« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
the purple, the golden lights of youth! We sit in the unemotional shade, and slake our thirst for the old joys and sorrows by fondly recalling the ghosts of dead hours and dead dreams, of forgotten faiths and dim remembered faces; and though we may not desire to relive each year with its burden of pains and pangs, surely we may tell ourselves that it is good to have lived those past years, even if tears seem the most prominent part of our inheritance.
Then, however sad the living moment, we still had the consolation of that beautiful and vision-bearing word "To-morrow." In youth, sorrow fells us to to-day, and joy awakes us to-morrow. It is always-Land may be in sight to-morrow!
The night is dark, but hope dances blithely through our veins with the delicious assurance that to-morrow brings the sun. The world is empty, but vague dreams tell us that tomorrow love will cross our path and fill the universe. Hope is the magician that waved us forward and carried us recklessly through briar and bramble, with undaunted confidence in life, in ourselves, and in all things around us. Each fall was ever the last, each pang the precursor of eternal happiness.
And now it is over. Hope's magic wand for us is broken, and she has folded her wings and dropped into slumber that wakens not again; henceforth our best friend is drab - robed content.
DR KNAPP has thrown away as good a chance as ever came to an ambitious biographer. He elected to write the Life of George Borrow, and with patient industry he collected a perfect mountain of material. He not only acquired the books and papers of Lavengro, but he even explored all such local journals and pamphlets as might
contain a distant allusion to his idol. He lived where Borrow lived; he followed Borrow's footsteps in England as in Spain; that he might prove himself as expert a "philologist" as his master, he has studded his text with gems from all the foreign tongues he knows, though English should have been sufficient for his purpose. No detail seems too insignificant for him: with praiseworthy energy he has tracked the most notable of Borrow's schoolfellows; he has drawn a ground - plan of "the Borrow House at Norwich. In brief, he has told us a thousand things which touch Lavengro more or less remotely; but he has completely failed to draw a recognisable portrait of his romantic subject.
Borrow says somewhere that it was from the 'Newgate Calendar' that he learned the art of writing genuine English. Whether Dr Knapp has studied the lives of thieves we know not, but it is certain that genuine
English is beyond his reach. Apparently he has read deeply of Carlyle, the worst model that ever befogged a pedant's style, and believes that he can reproduce the humour of 'Sartor Resartus.' Yet his style is not mere Carlylese; it is Carlylese vilely tempered by the daily paper. For him Borrow is "our George" if he is not "Don Jorge"; when a pack of schoolboys expect a flogging from Dr Valpy, they are in his phrase "candidates for the Valpeian scourge"; worse still, he says of Lockhart, "Of course there was one more unfortunate candidate for the pickle of our peregrine hater." In these terms does he announce John Borrow's birth: "This scion of an ancient house made his début on the stage some time in the year 1800. The font over which he was held is unknown. It must be sought either at Chelmsford or at Colchester. But in the latter town the barracks stood in the three parishes of St James, St Leonard, and St Mary Magdalen. In the present decline of Peter's pence and rise of parochial fees, experience has taught its lesson. Natus est-he was born. He was likewise named: first, after his paternal grandsire, John; then after his sire, Thomas, and finally after the whole family, Borrow." The fatigue of a book composed after this pre
1 Life, Writings, and Correspondence of George Borrow. By William J. Knapp, Ph.D., LL.D. London: John Murray.
tentiously trite manner easily be imagined, and there are many worse specimens to be found. It is thus, for instance, that he translates the simple statement that Borrow was bathing: "He was engaged in stirring the briny waters of the German Ocean with his ponderous corpus." How Borrow himself would have laughed at so gross a perversion of what he believed to be genuine English! "Ponderous corpus" inindeed! Natus est! Why not Why not nati sumus or nati sunt? But that's what it is to be a philologist, and to possess the gift of tongues.
While Dr Knapp is not very judicious in his choice of words, he displays little more wisdom in the selection of his facts. He tells us in his preface that the cool judgment of his publisher persuaded him to curtail his book, yet the book as it stands is padded with pages of irrelevance. He can find room for such common notes of invitation as the following: "Dear Mr Borrow,-We have a few friends coming to us next Wednesday evening. Will you be persuaded to join us at 9 o'clock?" Yet he withholds the description of the battle between Painter and Oliverthat famous battle from which
Kean got a hint for his Richard -though it should surely be a masterpiece of romantic reporting. Then he has rescued many a review from the columns of ancient journals, which long ago did their work of offence, and have earned oblivion. To Borrow they were red rags; they are pallid sheets to us, and
not even Dr Knapp's loyalty can bring back a single touch of colour to their faded abuse.
But from beginning to end the book is marred by a lack of proportion, by the author's inability to distinguish between the trifling and the essential. A new fact is not important from mere novelty, and to proceed with Dr Knapp's reckless curiosity is to risk making not a biography but a rubble-heap. However, Dr Knapp's defect is easily intelligible: he has failed because he is an American. Now, the American who professes a sympathy with England, and does not harbour an ambition to twist the lion's tail, is apt to approach our country with too shy a reverence. Having few shrines of his own to worship, he goes abroad to bow the knee, and once beyond the reach of telephones and electric bells, he displays a capacity for devotion which is admirable and touching. The American, in fact, is the modern pilgrim. As our remote ancestors visited Jerusalem, so our reputed descendants seek out the tombs of poets and novelists. They recite verses in the groves of Kenilworth, or under the shadow of Shakespeare's cottage. They explore the graveyards to discover where their heroes lie buried, and they commonly bring back stories of dilapidation and neglect. But like all neophytes they push their worship too far; they comprehend in a general admiration everything that is personal; they are surprised at what we take for granted; and they invest the most trivial
circumstances with an importance which they never possessed. It is an amiable indiscretion, no doubt; but it is blinding to the intelligence, and we doubt whether a dozen Americans of to-day see the life of the Old World in a sensible light. Dr Knapp, for instance, cannot rid himself of his transatlantic prejudice, and he surveys the ordinary facts of Borrow's life with the astonishment of a yokel gazing at the Lord Mayor's coach. A similar prejudice prevents him from seeing the real qualities of his subject. A man, who was inspired always by a love of action, who, as we shall presently see, admired gypsies, prizefighters, and highwaymen far above writers and philologists, must not be judged by the common standards. If you would understand him, you must yield to his vagaries, and confess the imperiousness of his tastes. Yet Dr Knapp, despite his doglike respect for Borrow, proves in a dozen instances his lack of sympathy. Though the example of Borrow has persuaded him to study the gypsies and their language, he proves that he has never conquered the general dislike of the roving people. He denounces the rumour that Borrow's mother was a gypsy as an unworthy and unjustifiable slur." Why slur, Dr Knapp, why slur? Have not many brave men and beautiful women carried gypsy blood in their veins? And is not Borrow the last man in the world who would have resented the mistake? But Lavengro himself
Nor is Dr Knapp more fortunate in his few references to boxing, which was in Borrow's eyes the finest and most necessary of the arts. "The lad knew of his own father's early proclivity for the ring," he writes, "and thought it only dutiful to occasionally put on the gloves." Of course he thought it nothing of the kind; and even if we overlook the split infinitive, we find in this statement a complete misunderstanding of Borrow's character. He did not put on the gloves for the sake of duty,-he was a fighter born and bred; his father's scrap with Big Ben was his most glorious memory, a memory not effaced by his own battle with the Flaming Tinman, when once more "Long Melford" did its work. If he was a better hand at the gloves than at the naked fist, his morleys were always ready, and for his biographer to mention duty and fighting in the same sentence is to misrepresent his pride and character. He was master of many accomplishments, but he was proud of none so much as of his power to hit a man when he was angry.
Again, a sentimental sympathy with footpads and all their works was instinctive with George Borrow, and was doubtless fostered by his compilation of 'Celebrated Trials.' He was quick to appreciate the free courage of their career; for were they not, also, kings of the highroad? His admiration of Harry Simms never languished, and he would set Haggart, whom he knew, by the side of Tamerlane. Yet Dr Knapp brushes this sympathy roughly away. He does not even condescend to a mention of Simms, and Haggart inspires him to little else than the cold announcement that "he was very properly hanged at Edinburgh jail." Properly, no doubt, from the magistrate's point of view. But Borrow's biographer might have looked beyond the code, and attempted to picture the enthusiasm of a man who never examined too scrupulously the morals of his comrades.
However, Dr Knapp's greatest difficulty was to hold the scales of justice even. Borrow thought the smallest provocation sufficient for enmity. He was a good hater, who in every controversy set his feelings above reason. Such was his nature, and his nature needs no justification. But his biographer, who at other points has fallen short of sympathy, surely goes beyond his brief when he espouses an ancient quarrel. That Borrow disliked Bowring is quite certain, and the reasons for the dislike are to-day immaterial. Yet Dr Knapp sees animus in two perfectly civil letters, and detects
an insult in Bowring's plain question, "Have you ever been at Kiatcha?" Whether Borrow ever did go to Kiatcha is an unsolved problem. He seems to have believed that he did once visit that remote spot, and Bowring might have been excused for seeking information on a point whereon Borrow himself was doubtful. But Dr Knapp transforms himself into a partisan, and makes a confident statement, of which proof is impossible. "Meantime," says he, "Life, a Drama,' by George Borrow, had been advertised; and Bowring, suspecting that the struggles and disappointments of his victim would be treated of in the book, privately engaged the 'Edinburgh Review,' while passing through Italy at the beginning of 1849, for a paper on the 'Life' when it should appear. This holding of the Edinburgh Review' kept all articles on 'Lavengro' from its pages in 1851." in 1851." To propose a review in order that a book might never be noticed at all is the subtlest villainy, of which Bowring could only be convicted on his own confession. Did he ever tell Dr Knapp of his trick? If not, how does Dr Knapp declare as a fact what can only be an unamiable surmise?
But at the end of his book Dr Knapp brings a charge against Borrow's stepdaughter which certainly should not pass unchallenged, and he brings it with an easy nonchalance, as though it were not worth support. At any rate, he does not support it with a shred of documentary evidence, and we must be forgiven if we decline to ac