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nence. That power by which the mind This is the most general definition that criticises itself may also rouse it when can be given of literature. Obviously, it flags, may point its view to objects such a mode of activity is so extensive, far and near, may divert it to new aims, admits of so many varieties, that to call or urge it by new resolutions. In either it a tribe-business at all, except by way case, the act is that of imposing a law or of passing metaphor, would be absurd. purpose upon oneself-of first referring On the crowded platform of literature to some rule or notion of right, pro- there are scores of tribes inextricably priety, fitness, or expediency, and then intermixed, as well as stray individuals coming back with a permission to do who, like Harry Gow, acknowledge no what was on the point of being done at
We hear, indeed, of the any rate, or with a mandate to do other- brotherhood of literature, of organizawise.
tions of literature and the like; but, Most men have, in the very traditions except for certain benevolent pracand rules of the professions by which they tical purposes, these phrases, so far earn their bread, a discipline ready-made as they are descriptions of fact, are for them. The lawyer, the physician, meaningless. There may one day be a the clergyman, the merchant, the en- brotherhood of literature as there may gineer, and artisans of the different be a brotherhood of mankind, and an crafts, all more or less have been ad- organization of literature as there may mitted into their respective walks of be an organization of human labour; life through an established course of but, for the present, almost as well training, and have the manner of their talk of a brotherhood of men who wear daily activity marked out for them by wigs, or an organization of men who institution, custom, rules of trade and agree in having turquoise-rings on their penalties. Life to them, or, at least, fourth fingers, as of a brotherhood or the professional part of their life, is, organization of men of letters. What to a considerable extent, governed by affinity, what connexion is established
a routine. It is very different with the between two persons by the mere fact man of letters. The most lawless being that both make the expression of thought on earth, the being least regulated by of some kind or other their businessany authority out of himself, is the i.e. that both wield the pen and can literary man. What is called Bohemi- construct written sentences ? Surely you anism in the literary world is only an have first to ask what the thought is, extreme instance of a phenomenon what kind of man is at the back of the belonging to literature as such. All pen, what the sentences contain ; and, literature is, in a sense, though not after being amused, for example, by the in the same sense, a vast Bohemian- writings of the late Mr. Albert Smith, ism. It is the permeation of ordinary you would not insist on his relationship society by a tribe of wild-eyed strag- to Mr. John Stuart Mill; nor, fresii glers from the far East, who are held from the perusal of the Newgate Calenin check in general matters by the dar, would you speak of the compiler laws of society, and many of whom, in as the late Mr. Wordsworth's spiritual those portions of their lives that do not brother. Yet, despite this visible resoappertain to the peculiar tribe-business, lution of what is called the literary or may be eminently respectable, and even intellectual class into as many sorts of men of rank and magistracy, but who, men as there are sorts of men who do in what does appertain to the peculiar not write, there is this class-peculiarity tribe-business, work absolutely in secret, common to them all, that, in the exercise and are free from all allegiance except of their craft, unless they bring impedito themselves, and perhaps also, in ments into it from without, they are, some small degree, to one another. For more than any other set of men, their what is the peculiar tribe-business? It is own masters. Some conditions and rethinking and the expression of thought. strictions there, indeed, are even in this
Ishmaelitish business of thinking and have we not such an instance in Bacon? expressing thought. In this country Did he not in youth conceive the notion most of these are summed up in the of putting mankind upon a new method one wholesome difficulty of finding a in the search for truth, of shifting the publisher. Where the circumstances of wheels of the human mind cut of what a writer obviate this difficulty, there is he supposed to be the Aristotelian still a certain vague agency of restric- ruts? And through his busy life did tion in the laws of blasphemy, sedition,
he not toil at this notion till he gave and libel. A closer, more forcible, us what we have of the Instauratio and inore constant kind of regulation Magna ? By this example, indeed, it arises from the fear of that form of is suggested that it is chiefly in the public opinion which consists in the lives of men of the speculative order criticism by the writing-class itself of that we are to expect anything like each other's productions. But, these strategy. There is an irresistible native and other forms of regulation from drift in their constitution, or such a without allowed for, it remains true drift appears in the total assemblage of that the man of letters, or the man of their powers and acquisitions at some intellectual pursuits, is left, more than point of their career; and, though a any other, in the exercise of his special strong act of will on the first thorough business, to the free drift of his own perception of this may be necessary for powers and tendencies, without any dis- perfect achievement, yet by the mere cipline save such as he may make for persistence of the passive tendency a himself. It may be worth while to certain continuity of occupations would inquire, then, so far as a swift survey of
be the result. There was, in this sense, known instances may serve, in what a kind of dawdling strategy even in poor ways literary genius has been found Coleridge's life. But it is not in the lives exercising self-discipline.
only of powerful philosophic thinkers The highest development of the mili- that strategic duration and continuity tary art is what is called Strategy. It is of purpose may be discerned. Between the part of Strategy to plan campaigns, the hour when Gibbon, meditating or sometimes even a series of campaigns, amid the ruins of the Colosseum at in advance-to scheme, in short, the Rome, planned the Decline and Fall, general conduct of a war from a prior and the hour, when, in the moon-lit consideration of data, to calculate the acacia-walk at Lausanne, after having movements of masses over large tracts of written the last page, he walked to and time and country, and to arrange future fro, and was sad that his work was battle-fields on the map. Wellington had finished, what a lapse of laborious a plan for the Peninsular war which years, what thousands of days and lasted him almost through the whole of nights, during the changing events of it. Now, something akin to this strategy which, and the fatigues of the work may sometimes be discerned in the itself, there had been incessant need of lives of men of intellect. There have fresh strokes of volition ! In Hallam's been men of the intellectual order, who, three works, too, what have we but at an early period of their lives, or at the connected remains of three seeming some period less early, have formed a divisions of a well-planned life? The resolution as to the direction of their ac- deliberate choice, therefore, of a great tivity for the rest of their lives, or have subject of history or research, or of even planned their lives in detail a good several such one after another, may imway forward, and who, amid all the dis- part a strategic consistency to a life, tractions of outward circumstance, and as well as the spur of speculative the modifications of their own views, originality or a passion for philosophic have persevered in their resolution and innovation. Such choice, carried out kept true in the main to their plans. in effect, involves the consecration of Without going beyond our own country, years to one slowly-reached object,
the neglect meanwhile of a thousand with all the clearness of a historic fact delightful or even clamorous irrelevan- of our time, whom should we name but cies, and a heart firm against the songs Carlyle? of sirens on many a charming coast on Few, however, are the men of letters, the voyage. There have been, however, even among those whom the world rewriters even of the poetic order in the gards as of the very highest rank of main, or of a mixed order, in whose genius, in whose intellectual career there lives, as by a union in them of the two has been anything of strategy, such as qualities of a strong speculative deter- we have described it.
Most literary mination from the first, and a power of men, God help them! do not see mere perseverance in works of labour scheme much farther than into the midonce undertaken, the same strategic cha- dle of next week, any more in what racter, the same vertebration through pertains to the conduct of their intellect and through by a sustained purpose,
than in their material concerns. Life, has been notably apparent.
for them, is a succession of articles, writer was Milton. He put on record stories, poems, essays, or whatever else the nature of his intended masterpiece, it may be, suggested by occasion one and pledged himself to its achievement, after another, each occupying its portion seven-and-twenty years before he had of time, and flung over the shoulder leisure to do it; and all his intermediate when it is finished. It is possible, of labours were stormy preparations for it, course, as one or two of the instances mixed with passionate longings. Nor cited will have suggested, that even in has the world often seen such an exam- a life so morselled out into a series of ple of strategy in an intellectual life as small or not very extensive efforts, there in that of the poet Wordsworth. With may yet be a real strategic connexion. a purpose in his head respecting himself, A writer of powerful individuality by that iron man of imagination, that man nature, or of gradually acquired purof poetic nerve superimposed upon mere pose, may make his life serve his intenbone, that Wellington of our poesy tion on the plan of multisection, as well (there is a look of Wellington in his as on that of trisection, bisection, or the very face), withdrew in his early prime life-long elaboration of one great scheme. to his native lake-district, remained Nay, even where there is no trace of there immoveable except for an occa- such predetermination, but a writer sional tour, put himself on a milk-and- seems floated on from subject to subject water regimen for purposes both of by a mere stream of accident, or actually health and of economy, was ruthless writes to order, still it cannot but be enough to compel his visitors to the that, when the straggling series of his same regimen unless they chose to get writings is finished, a certain unity will spirits for themselves at a public-house, be found to pervade them. On the replied to the letters even of celebrated whole, however, so far as there is discorrespondents with a cold, sarcastic cipline or self-regulation in the life of sense that seemed heartless at the time, such a writer (and the great majority of but gives one now an impression of his writers, and especially of popular, poetic,
, real superiority, and, all the while, wrote or imaginative writers, are included his poems and his prefaces expounding more or less), it can hardly be of the his theory of poetry, and sent them forth kind that could be said to constitute to a jeering world. If among our still strategy. It is rather of the kind that living British writers we should seek is, or used to be, in military science, for one in whose life, reviewed as a
called Tactics. whole hitherto, the same character of It is not easy to say where Tactics what may be called strategy, the same end and Strategy begins; and, in later noble self-discipline on a large scale, military theory, the distinction is little though exercised on different material insisted on. Still, it has a meaning. and with quite unlike results, is obvious Tactics, as the art of efficiently handling
forces that have been brought into a authorship; and in the retrospect of his given situation, may very well be con- writings, as a whole, there is therefore ceived as distinct from Strategy, which to be seen a greater connectedness than maps out a campaign or campaigns in in the retrospect of Shakespeare's. But advance, determines the situations into in Scott, too, the kind of literary selfwhich forces are to be brought, and discipline chiefly exemplified was that considers how they are to be brought needed for the management of subject thither. It used to be recognised by after subject lightly taken up on popular military men as possible that a good grounds rather than in studied series. strategist might be a bad tactician, and, And, if Scott and Shakespeare were thus vice versa, that a capital tactician might tacticians rather than strategists in their break down in strategy. With this we literary lives, our present men of letters have less to do than with the fact that need not take it ill, if it is asserted that the best strategy may be ruined by bad the same observation holds true of the tactics, and with this other fact—that, majority of their body. in so far as the phrases can be trans- It is time, however, to see whether ferred to literary life, it has been chiefly one may not enunciate a principle or in the kind of self-discipline correspond- two of this said discipline or art of ing to tactics that the majority of men literary self-regulation—such principles, of literary genius have been called upon we mean, as will generally be found to to prove themselves.
In the literary have been practised by writers of really life of Shakespeare himself, admirably effective literary genius, and which, at and prudently arranged as was his life all events, may be safely recommended to as a man of the world, there is next to any now-a-days who, conscious of literary nothing of intentional strategy, but only power, are anxious for its just and permagnificent tactics. As a dramatist and manently effective use. In what follows theatre-manager he takes up one subject we have regard chiefly to that kind of after another as a subject on which a literary self-regulation which we have play is to be written ; and, though there compared to Tactics. As Strategy, howmay have been some strategy, intellec- ever, depends on Tactics, any principles tual as well as commercial, in his con- that may be established even within secutive choice of subjects, it is too lax these limits will, doubtless, be found, by for detection. What we see when we try expansion, to be principles of intellectual to represent to ourselves any moment of self-discipline in general. his life as a poet is simply his magnifi- 1. There is the principle of negative cent mind engaged on this or that par- Truth- —or of striving hard never to say ticular dramatic subject_i.e. those War- anything that one does not really think. wickshire forces acting for the moment "Striving hard,” we say; for, without in a given situation into which some- any excessive harshness of judgment, how they have been brought. In what this strength of phrase does not seem else did his literary life consist than in unnecessary in reference to things as extempore invention and expression-in they exist. Speaking for myself at least, saying on each subject that occurred to I cannot but be of opinion, from what I him, and in connexion with each situa- see daily, that, rich and variously able tion he fancied, the greatest possible as our now current literature is beyond instantaneous quantity of deep, rich, that of
any previous British
age, and splendid things ? Or take Shake- yet a great deal of petty untruthfulness speare's later cousin, Scott. He, too, was in it which it would require some rigour a man of firm, steady, personal charac- of self-discipline to cast out. ter. There were, moreover, visible in Perhaps it is in the critical departhim from the first marked constitutional ment that this petty untruthfulness most tendencies or veins of sentiment, which abounds, or is most easily detected. I necessarily pre-determined to some ex- have seen over and over tent the nature and direction of his every week, critical notices in which it is
again, I see
obvious to me, because of my own pre- but it chances that, as we read, in vious acquaintance with the productions spite of this black mood, there comes noticed, that the writers have never read stroke after stroke of real power those productions, have probably never upon our intellectual nerve, upon our even glanced at them, but have at a ven- sense for what is good in thought, ture set down words concerning them on in humour, in fancy! How many of us the chance of their proving to be about are there that, in these circumstances, right. I have seen one of the gravest relax, yield, own ourselves conquered, and most thoughtful authors of the day let the clouds clear away, cry out “That's referred to by name, in perfect serious- good, were you Beelzebub himself !” ness, as a “light and humorous" writer and then, afterwards, in giving our opi-the critic thinking it incumbent on nion of the book, say exactly what we him to seem to know something of the caught ourselves thinking while we read author, and not knowing even the it, and not what, in our malice, we nature of his reputation. And, again hoped we should think, or perhaps still, and again, I meet with epithets applied in our malice, try to think? Or, again, to books or papers, supposed to be at we read a book by that important friend, that moment on the table of the critic or that delightful lady, and are bound and under his eye, the utter inapplica- to review it. As we read, we are as bility of which by any force of contor- bland and placid as a lake under suntion to those books or papers tells, as shine; we wait expectingly; let there clearly as an affidavit, that Mr. Critic be the least tremor of intellectual modid not even interrogate his paper-knife tion, the most casual passage of real when it had cut the leaves. This kind power, and we shall respond to it eagerly. of untruthfulness—the untruthfulness But no; there is none; from the first of pretending to know where one does page to the last all is dreary, weary, not know-is naturally most common watery, wordy! Where is the Arisin those quarters where reviewing has tides that, in such a case, will—we do to be done in masses and in a hurry; not say, express all he does think-but and one ought not to forget, in these honestly refrain from every approach to circumstances, the really astonishing saying what he has not been able to amount of honesty which is, after all, think in the least degree? shown in these quarters, in consequence
But all the amount of such dis. both of conscience on the part of many honesty in literature, arising from pri
, who labour, and of good business-arrange- vate malice or private benevolence, is ment on the part of some who direct. as nothing compared with the aggre
There is a literary dishonesty which gate of petty untruthfulness imported requires stronger precautions against it into our current literature by public than that of mere statement beyond one's animosities, political or religious. That knowledge. It is the dishonesty of state- wretched polarization of our whole nament against one's knowledge. In cri- tional thought, since 1688, into the tical literature, especially, malice, envy, two antagonistic currents of common ill-will, or, on the other hand, personal Whiggism and common Toryism, has, connexions of interest or friendship, all indeed, now well-nigh ceased. But operate so as to make it very difficult for there are other antagonisms extant or the best of us to avoid saying what, if rising. Perhaps it is in religious conwe stopped ourselves and asked, “Do I troversy that untruthfulness is most really think what I am now saying ?” rank. How is it that among our liberal we should be obliged to confess we did and cultured laymen of all sects it is not think. We take up a book by So- beginning to be a simultaneous belief and-So, a man whom we do not like, or that the so-called religious journals, whom for some reason or other we wish whether of their own or of other sects, at Jericho. We read on with sneering are, with few exceptions, about the nostrils, and with gloom on our brows; most unscrupulous of periodical publi