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P. I like them just as they come. I am quite as much at home with Beethoven and Bach and that, as with 'Gus Harris's pantomime or a promenade concert. Pleasure, amusement, and variety are the object of Art; and I call the man a pedant who prefers a symphony to a patter song or a good breakdown.
W. You don't think that is desultory now?
P. And a good thing too. Life is not worth living unless it is desultory. And the business of Art is to gratify all tastes in turn.
W. As a confectioner does. Well, and what do you say to pictures ? Are you equally omnivorous in a gallery of paintings?
P. Yes. I never could stand the nonsense about High Art, ancient masters, and principles of taste. I have seen most of the galleries in Europe; and I like any school, and the telling pictures of all schools in turn.
W. Do you never spend a wet afternoon in the Taylor Gallery, to study the Raphael drawings or Michael Angelo's designs ?
P. Oh! I saw them one morning in my first term, when our people came up to do Oxford ; and very curious they are. But as to studying them, the fellows who do that are narrowing their taste. That is pedantry. Ars longa, vita brevis. I am for knowing something of every one. Raphael is very well: and so is Doré. Titian was a clever man : and so is Verestchagin.
W. Come now, do you mean to say that all your study of picture galleries ends in your placing Doré on a level with Raphael ?
P. Dear me, no! As a matter of criticism or estimate, I can see the difference, and write about it, I dare say, as the critic fellows do, by the column. But in order to enjoy, you must pass from one to the other; see the merit of all styles, and the skill of all methods. Doré has something which Raphael never had ; and Verestchagin can teach Titian a thing or two in corpses.
W. And Verestchagin's corpses give you a new zest for Raphael's Madonnas ?
P. Well, I like them all-Fra Angelico and Goya, Sandro Botticelli and Salvator, Giotto and Delacroix, Turner and Horace Vernetthey all have a way of their own. Variety is the end of Art; and curiosity is the note of culture.
W. And you say the same in architecture, I suppose ? Here, now, in Oxford, are you just as catholic in your tastes?
P. Yes! I know no place like Oxford for a happy confusion of styles. The Greek grotesque of the Taylor Museum beside the sham thirteenth century of the Martyrs' Memorial: round arch, pointed arch, ogee, and architrave--all side by side : Norman, Early Pointed, Decorated, Perpendicular, Debased, Elizabethan, Jacobean, Queen Anne, Georgian, Victorian, Churchwarden, Jacksonian, and Omnium Gatherum styles-all get a chance in turn : and all have something of their own. I am against any Index Expurgatorius in Art.
W. What a delightful mood to have, an equal capacity of enjoying everything! And do you extend this to every body as well as every thing? When you go down to these balls, for instance, where I hear you are so much in request, do you take your partners for a waltz just as they come: plain, dull, heavy-footed, and all ?
P. God forbid! My dear fellow, one must draw the line somewhere. I choose my partners from the girls I like best.
W. So you have an Index Expurgatorius of young ladies, eh? P. Well, I like jolly partners best, of course.
W. And fellows at your club, or for a shooting party, or at a country house, and so on. Do you go anywhere you are asked, and hob-nob with any one you meet ?
P. What on earth do you mean? I am rather careful than otherwise not to get into a slow house, or to sit down to a shady dinner.
W. So that you are particular as to the people with whom you pass your time, the girls with whom you dance, the dishes which you eat; but you don't care a straw with what book you pass your evening, what kind of a man it is whose ideas you are taking in, or what is the kind of stuff with which you are filling your mind? Are you not rather more careful about your stomach than about your brain?
P. Well, a bad dish spoils a whole dinner, and two heavy partners would ruin the best ball.
W. And yet what you call a 'beastly' book of Zola's or a shilling dreadful gives you a really pleasant evening, you told me, and saved you from Plato's rot?
P. Oh, I intend to finish the Republic some day; but there are such heaps of new books which a fellow has to look into that it is not easy to find time. I am not going to have anything to do with your precious Index Expurgatorius.
W. Yes! that is what fellows say who want to call names, and are hard up for an argument. When you object to make friends of every man you meet in the street, I suppose you are making an Index Erpurgatorius of the whole human race ?
P. Come now, what is it that you want me to do?
W. Why, simply to choose your books with a little of the care which you now so wisely show in choosing your partners and your friends. To hurry on round the galleries of Europe is to see a great deal and to know nothing; to get a smattering of Art and to enjoy nothing truly. Books are not so different from Art, nor are books or Art so very unlike human nature and life. To feel poetry deeply, to love literature nobly, you must keep your brain from the everlasting gabble, and the assafoetida of modern carrion. He who is ever ready for Offenbach will never be a lover of Beethoven; and a perpetual round of Bond Street galleries will at last spoil the eye for Titian.
You had better dance all night with a dairy-maid, and sup with a lot of betting-ring men, than spend an evening with Zola, or work through Mudie's list of new novels.
P. Come, old man, I shall go back to college. I can stand no more of this. It's worse than going for a walk with Jowett. By the way, what are you going to do with yourself next Long?
W. I am going with Turner of New to spend my autumn in Venice; we want to study the history, as well as the art, archæology, and language. I shall take my Ruskins; and with the Perkins, Freeman, and Mrs. Jameson, we shall do the churches thoroughly. Last Long, you know, I did the same thing in Florence; the only way to know anything about Italy is to take it province by province. What do you say to joining us?
P. Oh, I have made my plans. I never can stand a foreign town for more than a few days; I am always wanting to get on. I am going in for Cook's tour round the world. We go by the Bay, touch at Gib., stay a day at each of the Mediterranean ports, have twelve hours in the Eternal City, run up to the Acropolis by the tram, half a day at Cairo and the Pyramids, Red Sea, Ceylon, India, China, Japan, and back by San Francisco and the Grand Trunk, Niagara, New York, and all that, and home again in ninety days. One should see something of everything, you know.
W. A regular Jules Verne round! My dear fellow, you will turn into a professional globe-trotter. Well, bye-bye, I shall not go with you. But I suppose it is the right thing to do for a confirmed book-trotter.
NOWADAYS all things appear in print sooner or later; but I have ! heard from a lady who knew Mrs. Shelley a story of her which, so far as I know, has not appeared in print hitherto. Mrs. Shelley was choosing a school for her son, and asked the advice of this lady, who gave for advice,—to use her own words to me,– Just the sort of 5 banality, you know, one does come out with : Oh, send him somewhere where they will teach him to think for himself!' I have had far too long a training as a school-inspector to presume to call an utterance of this kind a banality; however, it is not on this advice that I now wish to lay stress, but upon Mrs. Shelley's reply to it. Mrs. Shelley 10 answered : “Teach him to think for himself ? Oh, my God, teach him rather to think like other people!'
To the lips of many and many a reader of Professor Dowden's volumes a cry of this sort will surely rise, called forth by Shelley's life as there delineated. I have read those volumes with the deepest 15 interest, but I regret their publication, and am surprised, I confess, that Shelley's family should have desired or assisted it. For my own part, at any rate, I would gladly have been left with the impression, the ineffaceable impression, made upon me by Mrs. Shelley's first edition of her husband's collected poems. Medwin and Hogg and Trelawny had done little to change the impression made by those four delightful volumes of the original edition of 1839. The text of the poems has in some places been mended since; but Shelley is not a classic, whose various readings are to be noted with earnest attention. The charm of the poems flowed in upon us from that edition, and the charm of the character. Mrs. Shelley had done her work admirably; her introductions to the poems of each year, with Shelley's prefaces and passages from his letters, supplied the very picture of Shelley to be desired. Somewhat idealised by tender regret and exalted memory Mrs. Shelley's representation no doubt was. But without 3 sharing her conviction that Shelley's character, impartially judged, would stand in fairer and brighter light than that of any contemporary,' we learned from her to know the soul of affection, of “gentle and cordial goodness,' of eagerness and ardour for human happiness, which was in this rare spirit—80 mere a monster unto
many. Mrs. Shelley said in her general preface to her husband's poems: 'I abstain from any remark on the occurrences of his private life, except inasmuch as the passions which they engendered inspired
his poetry; this is not the time to relate the truth.' I for my part 5 could wish, I repeat, that that time had never come.
But come it has, and Professor Dowden has given us the Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley in two very thick volumes. If the work was to be done, Professor Dowden has indeed done it thoroughly. One
or two things in his biography of Shelley I could wish different, even 10 waiving the question whether it was desirable to relate in full the
occurrences of Shelley's private life. Professor Dowden holds a brief for Shelley; he pleads for Shelley as an advocate pleads for his client, and this strain of pleading, united with an attitude of adoration which
in Mrs. Shelley had its charm, but which Professor Dowden was not 15 bound to adopt froin her, is unserviceable to Shelley, nay, injurious
to him, because it inevitably begets, in many readers of the story which Professor Duwden has to tell, impatience and revolt. Further let me remark that the biography before us is of prodigious length,
although its hero clied before he was thirty years old, and that it might ? have been considerably shortened if it had been more plainly and
simply written. I see that one of Professor Dowden's critics, while praising his style for ' a certain poetic quality of fervour and picturesqueness,’laments that in some important passages Professor Dowden
'fritters away great opportunities for sustained and impassioned narra25 tive.' I am inclined much rather to lament that Professor Dowden
has not steadily kept his poetic quality of fervour and picturesqueness more under control. Is it that the Home Rulers have so loaded the language that even an Irishman who is not one of them catches
something of their full habit of style? No, it is rather, I believe, that 30 Professor Dowden, of poetic nature himself, and dealing with a poetic
nature like Shelley, is so steeped in sentiment by his subject that in almost every page of the biography the sentiment runs over. A curious note of his style, suffused with sentiment, is that it seems incapable of using the common word child. A great many births are mentioned in the biography, but always it is a poetic babe that is born, not a prosaic child. And so, again, André Chénier is, not guillotined, but “too foully done to death.' Again, Shelley after his runaway marriage with Harriet Westbrook was in Edinburgh without money
and full of anxieties for the future, and complained of his hard lot in is being unable to get away, in being chained to the filth and commerce
of Edinburgh.' Natural enough ; but why should Professor Dowden improve the occasion as follows ? • The most romantic of northern cities could lay no spell upon his spirit. His eye was not fascinated by the
presences of mountains and the sea, by the fantastic outlines of aërial 45 piles seen amid the wreathing smoke of Auld Reekie, by the gloom of
the Canongate illuminated with shafts of sunlight streaming from its