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for it has received a blind tribute whenever any literature, from the Roman onwards, has submitted to foreign influence. Its clear proclamation is one of the debts of modern Europe to the German mind, and is found, as might be expected, in a noble form in Goethe. In a note
a written in 1828 on The Edinburgh Review' and The Foreign Quarterly Review, Goethe lays down the higher aim of all such journals. *As they win, step by step, a larger public, they will contribute in a most effectual way to what we hope for-an universal world-literature. We only repeat, there can be no question of the nations thinking in accord. But they must simply become aware of and comprehend one another; and, if they cannot attain to mutual love, they must at least learn to bear with one another.'
Goethe owed something here to pioneers like Herder. The same voice is heard again in Matthew Arnold:
• The criticism which alone can much help us for the future is a criticism which regards Europe as being, for intellectual and spiritual purposes, one great confederation, bound to a joint action and working to a common result.'
In this direction Goethe worked more effectively than any other man. By his activity and fame, by his curious and remote reading, his translating, his dismissal of politics and of the illusions counter to his ideal that politics may generate, and by his transference to art of the universal spirit of science, he is the apostle of the federal conception of literature, to which he found Europe ready, while he made it readier, to listen. Great talents,' he says himself, are the finest peacemakers.' Our aim here, after noting some other origins of this federal conception, and some obstacles to its fulfilment, is to ask how its presence affects the methods of writing literary history. The variety of these methods is evident in the current histories of our own literature.
The hope of a free international exchange for thought and knowledge, and even for poetry and letters, is, we are now beginning to forget, an old one.
There was once a suzerain general language, beside which all others had the air of pretenders. The rise of the modern states and tongues had broken up, at the beginning of the
Middle Age, the traditional primacy of Latin as the organ of verse and eloquence; and the Latin Renaissance, while it gave a fresh and artificial lease to the language, only ended in quickening the vernaculars through acquaintance with ancient art, thought, and life; whilst the Reformation gave some of them new rank as languages of ritual and religion. Still, down into the seventeenth century, Latin was often chosen by the strongest brains, from Grotius and Bacon to Spinoza and Newton, as the natural voice of science and philosophy, which have no frontiers, and was used by many theologians, Protestant as well as Catholic, and some poets. But soon afterwards the words of Hobbes may be transferred to Latin : it is 'the ghost of the deceased Roman Empire, sitting crowned upon the grave thereof. The works of Leibnitz are in three languages. Latin is there, but French is paramount, and philosophical German is proving its muscles in its cradle. But French, far as it spread, could never take the lost place of Latin. Apart from any incapacities of its own, it was always being checked by English ; and the growth of German was hardly needed to abolish for ever the notion of a master-language. With such aid the federal idea has had to dispense; and yet that idea has grown until, for the purposes of positive knowledge, and in a less measure for those of speculation, it is clear in every mind. But in applying it to art there is a natural hindrance; and this must be got over, or it may seem fatal, before we can safely think of Europe and America as one republic of letters.
Knowledge is international or it is nothing ; its matter does not alter with the language in which it is conveyed. Science, or the body and method of knowledge, is impersonal and above race; it cares nothing for the personality or nature of its servants, except as possible sources of error. Thus science, being federal, unites and confounds, while art, being personal, sunders and identifies. The aim and power of art is to realise, in unique unchanging form, the spirit of the individual. Nothing but art saves his identity; for the children that he leaves, the polity that he forms, and all the other works of his hands, alter when he is gone, only what has received form retaining permanence. Also the aim of art, in contrast with science, is to give pleasure through beauty. And the beauty realised by each artist, the beauty of each of his works must be unique, and the corresponding pleasure unique. Hence the significance of form; it is the last and only firm abiding-place of personality, and is the source of a series of pleasures, each of which is unique. And deep in the art whose medium is language there lies a barrier, obvious when brought to notice, against a perfect understanding between peoples. For the masters of each language play on many associations which lie below or above the reason common to all nations, and which are only for native hearers. The inner cell of the poet's mind is not hung with diagrams or charts of doctrine which are equally true or false in all climates; it is peopled with bodiless tunes that seek their phrase, and solitary phrases that seek their rhyme, until, from the discovery, the chance contact, thought, and not sound only, is born. For the actual matter of poetry and the finer prose is in part a creature of its sound, as can be seen if the sound be changed; so that the matter itself and not merely what we call the style,' is incommunicable and untranslatable. Rarely can a congenial artist of another land reproduce a parallel emotional effect by a translation, as Baudelaire did with the work of Poe, which he understood as Poe's countrymen could not. This inherent cause tends to isolate literatures and makes it hard for poetry and letters to become cosmopolitan. It is, however, only the more necessary that they should strive that way, and join the uniting forces, like trade and education and science, rather than the estranging forces like racial idiosyncracy and political distrust.
History comes to our help and shows that art, in order to reach its utmost expressiveness, as well as knowledge for its fullest increase, is always making foreign raids and returning enriched. It is, in fact, a series of demonstrations of the actual interplay of art between the nations. The laws of this interplay have yet to be found; it cannot be predicted; thus far we can only judge by the event. The animal instinct to seek food from any part of the environment is operative in art; not necessarily from the nearest spot, for neighbourhood does not always create an understanding, or distance prevent one, in art any more than in love. The Rhine, for instance, has failed really to unite, or the Channel to separate, the art of the countries naturally bordered by those waters. And the problem is made more intricate by the variety of causes which affect art but often lie outside it. Some are political and material wars and treaties, and persecutions, and emigrations, and inventions, and trade. Others are philosophical and spiritual, and may come from antiquity, or from distant countries, or from both. But by merely external and material events literature has always shown a surprising power to profit. So, to take stray cases, France, after 1660, was able to teach England just what our whole history had taught us to ignore—the need of lucidity, composition, and a central diction for prose. The Holy Alliance provoked the better part of Byron. Through modern facilities of travel and printing, the mind and craft of Ibsen have left a strain of exoticism and alien depth in the works even of the Latin theatre.
In the same way the hunger to appropriate from Italy is found, and is different at every stage-the beginning, the strength, and the decline, of our English Renaissance. Material causes, such as the increase of
. travel, aided a spiritual influence that demanded expression in art. Wyatt found the battered forms of English verse inadequate for the new energies of poetry, and he therefore leaned upon the forms of Italy—the porcelain sonnet of the Petrarchans, the satiric terza rima of Alamanni. Drummond, in the void and chill of inspiration, went to the same school in an economical spirit, to practise foreign finish. Different is the careless borrowing of Shakespeare the prodigal, so many of whose tales derive sooner or later from Italy, but who so transformed them as to overwhelm his creditors, creating types like Iago and Romeo. So complex may be the sway of one literature over another during a single period. And the story is incomplete if the chapter of revulsions from foreign influence is ignored. These may spring, like the Puritan distrust of Italy, from motives not artistic ; or, like the revolt of Lessing against the prescriptions of French tragedy, may mean that a young art is restive under a foreign superstition.
One side, then, of literary history is the examination of these international forces, just as in cartography maps are devoted to tracing the currents of wind and
ocean, apart from all irrelevant boundaries. Such forces in the main are reducible to four. Two of them rest on the impulse to expand, explore, and assimilate. A nation, in order to find fresh life-blood for its art, may turn first to foreign sources. This makes for internationalism and serves the federal ideal, and falls to the appropriate,
comparative,' chapter of literary history Or, secondly, inspiration may be sought from classical antiquity, either directly or through the modern literatures it has moulded. The historian, then, must write one more chapter on the influence of the revival of learning. But these two forces of expansion and inspiration are ever checked by two others, which rise up from the wells of national pride and power in a mood of alarm for the integrity of national art. We may suddenly turn for renewal to the writings of our own far past, which have some of the strangeness of those of a foreign land, but can never be wholly foreign while race and language persist. William Morris went back to Chaucer, and, indeed, to the stories, both heroic and romantic, that are common to the old Germanic world. A play like Mr Swinburne's ‘Rosamund, Queen of the Lombards,' or the lofty tragedy of the late Miss Beatrice Barmby, Gísli Súrsson,' which is founded on the saga of Gísli, show how the Germanic past may yet speak to us. But, fourthly, sometimes even this instinct is neglected ; a nation is moved to assert its identity and strength, and falls to creating a fresh art almost without passing beyond its own time and frontiers. This is rare. The old Norse literature, like the Greek, was largely self-sown; but it would be hard to name any period of modern literature since the twelfth century when any of these four forces--of contemporary foreign art, of the classic world, of the native tradition, and of pure initiative—has been quite in abeyance. Working together in changing proportion, they make up the pattern of a literature, though they are often quickened, or checked, or channelled, by conditions largely commercial and material.
At this moment various elements, apart from the temporary state of peace in Europe and the partial quiescence of race-hatred, favour internationalism in letters. The chief countries have some fraternal acquaintance with one another's art. Their tongues are learned