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the life-chronicle of a literary form; it has not been done before, or not so well, in our language; and an example is supplied from which Mr Courthope's successors have no excuse for relapsing. We pass over the chapter on the ballads, which needs revising in the light of arguments advanced recently by Mr Gregory Smith, Mr Lang, and others. The 'Retrospect,' at the end of the first volume, which brings the whole story down to the verge of the English Renaissance, is all of fine quality, and contains one of the significant thoughts that help to sustain us amid the apparent welter of late mediæval verse.

'In each class, epic, lyric, and dramatic, we see a movement away from the original didactic purpose of poetry, either towards the direct imitation of nature, or towards the mere technical development of art' (p. 471). ... 'But while the principal forms of modern poetry have their origin in the ecclesiastical and feudal character of the Middle Ages, they are gradually modified by the whole movement of society towards a civil standard of life and thought' (p. 473).


This conception, of which we have not given Mr Courthope's full elucidation, forms one of the texts of his succeeding volumes. Poetry was coloured by the successive polities under which it flourished, and varied according as these were mainly ecclesiastical and monarchical, or civic and secular. It also varied with its public, which is the most powerful and often the most destructive part of the artist's contemporary environment. In particular, the form and soul of our drama were infinitely altered according as this public was predominantly the people or the Court. In his sketch of the setting and drift of early Tudor poetry Mr Courthope suffers somewhat in proportion. He is debarred from bringing in English prose, save on sufferance, yet he gives a long and pointed account of the masterpieces of Machiavelli, Castiglione, and others, in order to picture types of the Renaissance mind. A valuable scrutiny of the technique of Wyatt and Surrey is followed by a still longer survey, which, even from a historic point of view, need not have been so full, of the dreary Turbervile and Churchyard, who, despite some formal interest, clear the weeds very little for the genius of Spenser and Sidney. But the powers of Mr Courthope can best be

Vol. 200.-No. 399.

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judged as we approach the poetry of genius, in its two great species, as they pass before us from Spenser to Milton, and from Marlowe to Ford.

The weak side of a studious, ambitious essay seeking to explain poetry is that, while really doing much, it always has the air of seeming to do more than is possible. The book before us is less a history of poetry than a history of certain impersonal forces which from age to age tended to prescribe its form and aim, to beleaguer it about. They play upon each artist in diverse proportion, fitfully, and with no steady pressure.

But there are other forces that lie beyond analysis, namely, those which move the artist; how he shall choose among these floating tendencies in the mind of his time, how he shall combine or alter them, what he shall make of them. Tendencies have no real existence-unless it be for the historian long afterwards—except in the shapes in which the individual mind chooses to submit to them. We only know them through the concrete manifestations from which we then generalise. The mind is not a cauldron in which certain ingredients simmer mechanically, so that a certain result can be expected: a charm is said over them which happily prevents any such thing. Thus an analyst of tendencies, when he comes to the actual master, the actual poem, can only make his diagnosis sound up to the last step but one, unless he also has a measure of the divining sympathy, which is a kind of feminine counterpart of the artist's own creative force.

Hence a writer like Mr Courthope, in dealing with significant secondary figures like Massinger or Drummond, is better than when dealing with larger men ; for his analysis carries him up to the very verge of their comparatively narrow ring of personality, and they can be stated in terms of historic tendencies. But the great initiators—Marlowe, Shakespeare, Donne—though from one point of view they absorb and express larger elements of historic growth than the others, are not only harder to diagnose from such considerations, because the forces are more intricate, but actually refuse to be stated in such terms, ultimately, at all. Marlowe is seen in clearer light, certainly, as the embodiment of a ruling mood of the Renaissance, the worship of energy, virtù, or, as Mr Courthope calls it, 'will-worship’; but his real

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characteristic lies in the form, the voice, he gives to that impulse. And this form and voice are found in the depths of his profoundly original style, his turn of phrase, his peculiar turn of passion. No amount of history can give an account of this ; nothing, indeed, can ever express it fully; but the nearest approaches can be made by a fellow-poet, like Mr Swinburne, when writing new poetry, or criticism, which is poetry in all but metre, upon him.

Mr Courthope's scope and restrictions are well seen in the case of Donne, on whom he throws new and true light-the search-light of history, which has never been turned on Donne so clearly before. It is curious with how little sympathy it is done, and how instructive it is nevertheless ; for Mr Courthope's analysis of the historic setting is not in the least brain-spun or capricious; it is solidly based, and is charged with learning. Donne is taken out of the region of mere anomaly and miracle in which he is too often left by the critics. In him we trace (the phrasing is our own, as the passages are too long for extract) the habit of the school-divine, logical and dividing, a habit applied equally to the sacred matters of faith and fear, and to the profaner matters of love and lust; the two worlds, sacred and profane, being joined and confounded at every turn by this pervading temper that is applied to them. The course of Donne's thought is traced, perhaps more positively than the vague dates of his poems warrant, through the successive phases of belief, of pyrrhonism or nihilism, and of faith again triumphant; the whole man, in these different phases, being bound together by the intellectual habit, carefully defined, of wit. Thus Donne is a sensitive mirror of many impulses of his time. He remains a living exponent of what we may call—and Mr Courthope might perhaps accept the phrase-the temporary Counter-Renaissance, or re-emergence of mediæval habits of mind after the glow of the Renaissance was spent. All this is admirable; but there is something more, and a passage that we shall quote later from a very different critic, Mr Saintsbury, will supply what is wanting the suggestion of the inner personality of Donne. Flaubert, in his words on Taine, put the point very clearly :

• Il y a autre chose dans l'art que le milieu où il s'exerce et les antécédents physiologiques de l'ouvrier. Avec ce système


là, on explique la série, le groupe, mais jamais l'individualité, le fait spécial qui fait qu'on est celui-. Cette méthode

amène forcément à ne faire aucun cas de talent. Le chefd'ouvre n'a plus de signification que comme document historique. Voilà radicalement l'inverse de la vieille critique de La Harpe. Autrefois, on croyait que la littérature était une chose toute personnelle et que les cuvres tombaient du ciel comme des aérolithes. Maintenant on nie toute volonté, tout absolu. La vérité est, je crois, dans l'entre-deux. (Correspondance, iii, 196.) We would not saddle Mr Courthope, whose system

'' is much sounder than that which Flaubert criticises, with the whole of the rebuke which he often escapes when he permits himself to give a direct judgment. His words on Herrick make us ask for more of the same kind. He comments on "The Funeral Rites of the Rose':This exquisiteness of fancy, working on a great variety of subjects-flowers, precious stones, woman's dress, religious ritual, and the like-finds its happiest field in the region of folklore. Shakspeare had already shown the way to that delightful country in the “Tempest,” in the “Midsummer Night's Dream,” and “Romeo and Juliet.” . . . But it may be safely said that none of these creations, not even Shakspeare's description of Queen Mab, surpasses in lightness of touch, or equals in the rich profusion of imagery, Herrick's Euphuistic treatment of the elves' (iii, 263).

The whole of Mr Courthope's survey of seventeenth century verse, of what we have called the CounterRenaissance, and of the re-assertion of the Latin Renaissance in a fresh and more limited shape during Dryden's time, has the virtues and drawbacks that we have intimated. His classification of the labyrinthine schools of verse under various forms of 'wit,' and his characteristically true and deep analysis of wit itself, call for much gratitude. His summing-up of the influences that went to the making of Milton's 'Paradise Lost,' and of the equally complex style which could be its only fit expression, is a triumph of his method, of his skill in bringing many historic rays to converge upon one object. On the other hand, his apprehension of many lesser poets remains a little blank; his connoisseurship, or sense of varieties in accent and gesture, is faint. It is best to illustrate from his chapters on the drama, on which he

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has spent great care, and which are almost as instructive for what they leave out as for what they say.

Mr Courthope's high sympathies deaden, it must be said, his understanding of the drama of remote or anomalous passion, however wonderful its style may be. He is capable of quoting the best passages of Cyril Tourneur, with their sombre strangeness of jewelled phrase, at Tourneur's expense.

He can slight the fitful but lofty tragic talent of Middleton without even mentioning the central scenes of The Changeling,' which would have done honour to the author of Measure for Measure.' He administers an official rebuke to Charles Lamb, while commending him in general, for his 'ecstatic' praises of the minor dramatists, on the ground that it raises in the mind 'an idea of the colossal greatness of all the Elizabethan dramatists, which is by no means, sustained when their works are examined organically. Not only is this to visit the mistakes of foolish readers upon Lamb, whose praises are far more carefully defined and qualified than at first appears; it is also to forget how Lamb was moved to his eloquence by that inebriation with language, and with a passionate situation well presented, from which Mr Courthope may be a professed abstainer, but which none the less is the nearest way to reproduce the exalted moods of the playwrights themselves in their creative hour. It is not unfair, and even refreshing, for the historian to call Marston's Antonio and Mellida' a * jumbled hash of bloody recollections'; but this does not invalidate the strict rightness of Lamb's praise of the prologue to the same play, with its 'passionate earnestness and tragic note of preparation.'

It is right to add that Mr Courthope's want of sympathy is partly due to a motive that is really and purely artistic, and not merely to a certain ethical rigidity. Trained in the classics, he has a real, a sound, and often an offended sense of dramatic structure. Our drama suffers under the application of this test; but suffer it must, and the test is applied with courage. Logic, outline, harmony, consequence—our plays, so often written to be seen and heard, and written under stress, usually fail in these qualities; Shakespeare himself at times fails in them. In English criticism the sense of form and beauty is too often limited to style and expression, and

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