Elementary Guide to Literary Criticism
by F. V. N. Painter
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Transcriber's Notes: In the text, there are symbolic representations of lines of poetry. Where these occur, u represents an unaccented syllable and -' indicates an accented syllable. Words in italics in the original are surrounded by underscores. Words in bold in the original are surrounded by plus signs. More transcriber's notes follow the text.



F. V. N. PAINTER, A.M., D.D.


BOSTON, U.S.A. GINN & COMPANY, PUBLISHERS The Athenaeum Press 1903




The aim of the present work, as is indicated by its name, is to help the young student in literary criticism. It is a sort of laboratory manual, in which he will find specific direction for a comprehensive analysis of the principal kinds of literature. It is intended to show him the various points in relation to form, content, and spirit, to which in succession he is to devote his attention. It is hoped that the book will give definiteness and delight to literary study, which, for lack of such a guide, has so often been vague, unsatisfactory, and discouraging.

A glance at the table of contents will clearly reveal the plan. The work is divided into three parts, the first of which treats of fundamental principles. In three chapters the nature of criticism, the relation of the author to his work, and the aesthetic principles underlying literary art are briefly discussed. The facts and principles here presented are designed to give a clearer and deeper insight into the nature and processes of criticism.

Part Second is chiefly concerned with the external elements of literature. In three chapters it briefly discusses the diction, the various kinds of sentences, the use of figures of speech, and the different species of style as determined partly by the nature of the discourse and partly by the mental endowments of the writer. It is intended to embrace the rhetorical elements of form.

In Part Third the leading kinds of literature are discussed, and the general principles governing each are presented. Special effort has been made to throw light upon the nature and structure of poetry, fiction, and the drama; and it is hoped that the chapters in which these subjects are treated will be found particularly interesting and helpful.

Each chapter is followed by a list of review questions and by illustrative and practical exercises. The aim has been to prepare not merely a theoretical but especially a practical text-book, for which, it is believed, there exists a felt and acknowledged need. It is hoped that this little work will contribute in some measure to make literature one of the most delightful, as it is surely one of the most important, of all branches of study. F. V. N. PAINTER.

SALEM, VIRGINIA, August 15, 1903.
















1. Purpose of Literary Study. The study or reading of literature ordinarily has a threefold purpose,—knowledge, pleasure, and culture. This purpose shows us both the character of the literature which should be read and the manner in which it should be read. As a rule we should read only books of recognized excellence, and read them with sympathetic intelligence. Trashy books, whatever pleasure they may give, add but little to knowledge or culture; and immoral books often leave an ineradicable stain upon the soul. Fortunately there are good books enough to satisfy every taste and supply every need.

2. Necessity of Comprehending. A literary work cannot be of much use till it is understood. It is useless to read books entirely beyond our grasp. In the perusal of an author we should endeavor to enter as fully as possible into his thoughts and feelings. Our primary aim should be not to criticise but to comprehend. This is sometimes, especially for the young student, a difficult task. It requires patient, painstaking labor; but in the end it brings a rich reward in profit, enjoyment, and power.

In the study of a literary classic we should aim at more than a mere intellectual apprehension of its technique and other external features. The soul should rise into sympathy with it, and feel its spiritual beauty. All literary study that falls short of this high end, however scholarly or laborious it may be, is essentially defective. The externalities of a piece of literature are comprehended in vain, unless they lead to a fuller understanding and appreciation of its spirit and life. Unfortunately, at the present time, philology and literary analysis frequently stop short of the realization of the supreme end of literary study. What should be only a means is sometimes exalted to an end.

3. Definition of Criticism. Criticism, as its etymology indicates, is the act of judging. Literary criticism endeavors to form a correct estimate of literary productions. Its endeavor is to see a piece of writing as it is. It brings literary productions into comparison with recognized principles and ideal standards; it investigates them in their matter, form, and spirit; and, as a result of this process, it determines their merits and their defects. The end of literary criticism is not fault-finding but truth. The critic should be more than a censor or caviler. He should discover and make known whatever is commendable or excellent. At its best, criticism is not a mere record of general impressions but the statement of an intelligent judgment. It is not biased or vitiated by prejudice, ignorance, or self-interest; but, proceeding according to well-defined principles, it is able to trace the steps by which it reaches its ultimate conclusions.

4. History of Criticism. Criticism is a natural attendant of all forms of art. Literary criticism is almost as old as literature itself. No sooner had a writer produced a literary work, even in the most ancient times, than his contemporaries proceeded to express their judgments concerning it. Among the ancient Greeks Plato and Aristotle were both critics; and the latter's work on "Poetics" is still valuable for its discussion of fundamental principles. Quintilian, Cicero, and Horace were distinguished Roman critics; and the poet's Ars Poetica, read in every college course, is an admirable presentation of many critical principles. But it is in modern times, and particularly during the nineteenth century, that criticism received its highest development. In England not a few of its leading literary men—Dryden, Pope, Addison, Johnson, Coleridge, Jeffrey, Macaulay, Carlyle, Matthew Arnold—have been critics; and in America we meet with such honored names as Poe, Emerson, Whipple, Lowell, Stedman, and many others. In recent years criticism has greatly gained in breadth and geniality.

5. Standard of Criticism. All criticism involves comparison. For every species of literature there is an ideal of form, content, and spirit, which serves the intelligent critic as a standard of judgment. This ideal is based on a realization of the recognized principles of literary art. These principles pertain to diction, structure, matter, and spirit or purpose. No one will deny that the diction should be well chosen; that the structure of the sentences should be correct and clear; and that, in the case of poetry, the laws of versification should be observed. These elements contribute to excellence of form. In addition to these external elements there should be unity of thought, symmetry of presentation, truth of statement, and sincerity and self-restraint in sentiment. These elements give substantial worth to the matter or content of literature. Besides all this there is a grace or elegance or force, proceeding from the personality of the writer and transcending all rules of art, that gives a peculiar charm to the best literature. Sometimes the personal element or spirit of a work is so pleasing that it more than counterbalances defects of form, and wins its way to the popular heart.

6. Classic Writers. Our classic writers are those who have most nearly approached the ideal. The writings of Addison, Goldsmith, Irving, Lowell, and others, embody in a high degree excellence of matter and form; and in addition to this there is a pervading spirit that imparts an irresistible charm to their works. While the works of no one writer, whether ancient or modern, can be taken as an absolute standard of judgment, the perusal of classic works is exceedingly helpful. These works familiarize us with what is excellent in thought, expression, and spirit. They cultivate the taste; and at length it becomes impossible for the student to be satisfied with what is incorrect, slovenly, tawdry, or untruthful.

7. Requisites of Criticism. Many things are required for the best criticism. First of all, the critic ought to be a person of sound judgment. It is in a measure true that critics, like poets, "are born, not made." The critic should have the power to divest himself of prejudice; and, like a judge upon the bench, should decide every question by the law and the evidence. He should be a man of broad sympathies and wide culture; nothing that is human should be foreign to him. He should be able to enter into the feelings of every class and to appreciate the principles of every school. He should have a strong imagination to enable him to realize the conditions of other ages or of other social arrangements. Without these natural gifts of a sound judgment, broad sympathy, and vigorous imagination, the critic is apt to be limited, narrow, or unjust in his criticism. The history of literature reveals numberless critical blunders; indeed, almost every attempt to introduce new literary forms, as in the case of Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Keats, has met with bitter opposition from uncatholic critics.

8. Criticism an Acquired Art. Criticism is an art that may in large measure be acquired. The requisite faculties may be developed by a course of study. The principles that are to guide the critical judgment are provided in grammar, rhetoric, logic, aesthetics, and moral science. Wide reading in various departments will banish narrowness and provincialism. Study and experience will bring a cosmopolitan culture. Though few are capable of attaining to eminence as critics, it is possible for every one to acquire some degree of literary taste and to form an intelligent judgment of a literary work.

9. Diversity in Criticism. Diversity of judgment is a notable feature in the history of criticism. It tends to shake one's confidence in the critical art. It often happens that what one critic praises another condemns. This fact has been presented by Irving, with delightful humor. "Even the critics," he says in the conclusion of the "Sketch Book," "whatever may be said of them by others, the author has found to be a singularly gentle and good-natured race; it is true that each has in turn objected to some one or two articles, and that these individual exceptions, taken in the aggregate, would amount almost to a total condemnation of his work; but then he has been consoled by observing, that what one has particularly censured, another has as particularly praised; and thus, the encomiums being set off against the objections, he finds his work, upon the whole, commended far beyond its deserts."

10. Sources of Diversity. This diversity of literary criticism, which at first sight tempts us to question the value of the art, is easily traced to its causes. These are found not in the nature of the art but in the manner of its application. Many reviewers nowadays do not take the pains to read the works they pass judgment upon. Their estimate is based on little more than a rapid survey of the preface and table of contents. This fact renders a considerable part of current newspaper criticism comparatively worthless. It is still worse when to this superficiality is added a flippant manner that seems intent on nothing but a display of the critic's smartness. Other critics write from the standpoint of a particular sect or school of thought, and undervalue or overvalue a work through a partisan spirit. Defective or erroneous principles are used as standards of judgment. Still others are impressionists; and instead of testing a work by recognized critical canons, they simply record how "it strikes them." Differences of taste and character naturally produce some diversity of view, but in general the painstaking and impartial application of critical principles to a literary work will yield pretty uniform results. The merits and defects of the work will be brought to light, and conscientious and broad-minded critics will be found in the main to agree in their praise or their censure.

11. Utility of Criticism. Criticism is not, as has sometimes been supposed, a parasitic growth on literature. It is a handmaid of literature; it belongs to the household of literature. Though it does not deserve to rank with the great creative forms of literature, such as the epic, the drama, or the novel, it is capable of a high degree of excellence. Some of the greatest English writers, as we have seen, have been critics. Not a few of the critical essays of De Quincey, Macaulay, Carlyle, Arnold, Lowell, and others, have an honorable place in the literature of the English-speaking world.

Literary criticism has a distinct value for three classes of persons. To the young student it gives a clear insight into literary form, and cultivates his taste for literary excellence. To the author it is at once a stimulant and wholesome restraint; it rewards him for what is good and chastises him for what is bad. To the public it is useful in pointing out what books are worth reading and in showing the principles by which a work is to be judged. It elevates the popular taste and intelligence.

12. Materials of Criticism. All literature is, in some sense, material for criticism. It may be examined, tested by critical laws, and its worth estimated in the class to which it belongs. But as a rule literary criticism is confined to literature in the narrower sense; that is to say, to literature that aims at artistic excellence. This includes the various forms of poetry and the principal kinds of prose,—history, oratory, essays, and fiction. These various kinds of literature, in their higher forms, aim at presenting their subject-matter in such a way as to minister to the pleasure of the reader.

13. Molding Influences. In criticising it is important to recognize certain general molding influences in literature. Among the most potent of these influences are race, epoch, and surroundings. We cannot fully understand any work of literature, nor justly estimate its relative excellence, without an acquaintance with the national traits of the writer, the general character of the age in which he lived, and the physical and social conditions by which he was surrounded. These considerations, independently of specific critical canons that determine intrinsic excellence, must be taken into account when the critic wishes to decide upon the relative value of a work. It is evidently unjust to demand in writers of an uncultivated period the same delicacy of thought, feeling, and expression that is required in the writers of an age of refinement and intelligence. The indecencies in Chaucer and Shakespeare are to be attributed to the grossness of their times.

14. The Artistic Element. There is an artistic element in literature upon which the value of any work largely depends. There is art in the choice and marshaling of words. Furthermore, every department of literature—history, poetry, fiction—has a separate and definite purpose. In the successful realization of this purpose each species or form of literature must wisely choose its means. This conscious and intelligent adaptation of a means to an end is art. Apart from the careful selection and arrangement of words in sentences, the historian chooses the incidents he will relate, the order in which they will appear, the relative prominence they will have, and the symmetry and completeness of his whole work. The novelist selects or invents his story, portrays from actual life or creates a number of characters, constructs or modifies his plot, and unfolds the movement toward a predestined end. In all this there is a constant exercise of the creative faculty; and the complete product is as much a work of art as is a painting or statue, which requires the same sort of intellectual effort.

15. Matter and Form. In any literary production we may distinguish between the thoughts that are presented and the manner in which they are presented. We may say, for example, "The joys of heaven are infinite"; or, ascending to a higher plane of thought and feeling, we may present the same thought in the language of Moore in his "Paradise and the Peri":

"Go, wing thy flight from star to star, From world to luminous world, as far As the universe spreads its flaming wall; Take all the pleasures of all the spheres, And multiply each through endless years,— One minute of Heaven is worth them all."

It is thus evident that the interest and worth of literature depend largely on the manner in which the thought and emotion are expressed. In general the matter of discourse, which aims at the communication of ideas, is of more importance than the form. Words without thought, no matter how skillfully and musically they may be arranged, are nonsense. But in the lighter sorts of prose, which aim at entertainment, and in poetry, which is dependent on meter and harmony, form is of preeminent importance. The story of "Rip Van Winkle," for instance, owes its perennial charm to the inimitable grace and humor with which Irving has told it.

There is a natural and intimate relation between matter and form; one is the soul, the other is the body. Form is not to be unduly magnified by itself; it is excellent only when it is a fitting embodiment of the thought and feeling expressed. Form should be molded by the thought and emotion, as the rose or oak is shaped by the potency of its inner life. When, in any way, the form is out of keeping with the subject, the effect upon a cultivated taste is a disagreeable incongruity. In the language of Horace,—

"Sad words befit the brow with grief o'erhung; Anger, that fires the eyeball, bids the tongue Breathe proud defiance; sportive jest and jeer Become the gay; grave maxims the severe."


1. What is the threefold object of literary study? What kind of literature should be read? Why? 2. What should be our primary aim in studying an author? What does this often require? What should be aimed at besides outward form? What mistake is frequently made? 3. What is criticism? What is the purpose of literary criticism? How is this purpose accomplished? What sources of error are mentioned? 4. What is said of the history of criticism? Name two Greek critics. Who were the great Roman critics? Mention some distinguished English and American critics. What is said of recent criticism? 5. What serves as a standard of criticism? On what is this ideal based? Mention some elements of excellent form; some elements of excellent content. What is said of the personal element or spirit? 6. Who are our classic writers? Why study classic works? 7. What natural gifts should a critic have? Why should he have broad sympathies? What is said of critical blunders? 8. How is criticism an acquired art? What is the advantage of wide reading? What may every one hope to acquire? 9. What is said of diversity in criticism? Illustrate. 10. What are the sources of diversity? What is said of much newspaper criticism? What is meant by impressionists? What is said of painstaking and impartial criticism? 11. What is said of the relation of criticism to literature? What of its rank? For what three classes has it a special value? How? 12. What are the materials of literary criticism? To what class of literature is it chiefly devoted? 13. Name three great molding influences. Why should they be considered? Illustrate. 14. What is meant by the artistic element? In what does the historian's art consist? the novelist's? 15. What may be distinguished in any literary production? Illustrate. On what does the worth of literature largely depend? Which is the more important, matter or form? Where is form specially important? Illustrate. What is the relation of matter to form? When the form is out of keeping with the matter, what is the result?


The following critiques should be studied with the view of answering such questions as these:

Does the critic seek the truth? Is he prejudiced? Is he chiefly concerned with matter or form? Is his judgment sound? Is he broad or narrow in his sympathies? Does he judge by mere impressions? Is he superficial or thorough? Does he belong to a particular school? Is his criticism in any way helpful? Does he try to interpret the author? Is he chiefly concerned to show his own learning or brilliancy? Is he genial and tolerant? Is he dogmatic and intolerant? Is he courteous and kind? Is he ill-mannered and unkind? What points are criticised?


The Reverend Mr. Headley (why will he not put his full title in his title-pages?) has in his "Sacred Mountains" been reversing the facts of the old fable about the mountains that brought forth the mouse—parturiunt montes; nascitur ridiculus mus—for in this instance it appears to be the mouse—the little ridiculus mus—that has been bringing forth the "mountains," and a great litter of them, too.—POE.


The poesy of this young Lord belongs to the class which neither gods nor men are said to permit. Indeed, we do not recollect to have seen a quantity of verse with so few deviations in either direction from that exact standard. His effusions are spread over a dead flat, and can no more get above or below the level, than if they were so much stagnant water. As an extenuation of this offence, the noble author is peculiarly forward in pleading minority. We have it in the title-page, and on the very back of the volume; it follows his name like a favorite part of his style. Much stress is laid upon it in the preface, and the poems are connected with this general statement of his case, by particular dates, substantiating the age at which each was written.—LORD BROUGHAM in Edinburgh Review.


The author is a copyist of Mr. Hunt, but ten times more tiresome than his prototype; his nonsense is gratuitous, he writes it for its own sake, and more than rivals the insanity of his master. He writes at random the suggestions of his rhyme without having hardly a complete couplet to endorse a complete idea in the book. If any one should be bold enough to purchase it, and patient enough to get beyond the first book and find any meaning, we entreat him to make us acquainted with his success; we shall then return to the task which we now abandon in despair.—Quarterly Review.


The simple Wordsworth, framer of a lay As soft as evening in his favorite May; Who warns his friend "to shake off toil and trouble, And quit his books, for fear of growing double"; Who, both by precept and example, shows That prose is verse, and verse is merely prose; Convincing all, by demonstration plain, Poetic souls delight in prose insane, And Christmas stories, tortured into rhyme, Contain the essence of the true sublime; Thus, when he tells the tale of Betty Foy, The idiot mother of "an idiot boy," A moon-struck silly lad who lost his way, And, like his bard, confounded night with day; So close on each pathetic part he dwells, And each adventure so sublimely tells, That all who view the "idiot in his glory," Conceive the bard the hero of the story. BYRON in "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers."


This work has greatly disappointed us. Whatever faults we may have been prepared to find in it, we fully expected that it would be a valuable addition to English literature; that it would contain many curious facts, and many judicious remarks; that the style of the notes would be neat, clear, and precise; and that the typographical execution would be, as in new editions of classical works it ought to be, almost faultless. We are sorry to be obliged to say that the merits of Mr. Croker's performance are on a par with those of a certain leg of mutton on which Dr. Johnson dined, while travelling from London to Oxford, and which he, with characteristic energy, pronounced to be "as bad as bad could be, ill fed, ill killed, ill kept, and ill dressed." This edition is ill compiled, ill arranged, ill written, and ill printed.—MACAULAY in Edinburgh Review.


There is in Carlyle's fiercer and more serious passages a fiery glow of enthusiasm or indignation, in his lighter ones a quaint felicity of unexpected humor, in his expositions a vividness of presentment, in his arguments a sledge-hammer force, all of which are not to be found together anywhere else, and none of which is to be found anywhere in quite the same form. And despite the savagery, both of his indignation and his laughter, there is no greater master of tenderness. Wherever he is at home, and he seldom wanders far from it, the weapon of Carlyle is like none other,—it is the very sword of Goliath. SAINTSBURY.


Against the right of Gray to be considered one of the leading English men of letters no more stringent argument has been produced than is founded upon the paucity of his published work. It has fairly been said that the springs of originality in the brain of a great inventive genius are bound to bubble up more continuously and in fuller volume than could be confined within the narrow bounds of the poetry of Gray. But the sterility of the age, the east wind of discouragement steadily blowing across the poet's path, had much to do with this apparent want of fecundity, and it would be an error to insist too strongly on a general feature of the century in this individual case. When we turn to what Gray actually wrote, although the bulk of it is small, we are amazed at the originality and variety, the freshness and vigor of the mind that worked thus tardily and in miniature.—GOSSE.


Shakespeare has no peculiarity, no importunate topic; but all is duly given; no views, no curiosities; no cow-painter, no bird-fancier, no mannerist is he: he has no discoverable egotism; the great he tells greatly; the small, subordinately. He is wise without emphasis or assertion; he is strong, as nature is strong, who lifts the land into mountain slopes without effort, and by the same rule as she floats a bubble in the air, and likes as well to do the one as the other. This makes that equality of power in farce, tragedy, narrative, and love-songs; a merit so incessant, that each reader is incredulous of the perception of other readers.—EMERSON.


This Shelley biography is a literary cake-walk. The ordinary forms of speech are absent from it. All the pages, all the paragraphs, walk by sedately, elegantly, not to say mincingly, in their Sunday-best, shiny and sleek, perfumed, and with boutonnieres in their button-holes; it is rare to find even a chance sentence that has forgotten to dress. If the book wishes to tell us that Mary Godwin, child of sixteen, had known afflictions, the fact saunters forth in this nobby outfit: "Mary herself was not unlearned in the lore of pain."—MARK TWAIN.


One of the poems on which much praise has been bestowed, is "Lycidas"; of which the diction is harsh, the rhymes uncertain, and the numbers unpleasing. What beauty there is we must therefore seek in the sentiments and images. It is not to be considered as the effusion of real passion; for passion runs not after remote allusions and obscure opinions. Passion plucks no berries from the myrtle and ivy, nor calls upon Arthur and Mincius, nor tells of rough satyrs and "fauns with cloven heel." Where there is leisure for fiction, there is little grief. SAMUEL JOHNSON.


And, in truth, one of the legitimate poets Emerson, in my opinion, is not. His poetry is interesting, it makes one think; but it is not the poetry of one of the born poets. I say it of him with reluctance, although I am sure that he would have said it of himself; but I say it with reluctance, because I dislike giving pain to his admirers, and because all my own wish, too, is to say of him what is favorable. But I regard myself, not as speaking to please Emerson's admirers, not as speaking to please myself; but rather, I repeat, as communing with Time and Nature concerning the productions of this beautiful and rare spirit, and as resigning what of him is by their unalterable decree touched with caducity, in order the better to mark and secure that in him which is immortal.—MATTHEW ARNOLD.


What peculiarities of George Eliot's are likely to leave a strong impress after her? I answer, she, of all novelists, has attacked the profound problems of our existence. She has taught that the mystery worthy of a great artist is not the shallow mystery device, but the infinite perspective of the great, dark enigmas of human nature; that there is a deeper interest in human life seen in the modern, scientific daylight, than in life viewed through a mist of ancient and dying superstitions; that the interest of human character transcends the interest of invented circumstances; that the epic story of a hero and a heroine is not so grand as the natural history of a community. She, first of all, has made cross sections of modern life, and shown us the busy human hive in the light of a great artistic and philosophic intellect.—EDWARD EGGLESTON.


He has won for himself a secure immortality by a depth of intuition which makes only the best minds at their best hours worthy, or indeed capable, of his companionship, and by a homely sincerity of human sympathy which reaches the humblest heart. Our language owes him gratitude for the habitual purity and abstinence of his style, and we who speak it, for having emboldened us to take delight in simple things, and to trust ourselves to our own instincts.—LOWELL.


It is requisite that the language of an heroic poem should be both perspicuous and sublime. In proportion as either of these two qualities is wanting, the language is imperfect. Perspicuity is the first and most necessary qualification; insomuch that a good-natured reader sometimes overlooks a little slip even in the grammar or syntax, where it is impossible for him to mistake the poet's sense. Of this kind is that passage in Milton, wherein he speaks of Satan,—

"God and his Son except, Created thing nought valued he nor shunned,"—

and that in which he describes Adam and Eve,—

"Adam the goodliest man of men since born, His sons, the fairest of her daughters Eve." ADDISON.


From the first to the last page of Nietzsche's writings the careful reader seems to hear a madman, with flashing eyes, wild gestures, and foaming mouth, spouting forth deafening bombast; and through it all, now breaking out into frenzied laughter, now sputtering expressions of filthy abuse and invective, now skipping about in a giddy agile dance, and now bursting upon the auditors with threatening mien and clenched fists. So far as any meaning at all can be extracted from the endless stream of phrases, it shows, as its fundamental elements, a series of constantly reiterated delirious ideas, having their source in illusions of sense and diseased organic processes. Here and there emerges a distinct idea, which, as is always the case with the insane, assumes the form of an imperious assertion, a sort of despotic command. MAX NORDAU.


In addition to these brief extracts the student should be encouraged or required to read a number of complete reviews both in our popular periodicals and in books of literary criticism, with the view of determining the critic's temper, culture, judgment, thoroughness, points of view, etc. The older style of criticism is illustrated in Addison's articles on Milton in the "Spectator" and Johnson's "Lives of the Poets." For the elaborate review style the student might read some of the critical essays of Macaulay, Carlyle, and Lowell. Our principal reviews, magazines, and other periodicals, as well as recent works on English literature, will supply abundant material to show the less elaborate and generally more genial criticism of the present day.



16. Personality of the Author. Every literary work reveals, to a greater or less degree, the personality of the author. Every literary production may be regarded as the fruitage of the writer's spirit; and there is good authority for saying that "men do not gather grapes of thorns or figs from thistles." A book exhibits not only the attainments, culture, and literary art of the writer but also his intellectual force, emotional nature, and moral character. Wide attainments are revealed in breadth of view and in mastery of large resources. Culture is exhibited in a general delicacy of thought, feeling, and expression. Literary art is shown in the choice of words and in their arrangement in sentences and paragraphs. The artistic sense, without which a finished excellence is not attainable, reveals itself in the proportion, symmetry, and completeness of a work.

17. Thought and Feeling. The intellectual and the emotional nature o a writer is clearly reflected in his works. Intellectual force, for example, is recognized in the firm grasp of a subject, in the marshaling of details toward a predetermined end, and in the vigor of utterance. The Essays of Macaulay, however much they may lack in delicate refinement of thought and feeling, display a virile force of intellect; and many a page of Carlyle fairly throbs with energy of spirit. A large, sensitive soul manifests itself in sympathy with nature and human life. The "wee, modest, crimson-tipped" daisy, and the limping wounded hare touched the tender sympathies of Burns; and it was Wordsworth who said,—

"To me the meanest flower that blows can give Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears."

There is no class of society, from kings to beggars, from queens to hags, with which Shakespeare has not entered into sympathy, thinking their thoughts and speaking their words.

18. Moral Character. The moral character of an author appears in his general attitude toward truth and life. A strong moral sense appears in a firm adherence to right and an unblinded condemnation of wrong. A genial, charitable spirit is shown in a kindly disposition to overlook the weaknesses of men and to magnify their virtues. Life may be looked upon as something earnest, exalted, divine; or it may be regarded as insignificant, wretched, and ending at death.

It is character that gives fundamental tone to literature; and, as Matthew Arnold has said, the best results are not attainable without "high seriousness." The difference between the flippant and the earnest writer is easily and instinctively recognized. No one can read Ruskin, for instance, without feeling his sincerity and integrity, even in his most impracticable vagaries. In Addison, Goldsmith, and Irving we find a genial, uplifting amiability; and Whittier, in his deep love of human freedom and justice, appears as a resolute iconoclast and reformer.

19. Authorship and Character. It is sometimes supposed that the art of authorship can be divorced from the personality of the writer. In serious authorship this supposition is a mistake. The best writing is more than grace of rhetoric and refinement of intellectual culture. Back of all outward graces there is need of a right-thinking and truth-loving soul. One of the essential things in the training of a great writer is the development of an upright, noble character. Milton was right in maintaining that the great poet should make his life a noble poem. As a rule the writers of the world's greatest classics have been men of sincerity, truth, and honor. Such was the character of Plato, Vergil, Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Browning, and many others. Our best American writers, almost without exception, have been distinguished for moral worth. In men like Burns, Byron, and Heine, the absence of a high moral purpose has detracted, in spite of their unquestioned intellectual power, from the excellence of a large part of their writings.

20. Autobiographic Elements. Our knowledge is of two kinds: the first comes from our own experience; the other, from the experience and testimony of our fellow-men. Personal experience carries with it a conviction and power that do not usually belong to the knowledge received from the testimony of others. What we have experienced has become a part of our lives. The writers of vitality and power are those who draw largely on their individual resources,—the treasures of their own experience. They write, not from the memory, but from the heart. If they borrow from others, they assimilate the information, and thus vitalize it before giving it out again.

The best part of our knowledge is that which comes to us through experience and assimilation. It is a permanent possession. When an author's experience, either in an ideal or a realistic form, is introduced in his work, it becomes an interesting biographical element. It presents a part of his life, and often it exhibits the transforming and glorifying power of his genius. In the drama "She Stoops to Conquer," for example, Goldsmith has turned to excellent account a humiliating incident of his youth. His "Deserted Village" is full of childhood reminiscences. Scott's poems and novels are in large measure only an expansion of the mediaeval and other lore that he enthusiastically collected in his youth and early manhood. George Eliot's earlier novels are filled with the scenes and characters of her early life; and Dickens's best novel, "David Copperfield," is largely autobiographical. An author's best work—that which possesses the greatest degree of interest and vitality—is generally that which springs from the treasure of his deepest experience, and is the fullest expression of his individual thought and feeling.

21. View of Life. Every writer of originality and power takes a fundamental view of life. He has settled convictions of some sort in regard to the world in which he lives. Sometimes this view comes from religion and sometimes from philosophy or science, though in any case it is apt to be influenced by the writer's physical condition. German philosophy has influenced many able writers,—Coleridge, Carlyle, Emerson, and others in England and America; and at the present time the theory of evolution is leaving a deep impress on literature.

Whence came this magnificent universe? What is the origin and destiny of man? Is the general drift of human affairs upward or downward? These are great fundamental questions, and the answers we give them lie at the bottom of our thinking and give tone to our writing. The world is not the same to the Christian theist and to the agnostic. Human life has a deeper significance to the man who believes in the loving providence of God than to the man who believes only in the existence of matter and natural law. The man who believes in the presence and sovereignty of God in all things looks hopefully to the future. He is optimistic rather than pessimistic. The presence of an exuberant vitality reveals itself in a cheerful, buoyant tone. Scott's exuberant spirit forms a pleasing contrast with Carlyle's dyspeptic cynicism.

It is often highly important to understand the fundamental beliefs of a writer. His works may be in a measure unintelligible till his standpoint is fully understood. Sometimes his various writings are only an expansion and application of one or two great fundamental principles. The works of Herbert Spencer, for example, are in the main an elaboration of the theory of evolution. Byron represented a skeptical reaction against the conventional manners and beliefs of his day. The essential feature of Emerson's work is found in a single sentence in "Nature." "We learn," he says, "that the Highest is present to the soul of man, that the dread universal Essence, which is not wisdom, or love, or beauty, or power, but all in one, and each entirely, is that for which all things exist, and that by which they are; that spirit creates; that behind nature, throughout nature, spirit is present; that spirit is one, and not compound; that spirit does not act upon us from without, that is, in space and time, but spiritually, or through ourselves."

22. Literary School. In like manner it is interesting and sometimes illumining to know the literary school or tendency to which a writer belongs. Every author has his limitations and idiosyncrasies. First of all, he may be a writer of prose alone or of poetry alone. In prose he may confine himself to a single department, as fiction or history; or in poetry he may be chiefly lyric, didactic, or dramatic. Within these narrower spheres he may identify himself with a single tendency or group of writers. In history he may be philosophic or narrative; in fiction he may be a romanticist or a realist; in poetry he may be subjective or objective in his treatment of themes. Scott's romanticism, for instance, which delights in mediaeval scenes and incidents, is very unlike Dickens's realism, which depicts the scenes and incidents of actual contemporary life. George Eliot's psychologic novels are different from those of either Scott or Dickens. Bryant's clear descriptions of nature stand in striking contrast with Poe's mystical melodies.

23. Mood and Purpose. It is important to understand the mood and purpose of an author. We are not in a position fairly to judge a work until we know its spirit and object. Until we know whether the writer is playful or earnest, joyous or sad, satirical or serious, we cannot give his words the right tone and value; and until we see clearly what he is driving at, we cannot properly estimate the successive steps in his production nor judge of its worth as a whole.

The moods expressed in literature are exceedingly various. Since literature is the expression of the intellectual life of man, it embodies the various moods and passions to which human nature is subject. Sometimes, for example, there is laughing humor, as in Holmes's "The Deacon's Masterpiece." Sometimes there is violent anger, as in Byron's "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers." We feel his unrestrained wrath, as he exclaims,—

"Prepare for rhyme—I'll publish right or wrong; Fools are my theme, let satire be my song."

Sometimes the mood is one of pensive meditation, as when Gray sits alone in the country churchyard amid deepening twilight:

"The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea, The plowman homeward plods his weary way, And leaves the world to darkness and to me."

Sometimes it is a righteous indignation that blazes and burns, as when Carlyle exclaims, in the presence of selfishness and wrong: "Foolish men imagine that because judgment for an evil thing is delayed, there is no justice but an accidental one, here below. Judgment for an evil thing is many times delayed some day or two, some century or two, but it is sure as life, it is as sure as death! In the center of the world-whirlwind, verily now as in the oldest days, dwells and speaks a God. The great soul of the world is just."

Often the mood or spirit of gifted writers is something too intangible to be firmly grasped, yet its presence is felt as a pervasive and delightful atmosphere. A work is sometimes suffused with the divine touch of genius, as the delicate and indescribable hues of autumn glorify the valleys and mountains. While hovering near the earth for a time, the spirit of genius, as in Shakespeare and Ruskin, sometimes suddenly and spontaneously soars to regions of supernal splendor,—altitudes of beauty absolutely inaccessible to ordinary and unaided mortals.

The purpose of a literary work, like its mood or spirit, may be various. In a measure it varies with the department of literature to which the work belongs. The purpose of history, which brings before us the achievements of the past, is chiefly instruction. The oratory of the pulpit and the forum aims at persuasion. Fiction aims primarily at entertainment, though it may also be made the vehicle for religious, sociological, or moral teachings. Poetry aims at pleasure by means of melody, felicity of expression, the picturing of moods and scenes, and the narration of interesting incidents or important events. When the purpose of a production is clearly apprehended we are prepared to judge of the wisdom of the author in his choice and adaptation of means.

24. Study of an Author's Life. The foregoing considerations show us the value of an acquaintance with an author's life. Without this acquaintance we are not prepared, in many cases, to understand or judge his productions. A good biography will acquaint us with the circumstances in which his talents were developed, and disclose to us the autobiographic materials which have been embodied in his works. It will reveal to us his views of life and his principles of art. It will show us, in short, the man behind the work, and thus help us to grasp the full significance of his utterance.

No one is absolutely independent of his surroundings. Men are frequently led, and sometimes driven by them, into the lines of work which they pursue. Hawthorne's stories, for the most part, grew out of his New England life. Had he been brought up south of the Potomac, they would have been different. Had Irving never gone to England, he would not have written "Bracebridge Hall"; and had he not sojourned in Spain, he would not have written "Alhambra" and the "Life of Columbus." Byron's "Childe Harold" is but a poetic record of his travels. Thus it is seen that an author's work, in large measure, grows out of his surroundings and experience, and cannot be thoroughly understood without an acquaintance with his life. It sometimes happens, as Shelley has sung in his interesting "Julian and Maddalo," that

"Most wretched men Are cradled into poetry by wrong; They learn in suffering what they teach in song."


16. How is a book related to its author? What does it exhibit? What is said of the artistic sense? 17. How is intellectual force revealed? How does a sensitive nature show itself? Illustrate. 18. In what does the moral nature appear? What gives fundamental tone to literature? Illustrate. 19. What must be back of the best writing? What was Milton's opinion of the poet? What is said of the world's great classics? 20. Whence does our knowledge come? What gives power and vitality to a piece of literature? What is meant by autobiographic elements? Illustrate from Goldsmith and Dickens. 21. What is said of a writer's fundamental views? Whence do they come? Illustrate. What questions lie at the basis of our thinking? Illustrate. What has physical vitality to do with literature? What thought dominates Spencer's works? What is the dominant belief of Emerson? 22. Mention some of a writer's limitations. Explain the difference between Scott and Dickens; between Bryant and Poe. 23. Why is it important to know the mood and purpose of an author? Why are the moods different? Give examples of different moods. Explain the general purpose of history, oratory, fiction, and poetry. Why should we know the purpose of an author? 24. Why study the biography of an author? What will it reveal to us? What have surroundings to do with an author? Give illustrations. What is the quotation from Shelley?


The following selections should be studied with reference to such questions as these:

What light does the selection throw on the author? Is he a man of large attainments? Does it show refinement of thought and feeling? Does it display literary art? Has it virile force? Does it show a true sense of right? Is there a large, noble nature back of it? Does it grow out of the author's personal experience? Has it the force of conviction? How does the author conceive of the world? What does he think of God? How does he regard human life? Is he hopeful or pessimistic? Is he a writer of prose, poetry, or both? To what school of writing does he belong? What is the mood or spirit,—humorous, buoyant, serious, sad, ironical, angry, genial, urbane? What is its purpose,—to instruct, please, persuade?

The love of dirt is among the earliest of passions, as it is the latest. Mud-pies gratify one of our first and best instincts. So long as we are dirty, we are pure. Fondness for the ground comes back to a man after he has seen the round of pleasure and business, eaten dirt, and sown wild-oats, drifted about the world, and taken the wind of all its moods. The love of digging in the ground (or of looking on while he pays another to dig) is as sure to come back to him as he is sure, at last, to go under the ground and stay there.—CHARLES DUDLEY WARNER.

The end of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him, as we may the nearest by possessing our souls of true virtue, which being united to the heavenly grace of faith makes up the highest perfection. MILTON.

We are like lambs in a field, disporting themselves under the eye of the butcher, who chooses out first one and then another for his prey. So it is that in our good days we are all unconscious of the evil Fate may have presently in store for us—sickness, poverty, mutilation, loss of sight or reason.—SCHOPENHAUER.

Alas! 'tis true I have gone here and there, And made myself a motley to the view; Gor'd mine own thoughts, sold cheap what is most dear, Made old offences of affections new; Most times it is that I have looked on truth Askance and strangely.—SHAKESPEARE.

In order to secure my credit and character as a tradesman, I took care not only to be in reality industrious and frugal, but to avoid the appearances to the contrary. I dressed plain, and was seen at no places of idle diversion. I never went out a fishing or shooting; a book, indeed, sometimes debauched me from my work, but that was seldom, was private, and gave no scandal; and to show that I was not above my business, I sometimes brought home the paper I purchased at the stores through the streets on a wheelbarrow.—FRANKLIN.

Given, a man with moderate intellect, a moral standard not higher than the average, some rhetorical affluence and great glibness of speech, what is the career in which, without the aid of birth or money, he may most easily attain power and reputation in English society? Where is the Goshen of mediocrity in which a smattering of science and learning will pass for profound instruction, where platitudes will be accepted as wisdom, bigoted narrowness as holy zeal, unctuous egoism as God-given piety? Let such a man become an evangelical preacher; he will then find it possible to reconcile small ability with great ambition, superficial knowledge with the prestige of erudition, a middling morale with a high reputation for sanctity.—GEORGE ELIOT.

Careless seems the great Avenger; history's pages but record One death-grapple in the darkness 'twixt old systems and the Word; Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,— Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown, Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own. LOWELL.

Thus I live in the world rather as a spectator of mankind than as one of the species, by which means I have made myself a speculative statesman, soldier, merchant, and artisan, without ever meddling with any practical part in life. I am very well versed in the theory of a husband or a father, and can discern the errors in the economy, business, and diversions of others better than those who are engaged in them; as standers-by discover blots, which are apt to escape those who are in the game. I never espoused any party with violence, and am resolved to observe an exact neutrality between the Whigs and Tories, unless I shall be forced to declare myself by the hostilities of either side. ADDISON.

Out—out are the lights—out all! And over each quivering form, The curtain, a funeral pall, Comes down with the rush of a storm; And the angels, all pallid and wan, Uprising, unveiling, affirm That the play is the tragedy "Man," And its hero the Conqueror Worm.—POE.

The essays professedly serious, if I have been able to execute my own intentions, will be found exactly conformable to the precepts of Christianity, without any accommodation to the licentiousness and levity of the present age. I therefore look back on this part of my work with pleasure, which no praise or blame of man can diminish or augment. I shall never envy the honors which wit and learning obtain in any other cause, if I can be numbered among the writers who have given ardor to virtue and confidence to truth.—SAMUEL JOHNSON.

What tho' on hamely fare we dine, Wear hodden gray, and a' that; Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine— A man's a man for a' that. For a' that, and a' that, Their tinsel show, and a' that; The honest man, though e'er sae poor, Is king of men for a' that.—BURNS.

I said to myself that my hero should work his way through life as I had seen real living men work theirs; that he should never get a shilling he had not earned; that no sudden turn should lift him in a moment to wealth and high station; that whatever small competency he might gain, should be won by the sweat of his brow; that before he could find so much as an arbor to sit down in, he should master, at least, half the ascent of the "Hill of Difficulty"; that he should not even marry a beautiful girl or a lady of rank. As Adam's son he should share Adam's doom, and drain, throughout life, a mixed and moderate cup of enjoyment.—CHARLOTTE BRONTE.

Day set on Norham's castled steep, And Tweed's fair river, broad and deep, And Cheviot's mountains lone: The battled towers, the donjon keep, The loophole grates, where captives weep, The flanking walls that round it sweep, In yellow lustre shone. The warriors on the turrets high, Moving athwart the evening sky, Seemed forms of giant height; Their armor, as it caught the rays, Flashed back again the western blaze, In lines of dazzling light.—SCOTT.

It is a restful chapter in any book of Cooper's when somebody doesn't step on a dry twig and alarm all the reds and whites for two hundred yards around. Every time a Cooper person is in peril, and absolute silence is worth four dollars a minute, he is sure to step on a dry twig. There may be a hundred handier things to step on, but that wouldn't satisfy Cooper. Cooper requires him to turn out and find a dry twig; and if he can't do it, go and borrow one. In fact the Leather Stocking Series ought to have been called the Broken Twig Series. MARK TWAIN.

Live and love, Doing both nobly, because lowlily; Live and work, strongly, because patiently! And, for the deed of Death, trust to God That it be well done, unrepented of, And not to loss. And thence with constant prayers Fasten your souls so high, that constantly The smile of your heroic cheer may float Above all floods of earthly agonies, Purification being the joy of pain.—MRS. BROWNING.


The autobiographic elements in Goldsmith's "Deserted Village" and "Vicar of Wakefield," in Charlotte Bronte's "Shirley" and "Villette," in Dickens's "David Copperfield" and George Eliot's "Mill on the Floss," will be found interesting and helpful studies. In each case a good biography of the author will give the necessary information to the student.



25. AEsthetics. The science of beauty in general is called AEsthetics, to which we have to look for some of the principles that are to guide our critical judgment. Unfortunately for us, the science of beauty has not yet been fully and satisfactorily wrought out, and the ablest writers, from Aristotle to Herbert Spencer, exhibit great diversity of view. There are two main theories of beauty: the one makes beauty subjective, or an emotion of the mind; the other makes it objective, or a quality in the external object. Without entering into the intricacies and difficulties of the discussion, beauty will here be regarded as that quality in literature which awakens in the cultivated reader a sense of the beautiful. This sense of the beautiful is a refined and pleasurable feeling; and, as we shall see, it is traceable to a variety of sources.

26. Literary Taste. Literary taste is that power or faculty of the mind which apprehends and appreciates what is beautiful and artistic in literature. It embraces two elements: first, the apprehension of the aesthetic quality; and secondly, an appreciation or emotional response to its appeal. These two elements are not always equally developed in the critic; and it frequently happens that an artistic literary production affords exquisite pleasure without a clear apprehension of the aesthetic elements from which the pleasure springs.

In literary criticism, as has already been shown, the standard of taste is the ideal, developed by an application of necessary and recognized principles, which the intelligent critic is able to form in every department of literature. The capacity of taste is a natural gift; but, like other powers of the mind, it is capable of great development. It is cultivated by a study of the principles of beauty and by a contemplation of beautiful objects in nature and art. Bad taste exhibits itself in a failure to apprehend and appreciate what is genuinely beautiful; it often mistakes defects for excellences. A refined taste responds to what is delicate in beauty, and a catholic taste recognizes and responds to beauty of every kind. The critic who would do honor to his office must have a taste both refined and catholic.

27. AEsthetic Elements. Literary beauty may pertain either to the form or to the content. Deferring to subsequent chapters the elements of external beauty, we here consider the elements of internal beauty. Though beauty of form and beauty of content may thus be distinguished, they are always combined in works of the highest excellence. Both alike have their source in the cultivated, creative spirit of the writer. They cannot be effectually learned by rule; and the best training for successful authorship is the development of the intellectual and moral faculties.

Vividness of description is a frequent source of literary beauty. Scenes, objects, and events are sometimes so presented as to become visible to the inner eye. Thus Tennyson describes the flinging of Arthur's sword:

"The great brand Made lightnings in the splendor of the moon."

Carlyle was a master of graphic description, and in a few touches he thus brings De Quincey before us: "One of the smallest man figures I ever saw; shaped like a pair of tongs, and hardly above five feet in all. When he sate, you would have taken him by candlelight for the beautifullest little child; blue-eyed, sparkling face, had there not been something, too, which said, 'Eccovi—this child has been in hell!'"

Meditative reflection, when aptly associated with circumstance or occasion, may become a pleasing source of beauty. When employed by way of introduction, it may, as frequently in Irving and Hawthorne, strike the keynote of what follows. Sometimes it gives natural expression to the vague thought or feeling that had been produced in the reader by the preceding narrative and that would otherwise have remained unsatisfied. In the darkness and silence of night the poet hears the striking of a deep-toned bell. Naturally he thinks of the flight of time.

"The bell strikes one. We take no note of time But from its loss: to give it then a tongue Is wise in man. As if an angel spoke, I feel the solemn sound. If heard aright, It is the knell of my departed hours."

A meditation may, as a conclusion, impart a satisfying completeness to a piece. Nothing could be finer, for example, than Addison's reflections at the close of his essay on the tombs of Westminster Abbey: "When I look upon the tombs of the great, every emotion of envy dies in me; when I read the epitaphs of the beautiful, every inordinate desire goes out; when I meet with the grief of parents upon a tombstone, my heart melts with compassion; when I see the tomb of the parents themselves, I consider the vanity of grieving for those whom we must quickly follow. When I see kings lying by those who deposed them, when I consider rival wits placed side by side, or the holy men that divided the world with their contests and disputes, I reflect with sorrow and astonishment on the little competitions, factions, and debates of mankind. When I read the several dates of the tombs, of some that died yesterday, and some six hundred years ago, I consider that great day when we shall all of us be contemporaries, and make our appearance together."

Harmony of thought and expression is another source of excellence. The thought should be clothed in a perfect body, so that nothing can be added or subtracted without marring the beauty. The following stanza from Holmes's "The Last Leaf" will serve for illustration:

"The mossy marbles rest On the lips that he has prest In their bloom; And the names he loved to hear Have been carved for many a year On the tomb."

When, in addition to perfect harmony between spirit and form, the sound reenforces the sense, there is an added element of beauty. The intellect is thus assisted in imaging or realizing the scene. As the heroine returns to her palace in Tennyson's "Godiva,"—

"All at once With twelve great shocks of sound, the shameless noon Was clashed and hammered from a hundred towers."

A well-known illustration is furnished in Pope's "Essay on Criticism":

"Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows, And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows; But when loud surges lash the sounding shore, The hoarse, rough verse should like the torrent roar."

The felicitous expression of some well-known truth or experience is always pleasing. In its happiest form such an expression is received as the final embodiment of its truth. It is henceforth taken up by the multitude and quoted as having the authority of a sacred text. Pope tells us, for example, that

"To err is human; to forgive, divine";

and also that

"Fools rush in where angels fear to tread."

But no other English writer has equaled Shakespeare in the number of felicitous expressions that have passed into current use. His works are a veritable mine of jeweled phrases. We often feel, for example, that somehow there is a mysterious power controlling our lives; and this experience he voices in the well-known lines,—

"There's a divinity that shapes our ends, Rough-hew them how we will."

Yet at the same time, recognizing the truth of human freedom, he declares,—

"Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie, Which we ascribe to heaven; the fated sky Gives us free scope, only doth backward push Our slow designs when we ourselves are dull."

High spiritual truth, in fitting expression, is a source of great beauty. There are three great provinces of thought,—man, nature, and God. The last is the greatest of all; and the highest achievement of literature is to lead us to a new or fuller appreciation of his character. As we look upon the irrepressible and unending conflict between good and evil in this world, we are sometimes tempted to doubt a favorable issue; but Lowell tells us, in self-evidencing words, that

"Behind the dim unknown Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own."

To Ruskin the various phenomena of nature brought a sweet message: "All those passings to and fro of fruitful shower and grateful shade, and all those visions of silver palaces built about the horizon, and voices of moaning winds and threatening thunders, and glories of colored robe and cloven ray, are but to deepen in our hearts the acceptance, and distinctness, and dearness of the simple words, 'Our Father, which art in heaven.'"

Another principal source of literary beauty is found in a worthy expression of noble thought and sentiment. This may be regarded as the soul of enduring literature, and it is as exhaustless as the human mind itself. The dauntless love of liberty that breathes through Patrick Henry's famous speech is thrilling in its eloquence: "What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but, as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!"

Carlyle conceived of nature as the vesture of God; and, as he speaks of the universe, this thought lifts his style to great majesty: "Oh, could I transport thee direct from the beginnings to the endings, how were thy eyesight unsealed, and thy heart set flaming in the Light-sea of celestial wonder! Then sawest thou that this fair Universe, were it in the meanest province thereof, is in very deed the star-domed City of God; that through every star, through every grass-blade, and most, through every Living Soul, the glory of a present God still beams. But Nature, which is the Time-vesture of God, and reveals Him to the wise, hides Him from the foolish."

Love is a perennial inspiration both in prose and poetry. It partakes of the divine, for "God is love." Its highest manifestations, whether in the family, among relatives and friends, or between lovers, are always beautiful; and perhaps Browning was not far wrong when he sang,—

"There is no good in life but love—but love! What else looks good, is some shade flung from love; Love yields it, gives it worth."

The portrayal of noble character is always inspiring. It appeals to the better side of our nature, and strengthens our confidence in humanity. No literary art can confer immortality on what is ignoble. The fiction that is devoted to obscene realism, whatever may be the prestige of its authors or its current vogue, is surely doomed. Only that which is morally good is destined to live through the ages. The genial Dickens will always be more popular than the satirical Thackeray. Boswell's "Life of Johnson" owes its principal charm not to any trick of style, but to the honest, rugged piece of manhood it brings before us. Only a man of Luther's heroic spirit could have inspired this magnificent tribute in Carlyle's "Heroes and Hero-Worship": "I will call this Luther a true great man; great in intellect, in courage, affection, and integrity; one of our most lovable and precious men. Great, not as a hewn obelisk, but as an Alpine mountain,—so simple, honest, spontaneous, not setting up to be great at all; there for quite another purpose than being great! Ah yes, unsubduable granite, piercing far and wide into the heavens; yet in the clefts of it fountains, green, beautiful valleys with flowers! A right spiritual hero and prophet; once more, a true son of nature and fact, for whom these centuries, and many that are to come yet, will be thankful to Heaven."

Heroic self-sacrifice strongly appeals to us. Whenever a man or woman gives up self for the good of others, we intuitively admire and honor the deed. The story of Thermopylae, the leap of Curtius into the yawning chasm, the charge of the Light Brigade,—

"... though the soldier knew Some one had blundered,"—

are instances of heroic self-sacrifice which the world is unwilling to forget. There is a charm in Tennyson's "Godiva" or his "Enoch Arden" beyond the reach of mere art; it is found in the noble spirit of the heroine who replies to the taunt of her husband,—

"But I would die";

and in the deep self-renunciation of the hero who, in heartbreaking anguish, prayed,—

"Help me not to break in upon her peace."

The beauty of a life of simplicity and benevolence is seen in the immortal Vicar of Wakefield. His unaffected goodness has made him dear to successive generations. In like manner we pay a spontaneous tribute to Chaucer's "poure parson of a toune," and to the preacher of the "Deserted Village":

"A man he was to all the country dear, And passing rich with forty pounds a year; Remote from towns he ran his godly race, Nor e'er had changed, nor wished to change, his place. Unskilful he to fawn, or seek for power, By doctrines fashioned to the varying hour; Far other aims his heart had learned to prize, More bent to raise the wretched than to rise."

The fitting description of scenes and incidents of grandeur imparts dignity and charm to a production. Grandeur is of two kinds: first, the grandeur or sublimity of natural objects, such as the ocean, a storm, an earthquake, or other exhibitions of tremendous power; and secondly, the moral sublime, in which the heroic soul rises superior to dangers and death. Milton's "Paradise Lost" abounds in grave and sublime passages. Byron reaches the sublime in many of the descriptions of "Childe Harold," of which the following will serve for illustration:

"Far along From peak to peak, the rattling crags among, Leaps the live thunder! Not from one lone cloud, But every mountain now hath found a tongue, And Jura answers, through her misty shroud, Back to the joyous Alps, who call to her aloud."

Perhaps no finer instance of the moral sublime is to be found than in the bearing of Luther before the Imperial Diet in the city of Worms. He was confronted by the chief dignitaries of Church and Empire. The emperor himself, Charles V, was present. "Will you, or will you not, retract?" solemnly demanded the speaker of the Diet. "Unless," replied the intrepid reformer, "unless I am convinced by the testimony of Holy Scripture or by clear and indisputable reasoning, I cannot, and will not, retract anything; for it is unsafe for a Christian to do anything against his conscience. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me. Amen!"

Another source of beauty is found in tenderness and pathos. These feelings appeal to the gentler side of our nature. The pathos may arise from various causes,—from bereaved affection, from fond memories, from sore disappointments, or from helpless suffering. Every one is familiar with Dickens's description of the death of little Nell in "Old Curiosity Shop." Irving's story of "The Broken Heart" is deeply pathetic. The deathbed scene of Colonel Newcome in Thackeray's great novel is notable for its simple pathos: "At the usual evening hour the chapel bell began to toll, and Thomas Newcome's hands outside the bed feebly beat time. And just as the last bell struck, a peculiar sweet smile shone over his face, and he lifted up his head a little, and quickly said 'Adsum!' and fell back. It was the word used at school, when names were called; and lo, he, whose heart was that of a little child, had answered to his name, and stood in the presence of his Master."

There is a tender regret in Hood's little poem, "I Remember":

"I remember, I remember, The fir-trees dark and high; I used to think their slender tops Were close against the sky; It was a childish ignorance, But now 'tis little joy To know I'm further off from heaven Than when I was a boy."

The ludicrous often adds charm to literature. It is divided into two species,—wit and humor. Wit consists in the discovery of remote analogies or relations, and produces an amusing surprise. It has various forms. In the pun, which is a rather low order of wit, there is a play on the meaning of words. Punning is an art easily acquired; but a pun is usually an impertinence to be excused only by its felicity. Hood was one of the most ingenious of punsters; and in his ballad, "Faithless Nelly Gray," the wit of each stanza is found in a pun.

"Ben Battle was a soldier bold, And used to war's alarms; But a cannon-ball took off his legs, So he laid down his arms."

Satire ridicules the follies and vices of men, and is frequent in both ancient and modern literature. Sometimes it is good-natured, but oftener it is bitter. Swift's "Tale of a Tub" is a fierce attack upon ecclesiastical divisions, while Pope's "Dunciad," which impales many of his contemporary writers, almost ruined the reputations it touched. Addison in the Spectator is genial in his satire. Byron is a master of powerful satire, and in the "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers" he indiscriminately lampoons his contemporaries. For example:

"Shall gentle Coleridge pass unnoticed here, To turgid ode and tumid stanza dear? Though themes of innocence amuse him best, Yet still obscurity's a welcome guest. If inspiration should her aid refuse To him who takes a Pixy for a muse, Yet none in lofty numbers can surpass The bard who soars to elegize an ass. How well the subject suits his noble mind! 'A fellow-feeling makes us wondrous kind!'"

A parody is a burlesque imitation and degradation of something serious. In his song, "Those Evening Bells," Moore wrote in pensive mood,—

"And so 'twill be when I am gone; That tuneful peal will still ring on, While other bards shall walk these dells, And sing your praise, sweet evening bells."

But in Hood's parody of the same title, this stanza is travestied as follows:

"And so 'twill be when she is gone; That tuneful peal will still ring on, And other maids with timely yells Forget to stay those evening bells."

The other principal form of the ludicrous is humor. It is wit modified by a genial or sympathetic feeling. It has its origin in the disposition or character, while wit springs alone from the intellect. It often pervades an entire production. While wit generally breaks out in brief and sudden flashes, humor is frequently diffused through an entire work like a delicious fragrance. Addison's Sir Roger de Coverley papers in the Spectator are delightful examples of delicate humor. Hood's "Up the Rhine" is a rich commingling of wit and humor. Dickens's "Pickwick Papers" and Mark Twain's "Innocents Abroad" are humorous works of a broader type. Irving's minor writings are suffused with a delightful humor. And no one who has read the humorous beginning of the "Vicar of Wakefield" is likely to forget it: "I was ever of opinion, that the honest man who married and brought up a large family, did more service than he who continued single and only talked of a population. From this motive, I had scarcely taken orders a year, before I began to think seriously of matrimony, and chose my wife, as she did her wedding-gown, not for a fine glossy surface, but for such qualities as would wear well."


25. What is meant by aesthetics? What are the two theories of beauty? How is beauty considered in this book? 26. What is meant by taste? What are its two elements? What is said of their development? How may taste be cultivated? How is bad taste exhibited? What is the distinction between a refined and a catholic taste? 27. To what may literary beauty pertain? What elements are considered in this chapter? Where do we find beauty of form and of content united? Why is vivid description an element of beauty? Give an illustration. How may meditative reflection become an element of beauty? Illustrate. What is meant by harmony of thought and expression? Give an example. How may sound reenforce the sense? Illustrate. What is said about felicitous expression? What writers excel in felicity of expression? Illustrate. What is said of high spiritual truth? Name the three great provinces of thought. What does Lowell think of the evils in the world? What does Ruskin say of the phenomena of nature? What is said of noble thought and sentiment? What makes Patrick Henry's speech thrilling? How did Carlyle conceive of nature? What is said of love in literature? What is Browning's idea? What is the effect of portraying noble character? What is said of obscene realism? To what does Boswell's "Life of Johnson" owe its principal charm? What does Carlyle say of Luther? What is said of heroic self-sacrifice? Illustrate. Where do we see the beauty of simple goodness portrayed? What is the effect of the fitting portrayal of grandeur? What two kinds of grandeur are distinguished? Mention some objects of natural grandeur. Illustrate from Byron. Give an illustration of the moral sublime. To what does pathos appeal? Illustrate. Repeat the quotation from Hood. What two species of the ludicrous are distinguished? What is wit? What is a pun? Illustrate. What is satire? What are the two kinds of satire? Give an illustration. What is a parody? Illustrate. How does humor differ from wit? Give an example of humor.


The following extracts should be carefully studied for the purpose of determining their elements of internal excellence or beauty. They should be tested by such questions as these:

Is the extract descriptive or meditative? What gives vividness to the description? What points are brought out in the meditation? What is the main thought or feeling presented? Does it pertain to man, nature, or God? What phases of nature are considered? What element of character is set forth? Is there dignity or felicity of expression? Is grandeur portrayed? Is it physical or moral? Is there tenderness or pathos? What gives it this element? Is there art or humor? What kind of wit? What is the chief source of beauty?

A man from Maine, who had never paid more than twenty-five cents for admission to an entertainment, went to a New York theatre where the play was "The Forty Thieves," and was charged a dollar and a half for a ticket. Handing the pasteboard back, he remarked, "Keep it, Mister; I don't want to see the other thirty-nine."—ANON.


O better that her shattered hulk Should sink beneath the wave; Her thunders shook the mighty deep, And there should be her grave; Nail to the mast her holy flag, Set every threadbare sail, And give her to the god of storms, The lightning and the gale.—HOLMES.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.—PAUL.

Forth goes the woodman, leaving unconcerned The cheerful haunts of man, to wield the axe And drive the wedge in yonder forest drear, From morn to eve his solitary task. Shaggy, and lean, and shrewd, with pointed ears And tail cropped short, half lurcher and half cur, His dog attends him! Close behind his heel Now creeps he slow; and now, with many a frisk Wide-scampering, snatches up the drifted snow With ivory teeth, or ploughs it with his snout; Then shakes his powdered coat, and barks for joy. Heedless of all his pranks, the sturdy churl Moves right toward the mark; nor stops for aught, But now and then with pressure of his thumb, To adjust the fragrant charge of a short tube, That fumes beneath his nose; the trailing cloud Streams far behind him, scenting all the air.—COWPER.

Oh, the grave! the grave! It buries every error, covers every defect, extinguishes every resentment. From its peaceful bosom spring none but fond regrets and tender recollections. Who can look down upon the grave even of an enemy, and not feel a compunctious throb that he should ever have warred with the poor handful of earth that lies moldering before him? But the grave of those we loved,—what a place for meditation! There it is we call up, in long review, the whole history of virtue and gentleness, and the thousand endearments lavished upon us, almost unheeded, in the daily intercourse of intimacy; there it is that we dwell upon the tenderness, the solemn, awful tenderness of the parting scene.—IRVING.


The executioner had been directed to apply his torch from below. He did so. The fiery smoke rose up in billowy columns. A Dominican monk was then standing almost at her side. Wrapped up in his sublime office, he saw not the danger, but still persisted in his prayers. Even then when the last enemy was racing up the fiery stairs to seize her, even at that moment did this noblest of girls think only for him, the one friend that would not forsake her, and not herself; bidding him with her last breath to care for his own preservation, but to leave her to God.—DE QUINCEY.

O, lay thy hand in mine, dear! We're growing old; But Time hath brought no sign, dear, That hearts grow cold. 'Tis long, long since our new love Made life divine; But age enricheth true love, Like noble wine.—MASSEY.

The noon-day sun came slanting down the rocky slopes of La Ricca, and its masses of entangled and tall foliage, whose autumnal tints were mixed with the wet verdure of a thousand evergreens, were penetrated with it as with rain. I cannot call it color, it was conflagration. Purple, and crimson, and scarlet, like the curtains of God's tabernacle, the rejoicing trees sank into the valley in showers of light, every separate leaf quivering with buoyant and burning life; each, as it turned to reflect or to transmit the sunbeam, first a torch and then an emerald. Far up into the recesses of the valley, the green vistas, arched like the hollows of mighty waves of some crystalline sea, with the arbutus flowers dashed along their flanks for foam, and silver flakes of orange spray tossed into the air around them, breaking over the gray walls of rock into a thousand separate stars, fading and kindling alternately as the weak wind lifted and let them fall.—RUSKIN.

Gineral C. is a dreffle smart man; He's ben on all sides that give places or pelf, But consistency still wuz a part of his plan,— He's been true to one party,—and thet is himself; So John P. Robinson he Sez he shall vote for Gineral C.

Gineral C. he goes in fer the war; He don't vally principle more 'n an old cud; Wut did God make us raytional creeturs fer, But glory an' gunpowder, plunder an' blood? So John P. Robinson he Sez he shall vote for Gineral C.—LOWELL.


Not she with traitorous kiss her Saviour stung, Not she denied him with unholy tongue; She, while apostles shrank, could dangers brave, Last at the cross and earliest at the grave.—BARRETT.

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean, Tears from the depths of some divine despair Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes, In looking on the happy Autumn-fields, And thinking of the days that are no more.

Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail That brings our friends up from the underworld, Sad as the last which reddens over one That sinks with all we love below the verge; So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.—TENNYSON.

No nation which did not contemplate this wonderful universe with an awe-stricken and reverential belief that there was a great unknown, omnipotent, and all-wise and all-just Being, superintending all men in it, and all interests in it—no nation ever came to very much, nor did any man either, who forgot that. If a man did forget that, he forgot the most important part of his mission in this world.—CARLYLE.


Think of him reckless, thriftless, vain if you like—but merciful, gentle, generous, full of love and pity. He passes out of our life and goes to render his account beyond it. Think of the poor pensioners weeping at his grave; think of the noble spirits that admired and deplored him; think of the righteous pen that wrote his epitaph—and the wonderful and unanimous response of affection with which the world has paid the love he gave it. His humor delighting us still; his song fresh and beautiful as when he first charmed with it; his words in all our mouths; his very weaknesses beloved and familiar—his benevolent spirit seems still to smile upon us; to do gentle kindnesses; to succor with sweet charity; to caress, to soothe, and forgive; to plead with the fortunate for the unhappy and the poor—THACKERAY.

We watched her breathing through the night, Her breathing soft and low, As in her breast the wave of life Kept heaving to and fro.

Our very hopes belied our fears, Our fears our hopes belied,— We thought her dying when she slept, And sleeping when she died.

For when the morn came, dim and sad, And chill with early showers, Her quiet eyelids closed,—she had Another morn than ours.—HOOD.


In addition to the foregoing extracts, those appended to the previous chapters may be examined again with the special view of discovering their aesthetic elements. Furthermore, the student may be required to study complete works—such as Goldsmith's "Deserted Village," Burns's "Cotter's Saturday Night," Tennyson's "Enoch Arden," Scott's "Ivanhoe," Dickens's "David Copperfield," and others that will occur to the teacher—in order to discover the beauties of description, meditation, thought, sentiment, character, and other aesthetic elements awakening pleasure and imparting excellence. The results may be presented either orally or in writing.





28. English Composite. The English language is composite, its words being drawn from various sources. The original and principal element is Anglo-Saxon, which prevailed in England for about five hundred years. By the conquest of William of Normandy, French was introduced into England, and was spoken by the ruling classes for about three hundred years. The amalgamation of the Anglo-Saxon and the Norman French—a process that was fairly completed in the fourteenth century—resulted in modern English. But numerous words came in from other sources. The early introduction of Roman Christianity into England, and the revival of learning at the close of the Middle Ages, introduced a large Latin element. The Celtic population of the British Isles contributed a few words, such as pibroch, clan, bard. A considerable Greek element has been introduced by theology and science, and English conquests and commerce have introduced words from almost every portion of the globe, of which pagoda, bazaar, veda, bamboo, taboo, and raccoon will serve as examples.

The composite character of our language has made it very copious and very interesting. No other language has so many words, our largest dictionaries defining more than a hundred thousand. Every word has its history, and often a very interesting one. Raccoon, for instance, takes us back to the adventures of the redoubtable John Smith in Virginia. The word bishop carries us back to the introduction of Christianity among the Anglo-Saxons at the close of the sixth century, and then through the Latin to the primitive days of the Church, when an episkopos, or overseer, presided over the newly founded congregations in the leading cities of Greece. Taboo reminds us of English explorations and conquests in the islands of the Pacific. Thus nearly every word may be traced to its source and, rightly understood, is freighted with tales of conquest, battle, exploration, commerce, science, and invention. It carries with it its meaning and atmosphere of association, which the intelligent and skillful writer knows how to use to advantage.

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