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When two love well, events must onward move;
Speed, gentle shaft ! thou aim'st not in the dark! It is impossible to pass over one sonnet without quotation; namely, “Called from Bed; or, Lizzie and Kate.” It requires a special faculty to depict child-life properly—to catch the innocent buoyancy, the remote yet full sympathies, the promise as of spring blossom-and Mr. Charles Turner possesses it. Wordsworth was fond of children, and has done much for the poetry of their existence, but he has nothing at once so delicate and graceful, so familiar and yet so reverent as this. It is as true to nature as William Blake and entirely without fantastic ornament. Let it be premised that the word "stee" means a ladder, and then the picture, or rather succession of pictures will tell a tale of innocence and sweet pathos.
With merry eyes against the golden west,
With those white darlings, and their naked feet. Similar delicacy of feeling and reverence for childhood appear in “Little Nora" and "On a Child's Eyes," and many readers will no doubt remember the charming picture portrayed in Macmillan at the beginning of 1876, the subject being * Letty's Globe.” While, however, the poet is thus interesting on subjects of domestic interest, and gently humorous and didactic in his own quiet way where he may be said to be an authority, he can look out upon the world and calculate what are the chances his own country has among the nations. Even as Wordsworth, after losing hopes of the renovation of society through the French Revolution, continued to look forth from his retreat among the hills and lakes and to fulminate against Napoleon, so Mr. Tennyson Turner can look away from the Lincolnshire flats and dread the possibility (from symptoms he detects not afar off) that England may after all degenerate into Napoleon's nation of shop-keepers.
Too oft, when burthen'd with our chests and bales,
Of our weak neighbours finds us slow to dare. This is mainly interesting, of course, by way of contrast, just as Wordsworth's politics are set off by his rare idealism. At the same time, all Mr. Turner's sonnets on the subject of honour and arms are well worthy of perusal even from the point of view of a practical man. Several other fine studies, such as those connected with a visit of Wales, it is impossible to touch upon further here; and it only remains for us to say further that the poet has bequeathed a valuable legacy, in fine sentiment, quiet genial humour, and bracing reflection to all cultured readers. He has not written for him who runs, nor has he written for the mob that besieges railway book-stalls and public libraries; but wherever a man is living a life of noble purpose, doing what his hand finds to do and striving for the right, wherever purity and uprightness are honoured and hypocrisy discouraged, wherever lofty idealism is upheld over what is merely material and gross, there will there be the genuine love and the understanding heart for the sonnets of Charles Tennyson Turner. In his own words it may be said,
No feeble glow of intellectual Aame
T is a question often asked but never, as it appears,
satisfactorily answered, whether to instructor to
amuse be the particular province of the stage : but one point, at least, a judgment has been given from which no sensible person has ever sought to appeal, that to disgust and repel is altogether foreign from the purpose of playing. Such a work as 'Drink,' now being acted at the Princess's Theatre, however well contrived its scenes may be, however vigorous the language, and however skilful the actors, cannot be described as other than disgusting, and, as such, has no proper place upon the stage. That it has proved attractive to some people, and will prove attractive to many more, as it very probably will, in no way weakens the argument. There are always to be found in every community, and among all classes of people, some natures that find an unwholesome pleasure in the contemplation of loathsome and degrading images. But it no more follows that a play is good because it is applauded by pit and gallery than that a picture is good because it is hung on the walls of the Royal Academy. The argument that such a piece as this is a legitimate subject for the stage because it finds people to clap it is as silly as is the behaviour of the critics who have admired the exquisite fidelity and correctness of copies of which they have no knowledge of the originals.
We take it that every person with any pretensions, we will not say to literature, but to a knowledge of what is passing in the world, has heard of M. Zola, and his novels, and knows that Mr. Charles Reade's' Drink’ is a version of L'Assommoir, the last and most disgusting of them all. Whether our assumption be right or wrong we have at least no design to introduce to the attention of our readers works which we most strongly advise them not to waste their time in reading. They are dull, dirty, and obscure; when not shamelessly and vulgarly
indecent, they are simply nasty. There is neither wit, nor learning, neither art nor nature in them. The sole virtue they possess is the virtue of industry; an admirable virtue, indeed, but which, by reason of the immense power it possesses, when exercised on unworthy and shameful subjects becomes one of the most odious and pernicious of vices.
It will be enough then to say that the English play is a sufficiently faithful version of the French play, for of course L'Assommoir was at once put into theatrical shape and is now nearing at the Ambigu its two hundreth night of representation. Between the novel and the play there are, however, many discrepancies. That there should be such was inevitable forit was absolutely impossible to present to the eyes, even of a French audience, much that they drank in greedily enough with their ears. But in proportion as such works lose what their champions are pleased to call their uncompromising fidelity to nature so they lose whatever measure of reason there may be in their existence. If they are to turn humanity from vice by presenting the monster
In such frightful mein
As to be hated needs but to be seen. -they must spare no jot or tittle of her personality. In the novel assuredly nothing is spared, but in the play much. This, as we have said, was inevitable, and knowing it to be inevitable M. Zola and his collaborators, wilfully cut from under their feet the small and unstable foundation on which alone they could pretend to stand. Mr. Reade had, of course, in the circumstances no alternative but to follow the course prescribed for him. Of the way in which he has performed his self-imposed task we have no complaint to make ; we do not indeed propose to criticise it, for, as a dramatic work, it appears to us to be wholly beyond the pale of criticism. That he has illumined his last scene with a faint ray of light in suggesting a future for his heroine is, we may suppose, for the sake of adhering in some way to that unwritten tradition of the stage which insists at least upon a serene and cheerful conclusion. But it is certain that it weakens the stage effect of the piece, as it not only entails. what is technically known as an anti-climax, but also detracts. from what M. Zola and his school would call, we presume, the moral of their story. This, however, as we have said,
had been already so materially weakened, allowing it, for the sake of the argument, to have ever existed, that Mr. Reade may be pardoned for having rather lost sight of it at last, if, indeed, he can be imagined to have ever perceived it.
What, then, did Mr. Reade propose to himself when he undertook a work which we should be sorry to think could have been otherwise than disagreeable to him, if only from an artistic point of view ? A. practical man might answer at once, to make money ; to write a play that his experience of the English theatre had shown him would fill his own pockets, and the pockets of the manager who may be wise, or daring, enough to produce it. Such an answer, if it be accepted, of
once closes the argument. But we should be willing to credit Mr. Reade with some higher purpose than this, and this only. For, though in one sense the man who writes plays and the man who produces them may be regarded as tradesmen selling goods to the public, and therefore obliged to provide that form of entertainment for which the readiest market is to be found, this is not a plea which can be allowed to cover all misdemeanours. We do not know that a man convicted of selling indecent books would be excused by his judges because he found his account in selling them.
Moreover Mr. Reade himself, or someone for Mr. Reade, has authorised us to look for some higher motive. Previous to the production of his play the newspapers teemed with sounding anticipations of the inestimable lesson that was to be taught. The Temperance Society to a man were to be there; half the clergymen in England had taken places; it was rumoured even in some quarters that Sir Wilfrid Lawson himself was to speak a prologue. But does Mr. Reade or those who affect to think with Mr. Reade really believe that one human being will be redeemed from intemperance by the spectacle of two girls drenching each other with buckets of water, or of a man feigning to die in a fit of delirium tremens ? It is not by such means that the stage instructs; not by attempting to force upon us a moral which we do not accept as such, because we know it has, as there expressed, no part or lot with that world in which we live, but is of, and belonging to,that painted pasteboard world, whose creations we should be able to find a pleasure in contemp