Other Sources of the Stories and Poems
Christina Georgina Rossetti
Christina Rossetti wrote her first verses when she was twelve years old. They were addressed to her mother, on her motherís birthday, April 27, 1842, and were set up by Christinaís grandfather Gaetano Polidori, on his private press. The Rossettis were a cultivated and interesting family.
Ten years a teacher. Christinaís father, Gabriel Rossetti, was an Italian patriot and poet of ardent disposition and high character, who had come to England as a refugee in 1824. By the time Christina was born, December 5, 1830, he was established in London as a teacher of Italian, and within the year (1831), was appointed professor at Kingís College. He became well known later as an Italian poet of much ability, and an expounder of what seemed to him to be the esoteric anti-papal significance of the Divine Comedy. He died when Christina was somewhat over twenty-three. For ten years before his death, he was an invalid, and Christina, with her sister Maria Francesca, three years her elder, helped her mother keep a day school for small pupils, first at Camden Town, then at Frome.
The mother. Christinaís mother, it is said, was a remarkable woman, of great simplicity of nature and an unusual amount of common sense—self-controlled, just and kind, abhorring gossip and indolence. She was well read and a lover of books, but most of all of life and accomplishments. She had no little business ability, likewise, and managed her household with extreme wisdom and successful economy, always making both ends meet. She needed these virtues to get along more than passably well (as it seems she did) with her surprising and intellectual husband and progeny.
An unusual family. Christinaís elder brother was Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), the pre-Raphaelite painter and poet of great genius and exceedingly erratic temperament, who had, as might be expected, an unusual career. Once, long after her daughter Christina was famous and her husbandís and her sonís names were household names in England, Mrs. Rossetti said, "I always had a passion for intellect, and my wish was that my husband should be distinguished for intellect, and my children, too. I have had my wish. I now wish that there was a little less intellect in the family, so as to allow for a little more common sense." In reading Christinaís biography, one cannot but echo her motherís wish.
Best work early. Christina had a rare poetic gift of captivating quality, but she never improved. Her first work of any pretension is by far her best, Goblin Market and Other Poems, published in Cambridge and London in 1862 with designs by her brother Dante Gabriel. In this volume she attained a height she never afterwards reached, critics have agreed, though she published much. Goblin Market is a strange rich poem, with a haunting promise in it of future supreme greatness on the part of the author, a promise not fulfilled. Miss Rossetti did not discipline her own talent. She wrote too much, revised too little, and destroyed not enough.
Failed to improve. Like her brother, she seemed to have been impatient over her own compositions—to have wished simply to express herself and have done. She entertained no idea of polish and perfect completeness. Part of her charm no doubt comes from her very incompleteness; for it must be admitted that there is about her non-religious verse, besides a sense of first writing, an air of the early morning dash of genius that might have disappeared with a careful noon-day revision. And surely we would not have her Sing Song Nursery Rhymes one whit labored! No, we would not; and yet, it cannot be denied that a considerate touch here and there from the same hand that made them would have improved even then. Christina Rossetti had as poor an ear for rhyme as had Mrs. Browning; and yet Mrs. Browning, as Dr. Garnett has pointed out, improved to the end of her days and Christina Rossetti never. Miss Rossettiís lapses are accordingly the more exasperating, since she disdained to notice them.
Christina was, like her sister Maria, profoundly religious, and gave the larger part of her time to church work and to writing pious compositions like Seek and Find (1879), Called to be Saints (1881), Time Flies, a Reading Diary (1885), The Face of the Deep (1892), Verses (1893). She wrote all these after her estrangement from her lover and suitor because of her high Anglican tendencies.
Her earlier work remains the better and more worldly human, the more understandable, though everything she wrote but Goblin Market, declares Richard Garnett, has a "taint." Of peculiarity, one would think he meant, though he does not explain. Before her distinctly religious period, she published her stories called Commonplace (1870), her nursery rhymes called Sing Song (1872), her tales for children, Speaking Likenesses (1874).
Originality. Peculiarity, perhaps, along with originality is Christina Rossettiís distinguishing mark. The very lilt of her rhythm is original. This fact can be realized immediately even by one who reads only her nursery rhymes. It might almost be said that Christina Georgina Rossetti was the most original writer that ever lived, surely the most original woman writer. [Her Dream Love, An End, L.E.L., A Birthday, An Apple Gathering,, have been pronounced perfect lyrics, and she wrote also good sonnets; but it is Goblin Market that gives her her rank.]
Goblin Market is a narrative, in verse, based on the fancy that goblins hold a market of rare fruits just at twilight and sell only to young and beautiful maidens who will pay them with a kiss or a curl, and at the same time stop and partake with the sellers of the delicious dainties. These dainties have a flavor beyond anything known to mortal palates except upon the occasion of enchantment. Once tasted, the fruit creates what the goblins intend shall be an unquenchable desire for more, which they will never satisfy. Two sisters come across the meadow at twilight; one lingers, is caught, buys, tastes, and shares in the delirious revel. She is abandoned finally; and though she comes again and again and lingers in the meadow to purchase of the goblins, she never sees them. She hears only taunts and insults. Her wi9ld and feverish longing turns to despair, which undermines her health and reason. Her sister saves her at last by a great sacrifice, wherein the sister meets the goblins and outwits them, though she is buffeted and tumbled unmercifully by them before she escapes.
Allegory hands all about this piece, and a rare descriptive power permeates every line; but it is the music and rhythm of the verse that astonishes, though it seems to result from the luscious suggestiveness both physical and spiritual of the phraseology. The imagination that conceived Goblin Market was no common imagination.
Sarah Josepha Hale
Mary Had a Little Lamb could be ranked as an American classic, if by "classic" were meant any piece of literature constantly used as a standard by way of reference and imitation, and universally familiar to the race that speaks the language of the piece. Like the rhymes of Mother Goose, this longer jingle is known by all true Americans. Every child should memorize it, not because of any intrinsic value, but because of the never-ending connotation.
Its author, Sarah Josepha Hale, knew children at first hand; for she had fiver of her own, left to her to support on the death of her husband when the eldest child was just seven years old (1822). David Hale had been an eminent lawyer and a well-read man; his widow, with some talent and a good deal of bravery, turned to writing for an income. In 1827 she published a novel, Northwood; in 1828 she became the editor of the The Ladiesí Magazine (Boston); and after nine years, when this publication was united with a Philadelphia monthly called The Ladiesí Book, Mrs. Hale continued in the editorship. But before the consolidation she had published "Floraís Interpreter, or the American Book of Flowers and Sentiments" (Boston, 1832).
Combined plant study and literature. The title of this collection and that of the next lets us gently into the minds and hearts of American women a century ago. We hardly need to turn the leaves of the books to ascertain what is there. In the first, two hundred sixteen plants and flowers are described, with poetic interpretations accompanying them. By way of introduction the author says, "In arranging this little work it was my purpose to combine, with the names and remembrances of flowers, a selection of sentiments from our best poets. I hoped my experiment would give an increased interest to botanical researches among young people, at least, and among all classes would promote a better acquaintance with the beauties of our own literature."
Another experiment. This "experiment" is very quaint; but the next title and preface sound still more quaint, and charmingly timid, when we think of the bold claims of our modern asserters of womanís ability: "The Ladiesí Wreath; a selection from the Female Poetic Writers of England and America, with original notices and notes: prepared especially for Young Ladies. A Gift-Book for All Seasons. By Mrs. Hale. Boston: 1837."
Her ideals. In her preface she says in part: "Two principles have guided my selections: one, to admit no poetry unless its aim was Ďupward and onwardí; the other, to allow place to those writers only whose style had some peculiar stamp of individuality, which marked their genius as original; and I have sought to give characteristic specimens from each.
"I am aware that there are critics, who always speak of the Ďtrue feminine style,í as though there was only one manner in which ladies could properly write poetry. * * * The truth is, woman has not such unlimited range of subjects as man; but in the manner of treating those within her province, she has a freedom as perfect as his; and the delicate shades of genius are as varied and distinctly marked in the one sex as its bold outlines are in the other. There are more varieties of the rose than of the oak."
The last sentence is delicious. It is an epitome of the woman question in the first forty years of the nineteenth century. The index to Part I of The Ladiesí Wreath presents among the English authors the name of Jane Taylor; and the index to Part II, among the American authors, that of Mrs. Hale herself. In view of her preface, it is truly delightful to see that she has allowed place to eleven of her own poems.
Phoebe Cary is hardly ever mentioned without her sister Alice, since the two lived together all their lives and since their poems are now published together in a well-known edition. Alice was the elder and the more prolific writer, but both women are interesting for their example of independence and attainment in the days before the education of woman was much considered. Alice and Phoebe did not have a very pleasant childhood and early young womanhood. They discovered the truth of the old fairy tales about stepmothers who were not kind. Their stepmother was not kind. She did not refuse them food, to be sure, but what they considered more important—candles to read and write by in the evening. She was impatient with their desire to learn. She kept them busy with the household work during the day (and they were willing enough to help), but she refused to hear to candlelight improvement after the work was done. The girls used to resort to the device of a saucer with lard and a bit of rag, concealed during the day and brought out after the other members of the family had gone to bed. At the age of eighteen Alice was writing for the press, and continued to write more or less surreptitiously at home for ten years or more.
The sisters in New York. In 1852 the two sisters left their home, where they were born, near Cincinnati, and went to New York to make their living with their pens. Alice is said to have been an indefatigable writer, contributing to the Atlantic Monthly, Harperís, Putnamís, The New York Ledger, and The Independent. Phoebe wrote, too, though not so much. She took the larger share of the housework, since Alice was not strong in body as she. Phoebe was always the more buoyant of the two, and the more brilliant and witty in conversation.
The sisters became prominent in New York literary circles. Indeed, they had a circle quite of their own, also, that gathered around them on Sunday evenings, when they made a point of being "at home" to anyone who cared to talk books or other sense. The little assemblies were in no way fashionable, but in every way high-toned. Such men as Horace Greeley, Bayard Taylor, John Greenleaf Whittier, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, and Justin MeCarthy were frequenters, and almost every person of any literary pretensions in New York found his way to their door sooner or later during the fifteen years that the sisters kept open house.
Alice and Phoebe Cary died within a few months of each other, Alice in New York, and Phoebe in Newport, where she had been taken in hope of recovery.
Phoebe Caryís publications were as follows: Poems and Parodies (1854), Poems of Faith, Hope, and Love (1868), Hymns for All Christians (1869). (About one-third of the volume published by the Reverend Charles F. Deems was by Alice and Phoebe Cary.) Phoebe Cary is the author of the familiar hymn called "Nearer Home," beginning with the words, "One sweetly solemn thought." She wrote it when she was seventeen.
For forty-two years Tennyson was poet-laureate of Great Britain, and his was the leading name in English letters. Whether he was the greatest poet writing in English in the nineteenth century used often to be discussed. The answer is largely a matter of taste. It is obvious that he is not so intense and vital as Browning, and not so quiet and deep as Wordsworth. The final judgment by many readers is somewhat like this: Of the three, Tennyson is the most uniform in excellence; his average is the highest, if one may speak mathematically. He wrote fewer unreadable lines, and his best conceptions are always high, though not so high as the best of Browning, perhaps, or the bets of Wordsworth.
His eye and ear. Tennyson has more than anyone else, however, even more than Wordsworth, the seeing eye when he looks on nature; and he has conspicuously, more than Browning and more than other poets of the nineteenth century, the musical ear.
His first volume to create any general notice, Poems by Alfred Tennyson, 1832, astonished the public by just that quality of liquid rhythm which we now know to be truly Tennysonian. The volume included "The Lady of Shalott," "The Millerís Daughter," "The Palace of Art," "The Lotus Eaters," and "A Dream of Fair Women." However, the Quarterly Review fell on it with savage criticism, and Tennyson was silenced for ten years; but when he spoke again in 1842, he spoke with the same silver tongue. Tennyson worked hard and diligently, but it would seem that he himself thought his ear for meter a natural gift; for in speaking once of his childish poems, which were never published, he said that as he remembered them they were all perfect in meter. He began to write verse when he was eight. Before his thirteenth year he had composed an "epic" of 60,000 lines, and his father had predicted, "If Alfred should die, one of our greatest poets will have gone."
No doubt Tennysonís home schooling had much to do with his early appreciation of poetic form. It is recorded that he told Edmund Gosse once that the Reverend George Tennyson, his father and first school-master, would not let him leave home for college until on successive days he had recited from memory the whole of the Odes of Horace. We know that it was the charming picturesque ness of Lincolnshire, his birthplace, that trained Tennysonís "seeing eye."
Basis of fame. The volume called Enoch Arden (1864), of which thousands of copies were sold at once, became the most popular of Tennysonís publications except In Memoriam (1850), and was translated into Danish, German, Latin, French, Dutch, Hungarian, and Bohemian. The Idylls of the King (1859) had already been received with great popular favor. These narratives are, in a way, the most considerable body of Tennysonís work. They form his "epic," if one may so speak, though they were written at various times and only more-or-less artificially united later. The fact that they are founded on a national legend will insure their continued favor over other poems. Alone they would perpetuate the chief Tennysonian qualities of style—ideal portraiture, picturesque ness, exquisite finish and melody, ornate ness, moral elevation, and microscopic observation of nature. Tennyson rose only occasionally to real passion, and seldom, if ever, to vehemence. "Rispah" is truly intense, as is also much of the idyll of "Guinevere."
Observation of nature. It is to Tennysonís microscopic observation of nature that the attention of school children should be especially directed. They might be inspired by Tennyson when they could not be driven by the ordinary "nature study" to observe out-door life closely. He challenges them with allusions. They might ask themselves, if ash buds are black in March, if willows do whiten, if little breezes dusk and shiver through a wave, if the river runs with an inner voice. Does a swallow seem to chase itself with its own wild will? Does a cloud cling all night to a hillside, and with the dawn, ascending, let the day strike where it clung? Does swimming vapor slope across a glen, and, putting forth an arm, creep from pine to pine? Does a cedar spread dark-green layers of shade? Is there such a sight as yellow sails upon a yellow sea? Tennyson spent every summer from his childhood up by the ocean. Some one who doubted his accuracy on this last description of home scenery, went once to observe, and came back a wiser, if discomfited, critic.
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star is as much a classic as Mary Had a Little Lamb, and is as well known in America, though Twinkle, Twinkle is British. The author, Jane Taylor, was born in Red Lion Street, London, of a literary family. Soon after Janeís birth, the family moved to the country, and in time became known to fame and to history as the Taylors of Ongar, in distinction from the Taylors of Norwich, who were also literary.
A family of writers. The father, the mother, the brother, the sister, and Jane herself, the youngest daughter of the Taylors of Ongar, all wrote, all became prominent as contributors to magazines for young people, and as authors of books for children and of instructive composition in general. It is said that the literary productiveness of Isaac Taylor of Ongar, his collaterals and their descendants, led Sir Francis Galton in his inquiry into the laws and consequences of heredity and genius (1869) to illustrate from the history of this family his theory of the distribution through heredity of intellectual capacity.
The home a college. It may be that the great anthropologist forgot the importance of environment, but it is evident that environment counted for much in the accomplishment of this family. First the father, an expert engraver and at the same time a non-conformist preacher, maintained at home a strict system of education for his children, watching over them in their work and play. Very little time was wasted. Books were read aloud at meals as in a monastery. Beautiful charts engraved by the father were used by the children in studying their history. They would insert names and dates and other small bits of information, and in turn themselves learned engraving as well as history. The brother learned also to paint, and later engraved designs for his fatherís and sistersí books, and painted miniatures, an excellent one of Jane, which is carefully preserved by the British government, as are also beautiful examples of the fatherís work. His delicate set of designs for Thomsonís Seasons, for instance, can be found in the display of engravings in the British Museum.
Poetry not encouraged. The childrenís play was as intense and jolly as their work; but, strange to say, neither the father nor the mother encouraged verse making. Jane and Ann used to indulge in it on the side. They were always imagining stories and drafting introductions and prefaces for books, sometimes in verse. Janeís first practical use of her talent was in the form of a request to her parents for a small garden for herself. She presented her argument in "five well-tuned stanzas, in the metre of John Gilpin." Janeís first printed poem was The Beggarís Boy, appearing in 1804 in a small annual called The Minorís Pocket Book, to which her sister had been correspondent for six years.
Beginning of childrenís literature. In 1804, also, a number of Janeís poems appeared between the covers of a book—that epoch-making little volume succinctly entitled, Original Poems for Infant Minds by several young Persons. The several young persons were Jane, Ann, and their brother Isaac. This book marked the beginning of the era of good literature for children. The world immediately saw what had been lacking, and recognized the suggestiveness and worth of this contribution. The volume was almost immediately reprinted in America, and was translated into German, Dutch, and Russian. It ran through fifty editions in England alone before the century was out.
Rhymes for the Nursery, by the Authors of "Original Poems," appeared in 1806, and Hymns for Infant Minds some time afterwards. The Hymns ran through one hundred editions in England, and is, perhaps, all in all, the best contribution of the little firm of authors. Janeís hymns are said to be less good as literature than her sisterís, though they are all simple and direct. It is a question how appropriate the term "literature" is for any instructive or pedagogical writing, however popular and however enduring; but perhaps with the qualifying phrase "for children" the work of these sisters may be called real literature.
The year Ann began to write for the Minorís Pocket Book was the year of the Lyrical Ballads by Wordsworth and Coleridge, which ushered into the larger field of English letters the age of simplicity in diction and though. Part of the popularity of the songs for children by the Taylor sisters was consequent, therefore, no doubt, upon the larger movement and the preparation of the public mind for simple things. It is noteworthy that Annís best verse in the 1804 volume is called My Mother; and Janeís, The Cow and the Ass. To those who know the Lyrical Ballads this choice of subject is revealing.
The best edition of Ann and Janeís verse may be found in libraries today under the title Poetical Works by Ann and Jane Taylor. It is one volume, containing the Original Poems, Rhymes, and Hymns. Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star is tenth in this book.
During the last twelve years of her life, Jane lived with her brother at Ifracombe. After her death he wrote a beautiful and marvelously delicate memoir of her. Jane Taylorís portrait was displayed at the Chicago Worldís Fair in 1893 in the Gallery of Distinguished English Women.
Aesop is a legendary person. No one is quite sure when he lived. Tradition places him somewhere in the sixth century before Christ as a counsellor at the court of Croesus, the Lydian king. He is supposed to have been a Greek slave and very ugly, and to have won his way to recognition by his wit in telling a story and applying the moral.
Stories written by another. Aesop wrote nothing, it is said, but his fame lived and his stories lived. The individual narratives circulated orally at first. Finally, in 1447 Planudes, a monk of Constantinople, put forth in prose a collection of about three hundred stories, which today bears the name Aesop. That collection is, no doubt, the source of the fables in our readers.
Stories widely scattered. These fables spread all over the ancient world. One is not surprised to find The Boy and the Fox and The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse called Norse tales; they are no doubt Norse Aesopian fables. They are told in every tongue. The Filipinos have an analogue about a jar of cooked rice that a boy kicked and upset just as he was dreaming of the fortune he should make out of it. The boy and the jar are Aesopís girl and the basket of eggs at home in the Pacific. The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse has always proved attractive to literary men. In the fifteenth century it was done into Chaucerian stanzas by Henryson in his book of Morall Fables of Esope the Phrygian, and was there called The Uplondish Mous and the Berger Mous. It was done again by Prior and Montague in the latter part of the seventeenth century and pointed in satire at Dryden.
The use of the fable. The fable as a type of narrative has always been used for satire. It is the prime didactic form, brief, neat, symbolic. Sometimes it has a maxim attached, and sometimes it has not; but the lesson is always clear and acute and always practical. There are three classes of fables: (1) the rational, in which the actors and speakers are solely human beings or the gods of mythology living as human beings; (2) the non-rational, in which the heroes are solely animals, vegetables, or inanimate objects; and (3) the mixed, in which men speak with animals or inanimate objects. The second class is called the Beast Fable and is perhaps the most popular.
It is a question whether the word "Aesop" did not originally signify just what our word "fable" signifies today—a type of narrative, not a man.
Hans Christian Andersen
In Hans Christian Andersen the world has at last caught the folk-story author at his work. We can name him, and definitely locate him in place and time, and feel in so far very well satisfied. And yet there is something about this strange figure which we do not comprehend, just a s there is something weird and fascinating about ancient folk stories which we shall never comprehend. We know that Andersen was born in the Danish city of Odense, April 2, 1805, of poor and shiftless parents; that he went up to Copenhagen to learn to be a dramatic writer and failed; and that, holding a scholarship granted him by the king in order that he might prepare for the university, he showed himself neither brilliant nor docile; and that finally he became famous, visiting the great and the near-great and being visited by them in return; and witnessed one day when he had a frightful toothache and could not enjoy things very much, a literary ju7bilee in which he was honored as a writer of the first rank of one kind of composition; and saw later a monument erected to him in his lifetime, and died August 1, 1875, in quite a definite way and was followed to his grave by a magnificent state funeral procession. Yet, we say, though we know this history, there is something elusive and mysterious about Hans Christian Andersen.
Disliked the work he did. He fretted all his life because he could not write novels and dramas. He did childrenís stories and became noted for them against his will. He chafed under the fact, but kept writing out his graceful, juvenile fancies for thirty-seven years. He could not stop if he would, it seemed. Strange to say, also, he was not fond of children, nor they of him when they met him, though they always loved his charming letters. His appearance was anything but prepossessing: he was "limp, ungainly, awkward, odd, with long lean limbs, broad flat hands, and feet of striking size. His eyes were small and deep-set, his nose very large, his neck very long." By some trick of fate, some wicked decree of a malicious witch, he was destined to be always the loathly one of fairy tales, the prince in disguise. Perhaps he was, rather, the airy fancy of eternal childhood embodied for once and walking among us, but in ugly encasement, lest the Danes should wish to keep it forever for themselves, held a prisoner in their own small country,.
A wanderer. Hans Christian Andersen, the boy, the young man, the mature adult, never had a home until he was sixty-one years old. He wandered all over Europe and the near East, writing travel sketches and attempting novels and dramas. The best of the travel books is In Sweden (189), the best of the novels is Only a Fiddler (1837). This grown-up person took no part in the politics of the day and never seemed to understand other grown-up persons and their ways, though the spirit within longed as a child longs to be famous among them.
Hans Christian Andersen the spirit never grew up. It was always a child, a little bit spoiled, a little bit petulant, not comprehending its own genius, not knowing its own happiness, but sweet and good and lovable when expressing itself naturally. It lives and breathes and has a home forever in the Picture Book Without Pictures and the Tales and Stories for children.
Stories are childlike. They are not so much for children, these stories, as they are of children. They take liberties with the language as children do: they make mistakes in rhetoric and syntax as children do; they use the ohs and ahs of the nursery and substitute action and imitation for description; and, withal, have a teasing suggestion of rationality and worldly wisdom about them as children sometimes have. Above all, we say, they possess an air of eternality, a semblance of having come from far back in time and of going far forward, not indeed as children have—for children do not live forever—but as childhood has. The faults of the stories have many times been catalogues, but each assayer finally stops off with the general summary: "Perfect of their kind! No one else puts himself so wholly in the childís place and looks at nature so wholly with the childís eyes as Andersen." This consensus of opinion seems to establish our theory. It may be that Hans Christian Andersen was merely childhood writing itself down.
Mary Howittís translation of Andersenís stories introduced them into England (1843-1846). A later translation was made by Somers (1893).
The Fir Tree and Little Maia, modern "fairy tales," are not Hans Christian Andersen at his best, but The Brave Tin Solder is. That little story has become a classic, loved by grown folk, perhaps, more than by children. It reveals all of Andersenís qualities. For absorbing interest, children would doubtless choose The Tinder Box or Big Claus and Little Claus; but the bits of philosophy uttered by the Tin Soldier and implied throughout his story draw the mature reader back and back again to a contemplation of the artless art of the narrative.
Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson seems to people of this country very companionable and brotherly, very much American. He married an American and lived in the United States two or more years. For Scribnerís Magazine he did some of his best work. It was an American publisher, Mr. S. S. McClure, who advanced the means enabling Stevenson to start his cruise in the Pacific and build his home Vailima near Apia, Samoa, in the South Seas. Mrs. Stevenson still lives in California, as does also Lloyd Osbourne, Stevensonís step-son, a joint author with him in a few stories.
His personality. Stevenson, however, was a Scotchman by birth and predilection. He came of a line of civil engineers and lighthouse builders, sturdy, moral folk, who served the world seriously and well. Zit was the moral fiber, inherited and cultivated, and the tough Scotch persistence of the lighthouse builders that made Robert Louis come through successfully so many hard fought battles with death, and enabled him to smile grimly at each weak triumph. Stevensonís continued plucky fight won him many friends. His fine cheerful spirit, his merry appreciation of life in general (which was so often hard and cruel with him), his devotion to his art against all hazards, and his romantic career brought him more fame than his literary productions brought him or will bring him, though his productions are all but of the first order if not of the first.
Versatility. What is implied in the last statement is that Stevenson was particularly a stylist, but no one lives by style alone. The charm of his personality is what makes this man immortal. It is constantly noted with wonder that his fame is disproportionate with the numerical circulation of his works. He "handled with distinction nearly all the known forms" of writing, but not one of his creations stands out so plainly in our minds as Stevenson himself stands. It is not only because Stevenson is near us in time that we know him. Most of us never saw him, and he has been lying in his lofty grave now overlooking the sea for twenty years. The world remembers him because he expressed himself and his own peculiar way of thinking in all he wrote. Whether some of his essays are mannered, or not, is beside the point. They are surely his essays and not another manís, and successive sets of reader will continue to enjoy them—especially will young readers, trained to an appreciation of niceties of diction. Part of Steven- sonís mission was to induce the modern public to like delicacies.
His best writings. He wrote with a naked, bold hand sometimes, and affected the unstudied romance like Treasure Island, which brought him his first popularity (1882); and Kidnapped, a semi-historical murder case; and the sensational delineation of a dual personality; Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which was published as a "shilling shocker" (1886) and succeeded. But after all, in spite of his instant popularity in it and his standing as a leader calling young writers back to romance, Stevenson is primarily an analyst and a discriminating weigher of motives. Two of the strongest tales in Scottish literature are his Thrawn Janet and The Merry Men, one "a study of satanic possession," and the other of "conscience and imagination haunted to the overthrow of reason by the terrors of the sea." Markheim, done for Unwinís Christmas Annal in America, is another such study. The Master of Ballantrac, the scenes of which are partly laid in the country around Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks, where the Stevensons spent the winter of 1887-1888, is at once also one of the writerís best tales and one of his most vivid and searching delineations of mental states. No; Stevenson was no loose-jointed, cheap romancer, but always the artist, and especially the artist in words. One is impressed by his phrases more than by the whole piece.
His aptness of phrase and his quaint fancy are the charm of A Childís Garden of Verse. Though his rhymes are meager and often repeated, they are exquisite and delightful at their best, and the poetís attitude is impeccably naÔve and sweet. Critics have said that in all his varied composition Stevenson invented no new form of literary expression, unless the verses of A Childís Garden may be so considered.
These verses were begun in 1883 in the chalet "La Solitude," a little house in France, where the writer, for the first time in his life, passed a respite of nearly a year from acute illness. They were finished in 1885 at "Skerryvore," the house bought and given him by his father in hope that the author could continue to live in the land of his birth; but he could not. Hemorrhages and prostration occasioned by the climate drove him out. Stevenson called his Scotch home "Skerryvore" after the famous lighthouse designed by his Uncle Alan.
The search for health. Robert Louis Stevensonís search for health is well known. It was remarkable for the sick manís jaunty courage and his unremitting labor meanwhile. He never complained. After his fatherís death in 1887, he sailed with his mother, wife, and step-son for New York. He spent the winter at Saranac, and began his cruise of the Pacific, June 26, 1888, in the schooner-yacht Casco (Captain Otis). He touched at various ports and remained six months at Honolulu, from January to June, 1889. From there he set off in a rough trading vessel, the Equator, and found himself in the harbor of Apia, Samoa, at Christmas time. He liked the climate so well that he purchased four hundred acres on the mountain side, had a clearing made, and his frame house erected, which later received an addition. He called his home "Vailima," or Five Rivers. He brought out his mother, whom he had left at Honolulu, and settled down in comparative health and great peace and happiness with his wife, his mother, his step-son, and later his step-daughter, who acted as an amanuensis.
The new lord was kind to the natives, and became very popular among them. They considered him a chief, and came to him for advice. He served them with devotion and political wisdom, redressing their wrongs. He gathered his immediate retainers about him daily for family prayers. Some of the beautiful things he said for them are published in the tiny volume called Prayers Written for Family Use at Vailima, edited by Mrs. Stevenson after her husbandís death.
Stevenson worked early and late at Vailima, for he was never finally freed, as Tennyson was, from the gnawing anxiety of money-getting. In January, 1893, he had a stroke of illness accompanied with bronchitis, and was both unable and forbidden to talk. He carried his work gaily on, however, dictating in the deaf-and-dumb alphabet the story he had been writing. The next December he died. Death came quite unexpectedly with the rupture of a blood-vessel in the brain; but he went as he would have wished, gaily, conversing with his wife. He had been working hard all the morning on his half-finished book, Hermiston, which he judged the best he had ever written, and had come to her, as he always came, for criticism and confirmation. He had received it; and they were celebrating Stevensonís consciousness of his full powers, when he was taken suddenly, falling on his knees at her feet. He was buried the next day on a narrow shelf of rock on the summit of Mount Vaea, whither he was carried by his devoted native friends, forty of them cutting a path up the steep face of the mountain, and twenty others of the more immediate household preceding to dig the grave or following bearing the coffin shoulder-high up the rugged way. Nineteen Europeans and sixty Samoans climbed the height. All night long before, the Samoans had watched at his side, kneeling and kissing his hand each in turn before taking up the watch, and all the morning they and their relatives and friends had brought flowers and rare mats as offerings to the chief whom they loved, their Tusitala, teller of tales.
Stevenson wrote his own Requiem. One need say nothing of how fine it is: the brave man speaks for himself:
Sir James Mathew Barrie
Barrie, "that modest little man," as everyone is prompted to call him behind his back, whatever may be the correct appellation to his face, was born in Scotland, the realm that has given us more than one lovable author—"Bobbie Burns," "Sir Walter," "R.L.S.," and, not least by any means, "Barrie." Sir James M. Barrie, the author of A Window in Thrums (1889), The Little Minister (1891), Margaret Ogilvy and Sentimental Tommy (1896), Tommy and Grizel (1900), The Little White Bird (1902), Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906), Peter and Wendy (1911), and other delectable compositions before and since.
Barrie has made more money by his pen than has any other single living author. He has taken the stage by storm, perhaps one would better say, by sweetness and light. His dramas are The Professor's Love Story (1895), The Little Minister (adapted—1897), The Wedding Guest (1900), Quality Street, The Admirable Crichton, Little Mary (1903), Peter Pan (1904), Alice-sit-by-the-fire (1905), What Every Woman Knows (1908), The Legend of Leonora, The Mill, The Adored One (1913).
Auld Licht Idylls, When a Manís Single, A Window in Thrums, The Little Minister, Sentimental Tommy, and Margaret Ogilvey are said to have autobiographical material in them. All good books have, of course. The quiet, delightful home living of a Scotch mother and her son is portrayed in Margaret Ogilvey .
Barrie is still writing and is at the height of his powers. He had his schooling at Dumfries Academy and Edinburgh University.
Eliza Lee Cabot Follen
Eliza Lee Cabot Follen is remembered as a writer of anti-slavery hymns and songs, as editor of The Childís Friend, and as the author of a volume of poems and of the memoirs (five volumes) of her husband, Dr. Follen. Dr. Follen was at one time professor of German literature at Harvard, and before that appointment had escaped to America as a refugee from Switzerland, whither he had fled from the government detectives of Russia, Austria, and Prussia, who wanted him (1824) for having disseminated revolutionary doctrines in their realms. Like his wife, Dr. Follen became, under the inspiration of William Ellery Channing, a zealous opponent of slavery and a Unitarian in faith. Dr. Follen lost his place at Harvard because of his outspoken views, and for the remainder of his life, a short time, devoted himself almost entirely to the anti-slavery movement. He died in an accident in 1831, leaving to Mrs. Follen the support and education of their son. Mrs. Follen proved equal to the task, preparing successfully her own son and a number of other pupils for Harvard.
Mrs. Follen wrote, besides the books already mentioned, Well-spent Hour (1827), The Skeptic (1835), Twilight Stories (1858), and Home Dramas (1859).
Charles Kingsley was born and bred an English country gentleman, but he was made a thorough aristocrat at heart by a brutal sight he witnessed when he was a boy of twelve. He was attending grammar school at Bristol, and from a window looked down on the besotted, unreasoning action of the mobs in the Bristol riots. Later he became a clergyman and a philanthropist of much renown, but he never forgot this unfortunate experience. He was a delicate, sensitive child at the time and very reserved—"proud," his schoolmates said. They did not like him, nor understand him. He was not fond of regular sports, as most English boys are, but preferred to make long excursions for plants or geological specimens. Later, when a member of Magdalene College, Cambridge, he was better liked, because better understood. Indeed, he became popular when he indulged in rowing and boxing. He still enjoyed long excursions into the country, but made them now as part of his course in equestrian lectures on geology. Kingsley was not a close student, though he won some honors in mathematics and the classics during the latter part of his college days.
Curate and professor of history. He took orders when he was twenty-three, and went as a country curate to a desolate, uncultivated, poor, illiterate, and unwholesome parish on the borders of Windsor forest. Here he married, here he established his home, here he finally died, after working very hard with true and profound sympathy for the poor. Kingsley did not live so long as he would have lived had he taken more vacations and devoted himself less assiduously to his "duties." He tried to teach the dumb-headed to read, the careless to think, the wicket to cease their stealing and be good, the wanderers to settle down and prosper, and many unsatisfied and restless characters to accept Christianity and be at peace. Yet Kingsley had his own doubts, and went through periods of much stress and anxiety.
For nine years (1860-1869) he was professor of modern history at Cambridge, going up from his parish for his lectures; but though he did the young men much good as an inspiring friend, he found the work unsatisfactory finally and his own temperament unsuited to the new spirit of precise scholarship abroad in the faculty. He withdrew to concentrate his efforts on his writing and his parish work.
Preaching and writing. In 1859 Kingsley was appointed chaplain to Queen Victoria, and later received a canonry at Chester, which was exchanged in 1873 for one at Westminster. As a preacher, Kingsley is said to have been vivid and earnest, speaking out as plainly to the nobility and fashionable folk as to the poor. He had the virtue also of being unsentimental and not mawkish when addressing the common people. The Message of the Church to Working Men is one of his great speeches, and his Twenty-five Village Sermons, preached early in his life at Eversley, are unsurpassed. Some of Kingsleyís socialistic writings have not been published otherwise than as they appeared originally in The Christian Socialist and the journal called Politics for the People. Kingsley had a son, an engineer in America, whom he visited (1874). While here, he preached a series of sermons which were published (1875) under the title Sermons Delivered in America.
The novels, like everything else the author did, were done with a purpose. They appeared as follows: Yeast (1849), Alton Locke (1849), Hypatia (1859), Westward Ho (1855), At Last (1871). The childrenís books were also done with a purpose. The moral teacher is never absent: The Heroes (Greek Tales) (1856), Water-Babies (1863), Madam How and Lady Why (1869). Kingsleyís poems came out at various times. They can be found in a two-volume edition (Macmillan, 1884).
The Lost Doll is a little song from the Water-Babies. It was sung by the fairy Do-as-you-would-be-done-by when she was cuddling Tom for the first time (chap. v). All the other babies were pleased with the ditty. The author does not say whether Tom liked it, but remarks, "What a silly song for a fairy to sing. And what silly water-babies to be quite delighted with it!" Hundreds of land-babies seem to enjoy it, as well.
John Kendrick Bangs
John Kendricks Bangs was born "forty-five minutes from Broadway," or, in other words, at Yonkers, New York. One things of him as a city man and a humorist, though he did the commonwealth the very humdrum and substantial service of being president of the Halsted School, Yonkers, for ten years (1894-1904). He has served on the editorial staff of the following periodicals: Life, Drawer, Literary Notes, Harperís Magazine, Literature, Harperís Weekly, Metropolitan Magazine, and just lately Puck. His subjects reveal the humorist. He has written on "The Idiot," "The Idiot at Home," "The Inventions of the Idiot," "Mr. Munchausen," "Mrs. Raffles." "The Little Elf," though a verse selection, represents very well his light touch.
Brandes, the Danish critic, once said that to name the name of Bjornstjerne Bjornson is like hoisting the Norwegian flag. Brandes did not mean merely that the name is truly Norse, but that the personality and career it represents are also Norse. The flag connotation is good, for Bjornson was an intellectual militant, fighting to win for his countrymen a national consciousness in a literature distinct and contributive. He worked through poetry, stories, the novel, the drama, oratory, and personal influence.
Until 1814, Norway belonged to Denmark, and until then the literary traditions of the two countries were one. With the separation began an intellectual stirring in the North, which was destined to show itself in force in the next generation. The opening of the first great era in Norwegian letters is marked by Bjorn sonís Synnove Solbakken, 1857, "a simple tale of peasant life, an idyl of the love of a boy and girl," but an intimate revelation of Norwegian character in a style at once realistic and individual.
His great work. Bjornson became in the next fifteen years the spokesman of his race. During that time he wrote dramas founded on the Norse sagas. Sigurd Slembe, the best, has been termed by one of Bjornsonís admirers, the noblest masterpiece of all modern literature. Bjornson said that his style was founded on the sagas; and he gave as the fundamental principle of his literary method the endeavor "To see the peasant in the light of the sagas and the sagas in the light of the peasant." A great piece of writing and one often published in collections of the worldís best short-stories is his sketch called "The Father."
Bjornson is Norwayís greatest lyric poet. He wrote the national song, "Yes, We Love This Land of Ours." He wrote other songs that are equally loved by Norwegians and known by heart. A friend once asked him upon what occasional he had felt most fully the joy of being a poet. He said:
"It was when a party from the Right in Christiania came to my house and smashed all my windows. For, when they had finished their assault and were starting home again, they felt that they must sing something, and consequently began to sing, ĎYes, We Love This Land of Ours.í They couldnít help themselves; they had to sing the song of the man they had attacked."
Bjornson was active in politics as a robust reformer. He vied with Ibsen in problem plays and preached regeneration with as searching an intensity. Bjornson wrote fourteen such plays, which mark the second period of his leadership of his people. "The King" is thought by many to be his greatest dramatic composition with a modern message. It should be read today in view of the titanic European struggle.
"In Godís Ways" is one of Bjornsonís great novels, and has been looked upon as a summary of his philosophy.
We do not think of William Allingham as an editor of a magazine, though he was, of Fraserís, for many years. We do not think of him as a member of a literary circle, although he was, of one that included Ruskin, Carlyle, and Tennyson. We do not think of Allingham as a critic of his times and a friend of the pre-Raphaelites, though he was both, and warmly admitted by them to their councils. We do not think of him as intellectually like Dante Gabriel Rossetti or William Morris, though, like them, he was intellectually of other streets than the streets of London.
Much less do we think of William Allingham as an Irish coast officer of customs, or a clerk in a bank. Though he was all these identities in turn, rising step by step gradually through his won worth and efforts from the time when as a boy of fourteen he entered his fatherís employ, unschooled, and began mastering Greek, Latin, German, and French alone, we do not think of him as these. We think of him merely as a wraith of song. He set himself free with his own words—all those written long before, and those written some time before, and read, when his body, according to his wish, was cremated in 1889:
What he did for children. No one has written a better childís song than Ellinghamís Fairy Folk or than Robin Redbreast. No one has sung better of ruined chapels, or winter pears, or bubbles. No one has shown a lighter touch or more aerial fancy. Fairy Folk has in it the quintessence of the subject. It is true to the Irish conception of the fairies, moreover, suggesting the fear and the attraction they inspire. Three indelible pictures are drawn in three stanzas, framed in repetition. The repetition is itself inspiriting and is a true song device.
How he did it. If we think of the singer at all and not only of his poems, we think of him in his early manhood, going—even then like a wraith—up and down, unrecognized, in front of cottage doors where Irish girls sat singing. We think of his listening, of his taking bits out of the mouths of the singers, and hurrying home and finishing a ballad in his own way, and bringing or sending it back on a long strip of blue paper like an old song, and then coming again and hearing it sung unconsciously as an ancient ballad by the same Irish girls sitting singing in the same doorways.
Or we like best to think of him as he liked to think of himself as a small Irish boy at home in an out-of-the-way little town on the extreme edge of Europe—in Ballyshannon, County Donegal, Ireland. He has said in one of his letters that he loved to sit in the tiny room in the roof where the tree branches met across the window and he could look down through them into the garden with flowers below. A little town Ballyshannon was, in his memory, with a river running to the sea, and a tide, and a lake with islands, blue mountains in the distance, trees, boulders, windy pastures, clouds, and America to the west!