Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

quelling it? But now that she has had her disasters, aqually in pocket, pride, and prestige, her interest is aroused. Is it too much to believe that, with the newly engendered interest in African affairs permeating all classes, and strengthened with the very natural satisfaction at having such inen as the explorer Wissmann, and the brave Prussian, Emin Pasha, there will be raised

up in German society a worthier intention than we seem inclined to allow credit for ?

It has been pointed out, that there is another side to the German character, and that the nation which in less enlightened times could launch against the heathendom of the world by far the most wide-spread and influential missionary organization in existence, the Moravian Brotherhood, cannot safely be ridiculed on the score of good works. The spirit which sends forth the Herrnhuters' must find something well within its scope in this new anti-slavery movement. In any case, the barbarities of the slave-trade and the ferocity of Mohammedan potentates—whether we turn to the Khalifat at Kartoum, or the Sultan of Zanzibar, in a mood for executions—are now coming under vigilant scrutiny, and a little competition may tend to sharpen the perception.

The accusation of being participants in a sham must, and no doubt will, be repelled at all hazards, and not by unavailing words. The two foremost European statesmen, against whom it has been levelled, will not lack the sympathy of the people, either in this country or in Germany, when the case is more clearly stated; and, we may add, when the slave-trade is more intelligently studied. When it is remembered what the African slave-trade means to millions of human beings, no man can altogether divest himself of the idea, that it would become perilously near mocking God were the subject to be dressed with importance of a sudden for a sinister purpose, or bedecked with unusually emphatic verbiage to secure a retreat from a diplomatic complication.

We are told that no tomb is visited so often as that of Livingstone in Westminster Abbey. Men of all nations stand and spell out the words written on the slab which covers his remains-almost his own last words :- All I can say in my solitude is, may Heaven's rich blessing come down on every one, American, English, Turk, who will help to heal the open sore of the world.' We cannot believe that Germany will fail to claim her share in the old traveller's benediction.





ART. IX.-Mr. John Morley's Collected Writings :-Voltaire,

Rousseau, Diderot, Critical Miscellanies, Compromise, and
Burke. 10 vols. London, 1886-88.
E have frequently, in this Review, when discussing

political questions, made passing reference to the views of Mr. John Morley; and there are perhaps few persons of equal eminence, whose authority we have treated with scantier respect or admiration. We have, however, before now urged, that the views of public men demand and deserve attention, in proportion, not to their intrinsic worth and reasonableness, but to the practical influence which they exercise, or the forces which they represent. On this last ground alone, if on no other, Mr. Morley takes an exceedingly high place amongst those, to whom attention of the most careful kind is due. If there are few politicians who less deserve to be followed, there are few whose opinions it will be more instructive to examine.

We will make our meaning a little more precise. We have spoken of men who exercise practical influence: but it is not his influence which makes Mr. Morley important, neither influence as a thinker nor influence as a politician. We do not believe that, in either character, he has any personal following that nume. rically is worth speaking about. His importance is due to the fact, not that he wields forces, but that he represents forces, and that he represents them in a way more complete and clear than any other public man in England. That party which, to describe it by the term most acceptable to all of its various sections, we may in a technical sense call the Party of Progress,' no doubt possesses and is inspired by a large number of philosophers; but Mr. Morley is the only one of this number who has connected himself with practical lise, or been in contact with affairs and statesmen. Nor has this contact been accidental. He is not a philosopher who, like Mr. Arthur Balfour, has turned aside from philosophy to devote himself to some urgent national business. There is, in his case, no turning aside whatever. His position in the practical world is the direct consequence and sequel of his position as a thinker, and takes from his position as a thinker whatever meaning it possesses. The Radical party has sought him out and promoted him, not because he was eminent for any practical tact or ability, but because he was eminent as an exponent of the underlying rationale of Radicalism. He has none of that mastery of men's most powerful weaknesses which Mr. Gladstone possesses from being himself a colossal embodiment of them al but his works and his life possess what Mr. Gladstone's r?

There is in them a certain oneness of purpose and coherency, which embrace not only the theory of Radical politics, but also the theories philosophical, social, and religious, with which, on the whole, those politics are inseparably allied. He is the Fénelon or the Cardinal Newman of, we will not say the Radical party, but we will say of the Radical movement. He expresses for that movement the reason of the faith that is in it, or at least as much of that faith as has any reason to be expressed; and hence the interest that attaches to the ten handsome volumes, in which his writings have been recently collected and published, and whose general significance we now propose to discuss.

It is well, indeed, to warn the reader that, when we call these volumes interesting, we do not use the word in the sense which it would bear at a circulating library. With certain notable exceptions, of which we shall speak presently, the style, though close and lucid, is of almost unparalleled dryness. But, if we master our distaste for this strangely repellent medium, we shall find in Mr. Morley's writings a lesson that is singularly instructive, and is certainly very different from any that he means to teach us. We shall see the whole inner spirit of modern democratic progress, represented in its best, its completest, and its most conscientious development. We shall see, not only its political creed and aims, but its religious, its moral, and its philosophical creed also, as they appear to a man who has devoted every effort to bringing them into some consistent and practical whole, and who does not Ainch from letting the world know, what many of his party have not the courage to confess, and what still more have not the capacity clearly and consistently to realize. We shall see this, and something else besides. We shall not only see the man as the representative and exponent of a system, but we shall also see a system as re-acting on and affecting the man. We shall see the man bringing to the system many qualities of a high and unusual nature, unusual integrity, unusual intelligence and culture, unusual fairness, and unusual powers of reasoning: but we shall see that, though these qualities are strong, the system is still stronger ; and that with a savage and pitiless force it crushes, distorts, or mutilates, whatever of good is unhappily consecrated to defending it. We shall see that, being immoral and irrational in its postulates, in its temper, and in its aims, it makes its defenders immoral and irrational also; that, by an iron and irresistible movement, it tortures tolerance into intolerance, candour into rancorous hatred, scientific scepticism into the blindest and most abject superstition, and logical


[ocr errors]

consistency into confusion and self-contradiction; we shall see, in fact, the man of clear thought and integrity completely broken on the wheel of the creed he has adopted, writhing and exhibiting himself in intellectual attitudes that are only not ridiculous because they are so profoundly pitiable.

It is a well-known device on the part of critics or orators to overpraise the persons whom they design to attack, so that by raising the pedestals they may secure a more ignominious fall for the statues. In our praise, however, of Mr. Morley, we can honestly acquit ourselves of any such insincerity; and we propose to begin our examination of his volumes, by substantiating, with their aid, our estimate of his natural qualities.

Of the three or four thousand pages of which these volumes. consist, considerably more than half are devoted to the studies of men who directly or indirectly assisted in the French Revolution. One volume is given to Voltaire, two to Rousseau, two to Diderot, and separate essays, which equal another volume in bulk, are given to Turgot, to Condorcet, and to Robespierre. Six volumes out of the ten are thus practically accounted for. Of the others, one is given to Burke, one to an Essay on Compromise, a production something in the style of Mill's · Essay on Liberty'; whilst the remaining two consist of various shorter studies of English writers, regarded mainly as revolutionaries, Byron, J. S. Mill, Miss Martineau, and George Eliot, together with one or two pieces almost entirely literary. Mr. Morley's philosophy is nowhere set forth formally; even in his · Essay on Compromise’ it is applied, rather than stated. It is only to be gathered from constant reference and allusion, from parenthetical paragraphs, or sentences of trenchant correction of others. It is held, as it were, in solution, in a mass of biographical and other criticism, from whicb, however, by the simple chemistry of attention, it is readily made to form itself into a precipitate. We will consider these volumes first in their ostensible character of criticisms, and critical biographies; and we shall thus be introduced to their author in his most favourable light.

The three capacities in which Mr. Morley shows himself at his best, are, according to our opinion, that of a literary critic, that of a philosophic biographer, and lastly, in spite of what we have said just now—that of an author, shown by certain. rare and exceptional passages, to be capable of singular literary excellence himself. We will say something of his distinctive merits in each.

It is as a literary critic that we think his faculties are most remarkable ; and though such criticism is the use to which he most rarely applies them, we cannot avoid thinking that, according to his natural tastes, it is the use which really is most congenial to himself. He has a singularly fine sense alike of form and of style; he is, in analysis, singularly searching and logical ; he can be enthusiastic in his admiration of an author, without being blind to his faults, and contemptuous of his faults, whilst generally appreciative of his greatness. This severe fairness of temper enables him to discriminate with admirable acuteness and nicety the grade and quality of an author's talent or genius, and the kind of influence exercised by it. Finally, his own style, when he is dealing with literary subjects, loses much of its usual dryness, whilst retaining all its lucidity, and conveys to our minds his various thoughts and judgments in all the clearness and delicacy which they evidently possess in his own.


If we would see these qualities all displayed at their best, what we should turn to is his Essay on Lord Macaulay. As an analysis of a style, and of the moral meanings of a style, this Essay is, we think, unsurpassed. Many people are accustomed to think, that style is nothing but an affair of vocabulary, and balance of sentences. Mr. Morley destroys this narrow conception at once, by the pertinent remark that, to reproduce the style of Macaulay, the first requisite is to reproduce his extraordinary familiarity with literature, for the reason that it is, beyond all else, the style of great literary knowledge.' He does not, however, neglect its more formal and superficial characteristics, such as the sparkle of its phraseology, and the peculiarities of its rhythm and its cadences. On the contrary, he describes with equal appreciation and accuracy “that splendid and glittering prose, which is like a suit of armour to the thought.' He points out its faults too with the same delicate discrimination : . there is the hardness in it,' he says, “if there is also the sheen, of highly wrought metal :' there is music in it, but it is the music of a solo on a silver trumpet, never the swelling diapasons of the organ, and never the deep ecstasies of the four magic strings. All that Mr. Morley says on this subject is excellent ; but his criticism assumes its chief and its most peculiar interest, when he gets beneath what we may call the tone and the gestures of style, and penetrates to the things they signify. No remark, for instance, could be more acute or more suggestive than this, that the dignity and elevation which impresses us in Macaulay's prose, when we look more closely into it . .. disagreeably resembles the narrow assurance of a man, who knows that he has with him the great battalions of public opinion.'




[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »