« FöregåendeFortsätt »
absolute belief in the personages and the circumstances of his own creation. This it is which lends such form and persuasion to his realism : in this he is absolutely and pleasantly opposed to Mr. Thackeray He never talks about having played out a play and shutting up the puppets, not only because he constantly requires to bring out the puppets again, that they may play other plays with
less of difference in the situations, but also because he would not on any account acknowledge them to be puppets, but wishes them to be believed in with faith and recognized with knowledge like his own. He would not account for the ad. ventures
of any of the numerous families whose annals he gives with such simple, specious, convincing detail, by saying that he sauntered into a wood and dreamed them, as Mr. Thackeray accounted for his “Newcomes," and so did his best to destroy the effect of the reality that he had produced with so much skill and intensified with so much labour. There are no characters in fiction so real, as persons, to the world, as the creations of Mr. Trollope. We talk as familiarly, and perhaps more frequently, of some of Mr. Dickens's bright, fantastic fancies, but in a different way, and because of the exquisite, incomparable humour of them. But we talk of only a few, and of them for some special characteristic, and because they turn up in illustration of some particular quality or whimsical circumstance. We quote them when exceptions, oddities, vagaries are in question, and those we quote are not the people who play the serious parts in the stories in which they appear. But Mr. Trollope has given life, and speech, and motion to scores of portraits, has sent them to walk abroad and continue, and to have their names on men's lips when the actual every-day affairs and incidents of life are talked of, to rise up in one's memory in one's silent cogitations, to suggest themselves as matters of fact, the readiest, handiest, most suitable of comparisons, and illustrations. They come from all sides of his many-sided pictures of life; they are not his caricatures, for he rarely employs caricature; they are not his avowedly comic personages,
for there is in all his stories no unmixed jester, no one who goes through life merely on the broad grin, or producing it; they are not his set, distinct types, for he has none. We do not find in all his long series of works, of the kind which would be called in the French language actualités, any special illustrations of ruling passions,—vices, virtues, or qualities. There is no one man who is avarice personified like Ralph Nickleby, or selfishness personified like Martin Chuzzlewit, or gambling personified like little Nell's grandfather. He avoids all exaggeration, in either good or evil, with such care and success, that
sometimes one is almost provoked with him, especially in his later works, for his perfect, undeviating reasonableness; but his people, life-size and life-like, are all thoroughly real to his readers, as he forces his readers to feel they are to himself. We cannot conceive the possibility of Mr. Trollope's writing long interjectional letters to any one in the world, when he approaches the profoundly pathetic termination of the story of Emily Hotspur, proclaiming his inisery at her inevitable death, and his doubts of his own fortitude, as Mr. Dickens wrote to Mr. Forster when little Nell's time had come. And yet the one is as real, as entirely true, as the other is theatrical, impossible; and that the girl lived and died, seriously and actually, a truth to the writer, is made evident by the perfection of the style of the narrative-plain, reticent, simple, almost to audacity. There is the sound, detailed, substantial completeness of sculpture in Mr. Trollope's workmanship; of modern sculpture, in modern dress, with no allegorical draperies or insignia, and with as careful an avoidance of the grotesque as of the colossal. So his men and women are real creatures to us, when he turns them out of the studio of his brain, as they are to him. He is more than the painter, more than the sculptor of his people; he is the biographer of them all. He does not merely imagine Archdeacon Grantly and Johnny Eames, and put them into certain stories to play their parts in certain incidents, as is mostly the whole utility and destiny of fictitious persons in novels; he looks at them and into them, he turns them about; observes them, lives with them; knows them so thoroughly well and intimately, that he makes us know them almost as fully, and in quite a separate way, from the actual set of circumstances in which he exhibits them. The Arabins and the Thornes, the Greshams, the Crawleys, and the De Courcys are still in Barsetshire, the Last Chronicle notwithstanding, and Crosbie and Johnny Eames are also no doubt to be found at their respective offices, not quite a quarter of a mile from Charing Cross.
The leading novelist of the day is in this instance its accurate representative, its faithful mouthpiece - not as regards the vulgar aspects, the tumultuous attributes of society, which are, indeed, represented by him, who is neither a subversive nor a sensational writer ; but as regards its real, permeating motives, its spirit, its aims, and its manners. It is not a little indication of the character of the time that this should be so. The present is an age which takes a keen, pressing, sleepless interest in itself. If a romance-writer of the power of Sir Walter Scott were to write historical novels for it, it would not read them. It is impatiently inattentive to anything,-unless it be within the sphere of scientific research, --which goes further back than yesterday; it shrinks from the trouble of bringing itself into rapport with any lives whose mechanical resources did not include railways and the electric telegraph, and which were destitute of dailies and weeklies. It has broken with the past more thoroughly than we can conceive any previous age to have broken with its past, and it is not to be won to interest in any of the dead and gone old ways and old doings. There is an occasional chance for the antique, if it be very well furbished up indeed, but there is none for the merely oldfashioned. There is such a difference between past and passé. Mr. Trollope meets, suits, gratifies this taste. He is the most entirely modern of novelists, for, though he must perforce use the materials of which human lives have been made from the beginning, he handles and combines them exactly according to the latest fashions, and tells “the old, old story" with the newest notes, and, for all their shrewd ingenuity, with the most conventional comments. He may prove to be the founder of a school, but at present he stands alone. He may have would-be imitators among the number of men and women who write fiction, and of whom no one knows more than the titles of their books in the interminable lists of new novels which are among the most puzzling of the social eruptions and the commercial problems of the day ; but no imitator, no disciple, has ever emerged from the nameless foolish crowd. His keen and extensive knowledge of the world, of society in its widest and also in its narrowest meaning, puts him out of the reach of ignorant imitators, and his style saves him from dubious flattery by the uneducated and unscrupulous women who copy male writers of the “Guy Livingstone” school,--themselves copyists of bad French originals,--with an increase of their vuigarity and corruption. Even Mr. Thackeray was easier of imitation than Mr. Trollope is, because he occasionally fell into exaggeration, and anything which is overdone lends itself to the coarse attempts of the copyist. He was too cynical, too incredulous; he endowed his puppets” with cunning as much too profusely as Sheridan endowed his dupes and foils with wit; and he moralized too much. There is notbing so easy as moralizing,
. and the “you and I, my dear madam, know, &c.,” style of composition had quite a run, while Mr. Thackeray was telling his stories with grins and sneers within every one's imitation, but with certain other adjuncts that were beyond it. Nothing is so difficult to imitate as moderation, as the exquisite justness of vision which sees everything as it is, and the correctness of touch which presents it in its exact proportions; the accurate insight which knows what will be the line on which a given mind will travel under given circumstances, and the good taste which will never purchase effect at the price of distortion. Mr. Trollope's style is in harmony with the purport and nature of his novels: it is as modern, as equable, as uniform as they are. It is exceedingly easy, but never careless; it is not remarkably refined, though it is never coarse, rough, or abrupt; it is not grand, sonorous, or elevated, though it always is, when he means it to be so, downright, striking, and impressive; and the permanent effect which it produces is that it is at once unmistakable, and, not unpleasantly, monotonous. It is said that nobody who has read a work of Mr. Ruskin's, can hear a sentence written by him without recognizing it as his. We do not think any reader familiar with one or two of Mr. Trollope's novels, except perhaps “ The Bertrams” and “The Three Clerks,” could mistake, let us say a page of his, for one written by any other hand. Perhaps the chief cause of this unmistakability is the not unpleasant monotony just alluded to. He is a mannerist, if the term may be used without reproach, and we think it may be, though it has also a reproachful significance, because it has come to be used in the sense of an affected writer. But a novelist's manner is his style, and no more to be so named reproachfully, than one means reproach in speaking of a painter's touch, or a musician's effects. He has turns of phrase which we expect, just as surely as we expect certain complications to arise in his stories, because it is reasonable according to the characters and ways of thinking of the people that they should arise, and we never think of resenting them, as we resent the mannerisms of Mr. Dickens and Mr. Wilkie Collins, which are devices to substitute forms for things. He is the least disappointing, because the most even of all great novelists. Unhasting, unresting”
seems to be his motto, as it was that of the great German who was so unlike him in all but industry. His fertility does not surprise us any longer: we are accustomed to a perpetual publication of books by him, and it does not alarm us, because he never does slovenly or ill-considered work; never displays over-confidence in his vast popularity, or disdain of public criticism. His steadiness is equal to his speed; his work is never scamped, and it is always highlyfinished. Many of his novels are not exciting; perhaps his present one, “The Eustace Diamonds," is the most exciting of them all-it has certainly produced the most discussion
but they are interesting, and in each there is some one particular person who stamps himself or herself upon the memory, though in the greater number of instances this effect is produced by no adventitious means, but simply by the convincing truth and humorous lifelikeness of the portrait. With all this, he is not a deep writer; he would not be at once the product and the representative of the times if he were.
He is singularly acute, ready, and fair-minded. He is not profound, or philosophical, or speculative in any universal, or indeed wide sense. He is not cynical : there is no more than good-humoured satire in his delineation of human littleness, meanness, spite, folly, time-serving, self-seeking, and servility; but there is an entire absence of spirituality about him, of even a discernment of things supernatural. In many respects he is narrow, with a representative narrowness. He knows foreign countries well—foreign peoples, or individuals, hardly at all. He draws a Count Pateroff and a Sophie Gordeloup very well, but Florac and his mother, or the people whom Mrs. Sartoris brings together in her “Week in a French Country House" would be entirely beyond him. He is evidently very fond of politics, and has mastered every detail of the mechanism of government. But he leaves the impression that his taste is for the near horizons in politics; that he knows the wire-pulling and the personnel, the machinery, the dodges, the smaller aims, and the ways of their encompassment better than the large interests and the lofty considerations whereon depend the welfare and the progress of mankind. He does not condescend to the vulgarity of representing all politics as humbug, and all politicians as lying jobbers, in the style of Mr. Dickens's"Little Dorrit” and “Hard Times.” On the contrary, he is very grave, earnest, precise, and particular in his descriptions of Parliament, committees, elections, and political men, and he assigns to the latter some of the most distinguished places in his works; but there is no grandeur, and no width, amid all the cleverness, point, shrewdness, vividness, satire, and sense of these scenes and portraits. We do not mean to imply that Mr. Trollope's own mind may not be capable of much greater things, which the parliamentary career to which he is known to aspire may develop and realize; but only to point out that the politics in his works are small
, and the politicians either cold, viewy, and doctrinaire, like Plantagenet Palliser, or cunning, fussy, and shallow, like Phineas Finn. In every department of which he makes mention Mr. Trollope exhibits extensive and minute knowledge, so curious and complete as to render subjects which would otherwise be dry and unat