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might, perhaps, be rendered happy enough. But they must always bear in mind that they are no more than a kind of leprosy, a morbid growth, a race of vermin upon the mouldy surface of a little ball which turns awkwardly round a yellow sun already half gone out.
In the ideas of Coignard and Bergeret we probably get the closest view attainable of the deliberate conclusions of the subtlest and most refined artist and thinker of our time. As a sceptic, M. France doubts everything, and in all things discovers the secret defect; as a dilettante he amuses himself by the constant change and succession of forms which men are so curiously apt to denominate progress. But, starting from the pessimistic conviction of the incurable badness and weakness of humanity, he is finally touched by the wretchedness and instability of human destiny, and ends by demanding that men should judge one another with a "scetticismo caritatevole." 1
Sceptical and even cynical though the majority of his later work is, M. France's judgments are never uncharitable, and the element of compassion is rarely absent. Few passages in the "Histoire" are more delightful than those in which he dwells upon the humblest aspects of life. One of the pleasantest glimpses that we have of Bergeret is the scene in which, while reposing under his favorite ormes du mail and meditating in his usual depreciatory manner upon the rhetorical militarism of the eighth book of Virgil and the grotesque manner in which certain Latin poets have been overrated, he encounters the chemineau, or tramp, named "Pied d'Alouette." He has a ready sympathy with the poor jail-bird, who has nothing dangerous about him, unless it be his rooted belief in happiness. "Where, then," says the professor,
1 Vittorio Pica, Letteratura d'eccezione, 1899, 288.
"are the happy ones to be found?" "In the farmhouses," is the prompt reply. Bergeret got up and placed a half-franc in Pied d'Alouette's hand. "You think, Pied d'Alouette, that happiness is to be found under a roof, in a chimney corner, or a feather bed. I thought you had more good sense." The poor chemineau takes the place of the cobbler in Lucian's famous dialogue upon. the vanity of riches, while Bergeret,. ruminating upon the dry scraps of learning in his "Vergilius Nauticus," is. left wondering where the happiness of erudition comes in. Charming, again, as a pendant to the vignette of Bonnard. and his cat is Bergeret's meditation over a canine foundling which he adopts and befriends with an unaffected sympathy:
"Il est joli!' dit la servante.
"Non, il n'est pas joli,' dit M. Bergeret. 'Mais il est sympathique, et il a de beaux yeux. C'est ce qu'on disait de moi,' ajouta le professeur, 'quand. j'avais le triple de son âge et pas encore la moitié de son intelligence. doute, j'ai depuis lors jeté sur l'univers. une vue qu'il ne jettera jamais. Mais. au regard de la vérité absolue, on peut dire que ma connaissance égale la sienne par sa petitesse. C'est comme la sienne, un point géométrique dans l'infini . . .''
"Il faut lui donner un nom.'
"La servante répondit en riant, les mains sur le ventre, que ce n'était pas. difficile.
"Sur quoi M. Bergeret fit intérieurement cette réflexion, que tout est simple aux simples, mais que les esprits avisés, qui considèrent les choses sousdes aspects divers et multiples, invisibles au vulgaire, éprouvent une grandedifficulté à se décider même dans les moindres affaires."
It will be seen that, far as M. France has travelled in other respects since he achieved his first great triumph with "Bonnard," his ironic temper is still
qualified by the same deep compassion for the weak and the humble. The juxtaposition of the two qualities is elevated into an article of faith by the writer in his admirable book of Pensées ("Le Jardin d'Epicure," 1895).
"Plus je songe à la vie humaine, plus je crois qu'il faut lui donner pour témoins et pour juges l'Ironie et la Pitié ... L'Ironie et la Pitié sont deux bonnes conseillères; l'une en souriant nous rend la vie aimable; l'autre qui pleure, nous la rend sacrée."
To avoid a weak compliance with the vulgar practice of eulogy was, in Lucian's opinion, the first and most imperative duty of the historian. In his "Histoire Contemporaine" M. France has most emphatically not fallen into this pitfall. He has nowhere recklessly flattered his contemporaries; he is never the sychophant of his own generation. The publicists of the hour seem, in fact, to have irritated M. France by their blatant optimism, much as the charlatans and the thaumaturges of Syria and Greece, with the metallic timbre of their voices and the majesty of their long beards, afflicted the satirist of Samosata seventeen hundred years ago. In England, where we are often abused by a foreign press, but have not, like our neighbors, the advantage of being persistently and solemnly lectured upon our delinquencies, the need for a contemporary historian would seem to be even greater than in France. As a corrective to the monotony of those rhapsodies upon our noble selves, with which every paper and platform in the land is forever resounding, the value of an English satirist, of the calibre of M. Anatole France, could hardly be overrated.
His tableau of modern French society is a satire of the most uncompromising severity; but is its severity greater than its substantial truth? M. France's credibility gains enormously The Cornhill Magazine.
from the fact that he is in no possible sense a critic who has failed. In England we are, of course, far from unfamiliar with the pessimistic tone that he most naturally adopts. It is scattered up and down the author of the "Whirlpool," and it reaches a very poignant note in Amy Levy's "Minor Poet." One is, perhaps, rather inclined to associate this heartfelt disdain of an unappreciative world with the mental processes of the minor poet, though in the case of the greatest of men the conjunction of bitterness and failure is sufficiently common. bitterness of Swift was, in part at least, due to this cause, and the philosophic despair of Bolingbroke was, in the main perhaps, the despair of office. But Anatole France is not in any sense a failure he, a man of humble birth, a native of the Quai Malaquais, who has by the sheer force of wit scaled the barriers of exclusiveness and entered the most aristocratic coterie of the Académie. From his youth he was très livresque, and his early books are characterized by an erudition from which he distils a honey that has always a certain acridity of flavor. But it is in his latest series of volumes, upon every page of which is impressed his profound knowledge of human nature, that the doctrine of Nihilism stands out so boldly as the fruit of his mature reflections not only upon books, but also upon men and women. The commerce of books and the habit of intense reflection and self-analysis have fitted him in a degree that has never been excelled to fulfil the function of an author as he has specially conceived it-as that of an ironical critic, namely, who from a quiet and sheltered nook of observation can meditate at his ease upon the clamor and the folly-occasionally pathetic, more often purely ridiculous-of his fellows in the dusty market-place.
THE HEART OF DARKNESS.*
BY JOSEPH CONRAD.
"I laid the ghost of his gifts at last with a lie," he began suddenly. "Girl. What? Did I mention a girl? O, she is out of it-completely. They-the women, I mean-are out of it-should be out of it. We must help them to stay in that beautiful world of their own, lest ours gets worse. O, she had to be out of it. You should have heard the disinterred body of Mr. Kurtz saying, 'My intended.’ You would have perceived directly then how completely she was out of it. And the lofty frontal bone of Mr. Kurtz! They say the hair goes on growing sometimes, but thisah-specimen was impressively bald. The wilderness had patted him on the head, and behold, it was like a ballan ivory ball; it had caressed him, and -lo!-he had withered; it had taken him, loved him, embraced him, got into his veins, consumed his flesh and sealed his soul to its own by the inconceivable ceremonies of some devilish initiation. He was its spoiled and pampered favorite. Ivory? I should think so. Heaps of it, stacks of it. The old mud shanty was bursting with it. You would think there was not a single tusk left either above or below the ground in the whole country. Mostly fossil,' the manager had remarked. It was no more fossil than I am; but they call it fossil when it is dug up. It appears these niggers do bury the tusks sometimes-but evidently they couldn't bury this parcel deep enough to save the gifted Mr. Kurtz from his fate. We filled the steamboat with it and had to pile a lot on the deck. Thus he could see and enjoy as long as he could see, because * Copyright by S. S. McClure & Co. LIVING AGE. VOL. VIII.
the appreciation of this favor had remained with him to the last. You should have heard him say, 'My ivory.' O, yes, I heard him. 'My intended, my ivory, my station, my river, my-' everything belonged to him. It made me hold my breath in expectation of hearing the wilderness burst into a prodigious peal of laughter that would shake the fixed stars in their places. Everything belonged to him-but that was a trifle. The thing was to know what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own. That was the reflection that made you creepy all over. It was impossible-it was not good for one, either-to try and imagine. He had taken a high seat amongst the devils of the land-I mean literally. You can't understand. How could you-with solid pavement under your feet, surrounded by kind neighbors ready to cheer you or fall on you, stepping delicately between the butcher and the policeman, in the holy terror of scandal and gallows and lunatic asylums; how can you imagine what particular region of the first ages a man's untrammeled feet may take him into by the way of solitude-utter solitude without a policeman-by the way of silence-utter silence, where no warning voice of a kind neighbor can be heard whispering of public opinion. These little things make all the great difference. When they are gone you must fall back upon your own innate strength, upon your own capacity for faithfulness. Of course you may be too much of a fool to go wrong-too dull even to know you are being assaulted by the powers of darkness. I take it no fool ever made a bargain for his soul with the devil. The fool is
too much of a fool, or the devil too much of a devil-I don't know which. Or you may be such a thunderingly exalted creature as to be altogether deaf and blind to anything but heavenly sights and sounds. Then the earth for you is only a standing place-and whether to be like this is your loss or your gain I won't pretend to say. But most of us are neither one nor the other. The earth for us is a place to live in, where we must put up with sights, with sounds, with smells, too, by Jove breathe dead hippo, SO to speak, and not be contaminated. And there, don't you see, your strength comes in, the faith in your ability of digging unostentatious holes to bury the stuff in-your power of devotion, not to yourself, but to an obscure, backbreaking business. And that's difficult enough. Mind, I am not trying to excuse or even explain-I am trying to account to myself for-for-Mr. Kurtz -for the shade of Mr. Kurtz. This initiated wraith from the back of Nowhere honored me with its amazing confidence before it vanished altogether. This was because it could speak English to me. The original Kurtz had been educated partly in England, and-as he was good enough to say himself-his sympathies were in the right place. His mother was half English, his father was half French. All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz, and by and by I learned that, most appropriately, the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs had intrusted him with the making of a report for their future guidance. And he had written it, too. I've seen it. I've read it. It was eloquent, vibrating with eloquence, but too high-strung, I think. Seventeen pages of close writing he had found time for! But this must have been before his-let us say-nerves went wrong, and caused him to preside at certain midnight dances, ending with
unspeakable rites, which-as far as 1 reluctantly gathered from what I heard at various times-were offered up to him do you understand?-to Mr. Kurtz himself. But it was a beautiful piece of writing. The opening paragraph, however, in the light of later information, strikes me now as ominous. began with the argument that we whites, from the point of development we had arrived at, must necessarily appear to them (savages) in the nature of supernatural beings-we approach them with the might as of deity, and so on, and so on. 'By the simple exercise of our will we can exert a power for good practically unbounded,' etc., etc. From that point he soared and took me with him. The peroration was magnificent, though difficult to remember, you know. It gave me the notion of an exotic immensity ruled by an august benevolence. It made me tingle with enthusiasm. This was the unbounded power of eloquence of words -of burning, noble words. There were no practical hints to interrupt the magic current of phrases, unless a kind of note at the foot of the last page, scrawled evidently much later, in an unsteady hand, may be regarded as the exposition of a method. It was very simple, and at the end of that moving appeal to every altruistic sentiment it blazed at you luminous and terrifying, like a flash of lightning in a serene sky: 'Exterminate all the brutes! The curious part was that he had apparently forgotten all about that valuable postcriptum, because, later on, when he in a sense came to himself, he repeatedly entreated me to take good care of 'my pamphlet' (as he called it), as it was sure to have in the future a good influence upon his career. I had full information about all these things, and, as it turned out, I was to have the care of his memory. I've done enough for it to give me the indisputable right to lay it, if I choose, for
an everlasting rest in the dust bin of progress, among all the sweepings, and, figuratively speaking, all the dead cats of civilization. But then, you see, I can't choose. He won't be forgotten. Whatever he was, he was not common. He had the power to charm or frighten rudimentary souls into an aggravated witch dance in his honor; he could also fill the small souls of the pilgrims with misgivings; he had one devoted friend at least, and he had conquered one soul in the world that was neither rudimentary nor tainted with self-seeking. No, I can't forget him; though I am not prepared to affirm the fellow was exactly worth the life we lost in getting to him. I missed my late helmsman awfully; I missed him even while his body was still lying in the pilot house. Perhaps you will think it passing strange, this regret for a savage who was no more account than a grain of sand in a black Sahara. Well, don't you see, he had done something, he had steered; for months I had him at my back-a help-an instrument. It was a kind of partnership. He steered for me I had to look after him. I worried about his deficiencies, and thus a subtle bond had been created, of which I only became aware when it was suddenly broken. And the intimate profundity of that look he gave me, when he received his hurt, remains to this day in my memory-like a claim of distant kinship affirmed in a supreme moment.
"Poor fool! If he had only left that shutter alone. He had no restraint-no restraint-just like Kurtz-a tree swayed by the wind. As soon as I had put on a dry pair of slippers, I dragged him out, after first jerking the spear out of his side, which operation I performed with my eyes shut tight. His heels leaped together over the little doorstep; his shoulders were pressed to my breast; I hugged him from behind desperately. O, he was heavy, heavy;
heavier than any man on earth, I should imagine. Then, without more ado, I tipped him overboard. The current snatched him as though he had been a wisp of grass, and I saw the body roll over twice before I lost sight of it forever. All the pilgrims and the manager were then congregated on the awning deck about the pilot house, chattering at each other like a flock of excited magpies, and there was a scandalized murmur at my heartless promptitude. What they wanted to keep that body hanging about for I can't guess. Embalm it, maybe. But I had also heard another and a very ominous murmur on the deck below. My friends, the woodcutters, were likewise scandalized, and with a better show of reason-though I admit that the reason itself was quite inadmissible. O, quite! I had made up my mind that if my late helmsman was to be eaten, the fishes alone should have him. He had been a very second-rate helmsman while alive, but now he was dead he might become a first-class temptation, and possibly cause some startling trouble; besides I was anxious to take the wheel, the man in pink pajamas showing himself a helpless duffer at the business.
"This I did directly the simple funeral was over. We were going half-speed, keeping right in the middle of the stream, and I listened to the talk about me. They had given up Kurtz, they had given up the station; Kurtz was dead, and the station had been burned -and so on-and so on. The red-haired pilgrim was beside himself with the thought that at least this poor Kurtz had been properly revenged. 'Say! We must have made a glorious slaughter of them in the bush. Eh? What do you think? Say?' He positively danced, the bloodthirsty little gingery beggar. And he had nearly fainted when he saw the wounded man! I could not help saying, 'You made a glorious lot of smoke, anyhow.' I had