صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

The out-sick district should correspond with the infirmary district, and the inspector of the latter should receive, quarterly, the report of the inspector of out-door sick, which he should submit to the medical committee of the Poor Law Board.

9. The children should be wholly depauperised by being placed in district schools under the superintendence of boards similar to those of the district schools, existing near London, where they should never receive the name or treatment of paupers at all, but should be technically educated as preparative for the army, the navy, for infirmary nursing, and for various trades.

10. Finally-and these are our most audacious propositionsthe whole of the existing non-medical staff of inspectors at the Poor Law Board should be pensioned off, excepting two or three who might be usefully retained to assist in developing the industrial occupation of the able-bodied. The present permanent secretary should be pensioned off at any reasonable price which he could be induced to accept. The Poor Law Board should, in future, be a reality, and not a sham. It should not consist, as it now really does, of a president who changes with each change of ministry, and knows, practically, little about poor relief, together with various permanent subordinate officials, anxious mainly to keep their own berths. should consist of a permanent president, a member of, and responsible to, Parliament; a representative of the medical department, a lawyer, and a representative of the inspectorial supervision of the relief to the able-bodied. All to have equal votes, and the president a casting vote. There should also be a secretary, without vote.

No doubt these proposals for reform are 'radical' in character. They are intended to be so. For remember, they are only proposals for consideration by a Royal Commission; they have not been made without due study of all the facts hitherto known about poor relief: they are made at a time when our Poor Law system has shown itself to be so thoroughly rotten that patching cannot be of any material service; finally-and we ask our more timid readers to weigh this well—they are made at moment when the wise and prudent (as they thought themselves) have turned out entirely mistaken as to the most important principles of political government, and the theoriststhe madmen as they were almost deemed-have seen their despised opinions pronounced to be supremely true. We would ask the readers of this journal, and the country at large, not to deal with our proposals in the same spirit as the mob of the House of Commons dealt with John Bright's proposal, a few years ago, for the introduction of household suffrage.


Arr. II.-Gógols Works. Five Voluines. St. Petersburg : Bazunóff. 1865.

• Their mother tongues unvalued treasures-
The use of which wise men would guard-
For foreign and affected measures
Their folly leads them to discard :
Amused with literary prattle,
And foreign muse's tattle,
To read good Russ books who'll induce them?

Indeed, where are they? who'll produce them ?' So sings Poúshkin ; and at the time these words were written, there is little doubt that the sarcasm contained in the last line was something more than a poet's epigram, and simply expressed the then prevailing trait of Russian literature. From Lomonosoff downwards, Russian writers had with unanimous servility borrowed their style and subjects from foreign sources, nd had adopted the rhetorical form which obtained in France during the eighteenth century. Beyond the language in which they are composed, there is little or nothing that is national in their productions. Their poetry is made up of the stereotyped figures of classical speech. Sumarókoff, founder of the Russian theatre, regarded it as his chief glory that he was the Racine of the North ; whilst shepherds and shepherdesses, adorned with all the beauties that graced a Louis' court, pipe their amorous reeds with wearisome monotony in Derzhavin's polished verse. Their works are more talked about than read ; they help to fill up the library shelves of every cultured Russian, but have never come home to the hearts of the people; they form the theme of learned criticism in the pages of literary manuals, but are rarely opened or consulted when once the college course is finished. Interesting to the student of literature, as landmarks in the intellectual history of the Russian empire, they possess no interest for the simple reader who wishes to be pleased and amused, as well as instructed, by what he reads. In its youth, Russian literature, like the earlier phases of Russian civilization, was but the copy of foreign forms, manners, and opinions. As it grew in years, so it grew in strength; becoming less and less imitative. In spite of the fact that his original compositions are extremely few in number, it was in the poetry of Joukóvsky that for the first time Russian verse exhibited higher qualities than mere harmony or correctness of style, and was inspired with that individual subjectivity and national life, without which there can be no true poetry. By his numerous translations from our English writers, Joukovsky introduced

[ocr errors]

into Russian literature a new and all-powerful element, that of realism. In this respect his version of Gray’s ‘Elegy in a Country Churchyard,' published in 1802, must be considered as marking an epoch in the history of Russian poetry. The fancy world of goddesses and nymphs was henceforth abandoned for this actual earth of ours. Chloe and Phyllis, with their affected jargon and mincing apeing of court-life, were replaced by humbler and less showy types of humanity. In the mirror of poesy were reflected, together with its higher, rarer, and nobler manifestations, the daily cares, trivialities, and solemn nothings that make up man's existence. But, like all great movements, whether in the world of politics or of letters, this reform was effected gradually and slowly. It received its full consummation in Poushkin. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to register in a few general sentences the beneficial influence which Poúshkin exercised on the poetry, the literature, the versification, and the language of his country. In Poushkin,' writes Gógol, 'as in a dictionary, is comprehended all the wealth, flexibility, and strength of the Russian language.' Nor is this eulogy exaggerated. He gave it a richness and a power which it had never possessed before ; he infused poetry with a truthfulness and a reality which is not to be found in the laboured rhetoric or the lofty declamation of his predecessors : he enlarged the province of poetry, by making it the interpreter of national life, and brought it into perfect harmony with the thought and habits of his age and country. There may have been, and were, poets who wrote in Russian before Poushkin; but Poushkin was the first Russian poet.

What has just been said of the poets of Russia is equally i applicable to its prose romancists. Karamzin’s ‘Poor Louisa' may

be fanciful and artificial in its plot and sentiments, reminding us at times of our English Sterne; but its language is natural, easy, and clear. He was the first to dislodge Russian prose from the lofty stilts on which Lomonosoff had placed it; the first who had sufficient courage to reject the traditional jargon which every author affected the instant he sat down to write, and to employ in its stead the diction of ordinary life. The sentimentality of Karamziń and his immediate followers yielded to that wild spirit of romanticism, with which the whole literature of Europe was inspired during the first twenty or thirty years of the nineteenth century. English and French critics are often pleased to speak of Poushkin as a kind of Russian Byron. No opinion can be more erroneous or more misleading. In reality, Poushkin bears the same relation to Byron as Russia does to the rest of Europe. The form of his verse, its style, and

[blocks in formation]

outward elegancies, may be occasionally borrowed from a foreign land ; but the spirit and essence of his poetry is invariably Russian. The influence of Byron is rather to be observed in the prose fictions of writers like Marlínsky or Zagóskin, whose Jewry Mieloslávsky' was the first Russian historical romance. Here, as in all Zagóskin's novels, we have the true Byronic hero, with his deadly scowl and bitter hatred of mankind, and whose whole life is passed in stabbing first one and then another of his foes, the only relaxation he allows himself being the occasional delivery of some fine soliloquy, wherein heaven and hell are noisily defied. These exaggerated deifications, or rather burlesques of humanity figure in nearly every novel from the time of Marlínsky down to Poushkin, whose unfinished tale, entitled ‘Peter the Great's Negro, published in 1827, was v the first Russian fiction combining that simplicity of plot and fidelity to human nature in the delineation of its characters, which ever stamp the work of a great master. It was at this period that a new writer arose, who was destined to effect in

ussian prose a revolution no less thorough and lasting than that which Poúshkin had already achieved in Russian poetry ; who, instead of personifying the heroic virtues, should note and seize upon the frailties that attend us all ; who should depict, without exaggeration and without malice, the wearying and commonplace details of humble life ; who should tear off the gloss with which we think to cover our meanness, selfishness, and deceit; and, by his picture of the world as it is, teach us to aspire towards a purer and better order. This writer was Gógol; and it is his life and works that we now propose to review.

Nicholas Vasilievitch Gógol was born on the 19th of March," 1808, at the town of Sorótchintsi, in the Ukraine. Separated at the most by one or two generations from the last of the Cossack wars, Gógol in his youth must often have heard from the mouth of his grandfather those stories of wild heroism and savage courage of which he was afterwards to be himself the chronicler. He was educated at first in a public gymnasium at Poltava, and subsequently in the Lyceum then newly established at Neejinsk. Numerous anecdotes have been handed down relating to these school days; and we read how he was wont to employ his leisure hours in writing original compositions, now in prose, now in verse, some of which even obtained the honour of being recited in public at the commemorations annually held in the Lyceum. The sudden death of his father rendered the at no times flourishing circumstances of his family still more straitened, and forced young Gógol, on quitting the Lyceum, to choose some

[ocr errors]



profession which should secure him a means of livelihood. He resolved to devote himself to literature, and with all the enthusiasm of youth imagined that he needed only to fix his house at St. Petersburg in order to win wealth and reputation. 'Alas !'he writes in a letter dated 1827, 'why is one so eager in the pur‘suit of happiness? The mere thought of Petersburg torments 'me day and night; my soul longs to break its narrow prison, and my blood boils with wild impatience.' These hopes were for a long while cruelly disappointed; in truth, what dreams ever are realized till the heyday of life is passed, and we can no more find in their fruition the joy we once had fondly anticipated ? His first literary effort, a poem on Italy, was rejected by the editors of the chief metropolitan journals in turn: the publication of his second work,' Hans Kuchelharten' called forth 80 merciless a criticism from Polevói, the Russian Lord Jeffreys of that day, that Gógol withdrew the book from sale and burned every copy. His applications to enter the Government service encountered unexpected difficulties and delays. His first appearance on the stage, to which he was tempted by the applause he had obtained as amateur actor at Neejinsk, was so unsuccessful, that the director of the theatre refused to give him another part. His remittances from home were so scanty and irregular, that frequently in the depth of winter wood was too expensive a luxury to allow him to heat his room. Such, briefly summed up, were Gógol's earliest experiences of the golden capital. Driven to despair, he determined to quit for ever a country in which he could no longer hope to make himself a name; but, in his eagerness


escape the miseries by which he was surrounded, he forgot to calculate the expenses of a voyage abroad. His little capital was all but expended in obtaining a passport and in engaging a passage to Lubeck, where he had scarcely arrived before his ill-furnished purse obliged him to return; and the same boat which had carried him out brought him back to St. Petersburg. It was now that he became acquainted with Joukóvsky and Poushkin, through whose recommendation he obtained several private pupils, and in 1834 was appointed teacher of history in the Patriotic Institution. There is to our mind something very touching in this intimacy between Poúshkin and Gógol, the one but just commencing his literary career, the other already in the full zenith of his popularity. A small volume of tales, published by Gógol anonymously in 1832, accidentally fell into Poushkin's hands. Their novelty, frank humour, simple pathos, and genuine poetry, aroused his warmest admiration, and he could not rest till he had discovered who their author was. They at once became inseparable friends ;

[ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »