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"The Poetry of Tennyson," is the best among the many commentaries upon his work. The life of Browning, by W. Sharp, Great Writers series, and by G. K. Chesterton, English Men of Letters, supplement each other well; the best aid to an understanding of Browning for beginners, is H. Corson's "Introduction to the Study of Browning" (Heath). An excellent study of Arnold is prefixed to the volume of "Selections" by L. E. Gates, mentioned above. Of Ruskin's life, especially his early years, his autobiography entitled "Praeterita" is the best account; Ruskin, in the English Men of Letters series, is by F. Harrison. Among the critical commentaries may be mentioned " The Work of John Ruskin," by C. Waldstein (Harpers) and "John Ruskin, Social Reformer," by J. A. Hobson.
The novel of the nineteenth century is broader and more complex than that of the eighteenth, by virtue of the greater breadth and complexity of the life with which it has to deal. The world of fiction in the eighteenth century is a small one; its characters are, with a few notable exceptions, drawn from the leisure class and its dependents; they have usually no business in life beyond carrying on the action of the story. But in the nineteenth century we have novels which deal with the life of the sea, the army, crime, sport, commerce, labor, politics, and the church, and with the special difficulties, dangers, and temptations which each career involves. Again, the increase in knowledge of the past, and of remote parts of the world, which the century has brought, has thrown open to the romancer two great new fields. Finally, the deeper thought of the century, bearing fruit in rapid social changes, has given to the novel of purpose greater dignity and power. The attempt to reform government and institutions, the labor movement, the so-called conflict between science and faith, all have been reflected in novels, and have in turn been influenced by them. The nineteenth- century novel is therefore to be regarded not only as a vast and comprehensive picture of life, but as a powerful force acting upon society.
II. JANE AUSTEN (1775-1817)
Jane Austen's Life.—The earliest of nineteenth-century novelists, however, Jane Austen, is not representative of the wider scope of the novel in the new period, but is remarkable for her perfection in handling the limited interests of eighteenth1century fiction. Miss Austen was the daughter of a clergyman and, except for an occasional visit to a watering1place like Bath or Lyme, she spent her youth in a country parish. Her acquaintance included the families of country gentlemen, clergymen, and naval officers—for her brothers were in the navy. The chief business of these people, as Miss Austen saw them, was attention to social duties, and the chief subject of their thought was matrimony. This world, and the influences at work there, Miss Austen represents in her novels; outside of it she never steps.
Her Satiric Purpose.—Miss Austen, like Fielding, began her studies of real life with something of a satiric purpose. Two of her early stories, Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility, were written in order to oppose to the impossible situations and strained emotions of the romanticists and sentimentalists a humorously sensible picture of life and love as they are. In the former she gives us a heroine who starts with a "thin awkward figure, a sallow skin, without color, dark lank hair, and strong features," and who wins an admirable husband, though "his affection originated in nothing better than a persuasion of her partiality for him." The keynote of Sense and Sensibility is expressed in the remark, "Sense is the foundation on which everything good may be based." In the novels which followed, "Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma, Miss Austen carries farther her minute observation of life, sharpened by satirical comment. One suspects that she shared thoroughly in the view of life put forth by Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, "For what do we live but to make sport for our neighbors and to laugh at them in our turn?"
"Pride and Prejudice."—Pride and Prejudice is Miss Austen's masterpiece. There she shows her skill in constructing a plot. There also she is at her best in creating a background of minor characters drawn from the world of provincial folk which she knew—cynical Mr. Bennet and his fatuous wife; Mary Bennet the pedant, and Lydia the flirt; Mr. Collins, the type of pretentious conceit, and Sir William Lucas, of feeble dulness. These "humors" Miss Austen develops chiefly in speech, by her wonderful
faculty of saying the thing that belongs to the character at the moment. Not only is the proper sentiment caught, but the turn of phrase, the manner, almost the modulation of the voice. And not only is this true of the limited characters who act always in the same way; in the sustained scenes between the more developed persons, where the dialogue is more highly charged with meaning, Miss Austen shows dramatic power of the highest order.
Miss Austen's stories are the most perfect examples of the eighteenth1century novel of manners, though by virtue of their technical skill they seem to belong almost to our own day. In striking contrast to the petty, provincial world which she mastered so thoroughly, is the great field of history and romance brought before us in the novels of her contemporary, Sir Walter Scott.
III. SIR WALTER SCOTT (1771-1832)
Scott's Early Life. — Scott was born in Edinburgh, August 15, 1771, of a family famous in the border wars, and in the long struggle of the Stuarts for the throne. His father, however, had forsaken the venturesome life of his ancestors and had become an attorney. He sought to bring up his son to the same profession, and did give to the lat1 ter's character that strong bent toward system and industry which he never lost. The young Waiter, in spite of a slight lameness, the result of an illness in childhood, was distinguished for activity in bodily sports; and as a young man he found satisfaction for his roving disposition in journeys through the wilder parts of Scotland—the Cheviots and the Highlands. On these expeditions he learned to know types of Scotch character, as well as the legends and traditions of Scotch history of which he afterward made such brilliant use. As a youth Scott was much in the company of persons who stimulated and fed his interest in the past. The century before his birth had been one full of excitement. In Scotland the Puritans, under the name Covenanters, had fought their last battles against the restored Stuarts; and Scotland had been the scene of the romantic attempts of the princes of that exiled house to regain their throne in 1715 and 1745. To these things Scott was brought near by the companionship of his grandfather—whose father had been a famous adherent of the Stuarts, known as "Beardie" because of his refusal to cut his beard until that family should be restored—and by the conversation of his mother. Of her he wrote much later: "If I have been able to do anything in the way of painting the past times it is very much from the studies with which she presented me."
Scott at Abbotsford.—Scott was married in 1797 to the daughter of one of the French exiles from the Revolution. He lived first in a cottage at Lasswade, a few miles from Edinburgh. Then in 1804 he moved to Ashestiel, in Selkirkshire, of which county he had been made sheriff. The success of his poems, however, enabled him in 1812 to purchase the estate of Abbotsford, with which his name is forever connected. Scott at Abbotsford is charmingly described for us by Washington Irving, who visited him in 1817. "He was tall and of a large and powerful frame. His dress was simple, and almost rustic. An old green shooting coat with a dog-whistle at the button-hole, brown linen pantaloons, stout shoes that tied at the ankles, and a white hat that had seen service. He came limping up the gravel- walk, aiding himself by a stout walking-staff, but moving rapidly and with vigor. By his side jogged along a large, iron1gray stag1hound of most grave demeanor, who took no part in the clamor of the canine rabble, but seemed to consider himself bound for the dignity of the house to give me a courteous reception." An account of the life at Abbotsford in later years, when Scott had replaced his cottage by a baronial castle, and had developed his establishment to feudal magnificence, is given by Lockhart in his Lije oj Scott. It was Scott's custom to write conscientiously during the early morning, but, his task finished, he delighted to put himself at the head of a cavalcade of guests and retainers for a hunting expedition, or a ride to the Yarrow, or to Dry- burgh Abbey.
To support this train of life, Scott relied on the profits of a secret partnership which he had formed with two brothers