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I doubt whether the exaltation of Fielding has not become too much a matter of orthodoxy in recent years. Compare him with Swift, and he is long-winded in his sentences. Compare him with Sterne, and his characters mechanical. Compare him with Dickens, and he reaches none of the depths, either of laughter or of sadness. This is not to question the genius of Fielding's vivid and critical picture of eighteenth-century manners and morals. It is merely to put a drag on the wheel of Mr. Saintsbury's galloping enthusiasm.

But, however one may quarrel with it, The Peace of the Augustans is a book to read with delight-an eccentric book, an extravagant book, a grumpy book, but a book of rare and amazing enthusiasm for good literature. Mr. Saintsbury's constant jibes at the present age, as though no one had ever been unmanly enough to make a joke before Mr. Shaw, become amusing in the end like Dr. Johnson's rudenesses. And Mr. Saintsbury's one attempt to criticize contemporary fiction-where he speaks of Sinister Street in the same breath with Waverley and Pride and Prejudice-is both amusing and rather appalling. But, in spite of his attitude to his own times, one could not ask for more genial company on going on a pilgrimage among the Augustans. Mr. Saintsbury has in this book written the most irresistible advertisement of eighteenth-century literature that has been published for many years.

(2) Mr. Gosse.

Mr. Gosse and Mr. Saintsbury are the two kings of Sparta among English critics of to-day. They stand preeminent among those of our contemporaries who have served literature in the capacity of law-givers during the past fifty years. I do not suggest that they are better critics than Mr. Birrell or Sir Sidney Colvin or the late Sir E. T. Cook. But none of these three was ever a professional and whole-time critic, as Mr. Gosse and Mr. Saintsbury are. One thinks of the latter primarily as the authors of books

about books, though Mr. Gosse is a poet and biographer as well, and Mr. Saintsbury, it is said, once dreamed of writing a history of wine. One might say of Mr. Gosse that even in his critical work he writes largely as a poet and biographer, while Mr. Saintsbury writes of literature as though he were writing a history of wine. Mr. Saintsbury seeks in literature, above all things, exhilarating qualities. He can read almost anything and in any language, provided it is not non-intoxicating. He has a good head, and it cannot be said that he ever allows an author to fuddle it. But the authors whom he has collected in his wonderful cellar unquestionably make him merry. In his books he always seems to be pressing on us "another glass of Jane Austen," or "just a thimbleful of Pope," or "a drop of '42 Tennyson." No other critic of literature writes with the garrulous gusto of a boon-companion as Mr. Saintsbury does. In our youth, when we demand style as well as gusto, we condemn him on account of his atrocious English. As we grow older, we think of his English merely as a rather eccentric sort of coat, and we begin to recognize that geniality such as his is a part of critical genius. True, he is not over-genial to new authors. He regards them as he might 1916 claret. Perhaps he is right. Authors undoubtedly get mellower with age. Even great poetry is, we are told, a little crude to the taste till it has stood for a few seasons.

Mr. Gosse is at once more grave and more deferential in his treatment of great authors. One cannot imagine Mr. Saintsbury speaking in a hushed voice before Shakespeare himself. One can almost hear him saying, "Hullo, Shakespeare!" To Mr. Gosse, however, literature is an almost sacred subject. He glows in its presence. He is more lyrical than Mr. Saintsbury, more imaginative and more eloquent. His short history of English literature is a book that fills a young head with enthusiasm. He writes as a servant of the great tradition. He is a Whig, where Mr. Saintsbury is an heretical Jacobite. He is, however, saved from a professorial earnestness by his sharp talent for

portraiture. Mr. Gosse's judgments may or may not last : his portraits certainly will. It is to be hoped that he will one day write his reminiscences. Such a book would, we feel sure, be among the great books of portraiture in the history of English literature. He has already set Patmore and Swinburne before us in comic reality, and who can forget the grotesque figure of Hans Andersen, sketched in a few lines though it is, in Two Visits to Denmark? It may be replied that Mr. Gosse has already given us the best of his reminiscences in half a dozen books of essays and biography. Even so, there were probably many things which it was not expedient to tell ten or twenty years ago, but which might well be related for the sake of truth and entertainment to-day. Mr. Gosse in the past has usually told the truth about authors with the gentleness of a modern dentist extracting a tooth. He keeps up a steady conversation of praise while doing the damage. The truth is out before you know. One becomes suddenly aware that the author has ceased to be as coldly perfect as a tailor's model, and is a queer-looking creature with a gap in his jaw. It is possible that the author, were he alive, would feel furious, as a child sometimes feels with the dentist. None the less, Mr. Gosse has done him a service. The man who extracts a truth is as much to be commended as the man who extracts a tooth. It is not the function of the biographer any more than it is that of a dentist to prettify his subject. Each is an enemy of decay, a furtherer of life. There is such a thing as painless biography, but it is the work of quacks. Mr. Gosse is one of those honest dentists who reassure you by allowing it to hurt you “just a little."

This gift for telling the truth is no small achievement in a man of letters. Literature is a broom that sweeps lies out of the mind, and fortunate is the man who wields it. Unhappily, while Mr. Gosse is daring in portraiture, he is the reverse in comment. In comment, as his writings on the war showed, he will fall in with the cant of the times. He can see through the cant of yesterday with a sparkle in his eyes, but he is less critical of the cant of to-day. He is

much given to throwing out saving clauses, as when, writing of Mr. Sassoon's verse, he says: "His temper is not altogether to be applauded, for such sentiments must tend to relax the effort of the struggle, yet they can hardly be reproved when conducted with so much honesty and courage." Mr. Gosse again writes out of the official rather than the imaginative mind when, speaking of the war poets, he observes:

It was only proper that the earliest of all should be the Poet Laureate's address to England, ending with the prophecy :

Much suffering shall cleanse thee!

But thou through the flood

Shalt win to salvation,

To Beauty through blood.

Had a writer of the age of Charles II. written a verse like that, Mr. Gosse's chortles would have disturbed the somnolent peace of the House of Peers. Even if it had been written in the time of Albert the Good, he would have rent it with the destructive dagger of a phrase. As it is, one is not sure that Mr. Gosse regards this appalling scrap from a bad hymnal as funny. One hopes that he quoted it with malicious intention. But did he? Was it not Mr. Gosse who early in the war glorified the blood that was being shed as a cleansing stream of Condy's Fluid? The truth is, apart from his thoughts about literature, Mr. Gosse thinks much as the leader-writers tell him. He is sensitive to beauty of style and to idiosyncrasy of character, but he lacks philosophy and that tragic sense that gives the deepest sympathy. That, we fancy, is why we would rather read him on Catherine Trotter, the precursor of the bluestockings, than on any subject connected with the war.

Two of the most interesting chapters in Mr. Gosse's Diversions of a Man of Letters are the essay on Catherine Trotter and that on "the message of the Wartons." Here he is on ground on which there is no leader-writer to take him by the hand and guide him into saying "the right thing." He writes as a disinterested scholar and an enter

tainer. He forgets the war and is amused. How many readers are there in England who know that Catherine Trotter "published in 1693 a copy of verses addressed to Mr. Bevil Higgons on the occasion of his recovery from the smallpox," and that "she was then fourteen years of age"? How many know even that she wrote a blank-verse tragedy in five acts, called Agnes de Castro, and had it produced at Drury Lane at the age of sixteen?

age of nineteen she was the friend of Congreve, and was addressed by Farquhar as "one of the fairest of her sex and the best judge." By the age of twenty-five, however, she had apparently written herself out, so far as the stage was concerned, and after her tragedy, The Revolution in Sweden, the theatre knows her no more. Though described as "the Sappho of Scotland" by the Queen of Prussia, and by the Duke of Marlborough as "the wisest virgin I ever knew," her fame did not last even as long as her life. She married a clergyman, wrote on philosophy and religion, and lived till seventy. Her later writings, according to Mr. Gosse,"are so dull that merely to think of them brings tears into one's eyes." Her husband, who was a bit of a Jacobite, lost his money on account of his opinions, even though "a perfect gentleman at heart-' he always prayed for the King and Royal Family by name.'” Meanwhile," writes Mr. Gosse, "to uplift his spirits in this dreadful condition, he is discovered engaged upon a treatise on the Mosaic deluge, which he could persuade no publisher to print. He reminds us of Dr. Primrose in The Vicar of Wakefield, and, like him, Mr. Cockburn probably had strong views on the Whistonian doctrine." Altogether the essay on Catherine Trotter is an admirable example of Mr. Gosse in a playful mood.

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The study of Joseph and Thomas Warton as "two pioneers of romanticism" is more serious in purpose, and is a scholarly attempt to discover the first symptoms of romanticism in eighteenth-century literature. Mr. Gosse finds in The Enthusiast, written by Joseph Warton at the age of eighteen, "the earliest expression of full revolt

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