rather, as we have said, the most incisive and realistic 

( 5 ) 


art of portraiture than any exercise of the nobler arts 
of fiction imagination, combination, construction or 
humorous survey of life or deep apprehension of its 
problems upon which this fame is built. 

The curious circumstance that Charlotte Bronte was, if 
the word may be so used, doubled by her sisters, the elder, 
Emily, whose genius has been taken for granted, carrying 
the wilder elements of the common inspiration to extremity 
in the strange, chaotic and weird romance of " Wuthering 
Heights," while Anne diluted such powers of social obser- 
vation as were in the family into two mildly disagreeable 
novels of a much commoner order, has no doubt also en- 
hanced the central figure of the group to an amazing degree. 
They placed her strength in relief by displaying its separate 
elements, and thus commending the higher skill and 
larger spirit which took in both, understanding the moors 
and wild country and rude image of man better than the 
one, and misunderstanding the common course of more 
subdued life less than the other. The three together are 
for ever inseparable ; they were homely, lowly, somewhat 
neglected in their lives, had few opportunities and few 
charms to the careless eye : yet no group of women, 
undistinguished by rank, unendowed by beauty, and known 
to but a limited circle of friends as unimportant as them- 
selves have ever, I think, in the course of history 

( 6 ) 


certainly never in this century come to such universal 
recognition. The effect is quite unique, unprecedented, and 
difficult to account for ; but there cannot be the least 
doubt that it is a matter of absolute fact which nobody 
can deny. 

These three daughters of a poor country clergyman 
came into the world early in the century, the dates 
of their births being 1816, 1818, 1820, in the barest 
of little parsonages in the midst of the moors a wild 
but beautiful country, and a rough but highly charac- 
teristic and keen-witted people. Yorkshire is the very 
heart of England ; its native force, its keen practical 
sense, its rough wit, and the unfailing importance in 
the nation of the largest of the shires has given it a 
strong individual character and position almost like that 
of an independent province. But the Brontes, whose 
name is a softened and decorated edition of a common 
Irish name, were not of that forcible race : and perhaps 
the strong strain after emotion, and revolt against the 
monotonies of life, which were so conspicuous in them 
were more easily traceable to their Celtic origin than 
many other developments attributed to that cause. They 
were motherless from an early age, children of a father 
who, after having been depicted as a capricious tyrant, 

( 7 ) 


seems now to have found a fairer representation as a man 
with a high spirit and peculiar temper, yet neither unkind 
to his family nor uninterested in their welfare. There 
was one son, once supposed to be the hero and victim 
of a disagreeable romance, but apparent now as only a 
specimen, not alas, uncommon, of the ordinary ne'er-do- 
well of a family, without force of character or self-control 
to keep his place with decency in the world. 

These children all scribbled from their infancy as soon as 
the power of inscribing words upon paper was acquired by 
them, inventing imaginary countries and compiling vision- 
ary records of them as so many imaginative children do. 
The elder girl and boy made one pair, the younger girls 
another, connected by the closest links of companionship. 
It was thought or hoped that the son was the genius of the 
family, and at the earliest possible age he began to send his 
effusions to editors, and to seek admission to magazines 
with the mingled arrogance and humility of a half- 
fledged creature. But the world knows now that it was 
not poor Branwell who was the genius of the family ; and 
this injury done him in his cradle, and the evil report of 
him that everybody gives throughout his life, awakens a 
certain pity in the mind for the unfortunate youth so 
unable to keep any supremacy among the girls whom he 
must have considered his natural inferiors and vassals. 

( 8) 


We are told by Charlotte Bronte herself that he never 
knew of the successes of his sisters, the fact of their 
successive publications being concealed from him out of 
tenderness for his feelings ; but it is scarcely to be credited 
that when the parish knew the unfortunate brother did 
not find out. The unhappy attempt of Mrs. Gaskell in 
writing the lives of the sisters to make this melancholy 
young man accountable for the almost brutal element in 
Emily Bronte's conception of life, and the strange views 
of Charlotte as to what men were capable of, has made 
him far too important in their history ; where, indeed, he 
had no need to have appeared at all, had the family pride 
consisted, as the pride of so many families does, in veiling 
rather than exhibiting the faults of its members. So far 
as can be made out now, he had as little as possible to do 
with their development in any way. 

There was nothing unnatural or out of the common 
in the youthful life of the family except that strange 
gift of genius, which though consistent with every 
genial quality of being, in such a nature as that of Scott, 
seems in other developments of character to turn all the 
elements into chaos. Its effect upon the parson's three 
daughters was, indeed, not of a very wholesome kind. 
It awakened in them an uneasy sense of superiority which 
gave double force to every one of the little hardships 



which a girl in a great school of a charitable kind, and a 
governess in a middle-class house, has to support : and 
made life harder instead of sweeter to them in many 
ways, since it was full of the biting experience of 
conditions less favourable than those of many persons 
round them whom they could not but feel inferior to 

The great school, which it was Charlotte Bronte's first 
act when she began her literary career to invest with an 
almost tragic character of misery, privation, and wrong, 
was her first step from home. Yorkshire schools did not 
at that period enjoy a very good reputation in the world, 
and Nicholas Nickleby was forming his acquaintance with 
the squalid cruelty of Dotheboys Hall just about the 
same time when Charlotte Bronte's mind was being filled 
with the privations and discontents of Lowood. In such 
a case there is generally some fire where there is so much 
smoke, and probably Lowood was under no very heavenly 
regime : but at the same time its drawbacks were sharply 
accentuated by that keen criticism which is suggested by 
the constant sense of injured worth and consciousness of a 
superiority not acknowledged. The same feeling pursued 
her into the situations as governess which she occupied one 
after another, and in which her indignation at being 
expected to feel affection for the children put under her 

( 10 ) 


charge, forms a curious addition to the other grievances 
with which fate pursues her life. No doubt there are 
many temptations in the life of a governess ; the position 
of a silent observer in a household, looking on at all its 
mistakes, and seeing the imperfection of its management 
with double force because of the effect they have on 
herself especially if she feels herself competent, had 
she but the power, to set things right must always be a 
difficult one. It was not continued long enough, how- 
ever, to involve very much suffering ; though no doubt it 
helped to mature the habit of sharp personal criticism 
and war with the world. 

At the same time Charlotte Bronte made some 
very warm personal friendships, and wrote a great 
many letters to the school friends who pleased her, in 
which a somewhat stilted tone and demure seriousness 
is occasionally invaded by the usual chatter of girl- 
hood, to the great improvement of the atmosphere if 
not of the mind. Ellen Nussey, Mary Taylor, women 
not manifestly intellectual but sensible and independent 
without either exaggeration of sentiment or hint of tragic 
story, remained her close friends as long as she lived, and 
her letters to them, though always a little demure, give us 
a gentler idea of her than anything else she has written. 
Not that there is much charm either of style or subject 


in them : but there is no sort of bitterness or sense of 
insufficient appreciation. Nothing can be more usual and 
commonplace, indeed, than this portion of her life. As 
in so many cases, the artificial lights thrown upon it by 
theories formed afterwards, clear away when we examine 
its actual records, and it is apparent that there was 
neither exceptional harshness of circumstance nor in- 
ternal struggle in the existence of the girl who, though 
more or less in arms against everybody outside especially 
when holding a position superior to her own, more 
especially still when exercising authority over her in 
any way was yet quite an easy-minded, not unhappy, 
young woman at home, with friends to whom she could 
pour out long pages of what is, on the whole, quite 
moderate and temperate criticism of life, not without 
cheerful allusion to now and then a chance curate or 
other young person of the opposite sex, suspected of 
" paying attention " to one or other of the little coterie. 
These allusions are not more lofty or dignified than are 
similar notes of girls of less exalted pretensions, but there 
is not a touch in them of the keen pointed pen which 
afterwards put up the Haworth curates in all their imper- 
fections before the world. 

The other sisters at this time in the background, two 
figures always clinging together, looking almost like one, 


have no great share in this softer part of Charlotte's life. 
They were, though so different in character, completely 
devoted to each other, apparently forming no other 
friendships, each content with the one other partaker of 
her every thought. A little literature seems to have been 
created between them, little chapters of recollection and 
commentary upon their life, sealed up and put away for 
three years in each case, to be opened on Emily's or on 
Anne's birthday alternately, as a pathetic sign of their 
close unity, though the little papers were in themselves 
simple in the extreme. Anne too became a governess 
with something of the same experience as Charlotte, 
and uttering very hard judgments of unconscious people 
who were not the least unkind to her. But Emily 
had no such trials. She remained at home perhaps 
because she was too uncompromising to be allowed 
to make the experiment of putting up with other 
people, perhaps because one daughter at home was indis- 
pensable. The family seems to have had kind and 
trusted old servants, so that the cares of housekeeping did 
not weigh heavily upon the daughter in charge, and there 
is no evidence of exceptional hardness or roughness in 
their circumstances in any way. 

In 1842, Charlotte and Emily, aged respectively 
twenty-six and twenty-four, went to Brussels. Their 

( 13 ) 


design was "to acquire a thorough familiarity with 
French," also some insight into other languages, with 
the view of setting up a school on their own account. 
The means were supplied by the aunt, who had lived 
in their house and taken more or less care of them 
since their mother's death. The two sisters were 
nearly a year in the Pensionnat Heger, now so per- 
fectly known in every detail of its existence to all who 
have read " Villette." They were recalled by the death 
of the kind aunt who had procured them this advantage, 
and afterwards Charlotte, no one quite knows why, went 
back to Brussels for a second year, in which all her 
impressions were probably strengthened and intensified. 
Certainly a more clear and lifelike picture, scathing in 
its cold yet fierce light, was never made than that of 
the white tall Brussels house, its class rooms, its gardens, 
its hum of unamiable girls, its sharp display of rancorous 
and shrill teachers, its one inimitable professor. It 
startles the reader to find a fact which we had for- 
gotten that M. Paul Emmanuel was M. Heger, the 
husband of Madame Heger and legitimate head of the 
house : and that this daring and extraordinary girl did 
not hesitate to encounter gossip or slander by making 
him so completely the hero of her romance. Slander 
in its commonplace form had nothing to do with such 

( 14 ) 


a fiery spirit as that of Charlotte Bronte : but it shows 
her perfect independence of mind and scorn of comment 
that she should have done this. In the end of '43 she 
returned home, and the episode was over. It was really 
the only episode of possible practical significance in her 
life until we come to the records of her brief literary 
career and her marriage, both towards its end. 

The prospect of the school which the three sisters 
were to set up together was abandoned ; there was no 
more talk of governessing. We are not told if it was 
the small inheritance of the aunt only, Mr. Clement 
Shorter informs us, ^1500 which enabled the sisters 
henceforward to remain at home without thought of further 
effort : but certainly this was what happened. And the 
lives of the two younger were drawing so near the end that 
it is a comfort to think that they enjoyed this moment 
of comparative grace together. Their life was extremely 
silent, secluded, and apart. There was the melancholy 
figure of Bran well to distract the house with the spectacle 
of heavy idleness, drink, and disorder ; but this can 
scarcely have been so great an affliction as if he had 
been a more beloved brother. He was not, however, 
veiled by any tender attempt to cover his follies or 
wickedness, but openly complained of to all their friends, 

( is ) 


which mitigates the affliction : and they seem to have 
kept very separate from him, living in a world of their 

In 1 846 a volume of poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton 
Bell, was published at their own cost. It had not the 
faintest success ; they were informed by the publisher 
that two copies only had been sold, and the only satis- 
faction that remained to them was to send a few copies 
to some of the owners of those great names which the 
enthusiastic young women had worshipped from afar as 
stars in the firmament. These poems were republished 
after Charlotte Bronte had attained her first triumph, 
and people had begun to cry out and wonder over 
"Wuthering Heights." The history of "Jane Eyre," 
on the other hand, is that of most works which 
have been the beginning of a career. It fell into 
the hands of the right man, the "reader" of Messrs. 
Smith, Elder and Co., Mr. Williams, a man of great 
intelligence and literary insight. The first story written 
by Charlotte Bronte, which was called "The Pro- 
fessor," and was the original of "Villette," written at 
a time when her mind was very full of the emotions 
raised by that singular portion of her life, had been 
rejected by a number of publishers, and was also rejected 
by Mr. Williams, who found it at once too crude and 

( 16 ) 


too short for the risks of publication, three volumes at 
that period being your only possible form for fiction. 
But he saw the power in it, and begged the author to 
try again at greater length. She did so ; not on the 
basis of the " Professor " as might have seemed natural 
probably the materials were still too much at fever-heat 
in her mind to be returned to at that moment but by 
the story of " Jane Eyre," which at once placed Charlotte 
Bronte amid the most popular and powerful writers of 
her time. 

I remember well the extraordinary thrill of interest 
which in the midst of all the Mrs. Gores, Mrs. Marshs, 
&c. the latter name is mentioned along with those 
of Thackeray and Dickens even by Mr. Williams came 
upon the reader who, in the calm of ignorance, took 
up the first volume of " Jane Eyre." The period of the 
heroine in white muslin, the immaculate creature who was 
of sweetness and goodness all compact, had lasted in the 
common lines of fiction up to that time. Miss Austen 
indeed might well have put an end to that abstract and 
empty fiction, yet it continued, as it always does continue 
more or less, the primitive ideal. But " Jane Eyre " gave 
her, for the moment, the coup de grace. That the book 
should be the story of a governess was perhaps necessary 
to the circumstances of the writer : and the governess was 

(17) B 


already a favourite figure in fiction. But generally she 
was of the beautiful, universally fascinating, all-enduring 
kind, the amiable blameless creature whose secret merits 
were never so hidden but that they might be perceived by a 
keen sighted hero. I am not sure, indeed, that anybody 
believed Miss Bronte when she said her heroine was plain. 
It is very clear from the story that Jane was never un- 
noticed, never failed to please, except among the women, 
whom it is the instinctive art of the novelist to rouse in 
arms against the central figure, thus demonstrating the 
jealousy, spite, and rancour native to their minds in 
respect to the women who please men. No male cynic 
was ever stronger on that subject than this typical woman. 
She cannot have believed it, I presume, since her closest 
friends were women, and she seems to have had perfect 
faith in their kindness : but this is a matter of conven- 
tional belief which has nothing to do with individual 
experience. It is one of the doctrines unassailable of 
the art of fiction ; a thirty-ninth article in which every 
writer of novels is bound to believe. 

Miss Bronte did not know fine ladies, and there- 
fore, in spite of herself and a mind the reverse of 
vulgar, she made the competitors for Mr. Rochester's 
favour rather brutal and essentially vulgar persons, 
an error, curiously enough, which seems to have been 

( 18) 


followed by George Eliot in the corresponding scenes 
in "Mr. Gilfil's Love Story," where Captain Wybrow's 
fiancee treats poor Tiny very much as the beauty in 
Mr. Rochester's house treats Jane Eyre. Both were imagi- 
nary pictures, which perhaps more or less excuses their 
untruthfulness in writers both so sincere and life-like 
in treating things they knew. It is amusing to remember 
that Jane Eyre's ignorance of dress gave a clinching 
argument to Miss Rigby in the Quarterly to decide that 
the writer was not and could not possibly be a woman. 
The much larger and more significant fact that no man 
(until in quite recent days when there have been instances 
of such effeminate art) ever made a woman so entirely the 
subject and inspiration of his book, the only interest in 
it, was entirely overlooked in what was, notwithstanding, 
the very shrewd and telling argument about the dress. 

The chief thing, however, that distressed the candid 
and as yet unaccustomed reader in "Jane Eyre," and made 
him hope that it might be a man who had written it, was 
the character of Rochester's confidences to the girl whom 
he loved not the character of Rochester, which was com- 
pletely a woman's view, but that he should have talked 
to a girl so evidently innocent of his amours and his 
mistresses. This, however, I think, though, as we should 
have thought, a subject so abhorrent to a young woman 

( 19) 


such as Charlotte Bronte was, was also emphatically a 
woman's view. A man might have credited another man 
of Rochester's kind with impulses practically more heinous 
and designs of the worst kind : but he would not have 
made him err in that way. 

In this was a point of honour which the woman did 
not understand. It marks a curious and subtle differ- 
ence between the sexes. The woman less enlightened in 
practical evil considers less the risks of actual vice ; but 
her imagination is free in other ways, and she innocently 
permits her hero to do and say things so completely 
against the code which is binding on gentlemen whether 
vicious or otherwise that her want of perception becomes 
conspicuous. The fact that the writer of the review in the 
Quarterly was herself a woman accounts for her mistake 
in supposing that the book was written if not by a man, 
by " a woman unsexed ; " "a woman who had forfeited 
the society of her sex." And afterwards, when Mrs. 
Gaskell made her disastrous statements about Branwell 
Bronte and other associates of Charlotte's youth, it was 
with the hope of proving that the speech and manners 
of the men to whom she had been accustomed were of a 
nature to justify her in any such misapprehension of the 
usual manners of gentlemen. It was on the contrary, as 
I think, only the bold and unfettered imagination of a 



woman quite ignorant on all such subjects which could 
have suggested this special error. The mind of such a 
woman, casting about for something to make her 
wicked but delightful hero do by way of demonstrating 
his wickedness, yet preserving the fascination which she 
meant him to retain, probably hit upon this as the 
very wickedest thing she could think of, yet still attrac- 
tive : for is there not a thrill of curiosity in searching 
out what such a strange being might think or say, 
which is of itself a strong sensation ? Miss Bronte was, 
I think, the first to give utterance to that curiosity 
of the woman in respect to the man, and fascination of 
interest in him not the ideal man, not Sir Kenneth, too 
reverent for anything but silent worship which has since 
risen to such heights of speculation, and imprints now a 
tone upon modern fiction at which probably she would 
have been horrified. 

There were numberless stories in those days of guilty 
love and betrayal, of how " lovely woman stoops to folly," 
and all the varieties of that endless subject ; but it was, 
except in the comic vein, or with grotesque treatment, the 
pursuit of the woman by the man, the desire of the lover 
for the beloved which was the aim of fiction. A true 
lady of romance walked superior : she accepted (or not) 

( 21 ) 


the devotion : she stooped from her white height to 
reward her adorer : but that she herself should condescend 
to seek him (except under the circumstances of fashion- 
able life, where everybody is in quest of a coronet), or 
call out for him to heaven and earth when he tarried in 
his coming, was unknown to the situations of romantic 
art. When the second of Charlotte Bronte's books 
appeared, there was accordingly quite a new sensation 
in store for the public. The young women in "' Shirley " 
were all wild for this lover who, though promised by all 
the laws of nature and romance, did not appear. They 
leaned out of their windows, they stretched forth their 
hands, calling for him appealing to heaven and earth. 
Why were they left to wear out their bloom, to lose their 
freshness, to spend their days in sewing and dreaming, 
when he, it was certain, was about somewhere, and by 
sheer perversity of fate could not find the way to them ? 
Nothing was thought of the extra half-million of women 
in those days ; perhaps it had not begun to exist ; but 
that " nobody was coming to marry us, nobody coming to 
woo " was apparent. 

Young ladies like Miss Charlotte Bronte and Miss 
Ellen Nussey her friend, would have died rather than 
give vent to such sentiments ; but when the one of them 
to whom that gift was given found that her pen had 

( 22 ) 


become a powerful instrument in her hand, the current 
of the restrained feeling burst all boundaries, and she 
poured forth the cry which nobody had suspected before. 
It had been a thing to be denied, to be indignantly con- 
tradicted as impossible, if ever a lovesick girl put herself 
forth to the shame of her fellows and the laugh of the 
world. When such a phenomenon appeared, she was con- 
demned as either bad or foolish by every law : and the 
idea that she was capable of " running after " a man was 
the most dreadful accusation that could be brought 
against a woman. Miss Bronte's heroines, however, did 
not precisely do this. Shirley and Caroline Helstone 
were not in love so much as longing for love, clamouring 
for it, feeling it to be their right of which they were 
somehow defrauded. There is a good deal to be said 
for such a view. If it is the most virtuous thing in the 
world for a man to desire to marry, to found a family, 
to be the father of children, it should be no shameful 
thing for a woman to own the same desire. But it is 
somehow against the instinct of primitive humanity, 
which has decided that the woman should be no more 
than responsive, maintaining a reserve in respect to her 
feelings, subduing the expression, unless in the "once, 
and only once, and to One only " of the poet. 

Charlotte Bronte was the first to overthrow this super- 



stition. Personally I am disposed to stand for the super- 
stition, and dislike all transgression of it. But that was 
not the view of the most reticent and self-controlled of 
maidens, the little governess, clad in all the strict pro- 
prieties of the period, the parson's daughter despising 
curates, and unacquainted with other men. In her secret 
heart, she demanded of fate night and day why she, so 
full of life and capability, should be left there to dry 
up and wither ; and why Providence refused her the 
completion of her being. Her heart was not set on a 
special love ; still less was there anything fleshly or sensual 
in her imagination. It is a shame to use such words in 
speaking of her, even though to cast them forth as wholly 
inapplicable. The woman's grievance that she should 
be left there unwooed, unloved, out of reach of the 
natural openings of life : without hope of motherhood : 
with the great instinct of her being unfulfilled was almost 
a philosophical, and entirely an abstract, grievance, felt by 
her for her kind : for every woman dropped out of sight 
and unable to attain the manner of existence for which she 
was created. And I think it was the first time this cry 
had been heard out of the mouth of a perfectly modest 
and pure-minded woman, nay, out of the mouth of any 
woman ; for it had nothing to do with the shriek of the 
Sapphos for love. It was more startling, more confusing 

( 24 ) 


to the general mind, than the wail of the lovelorn. The 
gentle victim of " a disappointment," or even the soured 
and angered victim, was a thing quite understood and 
familiar : but not the woman calling upon heaven and 
earth to witness that all the fates were conspiring against 
her to cheat her of her natural career. 

So far as I can see this was the great point which gave 
force to Charlotte Bronte's genius and conferred upon her 
the curious pre-eminence she possesses among the romancers 
of her time. In this view " Shirley," though I suppose the 
least popular, is the most characteristic of her works. It 
is dominated throughout with this complaint. Curates ? 
Yes, there they are, a group of them. Is that the thing 
you expect us women to marry ? Yet it is our right to 
bear children, to guide the house. And we are half of the 
world, and where is the provision for us ? 

This cry disturbed the critic, the reader, the general 
public in the most curious way ; they did not know what 
to make of it. Was it a shameless woman who was so 
crying out ? It is always the easiest way, and one which 
avoids all complications, to say so, and thus crush every 
question. But it was scarcely easy to believe this in face 
of other circumstances. Mrs. Gaskell, as much puzzled 
as any one, when Charlotte Bronte's short life was over, 
tried hard to account for it by " environment " as the 

( 25 ) 


superior persons say, that is by the wicked folly of her 
brother, and the coarseness of all the Yorkshiremen round ; 
and thus originated in her bewilderment, let us hope with- 
out other intention, a new kind of biography, as the subject 
of it inaugurated an entirely new kind of social revolution. 
The cry of the women indeed almost distressed as well as 
puzzled the world. The vivid genius still held it, but 
the ideas were alarming, distracting beyond measure. The 
'Times blew a trumpet of dismay ; the book was revolu- 
tion as well as revelation. It was an outrage upon good 
taste, it was a betrayal of sentiments too widespread to be 
comfortable. It was indelicate if not immodest. We 
have outgrown now the very use of this word, but it was 
a potent one at that period. And it was quite a just 
reproach. That cry shattered indeed altogether the 
" delicacy " which was supposed to be the most exquisite 
characteristic of womankind. The softening veil is blown 
away, when such exhibitions of feeling are given to the 

From that period to this is a long step. We have 
travelled through many years and many gradations of 
sentiment : and we have now arrived at a standard of 
opinion by which the " sex-problem " has become the most 
interesting of questions, the chief occupation of fiction, 
to be discussed by men and women alike with growing 

( 26) 


warmth and openness, the immodest and the indelicate 
being equally and scornfully dismissed as barriers with 
which Art has nothing to do. My impression is that 
Charlotte Bronte was the pioneer and founder of this 
school of romance, though it would probably have shocked 
and distressed her as much as any other woman of her 

age. :; 

-'"'- "- 

The novels of Emily and Anne Bronte were published 
shortly after " Jane Eyre," in three volumes, of which 
" Wuthering Heights " occupied the first two. I am obliged 
to confess that I have never shared the common sentiment of 
enthusiasm for that, to me, unlovely book. The absence 
of almost every element of sympathy in it, the brutality 
and misery, tempered only by an occasional gleam of the 
heather, the freshness of an occasional blast over the 
moors, have prevented me from appreciating a force 
which I do not deny but cannot admire. The figure of 
Heathcliffe, which perhaps has called forth more praise 
than any other single figure in the literature of the time, 
does not touch me. I can understand how in the jumble 
which the reader unconsciously makes, explaining him 
more or less by Rochester and other of Charlotte Bronte's 
heroes, he may take his place in a sort of system, and thus 
have humanities read into him, so to speak, which he does 

( 27 ) 


not himself possess. But though the horror and isolation 
of the house is powerful I have never been able to recon- 
cile myself either to the story or treatment, or to the 
estimate of Emily Bronte's genius held so strongly by so 
many people. There is perhaps the less harm in refrain- 
ing from much comment on this singular book, of which 
I gladly admit the unique character, since it has been the 
occasion of so many and such enthusiastic comments. To 
me Emily Bronte is chiefly interesting as the double of her 
sister, exaggerating at once and softening her character 
and genius as showing those limits of superior sense and 
judgment which restrained her, and the softer lights which 
a better developed humanity threw over the landscape 
common to them both. We perceive better the temper- 
ing sense of possibility by which Charlotte made her rude 
and almost brutal hero still attractive, even in his 
masterful ferocity, when we see Emily's incapacity to 
express anything in her hero except perhaps a touch of 
that tragic pathos, prompting to fiercer harshness still, 
which is in the soul of a man who never more, whatever 
he does, can set himself right. This is the one strain of 
poetry to my mind in the wild conception. There was 
no measure in the younger sister's thoughts, nor temper- 
ance in her methods. 

The youngest of all, the gentle Anne, would have no 

( 28) 


right to be considered at all as a writer but for her associa- 
tion with these imperative spirits. An ordinary little 
novelette and a moral story, working out the disastrous 
knowledge gained by acquaintance with the unfortunate 
Branwell's ruinous habits, were her sole productions. She 
was the element wanting in Emily's rugged work and 
nature. Instead of being two sisters constantly entwined 
with each other, never separate when they could help it, 
had Anne been by some fantastic power swamped altogether 
and amalgamated with her best beloved, we may believe 
that Emily might then have shown herself the foremost^ of 
the three. But the group as it stands is more interesting 
than any single individual could be. And had Charlotte 
Bronte lived a long and triumphant life, a fanciful writer 
might have imagined that the throwing off of those other 
threads of being so closely attached to her own had poured 
greater force and charity into her veins. But we are 
baffled in all our suggestions for the amendment of the 
ways of Providence. 

The melancholy and tragic year, or rather six months, 
which swept from Haworth Parsonage three of its 
inmates, and left Charlotte and her father alone to face 
life as they might, was now approaching ; and it seems so 
completely an episode in the story of the elder sister's 

( 29) 


genius as well as her life, that its history is like that of an 
unwritten tragedy, hers as much as her actual work. Bran- 
well was the first to die, unwept yet not without leaving a 
pathetic note in the record. Then came the extraordinary 
passion and agony of Emily, which has affected the 
imagination so much, and which, had it been for any 
noble purpose, would have been a true martyrdom. But 
to die the death of a Stoic, in fierce resistance yet subjection 
to Nature, regardless of the feelings of all around, for the 
sake of pride and self-will alone, is not an act to be looked 
upon with the reverential sympathy which, however, it has 
secured from many. The strange creature with her shoes 
on her feet and her staff in her hand, refusing till the last 
to acknowledge herself to be ill or to receive any help in her 
weakness, gives thus a kind of climax to her strange and 
painful work. Her death took place in December of the 
same year (1848) in which Bran well died. Anne, already 
delicate, would never seem to have held up her head after 
her sister's death, and in May 1 849 she followed, but in 
all sweetness and calmness, to her early grave. She was 
twenty- eight ; Emily twenty-nine. So soon had the fever 
of life worn itself out and peace come. Charlotte was left 
alone. There had not been to her in either of them the 
close companion which they had found in each other. But 
yet life ebbed away from her with their deaths, which 

( 30) 


occurred in such a startling and quick succession as 
always makes bereavement more terrible. 

This occurred at the height of her mental activity. 
" Shirley " had been published, and had been received with 
the divided feeling we have referred to ; and when she 
was thus left alone she found, no doubt, the solace which 
of all mortal things work gives best, by resuming her 
natural occupation in the now more than ever sombre 
seclusion of the Parsonage, to which, however, her 
favourite friend, Ellen Nussey, came from time to time. 
One or two visits to London occurred after the two first 
publications in which, a demure little person, silent and 
shy, yet capable of expressing herself very distinctly by 
times, and by no means unconscious of the claim she now 
had upon other people's respect and admiration, Charlotte 
Bronte made a little sensation in the society which was 
opened to her, not always of a very successful kind. 
Everybody will remember the delightfully entertaining 
chapter in literary history in which Mrs. Ritchie, with 
charming humour and truth, recounts the visit of this odd 
little lion to her father's house, and Thackeray's abrupt 
and clandestine flight to his club when it was found that 
nothing more was to be made of her than an absorbed 
conversation with the governess in the back drawing-room, 
a situation like one in a novel, and so very like the act of 

(31 ) 


modest greatness, singling out the least important person as 
the object of her attentions. 

She is described by all her friends as plain, even ugly 
a small woman with a big nose, and no other notable 
feature, not even the bright eyes which are generally attri- 
buted to genius which was probably, however, better 
than the lackadaisical portrait prefixed to her biography, 
after a picture by Richmond, which is the typical portrait 
of a governess of the old style, a gentle creature depre- 
cating and wistful. Her letters are very good letters, well 
expressed in something of the old-fashioned way, but 
without any of the charm of a born letter-writer. Indeed, 
charm does not seem to have been hers in any way. But 
she had a few very staunch friends who held fast by her 
all her life, notwithstanding the uncomfortable experience 
of being " put in a book," which few people like. It is a 
gift by itself to put other living people in books. The 
novelist does not always possess it ; to many the realms 
of imagination are far more easy than the arid realms of 
fact, and to frame an image of a man much more natural 
than to take his portrait. I am not sure that it is not 
a mark of greater strength to be able to put a living and 
recognisable person on the canvas than it is to invent one. 
Anyhow, Miss Bronte possessed it in great perfection. 
Impossible to doubt that the characters of " Shirley " were 

(32 ) 


real men ; still more impossible to doubt for a moment 
the existence of M. Paul Emmanuel. The pursuit of 
such a system requires other faculties than those of the 
mere romancist. It demands a very clear-cut opinion, a 
keen judgment not disturbed by any strong sense of the 
complexities of nature, nor troubled by any possibility of 
doing injustice to its victim. 

One thing strikes us very strongly in the description 
of the school, Lowood, which was her very first step 
in literature, and in which there can now be no doubt, 
from her own remarks on the manner in which it 
was received, she had a vindictive purpose. I scarcely 
know why, for, of course, the dates are all there 
to prove the difference but my own conclusion had 
always been that she was a girl of fourteen or fifteen, old 
enough to form an opinion when she left the school. I 
find, with much consternation, that she was only nine ; and 
that so far as such a strenuous opinion was her own at all, 
it must have been formed at that early and not very 
judicious age. That the picture should be so vivid with 
only a little girl's recollection to go upon is wonderful ; but 
it is not particularly valuable as a verdict against a great 
institution, its founder and all its ways. Nevertheless, it 
had its scathing and wounding effect as much as if the 

(33) c 


little observer, whose small judgment worked so pre- 
cociously, had been capable of understanding the things 
which she condemned. It would be rash to trust nineteen 
in such a report, but nine ! 

It was at a different age and in other circumstances that 
Charlotte Bronte made her deep and extraordinary study 
of the Brussels Pensionnat. She was twenty-seven ; she 
had already gone through a number of those years of self- 
repression during which, by dint of keeping silence, the 
heart burns. She was, if we may accept the freedom of 
her utterances in fiction as more descriptive of her mind 
than the measured sentences of her letters, angry with fate 
and the world which denied her a brighter career, and 
bound her to the cold tasks of dependence and the com- 
pany of despised and almost hated inferiors during the 
best of her life. Her tremendous gift of sight not 
second sight or any visionary way of regarding the 
object before her, but that vivid and immediate vision 
which took in every detail, and was decisive on every 
act as if it had been the vision of the gods was now 
fully matured. She saw all that was about her with this 
extraordinary clearness without any shadow upon the 
object or possibility of doubt as to her power of seeing 
it all round and through and through. She makes us 
also see and know the big white house, with every room 



distinct : the garden, with its great trees and alleys : the 
class-rooms, each with its tribune : the girls, fat and 
round and phlegmatic in characteristic foreignism, and 
herself as spectator, looking on with contemptuous in- 
difference, not caring to discriminate be ween them. The 
few English figures, which concern her more, are drawn 
keen upon the canvas, though with as little friendliness; 
the teachers sharply accentuated, Mdlle. Sophie, for in- 
stance, who, when she is in a rage, has no lips, and all the 
sharp contentions and false civilities of those banded Free 
Lances, enemies to everybody and to each other ; the image 
of watchful suspicion in the head of the house all these are 
set forth in glittering lines of steel. There is not a morsel of 
compunction in the picture. Everybody is bad, worthless, a 
hater of the whole race. The mistress of the establishment 
moves about stealthily, watching, her eyes showing through 
a mist in every corner, going and coming without a sound. 
What a picture it is ! There is not a good meaning in the 
whole place not even that beneficent absence of meaning 
which softens the view. They are all bent on their own 
aims, on gaining an advantage great or small over their 
neighbours ; nobody is spared, nobody is worth a revision 
of judgment except one. 

The little Englishwoman herself, who is the centre of 
all this, is not represented as more lovable than the rest. 



She is the hungry little epicure, looking on while others 
feast, and envying every one of them, even while she 
snarls at their fare as apples of Gomorrah. She cannot 
abide that they should be better off than she, even though 
she scorns their satisfaction in what they possess. Her 
wild and despairing rush through Brussels when the town 
is en fete, cold, impassioned, fever-hot with rancour and 
loneliness, produces the most amazing effect on the mind. 
She is the banished spirit for whom there is no place, 
the little half-tamed wild beast, wild with desire to tear 
and rend everything that is happy. One feels that she 
has a certain justification and realises the full force of 
being left out in the cold, of having no part or lot in the 
matter when other people are amused and rejoice. Many 
other writers have endeavoured to produce a similar effect 
with milder means, but I suppose because of a feeble- 
minded desire to preserve the reputation of their forlorn 
heroine and give the reader an amiable view of her, no 
one has succeeded like the author of " Villette," who is in 
no way concerned for the amiability of Lucy Snowe. 

For the impartiality of this picture is as extraordinary as 
its power. Lucy Snowe is her own historian ; it is the hot 
blood of the autobiographist that rushes through her veins, 
yet no attempt is made to recommend her to the reader or 
gain his sympathy. She is much too real to think of these 

( 36 ) 


outside things, or of how people will judge her, or how 
to make her proceedings acceptable to their eyes, We do 
not know whether Charlotte Bronte ever darted out of 
the white still house, standing dead in the moonlight, and 
rushed through the streets and, like a ghost, into the very 
heart of the gaslights and festivities ; but it would be 
difficult to persuade any reader that some one had not done 
so, imprinting that phantasmagoria of light and darkness 
upon a living brain. Whether it was Charlotte Bronte 
or Lucy Snowe, the effect is the same. We are not even 
asked to feel for her or pity her, much less to approve 
her. Nothing is demanded from us on her account but 
merely to behold the soul in revolt and the strange 
workings of her despair. It was chiefly because of the 
indifference to her of Dr. John that Lucy was thus driven 
into a momentary madness ; and with the usual regardless 
indiscretion of all Charlotte Bronte's amateur biographers, 
Mr. Shorter intimates to us who was the living man who 
was Dr. John and occasioned all the commotion. The 
tragedy, however it appears, was unnecessary, for the 
victim got over it with no great difficulty, and soon began 
the much more engrossing interest which still remained 

Nothing up to this point has attracted us in " Villette," 
except, indeed, the tremendous vitality and reality of the 

( 37 ) 


whole, the sensation of the actual which is in every line, 
and which forbids us to believe for a moment that what 
we are reading is fiction. But a very different sentiment 
comes into being as we become acquainted with the black 
bullet-head and vivacious irascible countenance of M. Paul 
Emmanuel. He is the one only character in Miss 
Bronte's little world who has a real charm, whose entrance 
upon the stage warms all our feelings and awakens in us 
not interest alone, but lively liking, amusement and sym- 
pathy. The quick-witted, quick-tempered Frenchman, 
with all the foibles of his vanity displayed, as susceptible 
to any little slight as a girl, as easily pleased with a sign 
of kindness, as far from the English ideal as it is possible 
to imagine, dancing with excitement, raging with dis- 
pleasure, committing himself by every step he takes, cruel, 
delightful, barbarous and kind, is set before us in the 
fullest light, intolerable but always enchanting. He is as 
full of variety as Rosalind, as devoid of dignity as Pierrot, 
contradictory, inconsistent, vain, yet conquering all our 
prejudices and enchanting us while he performs every 
antic that, according to our usual code, a man ought not 
to be capable of. How was it that for this once the artist 
got the better of all her restrictions and overcame 
all her misconceptions, and gave us a man to be heartily 
loved, laughed at, and taken into our hearts ? 

( 38 ) 


I cannot answer that question. I am sorry that he was 
M. Heger, and the master of the establishment, and not the 
clever tutor who had so much of Madame Beck's confidence. 
But anyhow, he is the best that Miss Bronte ever did for 
us, the most attractive individual, the most perfect picture. 
The Rochesters were all more or less fictitious, notwith- 
standing the unconscious inalienable force of realism 
which gives them, in spite of themselves and us, a kind 
of overbearing life ; but Miss Bronte never did under- 
stand what she did not know. She had to see a thing 
before it impressed itself upon her, and when she did 
see it, with what force she saw ! She knew M. Paul 
Emmanuel, watching him day by day, seeing all his 
littlenesses and childishness, his vanity, his big warm 
heart, his clever brain, the manifold nature of the man. 
He stands out, as the curates stood out, absolutely real 
men about whom we could entertain no doubt, recog- 
nisable anywhere. The others were either a woman's men, 
like the Moors of Shirley, whose roughness was bluster 
(she could not imagine an Englishman who was not rough 
and rude), and their strength more or less made up ; or 
an artificial composition like St. John, an ideal bully 
like Rochester. The ideal was not her forte she had 
few gifts that way : but she saw with overwhelming 
lucidity and keenness, and what she saw, without a 

( 39 ) 


doubt, without a scruple, she could put upon the canvas 
in lines of fire. Seldom, very seldom, did an object 
appear within reach of that penetrating light, which 
could be drawn lovingly or made to appear as a being 
to be loved. Was not the sole model of that species 
M. Paul ? It would seem that in the piteous poverty of 
her life, which was so rich in natural power, she had never 
met before a human creature in whom she could com- 
pletely trust, or one who commended himself to her 
entirely, with all his foibles and weaknesses increasing, 
not diminishing, the charm. 

It is, in my opinion, a most impertinent inquiry to endea- 
vour to search out what were the sentiments of Charlotte 
Bronte for M. Heger. Any one whom it would be more 
impossible to imagine as breaking the very first rule of 
English decorum, and letting her thoughts stray towards 
another woman's husband, I cannot imagine. Her fancy was 
wild and her utterance free, and she liked to think that men 
were quite untrammelled by those proprieties which bound 
herself like bonds of iron in her private person, and that 
she might pluck a fearful joy by listening to their dreadful 
experiences : but she herself was as prim and Puritan 
as any little blameless governess that ever went out of an 
English parish. But while believing this I cannot but feel 
it was an intolerable spite of fortune that the one man 



whom she knew in her life, whom her story could make 
others love, the only man whom she saw with that real 
illumination which does justice to humanity, was not 
M. Paul Emmanuel but M. H^ger. This was why we 
were left trembling at the end of Lucy Snowe's story, not 
knowing whether he ever came back to her out of the 
wilds, fearing almost as keenly that nothing but loss could 
fitly end the tale, yet struggling in our imaginations against 
the doom as if it had concerned our own happiness. 

Was this new-born power in her, the power of represent- 
ing a man at his best, she who by nature saw both men and 
women from their worst side, a sign of the development of 
genius in herself, the softening of that scorn with which she 
had hitherto regarded a world chiefly made up of inferior 
beings, the mellowing influence of maturity ? So we might 
have said, had it not been that after this climax of produc- 
tion she never spake word more in the medium of fiction. 
Had she told the world everything she had to say ? Could 
she indeed say nothing but what she had seen and known 
in her limited experience the trials of school and govern- 
essing, the longing of women, the pangs of solitude? 
That strange form of imagination which can deal only 
with fact, and depict nothing but what is under its eyes, is 
in its way perhaps the most impressive of all especially 
when inspired by the remorseless lights of that keen out- 

(41 ) 


ward vision which is unmitigated by any softening of love 
for the race, any embarrassing toleration as to feelings and 
motives. It is unfortunately true in human affairs that 
those who expect a bad ending to everything, and suspect 
a motive at least dubious to every action, prove right in 
a great number of cases, and that the qualities of truth and 
realism have been appropriated to their works by almost 
universal consent. Indeed there are some critics who 
think this the only true form of art. But it is at the 
same time a power with many limitations. The artist 
who labours, as M. Zola does, searching into every dust- 
heap, as if he could find out human nature, the only thing 
worth depicting, with all its closely hidden secrets, all its 
flying indistinguishable tones, all its infinite gradations of 
feeling, by that nauseous process, or by a roaring progress 
through the winds, upon a railway brake, or the visit of a 
superficial month to the most complicated, the most subtle 
of cities must lay up for himself and for his reader many 
disappointments and deceptions : but the science of artistic 
study, as exemplified in him, had not been invented in 
Charlotte Bronte's day. 

She did not attempt to go and see things with the intention 
of representing them ; she was therefore limited to the re- 
presentation of those things which naturally in the course 
of life came under her eyes. She knew, though only as a 

( 42 ) 


child, the management and atmosphere of a great school, and 
set it forth, branding a great institution with an insufferable 
stigma, justly or unjustly, who knows ? She went to 
another school and turned out every figure in it for our 
inspection a community all jealous, spiteful, suspicious, 
clandestine : even the chance pupil with no particular 
relation to her story or herself, painted with all her 
frivolities for the edification of the world did not escape. 
"She was Miss So-and-So," say the army of commen- 
tators who have followed Miss Bronte, picking up all 
the threads, so that the grand-daughter of the girl who 
had the misfortune to be in the Brussels Pensionnat 
along with that remorseless artist may be able to study the 
character of her ancestress. The public we fear loves this 
kind of art, however, notwithstanding all its drawbacks. 

On the other hand probably no higher inspiration could 
have set before us so powerfully the image of M. Paul. Thus 
we are made acquainted with the best and the worst which 
can be effected by this method the base in all their baseness, 
the excellent all the dearer for their characteristic faults : 
but the one representation scarcely less offensive than the 
other to the victim. Would it be less trying to the in- 
dividual to be thus caught, identified, written out large in 
the light of love and glowing adoration, than in the more 
natural light of scorn ? I know not indeed which would be 

(43 ) 


the worst ordeal to go through, to be drawn like Madame 
Beck, suspicious, stealthy, with watchful eyes appearing 
out of every corner, surprising every incautious word, 
than to be put upon the scene in the other manner, with 
all your peccadilloes exposed in the light of admiration 
and fondness, and yourself put to play the part of hero 
and lover. The point of view of the public is one 
thing, that of the victim quite another. We are told 
that Miss Bronte, perhaps with a momentary compunction 
for what she had done, believed herself to have pre- 
vented all injurious effects by securing that "Villette" 
should not be published in Brussels, or translated into the 
French tongue, both of them of course perfectly futile 
hopes since the very desire to hinder its appearance was 
a proof that this appearance would be of unusual interest. 
The fury of the lady exposed in all her stealthy ways 
could scarcely have been less than the confusion of her 
spouse when he found himself held up to the admiration 
of his town as Lucy Snowe's captivating lover. To be 
sure it may be said the public has nothing to do with this. 
These individuals are dead and gone, and no exposure can 
hurt them any longer, whereas the gentle reader lives for 
ever, and goes on through the generations, handing on to 
posterity his delight in M. Paul. But all the same it is a 
cruel and in reality an immoral art ; and it has this great 



disadvantage, that its area is extremely circumscribed, 
especially when the artist lives most of her life in a York- 
shire parsonage amid the moors, where so few notable 
persons come in her way. 

There was however one subject of less absolute realism 
which Charlotte Bronte had at her command, having ex- 
perienced in her own person and seen her nearest friends 
under the experience, of that solitude and longing of women, 
of which she has made so remarkable an exposition. The 
long silence of life without an adventure or a change, the 
forlorn gaze out at windows which never show any one 
coming who can rouse the slightest interest in the mind, the 
endless years and days which pass and pass, carrying away 
the bloom, extinguishing the lights of youth, bringing 
a dreary middle age before which the very soul shrinks, 
while yet the sufferer feels how strong is the current of 
life in her own veins, and how capable she is of all the 
active duties of existence this was the essence and soul 
of the existence she knew best. Was there no help for 
it? Must the women wait and long and see their lives 
thrown away, and have no power to save themselves ? 

The position in itself so tragic is one which can scarcely 
be expressed without calling forth an inevitable ridicule, a 
laugh at the best, more often a sneer at the women whose 

(45 ) 


desire for a husband is thus betrayed. Shirley and Caroline 
Helston both cried out for that husband with an indig- 
nation, a fire and impatience, a sense of wrong and injury, 
which stopped the laugh for the moment. It might be 
ludicrous but it was horribly genuine and true. Note 
there was nothing sensual about these young women. 
It was life they wanted ; they knew nothing of the grosser 
thoughts which the world with its jeers attributes to 
them : of such thoughts they were unconscious in a 
primitive innocence which perhaps only women understand. 
They wanted their life, their place in the world, the 
rightful share of women in the scheme of nature. Why 
did not it come to them ? The old patience in which 
women have lived for all the centuries fails now and again 
in a keen moment of energy when some one arises who sees 
no reason why she should endure this forced inaction, or 
why she should invent for herself inferior ways of working 
and give up her birthright, which is to carry on the world. 
The reader was horrified with these sentiments from the 
lips of young women. The women were half ashamed, 
yet more than half stirred and excited by the outcry, which 
was true enough if indelicate. All very well to talk of 
women working for their living, finding new channels for 
themselves, establishing their independence. How much 
have we said of all that, endeavouring to persuade our- 



selves ! Charlotte Bronte had the courage of her opinions. 
It was not education nor a trade that her women wanted. 
It was not a living but their share in life, a much more 
legitimate object had that been the way to secure it, or had 
there been any way to secure it in England. Miss Bronte 
herself said correct things about the protection which a 
trade is to a woman, keeping her from a mercenary marriage; 
but this was not in the least the way of her heroines. 
They wanted to be happy, no doubt, but above all things 
they wanted their share in life to have their position 
by the side of men, which alone confers a natural equality, 
to have their shoulder to the wheel, their hands on the 
reins of common life, to build up the world, and link the 
generations each to each. In her philosophy marriage 
was the only state which procured this, and if she did 
not recommend a mercenary marriage she was at least 
very tolerant about its conditions, insisting less upon love 
than was to be expected and with a covert conviction in her 
mind that if not one man then another was better than any 
complete abandonment of the larger path. Lucy Snowe 
for a long time had her heart very much set on Dr. John 
and his placid breadth of Englishism : but when she 
finally found out that to be impossible her tears were soon 
dried by the prospect of Paul Emmanuel, so unlike him, 
coming into his place. 



Poor Charlotte Bronte ! She has not been as other 
women, protected by the grave from all betrayal of the 
esipodes in her own life. Everybody has betrayed her, 
and all she thought about this one and that, and every 
name that was ever associated with hers. There was a 
Mr. Taylor from London about whom she wrote with 
great freedom to her friend Miss Nussey, telling how the 
little man had come, how he had gone away without any 
advance in the affairs, how a chill came over her when he 
appeared and she found him much less attractive than when 
at a distance, yet how she liked it as little when he went 
away and was somewhat excited about his first letter, and 
even went so far as to imagine with a laugh that there might 
be possibly a dozen little Joe Taylors before all was over. 
She was hard upon Miss Austen for having no comprehen- 
sion of passion, but no one could have been cooler and less 
impassioned than she as she considered the question of 
Mr. Taylor, reluctant to come to any decision yet dis- 
appointed when it came to nothing. There was no longing 
in her mind for Mr. Taylor, but there was for life and 
action and the larger paths and the little Joes. 

This longing which she expressed with so much 
vehemence and some poetic fervour as the burden of 
the lives of Shirley and her friends has been the key- 
note of a great deal that has followed the revolts and 

( 48 ) 


rebellions, the wild notions about marriage, the " Sex 
Problem," and a great deal more. From that first point to 
the prevailing discussion of all the questions involved is 
a long way ; but it is a matter of logical progression, 
and when once the primary matter is opened, every 
enlargement of the subject may be taken as a thing to be 
expected. Charlotte Bronte was in herself the embodi- 
ment of all old-fashioned restrictions. She was proper, 
she was prim, her life was hedged in by all the little rules 
which bind the primitive woman. But when she left 
her little recluse behind and rushed into the world of 
imagination her exposure of the bondage in which she sat 
with all her sisters was far more daring than if she had 
been a woman of many experiences and knew what she 
was speaking of. She did know the longing, the dis- 
content, the universal contradiction and contrariety 
which is involved in that condition of unfulfilment to 
which so many grey and undeveloped lives are condemned. 
For her and her class, which did not speak of it, every- 
thing depended upon whether the woman married or did 
not marry. Their thoughts were thus artificially fixed to 
one point in the horizon, but their ambition was neither 
ignoble nor unclean. It was bold, indeed, in proportion 
to its almost ridiculous innocence, and want of percep- 
tion of any grosser side. Their share in life, their part in 

( 49 ) D 


the mutual building of the house, was what they sought. 
But the seed she thus sowed has come to many growths 
which would have appalled Charlotte Bronte. Those 
who took their first inspiration from this cry of hers, have 
quite forgotten what it was she wanted, which was not 
emancipation but an extended duty. But while it would 
be very unjust to blame her for the vagaries that have 
followed and to which nothing could be less desirable 
than any building of the house or growth of the race, any 
responsibility or service we must still believe that it was 
she who drew the curtain first aside and opened the gates 
to imps of evil meaning, polluting and profaning the 
domestic hearth. 

The marriage which after all these wild embodiments of 
the longing and solitary heart which could not consent to 
abandon its share in life, after Shirley and Lucy 
Snowe, and that complex unity of three female souls all 
unfulfilled, which had now been broken by death she 
accepted in the end of her life, is the strangest com- 
mentary upon all that went before, or rather, upon all the 
literary and spiritual part of her history, though it was a 
quite appropriate ending to Mr. Bronte's daughter, and even 
to the writer of those sober letters which discussed Mr. 
Taylor, whether he should or should not be encouraged, 
and how it was a little disappointing after all to see him 



go away. Her final suitor was one of the class which 
she had criticised so scathingly, one who, it might have 
been thought, would scarcely have ventured to enter the 
presence or brave the glance of so penetrating an eye, but 
who would seem to have brought all the urgency of a, 
grand passion to the sombre parlour of the parsonage, to- 
the afternoon stillness of the lonely woman who would 
not seem to have suspected anything of the kind till it 
was poured out before her without warning. She was 
startled and confused by his declaration and appeal, never 
apparently having contemplated the possibility of any 
such occurrence ; and in the interval which followed 
the father raged and resisted, and the lover did not 
conceal his heartbroken condition but suffered without 
complaining while the lady looked on wistful, touched 
and attracted by the unlooked-for Jove, and gradually 
melting towards that, though indifferent to the man who 
offered it. Mr. Bronte evidently thought that if this 
now distinguished daughter who had been worshipped 
among the great people in London, and talked of 
in all the newspapers, married at all in her mature 
age, it should be some one distinguished like herself, 
and not the mere curate who was the natural fate 
of every clergyman's daughter, the simplest and least 


Charlotte meanwhile said no word, but saw the curate 
enact various tragic follies of love for her sake with 
a sort of awe and wonder, astonished to find herself 
thus possessed still of the charm which none are so sure 
as women that only youth and beauty can be expected 
to possess. And she had never had any beauty, and, 
though she was not old, was no longer young. It is 
a conventional fiction that a woman still in the thirties is 
beyond the exercise of that power. Indeed, it would be 
hard to fix the age at which the spell departs. Certainly 
the demeanour of Mr. Nicholls gave her full reason to 
believe that it had not departed from her. He faltered in 
the midst of the service, grew pale, almost lost his self- 
possession when he suddenly saw her among the kneeling 
figures round the altar ; and no doubt this rather shock- 
ing and startling exhibition of his feelings was more 
pardonable to the object of so much emotion than it was 
likely to have been to any other spectator. The romance 
is a little strange, but yet it is a romance in its quaint 
ecclesiastical way. And soon Charlotte was drawn still more 
upon her lover's side by the violence of her father. It was 
decided that the curate was to go, and that this late gleam of 
love-making was to be extinguished and the old dim at- 
mosphere to settle down again for ever. Finally, however, 
the mere love of love, which had always been more to her 

( 5O 


than any personal inclination, and the horror of that 
permanent return to the twilight of dreamy living against 
which she had struggled all her life, overcame her, and 
gave her courage ; but she married characteristically, not 
as women marry who are carried to a new home and 
make a new beginning in life, but retaining all the cir- 
cumstances of the old and receiving her husband into her 
father's house where she had already passed through so 
many fluctuations and dreamed so many dreams, and 
which was full to overflowing with the associations of the 

We have no reason to suppose that it did not 
add to the happiness of her life ; indeed, every indi- 
cation is to the contrary, and the husband seems to 
have been kind, considerate and affectionate. Still this 
thing upon which so many of her thoughts had been 
fixed during her whole life, which she had felt to be 
the necessary condition of full development, and for 
which the little impassioned female circle of which she 
was the expositor had sighed and cried to heaven and 
earth, came to her at last very much in the form of a 
catastrophe. No doubt the circumstances of her quickly 
failing health and shortened life promote this feeling. 
But without really taking these into consideration the 
sensation remains the same. The strange little keen soul 

( 53 ) 


with its sharply fixed restrictions, yet intense force of per- 
ception within its limits, dropped out of the world into 
which it had made an irruption so brilliant and so brief 
and sank out of sight altogether, sank into the humdrum 
house between the old father and the sober husband, into 
the clerical atmosphere with which she had no sympathy, 
into the absolute quiet of domestic life to which no Prince 
Charming could now come gaily round the corner, out of 
the mists and moors, and change with a touch of his 
wand the grey mornings and evenings into golden days. 
Well ! was not this that which she had longed for, the 
natural end of life towards which her Shirley, her Caroline, 
her Lucy had angrily stretched forth their hands, indig- 
nant to be kept waiting, clamouring for instant entrance ? 
And so it was, but how different ! Lucy Snowe's little 
housekeeping, all the preparations which M. Paul made 
for her comfort and which seemed better to her than any 
palace, would not they too have taken the colour of 
perpetual dulness if everything had settled down and the 
Professor assumed his slippers by the domestic hearth ? Ah 
no, for Lucy Snowe loved the man, and Charlotte Bronte, as 
appears, loved only the love. It is a parable. She said a 
little later that she began to see that this was the fate which 
she would wish for those she loved best, for her friend 
Ellen, perhaps for her Emily if she had lived the good 



man very faithful, very steady, worth his weight in gold 
yet flatter than the flattest days of old, solidement nourri, 
a good substantial husband, managing all the parish 
business, full of talk about the Archdeacon's charge, and 
the diocesan meetings, and the other clergy of the moorland 
parishes. We can conceive that she got to fetching his 
slippers for him and taking great care that he was 
comfortable, and perhaps had it been so ordained might 
have grown into a contented matron and forgotten the 
glories and miseries, so inseparably twined and linked 
together, of her youth. But she only had a year in which 
to do all that, and this is how her marriage seems to turn 
into a catastrophe, the caging of a wild creature that had 
never borne captivity before, and which now could no 
longer rush forth into the heart of any shining /<?#, or to 
the window of a strange confessional, anywhere, to throw 
off the burden of the perennial contradiction, the ceaseless 
unrest of the soul, the boilings of the volcano under the 

I have said it was difficult to account for the extreme 
interest still attaching to everything connected with 
Charlotte Bronte ; not only the story of her peculiar 
genius, but also of everybody connected with her, though 
the circle was in reality quite a respectable, humdrum, and 

( 55 ) 


uninteresting one, containing nobody of any importance 
except the sister, who was her own wilder and fiercer 
part. One way, however, in which these sisters have 
won some part of their long-lasting interest is 
due to the treatment to which they have been sub- 
jected. They are the first victims of that ruthless art 
of biography which is one of the features of our time ; 
and that not only by Mrs. Gaskell, who took up her 
work in something of an apologetic vein, and was so 
anxious to explain how it was that her heroine expressed 
certain ideas not usual in the mouths of women, that she 
was compelled to take away the reputation of a number 
of other people in order to excuse the peculiarities of these 
two remarkable women. But everybody who has touched 
their history since, and there have been many for it 
would seem that gossip, when restrained by no bonds 
of decorum or human feeling, possesses a certain interest 
whether it is concerned with the household of a cardinal or 
that of a parish priest has followed the same vicious way 
without any remonstrance or appeal for mercy. We have all 
taken it for granted that no mercy was to be shown to the 
Brontes. Let every rag be torn from Charlotte, of whom 
there is the most to say. Emily had the good luck to be 
no correspondent, and so has escaped to some degree the 
complete exposure of every confidence and every thought 

( 56 ) 


which has happened to her sister. Is it because she has 
nobody to defend her that she has been treated thus 
barbarously ? I cannot conceive a situation more painful, 
more lacerating to every feeling, than that of the father 
and the husband dwelling silent together in that sombre 
parsonage, from which every ray of light seems to depart 
with the lost woman, whose presence had kept a little 
savour in life, and looking on in silence to see their 
life taken to pieces, and every decent veil dragged from 
the inner being of their dearest and nearest. They com- 
plained as much as two voiceless persons could, or at 
least the father complained : and the very servants came 
hot from their kitchen to demand a vindication of 
their character : but nobody noted the protest of the 
old man amid the silence of the moors : and the 
husband was more patient and spoke no word. Even 
he, however, after nearly half a century, when that 
far-off episode of life must have become dim to him, 
has thrown his relics open for a little more revelation, 
a little more interference with the helpless ashes of the 

No dot is now omitted upon i, no t left uncrossed. We 
know, or at least are told, who Charlotte meant by every 
character she ever portrayed, even while the model still lives. 
We know her opinion of her friends, or rather acquaint- 

( 57) 


ances, the people whom she saw cursorily and formed a 
hasty judgment upon, as we all do in the supposed safety 
of common life. Protests have been offered in other 
places against a similar treatment of other persons ; but 
scarcely any protest has been attempted in respect to 
Charlotte Bronte. The resurrection people have been 
permitted to make their researches as they pleased. It 
throws a curious pathos, a not unsuitably tragic light upon 
a life always so solitary, that this should all have passed in 
silence because there was actually no one to interfere, no 
one to put a ban upon the dusty heaps and demand that no 
mere should be said. When one looks into the matter 
a little more closely, one finds it is so with almost all 
those who have specially suffered at the hands of the 
biographer. The Carlyles had no child, no brother to 
rise up in their defence. It gives the last touch of 
melancholy to the conclusion of a lonely life. Mrs. 
Gaskell, wise woman, defended herself from a similar 
treatment by will, and left children behind her to 
protect her memory. But the Brontes are at the 
mercy of every one who cares to give another raking 
to the diminished heap of dtfbris. The last writer who 
has done so, Mr. Clement Shorter, had some real new light 
to throw upon a story which surely has now been suffi- 
ciently turned inside out, and has done his work with 

( 58) 


perfect good feeling, and, curiously enough after so 
many exploitations, in a way which shows that interest 
has not yet departed from the subject. But we trust that 
now the memory of Charlotte Bronte will be allowed to 





this essay it is not intended to go into 
the vexed question of George Eliot's 
private life and character. Death has re- 
solved her individuality into nothingness, 
and the discrepancy between her lofty 
thoughts and doubtful action no longer troubles us. But 
her work still remains as common property for all men to 
appraise at its true value to admire for its beauty, to 
reverence for its teaching, to honour for its grandeur, yet 
at the same time to determine its weaknesses and to confess 
where it falls short of the absolute perfection claimed for 
it in her lifetime. 

For that matter indeed, no one has suffered from 
unmeasured adulation more than has George Eliot. As 
a philosopher, once bracketed with Plato and Kant; as a 
novelist, ranked the highest the world has seen; as a woman, 
set above the law and, while living in open and admired 

(63 ) 


adultery, visited by bishops and judges as well as by the best 
of the laity ; her faults of style and method praised as genius 
since her death she has been treated with some of that 
reactionary neglect which always follows on extravagant 
esteem. The mud-born ephemeridas of literature have 
dispossessed her. For her profound learning, which ran 
like a golden thread through all she wrote till it became 
tarnished by pedantry, we have the ignorance which mis- 
quotes Lempriere and thinks itself classic. For her 
outspoken language and forcible diction, wherein, however, 
she always preserved so much modesty, and for her realism 
which described things and feelings as they are, but 
without going into revolting details, we have those 
lusciously suggestive epithets and those unveiled presenta- 
tions of the sexual instinct which seem to make the world 
one large lupanar. For her accurate science and pro- 
found philosophy, we have those claptrap phrases which 
have passed into common speech and are glibly reproduced 
by facile parrots who do not understand and never could 
have created ; and for her scholarly diction we have the 
tawdriness of a verbal ragbag where grammar is as defective 
as taste. Yet our modern tinselled dunces have taken the 
place of the one who, in her lifetime, was made almost 
oppressively great almost too colossal in her supremacy. 
But when all this rubbish has been thrown into the abyss 

( 6 4 ) 


of oblivion, George Eliot's works will remain solid and 
alive, together with Thackeray's, Scott's and Fielding's. 
Our Immortals will include in their company, as one of the 
" choir invisible " whose voice will never be stilled for 
man, the author of " Adam Bede " and " Romola," of the 
" Mill on the Floss " and " Middlemarch." 

Her first essays in fiction, her " Scenes of Clerical 
Life," show the germs of her future greatness as well 
as the persistency of her aim. In " Janet's Repen- 
tance," which to our mind is the best of the three, 
those germs are already shaped to beauty. Nothing can 
be more delicately touched than the nascent love between 
Janet and Mr. Try on. No more subtle sign of Janet's 
besetting sin could be given than by that candlestick 
held "aslant;" while her character, compounded of pride, 
timidity, affectionateness, spiritual aspiration and moral 
degradation, is as true to life as it was difficult to portray. 
It would be impossible to note all the gems in these 
three stories. We can indicate only one or two. That 
splendid paragraph in " Mr. Gilfil's Love Story," beginning : 
" While this poor heart was being bruised " the sharp 
summing up of Mr. Amos Barton's " middling " character 
Lady Cheverel's silent criticisms contrasted with her 
husband's iridescent optimism the almost Shakesperean 

(65) E 


humour of the men, the author's keen appraisement of the 
commonplace women ; such aphorisms as Mrs. Linnet's 
41 It's right enough to be speritial I'm no enemy to that 
but I like my potatoes meally ; " these and a thousand 
more, eloquent, tender, witty, deep, make these three 
stories masterpieces in their way, despite the improbability 
of the Czerlaski episode in "Amos Barton" and the inherent 
weakness of the Gilfil plot. We, who can remember the 
enthusiasm they excited when they first appeared in 
Blackwood's Magazine, on re-reading them in cooler blood 
can understand that enthusiasm, though we no longer share 
its pristine intensity. It was emphatically a new departure 
in literature, and the noble note of that religious feeling 
which is independent of creed and which touches all hearts 
alike, woke an echo that even to this day reverberates 
though in but a poor, feeble and attenuated manner. 

"Adam Bede," the first novel proper of the long 
series, shows George Eliot at her best in her three most 
noteworthy qualities lofty principles, lifelike delineation 
of character, and fine humour, both broad and subtle. The 
faults of the story are the all-pervading anachronism 
of thought and circumstance ; the dragging of the plot 
in the earlier half of the book ; and the occasional ugliness 
-of style, where, as in that futile opening sentence the 



author as I directly addresses the reader as You. The 
scene is laid in the year 1799 before the Trades Unions 
had fixed a man's hours of work so accurately as to make 
him leave off with a screw half driven in, so soon as the 
clock begins to strike before too the hour of leaving off 
was fixed at six. We older people can remember when 
workmen wrought up to eight and were never too exact 
even then. Precision of the kind practised at the present 
day was not known then ; and why were there no appren- 
tices in Adam's shop ? Apprentices were a salient feature 
in all the working community, and no shop could have 
existed without them. Nor would the seduction by the 
young squire of a farmer's niece or daughter have been 
the heinous crime George Eliot has made it. If women of 
the lower class held a somewhat better position than they 
did in King Arthur's time, when, to be the mother of a 
knight's bastard, raised a churl's wife or daughter far above 
her compeers and was assumed to honour not degrade her, 
they still retained some of the old sense of inferiority. Does 
any one remember that famous answer in the Yelverton 
trial not much more than a generation ago? In 1799 
Hetty's mishap would have been condoned by all concerned, 
save perhaps by Adam himself ; and Arthur Donnithorne 
would have suffered no more for his escapade than did our 
well-known Tom Jones for his little diversions. Arid 



were there any night schools for illiterate men in 1 799 ? And 
how was that reprieve got so quickly at a time when there 
were neither railroads nor telegraphs ? indeed, would it 
have been got at all in days when concealment of birth alone 
was felony and felony was death ? Also, would Hetty 
have been alone in her cell? In 1799 all prisoners were 
herded together, young and old, untried and condemned ; 
and the separate system was not in existence. Save for 
Hetty's weary journey on foot and in chance carts, the 
story might have been made as of present time with 
more vraisemblance and harmoniousness. 

These objections apart, how supreme the whole book is ! 
The characters stand out fresh, firm and living. As in some 
paintings you feel as if you could put your hand round the 
body, so in George Eliot's writings you feel that you have 
met those people in the flesh, and talked to them, holding 
them by the hand and looking into their eyes. There is 
not a line of loose drawing anywhere. From the four 
Bedes, with that inverted kind of heredity which Zola has 
so powerfully shown, to the stately egoism of Mrs. Irwine 
from the marvellous portraiture of Hetty Sorrel with her 
soft, caressing, lusciously-loving outside, and her heart 
" as hard as a cherry-stone " according to Mrs. Poyser 
from the weak-willed yet not conscienceless Arthur Don- 
nithorne to the exquisite purity of Dinah, the character- 

(68 ) 


drawing is simply perfect. Many were people personally 
known to George Eliot, and those who were at all behind 
the scenes recognised the portraits. Down at Wirksworth 
they knew the Bedes, Dinah, the Poysers, and some others. 
In London, among the intimates of George Lewes, Hetty 
needed no label. Mrs. Peyser's good things were common 
property in the neighbourhood Jong before George Eliot 
crystallised them for all time, and embellished them by her 
matchless setting ; and Dinah's sermon was not all imaginary. 
But though in some sense her work was portraiture, it was 
portraiture passed through the alembic of her brilliant 
genius, from commonplace material distilled into the 
finest essence. 

It is impossible here again to give adequate extracts of 
the wise, witty, tender and high-minded things scattered 
broadcast over this book as, indeed, over all that George 
Eliot ever wrote. That paragraph beginning " Family 
likeness has often a deep sadness in it " ; the description 
of Hetty's flower-like beauty, which fascinated even her 
sharp-tongued aunt ; phrases like " John considered a 
young master as the natural enemy of an old servant," 
and " young people in general as a poor contrivance for 
carrying on the world " ; that sharp little bit of moral 
and intellectual antithesis, with the learned man " meekly 
rocking the twins in the cradle with his left hand, while 



with his right he inflicted the most lacerating sarcasms 
on an opponent who had betrayed a brutal ignorance of 
Hebrew " forgiving human weaknesses and moral errors 
as is a Christian's bounden duty, but treating as " the 
enemy of his race, the man who takes the wrong side on 
the momentous subject of the Hebrew points " ; how 
masterly, how fine are these and a dozen other unnoted 
passages ! 

Hetty in her bedroom, parading in her concealed 
finery, reminds one too closely of Gretchen with her 
fatal jewels to be quite favourable to the English 
version ; and we question the truth of Adam Bede's 
hypothetical content with such a Dorothy Doolittle as his 
wife. Writers of love stories among the working classes 
in bygone days forget that notableness was then part of 
of a woman's virtue part of her claims to love and consi- 
deration and that mere flower-like kittenish prettiness 
did not count to her honour any more than graceful 
movements and aesthetic taste would count to the honour 
of a Tommy in the trenches who could neither handle 
a spade nor load a rifle. Blackmore made the same mis- 
take in his " Lorna Doone," and George Eliot has repeated 
it in Adam's love for Hetty solely for her beauty and without 
" faculty " as her dower. In his own way Bartle Massey, 
misogynist, is as smart as Mrs. Poyser herself, as amusing 



and as trenchant ; but the coming-of-age dance is fifty 
years and more too modern, and the long dissertation 
at the beginning of the second book is a blot, because it 
is a clog and an interruption. Not so that glorious 
description of nature in August when "the sun was 
hidden for a moment and then shone out warm again like 
a recovered joy ; " nor that deep and tender bit of intro- 
spection, setting forth the spiritual good got from sorrow 
as well as its indestructible impress. 

Yet for all the beauty of these philosophic passages 
there are too many of them in this as in all George 
Eliot's works. They hamper the action and lend an air 
of pedantry and preaching with which a novel proper has 
nothing to do. It is bad style as well as bad art, and 
irritating to a critical, while depressing -to a sympathetic 
reader. But summing up all the faults together, and giving 
full weight to each, we gladly own the masterly residuum 
that is left. The dawning love between Adam and 
Dinah alone is enough to claim for " Adam Bede " one of 
the highest places in literature, had not that place been 
already taken by the marvellous truth, diversity and 
power of the character-drawing. Mrs. Peyser's epigrams, 
too, generally made when she was " knitting with fierce 
rapidity, as if her movements were a necessary function 
like the twittering of a crab's antennae," both too numerous 

(71 ) 


and too well known to quote, would have redeemed the 
flimsiest framework and the silliest padding extant. 

The light that seemed to flash on the world when this 
glorious book was published will never be forgotten by 
those who were old enough at the time to read and appre- 
ciate. By the way, is that would-be famous Liggins still 
alive ? When he sums it all up, how much did he get 
out of his bold attempt to don the giant's robe ? 

If " Adam Bede " was partly reminiscent, " The Mill 
on the Floss " was partly autobiographical. There is no 
question that in the sensitive, turbulent, loving nature 
of Maggie Tulliver Marian Evans painted herself. Those 
who knew her when she first came to London knew her 
as a pronounced insurgent. Never noisy and never 
coarse, always quiet in manner, sensitive, diffident and 
shrinking from unpleasantness, she yet had not put 
on that " made " and artificial pose which was her dis- 
tinguishing characteristic in later years. She was still 
Maggie Tulliver, with a conscience and temperament at 
war together, and with a spiritual ideal in no way attained 
by her practical realisation. For indeed, the union 
between Marian Evans and George Lewes was far more 
incongruous in some of its details than was Maggie's love 
for Philip or her passion for Stephen. Philip appealed to 

( 72) 


her affection of old time, her pity and her love of art 
Stephen to her hot blood and her sensuous love of beauty. 
But George Lewes's total want of all religiousness of 
feeling, his brilliancy of wit, which was now coarse now 
mere "persiflage^ his cleverness, which was more quickness 
of assimilation than the originality of genius, were all 
traits of character unlike the deeper, truer and more 
ponderous qualities of the woman who braved the world 
for his sake when first she linked her fate with his the 
woman who did not, like Maggie, turn back when she 
came to the brink but who boldly crossed the Rubicon 
and who, in her after efforts to cover up the conditions, 
showed that she smarted from the consequences. 

Read in youth by the light of sympathy with insurgency, 
Maggie is adorable, and her brother Tom is but a better- 
looking Jonas Chuzzlewit. Read in age by the light of re- 
spect for conformity and self-control, much of Maggie's 
charm vanishes, while most of Tom's hardness becomes both 
respectable and inevitable. Maggie was truly a thorn in 
the side of a proud country family, not accustomed to its 
little daughters running off" to join the gipsies, nor to its 
grown girls eloping with their cousin's lover. Tom was 
right when he said no reliance could be placed on her ; 
for where there is this unlucky divergence between prin- 
ciple and temperament, the will can never be firm nor the 

( 73) 


walk steady. Sweet little Lucy had more of the true 
heroism of a woman in her patient acceptance of sorrow 
and her generous forgiveness of the cause thereof, than 
could be found in all Maggie's struggles between pas- 
sion and principle. The great duties of life lying at 
our feet and about our path cannot be done away with by 
the romantic picturesqueness of one character contrasted 
with the more prosaic because conventional limitations of 
the other ; nor is it right to give all our sympathy to the 
one who spoilt so many lives and brought so much dis- 
grace on her family name, merely because she did not 
mean, and did not wish, and had bitter remorse after 
terrible conflicts, which never ended in real self-control or 
steadfast pursuance of the right. 

There is something in " The Mill on the Floss " akin 
to the gloomy fatalism of a Greek tragedy. In " Adam 
Bede " is more spontaneity of action, more liberty of choice ; 
but, given the natures by which events were worked out 
to their final issues in " The Mill on the Floss," it seems 
as if everything must have happened precisely as it did. 
An obstinate, litigious and irascible man like Mr. Tulliver 
was bound to come to grief in the end. Fighting against 
long odds as he did, he could not win. Blind anger and 
as blind precipitancy, against cool tenacity and clear per- 
ceptions, must go under ; and Mr. Tulliver was no match 

( 74 ) 


against the laws of life as interpreted by Mr. Wakem and 
the decisions of the law courts. His choice of a fool for 
his wife was not Mrs. Tulliver well known at Coventry ? 
was another step in the terrible March of Fate. She 
was of no help to him as a wife with woman's wit to 
assist his masculine decisions nor as a mother was she 
capable of ruling her daughter or influencing her son. 
She was as a passive instrument in the hands of the gods 
one of those unnoted and unsuspected agents by whose 
unconscious action such tremendous results are produced. 
George Eliot never did anything more remarkable than in 
the union she makes in this book between the most com- 
monplace characters and the most majestic conception of 
tragic fate. There is not a stage hero among them all 
not a pair of buskins for the whole company ; but the 
conception is ^Eschylean, though the stage is no bigger 
than a doll's house. 

The humour in " The Mill on the Floss " is almost as 
rich as that of " Adam Bede," though the special qualities 
of the four sisters are perhaps unduly exaggerated. Sister 
Pullet's eternal tears become wearisome, and lose their 
effect by causeless and ceaseless repetition ; and surely 
sister Grigg could not have been always such an unmiti- 
gated Gorgon ! Mrs. Tulliver's helpless foolishness and 
tactless interference, moving with her soft white hands 

( 75) 


the lever which set the whole crushing machinery in 
motion, are after George Eliot's best manner ; and the 
whole comedy circling round sister Pullet's wonderful 
bonnet and the linen and the chaney comedy at last 
linked on to tragedy is of inimitable richness. The 
girlish bond of sympathy between sister Pullet and sister 
Tulliver, in that they both liked spots for their patterned 
linen, while sister Grigg allays contrairy to Sophy 
Pullet, would have striped things is repeated in that 
serio-comic scene of the ruin, when the Tullivers are sold 
up and the stalwart cause of their disaster is in bed, 
paralysed. By the way, would he have recovered so 
quickly and so thoroughly as he did from such a severe 
attack ? Setting that aside, for novelists are not expected 
to be very accurate pathologists, the humour of this 
part of the book is all the more striking for the pathos 
mingled with it. 

" The head miller, a tall broad-shouldered man of 
forty, black-eyed and black-haired, subdued by a general 
mealiness like an auricula": "They're nash things, 
them lop-eared rabbits they'd happen ha' died if they'd 
been fed. Things out o' natur never thrive. God 
Almighty doesn't like 'em. He made the rabbit's ears 
to lie back, and it's nothing but contrariness to make 'em 
lie down like a mastiff dog's": "Maggie's tears began 

( 76 ) 


to subside, and she put out her mouth for the cake 
and bit a piece ; and then Tom bit a piece, just for com- 
pany, and they ate together and rubbed each other's 
cheeks and brows and noses together, while they ate, with 
a humiliating resemblance to two friendly ponies": Is 
there anything better than these in Mrs. Peyser's 
repertory ? 

Of acute psychological vision is that fine bit on 
" plotting contrivance and deliberate covetousness " ; and 
the summing up of the religious and moral life of the 
Dodsons and Tullivers, beginning " Certainly the religious 
and moral ideas of the Dodsons and Tullivers," is as good 
as anything in our language. No one theoretically knew 
human nature better than George Eliot. Practically, 
she was too thin-skinned to bear the slightest abrasion, 
such as necessarily comes to us from extended intercourse 
or the give and take of equality. But theoretically she 
sounded the depths and shallows, and knew where the 
bitter springs rose and where the healing waters flowed ; 
and when she translated what she knew into the conduct 
and analysis of her fictitious characters, she gave them a 
life and substance peculiarly her own. 

Hitherto George Eliot has dealt with her own ex- 
periences, her reminiscences of old friends and well-known 



places, of familiar acquaintances, and, in Maggie Tulliver, 
of her own childish frowardness and affectionateness her 
girlish desire to do right and facile slipping into wrong. 
In " Silas Marner " she ventures into a more com- 
pletely creative region ; and, for all the exquisite beauty 
and poetry of the central idea, she has failed her former 
excellence. The story is one of the not quite impossible 
but highly improbable kind, with a Deus ex machind as 
the ultimate setter-to -rights of all things wrong. As with 
" Adam Bede," the date is thrown back a generation or 
two, without the smallest savour of the time indicated, 
save in the fashion of the dresses of the sisters Lammeter 
a Joseph substituted for a cloak, and riding on a pillion 
for a drive in a fly. Else there is not the least attempt to 
synchronise time, circumstances and sentiment, while the 
story is artificial in its plot and unlikely in its treatment. 
Yet it is both pretty and pathetic ; and the little intro- 
duction of fairyland in the golden-haired child asleep by 
the fire, as the substitute for the stolen hoard, is as lovely 
as fairy stories generally are. But we altogether question 
the probability of a marriage between the young squire 
and his drunken wife. Such a woman would not have 
been too rigorous, and was not ; and such a man as 
Godfrey Cass would not have married a low-born 
mistress from " a movement of compunction." As 

( 78 ) 


we said before, in the story of Hetty and Arthur, 
young squires a century ago were not so tender-hearted 
towards the honour of a peasant girl. It was a pity, 
of course, when things went wrong ; but then young 
men will be young men, and it behoved the lasses to keep 
themselves to themselves ! If the young squire did the 
handsome thing in money, that was all that could be 
expected of him. The girl would be none the worse 
thought of for her slip ; and the money got by her fault 
would help in her plenishing with some honest fellow who 
understood things. This is the sentiment still to be found 
in villages, where the love-children of the daughters out 
in service are to be found comfortably housed in the 
grandmother's cottage, and where no one thinks any the 
worse of the unmarried mother ; and certainly, a century 
ago, it was the universal rule of moral measurement. 
George Eliot undoubtedly made a chronological mistake 
in both stories by the amount of conscientious remorse 
felt by her young men, and the depth of social degrada- 
tion implied in this slip of her young women. 

The beginning of " Silas Marner " is much finer than 
that of either of her former books. It strikes the true note 
of a harmonious introduction, and is free from the irritating 
trivialities of the former openings. In those early days 
of which " Silas Marner " treats, a man from the next 



parish was held as a " stranger " ; and even now a Scotch, 
Irish or Welsh man would be considered as much a 
foreigner as a " Frenchy " himself, were he to take up his 
abode in any of the more remote hamlets of the north or 
west. The state of isolation in which Silas Marner lived 
was true on all these counts his being a " foreigner " to 
the autochthonous shepherds and farmers of Ravaloe his 
half mazed, half broken-hearted state owing to the false 
accusation brought against him and the criminal neglect 
of Providence to show his innocence and his strange and 
uncongenial trade. Yet, for this last, were not the women 
of that time familiar with the weaving industry ? else 
what could they have done with the thread which they 
themselves had spun ? If it were disposed of to a travel- 
ling agent for the hand-loom weavers, why not have 
indicated the fact ? It would have been one touch more 
to the good of local colour and conditional accuracy. To 
be sure, the paints are laid on rather thickly throughout ; 
but eccentricities and folks with bees in their bonnets were 
always to be found in remote places before the broom of 
steam and electricity came to sweep them into a more 
common conformity ; and that line between oddity and 
insanity, always narrow, was then almost invisible. 

The loss of the hoarded treasure and the poor dazed 
weaver's terrified flight to the Rainbow introduces us to 

( 80) 


one of George Eliot's most masterly of her many scenes 
of rustic humour. 

" The more important customers, who drank spirits 
and sat nearest the fire, staring at each other as if a bet 
were depending on the first man who winked ; while the 
beer drinkers, chiefly men in fustian jackets and smock- 
frocks, kept their eyelids down and rubbed their hands 
across their mouths, as if their draughts of beer were a 
funereal duty attended with embarrassing sadness " these, 
as well as Mr. Snell, the landlord, " a man of a neutral 
disposition, accustomed to stand aloof from human dif- 
ferences, as those of beings who were all alike in need 
of liquor " do their fooling admirably. From the 
cautious discussion on the red Durham with a star on her 
forehead, to the authoritative dictum of Mr. Macey, 
tailor and parish clerk (were men of his social stamp 
called Mr. in those days?) when he asserts that "there's 
allays two 'pinions ; there's the 'pinion a man has of 
himsen, and there's the 'pinion other folks have on him. 
There'd be two 'pinions about a cracked bell, if the bell 
could hear itself" from the gossip about the Lammeter 
land to the ghos'es in the Lammeter stables, it is all 
excellent rich, racy and to the manner born. And the 
sudden appearance of poor, scared, weazen-faced Silas in 
the midst of the discussion on ghos'es, gives occasion for 

(81 ) F 


another fytte of humour quite as good as what has gone 

Worthy of Mrs. Poyser, too, was sweet and patient 
Dolly Winthrop's estimate of men. "It seemed sur- 
prising that Ben Winthrop, who loved his quart-pot and 
his joke, got along so well with Dolly ; but she took her 
husband's jokes and joviality as patiently as everything 
else, considering that ' men would be so ' and viewing 
the stronger sex in the light of animals whom it had 
pleased Heaven to make naturally troublesome, like bulls 
and turkey-cocks." Good, too, when speaking of his wife, 
is Mr. Macey's version of the " mum " and " budget " 
of the fairies' dance. " Before I said 'sniff' I took care 
to know as she'd say ' snaff,' and pretty quick too. I 
wasn't a-going to open my mouth like a dog at a fly, and 
snap it to again, wi' nothing to swaller." 

But in spite of all this literary value of " Silas Marner " 
we come back to our first opinion of its being unreal and 
almost impossible in plot. The marriage of Godfrey to 
an opium-eating (?) drab, and the robbery of Silas Marner's 
hoard by the squire's son were pretty hard nuts to crack 
in the way of probability ; but the timely death of the 
wife just at the right moment and in the right place the 
adoption of a little girl of two by an old man as nearly 
" nesh " as was consistent with his power of living free 



from the restraint of care the discovery of Dunsay's 
body and the restoration to the weaver of his long-lost 
gold the impasse of Eppie, the squire's lawfully born 
daughter and his only legal inheritor, married to a peasant 
and living as a peasant at her father's gates : all these 
things make " Silas Marner " a beautiful unreality, taking 
it out of the ranks of human history and placing it in 
those of fairy tale and romance. 

In " Felix Holt " we come back to a more actual kind 
of life, such as it was in the early thirties when the 
" democratic wave," which has swept away so much of the 
old parcelling out of things social and political, was first 
beginning to make itself felt. But here again George 
Eliot gives us the sense of anachronism in dealing too 
familiarly with those new conditions of the Reform Bill 
which gave Treby Magna for the first time a member, 
and which also for the first time created the Revising 
Barrister while Trades Unions were still unrecognised 
by the law, and did their work mainly by rattening and 
violence. Any one who was an intelligent and wide- 
awake child at that time, and who can remember the 
talk of the excited elders, must remember things some- 
what differently from what George Eliot has set down. 
Radical was in those days a term of reproach, carrying 



with it moral obloquy and condemnation. The Tories 
might call the Whigs Radicals when they wanted to 
overwhelm them with shame, as we might now say 
Anarchists and Dynamiters. But the most advanced 
Gentleman would never have stood for Parliament as a 
Radical. Felix Holt himself, and the upper fringe of 
the working class, as also the lower sediment, might be 
Radicals, but scarcely such a man as Harold Transome, who 
would have been a Whig of a broad pattern. And as for 
the Revising Barrister, he was looked on as something 
akin to Frankenstein's Monster. No one knew where his 
power began nor where it ended ; and on each side alike 
he was dreaded as an unknown piece of machinery which, 
once set a-going, no one could say what it would do or 
where it would stop. 

In its construction " Felix Holt " is perhaps the most 
unsatisfactory of all George Eliot's books. The ins and 
outs of Transome and Durfey and Scaddon and Bycliffe 
were all too intricate in the weaving and too confused in the 
telling to be either intelligible or interesting. In trying 
on the garment of Miss Braddon the author of " Felix 
Holt " showed both want of perception and a deplorable 
misfit. Also she repeats the situation of Eppie and her 
adopted father Silas in that of Esther and Rufus Lyon. 
But where it was natural enough for the contentedly 



rustic Eppie to refuse to leave her beloved old father for 
one new and unknown her old habits of cottage simplicity, 
including a suitable lover, for the unwelcome luxuries of 
an unfamiliar state natural in her though eminently un- 
natural in the drama of life it was altogether inhar- 
monious with Esther's character and tastes to prefer 
poverty to luxury, Felix to Harold, Malhouse Yard to 
Transome Court. George Eliot's usually firm grip on 
character wavers into strange self-contradiction in her 
delineations of Esther Lyon. Even the situation of which 
she is so fond the evolution of a soul from spiritual 
deadness to keen spiritual intensity, and the conversion of 
a mind from folly to seriousness even in this we miss 
the masterly drawing of her better manner. The humour 
too is thinner. Mrs. Holt is a bad Mrs. Nickleby ; and 
the comic chorus of rustic clowns, which George Eliot 
always introduces where she can, is comparatively poor. 
She is guilty of one distinct coarseness, in her own 
character as the author, when she speaks of the cook at 
Treby Manor "a much grander person than her lady- 
ship " " as wearing gold and jewelry to a vast amount of 

When Esther has been taken up by the Transomes, 
George Eliot misses what would have been absolutely 
certain these fine little points of difference between 



the high-bred lady of Transome Court and the half-bred 
Esther of Malhouse Yard ; and yet, quite unintentionally, 
she makes Esther as vulgar as a barmaid in her conversa- 
tions and flirtatious coquetries with Harold Transome. 
Nor, we venture to think, as going too far on the other 
side, would a girl of Esther's upbringing and surround- 
ings have used such a delightfully literary phrase as " im- 
portunate scents." On the whole we do not think it can 
be denied that, so far as she had gone in her literary 
career when she wrote " Felix Holt," it is undeniably her 
least successful work. 

And yet, how many and how beautiful are the good 
things in it ! If Homer nods at times, when he is awake 
who can come near him ? The opening of the book is 
beyond measure fine, and abounds in felicitous phrases. 
" His sheep-dog following with heedless unofficial air as 
of a beadle in undress : " " The higher pains of a dim 
political consciousness : " " The younger farmers who had 
almost a sense of dissipation in talking to a man of his 
questionable station and unknown experience : " " Her 
life would be exalted into something quite new into a 
sort of difficult blessedness such as one may imagine in 
beings who are conscious of painfully growing into the 
possession of higher powers " (true for George Eliot her- 
self but not for such a girl as Esther Lyon) : These are 



instances of literary supremacy taken at random, with 
many more behind. 

Then how exquisite is that first love-scene between 
Felix and Esther ! It is in these grave and tender 
indications of Jove that George Eliot is at her best. 
Gentle as " sleeping flowers " delicately wrought, like the 
most perfect cameos graceful and suggestive, subtle and 
yet strong they are always the very gems of her work. 
And in " Felix Holt " especially they stand out with more 
perfectness because of the inferior quality of so much that 
surrounds them. 

Felix himself is one of George Eliot's masterpieces in 
the way of nobleness of ideal and firmness of drawing. 
Whether he would have won such a girl as Esther, or 
have allowed himself to be won by her, may be doubtful ; 
but for all the rugged and disagreeable honesty of his 
nature for all his high ideals of life and hideous taste in 
costume for all his intrinsic tendency and external 
bearishness, he is supreme. And with one of George 
Eliot's best aphorisms, made in his intention, we close the 
book with that kind of mingled disappointment and 
delight which must needs be produced by the inferior 
work of a great master. " Blows are sarcasms turned 
stupid ; wit is a form of force that leaves the limbs at 

( 87 ) 


The last three books of the series are the most 
ponderous. Still beautiful and ever noble, they are like 
over-cultivated fruits and flowers of which the girth is 
inconvenient ; and in one, at least, certain defects already 
discernible in the earlier issues attain a prominence fatal 
to perfect work. 

Never spontaneous, as time went on George Eliot 
became painfully laboured. Her scholarship degenerated 
into pedantry, and what had been stately and dignified 
accuracy in her terms grew to be harsh and inartistic techni- 
cality. The artificial pose she had adopted in her life 
and bearing reacted on her work; and the contradiction 
between her social circumstances and literary position 
coloured more than her manners. A.11 her teaching went 
to the side of self-sacrifice for the general good, of con- 
formity with established moral standards, while her life 
was in direct opposition to her words ; for though she 
did no other woman personal injustice, she did set an 
example of disobedience to the public law which wrought 
more mischief than was counteracted by even the noblest of 
her exhortations to submit to the restraints of righteous- 
ness, however irksome they might be. And it was this 
endeavour to co-ordinate insurgency and conformity, self- 
will and self-sacrifice, that made the discord of which 
every candid student of her work, who knew her history, 



was conscious from the beginning. Nowhere do we find 
this contradiction more markedly shown than in "Romola," 
the first of the ponderous last three. 

Her noblest work, " Romola " is yet one of George 
Eliot's most defective in what we may call the scaffolding 
of the building. The loftiness of sentiment, the masterly 
delineation of character, the grand grasp of the political 
and religious movement of the time, the evidences of deep 
study and conscientious painstaking visible on every page, 
are combined with what seems to us to be the most extra- 
ordinary indifference to for it cannot be ignorance of 
the social and domestic conditions of the time. The 
whole story is surely impossible in view of the long arm 
of the Church the personal restraints necessarily imposed 
on women during the turbulent unrest of the fifteenth and 
sixteenth centuries the proud exclusiveness of the well- 
born citizens of any state. 

Take the last first. Grant all the honour paid by 
Cosmo and Lorenzo to the learned men of all nations, 
especially to Greek scholars who, in the first fervour 
of the Renaissance, were as sons of the gods to those 
thirsting for the waters of the divine spring. Grant, 
too, the example set by Bartolommeo Scala, who had 
given his beautiful daughter Alessandra in marriage to 
the " soldier-poet " Marullo ; was it likely that even an 



eccentric old scholar like the blind Bardo de' Bardi should 
have so unreservedly adopted a nameless Greek adven- 
turer, flung up like a second Ulysses from the waves, 
unvouched for by any sponsor and unidentified by any 
document ? We allow that Bardo might have taken Tito 
as his scribe and secretary, seeing that the Cennini had 
already employed him, waif and stray as he was ; but that 
he should have consented to his daughter's marriage with 
this stranger, and that her more conservative and more 
suspicious godfather, Bernado del Nero, should have con- 
sented, even if reluctantly, was just about as likely as that 
an English country gentleman should allow his daughter 
to marry a handsome gipsy. 

If we think for a moment of what citizenship meant 
in olden times, the improbability of the whole of Tito's 
career becomes still more striking. As, in Athens, the 
Sojourner never stood on the same plane with the autoch- 
thon, so in Rome the Peregrinus was ineligible for public 
office or the higher kind of marriage ; and though the 
stricter part of the law was subsequently relaxed in favour 
of a wider civic hospitality, the sentiment of exclusiveness 
remained, and indeed does yet remain in Italy. It seems 
more than improbable that Tito, a Greek adventurer, 
should have been employed in any political service, save 
perhaps as a base kind of scout and unhonoured spy. 

( 90) 


That he should ever have taken the position of an 
accredited public orator was so contrary to all the old 
traditions and habits of thought as to be of the same sub- 
stance as a fairy tale. 

The character of Bardo, too, is non-Italian ; and his 
modes of life and thought were as impossible as are some 
other things to be hereafter spoken of. The Church had 
a long arm, as we said, and a firm grip ; and while it 
blinked indulgently enough at certain aberrations, it 
demanded the show of conformity in essentials. Lorenzo 
was a pagan, but he died receiving the Sacraments. The 
Borgias were criminals, but their professions of faith were 
loud-voiced and in true earnest. Men might inveigh 
against the evil lives of the clergy and the excesses of 
monks and nuns, but they had to confess God and the 
Church ; and their diatribes had to be carefully worded as 
witness Rabelais or a plea would certainly be found for the 
fire and faggot as with Fra Dolcino and Savonarola. 
So with conformity to the usages of life which, then and 
now, are considered integral to morality. It could not 
have been possible for Bardo to bring up his daughter 
" aloof from the debasing influence " of her own sex, and 
in a household with only one old man for a servant. The 
times did not allow it ; no more than we should allow it 
now in this freer day. This womanless home for an 

( 91 ) 


Italian girl at any time, more especially in the Middle 
Ages, when even young wives were bound to have their 
companions and duennas, is a serious blot in workmanship. 
So, indeed, is the whole of Romola's life, being ana- 
chronism and simply nineteenth-century English from start 
to finish. 

The things which both she and Tessa did, and were 
allowed to do, are on a par with " Gulliver's Travels " and 
" Peter Wilkins." It was as impossible for Tessa, a pretty 
young unmarried girl, contadina as she was, to come into 
Florence alone, as for a peasant child of three years old to 
be sent with a message on business into the City of 
London alone. To this day well-conducted women of 
any class do not wander about the streets of Italian cities 
unaccompanied ; and maidenhood is, as it always was, 
sacredly and jealously guarded. Nor could Romola have 
gone out and come in at her desire, as she is allowed by 
the author. With streets filled by the turbulent factions 
of the Bianchi and Neri, always ready for a fight or for a 
love-adventure, what would have happened to, and been 
thought of, a beautiful young woman slipping about within 
the city and outside the gates at all hours of the day and 
night ? She is said to be either quite alone (!), as when 
she goes to Tessa's house, or merely accompanied by 
Monna Brigida, as when she goes to the convent to see 

(92 ) 


her dying brother which also, by the way, was im- 
possible or attended, at a distance, by old Maso when 
she attempts her flight as a solitary nun. She would 
have lost name and state had she committed these eccen- 
tricities ; and had she persisted in them, she would have 
been sent to a convent that refuge for sorrow, that 
shelter from danger, that prison for contumacy and her 
godfather would have been the first to consign her to 
what was then the only safe asylum for women. The 
scene she has with Tito before Nello's shop is ludicrously 
impossible as is their English-like return home together, 
without retinue or lights, just like a man and wife of 
to-day when she has been to fetch him from the public- 
house, or, if she be of the better class, from his club. 
English, too, is Romola's sitting up for her husband in 
her queer womanless establishment, and opening the door 
to him when he comes home late at night. For the 
matter of that, indeed, Tito's solitary rambles are as much 
out of line with the time, and the circumstances of that 
time, as is Romola's strange daring. No man of any note 
whatever appeared alone in the streets when out on a mid- 
night expedition, either to commit murder or break the 
seventh commandment. He took some one with him, 
friend or servant, armed ; and to this day you will not 
find Italians willingly walk alone at night. The whole of 



this kind of life, if necessary for the story, is dead against 
truth and probability. So is Romola's flight, disguised 
as a nun. Splendid as is the scene between her and 
Savonarola, the vrai semblance is spoilt by this impossibility 
of condition. Nor could any woman of that time, 
brought up in a city, have felt a sense of freedom when 
fairly outside the walls by herself on a strange road, going 
to meet an unknown fate and bound to an unknown 
bourne. She would have felt as a purdah woman of 
India suddenly turned loose in the streets and environs of 
Delhi as felt all those women whose evidence we read of 
in matters of crime and murder, when they came face to 
face with the desolation of unprotectedness. Modern 
women call it freedom, but in the Middle Ages such a 
feeling did not exist. All these things are anachronisms ; 
as much so as if a novelist of the twentieth century, 
writing of English life in the eighteenth, should clothe 
his women in knickerbockers, mount them on bicycles, 
and turn them into the football field and cricket-ground. 

These exceptions taken to the scaffolding of the book, 
we are free to admire its glorious nobility of sentiment, its 
lofty purpose, its perfection of character-drawing, and the 
dramatic power of its various scenes. Nothing can excel 
the power with which Tito's character is shown in its 
gradual slipping from simple selfishness to positive crimi- 



nality. The whole action may be summed up in George 
Eliot's own words. 

" When, the next morning, Tito put this determination 
into act, he had chosen his colour in the game, and had 
given an inevitable bent to his wishes. He had made it 
impossible that he should not from henceforth desire it to 
be the truth that his father was dead ; impossible that he 
should not be tempted to baseness rather than that the 
precise facts of his conduct should not remain for ever 
concealed. Under every guilty secret there is hidden a 
brood of guilty wishes, whose unwholesome infecting life 
is cherished by the darkness. The contaminating effect of 
deeds often lies less in the commission than in the conse- 
quent adjustment of our desires the enlistment of our 
self-interest on the side of falsity ; as, on the other hand, 
the purifying influence of public confession springs from 
the fact that by it the hope in lies is for ever swept away, 
and the soul recovers its noble attitude of sincerity." 

But, giving every weight to the natural weakness, 
sweetness and afFectionateness, as well as to the latent 
falsity of Tito's character, we cannot accept the Tessa 
episode as true to life in general, while it is eminently 
untrue to Italian life, especially of those times. Tessa 
herself, too, is wearisome with her tears and her kisses, 
her blue eyes and baby face, so incessantly repeated and 

(95 ) 


harped on. She is as nauseating as she is impossible ; and 
the whole story from first to last is an ugly blot on the 

In Romola and in .Savonarola we touch the 
heights. The " tall lily " is an exquisite conception and is 
supreme in human loveliness. Her two interviews with 
Savonarola are superbly done, and the gradual crushing 
down of her proud self-will under the passionate fervour 
of the priest is beyond praise both for style and psycho- 
logy. So, too, are the changes in the great preacher 
himself the first, when his simple earnestness of belief in 
his mission degenerates into self-consciousness and personal 
assumption, as is the way with all reformers the second, 
when he abandons his later attitude, and the dross is 
burnt away as the hour of trial comes on him, and the 
World no longer stands between God and his soul. The 
final scenes of the Prate's public life are powerfully 
wrought, with all George Eliot's mastery and eloquence 
and deep religious fervour ; but it is in scenes and cir- 
cumstances of this kind that she is ever at her best. In 
humour and psychologic insight she is greater than any 
English woman writer we have had ; in aphorisms she is 
unrivalled ; but in playfulness she is clumsy, and in 
catching the moral, intellectual and social tone of the times 
of which she writes, she is nowhere. 



Contrast Romola's character and manner of life above 
all those two thoroughly English letters of hers with all 
that we know of Vittoria Colonna, the purest and noblest 
woman of her day which was Romola's and at once we 
see the difference between them the difference wrought by 
four centuries Vittoria being essentially a woman of the 
time, though a head and shoulders above the ruck ; while 
Romola is as essentially a product of the nineteenth century, 
In spite of the local colour which, after all, is only a 
wash given by the descriptions of pageants and proces- 
sions, and by the history of which George Eliot so ably 
mastered the details, the whole book is nineteenth century, 
from Monna Brigida's characteristically English speech 
about Tessa's place in the house and the children's sweets,, 
to Romola's as characteristically English attitude and 
hygienic objections from a little maiden, without a 
caretaker, carrying eggs to Piero, to Romola's solitary 
visit to the studio and night perambulations about the 

All these shortcomings notwithstanding, " Romola " 
will ever remain one of the noblest works of our noblest 
author ; and, after all, did not Shakespeare make Hector 
quote Aristotle, and show all his Greeks and Romans and 
outlandish nondescripts from countries unknown to 
himself, as nothing but sturdy Englishmen, such as lived 

( 97 ) G 


and loved in the times of the great Eliza ? Where we 
have so much to admire nay, to venerate we may let 
the smaller mistakes pass. Yet they must be spoken of 
by those who would be candid and not fulsome -just and 
not flattering. By the way, did George Eliot know that 
" Baldassare " is the name of one of the devils invoked 
to this day by Sicilian witches ? 

The longest of all the novels, " Middlemarch," is the 
most interesting in its characters, its isolated scenes, its 
moral meaning and philosophic extension ; but it is also 
the most inartistic and the most encumbered with subordi- 
nate interests and personages. The canvas is as crowded 
as one of George Cruikshank's etchings ; and the work 
would have gained by what George Eliot would have 
called fission a division into two. The stories of 
Dorothea and Casaubon and of Rosamond and Lydgate 
are essentially separate entities ; and though they are 
brought together at the last by an intermingled interest, 
the result is no more true unification than the Siamese twins 
or the Double-headed Nightingale represented one true 
human being. The contrast between the two beautiful 
young wives is well preserved, and the nicer shades of 
difference are as clearly marked as are the more essential ; 
for George Eliot was far too good a workman to scamp 

( 98) 


in any direction, and the backs of her stories are as well 
wrought as the fronts. But if one-third of the book 
had been cut out failing that fission, which would have 
been still better the work would have gained in propor- 
tion to its compression. 

The character of Dorothea marks the last stage in the 
development of the personality which begins with Maggie 
Tulliver, and is in reality Marian Evans's own self. 
Maggie, Romola and Dorothea are the same person in 
progressive stages of moral evolution. All are at cross 
corners with life and fate all are rebellious against things 
as they find them. Maggie's state of insurgency is the 
crudest and simplest ; Romola's is the most passionate in 
its moral reprobation of accepted un worthiness ; Dorothea's 
is the widest in its mental horizon, and the most womanly 
in the whole-hearted indifference to aught but love, which 
ends the story and gives the conclusive echo. In its own 
way, her action in taking Will Ladislaw is like Esther's in 
marrying Felix Holt ; but it has not the unlikelihood of 
Esther's choice. It is all for love, if one will, but it runs 
more harmoniously with the broad lines of her character, 
and gives us no sense of that dislocation which we get 
from Esther's decision. And in its own way it is at once 
a parallel and an apology. 

The most masterly bits of work in " Middlemarch " are 



the characters of Rosamond and Casaubon. Rosamond's 
unconscious selfishness, her moral thinness, and the super- 
ficial quality of her love are all portrayed without a flaw 
in the drawing ; while Casaubon's dryness, his literary 
indecision following on his indefatigable research, and his 
total inability to adjust himself to his new conditions, 
together with his scrupulous formality of politeness com- 
bined with real cruelty of temper, make a picture of 
supreme psychologic merit. They who think that Casaubon 
was meant for the late Rector of Lincoln know nothing 
about George Eliot's early life. They who do know 
some of those obscurer details, are well aware of the origin 
whence she drew her masterly portrait, as they know 
who was Mrs. Poyser, who Tom Tulliver, and who Hetty 
Sorel. Hetty, indeed, is somewhat repeated in that 
amazingly idiotic Tessa, who is neither English nor 
Italian, nor, indeed, quite human in her molluscous silli- 
ness ; but there are lines of relation which show them- 
selves to experts, and the absence of the " cherry stone " 
does not count for more than the dissimilarity always to 
be found between two copies. 

No finer bit of work was ever done than the deep and 
subtle but true and most pathetic tragedy of Lydgate's 
married life. The character of Rosamond was a difficult 
one to paint, and one false touch could have been fatal. 


To show her intense selfishness and shallowness and yet 
not to make her revolting, was what only such a consum- 
mate psychologist as George Eliot could have done. 
And to show how Lydgate, strong man as he was and full 
of noble ambition and splendid aims, was necessarily 
subdued, mastered and ruined by the tenacious weakness 
and moral unworthiness of such a wife, yet not to make 
him contemptible, was also a task beyond the power of 
any but the few Masters of our literature. All the scenes 
between this ill-assorted pair are in George Eliot's 
best manner and up to her highest mark ; and the 
gradual declination of Rosamond's love, together with 
Lydgate's gradual awakening to the truth of things as 
they were, are portrayed with a touch as firm as it is 

That scene on the receipt of Sir Godwin's letter is as 
tragic in its own way as Othello or a Greek drama. 
It has in it the same sense of human helplessness in 
the presence of an overmastering fate. Rosamond was 
Lydgate's Fate. Her weakness, tenacity and duplicity 
his stronger manhood, which could not crush the weaker 
woman his love, which could not coerce, nor punish, nor 
yet control the thing he loved all made the threads of 
that terrible net in which he was entangled, and by which the 
whole worth of his life was destroyed. It is a story that 


goes home to the consciousness of many men, who know, 
as Lydgate knew, that they have been mastered by the one 
who to them is " as an animal of another and feebler 
species " who know, as Lydgate knew, that their energies 
have been stunted, their ambition has been frustrated, and 
their horizon narrowed and darkened because of that 
tyranny which the weaker woman so well knows how to 
exercise over the stronger man. 

Casaubon is as masterly in drawing as is Rosamond 
or Lydgate. We confess to a sadly imperfect sympathy 
with Dorothea in her queer enthusiasm for this dry stick of 
a man. Learned or not, he was scarcely one to whom a 
young woman, full of life's strong and sweet emotions, 
would care to give herself as a wife. One can understand 
the more impersonal impulse which threw Marian Evans 
into an attitude of adoration before the original of her dry 
stick ; but when it comes to the question of marriage, the 
thing is simply revolting as done by the girl, not only of 
her own free-will but against the advice and prayers of her 
friends. Tom was to be excused for his harshness and 
irritation against Maggie ; and Celia's commonplaces of 
wisdom for the benefit of that self-willed and recalcitrant 
Dodo, if not very profound nor very stimulating, nor yet 
sympathetic, were worth more in the daily life and ordering 
of sane folk than Dorothea's blind and obstinate determina- 

( 102) 


tion. Beautiful and high-minded as she is, she is also one 
of those irritating saints whose virtues one cannot but 
revere, whose personal charms one loves and acknowledges, 
and whose wrongheadedness makes one Jong to punish 
them or at least restrain them by main force from social 
suicide. And to think that to her first mistake she 
adds that second of marrying Will Ladislaw the utter 
snob that he is ! Where were George Eliot's perceptions ? 
Or was it that in Ladislaw she had a model near at 
hand, whom she saw through coloured glasses, which 
also shed their rosy light on her reproduction, so 
that her copy was to her as idealised as the original, and 
she was ignorant of the effect produced on the clear- 
sighted ? Yet over all the mistakes made by her through 
defective taste and obstinate unwisdom, the beauty of 
Dorothea's character stands out as did Romola's like a 
" white lily " in the garden. She is a superb creature in 
her own way, and her disillusionment is of the nature 
of a tragedy. But what could any woman expect 
from a man who could write such a love-letter as that of 
Mr. Casaubon's ? 

The canvas of " Middlemarch " is overcrowded, as we 
said ; yet how good some of the characters are ! The 
sturdy uprightness, tempered with such loving sweetness, of 
Cabel Garth ; the commonplace negation of all great and all 

( 103 ) 


unworthy qualities of the Vincys Celia and Sir James 
Mr. Farebrother and Mr. and Mrs. Cadwallader all are 
supreme. We confess we do not care much for the 
portraiture of Mr. Bulstrode and his spiteful delator 
Raffles George Eliot is not good at melodrama ; also the 
whole episode of Mr. Featherstone's illness, with his 
watching family and Mary Garth, too vividly recalls old 
Anthony Chuzzlewit and all that took place round his 
death-bed and about his will, to give a sense of truth 
or novelty. George Eliot's power did not lie in the same 
direction as that of Charles Dickens, and the contrast is 
not to her advantage. Great humorists as both were, 
their humour was essentially different, and will not bear 

No book that George Eliot ever wrote is without 
its wise and pithy aphorisms, its brilliant flashes of 
wit, its innumerable good things. Space will not permit 
our quoting one-tenth part of the good things scattered 
about these fascinating pages. Celia's feeling, which 
she stifled in the depths of her heart, that "her sister 
was too religious for family comfort. Notions and 
scruples were like spilt needles, making one afraid of 
treading or sitting down, or even eating : " (But, farther 
on, what an unnecessary bit of pedantry ! " In short, 
woman was a problem which, since Mr. Brooke's mind 

( 104 ) 


felt blank before it, could be hardly less complicated than 
the revolutions of an irregular solid.'"'} Mrs. Cadwallader's 
sense of birth, so that a " De Bracy reduced to take his 
dinner in a basin would have seemed to her an ex- 
ample of pathos worth exaggerating ; and I fear his 
aristocratic vices would not have horrified her. But her 
feeling towards the vulgar rich was a sort of religious 
hatred : " " Indeed, she (Mrs. Waule) herself was accus- 
tomed to think that entire freedom from the necessity of 
behaving agreeably was included in the Almighty's inten- 
tions about families : " " Strangers, whether wrecked and 
clinging to a raft, or duly escorted and accompanied by 
portmanteaus, have always had a circumstantial fascination 
for the virgin mind, against which native merit has urged 
itself in vain : " " Ladislaw, a sort of Burke with a leaven 
of Shelley : " " But it is one thing to like defiance, and 
another thing to like its consequences " an observation 
wrung out of her own disturbed and inharmonious 
experience : " That controlled self-consciousness of 
manner which is the expensive substitute for simplicity : " 
These are a few picked out at random, but the wealth 
that remains behind is but inadequately represented by 
stray nuggets. 

Before we close the volume we would like to note 
the one redeeming little flash of human tenderness 

( 105 ) 


in Mr. Casaubon when he had received his death- 
warrant from Lydgate, and Dorothea waits for him 
to come up to bed. It is the only tender and spon- 
taneous moment in his life as George Eliot has painted 
it, and its strangeness makes its pathos as well as its 

The last of the lengthy three, and the last novel she 
wrote, " Daniel Deronda " is the most wearisome, the least 
artistic, and the most unnatural of all George Eliot's books. 
Of course it has the masterly touch, and, for all its com- 
parative inferiority, has also its supreme excellence. But 
in plot, treatment and character it is far below its pre- 
decessors. Some of the characters are strangely unnatural. 
Grandcourt, for instance, is more like the French carica- 
ture of an English milord than like a possible English 
gentleman depicted by a compatriot. Deronda himself is 
a prig of the first water ; while Gwendolen is self-con- 
tradictory all through like a tangled skein of which you 
cannot find the end, and therefore cannot bring it into 
order and intelligibility. Begun on apparently clear lines 
of self-will, pride, worldly ambition and personal self- 
indulgence without either conscience or deep affections 
self-contained and self-controlled she wavers off into a 
condition of moral weakness, of vagrant impulses and 

( 106) 


humiliating self-abandonment for which nothing that went 
before has prepared us. 

That she should ever have loved, or even fancied 
she loved, such a frozen fish as Grandcourt was impossible 
to a girl so full of energy as Gwendolen is shown to be. 
Clear in her desires of what she wanted, she would have 
accepted him, as she did, to escape from the hateful 
life to which else she would have been condemned. But 
she would have accepted him without even that amount of 
self-deception which is portrayed in the decisive interview. 
She knew his cruel secret, and she deliberately chose to 
ignore it. So far good. It is what she would have done. 
But where is the logic of making her " carry on " as she 
did when she received the diamonds on her wedding-day ? 
It was a painful thing, sure enough, and the mad letter that 
came with them was disagreeable enough ; but it could not 
have been the shock it is described, nor could it have made 
Gwendolen turn against her husband in such sudden hatred, 
seeing that she already knew the whole shameful story. 
These are faults in psychology ; and the conduct of the 
plot is also imperfect. George Eliot's plots are always 
bad when she attempts intricacy, attaining instead con- 
fusion and unintelligibility ; but surely nothing can be 
much sillier than the ] whole story of Deronda's birth and 
upbringing, nor can anything be more unnatural than the 

( 107 ) 


character and conduct of his mother. What English 
gentleman would have brought up a legitimately-born 
Jewish child under conditions which made the whole 
world believe him to be his own illegitimate son ? 
And what young man, brought up in the belief that 
he was an English gentleman by birth leaving out 
on which side of the blanket would have rejoiced to 
find himself a Jew instead ? The whole story is im- 
probable and far-fetched ; as also is Deronda's rescue of 
Mirah and her unquestioning adoption by the Meyricks. 
It is all distortion, and in no wise like real life ; and 
some of the characters are as much twisted out of shape 
as is the story. Sir Hugo Mallinger and Mr. and 
Mrs. Gascoigne are the most natural of the whole 
gallery the defect of exaggeration or caricature spoiling 
most of the others. 

Of these others, Gwendolen herself is far and away the 
most unsatisfactory. Her sudden hatred of her husband 
is strained ; so is her love for Deronda ; so is her repent- 
ance for her constructive act of murder. That she should 
have failed to throw the rope to Grandcourt, drowning in 
the sea, was perhaps natural enough. That she should 
have felt such abject remorse and have betrayed herself 
in such humiliating unreserve to Deronda was not. All 
through the story her action with regard to Deronda is dead 

( 108 ) 


against the base lines of her character, and is compatible 
only with such an overwhelming amount of physical passion 
as does sometimes make women mad. We have no hint 
of this. On the contrary, all that Gwendolen says is 
founded on spiritual longing for spiritual improvement 
spiritual direction with no hint of sexual impulse. Yet 
she acts as one overpowered by that impulse throwing to 
the winds pride, reserve, womanly dignity and common 
sense. Esther was not harmonious with herself in her 
choice of Felix Holt over Harold Transome, but Esther 
was naturalness incarnate compared with Gwendolen as 
towards Daniel Deronda. And the evolution of Esther's 
soul, and the glimpse given of Rosamond's tardy sense of 
some kind of morality, difficult to be believed as each was, 
were easy sums in moral arithmetic contrasted with 
the birth and sudden growth of what had been Gwen- 
dolen's very rudimentary soul springing into maturity 
in a moment, like a fully-armed Athene, without the need 
of the more gradual process. Add to all these defects, 
an amount of disquisition and mental dissection which 
impedes the story till it drags on as slowly as a heavily laden 
wain add the fatal blunder of making long scenes which 
do not help on the action nor elucidate the plot, and the 
yet more fatal blunder of causeless pedantry, and we have 
to confess that our great master's last novel is also her 

( 109 ) 


worst. But then the one immediately preceding was 
incomparably her best. 

We come now to the beauties of the work to the 
inimitable force of some phrases to the noble aim and 
meaning of the story to the lofty spirit informing all 
those interrupting disquisitions, which are really inter- 
polated moral essays, and must not be confounded with 
padding. Take this little shaft aimed at that Gr<eculus 
esuriens Lush, that " half-caste among gentlemen " and 
the dme damnee of Grandcourt. " Lush's love of ease was 
well satisfied at present, and if his puddings were rolled 
towards him in the dust he took the inside bits and found 
them relishing." Again : " We sit up at night to read 
about Cakya-Mouni, Saint Francis and Oliver Cromwell, 
but whether we should be glad for any one at all like 
them to call on us the next morning, still more to reveal 
himself as a new relation, is quite another matter : " " A 
man of refined pride shrinks from making a lover's 
approaches to a woman whose wealth or rank might 
make them appear presumptuous or low-motived ; but 
Deronda was finding a more delicate difficulty in a posi- 
tion which, superficially taken, was the reverse of that 
though, to an ardent reverential love, the loved woman 
has always a kind of wealth which makes a man keenly 
susceptible about the aspect of his addresses." (We 

( no) 


extract this sentence as an instance of George Eliot's fine 
feeling and delicate perception expressed in her worst and 
clumsiest manner.) " A blush is no language, only a 
dubious flag-signal, which may mean either of two con- 

" Grandcourt held that the Jamaican negro was a beastly 
sort of baptist Caliban ; Deronda said he had always felt a 
little with Caliban, who naturally had his own point of view 
and could sing a good song ; " " Mrs. Davilow observed 
that her father had an estate in Barbadoes, but that she 
herself had never been in the West Indies ; Mrs. Torring- 
ton was sure she should never sleep in her bed if she 
lived among blacks ; her husband corrected her by saying 
that the blacks would be manageable enough if it 
were not for the half-breeds ; and Deronda remarked 
that the whites had to thank themselves for the half- 

It is in such " polite pea-shooting " as this that 
George Eliot shows her inimitable humour the quick 
give-and-take of her conversations being always in 
harmony with her characters. But, indeed, unsatisfac- 
tory as a novel though " Daniel Deronda " is, it is 
full of beauties of all kinds, from verbal wit to the 
grandly colossal sublimity of Mordecai, and Deronda's 
outburst of passionate desire to weld the scattered Jews 


into one nation of which he should be the heart and 

Whatever George Eliot did bears this impress of 
massive sincerity of deep and earnest feeling of lofty pur- 
pose and noble teaching. She was not a fine artist, and she 
spoilt her later work by pedantry and overlay, but she 
stands out as the finest woman writer we have had or pro- 
bably shall have stands a head and shoulders above the 
best of the rest. She touched the darker parts of life and 
passion, but she touched them with clean hands and a pure 
mind, and with that spirit of philosophic truth which can 
touch pitch and not be defiled. Yet prolific as she was, and 
the creator of more than one living character, she was not a 
flexible writer and her range was limited. She repeated 
situations and motives with a curious narrowness of scope, 
and in almost all her heroines, save Dinah and Dorothea, 
who are evoluted from the beginning, paints the gradual 
evolution of a soul by the ennobling influence of a higher 
mind and a religious love. 

We come now to a curious little crop of errors. Though 
so profound a scholar being indeed too learned for per- 
fect artistry she makes strange mistakes for a master of the 
language such as she was. She spells " insistence " with an 
" a," and she gives a superfluous " c " to " Machiavelli." 



She sometimes permits herself to slip into the literary 
misdemeanour of no nominative to her sentence, and into 
the graver sin of making a singular verb govern the plural 
noun of a series. She says " frightened at " and " under 
circumstances " ; " by the sly " and " down upon " ; and 
she follows " neither " with " or," as also " never " and 
" not." She is " averse to " ; she has even been known 
to split her infinitive, and to say " and which " without 
remorse. Once she condescends to the iniquity of " pro- 
ceeding to take," than which " commencing " is only one 
stage lower in literary vulgarity ; and many of her sen- 
tences are as clumsy as a clown's dancing-steps. As no 
one can accuse her of either ignorance or indifference, still 
less of haste and slap-dash, these small flaws in the great 
jewel of her genius are instructive instances of the clinging 
effect of our carelessness in daily speech ; so that gramma- 
tical inaccuracy becomes as a second nature to us, and has 
to be unlearned by all who write. 

Nevertheless, with all her faults fully acknowledged and 
honestly shown, we ever return as to an inexhaustible 
fountain, to her greatness of thought, her supreme 
power, her nobility of aim, her matchless humour, her 
magnificent drawing, her wise philosophy, her accurate 
learning as profound as it was accurate. Though we do 
not bracket her with Plato and Kant, as did one of her 

( 113 ) H 


panegyrists, nor hold her equal to Fielding for naturalness, 
nor to Scott for picturesqueness, nor as able as was 
Thackeray to project herself into the conditions of 
thought and society of times other than her own, we do 
hold her as the sceptred queen of our English Victorian 
authoresses superior even to Charlotte Bronte, to Mrs. 
Gaskell, to Harriet Martineau formidable rivals as these 
are to all others, living or dead. 

If she had not crossed that Rubicon, or, having crossed 
it, had been content with more complete insurgency than 
she was, she would have been a happier woman and a yet 
more finished novelist. As things were, her life and 
principles were at cross-corners ; and when her literary 
success had roused up her social ambition, and fame had 
lifted her far above the place where her birth had set her, 
she realised the mistake she had made. Then the sense of 
inharmoniousness between what she was and what she would 
have been did, to some degree, react on her work, to the 
extent at least of killing in it all passion and spontaneity. 
Her whole life and being were moulded to an artificial 
pose, and the " made " woman could not possibly be the 
spontaneous artist. Her yet more fatal blunder of marry- 
ing an obscure individual many years younger than herself, 
and so destroying the poetry of her first union by de- 
stroying its sense of continuity and constancy, would have 

( "4) 


still more disastrously reacted on her work had she lived. 
She died in time, for anything below " Theophrastus Such " 
would have seriously endangered her fame and lessened 
her greatness culminating as this did in " Middlemarch," 
the best and grandest of her novels, from the zenith of 
which " Daniel Deronda," her last, is a sensible decline. 




[F all the novelists of Queen Victoria's 
reign there is not one to whom the 
present writer turns with such a sense of 
love and gratitude as to Mrs. Gaskell. 
This feeling is undoubtedly shared by 
thousands of men and women, for about all the novels 
there is that wonderful sense of sympathy, that broad 
human interest which appeals to readers of every descrip- 
tion. The hard-worked little girl in the schoolroom can 
forget the sorrows of arithmetic or the vexations of French 
verbs as she pores over " Wives and Daughters " on a 
Saturday half-holiday, and, as George Sand remarked to 
Lord Houghton, this same book, " Wives and Daughters," 
" would rivet the attention of the most blast man of the 

With the exception of her powerful " Life of Charlotte 
Bronte," Mrs. Gaskell wrote only novels or short stories. 

( "9) 


The enormous difficulties which attended the writing of a 
biography of the author of " Jane Eyre " would, we ven- 
ture to think, have baffled any other writer of that time. 
It is easy now, years after Charlotte Bronte's death, to 
criticise the wisdom of this or that page, to hunt up 
slight mistakes, to maintain that in some details Mrs. 
Gaskell was wrong. To be wise too late is an easy and, 
to some apparently, a most grateful task ; but it would, 
nevertheless, be hard to find a biography of more fasci- 
nating interest, or one which more successfully grappled 
with the great difficulty of the undertaking. 

As Mr. Clement Shorter remarks, the " Life of Char- 
lotte Bronte " " ranks with Boswell's ' Life of Johnson ' and 
Lockhart's * Life of Scott.' ' It is pleasant, too, to read 
Charlotte Bronte's own words in a letter to Mr. Williams, 
where she mentions her first letter from her future friend 
and biographer : 

"The letter you forwarded this morning was from 
Mrs. Gaskell, authoress of * Mary Barton.' She said I 
was not to answer it, but I cannot help doing so. The 
note brought the tears to my eyes. She is a good, she is 
a great woman. Proud am I that I can touch a chord of 
sympathy in souls so noble. In Mrs. Gaskell's nature it 
mournfully pleases me to fancy a remote affinity to my 
sister Emily. In Miss Martineau's mind I have always 

( 120) 


felt the same, though there are wide differences. Both 
these ladies are above me certainly far my superiors in 
attainments and experience. I think I could look up to 
them if I knew them." 

For lovers of the author of " Mary Barton " it is hard, 
however, not to feel a grudge against the " Life of Char- 
lotte Bronte" or, rather, the reception accorded to it. 
Owing to the violent attacks to which it gave rise, to a 
threatened action for libel on the part of some of those 
mentioned in the book, and to the manifold annoyances to 
which the publication of the Biography subjected the 
writer, Mrs. Gaskell determined that no record of her own 
life should be written. 

It is pleasant to find that there were gleams of light 
mixed with the many vexations. Charles Kingsley writes 
to Mrs. Gaskell in warm appreciation of the " Life " : 

" Be sure," he says, " that the book will do good. It 
will shame literary people into some stronger belief that a 
simple, virtuous, practical home-life is consistent with high 
imaginative genius ; and it will shame, too, the prudery 
of a not over-cleanly, though carefully whitewashed, age, 
into believing that purity is now (as in all ages till now) 
quite compatible with the knowledge of evil. I confess 
that the book has made me ashamed of myself. * Jane 
Eyre ' I hardly looked into, very seldom reading a work 


of fiction yours, indeed, and Thackeray's are the only 
ones I care to open. * Shirley ' disgusted me at the open- 
ing, and I gave up the writer and her books with the 
notion that she was a person who liked coarseness. 
How I misjudged her ! and how thankful I am that I 
never put a word of my misconceptions into print, or 
recorded my misjudgments of one who is a whole heaven 
above me. Well have you done your work, and given us 
a picture of a valiant woman made perfect by sufferings. 
I shall now read carefully and lovingly every word she has 

Mrs. Gaskell's wish regarding her own biography 
has, of course, been respected by her family ; but the 
world is the poorer, and it is impossible not to regret 
that the life of so dearly loved a writer must never 
be attempted. 

The books reveal a mind as delicately pure as a child's, 
wedded to that true mother's heart which is wide enough 
to take in all the needy. Looking, moreover, at that 
goodly row of novels whether in the dear old shabby 
volumes that have been read and re-read for years, or 
in that dainty little set recently published in a case, 
which the rising generation can enjoy one cannot help 
reflecting that here is " A Little Child's Monument," 
surely the most beautiful memorial of a great love and a 

( 122 ) 


great grief that could be imagined. It was not until the 
death of her little child the only son of the family that 
Mrs. Gaskell, completely broken down by grief, began, at 
her husband's suggestion, to write. And thus a great 
sorrow brought forth a rich and wonderful harvest, as 
grief borne with strength and courage always may do ; 
and the world has good reason to remember that little ten 
months' child whose short life brought about such great 

A question naturally suggests itself at this point as to 
Mrs. Gaskell's birth and education. How far had she 
inherited her literary gifts ? And in what way had her 
mind been influenced by the surroundings of her child- 
hood and girlhood ? Her mother, Mrs. Stevenson, was a 
Miss Holland, of Sandlebridge, in Cheshire ; her father 
William Stevenson was at first classical tutor in the 
Manchester Academy, and later on, during his residence 
in Edinburgh, was editor of the Scots Magazine and 
a frequent contributor to the Edinburgh Review. He 
was next appointed Keeper of the Records to the Treasury, 
an appointment which caused his removal from Edinburgh 
to Chelsea ; and it was there, in Cheyne Row, that Eliza- 
beth Cleghorn Stevenson, the future novelist, was born. 

Owing to the death of her mother, she was adopted 
when only a month old by her aunt, Mrs. Lumb, and 

( 123) 


taken to Knutsford, in Cheshire, the little town so wonder- 
fully described in " Cranford." For two years in her 
girlhood she was educated at Stratford-on-Avon, walking 
in the flowery meadows where Shakspere once walked, 
worshipping in the stately old church where he wor- 
shipped, and where he willed that his body should be left 
at rest ; nor is it possible to help imagining that the 
associations of that ideal place had an influence on the 
mind of the future writer, doing something to give 
that essentially English tone which characterises all her 

After her father's second marriage she went to live with 
him, and her education was superintended by him until 
his death in 1829, when she once more returned to 
Knutsford. Here, at the age of twenty-two, she was 
married to the Rev. William Gaskell, M.A., of Cross 
Street Chapel, Manchester ; and Manchester remained her 
home ever after. 

Such are the brief outlines of a life story which was to 
have such a wide and lasting influence for good. For 
nothing is more striking than this when we think over the 
well-known novels they are not only consummate works 
of art, full of literary charm, perfect in style and rich with 
the most delightful humour and pathos they are books 
from which that morbid lingering over the loathsome 

( 124) 


details of vice, those sensuous descriptions of sin too rife 
in the novels of the present day, are altogether excluded. 

Not that the stories are namby-pamby, or unreal in any 
sense ; they are wholly free from the horrid prudery, the 
Pharisaical temper, which makes a merit of walking 
through life in blinkers and refuses to know of anything 
that can shock the respectable. Mrs. Gaskell was too 
genuine an artist to fall either into this error or into the 
error of bad taste and want of reserve. She drew life with 
utter reverence ; she held the highest of all ideals, and she 
dared to be true. 

How tender and womanly and noble, for instance, is her 
treatment of the difficult subject which forms the motif of 
" Ruth " ! How sorrowfully true to life is the story of 
the dressmaker's apprentice with no place in which to 
spend her Sunday afternoons ! We seem ourselves to 
breathe the dreadful " stuffy " atmosphere of the work- 
room, to feel the dreary monotony of the long day's work. 
It is so natural that the girl's fancy should be caught by 
Henry Bellingham, who was courteous to her when she 
mended the torn dress of his partner at the ball ; so in- 
evitable that she should lose her heart to him when 
she witnessed his gallant rescue of the drowning child. 
But her fall was not inevitable, and one of the finest bits 
in the whole novel is the description of Ruth's hesitation 

( 125 ) 


in the inn parlour when, finding herself most cruelly and 
unjustly cast off by her employer, she has just accepted her 
lover's suggestion that she shall go with him to London, 
little guessing what the promise involved, yet intuitively 
feeling that her consent had been unwise. 

" Ruth became as hot as she had previously been cold, 
and went and opened the window, and leant out into the 
still, sweet evening air. The bush of sweetbriar under- 
neath the window scented the place, and the delicious frag- 
rance reminded her of her old home. I think scents affect 
and quicken the memory even more than either sights or 
sounds ; for Ruth had instantly before her eyes the little 
garden beneath the window of her mother's room, with the 
old man leaning on his stick watching her, just as he had 
done not three hours before on that very afternoon." She 
remembers the faithful love of the old labouring man and 
his wife who had served her parents in their lifetime, and 
for their sake would help and advise her now. Would it 
not be better to go to them ? 

"She put on her bonnet and opened the parlour door; 
but then she saw the square figure of the landlord standing 
at the open house door, smoking his evening pipe, and 
looming large and distinct against the dark air and land- 
scape beyond. Ruth remembered the cup of tea that she 
had drunk ; it must be paid for, and she had no money with 

( 126 ) 


her. She feared that he would not let her leave the house 
without paying. She thought that she would leave a note 
for Mr. Bellingham saying where she was gone, and how 
she had left the house in debt, for (like a child) all 
dilemmas appeared of equal magnitude to her; and the 
difficulty of passing the landlord while he stood there, and 
of giving him an explanation of the circumstances, 
appeared insuperable, and as awkward and fraught with 
inconvenience as far more serious situations. She kept 
peeping out of her room after she had written her little 
pencil note, to see if the outer door was still obstructed. 
There he stood motionless, enjoying his pipe, and looking 
out into the darkness which gathered thick with the coming 
night. The fumes of the tobacco were carried into the 
house and brought back Ruth's sick headache. Her energy 
left her ; she became stupid and languid, and incapable of 
spirited exertion ; she modified her plan of action to the 
determination of asking Mr. Bellingham to take her to 
Milham Grange, to the care of her humble friends, instead 
of to London. And she thought in her simplicity that 
he would instantly consent when he had heard her 

The selfishness of the man who took advantage of her 
weakness and ignorance is finely drawn because it is not at 
all exaggerated. Henry Bellingham is no monster of 

( 127 ) 


wickedness, but a man with many fine qualities spoilt by an 
over-indulgent and unprincipled mother, and yielding too 
easily to her worldly-wise arguments. 

Ruth first sees a faint trace of his selfishness she calls 
it " unfairness " when, on their arrival in Wales, he 
persuades the landlady to give them rooms in the hotel 
and to turn out on a false pretext some other guests into 
the dfyendance across the road. She understands his selfish 
littleness of soul only too well when, years after, she talks 
to him during that wonderfully described interview in the 
chapter called " The Meeting on the Sands." He cannot 
in the least understand her. " The deep sense of penitence 
she expressed he took for earthly shame, which he imagined 
he could soon soothe away." He actually has the audacity 
to tempt her a second time; then, after her indignant 
refusal, he offers her marriage. To his great amazement 
she refuses this too. " Why, what on earth makes you say 
that ? " asked he .... 

" I do not love you. I did once. Don't say I did not love 
you then ; but I do not now. I could never love you 
again. All you have said and done since you came to 
Abermouth has only made me wonder how I ever could 
have loved you. We are very far apart ; the time that has 
pressed down my life like brands of hot iron, and scarred 
me for ever, has been nothing to you. You have talked 

( "8) 


of it with no sound of moaning in your voice, no shadow 
over the brightness of your face ; it has left no sense of sin 
on your conscience, while me it haunts and haunts ; 
and yet I might plead that I was an ignorant child ; only 
I will not plead anything, for God knows all. But this is 
only one piece of our great difference." 

" You mean that I am no saint," he said, impatient at 
her speech. " Granted. But people who are no saints 
have made very good husbands before now. Come, don't 
let any morbid, overstrained conscientiousness interfere 
with substantial happiness happiness both to you and to 
me for I am sure I can make you happy ay ! and make 

you love me too, in spite of your pretty defiance 

And here are advantages for Leonard, to be gained by you 
quite in a holy and legitimate way." 

She stood very erect. 

" If there was one thing needed to confirm me, you 
have named it. You shall have nothing to do with my 
boy by my consent, much less by my agency. I would 
rather see him working on the roadside than leading such 

a life being such a one as you are If at last I 

have spoken out too harshly and too much in a spirit of 
judgment, the fault is yours. If there were no other reason 
to prevent our marriage but the one fact that it would bring 
Leonard into contact with you, that would be enough." 

( 129 ) i 


Later on, a fever visits the town, and Ruth becomes a 
nurse. When she hears that the father of her child is ill 
and untended she volunteers to nurse him, and, being 
already worn out with work, she dies in consequence. 
The man's smallness of mind, his contemptible selfishness, 
are finely indicated in the scene where he goes to look at 
Ruth as she lies dead. 

He was " disturbed " by the distress of the old servant 
Sally, and saying, " Come, my good woman ! we must all 
die," tries to console her with a sovereign ! ! 

The old servant turns upon him indignantly, then 
" bent down and kissed the lips from whose marble, 
unyielding touch he recoiled even in thought." At that 
moment the old minister, who had sheltered Ruth in her 
trouble, enters. Henry makes many offers to him as to 
providing for Ruth's child, Leonard, and says, " I cannot 
tell you how I regret that she should have died in con- 
sequence of her love to me." But from gentle old Mr. 
Benson he receives only an icy refusal, and the stern 
words, " Men may call such actions as yours youthful 
follies. There is another name for them with God." 

The sadness of the book is relieved by the delightful 
humour of Sally, the servant. The account of the wooing 
of Jeremiah Dixon is a masterpiece ; and Sally's hesitation 
when, having found her proof against the attractions of 

( 130) 


u a four-roomed house, furniture conformable, and eighty 
pounds a year," her lover mentions the pig that will be 
ready for killing by Christmas, is a delicious bit of comedy. 

" Well, now ! would you believe it ? the pig were a 
temptation. I'd a receipt for curing hams. . . . How- 
ever, I resisted. Says I, very stern, because I felt I'd been 
wavering, ' Master Dixon, once for all, pig or no pig, I'll 
not marry you.' ' 

The description of the minister's home is very beautiful. 
Here are a few lines which show in what its charm 
consisted : 

" In the Bensons' house there was the same uncon- 
sciousness of individual merit, the same absence of intro- 
spection and analysis of motive, as there had been in her 
mother ; but it seemed that their lives were pure and 
good not merely from a lovely and beautiful nature, but 
from some law the obedience to which was of itself har- 
monious peace, and which governed them. . . . This 
household had many failings ; they were but human, and, 
with all their loving desire to bring their lives into har- 
mony with the will of God, they often erred and fell 
short. But somehow the very errors and faults of one 
individual served to call out higher excellences in another ; 
and so they reacted upon each other, and the result of 
short discords was exceeding harmony and peace." 


The publication of " Ruth," with its brave, outspoken 
words, its fearless demand for one standard of morality 
for men and women, subjected the author to many attacks, 
as we may gather from the following warm-hearted letter 
by Charles Kingsley : 

7*/y25, 1853. 

" I am sure that you will excuse my writing to you 
thus abruptly when you read the cause of my writing. 
I am told, to my great astonishment, that you had heard 
painful speeches on account of 'Ruth'; what was told 
me raised all my indignation and disgust. . . . Among 
all my large acquaintance I never heard, or have heard, 
but one unanimous opinion of the beauty and righteous- 
ness of the book, and that above all from really good 
women. If you could have heard the things which I 
heard spoken of it this evening by a thorough High 
Church, fine lady of the world, and by her daughter, 
too, as pure and pious a soul as one need see, you would 
have no more doubt than I have, that, whatsoever the 
* snobs ' and the bigots may think, English people, in 
general, have but one opinion of * Ruth,' and that is, 
one of utter satisfaction. I doubt not you have had this 
said to you already often. Believe me, you may have it 
said to you as often as you will by the purest and most 

( 132 ) 


refined of English women. May God bless you, and help 
you to write many more such books as you have already 
written, is the fervent wish of your very faithful servant, 


" Mary Barton," which was the first of the novels, was 
published in 1848, and this powerful and fascinating story 
at once set Mrs. Gaskell in the first rank of English 
novelists. People differed as to the views set forth in the 
book, but all were agreed as to its literary force and its 
great merits. Like " Alton Locke," it has done much to 
break (flnwr? r1qcc lvtf ;rc an d make the rich try to under- 
stand, -the -.pox>r; and when we see the great advance in 
this direction which has been made since the date of its 
publication, we are able partly to realise how startling the 
first appearance of such a book must have been. The 
secret of the extraordinary power which the book exercises 
on its readers is, probably, that the writer takes one into 
the. very heart of the life she is describing. 

Most books of the sort fail to arrest our attention. 
Why ? Because they are written either as mere " goody " 
books for parish libraries, and are carefully watered down 
lest they should prove too sensational and enthralling ; 
or because they are written by people who have only a 


surface knowledge of the characters they describe and the 
life they would fain depict. "David Copperfield" is 
probably the most popular book Dickens ever wrote, and 
is likely to outlive his other works, just because he him- 
self knew so thoroughly well all that his hero had to pass 
through, and could draw from real knowledge the charac- 
ters in the background. And at the present time we are 
all able to understand the Indian Mutiny in a way that 
has never been possible before, because Mrs. Steel in her 
wonderful novel, "On the Face of the Waters," has, 
through her knowledge of native life, given us a real 
insight into the heart of a great nation. 

Brilliant trash may succeed for two or three seasons, 
but unless there is in it some germ of real truth which 
appeals to the heart and conscience it will not live. 
Sensationalism alone will not hold its ground. There 
must be in the writer a real deep inner knowledge of his 
subject if the book is to do its true work. And we 
venture to think that " Mary Barton," which for nearly 
half a century has been influencing people all over the 
world, owes its vitality very largely to the fact that Mrs. 
Gaskell knew the working people of Manchester, not as a 
professional doler out of tracts or charitable relief, not 
in any detestable, patronising way, but knew them as 


This surely is the reason why the characters in the 
novel are so intensely real. What could be finer than the 
portrait of Mary herself, from the time when we are first 
introduced to her as the young apprentice to a milliner 
and dressmaker, to the end of the book, when she has 
passed through her great agony ? How entirely the 
reader learns to live with her in her brave struggle to 
prove her lover's innocence ! One of the most powerful 
parts of the book is the description of her plucky pursuit 
of the good ship John Cropper, on board of which was 
the only man who could save her lover's life by proving 
an alibi. 

But it is not only the leading characters that are so 
genuine and so true to life. Old Ben Sturgis, the boat- 
man, rough of speech but with more heart than many a 
smooth-tongued talker ; his wife, who sheltered Mary 
when she had no notion what manner of woman she was ; 
Job Legh, who proved such a good friend to both hero 
and heroine in their trouble, and whose well-meaning 
deception of old Mrs. Wilson is so humorously de- 
scribed ; John Barton, the father, with the mournful 
failure at the close of his upright life ; old Mr. Carson, 
the rich father of the murdered man, with his thirst for 
vengeance, and his tardy but real forgiveness, when he let 
himself be led by a little child all these are living men 

( 135 ) 


and women, not puppets ; while in the character and the 
tragic story of poor Esther we see the fruits of the 
writer's deep knowledge of the life of those she helped 
when released from gaol. 

But Mrs. Gaskell looked on both sides of the question. 
In "North and South," published in 1855, she deals 
with the labour question from the master's standpoint, 
and in Mr. Thornton draws a most striking picture of a 
manufacturer who is just and well-meaning one who 
really respects and cares for the men he employs. The 
main interest of this book lies, however, in the character 
of the heroine, Margaret, who is placed in a most cruel 
dilemma by a ne'er-do-well brother whom she shields. By 
far the most dramatic scene is that in which, to enable 
Frederick to escape, Margaret tells a deliberate falsehood 
to the detective who is in search of him. The torture of 
mind she suffers afterwards for having uttered this inten- 
tional lie, and the difficult question whether under any 
circumstances a lie is warrantable, are dealt with in the 
writer's most powerful way. 

In 1853 the same year in which "Ruth" was pub- 
lished the greatest of all Mrs. Gaskell's works appeared, 
the inimitable " Cranford." For humour and for pathos 
we have nothing like this in all the Victorian literature. 
It is a book of which one can never tire : yet it can scarcely 

( 136) 


be said to have a plot at all, being just the most delicate 
miniature painting of a small old-fashioned country town 
and its inhabitants. What English man or woman is 
there, however, who will not read and re-read its pages 
with laughter and tears ? 

Cranford is said to be in many respects the Knutsford 
of Mrs. Gaskell's childhood and youth, and there is some- 
thing so wonderfully lifelike in the descriptions of the 
manners and customs of the very select little community 
that one is inclined to believe that there is truth in the 
assertion. They were gently bred, those old Cranford 
folk, with their " elegant economy," their hatred of all 
display, and their considerate tact. There is pathos as 
well as fun in the description of Mrs. Forrester pretend- 
ing not to know what cakes were sent up " at a party in 
her baby-house of a dwelling .... though she knew, 
and we knew, and she knew that we knew, and we knew 
that she knew that we knew, she had been busy all the 
morning making tea-bread and sponge-cakes ! " 

There is an air of leisure and peacefulness in every page 
of the book, for there was no hurrying life among those 
dignified old people. " I had often occasion to notice the 
use that was made of fragments and small opportunities in 
Cranford : the rose-leaves that were gathered ere they fell 
to make into a pot-pourri for some one who had no 

( '37 ) 


garden ; the little bundles of lavender-flowers sent to 
some town-dweller. Things that many would despise, 
and actions which it seemed scarcely worth while to 
perform, were all attended to in Cranford." 

Who has not laughed over Miss Betsy Barker's Alderney 
cow " meekly going to her pasture, clad in dark grey 
flannel " after her disaster in the lime-pit ! or over the 
masterly description of Miss Jenkyns, who " wore a cravat, 
and a little bonnet like a jockey-cap, and altogether had 
the appearance of a strong-minded woman ; although she 
would have despised the modern idea of women being 
equal to men. Equal, indeed ! she knew they were 

Dear old Miss Matty, however, with her reverence for 
the stronger sister, and her love affair of long ago, has a 
closer hold on the heart of the reader. The description 
of the meeting of the former lovers is idyllic ; and when 
Thomas Holbrook dies unexpectedly, soon after, the 
woman whose love-story had been spoilt by the home 
authorities reverses her own ordinance against " followers " 
in the case of Martha, the maid-servant, but otherwise 
makes no sign. 

" Miss Matty made a strong effort to conceal her feel- 
ings a concealment she practised even with me, for she 
has never alluded to Mr. Holbrook again, though the 

( 138 ) 


book he gave her lies with her Bible on the little table by 
her bedside. She did not think I heard her when she 
asked the little milliner of Cranford to make her caps 
something like the Honourable Mrs. Jamieson's, or that I 
noticed the reply : 

" ' But she wears widows' caps, ma'am ! ' 

" ' Oh ? I only meant something in that style ; not 
widows', of course, but rather like Mrs. Jamieson's.' ' 

In the whole book there is not a character that we 
cannot vividly realise : the Honourable (but sleepy) Mrs. 
Jamieson ; brisk, cheerful Lady Glenmire, who married 
the sensible country doctor and sacrificed her title to 
become plain Mrs. Hoggins ; Miss Pole, who always with 
withering scorn called ghosts " indigestion," until the night 
they heard of the headless lady who had been seen wring- 
ing her hands in Darkness Lane, when, to avoid " the 
woebegone trunk," she with tremulous dignity offered the 
sedan chairman an extra shilling to go round another 
way ! Captain Brown with his devotion to the writings 
of Mr. Boz and his feud with Miss Jenkyns as to the 
superior merits of Dr. Johnson ; and Peter, the long-lost 
brother, who from first to last remains an inveterate prac- 
tical joker. One and all they become our life-long 
friends, while the book stands alone as a perfect picture 
of English country town society fifty years ago. 

( i39) 


Mrs. Gaskell's shorter stories are scarcely equal to the 
novels, yet some of them are very beautiful. " Cousin 
Phillis," for example, gives one more of the real atmo- 
sphere of country life than any other writer except Words- 
worth. We seem actually to smell the new-mown hay as 
we read the story. 

Charming, too, is " My Lady Ludlow " with her 
genteel horror of dissenters subdued in the end by her 
genuine good feeling. How often one has longed for 
that comfortable square pew of hers in the parish church, 
in which, if she did not like the sermon, she would pull 
up a glass window as though she had been in her coach, 
and shut out the sound of the obnoxious preacher ! But, 
with all her peculiarities, she was the most courteous of 
women a lady in the true sense of the word and when 
people smiled at a shy and untaught visitor who spread 
out her handkerchief on the front of her dress as the foot- 
man handed her coffee, my Lady Ludlow with infinite 
tact and grace promptly spread her handkerchief exactly in 
the same fashion which the tradesman's wife had adopted. 

Among the short tragic stories, the most striking is one 
called " The Crooked Branch," in which the scene at the 
assizes has almost unrivalled power ; while among the 
lighter short stories, " My French Master," with its 
delicate portraiture of the old refugee, and "-Mr. Harri- 

( 140 ) 


son's Confessions," the delightfully written love-story of 
a young country doctor, are perhaps the most enjoyable. 

In 1863 the novel " Sylvia's Lovers " was published, and 
although, by its fine description of old Whitby and the 
pathos of the story, it has won many admirers, we infinitely 
prefer its successor, " Wives and Daughters." There is 
something very sad in the thought that this last and best 
of the writer's stories was left unfinished ; but happily very 
little remained to be told, and that little was tenderly 
touched in to the almost perfect picture of English home 
life by the daughter who had been not only Mrs. Gaskell's 
child but her friend. " Wives and Daughters " will 
always remain as a true and vivid and powerful study of 
life and character ; while Molly Gibson, with her loyal 
heart and sweet sunshiny nature, will, we venture to 
think, better represent the majority of English girls than 
the happily abnormal Dodos and Millicent Chynes of 
present-day fashion. 

In Mr. Gibson's second wife the author has given us a 
most subtle study of a thoroughly selfish and false-hearted 
woman, and she is made all the more repulsive because of 
her outward charms, her soft seductive voice and her lavish 
employment of terms of endearment. Wonderfully clever, 
too, is the study of poor little Cynthia, her daughter, whose 
relations to Molly are most charmingly drawn. 


The story was just approaching its happy and whole- 
some ending, and the difficulties which had parted 
Roger Hamley and Molly had just disappeared, when 
death summoned the writer from a world she had done so 
much to brighten and to raise. On Sunday evening, 
November 12, 1865, Mrs. Gaskell died quite suddenly 
at Holybourne, Alton, Hampshire, a house which she had 
recently bought as a surprise for her husband. Sad as 
such a death must always be for those who are left behind, 
one can imagine nothing happier than " death in harness " 
for a worker who loves his work. 

" . . . . There's rest above. 
Below let work be death, if work be love ! " 

Her " last days," wrote one of those who knew her best, 
"had been full of loving thought and tender help for 
others. She was so sweet and dear and noble beyond words." 
That is the summing-up of the whole ; and, after all, 
what better could a long biography give us ? The motto 
of all of us should surely be the words of Mme. Viardot 
Garcia : " First I am a woman .... then I am an 
artist." And assuredly Mrs. Gaskell's life was ruled on 
those lines. 

" It was wonderful " wrote her daughter, Mrs. Hol- 
land, in a letter to me the other day " how her writing 

( 142) 


never interfered with her social or domestic duties. I 
think she was the best and most practical housekeeper I 
ever came across, and the brightest, most agreeable hostess, 
to say nothing of being everything as a mother and friend. 
She combined both, being my mother and greatest friend 
in a way you do not often, I think, find between mother 
and daughter." 

Some people are fond of rashly asserting that the ideal 
wife and mother cares little and knows less about the world 
beyond the little world of home. Mrs. Gaskell, however, 
took a keen interest in the questions of the day, and was a 
Liberal in politics ; while it is quite evident that neither 
these wider interests nor her philanthropic work tended 
to interfere with the home life, which was clearly of the 
noblest type. 

The friend as well as the mother of her children, 
the sharer of all her husband's interests, she yet found 
time to use to the utmost the great literary gift that had 
been entrusted to her ; while her sympathy for those in 
trouble was shown not only in the powerful pleading of her 
novels, but in quiet, practical work in connection with 
prisoners. She was one of the fellow labourers of Thomas 
Wright, the well-known prison philanthropist, and was able 
to help in finding places for young girls who had been dis- 
charged from prison. For working women she also held 


classes, and both among the poor and the rich had many 
close friendships. 

How far the characters in the novels were studied from 
life is a question which naturally suggests itself ; and Mrs. 
Holland replies to it as follows : " I do not think my mother 
ever consciously took her characters from special individuals, 
but we who knew often thought we recognised people, and 
would tell her, Oh, so and so is just like Mr. Blank,' or 
something of that kind ; and she would say, ' So it is, but 
I never meant it for him.' And really many of the 
characters are from originals, or rather are like originals, 
but they were not consciously meant to be like." 

For another detail which will interest Mrs. Gaskell's 
fellow workers I am indebted to the same source : 

" Sometimes she planned her novels more or less before- 
hand, but in many cases, certainly in that of * Wives and 
Daughters/ she had very little plot made beforehand, but 
planned her story as she wrote. She generally wrote in the 
morning, but sometimes late at night, when the house was 

Few writers, we think, have exercised a more thoroughly 
wholesome influence over their readers than Mrs. Gaskell. 
Her books, with their wide human sympathies, their tender 
comprehension of human frailty, their bright flashes of 
humour and their infinite pathos, seem to plead with us to 

( 144 ) 


love one another. Through them all we seem to hear the 
author's voice imploring us to " seize the day " and to 
" make friends," as she does in actual words at the close of 
one of her Christmas stories, adding pathetically: "I ask it 
of you for the sake of that old angelic song, heard so many 
years ago by the shepherds, keeping watch by night on 
Bethlehem Heights." 




maiden name was Stevens, was born at 
Borough Green, in Kent, about 1800, 
and died in 1876. She married Colonel 
Crowe in 1822, and took up her resi- 
dence with him in Edinburgh. Her books were written 
chiefly between the years 1838 and 1859, and she is best 
known by her novel, " Susan Hopley," and her collection 
of ghost stories, " The Night Side of Nature." She was 
a woman of considerable ability, which appears, however, 
to have run into rather obscure and sombre channels, such 
as showed a somewhat morbid bent of mind, with a 
tendency towards depression, which culminated at last in 
a short but violent attack of insanity. But love of the 
unseen and supernatural does not seem to have blunted 
her keenness of observation in ordinary life, for her novels, 


the scenes of which are laid chiefly among homely and 
domestic surroundings, display alike soundness of judg- 
ment and considerable dramatic power. As a writer, 
indeed, Mrs. Crowe was extremely versatile ; she wrote 
plays, children's stories, short historical tales, romantic 
novels, as well as the ghost stories with which her name 
seems chiefly to be associated in the minds of this genera- 
tion. It is evident too, that she believed herself rightly 
or wrongly to be possessed of great philosophical dis- 
crimination ; but it must be acknowledged that her 
philosophical and metaphysical studies often led her into 
curious byways of speculation, into which the reader 
does not willingly wander. 

It is worth noting that Mrs. Crowe's ideas respect- 
ing the status and education of women were, for the 
days in which she lived, exceedingly "advanced." In 
" Lilly Dawson," for instance, a story published in 1 847, 
she makes an elaborate protest against the kind of educa- 
tion which women were then receiving. " It is true," she 
says, " that there is little real culture amongst men ; there 
are few strong minds and fewer honest ones, but they 
have still more advantages. If their education has been 
bad, it has at least been a trifle better than ours. Six 
hours a day at Latin and Greek are better than six hours 

( 150) 


a day at worsted work and embroidery ; and time is 
better spent in acquiring a smattering of mathematics 
than in strumming Hook's lessons on a bad pianoforte." 

Her views of women in general are well expressed in 
the following words from the same work of fiction. " If, 
as we believe, under no system of training, the intellect of 
woman would be found as strong as that of a man, she is 
compensated by her intuitions being stronger. If her 
reason be less majestic, her insight is clearer ; where man 
reasons she sees. Nature, in short, gave her all that was 
needful to enable her to play a noble part in the world's 
history, if man would but let her play it out, and not 
treat her like a full-grown baby, to be flattered and spoilt 
on the one hand, and coerced and restricted on the other, 
vibrating between royal rule and slavish serfdom." 
Surely we hear the voice of Nora Helmer herself, the very 
quintessence of Ibsenism ! It must have required con- 
siderable courage to write in this way in the year 1847, 
and Mrs. Crowe should certainly be numbered among the 
lovers of educational reform. In many ways she seems to 
have been a woman of strong individuality and decided 

Her first work was a drama, " Aristodemus," published 
anonymously in 1838 ; it showed considerable ability and 


was well regarded by the critics. She then wrote a novel, 
"Men and Women, or Manorial Rights," in 1839 ; and 
in 1841 published her most successful work of fiction: 
" Susan Hopley, or the Adventures of a Maid-servant.'* 
This story was more generally popular than any other 
from her pen, but it is to be doubted whether it possesses 
more literary ability or points of greater interest than the 

Mrs. Crowe then embarked upon a translation of 
" The Seeress of Provorst," by Justinus Kerner, a book 
of revelations concerning the inner life of man ; and in 
1848 she published a book called "The Night Side of 
Nature," a collection of supernatural tales gathered from 
many sources, probably the best storehouse of ghost 
stories in the English language. Its interest is a little 
marred by the credulity of the author. She seems never 
to disbelieve any ghost story of any kind that comes in 
her way. From the humble apologies, however, with 
which she opens her dissertation on the subject, it is 
easy to see how great a change has passed over people's 
minds in the course of the last fifty years, with respect to 
the supernatural. If Mrs. Crowe had lived in these days, 
she would have found herself in intimate relations with 
the Society for Psychical Research, and would have had 
no reason to excuse herself for the choice of her subject. 

( 152 ) 


She divides her book into sections, which treat of dreams 
(where we get Sir Noel Paton's account of his mother's 
curious vision ) ; warnings ; double-dreaming and trance, 
with the stories of Colonel Townshend's voluntary trance 
and the well-known legend of Lord Balcarres and the 
ghost of Claverhouse ; doppel-gangers and apparitions 
(including the stories of Lady Beresford's branded wrist 
and Lord Lyttleton's warning) ; and other chapters 
descriptive of haunted houses, with details concerning 
clairvoyance and the use of the crystal. It is interesting to 
find among these the original account of " Pearlin Jean," 
of which Miss Sarah Tytler has made such excellent use 
in one of her recent books. An account of the phe- 
nomena of stigmata^ and the case of Catherine Emmerich, 
are also described in detail. Lovers of the supernatural 
will find much to gratify their taste in a perusal of " The 
Night Side of Nature." 

Mrs. Crowe did not exhaust the subject in this volume, 
for she issued a book on ghosts and family legends, a 
volume for Christmas, in the year 1859 ; a work full of 
the kind of stories which became so popular in the now 
almost obsolete Christmas Annual of succeeding years. 
It is also curious to note, that in 1848, Mrs. Crowe 
produced a work of an entirely different nature, namely, 
an excellent story for children, entitled " Pippie's 

( i53) 


Warning, or Mind Your Temper " another instance of 
her versatility of mind. 

"The Adventures of a Beauty" and "Light and 
Darkness" appeared in 1852. The latter is a collection 
of short tales from different sources, partly historical and 
partly imaginative, and certainly more in accordance with 
the taste of modern days than her elaborate domestic 
stories. Mrs. Crowe's taste for the horrible is distinctly 
perceptible in this collection. There is an account of the 
celebrated poisoners, Frau Gottfried, Madame Ursinus, 
and Margaret Zwanziger, whose crimes were so numerous 
that they themselves forgot the number of their victims ; 
and of Mr. Tinius, who went about making morning calls 
and murdering the persons whom he honoured with a 
visit. The histories of Lesurques, the hero of the " Lyons 
Mail," and of Madame Louise, Princess of France, who 
became a nun, are well narrated ; but nearly all the stories 
are concerned with horrors such as suggest the productions 
of Mr. Wilkie Collins. " The Priest of St. Quentin " 
and " The Lycanthropist " are two of the most 

Her next novel, a more purely domestic one, was 
" Linny Lockwood," issued in 1854. A sentence from 
the preface to this book anticipates rather early, as we may 
think the approaching death of the three-volume novel : 

( i54) 


" Messrs. Routledge and Co. have been for some time 
soliciting me to write them an original novel for their 
cheap series ; and being convinced that the period for 
publishing at i us. 6d., books of a kind that people 
generally read but once, is gone by, I have resolved to 
make the experiment." 

She wrote another tragedy, " The Cruel Kindness," in 
1853, and abridged "Uncle Tom's Cabin" for children. 
In 1859 a pamphlet on "Spiritualism and the Age we 
Live in," constituted the last of her more important works, 
although she continued, for some time after recovery 
from the attack of insanity which we have mentioned, to 
write papers and stories for periodicals. 

In spite of Mrs. Crowe's love for the supernatural and 
the horrible, she is one of the pioneers of the purely 
domestic story that story of the affections and the 
emotions peculiar to the Victorian Age. She is allied to 
the schools of Richardson and Fanny Burney rather than 
to those of Sir Walter Scott or Miss Austen ; for although 
her incidents are often romantic and even far-fetched, her 
characters are curiously homely and generally of humble 
environment. Thus, for instance, " Susan Hopley " is 
a maid-servant (though not of the Pamela kind nor 
with the faintest resemblance to Esther Waters) ; Lilly 
Dawson, although proved ultimately to be the daughter 

( '55 ) 


of a colonel, passes the greater part of her earlier life as a 
drudge and a dependent ; and Linny Lockwood, while 
refined and educated, is reduced to the situation of a 
lady's maid. The circumstances of her heroines are, as 
a rule, extremely prosaic, and would possibly have been 
condemned by writers of Miss Austen's school as hope- 
lessly vulgar ; but Mrs. Crowe's way of treating these 
characters and their surroundings bears upon it no 
stamp of vulgarity at all. Its great defect is its want 
of humour to light up the sordid side of the life which 
she describes. She is almost always serious, full of 
exalted and occasionally overstrained sentiment. And 
even when treating of childhood, it is rarely that she 
relaxes so far as (in " Lilly Dawson ") to describe the 
naughtiness of the little girl who insisted upon praying 
for the cat. This is almost the sole glimpse of a sense 
of fun to which Mrs. Crowe treats us in her numerous 

To the present age "Susan Hopley," although so 
popular at the time of its publication, is less attractive 
than the stories of " Linny Lockwood " and " Lilly 
Dawson." The form adopted for the recital of Susan's 
narrative is extremely inartistic, for it comprises Susan's 
reminiscences, interspersed at intervals with narrative, and 
supposed to be told by her in mature age, when she is 

( 156) 


housekeeper to the hero of the story. Nevertheless, the 
plot is ingenious, turning on the murder of Susan's brother 
by a handsome and gentlemanly villain, and the subsequent 
exposure of his guilt by means of Susan's energy and the 
repentance of one of his victims. It has all the elements 
of a sensational story, with the exception of a " sympa- 
thetic " heroine or any other really interesting character ; 
for Susan Hopley, the embodiment of all homely virtues, 
is distinctly dull, and it is difficult to feel the attractiveness 
of the " beautiful and haughty " dairymaid, Mabel Light- 
foot, whose frailty forms an important element in the 
discovery of Gaveston's guilt. 

" Lilly Dawson " may be said to possess something of 
a psychological interest, which redeems it from the charge 
of dulness brought against " Susan Hopley." The heroine 
is thrown as a child into the hands of a wild and lawless 
family, smugglers and desperadoes, who make of her a 
household slave ; and the child appears at first to be 
utterly stupid and apathetic. A touch of affection and 
sympathy is needed before her intellect awakes. In fear 
of being forced to marry one of the sons of the house in 
which she has been brought up, when she is only fifteen, 
she escapes from her enemies, becomes the guide and 
adopted child of an old blind man, takes service as a 
nursemaid, is employed in a milliner's workroom, narrowly 


escapes being murdered by the man whom she refused to 
marry, and finally acts as maid in the house of her own 
relations, where she is discovered and received with the 
greatest affection. Nevertheless, she cannot endure the 
life of " a fine lady," and goes back ultimately to marry 
the humble lover whose kindness had cheered her in the 
days of her childhood and poverty. 

In " Linny Lock wood " there is a touch of emotion, 
even of passion, which is wanting in the previous stories. 
It embraces scenes and situations which are quite as moving 
as any which thrilled the English public in the pages of 
"Jane Eyre" or "East Lynne," but, owing possibly to 
Mrs. Crowe's obstinate realism and somewhat didactic 
homeliness of diction and sentiment, it seems somewhat 
to have missed its mark. Linny Lockwood marries a 
man entirely unworthy of her, whose love strays speedily 
from her to another woman a married woman with whom 
he elopes and whom he afterwards abandons. Linny, 
being poor and destitute, looks about for work, and takes 
the post of maid to her husband's deserted mistress, with- 
out, of course, knowing what had been the connection 
between them. But before the birth of Kate's child, 
Linny learns the truth and nevertheless remains with her 
to soothe her weakness, and lessen the pangs of remorse 
of which the poor woman ultimately dies. A full explana- 

( 158) 


tion between the two women takes place before Kate's 
death ; and the child that is left behind is adopted 
by Linny Lockwood, who refuses to pardon the husband, 
who sues to her for forgiveness, or to live with him 

The character of Linny Lockwood is a very beautiful 
one, and the story appeals to the reader's sensibilities more 
strongly than the recital of Susan Hopley's adventures or 
the girlish sorrows of Lilly Dawson. 

Mrs. Crowe's writings certainly heralded the advent of 
a new kind of fiction : a kind which has been, perhaps 
more than any other, characteristic of the early years of the 
Victorian Age. It is the literature of domestic realism, of 
homely unromantic characters, which no accessories of 
exciting adventure can render interesting or remarkable in 
themselves characters distinguished by every sort of 
virtue, yet not possessed of any ideal attractiveness. She 
is old-fashioned enough to insist upon a happy ending, to 
punish the wicked and to reward the good. But amid 
all the conventionality of her style, one is conscious of a 
note of hard common sense and a power of seeing things 
as they really are, which in these days would probably 
have forced her (perhaps against her will) into the realistic 
school. She seems, in fact, to hover between two ages of 

( 159 ) 


literature, and to be possessed at times of two different 
spirits one the romantic and the supernatural, the other 
distinctly commonplace and workaday. Perhaps it is by 
the former that she will be chiefly remembered, but it is 
through the latter that she takes a place in English litera- 
ture. She left a mark upon the age in which she lived, 
and she helped, in a quiet, undemonstrative fashion, to 
mould the women of England after higher ideals than had 
been possible in the early days of the century. Those 
who consider the development of women to be one of the 
distinguishing features of Queen Victoria's reign should 
not forget that they owe deep gratitude to writers like 
Mrs. Crowe, who upheld the standard of a woman's right 
to education and economic independence long before these 
subjects were discussed in newspapers and upon public 
platforms. For, as George Eliot has said, with her usual 
wisdom, it is owing to the labours of those who have lived 
in comparative obscurity and lie in forgotten graves, that 
things are well with us here and now. 

160 ) 


CAROLINE CLIVE was the second daughter and 
co-heiress of Edmund Meysey-Wigley, of Shaken- 
hurst, Worcestershire. She was born in 1801, 
at Brompton Green, London, and was married in 1840 
to the Rev. Archer Clive, Rector of Solihull, Warwick- 
shire. In the latest edition of her poems, her daughter 
states that " Mrs. Archer Clive, from a severe illness when 
she was three years old, was lame ; and though her strong 
mind and high spirit carried her happily through child- 
hood and early life, as she grew up she felt sharply the 
loss of all the active pleasures enjoyed by others." 

Her novel, " Paul Ferroll," contains a touching poem 
which shows how deeply she felt the privations consequent 
on her infirmity. 

" Gaeta's orange groves were there 

Half circling round the sun-kissed sea ; 
And all were gone and left the fair 
Rich garden solitude but me. 

" My feeble feet refused to tread 

The rugged pathway to the bay ; 
Down the steep rocky way they tread 
And gain the boat and glide away. 
* * * * - * 

( 161 ) L 


" Above me hung the golden glow 

Of fruit which is at one with flowers ; 
Below me gleamed the ocean's flow, 
Like sapphires in the midday hours. 

" A passing by there was of wings, 

Of silent, flower-like butterflies ; 
The sudden beetle as it springs 
Full of the life of southern skies. 
* * * * * 

" It was an hour of bliss to die, 

But not to sleep, for ever came 
The warm thin air, and, passing by, 

Fanned sense and soul and heart to flame." 

A great love of nature and a yearning to tread its 
scenes breathe in every word of these lines, which possess 
an essentially pathetic charm of their own. 

Mrs. Clive died in July 1873, from the result of an 
accident, by which her dress was set on fire when she was 
writing in her boudoir at Whitfield, with her books and 
papers around her. Her health was extremely delicate, 
and she had been for many years a confirmed invalid. 

Her first work consisted of the well-known " IX Poems 
"by V." published in 1840. These poems were very 
favourably received, and were much praised by Dugald 
Stewart, by Lockhart, and by Mr. Gladstone, who says 
of them, " They form a small book, which is the life and 

( 162 ) 


soul of a great book." They were also very favourably 
reviewed in the Quarterly (LXVI. 408-11). Her other 
poems, " I Watch the Heavens," " The Queen's Ball," 
"The Vale of the Rea," etc., have been re-published with 
the original " IX " in a separate volume. " Year After 
Year," published in 1858, passed into two editions ; but 
Mrs. dive's reputation chiefly rests upon her story of 
" Paul Ferroll," published in 1855, and its sequel, " Why 
Paul Ferroll Killed his Wife." The second story was, 
however, in no way equal to the first ; and a subsequent 
novel, "John Greswold," which appeared in 1864, was 
decidedly inferior to its predecessors, although containing 
passages of considerable literary merit. 

" Paul Ferroll " has passed through several editions, 
and has been translated into French. It was not until 
the fourth edition that the concluding chapter, which 
brings the story down to the death of Paul Ferroll, was 

There is little difference in date between the writings 
of Mrs. Crowe and those of Mrs. Archer Clive, but there 
is a tremendous gap between their methods and the tone 
of their novels. As a matter of fact they belong to 
different generations, in spite of their similarity of age. 
Mrs. Crowe belongs to the older school of fictionists, 

( 163 ) 


while Mrs. Archer Clive is curiously modern. The tone 
and style are like the tone and style of the present day, 
not so much in the dialogue, which is generally stilted, 
after the fashion of the age in which she lived, as in the 
mental attitude of the characters, in the atmosphere of 
the books, and the elaborate, sometimes even artistic, 
collocation of scenes and incidents. 

" Paul Ferroll " is often looked upon merely as a novel 
of plot, almost the first " sensational " novel, as we call it, 
of the century. But it is more than that. There is a 
distinct working out of character and a subordination of 
mere incident to its development ; and the original ending 
was of so striking and pathetic a nature that we can only 
regret the subsequent addition, which probably the influence 
of others made necessary, just as in " Villette " Charlotte 
Bronte was obliged to soften down her own conception, 
in order to satisfy the conventional requirements of her 

The story of " Paul Ferroll " displays a good deal of 
constructive skill, although the mystery enfolded in its 
pages is more easily penetrated than would be the case in 
a modern sensational novel. The fact is, we have increased 
our knowledge of the intricacies both of human nature 
and of criminal law in these latter days, and our novelists 

( 164) 


are cleverer in concealing or half revealing their mysteries 
than they were in " the forties." For a few pages, 
at least, the reader may be deluded into the belief that 
Paul Ferroll is a worthy and innocent man, and that his 
wife has been murdered by some revengeful servant or 
ruffianly vagabond. But the secret of his guilt is too 
speedily fathomed ; and from that point to the end of the 
book, the question turns on the possibilities of its discovery 
or the likelihood and effects of his own confession. 

Mrs. dive's picture of the " bold bad man " is not 
so successful as that of Charlotte Bronte's Rochester. 
Rochester, with all his faults, commands sympathy, but 
our sympathies are alienated from Paul Ferroll when 
we find (in the first chapter) that he could ride out tran- 
quilly on a summer's morning, scold his gardener, joke 
with the farmer's wife, and straighten out the farmer's 
accounts, when he had just previously murdered his wife 
in her sleep by thrusting a sharp pointed knife through 
her head " below the ear." Even although he afterwards 
exhibits agitation on being brought face to face with the 
corpse of his wife, we cannot rid ourselves of our remem- 
brance of the insensibility which he had shown. The 
motive for the crime is not far to seek. He had fixed 
his affections on a young girl, his marriage with whom 
had been prevented by the woman who became his wife. 

( 165 ) 


Dissension and increasing bitterness grew up between the 
pair ; and her death was held as a release by Paul Ferroll, 
who hastened to bring home, as his second wife, the girl 
whom he had formerly loved. 

No suspicion attached to him, and he is careful to 
provide means of defence for the labourer Franks and 
his wife, who have been accused of the murder. On re- 
turning home with his second wife, to whom he is 
passionately attached, he devotes himself entirely to 
literary pursuits, refusing to mix with any of the society 
of the place. From time to time his motive is allowed to 
appear ; he has determined never to accept a favour from, 
nor become a friend of, the country gentlemen, with whom 
he is thrown into contact, so that they shall never have to 
say, supposing the truth should ever be acknowledged, 
that he has made his way into their houses on false pre- 
tences. But in spite of his seclusion, he lives a life of 
ideal happiness with his wife, Ellinor, and their beautiful 
little child, Janet, who, however, occupies quite a secondary 
place in the hearts of her father and mother, who are 
wrapt up in one another. 

The events of the next few years are not treated in 
detail, although there is at one point a most interesting 
description of the state of a town in which cholera rages, 
when Paul Ferroll flings himself with heroic ardour into 

( 166) 


every effort to stem the tide of the disease. Owing to a 
riot at the time of the Assizes, Ferroll fires on one of the 
crowd and kills him, so that by a curious coincidence, he 
is tried for murder, and has full experience of the horrors 
accompanying the situation of a criminal. He is sentenced 
to death but pardoned, and returns to his old life at home. 
The widow of the labourer who had formerly been accused 
of the murder of his first wife then returns to England, 
and Ferroll knows that her return increases the danger of 
discovery. He tries to escape it by going abroad, but 
finds on his return that Martha Franks, the widow, is in 
possession of some trinkets which belonged to the late 
Mrs. Ferroll, that she has been accused of theft and finally 
of the murder of her mistress. This is the very conjunc- 
ture which had always appeared possible to Paul Ferroll ; 
the moment has come when he feels himself obliged to 
confess the truth, in order to save a fellow creature from 
unjust condemnation. He thereupon acknowledges his 
guilt, is at once conveyed to prison, and after a merely 
formal trial is condemned to death the execution to 
take place, apparently, in three days, according to the 
inhuman custom of the time. 

Ellinor dies on the day when she hears of his confession; 
and Janet, his daughter, now eighteen yeacs old, and 
Janet's young lover, Hugh Bartlett, are the only persons 


who remain faithful to him or make efforts for his safety. 
Through Hugh's efforts and the treachery of the gaoler, 
Paul Ferroll manages, in a somewhat improbable manner, 
to escape from prison ; and he and Janet make their 
way to Spain, whence they will be able to take ship for 

The conclusion of the story, as at first written, is par- 
ticularly striking. Janet, after an illness, has come to 
herself : " She did not know the place where she was. 
The air was warm and perfumed, the windows shaded, the 
room quite a stranger to her. An elderly woman, with a 
black silk mantle on her head and over her shoulders, 
spoke to her. She did not understand the meaning, but 
she knew the words were Spanish. Then the tide of recol- 
lection rushed back, and the black cold night came fully 
before her, which was the last thing she recollected. 
* My father,' she said, rising as well as she could. The 
woman had gone to the window and beckoned, and in 
another minute Mr. Ferroll stood by her bedside. * Can 
you still love me, Janet ? ' said he. ' Love you ! oh 
yes, my father.' ' 

It seems a pity that a concluding chapter was after- 
wards added, containing a description of Janet's life with 
her father in Boston, and of his dying moments and 
last words, which might well have been left to the imagi- 

( 168 ) 


nation. The original conclusion was more impressive 
without these details. 

It is rather curious, too, that Mrs. Clive should have 
written another volume to explain why Paul Ferroll killed 
his wife ; but possibly she thought further explanation was 
necessary, since she prefixed to the latter volume a quota- 
tion from Froude's " Henry the Eighth " : "A man does 
not murder his wife gratuitously." In this book she 
changes the names of all the characters except that of 
Ellinor. Paul Ferroll is Leslie, and his wife, Anne, is 
Laura. Ellinor, the young and beautiful girl out of a 
convent, completely enchants Leslie, whom Laura had 
intended to marry ; and Laura contrives, by deliberate 
malice, so completely to sever them that he makes Laura 
his wife, while Ellinor returns to the convent. " Violent 
were the passions of the strong but bitter man ; fierce the 
hatred of the powerful but baffled intellect. Wild was the 
fury of the man who believed in but one world of good, 
and saw the mortal moments pass away unenjoyed and 
irretrievable. Out of these hours arose a purpose. The 
reader sees the man and knows the deed. From the pre- 
mises laid before him, he need not indeed conclude that 
even that man would do the deed, but since it was told in 
1855 tnat tne husband killed his wife, so now in 1860 it is 
explained why he killed her." 

( 169) 


This second volume is decidedly inferior to the first, 
but it shared in the popularity which " Paul Ferroll " had 
already achieved, and the author's vigorous portraiture of 
characters and events was well marked in both volumes. 

With her third volume, "John Greswold," came a 
sudden falling off, at any rate as regards dramatic force. 
" John Greswold " is the autobiography of a young man 
who has very little story to tell and does not know how 
to tell it. No grip is laid on the reader's attention ; no 
character claims especial interest, but the thing that is 
remarkable in the book is the literary touch, which is far 
more perceptible than in the more interesting story of 
"Paul Ferroll." The book is somewhat inchoate, but 
contains short passages of real beauty, keen shafts of 
observation, and an occasional flight of emotional ex- 
pression, which raise the writer to a greater literary 
elevation than the merely sensational incidents of her 
earlier novels. She has gained in reflective power, but 
lost her dramatic instinct. Consequently " John Gres- 
wold " was less successful than " Paul Ferroll." 

The conclusion of the book, vague and indecisive, 
shows the author to be marked out by nature as one of 
the Impressionist School. It is powerful and yet indefi- 
nite ; in fact it could only have been written by one with 

( 170 ) 


a true poetic gift. " The seven stars that never set are 
going westward. The funeral car of Lazarus moves on 
and the three mourners follow behind. They are above 
the fir wood and that's the sign of midnight. Twenty- 
three years ago I was born into this world and now the 
twenty-third has run out. The time is gone. The 
known things are all over and buried in the darkness 
behind. Before me lies the great blank page of the 
future and no writing traced upon it. But it is nothing 
to me. I won't ask nor think, nor hope, nor fear about 
it. The leaf of the book is turned and there's an end 
the tale is told." 

" Paul Ferroll " may be considered as the precursor of 
the purely sensational novel, or of what may be called the 
novel of mystery. Miss Bronte in " Jane Eyre " uses to 
some extent the same kind of material, but her work is 
far more a study of character than the story of " Paul 
Ferroll " can claim to be. In " Paul Ferroll," indeed, the 
analysis of motive is entirely absent. The motives that 
actuated Paul Ferroll are to be gathered simply from 
chance expressions or his actions. No description of 
the human heart has been attempted. The picture of 
the violent, revengeful, strongly passionate nature of the 
man is forcible enough, but it is displayed by action and 


not by introspection. It is for this reason that Mrs. Clive 
may be placed in the forefront of the sensational novelists 
of the century. She anticipated the work of Wilkie 
Collins, of Charles Reade, of Miss Braddon, and many 
others of their school, in showing human nature as 
expressed by its energies, neither diagnosing it like a 
physician, nor analysing it like a priest. A vigorous 
representation of the outside semblance of things is the 
peculiar characteristic of the so-called sensational novelist ; 
and it is in this respect that " Paul Ferroll" excels many of 
the novels of incident written during the first half of this 
century. It heralded a new departure in the ways of 
fiction. It set forth the delights of a mystery, the 
pleasures of suspense, together with a thrilling picture of 
" the strong man in adversity," which has been beloved 
of fiction-mongers from the first days of fable in the land. 

But perhaps it was successful, most of all, because it 
introduced its readers to a new sensation. Hitherto they 
had been taught to look on the hero of a novel as necessarily 
a noble and virtuous being, endowed with heroic, not to 
say angelic qualities ; but this conviction was now to be 
reversed. The change was undoubtedly startling. Even 
Scott had not got beyond the tradition of a good young 
man as hero, a tradition which the Brontes and Mrs. 
Archer Clive were destined to break down. For Scott's 

( 172 ) 


most fascinating character, Brian de Bois-Guilbert, was 
confessedly the villain of the piece ; and the splendidly 
picturesque figure of Dundee was supposed to be less 
attractive than the tame and scrupulous personality of 
Henry Morton. It was a convention amongst writers that 
vice and crime must be repulsive, and that there was some- 
thing inherently attractive in virtue a wholesome doctrine, 
insufficiently preached in these days, but not strictly 
consistent with facts. To find, therefore, a villain 
and a thorough-paced villain, the murderer of his wife 
installed in the place of hero and represented as noble, 
handsome, and gifted, naturally thrilled the readers' 
minds with a mixture of horror and delight. The substitu- 
tion of villain for hero is now too common to excite remark, 
but it was a striking event in the days when "Paul 
Ferroll " was published, although there had been instances 
of a similar kind in the novels of the eighteenth century. 
The new fashion gained ground and speedily exceeded 
the limits which Mrs. Archer Clive would no doubt have 
set to it ; but it is nevertheless in part to her that we owe 
this curious transposition of roles, which has revolutionised 
the aims and objects of fiction in the latter half of the 
nineteenth century. 


THE art of the raconteur, pure and simple, is apt 
to be undervalued in our days. A rage for 
character-painting, for analysis, for subtle dis- 
crimination, down to the minutest detail, has taken hold 
upon us; and although we have lately returned to a taste for 
adventure of the more stirring kind, there is still an under- 
lying conviction that the highest forms of literary art deal 
with mental states and degrees of emotions, instead of with 
the ordinary complications of everyday life. Hence the 
person who is gifted simply with a desire (and the power) 
of telling a story as a story, with no ulterior motive, with 
no ambition of intellectual achievement, the Scheherazade 
of our quiet evenings and holiday afternoons, is apt to take 
a much lower place in our estimation than she deserves. 

This is especially the case with Mrs. Henry Wood. It is 
impossible to claim for her any lofty literary position ; she 
is emphatically un-literary and middle-class. But she never 
has cause to say, " Story ? God bless you, I have none to 
tell, Sir," for she always has a very distinct and convincing 
story, which she handles with a skill which can perhaps 
be valued only by the professional novelist, who knows 
the technical difficulty of handling the numerous groups of 


characters which Mrs. Wood especially affects. There is 
no book of hers which deals as so many novels deal 
with merely one or two characters. She takes the whole 
town into her story, wherever it may be. We not only 
know the Lord-Lieutenant and the High Sheriff and the 
Squire, but we are intimate (particularly intimate) with the 
families of the local lawyer and doctor. We are almost 
equally well acquainted with their bootmaker and green- 
grocer, while their maids and their grooms are as much 
living entities to us as if they had served us in our own 
houses. To take a great group of dramatis person*, 
widely differing in circumstances, in character, in indi- 
viduality ; to keep them all perfectly clear without con- 
fusion and without wavering ; to evolve from them some 
central figures on which the attention of the subsidiary 
characters shall be unavoidably fixed, and to weave a plot 
of mystery, intrigue, treachery or passion which must be 
resolved to its ultimate elements before the last page of 
the book to do all this is really an achievement of which 
many a writer, who values himself on his intellectual 
superiority to Mrs. Henry Wood, might well be proud. 
It is no more easy to marshal a multitude of characters in 
the pages of your book than to dispose bodies of soldiers 
in advantageous positions over an unknown country. The 
eye of a general is in some respects needed for both opera- 

( 175 ) 


tions, and the true balance and proportion of a plot are 
not matters which come by accident or can be accomplished 
without skill. It may not be literary skill, but it is skill 
of a kind which deserves recognition, under what name 
soever it may be classed. 

Mrs. Henry Wood was born in Worcestershire in 1814, 
and died in London in 1887. She suffered from delicate 
health and passed the greater part of her life as an invalid. 
She was the daughter of Mr. Thomas Price, one of the 
largest glove manufacturers in the city of Worcester. 
She married Mr. Henry Wood, the head of a large 
banking and shipping firm, who retired early from work 
and died comparatively young. It was not until middle 
life that Mrs. Wood began to write ; and her first work, 
perhaps, of all her works, the most popular was " East 
Lynne," which first appeared in Col burn's New Monthly 
Magazine. Its success was prodigious and it is still one of 
the most popular novels upon the shelves of every circu- 
lating library. It has been translated into many languages 
and dramatised in different forms. It was published in 
1 86 1, and reached a fifth edition within the year. 

Amongst her most popular works also are " The Chan- 
nings" and "Mrs. Halliburton's Troubles," 1862 ; "The 
Shadow of Ashlydyat," 1863; "St. Martin's Eve," 1866; 

( 176) 


"A Life's Secret," 1867 ; "Roland Yorke," a sequel to 
"The Channings," 1869 ; "Johnny Ludlow," stories re- 
printed from the Argosy, 187410 1885 ; "Edina," 1876 ; 
"Pomeroy Abbey," 1878; "Court Netherleigh," 1881; 
and many other stories and novels. Mrs. Wood was for 
many years the editor of the Argosy. 

The reason of the popularity of " East Lynne " is not 
far to seek. It is, to begin with, a very touching story ; 
and its central situation, which in some respects recalls the 
relation of the two women in Mrs. Crowe's " Linny Lock- 
wood," is genuinely striking. It is perhaps not worth 
while to argue as to its probability. It is, of course, 
barely possible that a woman should come disguised into 
the house where she formerly reigned as mistress, and act 
as governess to her own children, without being recog- 
nised. As a matter of fact, she is recognised by one 
of the servants only on account of a momentary forget- 
fulness of her disguise. Her own husband, her own 
children, do not know her in the least ; and although he 
and his kinswoman are vaguely troubled by what they 
consider a chance resemblance, they dismiss it from their 
minds as utterly impossible, until the day when Lady 
Isabel, dying in her husband's house, begs to see him for 
the last time. The changes in her personal appearance, 

( 177 ) M 


her lameness, for instance, and the greyness of her hair, are 
very ingeniously contrived ; but it certainly seems almost 
impossible that two or three years should have so com- 
pletely changed her that nobody should even guess at her 

The present generation complains that the pathos of the 
story is overdone ; but even if detail after detail is multi- 
plied, so as to harrow the reader's feelings almost unneces- 
sarily, the fact still remains that Mrs. Wood has imagined 
as pitiful and tragic a situation as could possibly exist in 
the domestic relations of man and woman. The erring 
wife returning to find her husband married to another 
woman, to nurse one of her own children through his last 
illness without being recognised by him or by her husband, 
and to die at last in her husband's house with the merest 
shadow of consolation in the shape of his somewhat 
grudging forgiveness, presents us with a figure which 
cannot fail to be extremely pathetic. 

The faults of Mrs. Henry Wood's style, its occasional 
prolixity and commonplaceness, the iteration of the moral 
reflections, as well as the triteness and feebleness sometimes 
of the dialogue, very nearly disappear from view when we 
resign ourselves to a consideration of this tragic situation. 
It cannot be denied that there is just a touch of mawkish- 
ness now and then, just a slight ring of false sentiment in the 

( 178) 


pity accorded to Lady Isabel, who was certainly one of the 
silliest young women that ever existed in the realms of 
fiction. Nevertheless the spectacle of the mother nursing 
the dying boy, who does not know her, is one that will 
always appeal to the heart of the ordinary reader, and will 
go far to account for the extraordinary popularity of " East 

A novelist of more aspiring genius would perhaps have 
concentrated our attention exclusively upon Lady Isabel's 
feelings and tragic fate. Here Mrs. Wood's failings, 
as well as her capacities, reveal themselves. She sees the 
tragic side of things, but she sees also (and perhaps too 
much) the pathos of small incidents, the importance of 
trifles. She spares us no jot of the sordid side of life. 
And in a novel of the undoubted power of " East Lynne " 
there are some details which might have been spared us. 
The rapacity of the creditors who seize the body of Lady 
Isabel's father, the gossip of the servants, the suspicions of 
Afy Hallijohn, and, in short, almost all the underplot 
respecting Richard Hare these matters are superfluous. 
The reader's eye ought to be kept more attentively upon 
the heroine and her relations with Mr. Carlisle and Sir 
Francis. The one inexplicable point in the story is 
Lady Isabel's desertion of her husband for a man whom 
she must despise. It is never hinted that she had for one 


moment lost her heart to Francis Levison. She left her 
husband out of sheer pique and jealousy, loving him 
ardently all the while, although, in her ignorance and 
folly, she scarcely knew that she loved him. Here the 
story is weak. We feel that Mrs. Wood sacrifices 
probability in her effort to obtain a striking situation. 
For the strongest part of " East Lynne " is the description 
of what occurs when Lady Isabel returns as a governess to 
her old home, when her husband, supposing her to be dead, 
has married his old love Barbara Hare. To this situation, 
everything is subordinate ; and it is in itself so strong that 
we cannot wonder if the author strains a point or two in 
order to achieve it. 

But the curious, the characteristic, thing is that even in 
this supreme crisis of the story, Mrs. Wood's essential 
love of detail, and of somewhat commonplace detail, asserts 
itself over and over again. The incidents she takes pains 
to narrate are rational enough. There is no reason why 
pathos should be marred because a dying child asks for 
cheese with his tea, or because the sensible stepmother con- 
demns Lucy to a diet of bread and water for some trifling 
offence, or because Miss Cornelia Carlisle displays her 
laughable eccentricities at Lady Isabel's bedside. The 
pathos is marred now and then, not because of these 
trifling yet irritating incidents, but because we get an 

( 180) 


impression that the author has forced a number of utterly 
prosaic people into a tragic situation for which they are 
eminently unfitted. The ducking of Sir Francis Levison 
in the horsepond is an example of this. The man was a 
heartless villain and murderer, yet he is presented to us 
in a scene of almost vulgar farce as part of his retribu- 
tion. If the author had herself realised the insufficiency 
of her characters to rise to the tragic height demanded 
of them, she might have achieved either satire or intense 
realism ; but there is a certain smugness in Mrs. Henry 
Wood's acceptance of the commonplaces of life , which 
makes us feel her an inadequate painter of tragedy. 
We close the book with a suspicion that she preferred 
the intolerable Barbara to the winsome and erring Lady 

" East Lynne " owes half its popularity, however, to 
that reaction against inane and impossible goodness which 
has taken place since the middle of the century. Just as 
Rochester and Paul Ferroll are protests against the conven- 
tional hero, so Lady Isabel is a protest against the conven- 
tional heroine and a portent of her time ! We were all 
familiar with beauty and virtue in distress, from Clarissa 
Harlowe downwards. It is during later years that we have 
become conversant with beauty and guilt as objects of our 
sympathy and commiseration. 


The moralists of the time Saturday Reviewers, and 
others perceived the change from one point of view, and 
were not slow to comment on it. Their opposition 
to the modern novel was chiefly based upon what they 
called a glorification of vice and crime. Now that the 
mists of prejudice have cleared away, we can see very 
well that no more praise of wrongdoing was implied 
by Mrs. Wood's portrait of Lady Isabel than by 
Thackeray's keen-edged delineation of Becky Sharp or 
George Eliot's sorrowful sympathy with Maggie Tulliver. 
What was at first set down as a new and revolutionary 
kind of admiration for weakness and criminality soon 
resolved itself into a manifestation of that remarkable Zeit- 
Qeist which has made itself felt in every department of 
human life. It is that side of the modern spirit which 
leads to the comprehension of the sufferings of others, 
to a new pity for their faults and weaknesses, a new 
breadth of tolerance, and a generous reluctance to judge 
harshly of one's fellow man. It has crept into the domain 
of law, of religious thought, of philanthropic effort, and 
it cannot be excluded from the realms of literature and 
art. It is, in fact, the scientific spirit, which says "there's 
nothing good or ill but thinking makes it so ; " which 
refuses to dogmatise or hastily to condemn ; which looks 
for the motives and reasons and causes of men's actions, 

( 182 ) 


and knows the infinite gradations between folly and wisdom, 
between black and white, between right and wrong. If 
science had done nothing else, it would be an enormous 
gain that she should teach us to suspend our judgment, to 
weigh evidence, and thus to pave the way for that 
diviner spirit by which we refuse to consider any sinner 
irreclaimable or any criminal beyond the reach of human 

"East Lynne" was received with general acclamation, and 
has been translated, it is said, into every known tongue, 
including Parsee and Hindustanee. " Some years ago," her 
son states, "one of the chief librarians in Madrid informed 
Mrs. Henry Wood that the most popular book on his 
shelves, original or translated, was ' East Lynne.' Not very 
long ago it was translated into Welsh and brought out in 
a Welsh newspaper. It has been dramatised and played so 
often that had the author received a small royalty from 
every representation it was long since estimated that it 
would have returned to her no less than a quarter of a 

million sterling, but she never received anything 

In the English Colonies the sale of the various works 
increased steadily year by year. In France the story has 
been dramatised and is frequently played in Paris and the 
Provinces." On its first appearance, an enthusiastic review 
in the Times produced a tremendous effect upon the 

( 183 ) 


public ; the libraries were besieged for copies, and the 
printers had to work night and day upon new editions. 
In fact the success of "East Lynne " was one of the most 
remarkable literary incidents of the century. 

The most popular of Mrs. Henry Wood's books, 
next to "East Lynne," seem to be "Mrs. Halliburton's 
Troubles" and "The Channings." These are stories of 
more entirely quiet domestic interest than " East Lynne." 
The situations are less tragical and the plots less com- 
plicated. Mrs. Halliburton's quiet endurance of the 
privations and difficulties of her life, the pathetic life and 
death of her little Janey, and the ultimate success and 
achievements of her sons, linger in the memory of the 
reader as a pleasant and homely picture of the vicissitudes 
of English life. 

There is a more humorous element in " The Channings," 
from the introduction of so many youthful characters 
the boys of the Cathedral school, notably Bywater, who 
is the incarnation of good-humoured impudence, giving 
brightness to the tone of the story. The schoolboys 
are in this, as in many other of Mrs. Wood's novels, 
particularly well drawn. They are not prigs ; they are 
anything but angels, in spite of their white surplices and 
their beautiful voices ; and their escapades and adventures in 

( 184 ) 


the old cloisters were wild enough to make the old mon s 
turn in their graves. No doubt many incidents of this 
kind were drawn from life and owe their origin to Mrs. 
Wood's acquaintance with the Choir School belonging to 
Worcester Cathedral. 

It was not the only occasion on which the manufac- 
turer's daughter turned her knowledge of Worcester to 
good account. It may be said that the majority of her 
novels are coloured, more or less, by the author's lengthy 
residence in a cathedral town. It was in 1874 that the 
first series of short stories, supposed to be narrated 
by Johnny Ludlow, began in the Argosy. Johnny 
Ludlow is a young lad belonging to a Worcestershire 
family, who is supposed to narrate incidents which have 
come under his observation at school or at home. Some 
of the stories thus produced are striking and vigorous ; 
others are of less merit, but all are distinguished by the 
strong individuality of the characters, and by the fidelity 
with which Worcester and Worcestershire life are described. 
It now seems extraordinary that there should have been the 
slightest doubt as to the authorship of these stories, for Mrs. 
Wood's peculiarities of style are observable on every page. 
Mr. Charles W. Wood, her son, remarks that " no one 
knew, or even guessed at, the authorship ; " but this is 
a rather exaggerated statement, as we have reason to 

( 185 ) 


be aware that the author was recognised at once by 
critics of discrimination. Still the general public were 
for some time deceived, imagining Johnny Ludlow 
to be a new author, whose stories they occasionally 
contrasted with those of Mrs. Henry Wood, and were 
said to prefer, probably much to the novelist's own 

The great variety of plot and incident found in the 
" Johnny Ludlow " stories is their most remarkable 
feature. The same characters are, of course, introduced 
again and again, as Johnny Ludlow moves in a circle of 
country squires, clergy, and townspeople. But it is 
astonishing with how much effect the stories of different 
lives can be placed in the same setting, and with what 
infinite changes the life of a country district can be repro- 
duced. The characters are clearly drawn and often very 
well contrasted, and no doubt Mrs. Henry Wood's 
memories of her earlier life in the district contributed 
largely to the success of this series. The first series ran 
in the Argosy and were re-printed, 1874-1880, while a 
second and third series maintained their popularity in 1 8 8 1 
and in 1885. 

It has been computed that Mrs. Wood wrote not fewer 
than from three to four hundred short stories, every one 

( 186) 


of them with a distinct and carefully worked-out plot, in 
addition to nearly forty long novels : a proof, if any were 
wanted, of the extreme fertility of her imagination and the 
facility of her pen. 

It has, however, sometimes been wondered why Mrs. 
Henry Wood's works should have attained so great a 
circulation when they are conspicuously wanting in the 
higher graces of literary style or intellectual attainment. 
The reason appears to lie chiefly in certain qualities of her 
writings which appeal in an entirely creditable way to the 
heart and mind of the British public. Mrs. Wood's 
stories, although sensational in plot, are purely domestic. 
They are concerned chiefly with the great middle-class of 
England, and she describes lower middle-class life with a zest 
and a conviction and a sincerity which we do not find in 
many modern writers, who are apt to sneer at the bourgeois 
habits and modes of thought found in so many English 
households. Now the bourgeoisie does not like to be 
sneered at. If it eats tripe and onions, and wears bright 
blue silk dresses, and rejoices in dinner-tea, it nevertheless 
considers its fashions to be as well worth serious attention 
as those of the Upper Ten. Mrs. Henry Wood never 
satirises, she only records. It is her fidelity to truth, 
to the smallest domestic detail, which has charmed and 
will continue to charm, a large circle of readers, 

( 187 ) 


who are inclined perhaps to glory in the name of 
" Philistine." 

Then there is the loftier quality of a high, if somewhat 
conventional, moral tone. Mrs. Wood's novels are em- 
phatically on the side of purity, honesty, domestic life and 
happiness. There is no book of hers which does not 
breathe this spirit, or can be said to be anything but 
harmless. Her character-drawing has merit ; but it is not 
to be wondered at, considering the number of works she 
produced, that she should repeat the same type over and 
over again with a certain monotonous effect. The sweet 
and gentle wife and mother, not too strong in character, 
but perfectly refined and conscientious, such as Maria in 
the " Shadow of Ashlydyat " ; the " perfect gentleman,'* 
noble, upright, proud, generally with blue eyes and 
straight features, like Oswald Cray and Mr. Carlisle 
and Mr. North these are characters with which we 
continually meet and of which, admirable in themselves 
as they are, we sometimes weary. But although the 
portraiture is not very subtle, it is on the whole faithful 
to life. 

Then there is that especial group of Mrs. Wood's stories 
already mentioned, into which an element of freshness, then 
somewhat unusual in fiction, is largely introduced. These 
are the stories which have much to do with boys and 

( 188 ) 


boy-life notably " The Channings," " Roland Yorke," 
" Orville College," " Mrs. Halliburton's Troubles," 
" Lady Grace," and the " Johnny Ludlow " series. These 
books, less sensational in plot than many of Mrs. Wood's 
novels, have been peculiarly successful, perhaps because 
the scenes and characters are largely drawn from real 
life. Mrs. Wood's long residence at Worcester made her 
familiar with the life of the college boys, who haunt the 
precincts of the stately old cathedral, and. she has introduced 
her knowledge of their pranks with very great effect. 
Her descriptions of the old city itself, of the streets, of 
the cloisters, of the outlying villages and byways, are 
remarkably accurate, and remind one of the use which 
Charles Dickens made, in the same way, of Rochester 
and its cathedral. 

It is really extraordinary to see how large a part of 
Mrs. Wood's work is concerned with Worcester, and how 
well she could render, when she chose, the dialogue of 
the country and the customs of its people. The reason is, 
of course, that these things are true ; that she gives us in 
these books a part of her own experience, of her own life. 
Another group of her books is interesting for a similar 
reason the novels in which she deals with business life, 
and the relations of employers to their men. Such are 
" A Life's Secret," which is the very interesting history of 

( 189) 


a strike; "The Foggy Night at OfFord," " Mrs. Halli- 
burton's Troubles," and several of the "Johnny Ludlow" 
stories, where incidents of the manufacturing districts of 
England have been introduced with very good effect, 
Mrs. Wood's own connection with glove manufacturers 
in Worcester having supplied her with ample materials for 
this kind of fiction. In "A Life's Secret" there is an 
extremely clever picture of the lower type of workman, 
and some excellent sketches of poor people and of the 
misery they suffer during the strike and subsequent lock- 

The third class of Mrs. Wood's books consists of what 
may be called works of pure imagination, with sometimes 
a slight touch of the romantic and supernatural such as 
" The Shadow of Ashlydyat," " St. Martin's Eve," " Lady 
Adelaide's Oath," " Lord Oakburn's Daughters," " George 
Canterbury's Will," etc. From the literary point of view 
these books are less worthy than the others, but they are 
particularly well constructed and ingenious. There are no 
loose ends, and Mrs. Wood's skill in weaving a plot seems 
never to have diminished to the last day of her life. But 
her earlier and perhaps simpler work had more real 
value than even the books which display such great con- 
structive skill. Mrs. Wood would possibly have taken a 
higher place amongst English novelists if she had avoided 

( 190 ) 


mere sensation, and confined herself to what she could do 
well namely, the faithful and realistic rendering of English 
middle class life. She has had, perhaps, more popularity 
than any novelist of the Victorian age ; and her popularity 
is justified by the wholesomeness and purity of her moral 
tone, the ingenuity and sustained interest of her plots, and 
the quiet truthfulness, in many cases, of her delineation of 

Her faults are those of the class for which she wrote, 
her merits are theirs also. It is no small praise to say that 
she never revelled in dangerous situations, nor justified the 
wrong-doing of any of her characters. When one con- 
siders the amount of work that she produced, and the 
nature of that work, it is amazing to reflect on the variety 
of incident and character which she managed to secure. 
Her plots often turned upon sad or even tragic events, 
but the sadness and the tragedy were natural and simple. 
There was nothing unwholesome about her books. She 
will probably be read and remembered longer than many 
writers of a far higher literary standing ; and although 
fashions, even in fiction, have greatly changed since the 
days when " East Lynne " and " The Channings " made 
their mark, there is no doubt that they hold their 
place in the affections of many an English novel-reader. 
They neither aim high nor fall low : their gentle mediocrity 


is soothing ; and they are not without those gleams of 
insight and intensity which reveal the gift of the born 
story-teller a title to which Mrs. Henry Wood may well 
lay claim. 

( 192 









three ladies here grouped together 
are similar in the purity and principle 
which breathe throughout their writings, 
though different in other respects. The 
first named wrote in the stress, and 
later in the calm, of a religious struggle ; the second in the 
peaceful, fond memory of a happy home-life ; the third 
in the pleasurable realisation of historic days long gone 
by. In each case, the life is reflected in the books. 

GOWER was born on September 23, 1812, 
being the second daughter of one of those noble 
families predestined, by their rank and condition, to a 


diplomatic course. Her father became ultimately Earl 
Granville, and when his little daughter was twelve years 
old, he received the appointment of ambassador at Paris. 
It is well known that the upper diplomatic circles form 
the creme de la creme of aristocratic society, their breed- 
ing, refinement, knowledge of man and manners, as well 
as their tact, being almost necessarily of the highest order. 
Lady Granville was noted for her admirable management 
of her receptions, and her power of steering her way 
through the motley crowd of visitors and residents pre- 
sented to her. The charm of her manner was very 
remarkable, and made a great impression on all who came 
in her way. And, giving reality and absolute sincerity to 
all this unfailing sweetness, Lady Granville was a deeply 
religious and conscientious woman, who trained her 
daughters to the highest standard of excellence, and 
taught them earnest devotion. 

Naturally, French was as familiar to the young ladies 
as English, and they became intimate with many of the 
best and purest families in France, among others, with 
that of de Ferronaye, whose memoirs, as told by one of 
them, Mrs. Augustus Craven, has touched many hearts. It 
was a happy life, in which study and accomplishment had 
their place, and gaieties did not lose the zest of youthful 
enjoyment because they were part of the duty of station. 

( 196) 


Between France and England the time of the family 
was spent, and, in 1833, both sisters were married 
Lady Georgiana on July 13, to Alexander Fullerton, 
heir to considerable estates in Gloucestershire and in 
Ireland. He had been in the Guards, but had resigned 
his commission, and become an attache to the Embassy 
at Paris, There the young couple continued, and 
there, at the end of the year, was born their only 
child, a son, whose very delicate health was a constant 

In 1841 Lord Granville ceased to be ambassador, and 
the whole family led a wandering life in the South of 
France, Italy, and Germany, interspersed with visits in 
England. In 1843 Mr. Fullerton, after long study of 
the controversy, was received into the Church of Rome. 
His wife had always greatly delighted in the deep and 
beautiful rites of that communion, in its best aspects, and 
many of her most intimate friends were devout and en- 
lightened members of that Church ; but she had been 
bred up as a faithful Anglican, and she made no change 
as long as her father lived. The tale on which her chief 
fame rests was the product of the heart-searchings that 
she underwent, at the very time when the thoughts and 
studies of good men were tending to discover neglected 
truths in the Church of England. 


Lady Georgiana said, in her old age, that she had never 
written for her own pleasure, or to find expression of feel- 
ing, but always with a view to the gains for her charities. 
She would rather have written poetry, and the first impulse 
was given by her publisher telling her that she would find 
a novel far more profitable than verses. Yet it is hardly 
possible to believe that when once embarked she did not 
write from her heart. She was a long time at work on 
her tale, which was written during sojourns at various 
continental resorts, and finally submitted to two such 
different critics as Lord Brougham and Charles Greville, 
both of whom were carried away by admiration of the 
wonderful pathos of the narrative, and the charm of de- 
scription, as well as the character-drawing. It is, however, 
curious that, while marking some lesser mistakes, neither 
advised her to avoid the difficulty which makes the entire 
plot an impossibility, namely, the omission of an inquest, 
which must have rendered the secrecy of " Ellen Middle- 
ton " out of the question. 

The story opens most effectively with the appearance 
of a worn and wasted worshipper in Salisbury Cathedral. 
One of the canons becomes interested, and with much 
difficulty induces her to confide her griefs to him in an 
autobiography, which she had intended to be read only 
after her death. The keynote of Ellen's misfortunes is a 

( 198 ) 


slight blow, given in a moment of temper, at fifteen years 
old, to her cousin, a naughty child of eight, causing a 
fatal fall into the river below. No one knows the manner 
of the disaster, except two persons whose presence was 
unknown to her : Henry Lovell, a relative of the family, 
and his old nurse, whom he swears to silence. 

This woman, however, cannot refrain from strewing 
mysterious hints in Ellen's way, and Henry Lovell obtains 
a power over the poor girl which is the bane of her life. 
His old nurse (by very unlikely means) drives him into a 
marriage with her grand-daughter, Alice, whose lovely, 
innocent, devotional character, is one of the great charms 
of the book. Ellen, almost at the same time, marries her 
cousin, Edward Middleton, whom she loves with all her 
heart ; but he is a hard man, severe in his integrity, and 
his distrust is awakened by Henry's real love for Ellen, 
and the machinations by which he tries to protect her 
from the malice of the old nurse. The net closes nearer 
and nearer round Ellen, till at last Edward finds her on 
her knees before Henry, conjuring him to let her confess 
her secret. Without giving her a hearing, Edward com- 
mands her to quit his house. A letter from Henry, 
declaring that she is his own, and that she will not escape 
him, drives her to seek concealment at Salisbury, where 
she is dying of consumption, caused by her broken heart, 


when the good canon finds her, gives her absolution, and 
brings about repentance, reconciliation, and an infinite 
peace, in which we are well content to let her pass away, 
tended by her husband, her mother-like aunt, and the 
gentle Alice. 

It is altogether a fine tragedy. The strong passions of 
Henry Lovell, the enthusiastic nature of Ellen, beaten 
back in every higher flight by recurring threats from her 
enemies, the unbending nature of Edward, and in the 
midst the exquisite sweetness of Alice, like a dove in the 
midst of the tempest, won all hearts, either by the masterly 
analysis of passion or by the beauty of delineation, while 
the religious side of the tale was warmly welcomed by 
those who did not think, like Lord Brougham, that it was 
" rank Popery." The sense of the power and beauty of 
the story is only enhanced by freshly reading it after the 
lapse of many years. 

Naturally, it was a great success, and the second book, 
" Grantley Manor," which was not published till after her 
father's death and her own secession to Rome, was floated 
up on the same tide of popularity. It contrasted two 
half-sisters, Margaret and Ginevra, one wholly English, 
the other half Italian by race and entirely so by breeding. 
Still, though Ginevra is the more fascinating, Margaret is 
her superior in straightforward truth. For, indeed, Lady 



Georgiana never fell into the too frequent evil of deprecia- 
tion and contempt of the system she had quitted, and 
remained open-minded and loving to the last. The 
excellence of style and knowledge of character as well as 
the tone of high breeding which are felt in all these writings 
recommended both this and "Ladybird," published in 
1852. Both are far above the level of the ordinary 
novel, and some readers preferred " Ladybird " to the two 

In the meantime, an estate in England at Midgham 
had become a home, and young Granville Fullerton had 
gone into the army. On the 2pth of May 1855, ne was 
cut off by a sudden illness, and his parents' life was ever 
after a maimed one, though full of submission and devo- 
tion. Externally, indeed, Lady Georgiana still showed 
her bright playfulness of manner, and keen interest in all 
around her, so that the charm of her society was very 
great, but her soul was the more entirely absorbed in 
religion and in charity, doing the most menial offices for 
the sick poor and throwing herself into the pleasures of 
little children. She questioned with herself whether she 
ought to spend time in writing instead of on her poor, 
when the former task meant earning two hundred pounds 
a year for them, but she decided on uniting the two occu- 

( 201 ) 


pations, the more readily because she found that her 
works had a good influence and helped on a religious 
serial in which she took a warm interest. 

But her motifs were now taken from history, not actual 
life. " La Comtesse de Boneval " is a really marvellous 
tour de force ', being a development from a few actual letters 
written by a poor young wife, whose reluctant husband 
left her, after ten days, for foreign service, and never 
returned. Lady Georgiana makes clear the child's hero- 
worship, the brief gleam of gladness, the brave resolve not 
to interfere with duty and honour, and the dreary deserted 
condition. All is written in French, not only pure and 
grammatical, but giving in a wonderful manner the epi- 
grammatic life and freshness of the old Parisian society. 
This is really the ablest, perhaps the most pathetic, of her 

" Ann Sherwood " is a picture of the sufferings of the 
Romanists in Elizabethan times, " A Stormy Life " is the 
narrative of a companion of Margaret of Anjou both 
showing too much of the author's bias. " Too Strange 
not to be True " is founded on a very curious story, dis- 
interred by Lord Dover, purporting that the unhappy 
German wife of the ferociously insane son of Peter the 
Great, at the point of death from his brutality, was 
smuggled away by her servants, with the help of Countess 

(202 ) 


Konigsmark, the mother of Marshal Saxe, while a false 
funeral took place. She was conveyed to the French 
Settlements in Louisiana, and there, after hearing that the 
Czarowitz was dead, she married a French gentleman, the 
Chevalier d'Auban. Here, in these days of one-volume 
tales, the story might well have ended, but Lady Georgiana 
pursues the history through the latter days of the princess, 
after she had returned to Europe and had been bereaved 
of her husband and her daughter. She lived at Brussels, 
and again met Marshal Saxe in her extreme old age. The 
figures of the Chevalier, and the sweet daughter, Mina, 
are very winning and graceful, and there are some most 
interesting descriptions of the Jesuit missions to the Red 
Indians ; but, as a whole, the book had better have closed 
with the marriage with d'Auban. 

There is little more to say of Lady Georgiana's life. 
It was always affectionate, cheerful and unselfish, and it 
became increasingly devout as she grew older. After a 
long illness, she died at Bournemouth, on the ipth of 
January 1885, remembered fondly by many, and honoured 
by all who knew her saintly life. As to literary fame, she 
may be described as having written one first-rate book 
and a number fairly above the average. 

( 203 ) 


ABOUT the same time as " Ellen Middleton " ap- 
peared, a novel was making its way rather by 
force of affectionate family portraiture than by 
plot or incident. " The Valley of a Hundred Fires " is 
really and truly Mrs. Stretton's picture of her father and 
mother, and her home ; and her mother is altogether her 
heroine, while old family habits and anecdotes are given 
with only a few alterations. " The Valley of the Hundred 
Fires " has been placed by her on the borders of Wales, 
but it really was Gateshead, in Durham, quite as black 
and quite as grimy as the more southern region, inasmuch 
as no flowers would grow in the Rectory garden which, 
nevertheless, the children loved so heartily as to call it 
dear old Dingy. (It is Cinder Tip in the story.) 
Literally, they lived so as to show that 

" Love's a flower that will not die 

For lack of leafy screen ; 
And Christian hope may cheer the eye 
That ne'er saw vernal green ; " 

and that at least, in the early days of this century an 
abnormally large family was no misfortune to themselves 
or their parents. 

( 204 ) 


The real name was Collinson, and the deep goodness 
and beneficence of the father, the Reverend John Collinson, 
and the undaunted cheerfulness, motherliness, and disci- 
pline of Emily, his wife, shine throughout, not at all ideal- 
ised. The number of their children was fifteen, ten 
daughters and five sons ; and the second daughter, Julia 
Cecilia, was, as she describes herself, a tall, lank, yellow 
baby who was born on the 25th of November 1812. 
She became as the eldest daughter to the others, for there 
had always been a promise that if there were several 
girls the eldest should be adopted by her aunt, wife to a 
clergyman and childless. 

The two homes were a great contrast : the one kept in 
absolute order and great refinement, with music and flowers 
the constant delight and occupation, and the single adopted 
child trained up in all the precision of the household ; 
while the other was a house of joyous freedom, kept under 
the needful restraints of sound religious principle, discipline 
and unselfishness. The story went that when the children 
were asked how many of them there were, they answered, 
" One young lady and eight little girls." Mrs. Collinson 
used to say, that if she ever saw any signs that her " one 
young lady " was either pining for companionship, or 
growing spoilt by the position, she would recall her 
at once ; but the child was always happy and obedient, 

( 205 ) 


and pleased to impart her accomplishments to her sisters, 
who admired without jealousy. Comical adventures are 
recorded in the " Valley," such as when the whole train of 
little damsels, walking out under the convoy of Julia and 
a young nurserymaid, encountered a bull, which had lifted 
a gate on its horns. The maid thrust the baby into 
Julia's arms and ran away, while her charges retired into 
a ditch, the elder ones not much alarmed, because, as 
they said, the bull could not hurt them with the gate on 
its horns. It passed safely by them ; but the little ones 
confessed to having been dreadfully frightened by a snail in 
the ditch, "which put out its horns like a little Kerry 
cow," and it creeped and it creeped ! 

One incident in their early childhood was the rioting 
that pervaded the collieries in the years immediately fol- 
lowing the great French war. Mr. Collinson, being a 
magistrate, was called upon to accompany the dragoons in 
order to read the Riot Act. He thus left his family 
unprotected ; but the seven thousand pitmen never 
touched the Rectory, and, according to the " Valley," 
replied courteously to two of the children, who rushed 
out to the top of the Cinder Tip, begging to know 
whether they had seen " our papa " and if he was safe. 

There was another sadder episode, related also with 
much feeling, though a little altered, for it concerned the 

( 206) 


second son, not the eldest (then the only son) as described. 
A blow from a cricket ball did irreparable mischief to his 
knee, and it was suddenly decreed that amputation was 
necessary, long before the days of chloroform. The father 
was away from home, the mother sentenced not to be 
present, and the doctors consented that Julia should hold 
the patient's hand, smooth his hair, and try to tell him 
stories through the operation. It was successfully and 
bravely carried out, but the evil was not removed, and 
a few weeks later this much-loved boy was taken away. 
The circumstances, very beautiful and consoling, are given 
in the story ; and there too is told how, before sunset on 
that sad day, the ninth little daughter was given, and 
struggled hard for the vigorous life she afterwards 

The " Parson's man " said one day, when his mistress, 
for once in her life, indulged in a sigh that her garden 
could never rival that of her sister, " We've got the finer 
flowers, ma'am." 

Education was not the tyrannical care in those days 
that it is at present, and the young people obtained it 
partly through their parents, some at school, and some by 
the help of their grandmother and their aunt, but mostly 
by their own intelligence and exertions ; and the family 
income was augmented by Mr. Collinson taking pupils. 

( 207 ) 


He had a fair private income ; he had a curate, and was 
able to give a good education to his sons, one of whom 
made himself a name as Admiral Collinson, one of the 
Arctic explorers. If there were anxieties, they did not 
tell upon the children, whose memories reflect little save 

At nineteen, Julia Collinson became the wife of Walter 
de Winton, Esquire, of Maedlwch Castle, Radnorshire ; 
but after only twelve years was left a widow, with two 
sons and a daughter. Her life was devoted to making 
their home as bright and joyous as her own had been ; 
and it was only in the loneliness that ensued on the 
children going to school that her authorship commenced, 
with a child's book called " The Lonely Island." 

Later she wrote " The Valley of the Hundred Fires," 
tracing the habits, characters and the destiny of the family 
of Gateshead. The father was by this time dead, and 
extracts from his sermons and diary appear; but "Emily," 
the mother, is the real heroine of the whole narrative, and 
though there is so little plot that it hardly deserves the 
name of novel, there is a wonderful charm in the delinea- 
tion. There are a few descriptions of manners and of 
dresses which are amusing ; nor must we omit the portrait 
of the grandmother, Mrs. King (called Reine in the 



book), daughter to the governor of one of the colonies in 
America before the separation, with the manners of her 
former princess-ship and something of the despotism. 
She was a friend of Hannah More, a beneficent builder 
of schools, and produced a revolt by herself cutting the 
hair of all the scholars ! 

" The Queen of the County " relates Mrs. de Winton's 
experiences of elections among " the stormy hills of Wales " 
in the early days of the Reform Bill. " Margaret and 
her Bridesmaids" draws more upon invention. Each 
of two young girls, through the injudiciousness of her 
parents, has married the wrong person. Margaret acqui- 
esces too much in her husband's indolence, and when 
herself roused to the perception of duty tries in vain to 
recover lost ground. Her friend Lottie is a high-spirited 
little soul, determined to do her duty as a wife, but not to 
pretend the love she does not feel, till it has been won. 
She is rather provokingly and unnaturally perfect, espe- 
cially as she is only seventeen, always knowing when to 
obey up to the letter in a manner which must so have 
" riled " her husband that his persistent love is hardly 
credible, though it shows itself in attempts to isolate her, 
so that she shall have no resource save himself. His 
endeavours bring upon him heart complaint, whereof he 
dies, under her tender care, though she never affects to be 

( 209 ) o 


grief-stricken. Only, as Margaret has lost her husband 
about the same time in a yachting accident, Lottie refuses 
to listen to the addresses of a former lover of Margaret's 
until she is convinced both that her friend will never form 
another attachment and that the original passion she had 
inspired is absolutely dead. There is a good deal of 
character in the story, though overdrawn, and it has sur- 
vived so as to call for a new edition. 

To her children, as well as to her many nephews and 
nieces, Mrs. de Winton was a charming companion- 
mother, always fresh, young, vigorous and as full of play- 
fulness as the Julia who led the band of little sisters. 
When all her children were grown up, in 1858, she 
married Richard William Stretton, who had been their 
guardian and an intimate friend of the family, by whom 
he was much beloved. He died in 1868, and Mrs. 
Stretton followed him on the lyth of July 1878, leaving 
behind her one of the brightest of memories. Her books 
are emphatically herself in their liveliness, their tenderness, 
their fond enshrining of the past. 



THE third of our group had an even more eventless 
life, and, instead of letting her imagination dwell 
on her own past, she studied the women of past 
history, and realised what they must have felt and thought 
in the scenes where most of them figure only as names. 
Her father belonged to the higher professional class, and 
lived with his large family, of whom Anne was the eldest, at 
the Paragon, Chelsea, where at eight years old Anne listened 
to the crash of the carriages, when the Bourbons were on 
their return to France, and witnessed the ecstasy of London 
on the visit of the Allied Sovereigns after Waterloo. 

With the help of masters for special accomplishments, 
the daughters had the best of educations, namely, the 
stimulating influence of their father, an accomplished man, 
for whom they practised their music, wrote their themes, 
went out star-gazing, and studied astronomy, listening 
with delight to his admirable reading of Scott or 
Shakspere ; they also had the absolute freedom of an 
extensive library. Anne Manning was pronounced to 
be no genius, but a most diligent, industrious girl; as 
indeed was proved, for, becoming convinced during the 
brief reign of a good governess of the duty of solid 

(211 ) 


reading, she voluntarily read from the age of fourteen ten 
pages a day of real, if dry, history, persevering year after 
year, and thus unconsciously laying in a good foundation 
for her future work. 

For health's sake the family went into the country, 
where they became tenants of a tumble-down Cis- 
tercian priory on the borders of Salisbury Plain. The 
numerous girls, with their mother and governess, lived 
there constantly ; the father coming down as often as 
his business would allow, almost always by the Saturday 
coach, to spend Sunday. Here the first literary venture 
was made, when Anne was about seventeen. It was a 
short dialogue on a serious subject, which a young aunt 
managed to get accepted in St. Paul's Churchyard ; and, 
as Miss Manning candidly avows, was so well advertised 
privately by her fond grandfather that such were the 
palmy days of authorship five hundred copies brought 
her in a profit of 60. 

The story, " Village Belles," was completed at Tenby, 
the Priory having become too ruinous for habitation. It 
was put into the hands of Baldwin and Cradock, and no 
proofs were sent till the whole of the two first volumes 
came together. It was introduced to Mr. Manning thus, 
"Papa, I don't know what you will say, but I have been 
writing a story." 

(212 ) 


" Ho ! ho ! ho ! " was his first answer, but he after- 
wards said, " My dear, I like your story very much " 
and never again referred to it. 

Her own after judgment was that it was an " incurably 
young, inexperienced tale which, after all top dressing, 
remained but daisied meadow grass." 

Sorrow came in to fill the minds of the family (to the 
exclusion of mere fictitious interests) in the deaths within 
short intervals of two of the sisters, and their mother's 
invalidism, ending, within a few years, in her death. 
After this the winters were spent by the three sisters at 
the Paragon, the summers in a cottage at Penshurst, their 
father coming down for the Sunday. Anne Manning, 
meantime, was pursuing studies in painting and was an 
excellent amateur artist. She was also a botanist, and this 
has much to do with her accuracy in writing details of 
country life and habits. 

Dates, alas ! are wanting both in her own " Passages in 
the life of an Authoress," and in the recollections of her 
kind and affectionate biographer, Mrs. Batty ; but it 
seems to have been in 1849 l ^ at her "Maiden and 
Married Life of Mary Powell," at first written to amuse 
herself and her sisters, and afterwards sent to assist a brother 
in Australia, who was starting a local magazine, was given 



to the editor of " Sharpe's Magazine," then in its early 

It made her fame. Nobody had particularly thought 
of Milton in his domestic capacity before, except as having 
advocated divorce and made his daughters read Greek to 
him, and it was reserved for Miss Manning to make the 
wife paint her own portrait as the lively, eager girl, 
happy in country freedom with her brothers, important 
with her " housewife-skep " in her mother's absence, 
pleased with dress, but touched by the beautiful coun- 
tenance and the sudden admiration of the strange visitor. 
There proves to be a debt which makes her marriage with 
him convenient to the father, and it is carried out in spite 
of the mother's strong objections, alike to the suitor's age, 
his politics, and his puritanism. We go along with the 
country girl in her disappointment and sense of dreariness 
in her unaccustomed London life, in the staid and serious 
household, where she sorely misses her brothers and is 
soon condemned for love of junketing. Then come her 
joy in her visit to her home at Forest Hill and her 
reluctance to return, fortified by her father's disapproval of 
Milton's opinions. By the time that a visit to some wise 
relatives has brought her to a better mind and to yearning 
after her husband, Milton has taken offence and has put 
forth his plea for divorce, which so angers her father 

( 214 ) 


that he will not hear of her return ; nor does she go back 
till after many months and the surrender of Oxford, when 
on her own impulse she hurries to London, meets her 
husband unexpectedly, and when he " looks down on 
her with goodness and sweetness 'tis like the sun's gleams 
shining after rain." 

There Mary Powell's journal ends. It is written in 
beautiful English, such as might well have been contem- 
porary and could only have been acquired by familiarity 
with the writers of the period, flowing along without 
effort or pedantry so as to be a really successful imitation. 
It crept into separate publication anonymously, and 
achieved a great success, being in fact the first of many 
books imitating the like style of autobiography ; nor has it 
ever been allowed to drop into oblivion. It was followed 
up after a time by " Deborah's Diary," being the record 
supposed to be kept by Milton's one faithful and dutiful 
daughter, who lived with him in his old age. 

The " fascination of the old style," as she calls it, Jed 
her to deal with "The Household of Sir Thomas More " 
in the person of his noble daughter Margaret. There 
was a good deal more genuine material here, and she has 
woven in the fragments from Erasmus and others with 
great ingenuity, and imitated the style of the fifteenth 
century as well as she had done that of the seventeenth. 

(215 ) 


From that time Anne Manning's books had a ready 
sale, though still her name did not appear. " Cherry and 
Violet " was a tale of the plague of London ; " Edward 
Osborne " told of the apprentice who leapt from the window 
of a house on London Bridge to save his master's daughter 
from drowning ; " The Old Chelsea Bunhouse " described 
the haunts with which Miss Manning was familiar ; and 
there were other stories of country life, such as the 
" Ladies of Bever Hollow." All were written in the 
purest style, such as could only be attained by one to 
whom slipshod writing was impossible, and to whom it 
was equally impossible not to write what was gentle, 
charitable, and full of religious principle. 

Miss Manning was a kind friend and charming letter- 
writer. Her health began to fail in 1854, when she was 
writing for a magazine " Some Passages in the Life of an 
Authoress," never completed. She continued to be an 
invalid under the care of her sisters till her death on the 
1 4th of September, 1879. 




,N the small circle of women writers who 
shed literary lustre on the early years of 
her present Majesty's reign was Dinah 
Mulock, best known to the present 
novel-reading generation as the author 
of "John Halifax, Gentleman." 

To appreciate fully the position that we claim for her, 
it will be necessary to turn back to the period when she 
began to write, and see who were her contemporaries. 

Pre-eminent among these stand out three names 
names immortal on the roll of fame for so long as taste 
and critical judgment last ; the books of Charlotte Bronte, 
Elizabeth Gaskell, and George Eliot must be regarded 
as masterpieces of fiction. We, their humble followers, 
bow before their genius which time, fashion, or progress 
cannot dim or take from; therefore, to have achieved 
success and to have made an abiding fame while such 


luminaries were shining in the firmament was a distinction 
to be justly proud of the result of talent, delicacy of 
handling, and grasp of character that were only a little 
below genius. 

How vast the difference that one small step would have 
made it is not our purpose to show ; our intention is 
rather to take a general view of the work of a writer 
who now that close upon half a century has passed, 
since, in 1 849, timidly and without giving her name, she 
launched on the world her first novel, " The Ogilvies " 
has never lost her hold upon the reading public of Great 
Britain, the Colonies, America, or wherever the English 
tongue is spoken. 

Dinah Mulock was born in 1826 at Stoke-upon-Trent 
in Staffordshire. Her disposition towards literature seems 
to have been inherited from her father, who was connected 
but in no very prosperous way with letters, and 
was known to Byron and to the poet Moore, whose fellow 
countryman he was. At the time of his daughter's birth, 
he was acting as spiritual minister to a small congregation 
who were followers of what were then generally thought 
to be his advanced and unorthodox opinions. Few who 
forsake the established road for their own peculiar rut find 
that prosperity bears them company, and the fortunes of 

( 220 ) 


the Mulock family during the embryo authoress's early 
years were unsettled and unsatisfactory. We are all given 
to rebel against the clouds which overcast our youth, 
seldom realising that to this pinch of adverse circumstance 
we owe much of that power to depict the sorrows, joys, 
and perplexities of life in the setting forth of which Miss 
Mulock became so eminently successful. 

Before she had reached the age of twenty, she left her 
home and came to London, " feeling conscious," we are 
told, " of a vocation for authorship." 

Now, in the present day, when novel writing has become 
an employment, profession, distraction, I might almost say 
a curse, there would be nothing remarkable in such a 
conviction ; but in 1846 the mania of desiring to see their 
names in print had not seized upon our sex ; therefore the 
divine afflatus must have been very strong which sent a 
timid attractive girl, hampered by all the prejudices of her 
day, to try the fortunes of her pen in London. 

That she had not been deceived in her quality is shown 
by the success of "The Ogilvies," which not only was 
popular with novel readers, but raised hopes that the writer 
possessed great dramatic power, to be more ably used when 
experience had corrected the crude faults of a first book. 
The story, based on passionate first love, is written with 
the enthusiasm and vigour which comes pleasantly from a 

(221 ) 


young hand, and makes us disposed to view leniently the 
superabundance of sentiment which, under other circum- 
stances, we should censure. The death of the boy, Leigh 
Pennythorne, is rendered with a pathos which calls for 
admiration, and we are not surprised to see it ranked 
with the death of little Paul Dombey ; while that of 
Katherine Lynedon, spoken of at the time as possessing 
great dramatic force, strikes us now as melodramatic and 

Encouraged by having found favour with the public, 
Miss Mulock followed up her success with " Olive " 
(1850), "Agatha's Husband" (1852), "Head of the 
Family" (1854). Her literary reputation was now estab- 
lished ; and, though her magnum opus, " John Halifax," 
had yet to be written, it may be as well to consider some 
of the merits and weaknesses of her style, her treatment 
of her subjects, and her delineation of character. 

In a short sketch, such as this, it is not possible to give 
a synopsis of the plots of the various books, or even, in 
most cases, extracts from them. We have to confine 
ourselves to the endeavour to realise the effect they 
produced at the time they were written the estimation 
they were then held in, and to see what position they now 
command among the novels of the present day. 

( 222 ) 


Perhaps it will be only fair towards the faults we are 
about to find that we should recall the forward strides 
made by women in the past forty years. We who can 
recall the faulty teaching and the many prejudices of that 
date must often question if women now are sufficiently 
sensible of the advantages they possess. 

A reviewer of Miss Mulock's novels, writing in 1866, 
says : " It is one of the chief misfortunes of almost every 
female novelist that her own education, as a woman, has 
been wretchedly defective ; " and further on he adds : " the 
education of the majority of women leaves them not only 
without information, but without intelligent interest in 
any subject that does not immediately concern them." 
He then points out that it seems impossible for women 
to describe a man as he is that they see him only from 
the outside. " They are ignorant of the machinery which 
sets the thing going, and the principle of the machinery ; 
and so they discreetly tell you what kind of case it has, 
but nothing more." 

Now, when the time has come that young men and 
maidens have other interests in common than those which 
spring out of flirtation and love-making, we may feel quite 
sure that each sex will get a better insight and have a 
juster knowledge of the other. The general taste for 
exercise, and the development of activity and health of 

( 223 ) 


body, has killed sentimentality and the heroines of the 
Rosa Matilda school. Not that these were the heroines 
that Miss Mulock created. Her ideals are to a certain 
extent made of flesh and blood, although they are not 
always living figures. Even at the period when we are 
told that "In the world of letters few authors have so dis- 
tinct and at the same time so eminent a position as this 
iady," her judicious admirers find fault with her overflow 
of feminine sentimentality, which never permitted her 
ideal sufferers to conquer their griefs so far that they could 
take a practical and healthy interest in the affairs of the 
living world. "They live only 'for others'" says one 
critic, " ' the beautiful light ' is always in their faces ; their 
hands * work spasmodically ' at least once in every two or 
three chapters." 

Regarding the cramping influence of the prejudices 
which hedged in women in Miss Mulock's day, is it not 
very possible that this flaw in the portraiture of her 
own sex may have been due to the narrowness of her 
training rather than to any deficiency in her talent? 
Nothing more plainly shows how warped her judgment 
had become than many of the passages in "A Woman's 
Thoughts about Women." This is a book with much 
sound argument in it, and full of the desire to rectify the 
feminine grievances to which she was not blind. But 

( 224 ) 


when we come to a passage like the following, in which she 
asserts that all who " preach up lovely uselessness, fasci- 
nating frivolity, delicious helplessness, not only insult 
womanhood but her Creator," we ask how is this to be 
reconciled with the text which comes immediately after: 
" Equally blasphemous, and perhaps even more harmful, is 
the outcry about the equality of the sexes ; the frantic 
attempt to force women, many of whom are either ignorant 
of, or unequal for, their own duties, into the position and 
duties of men. A pretty state of matters would ensue ! 
Who that ever listened for two hours to the verbose con- 
fused inanities of a ladies' committee would immediately go 
and give his vote for a female House of Commons ? or 
who, on receipt of a lady's letter of business I speak of 
the average would henceforth desire to have our courts 
of justice stocked with matronly lawyers and our colleges 
thronged by * sweet girl graduates with their golden 
hair ' ? As for finance, if you pause to consider the extreme 
difficulty there always is in balancing Mrs. Smith's house- 
keeping book, or Miss Smith's quarterly allowance, I think, 
my dear Paternal Smith, you need not be much afraid lest 
this loud acclaim for women's rights should ever end in 
pushing you from your counting house, college, or else- 

On this showing, such crass ignorance is to be accepted 

( 225 ) P 


in women, and is to be taken as a matter of course and as 
natural to them as cutting their teeth or having measles 
or chicken pox. It is of little use to advocate " Self 
Dependence," " Female Professions," " Female Handi- 
crafts," for those who cannot write a business letter or 
do a simple sum. Miss Mulock may have had, indeed I 
fear had, much reason to cast these reproaches at her sex. 
But that she did not feel their shame, and urge her sister 
women to strive for an education more worthy of intelli- 
gent beings, proves to me how deeply her mental gifts 
suffered from the cramping influence of the time in which 
she lived. Could she have enjoyed some of the advantages 
which spring out of the greater freedom of thought and 
action permitted in the present day, how greatly it would 
have enlarged her mental vision ! Her male creations 
would have been cast in a more vigorous man-like mould. 
Her feminine ideals would no longer be incarnations of 
sentiment but living vital creatures. Where the mind is 
stunted the mental insight must be limited ; and strong 
as were Miss Mulock's talents, they were never able to 
burst the bonds which for generations had kept the greater 
number of women in intellectual imprisonment. 

In "Olive," the novel which immediately followed 
<{ The Ogilvies," Miss Mulock ventured on a very fresh 

( 226 ) 


and interesting subject. Olive, the heroine of the story, 
is a deformed girl, " a puir bit crippled lassie " with a 
crooked spine. To make this centre-character attractive 
and all-absorbing was a worthy effort on the part of an 
author, and we take up the book and settle ourselves to 
see how it will be done. Unfortunately, before long, the 
courage which conceived the personal blemish gives way, 
and, succumbing to the difficulties of making mind triumph 
over beauty, Miss Mulock commits the artistic error of 
trying to impress upon you that, notwithstanding the 
pages of lamentations over this deformity and the attack 
made on your sympathy, the disfigurement was so slight 
that no person could possibly have noticed it. Naturally 
this puts the heroine in a more commonplace position ; 
and as several minor plots are introduced which Olive 
only serves to string together, much of the interest in her 
with which we started is frittered away. 

Finally, Olive marries and restores the faith of a re- 
ligious sceptic. And here it is curious to read the objections 
raised at the time against bringing into fiction " subjects 
most vital to the human soul." One critic, after describing 
the hero he is willing to accept and, much to our regret, 
space prevents us showing this terrible model that we have 
escaped says : " But a hero whose intellectual crotchets, 
or delusions, or blindness, are to be entrusted for repairs 

(227 ) 


to a fascinating heroine a mental perplexity which is to 
be solved in fiction a deep-rooted scepticism which is to 
lose its vis vita according to the artistic demands of a tale 
of the fancy, this we cannot away with. Sceptics are not 
plastic and obliging. Would to Heaven scepticism could 
be cured by bright eyes, dulcet tones, and a novelist's art 
of love!" 

Criticisms in this tone make more plain to us the 
difficulties which novelists in the fifties had to grapple 
with. So many subjects were tabooed, so many natural 
impulses restrained, while the bogey Propriety was flaunted 
to scare the most innocent actions, so that nothing short of 
genius could ride safely over such narrow-minded bigotry. 
That an extreme licence should follow before the happy 
mean could be arrived at, was a safe prediction ; but 
many of the writers in that day must have had a hard task 
while trying to clip the wings of their soaring imaginations, 
so that they might not rise above the level marked out by 
Mrs. Grundy. 

Now, all these social dogmas must have had an immense 
influence on the receptive mind of Dinah Mulock, and 
readers must not lose sight of this fact should they be 
inclined to call some of her books didactic, formal, or old- 
fashioned. She never posed as a brilliant, impassioned 
writer of stories which tell of wrongs, or crimes, or great 

(228 ) 


mental conflicts. In her novels there is no dissection 
of character, no probing into the moral struggles of the 
human creature. Her teaching holds high the standard 
of duty, patience, and the unquestioning belief that all 
that God wills is well. 

The enormous hold which, ever since its first appear- 
ance in 1857, "John Halifax" has had on a great portion 
of the English-speaking public, is due to the lofty elevation 
of its tone, its unsullied purity and goodness, combined 
with a great freshness, which appeals to the young and 
seems to put them and the book in touch with each other. 
Those who read the story years ago still recollect the 
charm it had for them ; and, in a degree, the same fascina- 
tion exists for youthful readers at the present time. The 
theme is noble, setting forth the high moral truth of " the 
nobility of man as man," and into its development the 
author threw all her powers. 

From the opening sentence, where you are at once 
introduced to the ragged, muddy boy and the sickly 
helpless lad, you feel that these two will prove to be the 
leading actors in the story probably made contrasts of, and 
perhaps played one against the other. This idea, however, 
is speedily dispelled. Possibly from a dread of failing 
where it is thought so many women do fail in the 

( 229 ) 


portrayal of the unseen sides of character and the infinite 
subtleties it gives rise to Miss Mulock, wisely we think, 
decided to place her story in the autobiographic form ; and 
the gentle refined invalid, Phineas Fletcher, is made the 
deus ex machina to unravel to the reader not only the 
romance of his friend John Halifax's history, but also the 
working of his noble chivalrous nature. Few situations 
are more pathetically drawn than the attitude of these two 
lads, with its exchange of dependence and hero-worship on 
the one side, and of tender, helpful compassion on the 
other. A true David and Jonathan we see them, full of 
the trust, confidence, and sincerity young unsullied natures 
are capable of. And the story of the friendship, as it 
grows towards maturity, is equally well told. 

His energy and his indomitable faith in himself make 
a prosperous man of the penniless boy. We follow him 
on from driving the skin cart to being master of the tan- 
yard ; and throughout all his temptations, struggles, 
success, he maintains the same honest, fearless spirit. 

It seems natural that when to such an exalted nature 
love comes it should come encircled with romance, and 
the wooing of Ursula March, as told by sensitive, 
affectionate Phineas Fletcher, is very prettily described. 

For the reason that Ursula is an heiress with a host of 
aristocratic relations, John believes his love for her to be 

( 230 ) 


hopeless. He struggles against this overwhelming passion 
for some time, until the continuous strain throws him into 
a fever of which his friend fears he will die. In this 
agonising strait Phineas is inspired with the idea of 
confessing the truth to Ursula ; and, after a touching 
scene in which this is most delicately done, she determines 
to go to the man who is dying of love for her. In the 
interview, which is too long to be given in its entirety and 
too good to be curtailed, John tells her that owing to a 
great sorrow that has come to him he must leave Norton 
Bury and go to America. She begs to be told the reason, 
and without an actual avowal he lets her see his secret. 

" John, stay ! ' 

" It was but a low, faint cry, like that of a little bird. 
But he heard it felt it. In the silence of the dark she 
crept up to him, like a young bird to its mate, and he 
took her into the shelter of his Jove for evermore. At 
once all was made clear between them, for whatever the 
world might say they were in the sight of heaven equal, 
and she received as much as she gave." 

When lights are brought into the room John takes 
Ursula's hand and leads her to where old Abel Fletcher is 

" His head was erect, his eyes shining, his whole aspect 
that of a man who declares before all the world, 'This is 

( 231 ) 


my own.' * Eh ? ' said my father, gazing at them from 
over his spectacles. 

" John spoke brokenly, ' We have no parents, neither 
she nor I. Bless her for she has promised to be my 

" And the old man blessed her with tears." 

Abel Fletcher, grave, stern, uncompromising as 
members of the Society of Friends in that day were wont 
to be is a clever study. He will not yield readily to the 
influence of John, and when he does give way it is by slow 
degrees. Yet one of the most winning traits in this 
somewhat over-perfect young man, given at times to 
impress his moral obligations rather brusquely, is the 
deference he pays to his former master and the filial 
affection he keeps for him ; and the author manages in 
these scenes to put the two into excellent touch with each 
other so that, through John's attitude to him, the hard 
close-fisted old tanner is transfigured into a patriarch who 
fitly gives his blessing to the bride, and later on, in a scene 
of great pathos, bestows his last benediction on her blind 
baby daughter. 

It was said at the time of its publication, and it is 
still said, that in " John Halifax " Miss Mulock reached 
the summit of her power. That she felt this herself 
seems to be shown by her adopting the title of " Author 



of ' John Halifax.' ' Its publication was in many ways a 
new departure. It was the first of that numerous series 
of books brought out by her (after) life-long friend, 
Mr. Blackett. Those were not the days when " twenty 
thousand copies were exhausted before a word of this 
novel was written ; " yet the book had a remarkable and 
legitimate success. Of its merits a notable critic said, " If 
we could erase half a dozen sentences from this book it 
would stand as one of the most beautiful stories in the 
English language, conveying one of the highest moral 
truths." And that these few sentences, while in no way 
affecting the actual beauty of the story, are a blot and 
an " artistic and intellectual blunder " the more to be 
deplored in a book whose moral teaching throughout is so 
excellent we must confess. " The ragged boy, with his 
open, honest face, as he asks the respectable Quaker for 
work, is no beggar ; the lad who drives the cart of 
dangling skins is not inferior to Phineas Fletcher, who 
watches for him from his father's windows and longs 
for his companionship ; and the tanner the honest and 
good man who marries Ursula March, a lady born is her 
equal. Having shown that men in the sight of God are 
equal and that therefore all good men must be equal upon 
earth, what need that John should have in his keeping a 
little Greek Testament which he views as a most precious 

( 233 ) 


possession because in it is written 'Guy Halifax, Gentle- 
man ' ? Are we to conclude that all his moral excellence 
and intellectual worth were derived from ladies and gentle- 
men who had been his remote ancestors, but with whom 
he had never been in personal contact at all, since at 
twelve years old he was a ragged orphan, unable to read 
and write ? " 

Miss Mulock could not have meant this, and yet she 
lays herself open to the charge, a kind of echo of which 
is heard in the adding to her good plain title of " John 
Halifax " the unnecessary tag, " Gentleman." 

Her literary career being now fully established, Miss 
Mulock decided on taking up her permanent residence in 
London ; and, about this time, she went to live at 
Wildwood, a cottage at North End, Hampstead. The 
now ubiquitous interviewer that benefactor of those who 
want to know had not then been called into being, so there 
is no record at hand to tell how the rooms were furnished, 
what the mistress wore, her likes, dislikes, and the various 
idiosyncrasies she displayed in half an hour's conversation. 
Such being the case we must be content with the simple 
fact that, charming by the candid sincerity of her disposi- 
tion, and the many personal attractions that when young 
she possessed, Miss Mulock speedily drew around her a 



circle of friends whom, with rare fidelity, she ever after 

"John Halifax" was followed in 1859 by "A Life for 
a Life," a novel which, although it never obtained the 
same popularity, fully maintains the position won by its 
precursor. In it Miss Mulock breaks new ground both 
as to plot and the manner in which she relates the story, 
which is told by the hero and heroine in the form of a 
journal kept by each, so that we have alternate chapters of 
his story and her story. This form of construction is 
peculiar and occasionally presents to the reader some 
difficulties, but as a medium to convey opinions and con- 
victions which the author desires to demonstrate it is 
happily conceived. The motive of the book is tragedy, 
the keynote murder that is murder according to the 
exigencies of the story-teller. Max Urquhart, the hero 
who at the time the tale opens is a staid, serious man of 
forty is the perpetrator of this crime, committed at the 
age of nineteen in a fit of intoxication on a man named 
Johnston. Journeying from London to join a brother 
who is dying of consumption at Pau, Urquhart, through 
a mistake, finds that instead of being at Southampton he 
is at Salisbury. On the way he has made the acquaint- 
ance of the pseudo-driver of the coach, a flashy, dis- 



sipated fellow, who by a tissue of lies induces the raw 
Scotch lad to remain for some hours at the inn and then 
be driven on by him to where they will overtake the 
right coach. By this man young Urquhart is made 
drunk, and when as a butt he no longer amuses the 
sottish company they brutally turn him into the street. 
Later on he is aroused by the cut of a whip. It is his 
coach companion who pacifies him with the assurance that 
if he gets into the gig he will be speedily taken by him to 
Southampton. The lad consents, he is helped up and 
soon falls fast asleep to be awakened in the middle of 
Salisbury plain by his savage tormentor, who pushes him 
out and tells him to take up his lodging at Stonehenge. 
The poor youth, with just sufficient sense left in him to 
feel that he is being kept from his dying brother, implores 
the ruffian to take him on his way. " To the devil with 
your brother," is the answer, and in spite of all entreaties, 
Johnston whips up his horse, and is on the point of start- 
ing, when Urquhart, maddened by rage, catches him 
unawares, drags him from the gig, and, flings him 
violently on the ground, where his head strikes against 
one of the great stones, and he is killed. 

How Urquhart manages to reach Southampton, and to 
get to Pau, he never knows ; but when he does arrive at 
his destination, it is to find his brother dead and buried, 



and the fit of mania which follows is set down to the 
shock this gives him. At the end of a year, hear- 
ing that Johnston's death is attributed to accident, and 
being under the conviction that if the truth were told he 
would be hanged, he resolves to lock the secret in his own 
breast until the hour of his death draws near, and, in the 
meanwhile, to expiate his offence by living for others, 
and for the good he can do to them. He becomes an 
army doctor, goes through the Crimean War, and, when 
we are introduced to him, is doing duty at Aldershot, 
near where, at a ball, he meets the inevitable she, 
Theodora Johnston. If the hero is drawn dark, thin, 
with a spare, wiry figure, and a formal, serious air, the 
portrait of the heroine, with her undeniably ordinary 
figure, and a face neither pretty nor young, forms a fitting 
pendant to it. These two are irresistibly drawn towards 
each other, and, notwithstanding that the lady bears 
the fatal name of Johnston, they soon become engaged. 
Dr. Urquhart's tender conscience then demands that 
the tragic misdeed of his life shall be confessed to the 
woman he is about to make his wife, and, in a letter, 
he confides to her the sad history, adding, as post- 
script, some few days later : " I have found his grave 
at last." Here follows the inscription, which proves the 
dead man to have been the son of Theodora's father, 



her own half-brother, Henry Johnston. " Farewell, 
Theodora ! " 

It is impossible here to give more than this crude out- 
line of the plot of a book in which, far beyond the story 
she means to tell, the author has her own individual 
opinions and convictions to impress on us. The temptation 
to earnest writers to try, through their writings, to make 
converts of their readers, is often very strong, and in this 
instance Miss Mulock undoubtedly gave way to it. She 
had not only a vehement abhorrence of capital punishment, 
but, to quote from her book, she maintained " that any 
sin, however great, being repented of and forsaken, is, by 
God, and ought to be by man, altogether pardoned, 
blotted out, and done away." 

As was at the time said, " Her argument demands a 
stronger case than she has dared to put ; " but so ably 
are the incidents strung together, so touchingly are the 
relative positions of these suffering souls described, that 
their sorrows, affection, and fidelity become convincing ; 
and, full of the pathetic tragedy of the situation, we are 
oblivious of the fact that what is called a crime is nothing 
greater than an accident, a misfortune, and that for 
murder we must substitute manslaughter. 

From the date of the appearance of " John Halifax,'* 



Miss Mulock's pen was never long idle. Composition 
was not a labour to her ; and friends who knew her at that 
time, describe her as walking about the room, or bending 
over on a low stool, rapidly setting down her thoughts in 
that small delicate writing which gave no trouble to read. 
She had beautiful hands ; a tall, slim, graceful figure ; 
and, with the exception of her mouth, which was too 
small, and not well shaped, delicate and regular features. 
These attractions, heightened by a charming frankness of 
manner, made her very popular. Her poetic vein was 
strong. She published several volumes of poems, and 
many of her verses, when set to music, became much 
admired as songs. 

Following "A Life for a Life," came, in somewhat 
quick succession, " Studies from Life," " Mistress and 
Maid," "Christian's Mistake," "A Noble Life," "Two 
Marriages." These in a period of ten years. 

As may be supposed, they are not all of equal merit ; 
neither does any one of them touch the higher level of 
the author's earlier books. Still, there is good honest 
work in each, and the same exalted purity of tone, while 
much of the sentimentality complained of before is wholly 
omitted or greatly toned down. 

" Mistress and Maid " is one of those good, quiet 
stories, full of homely truths and pleasant teaching, in 

( 239 ) 


which is shown the writer's quick sympathy with the 
working class. The maid, Elizabeth, is as full of charac- 
ter and of refined feelings as is Hilary Leaf, the mistress, 
and her one romance of love, although not so fortu- 
nate, has quite as much interest. The opening scenes, in 
which these two first meet, are excellent, giving us, all 
through their early association, touches of humour a 
quality which, in Miss Mulock's writings, is very rare. 

The picture of the rather tall, awkward, strongly 
built girl of fifteen, hanging behind her anxious-eyed, sad- 
voiced mother, who pushes her into notice with " I've 
brought my daughter, ma'am, as you sent word you'd 
take on trial. 'Tis her first place, and her'll be awk'ard 
like at first. Hold up your head, Elizabeth," is drawn 
with that graphic fidelity which gives interest to the most 
commonplace things in life. The awkward girl proves to 
be a rough diamond, capable of much polish, and by the 
kindly teaching of Hilary Leaf she is turned into an 
admirable, praiseworthy woman. One has to resist the 
temptation to say more about Hilary Leaf, an energetic, 
intelligent girl who, when she cannot make a living for 
herself and her sister by school- keeping, tries, and succeeds, 
by shop-keeping. The description of the struggles of 
these two poor ladies to pay their way, and keep up a 
respectable appearance, comes sympathetically from the 

( 240 ) 


pen of a woman whose heart was ever open to similar 
distresses in real life. To her praise be it remembered 
that to any tale of true suffering Dinah Mulock never 
closed her ears or her hand. 

Her next two novels, " Christian's Mistake " and " A 
Noble Life," in our opinion, fall far short of any of her 
previous efforts. Yet they were both received with much 
popular favour, particularly the former, which called forth 
warm praise from reviewers. 

For us not one of the characters has a spark of vitality. 
Christian is not even the shadow of a young girl made of 
flesh and blood. Her forbearance and self-abnegation are 
maddening. Her husband, the " Master of St. Bede's,'* 
twenty-five years her senior and a widower, is nothing but 
a lay figure, meant to represent a good man, but utterly 
devoid of intellect and, one would think, of feeling, since 
he permits his young bride, possessed of all the seraphic 
virtues, to be snubbed and brow-beaten by two vulgar 
shrewish sisters-in-law. There is no interest of plot or 
depicting of character, and the children are as unreal and 
offensive as their grown up relations. In " A Noble Life," 
also, there is nothing which stirs our sympathies. Even 
the personal deformities of the unfortunate little earl fail 
to touch us, and, when grown up and invested with every 

( 241 ) Q 


meritorious attribute, he is more like the " example " of a 
moral tale than a being of human nature. 

As has been said, the portrayal of men is not this 
author's strong point. " Her sympathy with a good man 
is complete on the moral, but defective on the intellectual 
side " a serious deficiency in one who has to create beings 
in whom we are asked to take a sustained interest. 

That she could rise superior to this defect is shown in 
" The Woman's Kingdom." In this story Miss Mulock 
displays all her old charm of simplicity and directness, and 
is strong in her treatment of domestic life. At the outset 
she announces that it will be a thorough love story, and takes 
as her text that "love is the very heart of life, the pivot upon 
which its whole machinery turns, without which no human 
existence can be complete, and with which, however broken 
and worn in part, it can still go on working somehow, and 
working to a comparatively useful and cheerful end." 
This question we shall not stop to argue, but proceed 
with we cannot say the plot, for of plot there is none ; 
it is just an every-day version of the old, old story, given 
with admirable force and sweetness. It is said to appeal 
principally to young women, and it is possible that this 
is true, as the writer can recall the intense pleasure reading 
it gave to her nearly thirty years ago. 

( 242 ) 


The book opens with the description of some seaside 
lodgings, in which we find twin sisters as opposite in 
character as in appearance. Edna is an epitome of all the 
virtues in a very plain binding. Letty, vain, "spoilt, but 
loving her sister dearly, is a beauty. " Such women 
Nature makes rarely, very rarely ; queens of beauty who 
instinctively take their places in the tournament of life, 
and rain influence upon weak mortals, especially men 
mortals." Two of the latter kind arrive as lodgers at 
the same house, brothers, also most dissimilar Julius 
Stedman, impulsive, erratic and undisciplined; William, 
his elder brother, a grave, hard-working doctor, just 
starting practice. The four speedily become acquaintances 
friends and when they part are secretly lovers. 
Letty, by reason of what she calls " her unfortunate 
appearance," never doubts but that she has conquered 
both brothers ; but happily it is to Edna that the young 
doctor has given his heart ; and when in time Letty hears 
the news, " and remembers that she had been placing 
herself and Dr. Stedman in the position of the Irish ballad 


Did ye ever hear of Captain Baxter, 

Whom Miss Biddy refused afore he axed her ? 

her vanity was too innocent and her nature too easy to 
bear offence long." 



" But to think that after all the offers I have had you 
should be the first to get married, or anyhow, engaged ! 
Who would ever have expected such a thing ? " " Who 
would, indeed ? " said Edna, in all simplicity, and with a 
sense almost of contrition for the fact. " Well, never 
mind," answered Letty consolingly, " I am sure I hope 
you will be very happy ; and as for me " she paused and 
sighed " I should not wonder if I were left an old maid 
after all, in spite of my appearance." 

But to be left an old maid is not to be Letty 's fate. 
Julius, already bewitched by her beauty through being 
much more thrown into her society, falls passionately in 
love with her, and for lack of any one else, and because 
his ardour flatters and amuses her, Letty encourages him, 
permits an engagement, and promises to join him in India. 
But on the voyage out she meets a rich Mr. Vander- 
decken, with whom she lands at the Cape, and whom she 
marries. This is the tragic note in the happy story, the one 
drop of gall in the Stedmans' cup of felicity. Edna and her 
husband are patterns of domestic well-being. The joys 
and cares of every-day life have mellowed all that was 
good in them, and the account given of their home and 
their family is one we dwell upon lovingly. 

Perhaps it is but natural that in our later reading we 
should note some small discrepancies that had formerly 

( 244 ) 


escaped us. We regret that the sisters had drifted so widely 
apart, and that each should seem to be so unconcerned at 
the distance which divides them. It is as if happiness can 
make us callous as well as luxury. And although it was 
true that Letty's desertion suddenly wrecked the hopes of 
her lover, it seems hardly probable that such an unstable 
being as Julius would have taken her falseness so seriously. 
A wiser man might have foreseen the possibility. 

Still, when this and more is said, our liking for the 
story remains as strong as ever. We know of few books 
which give a better picture of healthful domestic happi- 
ness and pure family life. 

Although we have hitherto called, and shall continue to 
call, our authoress by her maiden name, she had in 1864 
changed it by marrying Mr. G. Lillie Craik, a partner in 
the house of Macmillan & Co., and shortly after she 
removed to Shortlands, near Bromley, in Kent. This 
change in her state does not appear to have interfered 
with her occupation, and for many years volume followed 
volume in quick succession. 

Unwisely, we think, for her literary reputation, she was 
led, through her strong sympathy, to advocate marriage 
with a deceased wife's sister in a novel, published in 1871, 
called " Hannah." 

(245 ) 


The novel with a purpose is almost certain to fall into 
the error of giving the argument on one side only. Its 
author has rarely any toleration for the ethical aspect of 
the other side of the question, and it is to be doubted if 
such books ever advance the cause they desire to advocate. 
In "Hannah" we are perfectly surfeited by those who wish 
to marry within the forbidden degree, and we feel as little 
toleration for the placid Bernard Rivers one of those men 
who never believe in the pinch of a shoe until they want 
to put it on their own feet as for Jim Dixon, who, after 
evading the law, speedily grows tired of the deceased wife's 
sister, and avails himself of his legal advantage to take 
another wife. 

The objections we feel to novels of this class are well 
stated by a writer in the Edinburgh Review, No. clxxxix. 
" We object," he says, " on principle to stories written 
with the purpose of illustrating an opinion, or establishing 
a doctrine. We consider this an illegitimate use of fiction. 
Fiction may be rightfully employed to impress upon the 
public mind an acknowledged truth, or to revive a for- 
gotten woe never to prove a disputed one. Its appro- 
priate aims are the delineation of life, the exhibition and 
analysis of character, the portraiture of passion, the descrip- 
tion of nature." 

In most of these aims Miss Mulock had proved herself 



an expert. In addition to her numerous novels and 
volumes of poems, she wrote a large number of tales 
for children, many of which, I am told, are exceedingly 
charming. One cannot read her books without being 
struck by the intense affection she felt for children. She 
had none of her own, but she adopted a daughter to whom 
she gave a mother's love and care. From time to time there 
appeared from her pen volumes of short stories, studies, 
and essays ; but it is not by these that her name and fame 
will be kept green. Neither will her reputation rest on 
her later novels. This she must have realised herself 
when writing, " Brains, even if the strongest, will only 
last a certain time and do a certain quantity of work 
really good work." Miss Mulock had begun to work 
the rich vein of her imagination at an early age. She took 
few holidays, and gave herself but little rest. 

She was by no means what is termed a literary woman. 
She was not a great reader ; and although much praise is 
due to the efforts she made to improve herself, judged 
by the present standard, her education remained very de- 
fective. That she lacked the fire of genius is true, but it is 
no less true that she was gifted with great imaginative ability 
and the power of depicting ordinary men and women 
leading upright, often noble lives. 

The vast public that such books as hers appeal to is 



shown in the large circulation of some of her works, the 
sale of "John Halifax, Gentleman" amounting to 250,000 
copies, 80,000 of which the sixpenny edition have 
been sold within the last few months. This shows that 
her popularity is not confined to any one class. The 
gospel she wrote was for all humanity. 

As a woman, she was loved best by those who knew 
her best. " Dinah was far more clever than her books," 
said an old friend who had been recalling pleasant 
memories to repeat to me. She died suddenly on the 
1 2th of October 1887, from failure of the heart's action 
the death she had described in the cases of Catherine 
Ogilvie, of John Halifax, and of Ursula, his wife the 
death she had always foreseen for herself. 

Around her grave in Keston churchyard stood a crowd 
of mourners rich, poor, old and young sorrowing for 
the good loyal friend who had gone from them, whose 
face they should see no more. 

( 248 ) 



is difficult to think of two writers 
more strongly contrasted, judging from 
the revelation their books afford of 
their natures and ways of thought. 
They both strove, in their novels, to 
represent individual specimens of humanity. They must 
both have possessed the power of distinct vision ; but 
though Miss Kavanagh was a keen observer of externals, 
her types seem to have been created by imaginative 
faculty rather than by insight into real men and women, 
while Miss Edwards appears to have gone about the 
world open-eyed, and with note-book in hand, so vivid are 
some of her portraits. 

In traditions, also, these writers differ. Miss Kavanagh 
has complete faith in the old French motto, " le bon sang 

( 251 ) 


ne peut pas mentir ; " while one of Miss Edwards's heroes, 
an aristocrat by birth, is extremely happy as a merchant 
captain, with his plebeian Italian wife. 

The two writers, however, strike the same note in regard 
to some of their female personages. Both Barbara Churchill 
and Nathalie Montolieu are truthful to rudeness. 

JULIA KAVANAGH never obtrudes her personality 
on the reader, though she lifts him into the ex- 
quisitely pure and peaceful atmosphere which one 
fancies must have been hers. There is something so 
restful in her books, that it is difficult to believe she 
was born no longer ago than 1824, and that only twenty 
years ago she died in middle life ; she seems to belong to 
a farther-away age probably because her secluded life 
kept her strongly linked to the past, out of touch with 
the new generation and the new world of thought around 

She began to write for magazines while still very young, 
and was only twenty-three when her first book, " The 
Three Paths," a child's story, was published. After 

( 252 ) 


this she wrote about fourteen novels, the best known of 
which are "Madeleine," "Nathalie," and "Adele." She 
wrote many short stories, some of which were reprinted in 
volumes notably the collection called " Forget-me-nots," 
published after her death. She also wrote " A Summer 
and Winter in the two Sicilies," " Woman in France in 
the 1 8th Century," "Women of Christianity," and two 
books which seem to have been highly praised 
" Englishwomen of Letters " and " Frenchwomen of 

Julia Kavanagh's first novel, " Madeleine," appeared 
in 1848 a charming story, its scene being in the 
Auvergne. The beginning is very striking, the theme 
being somewhat like that of " Bertha in the Lane " ; 
but Madeleine, when she has given up her false lover, 
devotes the rest of her life to founding and caring for an 

Born in Ireland, Julia Kavanagh spent the days of her 
youth in Normandy, and the scene of her second novel, 
"Nathalie," is Norman, though Nathalie herself is a 
handsome, warm-blooded Proven^ale. The scenery and 
surroundings are very life-like, but, with one exception, 
the people are less attractive than they are in "Adele." 
In both books one feels a wish to eliminate much of 

( 253 ) 


the interminable talk, which could easily be dispensed 

Nathalie, the country doctor's orphan daughter, teacher 
to the excellently drawn schoolmistress, Mademoiselle 
Dantin, is sometimes disturbingly rude and tactless, in 
spite of her graceful beauty. With all this gaucherie, 
and a violent temper to boot, Nathalie exercises 
a singular fascination over the people of the story, 
especially over the delightful Canoness, Aunt Radegonde, 
who is to me the most real of Miss Kavanagh's characters. 
Madame Radegonde de Sainville is a true old French 
lady of fifty years ago, as charming as she is natural. 

The men in Julia Kavanagh's books have led secluded 
lives, or they are extremely reserved very hard nuts 
indeed to crack for the ingenuous, inexperienced girls on 
whom they bestow their lordly affection. One does not 
pity Nathalie, who certainly brings her troubles on herself; 
but in the subsequent book, sweet little Adele is too 
bright a bit of sunshine to be sacrificed to such a being 
as William Osborne. 

The old chateau in which Adele has spent her short life 
is in the north-east of France ; its luxuriant but neglected 
garden, full of lovely light and shade, its limpid lake, and 
the old French servants, are delightfully fresh. The 
chapters which describe these are exquisite reading 



a gentle idyll glowing with sunshine, and with a leisureful 
charm that makes one resent the highly coloured intrusion 
of the Osborne family, though the Osborne women afford 
an effective contrast. Adele is scantily educated, but she 
is always delightful, though we are never allowed to forget 
that she is descended from the ancient family of de Cour- 
celles. She is thoroughly amiable and much enduring, in 
spite of an occasional waywardness. 

Fresh and full of beauty as these novels are, with their 
sweet pure-heartedness, their truth and restful peace, 
they cannot compare with the admirable short sketches 
of the quiet side of French life by the same writer. 
The scenes in which the characters of these short stories 
are set, show the truth of Julia Kavanagh's observa- 
tion, as well as the quality of her style; they are 
quite as beautiful as some of Guy de Maupassant's little 
gem-like Norman stories, but they are perfectly free from 
cynicism, although she truly shows the greedy grasping 
nature of the Norman peasant. The gifts of this writer 
are intensified, and more incisively shown, in these sketches 
because they contain few superfluous words and con- 
versations. Julia Kavanagh must have revelled in the 
creation of such tales as " By the Well," and its com- 
panions ; they are steeped in joyous brightness, toned here 



and there with real pathos as in " Clement's Love " and 
"Annette's Love-Story," in the collection called " Forget- 

Such a story as "By the Well " would nowadays be 
considered a lovely idyll, and, by critics able to appreciate 
its breadth and finished detail, a Meissonier in point of 
execution : it glows with true colour. 

Fifine Delpierre is not a decked-out peasant heroine ; 
she is a bare-footed, squalid, half-clothed, half-starved little 
girl, when we first see her beside the well. This is the 
scene that introduces her. 

" It has a roof, as most wells have in Normandy, a low 
thatched roof, shaggy, brown, and old, but made rich and 
gorgeous when the sun shines upon it by many a tuft of 
deep green fern, and many a cluster of pink sedum and 
golden stonecrop. Beneath that roof, in perpetual shade 
and freshness, lies the low round margin, built of heavy 
ill-jointed stones, grey and discoloured with damp and age ; 
and within this spreads an irregular but lovely fringe of 
hart's-tongue. The long glossy leaves of a cool pale 
green grow in the clefts of the inner wall, so far as the eye 
can reach, stretching and vanishing into the darkness, at 
the bottom of which you see a little tremulous circle of 
watery light. This well is invaluable to the Lenuds, for, 

( 256 ) 


as they pass by the farm the waters of the little river grow 
brackish and unfit for use. So long ago, before they were 
rich, the Lenuds having discovered this spring through the 
means of a neighbouring mason, named Delpierre, got 
him to sink and make the well, in exchange for what is 
called a servitude in French legal phrase ; that is to say, 
that he and his were to have the use of the well for ever 
and ever. Bitter strife was the result of this agreement. 
The feud lasted generations, during which the Lenuds 
throve and grew rich, and the Delpierres got so poor, 
that, at the time when this story opens, the last had just 
died leaving a widow and three children in bitter destitu- 
tion. Maitre Louis Lenud, for the Parisian Monsieur 
had not yet reached Manneville, immediately availed him- 
self of this fact to bolt and bar the postern-door through 
which his enemy had daily invaded the courtyard to go to 
the well. 

" * It was easily done, and it cost me nothing not a 
sou,' exultingly thought Maitre Louis Lenud, coming to 
this conclusion for the hundredth time on a warm evening 
in July. The evening was more than warm, it was sultry ; 
yet Maitre Louis sat by the kitchen fire watching his old 
servant, Madeleine, as she got onion soup ready for the 
evening meal, utterly careless of the scorching blaze which 
shot up the deep dark funnel of the chimney. Pierre, his 

( 257 ) R 


son, unable to bear this additional heat, stood in the open 
doorway, waiting with the impatience of eighteen for his 
supper, occasionally looking out On the farmyard, grey 
and quiet at this hour, but oftener casting a glance within. 
The firelight danced about the stone kitchen, now lighting 
up the armoire in the corner, with cupids and guitars, and 
shepherds' pipes and tabors, and lovers' knots carved on its 
brown oak panels ; now showing the lad the bright copper 
saucepans, hung in rows upon the walls ; now revealing the 
stern grim figure of his father, with his heavy grey eye- 
brows and his long Norman features both harsh and acute ; 
and very stern could Maitre Louis look, though he wore 
a faded blue blouse, an old handkerchief round his neck, 
and on his head a white cotton nightcap, with a stiff tassel 
to it ; now suddenly subsiding and leaving all in the dim 
uncertain shadows of twilight. 

During one of these grey intervals, the long-drawling 
Norman voice of Maitre Louis spoke : 

" ' The Delpierres have given up the well,' he said, with 
grim triumph. 

" * Ay, but Fifine comes and draws water every night,' 
tauntingly answered Pierre. 

" ' Hem ! ' the old man exclaimed with a growl. 

" ' Fifine comes and draws water every night,' reiterated 

( 258 ) 


He had seen the eldest child Fifine, a girl of eight 
or ten, sitting on her doorstep singing her little brother to 
sleep, with a wreath of hart's-tongue round her head, and 
a band of it round her waist. " And a little beggar, too, 
she looked," scornfully added Pierre, " with her uncombed 
hair and her rags." 

" * Shall we let the dog loose to-night ? ' he said." 

Maitre Louis uttered his deepest growl, and promised 
to break every bone in his son's body if he attempted such 
a thing. 

" Pierre silently gulped down his onion soup, but the 'do 
it if you dare ' of the paternal wink only spurred him on. 
He gave up the dog as too cruel, but not his revenge. 

" The night was a lovely one and its tender subdued 
meaning might have reached Pierre's heart, but did not. 
He saw as he crouched in the grass near the old well that 
the full round moon hung in the sky ; he saw that the 
willows by the little river looked very calm and still "... 
[the revengeful lad watches for the child and falls asleep, 
then wakes suddenly]. 

" Behold there was little Fifine with her pitcher standing 
in the moonlight. She stood there with her hair falling 
about her face, her torn bodice, her scanty petticoats, and 
her little bare feet. How the little traitress had got in, 
whilst he, the careless dragon, slept, Pierre could not 



imagine ; but she was evidently quite unconscious of his 
presence. . . . The child set her pitcher down very softly, 
shook back the hanging hair from her face, and peeped 
into the well. She liked to look thus into that deep dark 
Jiole, with its damp walls clothed with the long green 
hart's-tongue that had betrayed her. She liked also to 
look at that white circle of water below ; for you see if 
there was a wrathful Adam by her, ready for revenge, she 
was a daughter of Eve, and Eve-like enjoyed the flavour 
of this forbidden fruit. . . . Fifine took up her pitcher 
.again and walked straight on to the river. Pierre stared 
amazed, then suddenly he understood it all. There was 
an old forgotten gap in the hedge beyond the little stream, 
and through that gap Fifine and her pitcher nightly 
invaded Maitre Louis Lenud's territory. . . . Having 
picked up a sharp flint which lay in the grass Pierre rose 
.and bided his opportunity. Fifine went on till she had 
half-crossed a bridge-like plank which spanned the stream, 
then, as her ill-luck would have it, she stood still to listen 
to the distant hooting of an owl in the old church tower 
on the hill. Pierre saw the child's black figure in the 
moonlight standing out clearly against the background of 
grey willows, he saw the white plank and the dark river 
tipped with light flowing on beneath it. Above all, he 
saw Fifine's glazed pitcher, bright as silver ; he was an 

( 260 ) 


unerring marksman, and he took a sure aim at this. The 
flint sped swiftly through the air ; there was a crash, a 
low cry, and all was suddenly still. Both Fifine and her 
pitcher had tumbled into the river below and vanished 

Pierre rescues her, and when Fifine has been for some 
years in service with the repentant Pierre's cousin her 
improved looks and clothing make her unrecognisable to 
the thick-headed well-meaning young farmer. 

The only fault that can be found with these chronicles 
of Manneville is the likeness between them. The "Miller 
of Manneville," in the " Forget-me-not " collection, is- 
full of charm, but it too much resembles " By the Well." 
The " Story of Monique " gives, however, a happy 
variety, and Monique is a thorough French girl ; so is 
Mimi in the bright little story called " Mimi's Sin." 
Angelique again, in " Clement's Love," is a girl one meets 
with over and over again in Normandy, but these Norman 
stories are all so exquisitely told that it is invidious to 
single out favourites. 

The stories laid in England, in which the characters are 
English, are less graphic ; they lack the fresh and true 
atmosphere of their fellows placed across the Channel. 

(261 ) 


Julia Kavanagh died at Nice, where she spent the 
last few years of her life. Had she lived longer she would 
perhaps have given us some graphic stories from the 
Riviera, for it is evident that foreign people and foreign 
ways attracted her sympathies so powerfully that she was 
able to reproduce them in their own atmosphere. In a 
brief but touching preface to the collection called " Forget- 
me-nots," published after her death, Mr. C. W. Wood 
gives us a lovable glimpse of this charming writer ; 
reading this interesting little sketch deepens regret that 
one had not the privilege of personally knowing so sweet 
a woman. 

IN regard to truth of atmosphere in her foreign stories, 
Julia Kavanagh certainly surpasses Amelia B. 
Edwards. In "Barbara's History," in "Lord 
Brackenbury," and in other stories by Miss Edwards, 
there are beautiful and graphic descriptions of foreign 
scenery, and we meet plenty of foreign people ; but 
we feel that the latter are described by an Englishwoman 
who has taken an immense amount of pains to make 



herself acquainted with their ways and their speech they 
somewhat lack spontaneity. In the two novels named 
there are chapters so full of local history and association 
that one thinks it might be well to have the books for 
companions when visiting the places described ; they are 
full of talent in some places near akin to genius. 

" Barbara's History " contains a great deal of genuine 
humour. It is a most interesting and exciting story, though 
in parts stagey ; the opening chapters, indeed the whole of 
Barbara's stay at her great-aunt's farm of Stoneycroft, are 
so excellent that one cannot wonder the book was a great 
success. Now and again passages and characters remind 
one of Dickens ; the great-aunt, Mrs. Sandyshaft, is a 
thorough Dickens woman, with a touch of the great 
master's exaggeration ; Barbara's father is another Dickens 
character. There are power and passion as well as humour 
in this book, but in spite of its interest it becomes fatiguing 
when Barbara leaves her aunt and the hundred pigs. 

There is remarkable truth of characterisation in some 
of this writer's novels. Hugh Farquhar is sometimes an 
eccentric bore, but he is real. Barbara Churchill at times 
is wearyingly pedantic ; then, again, she is just as delight- 
fully original her first meeting with Mrs. Sandyshaft is 
so inimitable that I must transcribe a part of it. 

A rich old aunt has invited Barbara Churchill, a 



neglected child of ten years old, to stay with her in 
Suffolk. Barbara is the youngest of Mr. Churchill's 
three girls, and she is not loved by either her widowed 
father or her sisters, though an old servant named Goody 
dotes on the child. Barbara is sent by stage-coach from 
London to Ipswich : 

" Dashing on between the straggling cottages, and up a 
hill so closely shaded by thick trees that the dusk seems to 
thicken suddenly to-night, we draw up all at once before 
a great open gate, leading to a house of which I can only 
see the gabled outline and the lighted windows. 

"The guard jumps down; the door is thrown open; 
and two persons, a man and a woman, come hurrying 
down the path. 

" ' One little girl and one box, as per book,' says the 
guard, lifting me out and setting me down in the road, as 
if I were but another box, to be delivered as directed. 

" * From London ? ' asks the woman sharply. 

" * From London,' replies the guard, already scrambling 
back to his seat ; ' All right, ain't it ? ' 

"'All right.' 

"Whereupon the coach plunges on again into the dusk; 
the man shoulders my box as though it were a feather; and 
the woman who looks strangely gaunt and grey by this 

( 264) 


uncertain light, seizes me by the wrist and strides away 
towards the house at a pace that my cramped and weary 
limbs can scarcely accomplish. 

" Sick and bewildered, I am hurried into a cheerful room 
where the table is spread as if for tea and supper, and a 
delicious perfume of coffee and fresh flowers fills the air ; 
and and, all at once even in the moment when I am first 
observing them, these sights and scents grow all confused 
and sink away together, and I remember nothing .... when 
I recover, I find myself laid upon a sofa, with my cloak and 
bonnet off, my eyes and mouth full of Eau de Cologne, 
and my hands smarting under a volley of slaps, admin- 
istered by a ruddy young woman on one side, and by the 
same gaunt person who brought me in from the coach 
on the other. Seeing me look up, they both desist ; 
and the latter, drawing back a step or two, as if to observe 
me to greater advantage, puts on an immense pair of 
heavy gold spectacles, stares steadily for some seconds, and 
and at length says: 

" ' What did you mean by that now ? ' 

" Unprepared for so abrupt a question, I lie as if fas- 
cinated by her bright grey eyes, and cannot utter a syllable. 

" * Are you better ? ' 

" Still silent, I bow my head feebly, and keep looking at 

(265 ) 


" ' Hey now. Am I a basilisk ? Are you dumb, 

" Wondering why she speaks to me thus, and being, 
moreover, so very weak and tired, what can I do, but try 
in vain to answer, and failing in the effort, burst into tears 
again ? Hereupon she frowns, pulls off her glasses, shakes 
her head angrily, and, saying : * That's done to aggravate 
me, I know it is,' stalks away to the window, and stands 
there grimly, looking out upon the night. The younger 
woman, with a world of kindness in her rosy face .... 
whispers me not to cry. 

" * That child's hungry,' says the other coming suddenly 
back. ' That's what's the matter with her. She's hungry, 
I know she is, and I won't be contradicted. Do you hear 
me, Jane ? I won't be contradicted.' 

" ' Indeed, ma'am, I think she is hungry, and tired too, 
poor little thing.' 

" * Tired and hungry! . . . Mercy alive, then why don't 
she eat ? Here's food enough for a dozen people. Child, 
what will you have? Ham, cold chicken pie, bread, 
butter, cheese, tea, coffee, ale ? * 

". . . . Everything tastes delicious ; and not even the sight 
of the gaunt housekeeper .... has power to spoil my 

" For she is the housekeeper, beyond a doubt. Those 

( 266 ) 


heavy gold spectacles, that sad-coloured gown, that cap 
with its plain close bordering can belong to no one but a 
housekeeper. Wondering within myself that she should 
be so disagreeable ; then where my aunt herself can be; 
why she has not yet come to welcome me ; how she will 
receive me when she does come ; and whether I shall have 
presence of mind enough to remember all the curtseys I 
have been drilled to make, and all the speeches I have 
been taught to say, I find myself eating as though nothing 
at all had been the matter with me, and even staring now 
and then quite confidently at my opposite neighbour .... 
Left alone now with the sleeping dogs and the housekeeper 
who looks as if she never slept in her life I find the 
evening wearisome. Observing too that she continues to 
look at me in the same grim imperturbable way, and seeing 
no books anywhere about, it occurs to me that a little con- 
versation would perhaps be acceptable, and that, as I am 
her mistress's niece, it is my place to speak first. 

" ' If you please, ma'am,' I begin after a Jong hesitation. 


" Somewhat disconcerted by the sharpness and sudden- 
ness of this interruption, I pause, and take some moments 
to recover myself. 

" * If you please, ma'am, when am I to see my aunt ? ' 

"'Hey? What? Who?' 

( 267 ) 


" * My aunt, if you please, ma'am ? ' 

" ' Mercy alive ! and pray who do you suppose I am ? ' 

" * You, ma'am,' I falter, with a vague uneasiness impos- 
sible to describe ; ' are you not the housekeeper ? ' 

" To say that she glares vacantly at me from behind her 
spectacles, loses her very power of speech, and grows all 
at once quite stiff and rigid in her chair, is to convey but 
a faint picture of the amazement with which she receives 
this observation. 

" * I, ' she gasps at length, ' I ! Gracious me, child, I am 
your aunt.' I feel my countenance become an utter blank. 
I am conscious of turning red and white, hot and cold, all 
in one moment. My ears tingle; my heart sinks within 
me; I can neither speak nor think. A dreadful silence 
follows, and in the midst of this silence my aunt, without 
any kind of warning, bursts into a grim laugh, and says : 

" * Barbara, come and kiss me.' 

" I could have kissed a kangaroo just then, in the inten- 
sity of my relief ; and so getting up quite readily, touch 
her gaunt cheek with my childish lips, and look the grati- 
tude I dare not speak. To my surprise she draws me 
closer to her knee, passes one hand idly through my hair, 
looks not unkindly, into my wondering eyes, and murmurs 
more to herself than me, the name of ' Barbara.' 

"This gentle mood is, however, soon dismissed, and as if 



ashamed of having indulged it, she pushes me away, frowns, 
shakes her head, and says quite angrily : 

" * Nonsense, child, nonsense. It's time you went to 
bed.' " 

[Next morning at breakfast.] 

" ' Your name,' said my aunt, with a little off-hand nod, 
* is Bab. Remember that.' "... [Mrs. Sandyshaft asks 
her great niece why she took her for the housekeeper ; the 
child hesitates, and at last owns that it was because of her 

. . . . " ' Too shabby ? ' 

" ' N no, ma'am, not shabby ; but . . . .' 

" ' But what ? You must learn to speak out, Bab. I 
hate people who hesitate/ 

" * But Papa said you were so rich, and . . . .' 

" ' Ah ! He said I was rich did he ? Rich ! Oho ! 
And what more, Bab ? What more ? Rich indeed ! Come, 
you must tell me. What else did he say when he told you 
I was rich ? ' 

"*N nothing more, ma'am,' I replied, startled and 
confused by her sudden vehemence. * Indeed nothing 

" ' Bab ! ' said my aunt bringing her hand down so 
heavily upon the table that the cups and saucers rang 
again, * Bab, that's false. If he told you I was rich, he 

(269 ) 


told you how to get my money by-and-by. He told 
you to cringe and fawn, and worm yourself into my 
favour, to profit by my death, to be a liar, a flatterer, and 
a beggar, and why ? Because I am rich. Oh yes, because 
I am rich.' 

" I sat as if stricken into stone, but half comprehending 
what she meant, and unable to answer a syllable. 

" ' Rich indeed ! ' she went on, excited more and more by 
her own words and stalking to and fro between the window 
and the table, like one possessed. * Aha ! we shall see, we 
shall see. Listen to me, child. I shall leave you nothing 
not a farthing. Never expect it never hope for it. 
If you are good and true, and I like you, I shall be a 
friend to you while I live ; but if you are mean and false, 
and tell me lies, I shall despise you. Do you hear ? I shall 
despise you, send you home, never speak to you, or look 
at you again. Either way, you will get nothing by my 
death. Nothing nothing ! ' 

" My heart swelled within me I shook from head 
to foot. I tried to speak and the words seemed to 
choke me. 

" * I don't want it,' I cried passionately. * I I am not 
mean. I have told no lies not one.' 

" My aunt stopped short, and looked sternly down upon 
me, as if she would read my very soul. 

( 270 ) 


" ' Bab,' said she, * do you mean to tell me that your 
father said nothing to you about why I may have asked 
you here, or what might come of it ? Nothing ? Not a 
word ? ' 

" ' He said it might be for my good he told Miss 
Whymper to make me curtsey and walk better, and come 
into a room properly ; he said he wished me to please you. 
That was all. He never spoke of money, or of dying, or 
of telling lies never.' 

" * Well then,' retorted my aunt, sharply, * he 
meant it.' 

" Flushed and trembling in my childish anger, I sprang 
from my chair and stood before her, face to face. 

" * He did not mean it,' I cried. ' How dare you speak 
so of Papa ? How dare . . . .' 

" I could say no more, but, terrified at my own im- 
petuosity, faltered, covered my face with both hands, and 
burst into an agony of sobs. 

" * Bab,' said my aunt, in an altered voice, * little Bab,' 
and took me all at once in her two arms, and kissed me 
on the forehead. 

" My anger was gone in a moment. Something in her 
tone, in her kiss, in my own heart, called up a quick 
response ; and nestling close in her embrace, I wept pas- 
sionately. Then she sat down, drew me on her knee, 

(271 ) 


smoothed my hair with her hand, and comforted me as if 
I had been a little baby. 

" ' So brave,' said she, ' so proud, so honest. Come, 
little Bab, you and I must be friends.' 

" And we were friends from that minute ; for from that 
minute a mutual confidence and love sprang up between 
us. Too deeply moved to answer her in words, I only 
clung the closer, and tried to still my sobs. She under- 
stood me. 

" ' Come,' said she, after a few seconds of silence, * let's 
go and see the pigs.' ' 

The sketch of Hilda Churchill is very good, and so is 
that of the Grand Duke of Zollenstrasse. Taken as a 
whole, if we leave out the concluding chapters, "Barbara's 
History" is a stirring, original, and very amusing book, 
full of historical and topographical information, written in 
terse and excellent English, and very rich in colour the 
people in it are so wonderfully alive. 

" Lord Brackenbury" is very clever and full of pictures, 
but it lacks the brightness and the originality of "Barbara's 
History." Amelia B. Edwards wrote several other 
novels "Half a Million of Money," "Miss Carew," 
"Debenham's Vow," &c. &c. She also published a 

( 272 ) 


collection of short tales " Monsieur Maurice," etc. 
and a book of ballads. Born in 1831, she began to write 
at a time when sensational stories were in fashion, and 
produced a number of exciting stories " The Four-fifteen 
Express," " The Tragedy in the Bardello Palace," " The 
Patagonian Brothers " all extremely popular ; though, 
when we read them now, they seem wanting in the insight 
into human nature so remarkably shown in some of her 

She was a distinguished Egyptologist, and the foundation 
in 1883 of the Egypt Exploration Fund was largely due 
to her efforts ; she became one of the secretaries to 
this enterprise, and wrote a good deal on Egyptian 
subjects for European and American periodicals. She 
wrote and illustrated some interesting travel books, espe- 
cially her delightful " A Thousand Miles up the Nile," 
and an account of her travels in 1872 among the at 
that time rarely visited Dolomites. The latter is called 
" Untrodden Peaks and Unfrequented Valleys : " it is 
interesting, but not so bright as the Nile book. 

When one considers that a large part of her output 
involved constant and laborious research that for the 
purposes of many of the books she had to take long and 
fatiguing journeys the amount of good work she accom- 
plished is very remarkable ; the more so, because she was 

( 273 ) S 


not only a writer, but an active promoter of some of the 
public movements of her time. She was a member of the 
Biblical Archaeological Society a member, too, of the 
Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Literature. Then 
she entered into the woman's question, not so popular in 
those days as it is in these, and was vice-president of a 
Society for promoting Women's Suffrage. 

It is difficult to understand how in so busy and varied a 
life she could have found sufficient leisure for writing 
fiction; but she had a very large mental grasp, and pro- 
bably as large a power of concentration. Remembering 
that she was an omnivorous reader, a careful student, 
possessed too of an excellent memory, we need not wonder 
at the fulness and richness of her books. 

( 374) 




is hardly necessary to state that this 
beautiful and charming woman was the 
second daughter of Thomas Sheridan 
and grand-daughter of Richard Brinsley 
Sheridan, of Regency renown. She was 
one of three sisters famous for beauty and brains, the 
eldest of whom married Lord Dufferin, and the youngest 
Lord Seymour, afterwards Duke of Somerset. 

Born in the first decade of the present century, she 
married at nineteen, in 1827, George Norton, brother of 
the third Lord Grantley a union which proved most 
unhappy. In 1836 Mr. Norton sought for a divorce, in 
an action which entirely failed. Nevertheless, Norton 
remained irreconcilable, and availed himself of all the 
powers which the law then lent to a vindictive husband,, 
claiming the proceeds of his wife's literary work, and 
interfering between her and her children. But it is with. 

(277 ) 


Mrs. Norton as a writer rather than as a woman that we 
are concerned, and it is useless now to dwell upon the 
story of her wrongs and struggles. 

Previous to this unfortunate suit she produced, in 1829, 
<' The Story of Rosalie, with other Poems," which seems 
to have been her first published work. This was well 
received and much admired. 

In 1830 "The Undying One," a poem on the Wander- 
ing Jew, was brought out, followed in 1 840 by " The 
Dream and other Poems." This was highly praised in 
the Quarterly Review by Lockhart, who spoke of her as 
" the Byron of poetesses." Other poems from her pen 
touched on questions of social interest : " A Voice from 
the Factories " and " The Child of the Islands," a poem 
on the social condition of the English people. She also 
printed " English Laws for Women in the Nineteenth 
Century," and published much of it in pamphlets on Lord 
Cranworth's Divorce Bill of this year (1853), thus assisting 
in the amelioration of the laws relating to the custody of 
children, and the protection of married women's earnings. 

Her natural tendency was towards poetry, and the first 
five books published by her were all in verse. In 1851 
appeared a novel, in three volumes, called "Stuart of 
Dunleath," which was succeeded by " Lost and Saved " 
and " Old Sir Douglas." 



It is curious to observe the depth and width of the gulf 
which yawns between the novel of 1851 and the novel of 

The latter opens with some brief sentence spoken by 
one of the characters, or a short dialogue between two 
or three of them, followed by a rapid sketch of their 
position or an equally brief picture of the scene in which 
the action of the piece is laid. The reader is plunged 
at once into the drama, and left to guess the parts 
allotted by the author to his puppets. 

Forty-five years ago, when Mrs. Norton wrote " Stuart 
of Dunleath," the reader had to pass through a wide 
porch and many long passages before he reached the inner 
chambers of the story. An account of the hero and 
heroine's families, even to the third and fourth generation, 
was indispensable, and the minutest particulars of their 
respective abodes and surroundings were carefully detailed. 
The tale travelled by easy stages, with many a pause 
where byways brought additional wayfarers to join the 
throng of those already travelling through the pages ; while 
each and all, regardless of proportion, were described with 
equal fulness whatever their degree of importance. 

These are the characteristics of Mrs. Norton's novels, 
which stretch in a leisurely fashion to something like two 

( 279 ) 


hundred thousand words. Nevertheless, " Stuart of Dun- 
leath " shows great ability and knowledge of the world. 
It is evidently written by a well-read, cultivated, and 
refined woman, with warm feelings and strong religious 
convictions. The descriptions are excellent, the language 
is easy and graceful. 

The scene of the story lies chiefly in Scotland, and the 
Scotch characters are very well drawn, save one, Lady 
Macfarren, who is inhumanly hard. This, too, is one of 
the peculiarities of the forty or forty-five year old novel ; 
its people are terribly consistent in good or evil. The 
dignity, the high-mindedness, the angelic purity of the 
heroine is insupportable, and the stainless honour, the 
stern resistance to temptation, the defiance of tyrannical 
wrongdoers, makes the hero quite as bad. 

In " Stuart of Dunleath," however, the hero is decidedly 
weak. He is the guardian of Eleanor Raymond, the 
heroine, and, seeing a probability of making a large profit 
by a speculative loan, risks her money, hoping to obtain 
the means to buy back his estate without diminishing 
her fortune. The speculation fails. Eleanor is reduced 
to poverty, and Stuart is supposed to drown himself. 
Then the impoverished heroine, who is desperately in 
love with her guardian, is compelled to marry a wealthy 
baronet, Sir Stephen Penrhyn. This is the beginning of 



troubles, and very bad troubles they are, continuing 
steadily through two-thirds of the book. 

Sir Stephen is a brutally bad husband, is shamelessly 
unfaithful, personally violent, breaks his wife's arm, and 
makes her life a burden. Her little twin sons are drowned 
in a boating accident, and then Stuart returns from the 
grave, having been stopped in his attempt to drown him- 
self by a picturesque old clergyman, and started off to 
America, where he manages to recover the lost fortune. 

By his advice, Eleanor leaves her tyrant and takes steps 
to obtain a divorce, but before the case is ready for hearing 
is seized with scruples and gives up the attempt, chiefly 
because she fears she is influenced by an unholy love for 
Stuart. Finally she gets leave of absence from her amiable 
spouse, and dies of a broken heart before it expires, Stuart 
having married her dearest friend, the brilliant Lady 
Margaret Fordyce, thinking that Eleanor had no real 
affection for him. 

The scruples are much to her credit, of course, but she 
might have tried to save the remainder of her life from the 
degradation which must have been the result of a reunion 
with her husband, yet kept aloof from Stuart without 
offending God or breaking any sacred law. 

Eighteen very distinct characters figure in these pages, 
and three or four children. Of these the best drawn are 

( 281 ) 


those most lightly sketched. The author's favourites are 
too much described, their merits, their peculiarities, their 
faults (if allowed to have any) are detailed as the writer 
sees them. But they do not act and live and develop 
themselves to the reader, and, therefore, become abstrac- 
tions, not living entities. 

" Lost and Saved," written some dozen of years after 
ward, has much the same qualities as " Stuart of Dunleath." 
The subsidiary characters are more convincing than the 
leading ladies and gentlemen. The hero, if such a man 
could be so termed, with his extreme selfishness, his surface 
amiability, his infirmity of purpose and utter faithlessness, 
is well drawn. There is a respectable hero also, but we do 
not see much of him, which is not to be regretted, as he 
is an intolerable prig. 

In this romance the heroine elopes with Treherne, the 
villainous hero. (Of course, there are the usual family 
objections to their wedding.) They intend to go to 
Trieste, but in the confusion of a night march they get on 
board the wrong steamer, and find themselves at Alex- 
andria. Here Treherne is confronted with his aunt, the 
magnificent Marchioness of Updown. He is therefore 
obliged to suppress Beatrice (the heroine) until the 
Marchioness "moves on." 

( 282 ) 


They consequently set off on a voyage up the Nile, 
apparently in search of a clergyman to marry them. It 
seems, by the way, a curious sort of hunting-ground in 
which to track an English parson. Then Beatrice falls 
dangerously ill, and nothing will save her save a parson 
and the marriage service. A benevolent and sympathetic 
young doctor is good enough to simulate a British chaplain, 
and the knot is tied to the complete satisfaction of Beatrice. 
Much misery ensues. 

It must be added that the magnificent Marchioness of 
Updown is an extraordinary picture. Besides being a 
peeress by marriage, she is the daughter of an earl, an 
aristocrat born and bred. Yet her vulgarity is amazing. 
Her stupid ill-nature, her ignorance, her speech and 
manner, suggest the idea of a small shopkeeper in a 
shabby street. 

In this novel Mrs. Norton portrays the whited- 
sepulchre sort of woman very clearly in Milly, Lady 
Nesdale, who is admired and petted by Society, always 
smiling, well tempered, well dressed, careful to observe 
les bienseances, making herself pleasant even to her 
husband ; while, screened by this fair seeming, she tastes of 
a variety of forbidden fruit, one mouthful of which would 
be enough to consign a less astute woman to social death. 
This class of character figures largely in present day novels, 



but few equal, none surpass, Mrs. Norton's masterly 

"Old Sir Douglas," her last novel, was published in 
Macmillans Magazine, 1867. It is planned on the same 
lines as her previous works of fiction the plot rather com- 
plicated, the characters extremely numerous ; among these 
is an almost abnormally wicked woman who works endless 

It was, however, as a poetess that Mrs. Norton was 
chiefly known. Her verse was graceful and harmonious, 
but more emotional than intellectual. Wrath at injustice 
and cruelty stirred the depths of her soul ; her heart was 
keenly alive to the social evils around her and she longed 
passionately for power to redress them. The effect of her 
own wrongs and sufferings was to quicken her ardour to 
help her fellow women smarting under English law as it 
at that time existed. What that law then permitted is 
best exemplified by her own experience. When the legal 
proceedings between her and her husband were over, 
and her innocence of the charges brought against her was 
fully established, she was allowed to see her children only 
once for the space of half an hour in the presence of two 
witnesses chosen by Mr. Norton, though this state of 
things was afterwards ameliorated by the Infant Custody 



Act, which allowed some little further restricted inter- 

But these evil times are past. Indeed, it seems hard 
to believe that barely fifty years separates the barbarous 
injustice of that period from the decent amenities of this, 
as regards the respective rights of husbands and wives. 

Mrs. Norton's second poem of importance, " The Un- 
dying One," is founded on the legend of the Wandering 
Jew, a subject always attractive to the poetic imagination. 
It contains many charming lines, and touches on an im- 
mense variety of topics, wandering, like its hero, over 
many lands. The sufferings of isolation are vividly de- 
picted, and isolation must, of necessity, be the curse of 
endless life in this world. 

" Thus, thus, to shrink from every outstretched hand, 
To strive in secret and alone to stand, 
Or, when obliged to mingle in the crowd, 
Curb the pale lip which quiveringly obeys, 
Gapes wide with sudden laughter, vainly loud, 
Or writhes a faint, slow smile to meet their gaze. 
This, this is hell ! the soul which dares not show 
The barbed sorrow which is rankling there, 
Gives way at length beneath its weight of woe, 
Withers unseen, and darkens to despair ! " 

In these days of rapidity and concentration, poems such 
as this would never emerge from the manuscript stage, in 



which they might be read by appreciative friends with 
abundant leisure. 

The same observation applies to " The Dream." A 
mother sits watching the slumber of her beautiful young 
daughter who, waking, tells her dream of an exquisite life 
with the one she loves best, unshadowed by grief or pain. 
The mother warns her that life will not be like this, and 
draws a somewhat formidable picture of its realities. 
From this the girl naturally shrinks, wondering where 
Good is to be found, and is answered thus : 

" He that deals blame, and yet forgets to praise, 
Who sets brief storms against long summer days, 
Hath a sick judgment. 
And shall we all condemn, and ah distrust, 
Because some men are false and some unjust ? " 

Some of Mrs. Norton's best and most impassioned 
verses are to be found in the dedication of this poem to 
her friend, the Duchess of Sutherland. 

Affection, gratitude, indignation, grief, regret these are 
the sources of Mrs. Norton's inspiration ; but of any 
coldly intellectual solution of life's puzzles, such as more 
modern writers affect, there is little trace. 

" The Lady of La Garaye " is a Breton tale (a true one) 
of a beautiful and noble Chatelaine, on whom Heaven 
had showered all joy and blessing. Adored by her hus- 



band, she shared every hour of his life and accompanied 
him in his favourite sport of hunting. One day she dared 
to follow him over too wide a leap. Her horse fell with 
and on her. She was terribly injured, and crippled for 
life. After much lamenting she is comforted by a good 
priest, and institutes a hospital for incurables, she and her 
husband devoting themselves to good works for the re- 
mainder of their days. The versification is smooth, the 
descriptions are graceful and picturesque ; but neither the 
subject nor its treatment is enthralling. 

Mrs. Norton's finest poetic efforts are to be found in 
her short pieces. One entitled " Ataraxia " has a soothing 
charm, which owes half its melody to the undertone of 
sadness which pervades the verse. 

" Come forth ! The sun hath flung on Thetis' breast 
The glittering tresses of his golden hair; 
All things are heavy with a noon-day rest, 
And floating sea-birds cleave the stirless air. 
Against the sky in outlines clear and rude 
The cleft rocks stand, while sunbeams slant between 
And lulling winds are murmuiing through the wood 
Which skirts the bright bay, with its fringe of green. 

"Come forth! all motion is so gentle now 
It seems thy step alone should walk the earth, 
Thy voice alone, the ' ever soft and low,' 
Wake the far haunting echoes into birth. 
( 287 ) 


Too wild would be Love's passionate store of hope, 
Unmeet the influence of his changeful power, 
Ours be companionship whose gentle scope 
Hath charm enough for such a tranquil hour." 

From the perusal of her writings, the impression given 
by her portrait, and the reminiscences of one who knew 
her, we gather an idea of this charming and gifted woman, 
whose nature seems to have been rich in all that makes 
for the happiness of others, and of herself. We feel that 
she possessed a mind abundantly stored, an imagination 
stimulated and informed by sojourning in many lands ; a 
heart, originally tender and compassionate, mellowed by 
maternal love, a judgment trained and restrained by con- 
stant intercourse with the best minds of the period, a wit 
keen as a damascene blade, and a soul to feel, even to 
enthusiasm, the wrongs and sufferings of others. 

Add to these gifts the power of swift expression, and 
we can imagine what a fascination Mrs. Norton must have 
possessed for those of her contemporaries who had the 
privilege of knowing her. " She was the most brilliant 
woman I ever met," said the late Charles Austen, " and 
her brilliancy was like summer lightning ; it dazzled, but 
did not hurt." Unless, indeed, she was impelled to 
denounce some wrong or injustice, when her words could 



strike home. Yet to this lovely and lovable woman, life 
was a long disappointment; and through all she has 
written a strain of profound rebellion against the irony of 
fate colours her views, her delineations of character, her 
estimate of the social world. By her relations and friends 
she was warmly appreciated. 

She did not succeed in obtaining the relief of divorce 
until about 1853. Mr. Norton survived till 1875, and in 
1877, a f W months before her death, his widow married 
Sir William Stirling-Maxwell. 

It is a curious instance of the change of fashion 
and the transient nature of popular memory that great 
difficulty is experienced in obtaining copies of Mrs. Norton's 
works, especially of her poems. " The Undying One," 
"The Dream," and one or two smaller pieces, are 
found only in the British Museum Library. The 
novels are embedded in the deeper strata of Mudie's, 
but are not mentioned in the catalogue of that all-em- 
bracing collection. Yet forty years ago, Mrs. Norton 
acknowledged that she made at one time about ^1400 
a year by her pen, this chiefly by her contributions to the 
annuals of that time. 

Mrs. Norton, however, had not to contend with the 
cruel competition which lowers prices while it increases 

( 289 ) T 


labour. In her day, the workers were few, 'and the 
employers less difficult to please. But these comparisons are 
not only odious, but fruitless. The crowd, the competi- 
tion, the desperate struggle for life, exists, increases, and 
we cannot alter it. We can but train for the contest as 
best we may, and say with the lovely and sorely tried 
subject of this sketch, as she writes in her poem to her 
absent boys: 

" Though my lot be hard and lonely, 
Yet I hope I hope through all." 


( 290 ) 




"A. L. O. E." (MISS TUCKER) 

FORTY years ago, the mystic letters "A. L. O. E." 
(" A Lady of England ") on the title-page of a 
book ensured its welcome from the children of 
those days. There was not then the host of gaily bound 
volumes pouring from the press to be piled up in 
tempting array in every bookseller's shop at Christmas. 
The children for whom " A. L. O. E." wrote were con- 
tented to read a " gift-book " more than once; and, it must 
be said, her stories were deservedly popular, and bore the 
crucial test of being read aloud to an attentive audience 
several times. 

Many of these stories still live, and the allegorical style 
in which " A. L. O. E. " delighted has a charm for cer- 
tain youthful minds to this day. There is a pride and 
pleasure in thinking out the lessons hidden under the 

( 293 ) 

"A. L. O. E." (MISS TUCKER) 

names of the stalwart giants in the " Giant Killer," which 
is one of " A. L. O. E.'s " earlier and best tales. A fight 
with Giant Pride, a hard battle with Giant Sloth, has an 
inspiriting effect on boys and girls, who are led to " look 
at home " and see what giants hold them in bondage. 

"A. L. O. E.'s" style was almost peculiar to herself. 
She generally used allegory and symbol, and she was fired 
with the desire to arrest the attention of her young readers 
and " do them good." We may fear that she often missed 
her aim by forcing the moral, and by indulging in long 
and discursive " preachments," which interrupted the main 
current of the story, and were impatiently skipped that it 
might flow on again without vexatious hindrances. 

In her early girlhood and womanhood " A. L. O. E. " 
had written plays, which, we are told by her biographer, 
Miss Agnes Giberne, were full of wit and fun. Although 
her literary efforts took a widely different direction when 
she began to write for children, still there are flashes of 
humour sparkling here and there on the pages of her most 
didactic stories, showing that her keen sense of the ludicrous 
was present though it was kept very much in abeyance. 

From the first publication of " The Claremont Tales " 
her success as a writer for children was assured. The list 
of her books covering the space of fifteen or twenty 
years is a very long one, and she had no difficulty in 

( 294 ) 


finding publishers ready to bring them out in an attractive 

" The Rambles of a Rat " is before me, as I write, in a 
new edition, and is a very fair specimen of " A. L. O. E.'s " 
work. Weighty sayings are put into the mouth of the 
rats, and provoke a smile. The discussion about the 
ancestry of Whiskerando and Ratto ends with the trite 
remark which, however, was not spoken aloud that 
the great weakness of one opponent was pride of birth, 
and his anxiety to be thought of an ancient family ; 
but the chief matter, in Ratto's opinion, was not whether 
our ancestors do honour to'us, but whether by our conduct 
we do not disgrace them. Probably this page of the 
story was hastily turned here, that the history of the two 
little waifs and strays who took shelter in the warehouse, 
where the rats lived, might be followed. 

Later on there is a discussion between a father and his 
little boy about the advantage of ragged schools, then a 
somewhat new departure in philanthropy. Imagine a boy 
of nine, in our time, exclaiming, " What a glorious thing 
it is to have ragged schools and reformatories, to give the 
poor and the ignorant, and the wicked, a chance of becom- 
ing honest and happy." Boys of Neddy's age, nowadays, 
would denounce him as a little prig, who ought to be well 

( 295 ) 

"A. L. O. E." (MISS TUCKER) 

snubbed for his philanthropical ambition, when he went 
on to say, " How I should like to build a ragged school 
myself ! " " The Voyage of the Rats to Russia " is full 
of interest and adventure, and the glimpse of Russian life 
is vivid, and in " A. L. O. E.'s " best manner. 

Indeed, she had a graphic pen, and her descriptions of 
places and things were always true to life. In " Pride and 
his Prisoners," for instance, there are stirring scenes, 
drawn with that dramatic power which had characterised 
the plays she wrote in her earlier days. " The Pretender, 
a farce in two Acts, by Charlotte Maria Tucker," is 
published in Miss Giberne's biography. In this farce there 
is a curious and constantly recurring play on words, but 
the allegory and the symbol with which she afterwards 
clothed her stories are absent. 

"A. L. O. E." did not write merely to amuse children ; 
and the countless fairy tales and books of startling 
adventure, in their gilded covers and with their profuse 
illustrations, which are published every year, have thrown 
her stories into the shade. But they are written with 
verve and spirit, and in good English, which is high 
praise, and cannot always be given to the work of her 
successors in juvenile literature. In her books, as in 
every work she undertook throughout her life, she had 



the high and noble aim of doing good. Whether she 
might have widened the sphere of her influence by less 
of didactic teaching, and by allowing her natural gifts to 
have more play, it is not for us to inquire. 

It is remarkable that this long practice in allegory and 
symbol fitted her for her labours in her latter years, 
amongst the boys and girls of the Far East. Her style 
was well adapted to the Oriental mind, and kindled 
interest and awoke enthusiasm in the hearts of the chil- 
dren in the Batala Schools. Here she did a great work, 
which she undertook at the age of fifty-four, when she 
offered her services to the Church Missionary Society as 
an unpaid missionary. 

"All for love, and no reward" may surely be said to 
be "A. L. O. E.'s" watchword, as, with untiring energy, 
she laboured amongst the children in a distant part of the 
empire. Even there she was busy as an author. By 
her fertile pen she could reach thousands in that part of 
India who would never see her face or hear her voice. 
She wrote for India as she had written for England, ever 
keeping before her the good of her readers. The Hindu 
boys and girls, as well as the children of this country, 
have every reason to hold her name in grateful remem- 
brance as one of the authors who have left a mark on 
the reign of Queen Victoria. 

( 297 ) 


THERE lingers over some people whom we know 
a nameless charm. It is difficult to define it, 
and yet we feel it in their presence as we feel 
the subtle fragrance of flowers, borne to us on the 
wings of the fresh breeze, which has wandered over gorse 
and heather, beds of wild hyacinth, and cowslip fields, in 
the early hours of a sunny spring day. A charm like 
this breathes over the stories which Mrs. Ewing has left as 
an inheritance for English children, and for their elders 
also, for all time. The world must be better for her 
work ; and looking back over the sometimes toilsome 
paths of authorship, this surely, above all others, is the 
guerdon all craftswomen of the pen should strive to win. 

There is nothing morbid or melodramatic in Mrs. 
Ewing's beautiful stories. They bubble over with the 
joys of child-life ; they bristle with its humour ; they touch 
its sorrows with a tender, sympathetic hand ; they lend a 
gentle sadness of farewell to Death itself, with the sure 
hope of better things to come. 

It was in 1861 and 1862 that those who were looking 


( 298 ) 

for healthy stories for children found, in " Melch0tr's 


Dream and other Tales," precisely what they wanted. 
Soon after, Aunt Judy's Magazine, edited by Mrs. 
Ewing's mother, Mrs. Gatty, made a new departure in 
the periodical literature for children. The numbers were 
eagerly looked for month by month, and the title of the 
magazine was given to commemorate the " Judy " of the 
nursery, who had often kept a bevy of little brothers and 
sisters happy and quiet by pouring forth into their willing 
ears stories full of the prowess of giants, the freaks of 
fairies, with occasional but always good-natured shafts 
aimed at the little faults and frailties of the listening 

Aunt Judy's Magazine had no contributions from Mrs. 
Ewing's pen till May 1866 and May 1867. Then the 
delightful " Remembrances of Mrs. Overtheway " en- 
chanted her youthful readers. Little Ida's own story 
and her lonely childhood had an especial charm for them ; 
and Mrs. Overtheway's remembrances of the far-off days 
when she, too, was a child, were told as things that 
had really happened. And so they had ! For, in the 
disappointment of the imaginative child who had created 
a fair vision from her grandmother's description of Mrs. 
Anastasia Moss as a golden-haired beauty in rose-bud 
brocade, and instead, saw an old lady with sunken black 
eyes, dressed in feuilles mortes satin, many a child may 

( 299 ) 


have found the salient parts of her own experience re- 
hearsed ! 

" Alas ! " says Mrs. Overtheway, when little Ida, 
soothed by her gentle voice, has fallen asleep. " Alas ! 
my grown-up friends, does the moral belong to children 
only ? Have manhood and womanhood no passionate, 
foolish longings, for which we blind ourselves to obvious 
truth, and of which the vanity does not lessen the disap- 
pointment ? Do we not all toil after rose-buds to find 
feuilles mortes ? " It is in touches like this, in her stories, 
that Mrs. Ewing appeals to many older hearts as well as 
to those of the young dreamers, taking their first steps 
in the journey of life. 

In 1857, Juliana Horatia Gatty married Alexander 
Ewing, A.P.D., and for some time " Mrs. Overtheway's 
Remembrances " were not continued. The last of them, 
" Kerguelin's Land," is considered by some critics the most 
beautiful of the series, ending with the delightful surprise 
of little Ida's joy in the return of her lost father. 

Mrs. Ewing's stories are so rich in both humour and 
pathos, that it is difficult to choose from them distinctive 
specimens of her style, and of that charm which pervades 
them, a charm which we think is peculiarly her own. 

Mrs. Ewing gave an unconsciously faithful portrait of 

( 300 ) 


herself in " Madam Liberality." The reader has in this 
story glimpses of the author's own heroic and self-forget- 
ful childhood. Perhaps this tale is not as well known 
as some which followed it: so a few notes from its 
pages may not be unwelcome here. 

Madam Liberality, when a little girl, was accustomed 
to pick out all the plums from her own slice of cake and 
afterwards make a feast with them for her brothers and 
sisters and the dolls. Oyster shells served for plates, and 
if by any chance the plums did not go round the party, 
the shell before Madam Liberality's place was always the 
empty one. Her eldest brother had given her the title 
of Madam Liberality ; and yet he could, with refreshing 
frankness, shake his head at her and say, " You are the 
most meanest and the generousest person I ever knew." 

Madam Liberality wept over this accusation, and it was 
the grain of truth in it that made her cry, for it was too 
true that she screwed, and saved, and pinched to have the 
pleasure of " giving away." " Tom, on the contrary, gave 
away without pinching and saving. This sounds much 
handsomer, and it was poor Tom's misfortune that he 
always believed it to be so, though he gave away what 
did not belong to him, and fell back for the supply of his 
own pretty numerous wants upon other people, not forget- 
ting Madam Liberality." 

(301 ) 


What a clever analysis of character is this ! We have 
all known the "Toms," for they are numerous, and some 
of us have known and but scantily appreciated the far 
rarer " Madam Liberalitys." 

It is difficult to read unmoved of the brave child's 
journey alone to the doctor to have a tooth taken out 
which had caused her much suffering. Then when about 
to claim the shilling from her mother, which was the 
accustomed reward for the unpleasant operation, she 
remembered the agreement was a shilling for a tooth with 
fangs, sixpence for a tooth without them. She did so 
want the larger sum to spend on Christmas presents ; so, 
finding a fang left in her jaw, she went back to the doctor, 
had it extracted, and staggered home once more, very giddy 
but very happy, with the tooth and the fang safe in a pill 
box ! 

" Moralists say a great deal about pain treading so very 
closely on the heels of pleasure in this life, but they are 
not always wise or grateful enough to speak of the pleasure 
which springs out of pain. And yet there is a bliss which 
comes just when pain has ceased, whose rapture rivals even 
the high happiness of unbroken health. 

" Relief is certainly one of the most delicious sensations 
which poor humanity can enjoy." 

Madam Liberality often suffered terrible pain from 

( 302 ) 


quinsy. Thus we read sympathetically of her heroic 
efforts one Christmastide, when nearly suffocated with 
this relentless disease, to go on with her preparations to 
get her little gifts ready for the family. And how we 
rejoice when a cart rumbles up to the door and brings a 
load of beautiful presents, sent by a benevolent lady who 
has known Madam Liberality's desire to make purchases 
for her brothers and sisters, and has determined to give 
her this delightful surprise. 

The story of Madam Liberality, from childhood to 
maturity, is, we think, written in Mrs. Ewing's best 
manner, though, perhaps, it has never gained the widespread 
popularity of " Jackanapes," and " The Story of a Short 
Life," or "A Flat Iron for a Farthing." 

Of the last-named story Mrs. Bundle is almost the 
central figure. In the childhood of Reginald Dacre, who 
writes his own reminiscences, she played a prominent 
part. Loyal and true, she held the old traditions of 
faithful service ; her master's people were her people, and 
she had but few interests apart from them. 

The portrait of Reginald's mother hung in his father's 
dressing-room, and was his resort in the early days of his 
childish sorrows. Once when his dog Rubens had been 
kicked by a guest in his father's house, Reginald went to 

( 303 ) 


that picture of his golden-haired mother and wept out his 
plaintive entreaties that " Mamma would come back to 
Rubens and to him they were so miser-ra-ble." "Then," 
he says, " in the darkness came a sob that was purely 
human, and I was clasped in a woman's arms and covered 
with tender kisses and soothing caresses. For one wild 
moment, in my excitement and the boundless faith of 
childhood, I thought my mother had heard me and come 
back. But it was only Nurse Bundle ! " 

Then, passing over many years, when Reginald Dacre 
brought his bride to his old home, this faithful friend, 
after giving her loving welcome to the new Mrs. Dacre, 
went, in the confusion and bewilderment of old age, with 
its strange mingling of past and present, to the room 
where the portrait of her lost lady with the golden hair 
still hung ; and there, the story goes on to say, " There, 
where years before she had held me in her arms with tears, 
I, weeping also, held her now in mine quite dead ! " 

This is one of the most pathetic incidents in all Mrs. 
Ewing's works, told without the least exaggeration and 
with the simplicity which is one of the characteristics of 
her style. 

" Lob Lie by the Fire " contains some of the author's 
brightest flashes of humour, and yet it closes with a 
description of Macalister's death, drawn with the tender 

( 304 ) 


hand with which that solemn mystery is ever touched 
by Mrs. Ewing, beautiful in its pathetic simplicity. 
Nothing in its way can be more profoundly touching than 
the few words which end this story : 

"After a while Macalister repeated the last word, 
* Home* And as he spoke there spread over his face a 
smile so tender and so full of happiness that John Broom 
held his breath as he watched him. As the light of sun- 
rise creeps over the face of some rugged rock, it crept 
from chin to brow, and the pale blue eyes shone, tranquil, 
like water that reflects heaven. And when it had passed, 
it left them still open but gems that had lost their ray." 

" Jackanapes " is so well known, almost the best known 
of the author's charming stories, that we will not dwell on 
the pathos of that last scene, when Jackanapes, like one 
in the old allegory, heard the trumpets calling for him on 
the other side the gallant boy who had laid down his life 
for his friend. But the character of the Gray Goose, who 
slept securely with one leg tucked up under her on the 
green, is so delightfully suggestive that we must give some 
of her wisdom as a specimen of the author's humorous 
but never unkindly hits at the weaknesses to which we 
are all prone. 

" The Gray Goose and the big Miss Jessamine were the 

( 305 ) u 


only elderly persons who kept their ages secret. Indeed, 
Miss Jessamine never mentioned any one's age, or recalled 
the exact year in which anything had happened. The 
Gray Goose also avoided dates. She never got farther 
than * last Michaelmas,' * the Michaelmas before that,' and 
' the Michaelmas before the Michaelmas before that.' 
After this her head, which was small, became confused, 
and she said * Ga-ga ! ' and changed the subject." 

Then again : 

" The Gray Goose always ran away at the first approach 
of the caravans, and never came back to the green till 
nothing was left of the fair but footmarks and oyster- 
shells. Running away was her pet principle ; the only 
system, she maintained, by which you can live long and 
easily, and lose nothing. 

" Why in the world should any one spoil the pleasures 
of life, or risk his skin, if he can help it ? 

* What's the use ? 
Said the goose.' 

Before answering which one might have to consider what 
world, which life, and whether his skin were a goose 
skin. But the Gray Goose's head would never have held 
all that." 

Major Ewing was stationed at Aldershot in 1869, and 

( 306) 


during the eight years Mrs. Ewing lived there her pen 
was never idle. Aunt Judy's Magazine for 1 870 was well 
supplied with tales, of which " Amelia " is perhaps one of 
the best. 

To her life at Aldershot we owe the story which had 
for its motto " Loetus sorte mea," and which is full of the 
most graphic descriptions of the huts and the soldiers' life 
in camp. As in the story of Madam Liberality we have 
glimpses of the author's childhood with all its little cares 
and joys, so in the " Story of a Short Life " we have the 
actual experience of a soldier's life in camp. 

O'Reilly, the useful man of all trades, with his warm 
Irish heart, and his devotion to the Colonel's wife, his 
erratic and haphazard way of performing his duties, his 
admiration for the little gentleman in his velvet coat and 
lace collar, who stood erect by his side when the funeral 
passed to the music of the Dead March, imitating his 
soldierlike bearing and salute, is a vivid picture touched 
by the skilled hand of a word painter. 

So also is the figure of the V.C., who in his first talk 
with the crippled child, stands before us as the ideal of a 
brave soldier, who sets but little store on his achievements, 
modest as the truly great always are, and encouraging the 
boy to fight a brave battle against irritable temper and im- 
patience at the heavy cross of suffering laid upon him. 



" ' You are a V.C.,' Leonard is saying, ' and you ought 
to know. I suppose nothing not even if I could be 
good always from this minute right away till I die 
nothing could ever count up to the courage of a V.C. ? ' 

" * God knows it could, a thousand times over,' was the 
V.C.'s reply. 

" ' Where are you going ? Please don't go. Look at 
me. They're not going to chop the Queen's head off, 
are they ? ' 

" * Heaven forbid ! What are you thinking about ? ' 

" ' Why because look at me again ah! you've winked 
it away ; but your eyes were full of tears, and the only 
other brave man I ever heard of crying was Uncle Rupert, 
and that was because he knew they were going to chop 
the poor king's head off.' That was enough to make 
anybody cry." 

They were in the room where the picture of the young 
cavalier ancestor of Leonard hung. He always called 
him "Uncle Rupert," and he would meditate on the 
young face with the eyes dim with tears eyes which 
always seemed to follow him, and, as he fancied, watched 
him sorrowfully, now no longer able to jump about and 
play with the Sweep, but lying helpless on his couch, 
or limping about on his crutches, often with pain and 

(308 ) 


This conversation between the V.C. and Leonard was 
the beginning of a strong friendship which was put to the 
test one Sunday when Leonard lay dying in the hut of 
his uncle, the barrack-master. 

The V.C. hated anything like display or bringing him- 
self into notice. Thus it cost him something to take up 
his position outside the iron church in the camp, that 
Leonard might hear the last verses of the tug-of-war 
hymn. The V.C.'s attachment to his little friend 
triumphed over his dislike to stand alone singing, 

" The Son of God goes forth to war, 
A kingly crown to gain." 

The melodious voice of the gallant young soldier rang 
through the air and reached the dying ears of little 
Leonard. The soldiers loved this hymn, and the organist 
could never keep them back. The soldiers, the story 
says, had begun to tug. In a moment more the organ 
stopped, and the V.C. found himself with over three 
hundred men at his back, singing without accompaniment 
and in unison : 

** A noble army, men and boys, 
The matron and the maid, 
Around the Saviour's throne rejoice 
In robes of white arrayed." 


Even now, as the men paused to take breath after their 
"tug," the organ spoke again softly but seraphically. 
Clearer and sweeter above the voices behind him rose the 
voice of the V.C. singing to his little friend : 

** They climbed the steep ascent to Heaven 
Through peril, toil and pain." 

The men sang on, but the V.C. stopped as if he had been 
shot. For a man's hand had come to the Barrack 
Master's window and pulled down the blind ! 

Here, again, we have an instance of this author's power 
to touch her readers, even to tears, by the true pathos which 
needs but few words to bring it home to many hearts. 

Taken as a whole, " The Story of a Short Life " has, it 
may be, some faults of construction, which arose from its 
being written in detached portions. The history of 
St. Martin, though it is not without its bearing on the 
story of the beautiful and once active child's bruised and 
broken life, and his desire to be a soldier, rather spoils the 
continuity of the narrative. 

" The Story of a Short Life " was not published in 
book form until four days before the author's death ; but 
it was not her last work, though from its appearance at that 
moment the title was spoken of by some reviewers as 
singularly appropriate. 



Mrs. Ewing's love for animals may be seen in all her 
stories Leonard's beloved "Sweep," I^jllo the red-haired 
pony on which Jackanapes took his first ride, and the dog 
in the blind man's story dying of grief on his grave, are 
all signs of the author's affection for those who have been 
well called " our silent friends." Her own pets were 
indeed her friends from a pink-nosed bulldog called 
Hector, to a refugee pup saved from the common hang- 
man, and a collie buried with honours, his master making 
a sketch of him as he lay on his bier. 

Mrs. Ewing was passionately fond of flowers, and 
" Mary's Meadow " was written in the last years of her 
life as a serial for cAunt Judy 's Magazine. Her very last 
literary work was a series of letters from a Little Garden, 
and the Jove of and care for flowers is the theme. 

Much of Mrs. Ewing's work cannot be noticed in a 
paper which is necessarily short. But enough has been 
said to show what was her peculiar gift as a writer for 

It is sometimes said that to write books for children 
cannot be considered a high branch of literature. We 
venture to think this is a mistake. There is nothing more 
difficult than to arrest the attention of children. They do 
not as a rule care to be written down to they can 

(3" ) 


appreciate what is good and are pleased when their elders 
can enter into and admire the story which has interested 
and delighted them. 

To write as Mrs. Ewing wrote is undoubtedly a great 
gift which not many possess, but a ; careful study of her 
works by young and old authors and readers alike cannot be 
without benefit. She was a perfect mistress of the English 
language ; she was never dull and never frivolous. There 
is not a slip-shod sentence, or an exaggerated piling up of 
adjectives to be found in her pages. She knew what she 
had to say, and she said it in language at once pure, 
forcible, and graceful. 

We must be grateful to her for leaving for us, and for 
our children's children, so much that is a model of all that 
tends to make the literature of the young yes, and of the 
old also attractive, healthy, and delightful. 

Printed by BALLANTYNE, HANSON & Co. 
London f Edinburgh 



1 4 

. i9 : 9