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invent “a new shudder," instead of bringing to the birth
Is not legislation, too, a sort of literary
Little more than a dozen years have passed since the learned Professor presented us with this text for reflection ; and we have only to scan the interval to discover that though he may have flung the lash too far when he extended it to modern medicine, and also, perhaps, to
Away with it! I'll no more. What! with the sweet pattering of a noonday shower just over, a return of morning light to the sky, a new fragrance breathing from every leaf? And those bells torn from a village tower in old Flanders to waste their sweetness in a cockney suburb—there they chime in the distance; and sad they must be to look out no more upon the level fields—to sound no more over the graves below and the roofs beyond, which were accustomed to them for so many generations. It needs no very sentimental fancy to imagine them trying to send their thin old voices across this land of exile to the quiet place where they are familiar, and where for three hundred years they gave their greetings to life, love, and death. To me again, then, dear weed ! for this is melancholy matter; and if work it must be-(and I do perceive that be it must)—why let us make a roving job of it, and travail with the free and happy tinkers. If we may not roam in idleness complete, neither shall labour tie us down to any stake. There is such a thing as a lazy rambling of thought, sometimes called wool-gathering : it is pleasant and easy, and the wool will sell for something. We will disquisitionise at random; touch and go, here and there, over this fence, over that; and the point to start from may be anything. It is a marriage that those bells are celebrating : so now.
However it may fall out with the young man who, as these bells inform us, is at present being led from the altar, to most men who live beyond their youth there comes a time when to utter the word 'love' they are ashamed; unless it be to speak of love of power, love of money, love of home, or any other love but that which is most common of all, which is rarely dissociated from any, and which in its outcome and determinations affects our lives the most. With women it is not so; or so we may believe if the little knowledge that men have of women may be trusted in anything. However long they may have lived; whether widow, wife, or
maid; whether they themselves have shared all the tumultuous pains and pleasures depicted in the story-books, or have been denied allwomen have ever a ready ear for a love-tale, and speak of the passion with no embarrassment except that which some passage in their own history may occasion. What it is that accounts for the difference we may inquire into hereafter; unless, indeed, we content ourselves with the imperfect reflection that men are men and women are women. There is the origin of the difference, no doubt: it is certainly not to be explained, as some may think, by differences of training, of companionship, of business or occupation, or any superiority of mental gifts or moral perceptions on the one side or the other. The truth is that, if we do enter upon the inquiry, we shall have to begin at that distant and mysterious point in the generation of mankind when the undiscovered forces of nature determine that what is neither a man-child nor a woman-child shall henceforth proceed to become one or the other of those strangely different creatures. But this is a point of investigation so remote and so obscure that there is no hope of ever reaching it. Physiological methods are of no avail, they stop far short of the mystery; neither will the gropings and the guessings of psychology help us until the psychologist is both man and woman and brings to the subject the intuition of both. We shall never know how it is that, starting from undistinguishable beginnings, and being the same in every particular of growth for a time, so far as all the eyes of science can discern to the contrary, we presently enter upon such different paths of development, while yet unborn, that brother and sister are more strange to each other and more unknown than any two men or any two women of different race altogether.
It is but a minor mystery in this very great one that, whereas women to the end of their days think and speak of love without any sense of constraint, men are ashamed when they grow old to utter the name of it, and never do so except upon compulsion. This would be the less remarkable but for two circumstances. Speaking generally, it is the finer and more wholesome-minded sort of men who are most shy in speaking of the “tender passion,' and what all are most shy of is the nobler part of it—its sentimentalities, to wit. No doubt there are obvious reasons to explain why men when they grow old should shrink from the mere contemplation of these sentimentalities; but then they equally apply to women, who may be supposed not less sensible of the loss of youth, the decay of beauty and charm, to which the dreams and the raptures of the passion are alone appropriate. Moreover, we might reasonably expect those reasons to operate with yet greater force in suppressing all concern with whatever may be called the grossnesses of the passion, and all thought of them; and yet they do not. It is the dream and the rapture, the exaltations of love, which do so certainly ennoble and
purify both the passion and the mind it dwells in—it is these that the man of middle age is most unwilling to acknowledge any acquaintance with.
So much the worse; I do not mean only for the man of middle age himself, especially as there are many exceptions to the general perversion. But since even those who, retaining a recollection and a sense of all that love is, are not ashamed to cherish both, yet never dare to speak or write of it as the historian writes of other things, the result is that a sober and sympathetic account of the passion is hardly to be found in modern literature. The poet has his say, fully and fluently, when he himself is a young man, and hotly informed with all its complexities of impulse and inspiration. The novelist also, in like manner. But when poet and novelist pass into the fifties, we see by many an example that either they cannot or will not have much to do with the subtleties or the glories of a passion that fills half the romance books and created their writers. To sing of love rapturously, to exalt it, to analyse and illustrate it in a hundred ways, is a delight when you are a young man of genius under its influence; and not only a delight: it is evidently understood to be a foremost duty to mankind. So it is with us in our salad days, and in the days of summer; but when July is past, and August, the mood changes. As September wears through, the Michaelmas green-goose seems as likely to be the bird of love as any other, and as worthy of celebration. Arrived at the autumnal time of life, they who still tune the lyre to the old strain do so with a faint uncertainty, as if it were not quite the dignified thing. Or they cease from it altogether; or tune it to a mocking goose-song, something like the serenade that Mephistopheles sings in Gounod's Faust, which is almost as much of a wonder in its way as the sacred music of hell which the same personage delivers into Margaret's ear from the cathedral chapel.
Thackeray’s difficulty has been the difficulty of most gentlemen who have followed his trade. To be sure, Thackeray had never much of a turn for love-scenes—not from incapacity, not for want of the wherewithal, but from indisposition both natural and acquired. There is reason to believe that if, knowingly, he could have written Romeo and Juliet, or the fifteenth chapter of Richard Feverel, even at thirty he would have refrained; and he would have done so out of a certain kind of self-respect. The grand passion could not be omitted from his books altogether, such are the exigencies of publishers and the lending library. But we know what use he made of it at his warmest and dreamiest, and not long after he had come to the forty year' of his own significant ballad the writing of love scenes irked him almost to the pitch of revolt. There was humiliation in the business. It was mortifying to be seen, by the mind's eye of the world, sitting down in the well-filled chair of twoscore years and ten to the serious concoction of a love-tale. With Mr. Trollope, also of VOL. XXVI.-No. 150.
our time, it was different; but he was a manufacturing novelist and had no feelings in the matter. Others there have been, however, who, with feelings enough, were less squeamish than Mr. Thackeray, and yet as they came to fifty year they shunned the lute of the troubadour and all the tunes appropriate to it as a sort of undignified caterwauling.
It is a pity. They might have done better—some of them at least. It would be no undignified thing in any man to look back upon the passion when he has passed out of it, taking account of its influences, good, bad, or indifferent, like a sober but kindly philosopher. Tható love is a madness' is well understood. In its extremes (and a lukewarm love is neither here nor there--an embryo passion void of vital breath) that it certainly is by every sign and token. But then there is so much of noble inspiration in it, as well as of what seems ridiculous and really is not, that it is a pity it should be left to the rhapsody of those who live under its dominion, and worse that when Youth has done with it some strange perversity of years should turn it all to scoffing. Nor is there any pleasure in reflecting that this same perversity has its counterpart in the most savage impulses of what has been called Love's twin brother; a detestable connection which cannot be denied with perfect confidence any more than it can be admitted without question. The dinner-table companion who, slinging his light shafts of humour tipped with animal poison, wounds the love that was his own great pleasure once, is very like the beast of the field that turns upon and gores his mate of the moment before. If we could trace the pedigree of both we should find, perhaps, that the impulse of the brute and the sallies of the wit have the same origin : which is something for the wit to think about in his more sober moods. It may also be recommended as a point of speculation to the light, bright, man-of-the-world essayist, who sometimes touches on this subject in his own sly and gamesome way. Possibly the result of his cogitations on the relationship above suggested might be to damp out some of his jokes and limit the range of his satire; but that he need not regret if, as another consequence, his humour becomes a little more humane.
Besides, there is plenty to laugh at in the weakness and extravagance with which the tender passion’ infects both men and women. Comedy lives upon them: and long live comedy! The middle-aged scoffer is not admirable, as he himself is generally aware in a dim uneasy way; but there is another and a totally different sort of elderly male person—little known in these latitudes, we may thank our stars —who is more unlovely yet. We have examples of his kind in this colder clime, no doubt; but they are comparatively speechless, and are rarely known to confide their woes even to one faithful breast. The sort of elderly male person I mean fourishes most where we should naturally look for him ; in the lands of the light guitar.
There, it seems, you may hear old gentlemen trill pathetic lays of
But now, my youth all gone, my manly charms decayed, what misery is mine! No bosom pants at my approach, no petticoat flutters any more for me. It is all over !—dig my grave. Nothing is left to me now but rage concealed and secret tears—rage at the shrinking scorn, tears at the mocking smile of buxom beauty. The young bird sings from the bough, and is answered. The young horse neighs, and hears the responsive whinny and the stamp of the little forefoot. The bird sings, the horse neighs, the rabbit frisks, and I-oh, miserable me!' Very bad. The satirist and cynic may have their full fling here and laugh as much as they please; though we may be sure the ignoble old wretches who so complain, whether in creole verse or Piccadilly prose, do suffer very much indeed, poor things! And though they may be more nauseous, yet they are not so reprehensible as another kind of elderly male person who is far less of a rarity with us: the one who tells his ribald old stories in the company of young men. To hear his jocularity and see their grinning faces-nothing in the world is more humiliating: there is hardly any more infuriating shame. Such persons as these we might willingly give up, not only to the satirist, but to the public executioner.
Not to seek other illustrations, there is good work enough for the satirical humourist in this field of observation if he will only exercise a little discretion : which, however, he has never yet learned to do. Were it otherwise, caricaturists and smart writers for the stage and the press would cease to ridicule Old Maids. They would have refrained long ago from one of the meanest and stupidest cruelties of which clever men are capable. Not that there is any cleverness in its infliction now, if ever there was. The humour here is all so old, so hackneyed, as well as so easy, that Art can have no pride in it, surely, whether it depicts a row of wall-flowers’ in a ball-room, or tricks out the old maid to be laughed at on the stage, or puts her to ridicule in some humorous history. While as to the fun of it, is there any fun? For whom, then, if any there be ? To be sure, the wallflowers in the comic pictures generally seem to amuse; and there is always a laugh in the theatre when the old maid comes on, to frisk or to languish as the taste of the playwright may determine. But we are human, after all; and if some strange habitual weakness makes