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as there is a free market in buying and selling. Such limitations as these are the old-fashioned props of error. If any one had objected on the appearance of M'Culloch's Commercial Dictionary that it was a bad book, because it neither enriched the British farmer, nor promoted civil liberty among the populations of the European continent, the argument would seem to be precisely as fair a criticism of the Dictionary as that which Mr. Arnold brings against the Bishop of Natal.
It is strange that, in a country of freedom, it should be so difficult to say these things aloud. The virtue that we want is that of courage, and the places where it is chiefly wanted are the places where it ought to flourish most. The time when the
. mind is most plastic, most active, most splendidly versatile, is the time that a young man spends at college ; and here, if any where, it might be expected that the air would be congenial to free study. We believe that it needs a considerable knowledge of the English Universities fully to appreciate the intellectual cowardice which characterises the older portion of their members. The exceptions are notorious; and it is in such a case as this that, in the true meaning of the phrase, the exceptions prove the rule.
It would not be so well known who were the advocates of freedom, if the disposition to acquiesce in prejudice were not so widely predominant.* A young man at the university begins to think that the Flood was not historical, or that the maledictions of David are not couched in a very forgiving spirit. One set of advisers speaks to him in tones of severity; like the Brahmin who crushed the microscope which first revealed to him the living insects in his vegetable food, they urge bim to turn from such thoughts at once, and believe by an effort of the will. Should he be man enough to resist this counsel, there are others who will advise him in friendly tones to fly to action as a remedy for doubt; a better frame of mind will come, if he will but do his duty and shut his eyes. It is a suggestion which implicitly assumes the monstrous hypothesis, that the best way of arriving at truth is by deliberately abstaining from the search for it. Adolphe Monod was so advised, and Arnold; and they followed the advice—with more or less effect. Perhaps the inquirers may yield to their incessant temptations, and maintain and subscribe and swear whatever college and university and church set before them. There are many who do so, and who never recover their freedom again. Ecclesiastical authority closes upon them—an authority incompatible with independent thought. Soon the questioner begins to care less for the old questions, theory is swallowed up in action; he is happy, he wishes nothing further; the world is not the better for the intellect God gave him to use. Contentment, the great vice of middle age, settles gradually upon him—a vice all the more fatal from its being so often called a virtue.
* While we write, attempts are being made at each of the Universities to set on foot a plan for a critical commentary on the Old Testament. Notwithstanding that they will both be undertaken in a somewhat conservative spirit, we wish the schemes every success.
Any one who embraces, on the other hand, the task of candidly working out for himself the religious problems before him will find it à harder task, even if it be a higher one. It is a task to which our country now emphatically summons men who are not afraid to think. At the commencement of one of his essays, Renan speaks of a painter who would never attempt except upon his knees the head of a Virgin or her Son. Some such intense reverence for the issues before him a theological critic may well feel; to pause and adore seems but the fitting preface to the study. But it is not a pause of fear, or a reverence which unmans the intellect. The object of the inquiry is not an impious one, and free-thinking is, in the simple meaning of the term, the highest gift of humanity. The true critic is one who will deem the most perfect humility to lie in the abandonment of prejudice, and the highest faith in the conviction that truth will win. He will have intellectual labour while others are at rest, and perplexities where others cannot feel them. His aims and hopes will not be understood; his candour will seem presumption, and his courage ill-will to what is holy. Persecution may not attack him, but social suspicion will. He will work as one whose reward is not before his eyes, and who, in giving up the secure assumptions which bring peace to others, has not sacrificed to God that which cost him nothing. Again and again he will be called to surrender a fancied discovery, a treasured paradox, a literary revenge, a polemical retort. He will often pause on the brink of a theory, and summon all his self-restraint to aid him in the refusal to tread hastily on a tempting path. He will not believe, with the Dean of Carlisle, in the ever-deteriorating tendency of the unaided human intellect;" he will rather trust that good endeavours lead in the end to good results. And as he began his task for the sake of truth, and not for the sake of reputation, he will regard his conclusions as not his own, but given and offered to truth, and will support them no further for the sake of sustaining a thesis than he would maintain them for the sake of preserving a creed. Thus, with whatever lowliness of spirit and loftiness of determination he can, he will brave the terrors of public opinion, and the more imposing terrors that lurk in the weakness of the human soul; and will not doubt that in destroying a religious error, or making known a discovery of critical study, he is doing something, however small it be, to assist and educate his
Art. II.-DISTORTIONS OF THE ENGLISH STAGE:
“ MACBETH." The Works of William Shakespeare. Edited by William George
Clark, M.A., Fellow and Tutor of Trinity College, and Public Orator in the University of Cambridge; and John Glover, M.A, Librarian of Trinity College, Cambridge. Cambridge: Macmillan
and Co., 1863. ART is art because it is not nature, is the motto of the Idealisti; Art is but the imitation of nature, say the Naturalisti. The truth lies between the two. Art is neither nature alone, nor can it do without nature. No imitation, however accurate, for imitation's sake makes a good work of art in any other than a mechanical sense. And every work of art in which the objects represented are inaccurately or imperfectly imitated is in so far deficient. But art works by suggestion as well as by imitation. Whatever is untrue to the imagination fails to produce its proper effect, however true it be to the fact. The most absolute realism will not answer the higher demand of the imagination for ideal truth. Art is not simply the reproduction of nature, but nature as modified and coloured by the spirit of the artist. It is a crystallisation out of nature of all elements and facts related by affinity to the idea intended to be embodied. These solely it should eliminate and draw to itself, leaving the rest as unessential. A literal adherence to all the accidents of nature is not only not necessary in art, but may even be fatal. The enumeration of all the leaves in a tree does not reproduce a tree to the imagination, while a whole landscape may be compressed into a single verse.
Between the ideal and the natural school there is a perpetual struggle. Under the purely ideal treatment art becomes vague and insipid; under the purely natural treatment it becomes literal and prosaic. The pre-Raphaelists, in protesting against weak sentimentalism and vague generalisation, and demanding an honest study of nature, have fallen into the error of exaggerating the importance of minute detail, and, by insisting too strongly on literal truth, have sometimes lost sight of that ideal truth which is of higher worth. But their work was needed, and it has been bravely done. They have roused the age out of that
. dull conventionalism in which it had fallen asleep. They have stimulated thought, revivified sentiment, and reasserted with word and deed the necessity of nature as a true basis of art.
As in the arts of painting and sculpture, so in the drama and on the stage a strong reaction is taking place against the stilted conventionalisin and elaborate artifice of the last genera
tion. Such plays as the Nina Sforza of Mr. Troughton, the Legend of Florence of Mr. Leigh Hunt, and the Blot on the Scutcheon and Colombe's Birthday by Mr. Browning, are vigorous protests against the feeble pretensions and artificial tragedies of the previous century. The poems and plays of Mr. Browning breathe a new life; and if as yet they have only found "fit audience though few,” they are stimulating the best thought of this age, and slowly infusing a new life and spirit into it.
But the traditions of the stage are very strong in England, and are not easily to be rooted out. The English public has become accustomed to certain traditional and conventional modes of acting, which interfere with the freedom of the actor, and cramp his genius within artificial forms. There is almost no attempt on the English stage to represent life as it really is. Tradition and convention stand in the stead of nature. From the moment an actor puts his foot on the stage he is taught to mouth and declaim. He studies rather to make telling points than to give a consistent whole to the character he represents. His utterance and action are false and “stagey.” In quiet scenes he is pompous and stilted; in tragic scenes ranting and violent. He never forgets his audience, but, standing before the footlights, constantly addresses himself to them as if they were personages in the play. Habit at last becomes a second nature; his taste becomes corrupted, and he ceases to strive to be simple and natural. There is, in a word, no defect against which Hamlet warns the actor which is not a characteristic feature of English acting. It never " holds up the mirror to nature," but is always "overdone,” without “ temperance,” full of “mouthing," "strutting,” “ bellowing," and "noise." It “tears a pas
“ sion to rags, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings." And“ there be players whom I have heard play, and heard others praise, and that highly, not to speak it profanely, that, having neither the accent of Christians, nor the gait of Christian, pagan, nor man, have so strutted and bellowed, that I have thought some of Nature's journeymen had made men, and not made them well, they imitated humanity so abominably;" and this needs to be reformed altogether.
These words of Shakespeare show that even in his time the inflated, pompous, and artificial style still in vogue on the English stage was a national characteristic. We have scarcely improved, since old traditions cling and hold the stage in mortmain. Reform moves slowly every where in England; but the two institutions which oppose to it the most obstinate resistance are the church and the theatre. In both of these tradition stands for nearly as much as revelation. Each adheres
to its old forms, as if they contained its true essence; each believes that those forms once broken, the whole spirit would be lost; just as if they were phials which contained a precious liquid, and must be therefore preserved at all costs. The idea that the liquid can be quite as well, and perhaps better, kept in different pihals has never occurred to them. They will die for the phial.
Still it is plain that a strong reaction against this bigoted admiration of traditional and conventional forms is now perceptible. The facilities of travel and intercourse with other nations have engendered new notions and modified old ones. It is impossible to compare the French and Italian stage with the English, and not perceive the vast inferiority of the latter. In the one we see nature, simplicity, and life; in the other the galvanism of artificial convention. It cannot be denied that the recent acting of Hamlet by Fechter was to the English mind a daring and doubtful innovation. It was something so utterly different in spirit and style from that to which we have been accustomed that it created a sensation; and while it found many ardent admirers, it found quite as many vehement opposers. The public ranged themselves in two parties; the one insisting that the traditional and artificial school, as represented by Garrick, the elder Kean, and Cooke, was the only safe guide for the tragic actor; and the other, arguing that as the true function of the stage was to hold up the mirror to nature, acting should be as much like life and as little like acting as possible. The former, at the head of which were the friends of Mr. Charles Kean, made a public demonstration in his behalf, and scouted these new-fangled French notions of acting. Was it to be supposed that any school of acting could be superior to that created and established in England by the genius of such actors as Garrick, the elder Kcan, and Cooke? Should foreigners presume to teach us hoiv to interpret and represent plays which had been the study of the English people for centuries? To this it was opposed that, however mortifying to us, it was a fact that the Germans had led the way to a profounder and more metaphysical study of Shakespeare, and had taught us in many ways how to understand his plays, and that therefore there was no reason why foreigners might not teach us how to act them. The very fact that their eyes were not blinded, nor their tongues tied by traditional conventions, enabled them to study Shakespeare with more freedom and directness. There was no deep rut of ancient nisage out of which they were forced to wrench themselves. And, besides, it was affirmed, and with truth, that the English stage is the jeer of the world, and needs thorough reform.
We have indeed made little progress in reforming the stage.