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Incoherent State of Society.
the Privy Council takes cognisance of the arts of form in its Science and Art Department, it almost ignores music. Again, the rewards for the arts of form are much more justly distributed by society than are the rewards for musical composition, a good painter getting better paid than a good composer; and lastly, criticism, which is of great importance in these days, is far worse represented in the matter of music than in the matter of the arts of form. “ Art criticism" consists mainly of the criticism of painting and sculpture, and this is fairly well done on the whole; but we have literally no good popular criticism of music, which seems to be quite forgotten when people talk about "art"-presumably because Mr. Mill's stricture on the popular idea of art is true: he says people mostly regard the arts as "a kind of elegant upholstery," which music clearly is too intangible to be included in. It is unfortunate that music should not be definitely included in the æsthetic programme, and especially as regards criticism, because sensationalism in music is nearly as rife and as baneful as sensationalism in literature; and a powerful and judicious criticism might do invaluable service here. The moral responsibilities of composers and musicians seem scarcely recognised, while those of other artists clearly are; and this inconsistency is absolutely indefensible.
The importance of poetry, and indeed of literature gene rally, is fully recognised by criticism in England : we have really an abundance of high critical literature that cannot be obscured or discredited by the still greater abundance of mere saleable “copy” that passes as critical with the reading public. Literary criticism is certainly doing much good work; but at the same time excellent productions of this class are frequently wasted on mediocre or worthless works that should, in a perfect literary economy, sink by their own weight out of sight. The critic's duties, however, will grow more absolute and be better defined when æsthetic literature itself becomes nobler and more coherent than it can possibly be in the present shaken state of society. At present, men and women at large are deplorably wanting in fixed notions of life-individual, domestic, and social : and but little art of the highest order can spring from a race deprived of such notions. More than all, the absence of a universal religion makes a universal literature impossible; and until we get accorded on this vitally important point, we may have splendid littérateurs, but we shall have no supreme bards, inhaling and exhaling the national life and sentiment. The elements of modern life are by no means incompatible with the existence of such bards, but the want of integration is absolutely incompatible : when religion again asserts its proper sway (effects the rebinding that its etymology implies), we shall have grand bards again; and a superb literature will serve to carry upwards, indefinitely, all the lower arts of expression.
It will hardly be supposed that the high place we have claimed for poetry is claimed for any poets in particular, much less for the poets of the present day. We have been referring to poetry in the abstract, and as represented by the greatest poets of all ages and nations. The poets of our own day have idealised doubt, and analysis, and the critical aspect so characteristic of the present time: they have gone back upon the past and done good service in historic and romantic idealisation; and they have fetched home, from the highest places of foreign art and intellect, fine material to embody in our elegant literature: they have given dexterous piecemeal expression to many of the minor phases of modern life and thought; but when we say that Aurora Leigh, with its fervour of conviction and feeling, its masculine force and feminine beauty, and its serious lack of adaptability to modern requirements as a whole, is by far the nearest approach we have to a real contemporary epic poem, we indicate how far the poetry of the day is from that synergic impulse that characterises the greatest literatures. Our poets represent our age very well; for the age does not know its own mind, is not more accorded on fundamentals than the poets are; and, in a partially disintegrated age, each poet gets impressed with some special element of it instead of becoming powerfully imbued with the spirit of ensemble. When the ensemble again coheres and is articulate, the yearlyincreasing æsthetic proclivities of modern society will provide the requisite giant-personalities to breathe forth the breath of the age's life ; and perhaps our posterity may have to find some other name than poets for these men of the future.
The literatus of the reintegrated age, the man who shall speak ideally of and for a modern society, knowing its own mind, and fully accorded on matters of religion, polity, morality, practical life, must understand the meaning of his age, be familiar with its details, know its place in history, and above all, feel enthusiastically its most salient emotions and, aspirations : he must be able to convey outward, in an idealised and synthesised form, without refraction of eccentric personality, this intelligence, this familiarity, this knowledge, this feeling, and vividly impress the result on the
general mind of his fellow men. To do this, he must combine great tenderness and great energy with a philosophic intellect and a poetic enthusiasm; and, just as he will be the product of an age that is already vast in its expansions and extensions, in its conquests and explorations, so the doings of his individual mind will come at length to have again what has characterised the minds of the greatest poets of foregone times—a certain correspondence with the “broad-cast doings of the day and night.”
ART. II.-William Tyndale : a Biography. A Contribution to
the Early History of the English Bible. By the Rev. R.
DEMAUS, M.A. London: The Religious Tract Society. The English Bible has been the most important and influential book in all literature. Even its literary influence can hardly be overstated, for, more than any other book-perhaps more than all other books beside—it has contributed to the perpetuation of the strength and beauty of the English tongue among all the different offshoots of the race. The identity of the language spoken throughout the North American Continent with that which we speak at home, though doubtless maintained in part by constant commercial intercourse, is largely due to a common familiarity with the words of Scripture. Men of our own lineage, separated from the mother country by the breadth of oceans, and united in social intercourse
and in political relationships with representatives of every European nationality, can nevertheless compare favourably with home-born Englishmen in the purity with which they speak and write the English tongue; and the reason is that as children they read, and that they still continue to read, the same Holy Book as we, and that their earliest and deepest impressions of the beauty and fitness of words arise unconsciously from the unequalled diction of the English Bible.
Of still greater historic importance is the political influence of the same book. It has been from the beginning the instructor of the English people in their duties and in their rights. The dissemination of the first rude version of Wycliffe awakened the movement called Lollardie-a movement which was crushed by the strong hand of the Lancastrian kings, only to reappear in new form and increased intensity under the Tudor and the Stuart reigns. Cromwell's stout Ironsides rode to battle with the “ Souldier's Pocket Bible," a small and portable collection of extracts of Holy Scripture, “buttoned between the coat and the vest, next to the heart;" and, through all the gloomy period which preceded the Revolution of 1688, the men who fought the battle of civil and religious liberty were men who loved the Bible, and who found in it precepts for this life as well as promises of another.
And, to come to more recent times, that spirit of temperate liberty which has in these days appeared almost peculiar to our own countrymen, which has conducted us through the greatest political changes without social disturbance or danger, which cherishes the supremacy of law as jealously as it maintains the freedom of the individual, we trace confidently to the quiet influence of scriptural principles of human duties and human rights in which successive generations of Englishmen have been trained from childhood.
Of the religious influence of the English Bible this is scarcely the place to speak. “Its sound has gone forth into all lands, and its words to the end of the world;" it has pleaded with the careless, and guided the penitent to his Saviour, and strengthened the wavering in tho battle of life; it has been the first teacher of little children in all things true and pure and kindly, and it has been the companion of Christian men and women in all kinds of duty and danger, and its blessed words have been their last earthly consolation on the bed of death. More widely scattered in our own day than the wildest imagination could have anticipated, accepted as the inspired Word of God by all denominations of English Christians and by all branches of the English race, it has been the greatest power for religious good the world has ever seen.
There is a sense in which the days of this hitherto unequalled version of Holy Scripture are drawing towards a close. Step by step the learned and impartial committees which represent the Biblical scholarship of England are proceeding in the great and responsible task which has been assigned them, the revision of the English Bible. The fulness of time has evidently come, and the revision now being conducted with the assistance of a greatly improved text, and with far more critical acquaintance with the languages of the original Scriptures, may perhaps give us an English Bible that shall endure as long as the language itself. But those who have felt most strongly the necessity of revision, to make the English Bible what it ought to be, and what it might fairly claim to be regarded when it was first “ appointed to be read in churches,” namely, the most accurate representation of the original that English scholarship could produce, have felt also how important it is to retain as far as possible the words to which we have been accustomed from childhood. Not literary taste alone, and reverence for antiquity, but an honest regard for the best interests of all Churches, and for all Englishspeaking families and nations, would suggest that there should be no great gulf, but an easy and natural transition, between