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* ED.—Lucy Bethia Walford, née Colquhoun, (1845–1915), novelist and artist.

THERE appears to be a peculiar and perennial fascination, for people of our race at least, about the novel of English life as such.  We Americans feel it with especial force, perhaps, just as we feel the fascination of the actual English life, because there we find people altogether such as ourselves,—our next of spiritual and intellectual kin, speaking our language, informed with our instincts, moved by our own very sentiments and aspirations, and all firmly based upon stable (or seemingly stable) social conditions, surrounded by a mellow and harmonious environment, with a background of landscape as appropriate to the figures that move in it as the austere hills, pure skies, and feathery trees of Perugino to his abstracted saints, or the rose and golden atmosphere of Venice, to ducal fêtes and ecclesiastical processions.  We are hard at work among ourselves just now, expending a huge amount of energy and talent, in trying to prove that we also, in America, have a distinct school of fiction; trying to make finished pictures out of the great mass we undoubtedly have of new and striking, but heterogeneous and unclassified material.  It is of no use; we can but make sketches as yet, and jot down memoirs pour servir.  Crystals do not readily form in a boiling liquid.  Life must be still for an instant, at least, before it can be even successfully photographed.

    But after all, our appetite for English fiction, though seemingly more accountable, is hardly more omnivorous than that of the English themselves.  It is doubtful whether any known method of computation would suffice accurately to estimate the number of three-volume novels which issue from the British press in the course of a single year.  Those which are caught up and reproduced by our shrewd raiders constitute but a small fraction of the whole.  I had once the honor of being conducted by a great scholar through the Bodleian Library; not the noble and charming old reading-room, with its venerable alcoves and beautiful ceiling, but that vast magazine of letters which lies below it.  The Bodleian, as the reader knows very well, is one of two or three great libraries, which claim, for reasons best known to themselves, a copy of every published book.  Accordingly, after following our Savio gentile through broad realms of science and long reaches of history, through the halls appropriated to the immortalities of Greece and Rome, and those others consecrated to that lore of the Orient which he himself has done so much to illuminate and impart, we came upon a sort of terrain vague of seemingly illimitable extent, entirely occupied by the English novels, mostly in three volumes, of the last twenty or thirty years.  What a limbo!  There they swarmed: in triple rows upon the walls, and crowded stacks upon the floors; their backs brave with gold, their sides clad in all the colors of the spectrum, and reflecting amusingly enough the fluctuations of fashion in hue, from the crude blues, arsenic greens, and sickly groseilles of the Second Empire, through a brief period of brazen Bismarck brown, to the dim tints of the aesthetic revival.  But their bravery did but intensify their obscurity.  Titles and names of authors were alike unknown to fame.  This innumerable multitude of fine new books was as the leaves of last year’s forest, or the uncounted dust of what Mr. Fitzgerald calls “yesterday’s ten thousand years.”

    Nevertheless, as the depth of the leaf-mould measures in some sort the vigor of the forest, so this enormously excessive supply of a certain class of light reading is, in itself, indicative of an immense demand.  “The many fail, the few succeed;” therefore where the many succeed, what wonder if an infinite number fail?  It must needs be; so I said to myself at the time, as we traversed those gayly lined catacombs, and so I have often reflected since, that all those three-volume futilities aimed, at least, at depicting the sort of life which is fullest of interest, the dearest, most intime, most desirable of all, to the nations comprising the greatest readers (I do not say the greatest students) in the world.

    And so it is; and the fact is to our race’s credit, upon the whole.  For the truer the art, the more sympathetic and impartial the temper of the would-be dramatist of that English life the very thought of which gives des vapeurs to the ordinary Gaul, the more likely he will be to picture a state of society founded upon veracity and braced by honor, enlivened by humor and by varied intellectual interests, refined by a sincere humanity, and sweetened by an undercurrent of simple and unfeigned religion.  Grief and crime he will treat—since treat of them he must, and extensively, in any complete picture of any known society—with a just seriousness and delicacy; with a certain grave frankness also, since the one thing of which he is constitutionally and utterly incapable is the innuendo.  If this should seem too optimistic a view to the inveterate reader of a certain sensational class of modern English novels, let him reflect how very ephemeral, if intense, for the moment, is the interest of those productions; what need their authors feel, to put them forth in rapid succession; and how truly what we have said applies, in the main, to the work of the greatest artists of all, and to the large majority of the classics of English fiction: to Richardson and Scott and Miss Austen; to Dickens and Thackeray; to George Eliot and John Shorthouse.  Let him compare, but for a moment, the kind and degree of emotion with which he read for the first time, and has often, it may be, re-read, the tale of the fall of Effie Deans, or the fate of Hetty Sorrel, or the flight with her early lover of Barnes Newcome’s unhappy wife, with the complex sentiments which are evidently required of him in view of the ordeal of Richard Feverel and the sacrifice of Miss Brown, and he will see clearly what we mean by insisting upon the plain manliness and moral simplicity of legitimate English fiction of the highest order.  Its cleanliness is fundamental; the sources of its most enduring interest all open, and therefore innocent.

    Just at present, however, we have no concern with the very great masters, except by way of indicating the tone which they have happily given to a very extensive literature.  There are plenty of those of the second and even third order, to whose modest art we are indebted for an incalculable amount of cheerful solace and wholesome amusement.  A little while ago we had occasion to consider the voluminous and varied productions of Mrs. Oliphant [ED.presumably Margaret Oliphant (182897), Scottish novelist and historical writer]; and since then our attention has been directed to the work of two other English female novelists of moderate pretension, but, as it seems to us, of very marked merit, — to Jean Ingelow and the marvellously clever author of Mr. Smith and The Baby’s Grandmother.

    They both belong to what may be called the school of Miss Austen; that is to say, they rely for the interest of their work on the minute study of certain frequent and probable, nay, in some cases, flagrantly commonplace types of character; and on the homely but harmonious accessories, and (with certain exceptions in Miss Ingelow’s case, to be noted hereafter) the natural and unforced combinations, and evolutions, and eventualities of the every-day life of English gentlefolk and their dependents.  They are essentially feminine writers both, seldom taxing their powers with the effort to depict scenes which must, almost of necessity, lie outside the range of a lady’s experience.  When a woman does this successfully,—witness George Eliot’s ale-house and election scenes, and hundreds in the works of that other great George, across the Channel, and many even in those of Mrs. Oliphant,—it constitutes one of the most signal proofs of exceptional power.  When she tries it and does not succeed, she furnishes an equally signal measure of her limitations.  These two show a wise modesty in usually refraining from the attempt; although Mrs. Walford has proved that she can make men of the world talk naturally among themselves, which is, in itself, no small achievement for any woman.

    Miss Ingelow has always seemed to us to suffer, as a novelist, from the obstinate reluctance of the world to accord to any individual the possession of more than one kind of ability.  Do we not all naturally take it as a sort of impertinence or affront,— at the least, as evidence of a very grasping disposition,—when one who has fairly established his claim to the honors of a certain specialty asks for our suffrages in a new direction?  Miss Ingelow was a poet,—a minor poet to be sure, but extremely popular as such.  Perhaps none but minor poets are ever largely popular in their own day.  It must be secretly grievous to a man of the highest poetic aims and sensibilities to have produced poems as widely read and universally admired as Hiawatha or The Light of Asia!  Miss Ingelow, however, had opened a  slender vein of poesy which was all her own.   She had written a few ballads and lyrics which had instantly found their place, and will probably always retain it, in all standard collections of the gems of English song.   She had developed a certain originality of rhyme and rhythm, and had shown a graceful command of a quaint, sometimes a trifle too quaint, English vocabulary.   It was this which secured her the honor of poor Fly-Leaf Calverley’s most delightful raillery, but she shared that honor with the Laureate and Mr. Browning, which might, one would think, have contented anybody.

    But Miss Ingelow was not content.  She tried her hand at children’s tales, and produced, in Mopsa the Fairy, a really charming fantasy, where many of the best qualities of her poetry were found allied to a certain artless charm of transparent and direct prose diction,—where indeed some of her most exquisite poetical bits first appeared, as captions to the chapters, or songs sung by the characters.  Her first attempts at the portrayal of actual English life were less successful.  They may be found in a small volume characteristically entitled Studies for Stories, curious and interesting chiefly as revealing the serious and systematic manner in which Miss Ingelow went to work to win her laurels in prose fiction.  These little sketches are exactly what they profess to be,—studies: conscientious efforts at the delineation of separate figures; attentive observation of salient characteristics, with usually an effort, a little too pronounced and palpable, at deducing a moral from their interaction.  The lady was evidently bent on mastering an untried art, and was not in the least shy about letting the public perceive the humility of her first attempts.  Several years—as many as seven or eight at the least—must have elapsed between the publication of these preliminary sketches and the appearance of Miss Ingelow’s first novel proper, Off the Skelligs.  It was immediately evident that her studies had borne fruit.  The opening chapters of Off the Skelligs possess an entirely fresh and quite extraordinary charm.  The childhood of Tom and Dorothea Graham is less profoundly studied, no doubt, than that of Tom and Maggie Tulliver, but it is in a wholly different genre, and what with the quaintness of the juvenile types portrayed, and the exceptional character of their surroundings, it is hardly less fascinating in its way than that immortal chronicle.  The picture of those two precocious but perfectly simple, babyish, and unconscious mites of humanity—Snap and Missy, the boy of eight and the girl of six—declaiming scenes from Shakespeare in their nursery, and wrangling over the rules of a universal language of their own invention, is altogether captivating.  They had a literary mother, poor things, who was endeavoring to make money by her pen, shut up in the solemn and inviolable privacy of a remote chamber; and we feel a lively sympathy with the superstitious emotions of the nurse, who found “something awful in their play-acting,” and with the consternation of the successive tutors who were engaged to superintend this untimely intellectual development, and of whom the varying degrees of dismay are most amusingly described:—

    “In due time the tutor made his appearance.  He came in with sufficient assurance.  He heard us read—we lisped horribly.  He saw us write—our writing was dreadful.  He seemed a good youth enough.  That he was very young was evident; we had been told that he had just left King’s College, London.  So we treated him with great deference, and whatsoever he did, we admired.  Thus, when he whistled while mending our pens, and when he cut his initials on the wooden desk, we thought these acts proofs of superiority.  He, however, did not seem as well pleased with us, for he had encouraged us to talk that he might discover what we knew, and he shortly began to look hot, uncomfortable, and perplexed.

    “Finally he remarked that it was time to ‘shut up shop,’ asked if there were any rabbits on the common, and affably decreed that we might come out with him and show him about.

    “Off we all set, first to the mill for a dog, then to the heath, when finding our new friend gracious and friendly, we shortly began to chatter, and explain various things to him, and to argue with one another.

    “At last we sat down.  Our tutor sank into silence, whistled softly, and stared from one of us to the other.  Snap, in the joy of his heart, was describing our new language, and—oh, audacious act!—was actually asking him whether he would like to learn it.

    “Not a word did he say, but a sort of alarm began to show itself in his face; and at length, at the end of a sharp argument between us, he started up and exclaimed, ‘I say! there‘s something wrong here—a child of six and talk about a strong preterite!  Good gracious!’

    “‘So I tell her,’ said Snap.  ‘She ought to know better than to expect all our verbs to have strong preterites.’

    “‘Come home, young ones,’ said our tutor.

    “We rose, and he set off at a steady pace; we sneaked behind, aware that something was wrong.  We wondered why he went so fast, for he was evidently tired and often wiped his forehead with his handkerchief.

    “At the cottage door he met my mother.  ‘I hope you have had a pleasant walk,’ she said.

    “’Oh, yes, thank you! at least—not exactly.  It‘s—it ‘s not exactly what I expected.”’

    And he left on the following day.  The successor of this craven youth was not so easily routed.  He was, as it afterward appeared, hopelessly in love with the squire’s daughter, and so had a personal motive for lingering in that forsaken neighborhood.

    “Enter new tutor, introduced by my mother,—a tall cheerful young man, followed by two dogs.  His countenance expressed great amusement, and when mamma had retired, he looked at us both with considerable attention, while his dogs lay panting at his feet with their tongues out.

    “As for me, I was dreadfully abashed, and felt myself to be a kind of impostor, who must carefully conceal what I was, or the new tutor would run away.

    “‘Come here,’ said the new tutor to Snap, ‘and let the little fellow come, too.  Oh, she‘s a girl, I remember.  Well, come here, both of you, and let me see what you are like.  You, number one, I suppose, are at the head of this class?’

    “‘Yes, sir,’ said Snap.

    “‘What ‘s your name, youngster?’

    “‘Tom Graham, sir.’

    “‘Now, you just look at me, will you.  I hear you are a very extraordinary little chap.  I am very extraordinary myself.  I shall never give double lessons when I am angry.’

    “Encouraged by the gay tone of his voice, I looked up, on which he said, ‘And what can you do, little one, hey?’

    “Being for once abashed, I shrank behind Snap, but was pulled out by the tutor’s long arm and set on his knee, while Snap, at his desire, gave an account of his acquirements and of my own.

    “After this, the dogs were sent out, and the new tutor began to examine our books, and speedily won our love by the clear manner in which he explained and illustrated everything.

    “In the course of the morning it came out that I did not know how to work.  ‘Not know how to work, and begin Greek,’ he exclaimed.  ‘Where‘s the nurse?  Fetch her in I’

    “In came nurse, curtseying.

    “‘Why, Mrs. What‘s-your-name,’ said our tutor, ‘I understand that this young lady cannot work.’

    “Nurse, taken by surprise, stammered out some excuse.

    “‘It‘s a very great neglect,’ proceeded our tutor.  ‘Fetch some of your gussets and things and let her begin directly.’

    “‘Now, sir?’ said nurse.

    “‘To be sure!  Set her going and I‘ll superintend.  I can thread a needle with any man.’

    “‘Sir, she hasn’t got a thimble.’

    “‘It is a decided thing that she must have a thimble?’

    “‘Oh, yes, sir, that it is.’

    “Mr. Smith was discomfited by this information, but not for long.  Three days after, as Snap and I were playing on the common, we saw him strolling toward us with a large parcel under his arm.

    “‘Come here, you atom,’ he said to me.  ‘I have something to show you.’  So I came, and crouched beside him, for he had seated himself on the grassy bank, and he had very shortly unfolded to my eyes one of the sweetest sights that can be seen by a little girl.  It was a doll, a large, smiling wax doll.  Beside it, he spread out several pieces of gay print and silk and ribbon.  He had bought them, he said, at the town, and moreover he had bought me a thimble.

    “To ask mamma’s help would have been of little use, and he scorned to ask that of nurse; but, by giving his mind to the task, and making his own independent observations, he designed, by the help of his compasses, several garments for the doll, and these in the course of time he and I made, thereby giving exceeding satisfaction to the servants and family at the mill, who used furtively to watch his proceedings with great amusement.”

    The moral of this piquant scene is not mentioned, but it is happily unmistakable.  To develop consistently, and with interest, the characters of these rather abnormal little beings would seem to be about as difficult a task as a novelist could essay, but Miss Ingelow acquits herself of it, as far as the girl, at least, is concerned, triumphantly.  Tom is a disappointment, but the author’s art cannot be said to fail here, for so he would almost inevitably have been in real life.  His brilliant boyhood had no suite.  His marvelous mental power was accompanied by a corresponding moral weakness, which dragged him, eventually, as far behind his fellows as he had originally started in advance of them; and all that astonishing promise of his days of innocence remained but a rather heart-sickening memory.  The tragedy is not striking and terrible, like that in which the lives of George Eliot’s brother and sister were involved, but how true it is to common experience, and the level tenor of life’s ordinary woe!  Dorothea, on the other hand, becomes a very proper little heroine, without ever losing her originality or her fascination.  In her learned humility and gentle audacity, her fine mixture of spirit and softness, and her almost comical unconsciousness of her own personal charms, she remains always and unmistakably, the fairy-like “Missy” of the strong preterites and the Shakespeare recitals, and one of the oddest and most engaging of all modern ingénues.

    The preservation of her artless charm is the more remarkable, in that it is always she who tells her own and her brother’s story, and that is a nice art indeed which can make a naïf character reflect itself without injury to its own naiveté.  Even Dickens’s Esther Summerson is priggish and self-righteous at times, but this mignonne Dorothea, not at all.

    Miss Ingelow’s poetic and dramatic powers find scope in the really thrilling description of the wreck off the rocks from which the novel takes its name; and properly enough, since its true love-story begins then and there; but it is in depicting the daily life at Wigfield that she first fully makes good her claim to be reckoned among the vivid and successful delineators of English domesticity.  Affluent without ostentation; pure, healthful, and humane; pious without austerity or pretension; courteous and generous and gay; monotonous, yet always mildly amusing,—this is that life of sweet decorum, of sobriety rather than of dullness, in which we do so well to take what seems by moments, even to ourselves, an inexplicable delight.  This is that true beatitude of blameless Philistinism, equally removed from the exotic vices and the barbaric expensiveness, chronicled with so much gusto by Lord Beaconsfield and Ouida, and the fantastic tricks played before high heaven by certain small but highly conscious coteries, important chiefly through their impertinence, and conspicuous by their absurdity.

    Miss Ingelow lingers too long over the pleasant life at Wigfield for the symmetry of her tale.  There is too much about the elder brother’s philanthropies and there are too many of the younger brother’s jokes; yet we speak for ourselves in averring that she never positively fatigues her reader, who is glad when the course of the story returns to that quiet place, after the somewhat forced episode of the heroine’s attempted labors in the London slums.  The weak part of Off the Skelligs is its plot.  That a person—even a very small and self-distrustful person—of Dorothea’s delightful common sense should have engaged herself to the volatile and insignificant, though amusing Valentine, when she had really given her heart to the staid and slightly magnificent Giles is hardly to be credited, and the manner in which the true lovers of the story are involved in the misunderstanding which delays their bliss implies even more than the elaborate imbecility usually displayed in such cases.

    Miss Ingelow appears clearly to have perceived that her first novel had no proper intrigue, and to have resolved, come what might, to remedy this defect in her subsequent efforts.  But first, she could not resist the temptation to develop a little further the fortunes of her first-born characters, for whom she had naturally conceived a lively affection, and whose existence had probably assumed for her a sort of importunate objectivity.  The experiment is always a doubtful one.  It cannot be said either to have failed or to have succeeded completely, in the by no means commonplace story entitled Fated to be Free.  Once more the author’s lively imagination supplies her with a novel and highly picturesque opening to her tale.  She introduces a strange set of characters, living in antiquated fashion in an out-of-the-world nook, who prove, however, to have relations of the most important kind with some whom we have already seen in Off the Skelligs, moving in the broad daylight of every-day life.  She devises a secret, which she is so anxious not to reveal prematurely that she can hardly be said ever to reveal it satisfactorily, and with the proper dramatic effect.  She broaches a moral; and of all gravest questions, the one here involved is the everlastingly staggering question of the relations between necessity and free-will!  This is the way in which our author looks at it, and thus offers her suggestion for the reconcilement of the irreconcilable.  An unalterable destiny gives us liberty of moral choice.  We are subject to fate, but to a fate which makes us to a certain extent free.  Valentine, the light, sparkling, incorrigible Valentine, who would so gladly have yielded himself wholly to the swaying of circumstance, Valentine was forced to take the responsibility of his own course, to say with a categorical yes or no whether he would enter upon his tempting but tainted and virtually forbidden inheritance; and clearly to perceive at the last, just as his vain young life was slipping from him, that it had been so, and that his fate had been to have his fate in his own hands.  The story is a short and rather sad one, though brightened by much unforced light talk, and lively nonsense of young and happy people, but the author’s genuine artistic instinct suffices to make it consistent and shapely, and, in fine, it has its charm.

    By the time, however, that Fated to be Free was concluded, Miss Ingelow had become possessed, or so we divine, by certain definite theories about novel-making which she was impatient more fully to develop.  First of all, the truism that truth is stranger than fiction seems to have impressed itself upon her mind with new and extraordinary force.  She is struck, as most of us have been, at one time or another, by the notion that if we would but remember what we hear, and dared tell what we actually know, it would become apparent that strange coincidences and grotesque combinations do frequently occur even in the most ordinary and conventional lives.  The most probable defect of the novel of comfortable English life is, naturally, a lack of incident; but it is possible to conceive, even within these highly proper bounds, of a situation so strange that incidents in abundance would inevitably grow out of it.  Accordingly, still with the same happy and engaging carelessness about making her experiments in public, Miss Ingelow set herself resolutely, as it would seem, to conjure up situations of this kind, and did actually contrive two, which, so far as we know, had never been thought of before, and proceeded to work them out, like problems, in Sarah de Berenger and Don John.

    The conception of the former is the more entirely novel.  A poor woman, of extraordinary character, the wife of a convict just transported for fourteen years, unexpectedly falls heir to a modest competence; and in order to secure it, for the benefit of her two baby girls, from the possible future claims of their worthless father, she assumes different names for herself and for them, takes the position of their servant, and brings them up as little orphan gentlefolk, of whose income, slender for their false position, although amounting to wealth for their true one, she passes for the scrupulously honest trustee.  A great deal of skill is shown in the contrivance of slight chances, whereby the self-devoted author of this pious fraud is continually enabled to escape detection; and it was clever to conceive of her as aided above all, however unwittingly, by the inveterate folly and freakishness, the long pampered eccentricities, of the wealthy and addle-pated spinster who finally leaves her money to the convict’s children.  The drawback is that the thing was, after all, so outrageous a fraud that our gratification at its success is felt to be uncomfortably immoral.  Moreover the bizarre central figure of Sarah de Berenger, though happily enough imagined, is not well developed.  She just fails of being an entirely credible, and therefore legitimately amusing character.  The latter part of the story, from the time when the mother is forced finally to sever herself from her children and go back to her rehabilitated convict, is very painful, but, to our thinking, very powerful also; especially in the way in which we are forced to share both the poor wife’s dispassionate conviction of the reality of her wretched husband’s repentance, and her invincible repugnance for his person.

    The motif of Don John seems, at first sight, to be more hackneyed; but it is not so, for here we have the time-honored expedient of changing children at nurse treated in an entirely unprecedented, and yet perfectly plausible fashion.  The irresponsible young wet-nurse, whose imagination has been fired, and her light head turned, by an immense consumption of the fiction furnished by a cheap circulating library, makes, in the first instance, in mere wantonness, the experiment of substituting her own child for the one which had been confided—somewhat too unquestioningly—to her care, while a severe epidemic of scarlatina took its long course through the nursery of her employers, the Johnstones.  Again a chain of curious and very creditably devised chances favor—almost necessitate—the maintenance of the deception; and at length it comes about, through the sudden death, by accident, of her accomplice in the dangerous game she had been playing, that the nurse herself is not entirely certain whether it is the Johnstone baby or her own which the family reclaim, while she is herself prostrated by severe illness.  The frightened woman keeps her guilty and yet rather absurd secret for a little while, but then the miserable confession will out, and the unhappy parents who have been the victims of this enraging trick find that they can do no better than pack the unprincipled nurse off to Australia, adopt the other child, and bring up the twin boys exactly alike.  The history of the growth of their characters, and the development of their fates, is a singular and affecting one.  It is the best told of all Miss Ingelow’s tales,—the most direct and dramatic and symmetrical; and, in short, Don John is, to our mind, an exceedingly beautiful little story; a finished and charming specimen of that minor English fiction which is often as good, from a literary point of view, as the best produced elsewhere.

    As in Fated to be Free the author had hovered about the eternally burning questions of fate, free-will, and fore-knowledge absolute, so in the obviously recherchés plots of Sarah de Berenger and Don John, she finds scope for some curious speculations on the potency of education and the mysteries of heredity.  It is a little difficult to make out her exact position; perhaps she has never fully defined it even to herself.  Upon the whole, however, she would seem to make light of ancestral influences, and to intimate that the individual himself and his guardians and teachers in early years are alone responsible for his spiritual development and mundane destiny; thus reiterating her protest against those necessitarian doctrines which are commonly held so dangerously to benumb the moral sense.

    It is to be observed, however, that the novelist who is born, not made, is not apt greatly to preoccupy himself with the illustration of points like these, or, other than incidentally, with any points whatever.  Nor are we wont to perceive with him, as plainly as we cannot help doing in Miss Ingelow’s case, the growth of the design and the machinery of construction.  The other novelist whose name we have associated, and whose work we have been interested to compare with hers has, above all others, the merits of spontaneity and unconsciousness.  The opening chapters, indeed, of the first of Mrs. Walford’s works which created any sensation suggested the idea that she had been a very devout disciple of Miss Austen.  Probably she had, but she soon proved herself a variante and not a copy.  Mr. Smith: A part of his Life had a flavor and a humor entirely its own.  The artless vulgarities of the Hunt family could hardly have been more carefully studied or more faithfully represented by the creator of the immortal Mrs. Bennett herself; but in the conception of her hero,—the plain, modest, pious, instinctively chivalrous, and inevitably honorable English gentleman,—with the simplicity of his love, and the perfectly unconscious disinterestedness of his motives, Mrs. Walford gives proof of higher sympathies and deeper estimates of human nature than were often betrayed—whatever may have been felt—by her accomplished model.  Lord Sauffrenden is another delightful type, not in the least romantic, or ideal, except in the fine touch, at once light and firm, with which he is drawn; and his wife is another; while the story of the vain, yet not ignoble heroine, and of her moral awakening and virtual regeneration by the brief, humble, wistful passage through her life of one thoroughly good man, is exactly as well told as possible.  Indeed, excellent as is the faculty of characterization shown in Mr. Smith, and racy the humor, the most remarkable thing about the little book is a certain sober unity and masterly simplicity of method,—a resolute subordination of all details to the general design.  In this respect it reminds us, even more than of Jane Austen, of that small masterpiece of George Eliot’s, Silas Marner, and is really, in the best sense of the term, what people mean, or ought to mean, when they call a tale artistic.

    Apparently, however, it is not always possible for Mrs. Walford to exercise over herself the degree of restraint which had been requisite to render the unambitious narrative of a part of Mr. Smith’s life so symmetrical and so satisfying.  The immediate successor of that tale, Pauline, was in no respect a repetition.  For one thing, it abounded in scenery.  Much is made, and skillfully, in the first and last parts of the story, of the local color of the Hebrides; whereas Mr. Smith had been as innocent of landscape as Emma, or any other novel of the pre-Wordsworthian school.  Moreover, there was an almost passionate intensity in certain portions of Pauline, suggesting another, and perhaps higher order of power than any which the earlier book had revealed, one touching upon the veritably tragic.  Still, it was unequal in its different parts, and imperfectly sustained.  This book certainly had a moral.  A good woman is not to marry a bad man with the vain hope of making him better.  Such devotion is not useless, merely, but sinful.  On this austere text, the author, in the person of her saint-like yet perfectly simple and natural heroine, not so much preaches a homily as makes a plea,—a tearful, regretful, yet inflexible plea.  We recall few passages in modern fiction more seriously beautiful than the last scene vouchsafed to us of her pensive story, in which she receives the tidings—told carelessly and incidentally—of the violent end of the man she loved.  She is again in her beloved Hebrides, where she had known him first.  A terrible summer tempest has just swept over the islands.  The devoted pastor of one or two solitary parishes, who had gone in a boat to visit a dying parishioner, had been drowned in the discharge of his humble duty, and Pauline is writing to a friend of the event which had deeply moved herself and all the countryside.  “He died as he had lived,” she was writing, and then she paused and lapsed into revery,—

    “What a grand death to die!  No pain,—no weary waiting for the end!  He fell in his harness fighting the good fight. . . . How could I ever have thought him thrown away here?  Oh, what a good man has gone to his rest!  How poor, how small we grow beside such giants!  We fritter away the lives that might all, with God’s help, be great and glorious as his was.  We clog ourselves, we forget that

‘Pilgrims who travel in the narrow way
 Should go as little cumbered as they may.‘

    “‘Life, life, what is life?’ murmured Pauline, gazing into the fathomless heavens above with dreamy eye.  ‘A few winters and summers, a few pains and pleasures, a single love.  Ah me!  What will be the end of my love?  Am I preparing to go as little cumbered as I may, or am I adding a weight to pull me down?  Not yet, can I know“‘—

    Her brother and his gay fiancée break in upon her here, with abundance of light chatter and news of the day.  Death and distant calamity can cast no more than a passing shadow over their exuberant spirits.

    “‘Were there any letters?’ asks Pauline at last, interrupting their badinage.

    “‘No, I don’t think so.  I had one.  I say!  Poor Blundell has broken his neck riding a steeple-chase in Paris last Sunday!’

    “The ink was not dry upon the sheet, under Pauline’s hand.  Over the words, He died as he had lived, her fingers hung frozen, rigid, numbed.

    “‘Isn’t it strange,’ said Tom, still standing in the doorway, ‘that we should have had the news here!  Do you remember‘—he heard Elsie calling him, and went away caressing a puppy he held in his arms.

    “The paper rustled in the draught of air, for he had left the door open.  A dog bayed on the hillside, and a raven croaked overhead.  The room felt cold.  The sunshine crept away from it.  Colder still sat that motionless figure bending over the desk.  A step outside—she staggered to her feet, barred the door, and had her hour of agony unseen.  The end was this.”

    This is admirable in its restraint.  There is no parade of renunciation and consecration.  The three words “a single love,” written before the blow fell, contain the whole sequel of the story, and tell as plainly as pages of sentiment could have done that Pauline would be henceforth a nun without a livery or a cloister, and all that was left of her life, an unuttered prayer for the dead.

    From the high finish of simple Mr. Smith, and the fervor of emotion which she had occasionally touched in Pauline, Mrs. Walford fell suddenly, inexplicably, in her two succeeding efforts to the grade of a third or fourth rate story-teller, the triviality of whose theme is not redeemed by any very conspicuous excellence of treatment.  There were amusing scenes; there was usually the charm which seems inalienable with this otherwise uncertain writer, of absolutely natural conversation; but Cousins was a book to be forgotten as soon as read, and Troublesome Daughters, meandering, as it did, through three volumes of feeble improbabilities, flatly belied the possible humor of its theme, and almost sufficed to bury in oblivion the memory even of Mr. Smith.  “How soon that writer wrote herself out!” was what people thought, if they thought of Mrs. Walford at all, amid the bewildering rush of new candidates for their favor.  So fully was the fact of her fiasco accepted that when Blackwood began publishing, some years later, an anonymous serial, with the piquant title of The Baby’s Grandmother, and the story, which had opened well, was developed with much spirit and went on steadily deepening in interest, among the speculations which began to be rife as to its authorship, not one, so far as we remember, pointed in the right direction.  The systematic and unremitting novel-reader who neglects not the meanest serial, and receives with noble impartiality all that Tauchnitz sends, while thankful for the oases afforded by The Baby’s Grandmother in the desert of his life, perceived no more than a phantasmal resemblance to some manner previously known, in the free and graceful drawing of the figures of Matilda and Letta, and the amusing incongruity of their relation as mother and child.  Lady Matilda, bright, buoyant, exuberant in beauty and seemingly immortal in youth; a girl still, to all intents and purposes, at thirty-seven, although a widow; and, oh, exquisite jest of indisputable fact, a grandmother!—an unaffected girl, too, with all a handsome girl’s involuntary fascination, plus a certain tranquil and seductive splendor of perfectly mature womanhood: and side by side with this radiant mamma, her absolutely insignificant child, plain, dull, congenitally old, but insufferably self-conceited withal, resolved to be everywhere conspicuous, delivering herself in season and out of season of pages of prim platitudes, in the style so well described by the indefensible word burbling, and reported for the reader’s benefit, as it were, stenographically, with a demure faithfulness which is in itself diverting!  It seems odd, but quite natural, under the circumstances, that the godfather of the important first-born of this dismal but importunately lifelike Lotta should fall in love over the christening font with the baby’s grandmother, whose home is with two bachelor brothers, both of whom adore her, and her affectionate relations with whom are charmingly depicted.  Lord Overton the elder, the head of the family, is another simple, kindly, spotless English gentleman, of the Sauffrenden type; the younger, the Hon. Teddy, is a past reprobate, but a very sweet fellow, and so plainly an intellectual innocent that it is impossible to be severe upon him.  The hero of the book, James Challoner, is a very real but very doubtfully agreeable person.  A certain vague distrust we are made to feel of him from the very first is most cleverly imparted and managed.  He reveals, however, the somewhat rare faculty of loving both greatly and tenderly; and when we are told by the author that he had himself been loved by many women before Lady Matilda’s day dawned for him, we believe it readily, although doubting much whether any but her gracious and spirited self would have “had a good time” as his wife.  All might have gone well, however, if the vanquished hero had not been already, unbeknown to his new friends, affianced and on the eve of marriage with a buxom heiress of no particular charms and an inferior social position; and it is when the scene of the story changes from the easy and high-bred home-life of Overton to the great manufacturing town where the Tufuells, the parents of Challoner’s betrothed, live and luxuriate in their honestly gotten gains, that Mrs. Walford’s truly marvelous power of relentless realization is first fully revealed.

    The heavy father and the fat, fond mother; the loud, laughing, aggressively “stylish” daughters, of whom the bride to be is one, are successively impaled like so many entomological specimens, and exhibited for us; and all the dreadful diversions of their prosperous and ambitious monde, depicted in detail.  There is a chapter in which the arrangements are discussed for what was to be the great event of their “season,” a fancy ball, from which we would gladly quote were it not a shame to divide so perfect a chrysolite.  Nothing is extenuated here, and nothing overdone.  In its way, it is faultless.

    Good people are the Tufnells,—blameless and even bountiful, honorable also in instinct and practice, and full to overflowing of a certain demonstrative humanity; but how, even while striving to be impartial, does the author betray her detestation of them and their environment!  But for this bitter grain of what we are fairly constrained to call personal despite, her searching realism might almost be compared with that of that transcendent, but as yet barely recognized genius, the Russian novelist Tolstoy, the colossal author of La Guerre et La Paix.  Where he, however, is passionless, she is merciless.  There was a trace, in her treatment of the Hunts in Mr. Smith, and of the Jermyns in Pauline, of the same fastidious aversion to the subjects of her unflinching study,—a something so nearly vicious in her unsparing accuracy, as quite to excite our sympathy for its victims.  It is as if she had a sacred vendetta to accomplish on virtuous vulgarity.  Excellent people?  Oh, heavens, yes! but odiously free and easy in their good-nature; purse-proud, yet with an uneasy jealousy of rank; their life showy, but inelegant and unlovely; their speech a misery to ears polite.  What were Challoner’s emotions likely to have been, when he found himself first hero and chief favorite in the Tufnell family-circle, and bound in all honor so to remain?

    Not very much is said by the author on this head.  She leaves the facts to speak for themselves, which they do, as we have said, pitilessly.  To give the particulars of Challoner’s treachery would be to forestall the interest of some who, not having yet read the story, may possibly be moved to do so, on our recommendation.  Elements of tragedy are in the tale, and they are hardly less ably handled than the others.  Still, as those of comedy predominate upon the whole, it is appropriate that the book should end “well” in the popular sense of the term.  It need not, however, and ought not to have ended gleefully.  The final union of those impassioned middle-aged lovers cost two lives, and, on the part of the heroine, at least, a terrible process of disillusion.  They might have accepted one another after all this, and lived in what passes for content; but that they should have done so without many a sad and bitter reflection, wholly without remorse, in fact, but rather in the spirit of childish and almost silly delight which pervades the last chapter, is a supposition inconsistent with the alleged depth of their natures, and even belies the scope of their intelligence.  Mrs. Walford is never secure when she lets herself go.  She should be always cool, collected, moderate, watchful, as in Mr. Smith.  The moment she yields unreservedly to emotion, even her own private and natural emotion toward her own characters, her art breaks down.  It is a curious fact, moreover, that the moral of The Baby’s Grandmother, so far as it has one, precisely contradicts the moral of Pauline.  Lady Matilda takes Challoner in the end, at the earnest insistence of the sensible and sympathetic Overton, confessedly to save him from going utterly to the bad.

    It would appear, therefore, that this highly endowed but unequal writer has not even yet acquired the full command of her really noble powers.  While Miss Ingelow furnishes an instance of a slender and somewhat artificial talent, carefully cherished and scientifically developed to its utmost capacity, in Mrs. Walford we observe the irregular action of a larger power, of which the possessor herself appears but fitfully conscious, but of which the perfect exercise would place her name very near the head of the list of female writers of fiction now living.






Those who enjoyed the first offerings of Jean Ingelow will do well to reserve their judgment if the present volume appears to lack the originality and grace that they once admired.  As Susan Coolidge says in her verses of greetings:

"Now, further on in womanhood,
     With trainèd voice and ripened art,
 She gently stands where once she stood,
     And sings from out her deeper heart."

    The largest and most ambitious poem is "Rosamund," a historical picture of the coming of the Spanish Armada, realistically treated, into which the story of a Spanish prisoner who falls in love with Rosamund, his English sick nurse, is woven.  Jean Ingelow, however, is not at her best, either where lovemaking is the point, or where it is necessary to portray heroes.  We get her best in much larger amount in a desultory ramble like "Speranza," where one comes upon such descriptions of the landscape of the richer parts of cultivated England as this:

"All in deep dew the satisfied deep grass.
     Looking straight upward, stars itself with white;
 Like ships in heaven full-sailed do long clouds pass
     Slowly o'er this great peace, and wide, sweet light,
 While through moist meads draws down yon rushy mere—
 Influent waters, sobbing, shining, clear.

"Almost is rapture poignant; somewhat ails
     The heart and mocks the morning; somewhat sighs,
 And those sweets foreigners the nightingales
     Made restless with their love, pay down its price.
 Even the pain: then all the story unfold
 Over and over again—yet 'tis not told."

    "Speranza" has for its purpose the religious uplifting of the soul; "Perdita" speaks for a woman who has become a wife without marriage; "The Bell Bird" is a long poem with allusions to every part of the world and much Oriental imagery, but difficult to follow.  When Jean Ingelow leaves her simple lyric style and attempts the dramatic or metaphysical it must be confessed that she makes a poor showing.  The best poem is a little reflective one cast in a simple stanza with a pleasant cadence and called "Wendover":

"Uplifted and lone, set apart with our love
     On the crest of a soft swelling down,
 Cloud shadows that meet on the grass at our feet
     Sail on above Wendover town."

    Artless verse which has the art of conveying the small hopes and fears of children suits Jean Ingelow well: some of this kind will be found only second in excellence to the lyrical trifles with their clean sweetness and musical lilt.



The Fortnightly Review
Vol. 71, No. 287, March 1, 1899



Mabel C. Birchenough.

    In the summer of 1897, two remarkable women writers slipped away, quietly, and with as little observation as either would have desired, barely noticed, indeed, during the absorbing excitements of the Jubilee.  The public had delighted to honour each in her day, but it had already passed into the stage of half-forgetting, for it has much to do in following after all the new gods of the last few years.

    Yet Mrs. Oliphant and Jean Ingelow have never really faded out before all the newer reputations, as is the fate of those who only satisfy a momentary need, or a passing taste of their generation.  They both wrote voluminously, and much of their work has already dropped away, because only a small proportion of it reached their high water-mark of achievement.  But how good that is, and what a distinction it has!  How delightful it is to come back to it when one takes up the old volumes again and snatches a respite from the flood of current fiction and poetry!

    They were practically the last of the Victorian old guard, and with them vanished the remains of the older Victorian literary tradition.  That tradition is different indeed to some of recent growth—they grow very fast nowadays.  How unabashed and outspoken was the fullness of its emotions!  What an uproar of domestic sentiments filled the literary world thirty-five or forty years ago!  They resound even in its splendid poetry, they were rampant in the novels of the generation.  Obvious and perfectly simple sentiments cannot go abroad naked and unashamed nowadays; it would shock us all.  We generally take them out in masquerade dress, always suitably disguised.  Their day of effulgence has met with the inevitable reaction, and each in turn is doubtless necessary and wholesome.

    In many respects Mrs. Oliphant is hardly representative of her own generation, except in her lavishness of material and in her wealth of excellent situations, which continued up to the end.  The play of her humour is too incessant for early Victorian days, and it has the sharp edge to it, a genuine touch of that disillusion which has been so strenuously sought and stridently proclaimed of late years.  But if disillusioned, she was not rebellious; she believes no more in the breaking of contracts than in the divine nature of human institutions.  To complain is silly, and also unbecoming in a gentlewoman, for Mrs. Oliphant, beyond all other novelists of her day, or indeed ours, possessed the secret of making heroines who are perfectly well-bred, who have the grand air without knowing it, as their natural heritage.

    Her resignation, their resignation, to things as they find them, consists in accepting the situation with a good grace, but with a charmingly cynical smile and shrug of the shoulders.

    The attitude of Jean Ingelow, on the other hand, is far more characteristic of her generation.  There is no questioning at all, no trace of mockery in her acceptance of the established order in all things, religious and social, no matter how hardly the institution may press in individual cases.  Perhaps the danger of not being allowed its rightful and permanent place, which threatens the small quantity of quite admirable poetry to be found amongst her writings, may partly arise from this wholesale submission; there is a tameness about it not likely to find much favour with the clamorous self-assertion of her successors to-day.  Also Calverley’s brilliant parodies, bringing into cruel and ludicrous prominence all the exuberant weaknesses of her least artistic moments, went far, no doubt, towards killing her popularity with the rising generation of the literary and critical classes.

    With the great uncritical, sentimental democracy, Miss Ingelow is found to be still a favourite—another reproach, of course!  Yet it should be remembered that if her volumes are to be seen on best parlour tables here, and especially in America, in company with these who shun reviews, she shares this doubtful position in common with another Lincolnshire poet, who yet remains the greatest poetic artist of our age.  By this I do not mean to suggest any follies of comparison.  I would only urge that popularity with the masses does not, in itself, constitute sufficient reason for sentence without hearing.

    Not to read Jean Ingelow is to miss something from our store, a small quantity it may be, a few grains of gold sifted from a sand-heap, but genuine gold for all that.  And what are they?  First, a poem without blemish, of complete and sustained art within its limits, of poignant pathos, of dramatic intensity, of perfect tunefulness,—I mean, of course, “The High Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire;” then two or three songs of a quality rare amongst modern song-writers, showing a complete understanding of the limits and nature of the medium chosen not often found; and many fragments to be gleaned from many pages, flashes of vivid impressionism, the heart of a summer day, a vision of colour, the sound of the tide on the shore, poetic and melodious to a haunting degree, by no means to be spared from our anthology.  Is it possible to discard altogether a poet who may, at any moment, kindle from sheer dullness (but always tuneful dullness) into surprises such as—

And there hung a mist of bluebells on the slope and down the dell.

or this—

                             . . . . the sultry air
Went out to sea and puffed the sails of ships
With thymy wafts, the breath of trodden grass.

or this, for its Imitative sound—

And leisurely the opal murmuring sea
Breaks on her yellow sands.

Not to speak of the better-known, magic-lantern-like flashes of high summer in England, from “Divided”—

An empty sky, a world of heather,
    Purple of foxglove, yellow of broom;
We two among them wading together,
    Shaking out honey, treading perfume.

Crowds of bees are busy with clover,
    Crowds of grasshoppers skip at our feet,
Crowds of larks at their matins hang over,
    Thanking the Lord for a life so sweet.

    “Seven Times Three” from “Songs of Seven” may be added to the number of her complete lyrics, with its admirable effect of fragrant darkness, and the newly awakened girlish heart, impatient at last to give the answer withheld till now—

I leaned out of window, I smelt the
                white clover,
    Dark, dark was the garden, I saw
                not the gate;
“Now if there be footsteps, he comes,
                my one lover—
    Hush, nightingale, hush!   O sweet
                nightingale, wait
            Till I listen and hear
        If a step draweth near,
            For my love, he is late!”

    Whether it is the dying fall of its music, or the charm of its atmosphere, the passionate innocence of a young girl’s love, there is much to remind one, and by no means unworthily, of “Maud,” in these verses.

    It is with the terribly competent and immensely occupied people who are growing up now, that one would urge Jean Ingelow’s cause to-day.  That she is sentimental, or rather that the motifs of her poems often belong to the stereotyped order of romance which prevailed in her younger days, and that her artistic perceptions too often failed her, do not constitute reasons for not reading her at her best, for not reading her at all.  Very few writers produce much first rate work; to have produced any is a claim to the remembrance of all who care for literature.  Jean Ingelow wrote a handful of poems which aroused the rare, but always warm and generous, appreciation of the greatest artist of her day.  Lord Tennyson, indeed, sought her out personally, as did also the other rare singers and writers who have followed one another out of the world so fast of late years.

    The present age is not so rich in poets that any can be spared out of that former abundance.  With all its effectiveness, its extraordinary sense of power, and the breadth of its interests, perhaps for these very reasons, the end of the century does not at present make for poetry, not, at any rate, for such poetry as came from the Victorian old guard.  Their successors are yet to be found; their cries are probably resounding within nursery walls at present, where, for the sake of the new generation, we wish them well with all our hearts.

    In speaking of Miss Ingelow’s work one feels less than the usual temptation to yield to that common, but I always think misplaced, curiosity, to dwell on such irrelevant matters as the private life and domestic history of the writer.  For, after all, what do the industry of the biographers and the audacity of interviewers profit us with regard to those whose achievements given to all the world alone matter to us?  Do we enjoy Shelley’s poems any the more because it is difficult now to chew the cud of them without certain intrusive, and generally hateful reminiscences recurring to the mind of his follies and extravagances in daily life, or still worse, of the callous and cruel egotism towards individual women, which was the practical outcome of “having loved Antigone” in some other phase of existence?

    Do Wordsworth’s most splendid lines gain anything from our knowledge that he was admirable in his domestic relations, and an intolerably egotistical talker?  Even with regard to those whom we have actually known—but this is too dangerous ground—well, it is surely no disloyalty to the poets to wish to enjoy the best fruits of their great imaginations undisturbed by the encumbering irrelevances of their daily habits, moods and dyspepsias.  Heaven knows they have at least as good a right to them as the rest of us, but between the prophets and the public there should surely be some kindly refraction of light, rather than that fierce glare of Röntgen ray penetrating power which modern biographers and interviewers love to apply to the hapless great ones.  Thank heaven, Providence has seen fit to hide all that was perishable of Shakespeare so securely from our sight!

    These remarks have little enough application to the quiet home-life of unselfish devotion to duty and contented beneficence, led by the poet who was so little anxious to claim the recognized privileges of her order.  They accord, however, exactly with her wishes and her practice.  She shrank from every sort of publicity, with all the traditional horror of it in which the gentlewomen of a former age were nurtured; it was fostered in her case by temperament as well.  It is affirmed that she eluded the enterprising interviewer, even to the end, with a persistence equal to his own.  She was always ready to give the soundest and wisest advice to the multitude of young persons with literary ambitions who applied to her, but she drew a determined line between that which she wrought for to the world and her private life, her own personality in fact such an attitude is sufficiently unusual nowadays to call for some consideration, even if the value of her work entitled her to less.

    But the curious reader can still gather all that it concerns him to know about the personality of this writer in the true and legitimate way, by the unconscious self-revelation of her poems and prose writings.  This secondary study, always fascinating to those possessed—as most women are—of the analytical passion, is extremely simple in the present instance.

    Almost every page bears the tokens of that wonderful single-heartedness, that joyous simplicity of faith and resignation which her friends knew.  The large charity, the complete sympathy, the quiet distinction, and, in her novels, the delightful humour, speak from her writings almost as plainly as they did in life to those who loved her with an affection which it was her secret to call forth.

    As a poet, Jean Ingelow is, above all things, the singer of the English landscape.  From her earliest childhood and its roamings over the wide Lincolnshire flats, she drank in those impressions of wold and pasture and sea-shore, which she was to flash, with such vivid effect, from her writings in later life.  She was steeped in the subtle effects of light and shade over wide, green country, in the sounds of sea and wind.  She learnt early to watch with delight the faint heralds of changing seasons in the copses, the ways of the bird people, the springing of the unmarked multitude of flowers in meadow grasses.  This sheer delight in nature for its own sake, and not merely as background for the human drama, is one of the distinctive characteristics of our race.  In no English writer it more manifest than in Jean Ingelow.  Some lovely, fleeting effect of springtide, or a summer revel of birds and flowers, will rise to her remembrance with a kind of intoxication at all sorts of unexpected moments, lifting her sometimes to the true lyric level, and sometimes, unfortunately, but kindling that fatal exuberance of word and epithet which Calverley seized and gibbeted.  The rambling, and, to tell the truth, not interesting, stories in verse, of which she wrote many, are yet wont to be happily enlivened by remembered sights, such as this one of an inland plain:—

Half-drowned in sleepy peace it lay,
    As satiate with the boundless play
Of sunshine in its green array.
. . . .The grassy sea, where clouds might find
A place to bring their shadows to.
            From “Scholar and Carpenter.”

And again, this, from the same poem:

Adown the rock small runlets wept,
And reckless ivies leaned and crept,
And little spots of sunshine slept,
    On its brown steeps and made them fair;
And broader beams athwart it shot,
Where martins cheeped in many a knot,
For they had ta’en a sandy plot
    And scooped another Petra there.

    In “The Four Bridges,” one of those early Victorian romances of very youthful love and woe, so popular in the fifties and sixties, we suddenly light upon a childish reminiscence, a bird-drama full of intimate knowledge and observation.  Miss Ingelow’s work contains no happier and more effective episodes than those taken from bird-life:—

To yonder copse by moonlight I did go,
    In luxury of mischief, half afraid,
To steal the great owl’s brood, her downy snow,
    Her screaming imps to seize, the while she preyed
With yellow, cruel eyes, whose radiant glare,
Fell with their mother-rage, I might not dare.

Panting I lay till her great, fanning wings,
    Troubled the dreams of rock-doves slumbering nigh,
And she and her fierce mate, like evil things,
    Skimmed the dusk fields; then rising with a cry
Of fear, joy, triumph, darted on my prey
And tore it from the nest and fled away.

    Of yet higher quality is the tragedy of the raven mother robbed of her young, from the “Songs on the Voices of Birds,” which are full of the poetry of the natural world:—

The polished tide with scarce a hint of blue,
    Washed in the bight; above with angry moan
A raven that was robbed, sat up in view,
    Croaking and crying on a ledge alone.

Stand on thy nest, spread out thy fateful wings,
    With sullen, hungry love bemoan thy brood!
For boys have wrung their necks, those imp-like things
    Whose beaks dripped crimson daily at their food.

*                 *                 *                 *                 *

Thou madest many childless for their sake,
    And picked out many eyes that loved the light.
Cry, thou black prophetess! sit up, awake,
    Forebode; and ban them through the desolate night!

Quotation mutilates here a poem which maintains its quality throughout.

    Miss Ingelow’s success, which was very great, came to her suddenly, and as a happy surprise after long waiting and working.  It was in 1863 that she found herself famous after the publication of a volume of poems containing, amongst others, “The High Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire” (the finest and most finished piece of work that she ever achieved), “Divided,” “Songs of Seven,” and that admirable song, “When Sparrows Build,” inserted for no apparent reason in a desultory conversation between rustics, called “Supper at the Mill.”

    For many years before this, from the days, indeed, of those childish roamings over the Lincolnshire fens, she had written constantly, both in prose and verse, but had met with no recognition from the public.

    In Lord Tennyson’s life of his father, a letter written by the poet in 1849 makes mention of a volume of verse by Jean Ingelow, which had been submitted to him by a relative of hers.  He evidently discerned much promise, along with “certain things (in the way of rhymes) which I count abominations. . .  If the book were not so good, I would not care for these specks.”

    One gathers, however, from what remains of her earlier efforts, that it needed the insight and the generosity of the greater poet to discover all the latent quality and promise of the younger writer’s work at this time.  She served a long apprenticeship before attaining to the high level of poetic art reached in the volume which made her reputation.

    Many English people, in especial many English women, mature with strange slowness.  Their gifts, whether those of character or of mind, take long forging before they are fully tempered for service.  In this, as in so many other respects, Jean Ingelow was the true daughter of her race.  Born in 1820, it was forty-three years before she touched high watermark and won success; but now it came to her in abundant measure.  Two of the most finely discriminating critics of the day, poets themselves, the late Professor F. T. Palgrave, and Mr. Gerald Massey, made haste to give public welcome to the new poet.  I have before me now a brown and tattered copy of the Athenæum, dated July 25th, 1863, in which the delightful discovery is made known to the world.  Praises so warm and generous, coming from those high authorities, must have gladdened the heart of the worker who had been patient for so long.  Another most happy and valued result of her poetical achievements was that many friendships were formed and retained through life with those whose own work forms part of our national heritage.  This cordial seeking-out of the new singer, who claimed so little for herself, by the most honoured of the poets and writers, brought more solid pleasure and real, lasting satisfaction to a spirit so little endowed with vanity than the Immense tide of popularity which soon swept her name and works all over the English-speaking countries.

    It is impossible not to linger for a moment over the finest gem of all her literary performance, I mean, of course, “The High Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire.”  How truly the ominous note is struck at once, calling up that vague terror of an unknown danger drawing swiftly near, which the old grandmother recalls as she tells the story of the terrible tidal wave which suddenly swept up the bed of the river Lindis (in 1571), overwhelming the peaceful pasture lands with death and disaster. The warning is carried with the ringing of “The Brides of Enderby” from the belfry-tower of Boston Church, a signal of danger to those scattered about below over the flat land:—

Men said it was a stolen tyde—
    The Lord that sent it, He knows all;
But in mine ears doth still abide
    The message that the bells let fall;
And there was nought of strange, beside
The flights of mews and peewits pied
    By millions crouched on the old sea wall.

    Unaware of the peril, her “sonne’s faire wife, Elizabeth,” wanders away with their children to call in the cows with her accustomed milking song, and one of most melodious quality it is!  But even while some were still tranquilly speculating

                Why this thing should be,
What danger lowers by land or sea?

that the warning tune should be rung,

I looked without, and lo! my sonne
    Came riding downe with might and main;
He raised a shout as he drew on,
    Till all the welkin rang again,
“Elizabeth!   Elizabeth!”
(A sweeter woman ne’er drew breath
Than my sonne’s wife Elizabeth.)

    With what splendid movement the great wave presently sweeps through two or three verses.

And rearing Lindis backward pressed,
    Shook all her trembling bankes amaine;
Then madly at the eygre’s breast
    Flung uppe her weitering walls again.
Then bankes came downe with ruin and rout—
Then beaten foam flew round about—
Then all the mighty floods were out.

So farre, so fast the eygre drave,
    The heart had hardly time to beat
Before a shallow, seething wave
    Sobbed in the grasses at oure feet;
The feet had hardly time to flee
Before it brake against the knee,
And all the world was in the sea.

    After the stress and terror of that night follows the anguish of loss, then despair finally passes with a gradual, most skilful calming of the metre into the gentler sadness of memory.  It is no surprise to learn that this poem aroused the special admiration of the late Poet-Laureate.

    “Divided,” which has been quoted from, called forth more approval on its first appearance than the taste of to-day would perhaps incline to bestow upon it.  It treats of the gradual parting of two lovers by the widening stream of life and circumstances, after a fashion which may appear somewhat too obvious.  Fashion in sentiment changes quickly, and carries a curious revulsion in its transformations.  But apart from its subject the poem is valuable for some of those vivid pictorial effects which make one realize that Miss Ingelow was a fine impressionist long before that convenient term had kindly emerged for our necessities.

    Another volume of poems followed not long after the first, called by the name of a long story in blank verse, concerning Noah's mission and the building of the ark.  There are only a few poets ever really able to wield that metre and lift it from the stone anvil, where it sticks like King Arthur’s sword until seized by the right hand.  It was not the medium suited to Miss Ingelow’s temperament, and though her ear was too true to maltreat it, as so often happens, yet it did not attain to any of its proper strength and majesty.  This same volume, however, contains a song of extreme grace and finish, called “Sailing beyond Seas,” one which few later writers have equalled for form and symmetry.  It loses nothing, rather gains in fact, by being divorced from the music which snatched and wedded it soon after it appeared, and resounded through thousands of drawing-rooms all over the country.  The tuneful and charming “Songs on the Voices of Birds” already alluded to are also to be found here, amongst other good things.

    It has been truly said of Miss Ingelow that she remained untouched by “the strange disease of modern life.”  A perfectly simple and comprehensive faith breathes through all her writings, both in prose and verse, her novels are penetrated by a rare Christianity, as generous and tolerant as it is whole-hearted and unselfconscious.  She accepts the social order as it stands with the same confident tranquillity.  In all her works one finds no traces of mental stress or storm, of the problems of belief, or of those other problems, the stalking-horses of the “new" novelists, or their scourges used to rouse a public, somewhat unwilling, and for the most part apathetic.  Mercifully the “new” novelist is already dropping into the legendary past, along with the millinery of the season before last.  Jean Ingelow’s theology and social ethics are scarcely more démodés.

    But it was impossible for one so keenly alive to all the influences of the natural world not to feel deeply the universal presence of that mystery of things which creeds and dogmas have not yet explained.  What creature of sensitive imagination is not almost painfully aware at times of those yearnings of unknown kinship with the dumb green world, of the hauntings of its forgotten language, or of the dread and awe of its irresistible forces moving on their way serenely cruel, wholly indifferent to the human struggle?  Such feelings turn to a kind of pantheism with many people, and especially with the poets; not so in the case of Miss Ingelow.  Intensely alive to every impression, shaken and awed at moments by the inevitable dread of our weakness, she tends to no identification of force with its manifestations.  Her scheme of things, the creator and the created, remains definite, distinct, perfectly anthropomorphic.  The “Song of the Middle Watch” seizes one of these weird moments of half-realization with admirable effect, many people can testify to the truth of the second line:—

I woke in the night, and the darkness
            was heavy and deep;
    I had known it was dark in my sleep,
    And I rose and looked out,
And the fathomless vault was all
            sparkling, set thick round about
With the ancient inhabiters silent,
            and wheeling too far
For man’s heart, like a voyaging
            frigate, to sail . . .

I look on you trembling, and think,
           in the dark with my soul,
“How small is our place ‘mid the kingdoms
            and nations of God!
    These are greater than we every one.”
And there falls a great fear, and a
            dread cometh over, that cries,
    O my hope!   Is there any mistake?
Did He speak?   Did I hear?   Did I
            listen aright if He spake?
Did I answer Him duly?   For surely
            I now am awake,
    If never I woke until now.”
And a light, baffling wind, that leads
            nowhither, plays on my brow.

But reassurance follows swiftly on the heels of the dread, a cry for comfort is answered by the “still voice:"—

I had heard it erewhile, but the
            noises of life are so loud,
That sometimes it dies in the cry of
            the street and the crowd. . . .

    O elder than reason, and stronger
            than will!
    A voice when the dark world is still:
Whence cometh it?   Father Immortal,
            Thou knowest! and we—
We are sure of that witness, that
            sense which is sent us of Thee;
For it moves and it yearns in its fellowship
            mighty and dread, . . .
    On its tongues are the laws of our life
    And it counts up the times of the dead.

    The childlike heart and the simple faith quickly find their own refuge from the pain of contemplating the incomprehensible, and the unimaginable; they discern in them all the personal element again.

I have loved them with love everlasting, the children of men,

answers the consoling voice in the darkness.

    Space fails for further quotation from this “Story of Doom” volume, yet it contains, besides “Sailing beyond Seas,” many fragments imbedded in longer poems which serve but to emphasize the conviction that no poet has less to lose and more to gain by selection than Jean Ingelow.

    Her later poems seldom or never reach the level often touched in these first two volumes, and it is certainly by these that her reputation must abide.

    Allusion has been made to the mass of her prose writings, witnesses to her immense industry, and to other qualities more attractive to the reader.  These chiefly consist of long, leisurely stories of family life, full of pleasantness—it is difficult to find another word equally descriptive—and all possess a certain distinction.  They have a freshness of humour and a flow of radiant spirits at times in delightful combination.  Take, for instance, the scenes between Valentine and Dorothea, the light-hearted boy and girl friends, in “Off the Skelligs.”  I must confess to a great weakness for that rambling, guileless, disconnected chronicle of the Mortimer family, resumed again with flashes of its former charm, in another book almost equally long, called “Fated to be Free.”  It is true that, after many years of recurrent study, I have never been able to unravel the intricacies of the Mortimer relationships with any clear understanding; and many other matters connected with them, such as the mysterious crime that left a ban on Valentine’s inheritance of the family estate in “Fated to be Free,” still prove wholly beyond my grasp; but these trifles in no way interfere with an enjoyment not too often found in far more artistic products current today.  How few people read Miss Ingelow’s long stories now!  Yet there is some touch of originality to be found even in the weakest of them.  “Don John,” for instance, turns upon the time-honoured incident of a child being changed at nurse, but a fresh element is introduced into the situation by the lifelong doubt of distracted parents, as to whether the exchange was not doubled, and so restored to its original elements by one who died with her secret.  The angelic conduct of the rich child’s parents, through a life of unsolved doubt, is such as could only exist and be taken for granted in Miss Ingelow’s golden world, where unfailing magnanimity is the common rule of life.

    “Sarah de Berenger” turns upon another practically impossible situation, and is wanting in that wonderful atmosphere of youth and light-heartedness which is so attractive in “Off the Skelligs.”  For after all, one comes back to this book, which leaves above all the others a series of charming impressions on the mind.  The waste of excellent material in it is nothing short of appalling in these days when many novelists have learnt a cheeseparing economy with regard to the stuff out of which plots are made.  There is the wonderful childhood of the heroine and her brother, for instance, the weird survivors of a short-lived family of infant prodigies.  In the case of the brother it leads to nothing whatever; while Dorothea, dearest, sprightliest and most fascinating of maidens, owes little indeed to the child who frightened one tutor away by her awesome stock of knowledge, and led another, a more enterprising young man, to cut her out dolls’ clothes in desperation, by the help of a ruler and compasses, in the hope of diverting her infant mind into a more suitable channel.

    What, again, can be more charming than the camaraderie later on between Dorothea and Valentine Mortimer?  The quips, the sparrings, the quarrels and reconciliations of these two barely grown-up children, are the most charming feature of a picture of English family life from its most attractive aspect.  Miss Yonge, the prophetess of the domestic novel, has never really equalled these episodes to my mind; there is a morbidness, an obtrusive overgrowth of conscience always meddling with the May family, and never permitting this pure and perfect play of young wit and laughter.  On the other hand, Miss Yonge never perpetrated so terrible a young man as Mr. Brandon, the dreadfully self-conscious mentor of the family, who cannot understand or keep his heavy hand off so simple a relationship as that between his young brother and girl visitor, but must needs meddle with such painful consequences.  The worst of it is that Miss Ingelow obviously intends her hero to be a model of all the manly graces and virtues instead of the coxcomb and the prude he too often appears.  Yet even Mr. Brandon has moments of relaxation, during which he also is betrayed into something of that young gaiety which sparkles through the book, and will not be submerged even after Valentine’s bride has been abandoned just before her wedding and while the feast is being prepared.  As it was Mr. Brandon who was really responsible for this embarrassing climax, so it is Mr. Brandon again who rises to the situation and provides the most suitable atonement for giddy Valentine’s desperate behaviour.  And what could be more delightful than the first scene between the runaway bridegroom and his abandoned fiancé, after his return in disgrace to the house which had been decked for their wedding?  Tragedy, dignity, and remorse, all the constituents one would expect to form part of so dramatic a meeting, simply vanish away.  Two children made a mistake, one of them behaved badly, but they soon get tired of being serious, and Valentine is presently making parodies and asking Dorothea to play his accompaniments again with that inimitable inconsequence which gives this domestic story so much unusual charm and reality.

    Of Valentine, indeed, one could write a great deal more for one’s own enjoyment, if consideration for the reader’s patience permitted.  It is seldom, indeed, that the jeune premier of fiction proves so irresistibly attractive to other persons than the one destined by his creator to fall a victim to his charms.  And, indeed, it is not a romantic sentiment that Valentine excites—in spite of Mr. Brandon’s obstinate conviction—either in Dorothea or the reader; but was his omniscient step-brother so stupid as to think so?  This cracked-voiced, long-legged, light-hearted boy, with his bright hits, his inconsequence, his affectionate heart, and his perfect absence of self-consciousness, was calculated to drive his pedantically well-regulated mentor to despair; but Dorothea understood him, and loved him with just that same affectionate and sisterly superiority which it was obviously his nature to inspire.  Valentine is adorable, and, of course, he was always in love in his own fashion; but what self-respecting young woman would have attached any importance to his enchanting and ridiculous declarations?  Not to love Valentine would have been impossible, but to fall in love with him would have been equally preposterous.  Clear-eyed Dorothea was not guilty of this absurdity; she was only pushed into the semblance of it by the indefatigable officiousness of blind Mr. Brandon.

    “Off the Skelligs” is also notable for one of Miss Ingelow’s best descriptions of scenery.  These, too, are admirable in “Fated to be Free.”  It is in this last book that her wonderful understanding of children is peculiarly apparent.  She not only loved them, no uncommon taste, fortunately, but she had that rare and complete understanding of them in the light of which there is no such thing as “a naughty child,” an expression which in itself constitutes the commonest and most complete confession of ignorance and incompetence on the part of the grown-up who complacently utters it.

    That her stories, in a greater degree even than her poems, are of very varying quality is undeniable.  The best has its tracts of dullness; but even in one much over prosy and irrelevant, one may light upon such a sentence as this, about John Mortimer’s children, in “Fated to be Free”—

    The morning was warm, a south wind was fluttering the half-unfolded leaf buds and spreading abroad the soft scents of violets and primroses, which covered the sunny slopes.  John’s children, when they came in at Mrs. Walker’s drawing-room window, brought some of this delicate fragrance of the Spring upon their hair and clothes.  Grown-up people are not in the habit of rolling about or tumbling down over beds of flowers.  They must take the consequences, and leave the ambrosial scents of the wood behind them.

    The italics are not Miss Ingelow’s, but they are irresistible.  Oh! for an inspired blue pencil to walk up and down the length and breadth of her writings, cutting out much that is of no account, sifting out all the gold which lies buried in the sand!



From . . . .


Edited by Alfred H. Miles.

1820 1897.

AMONG the small group of eminent English women-poets that the present century has produced, Jean Ingelow holds a conspicuous place.  She is greater than Felicia Hemans or Lætitia Landon, for she avoids sentimentalitythe characteristic weakness of both these poets.  It is true that she did not possess in an equal degree with Elizabeth Barrett Browning the breadth of thought, the strength of passionthat imaginative fervour, and that vigour of executionwhich give to the latter the first place among English women poets, nor had she that peculiarly exalted spirituality tinctured with ascetism which distinguishes the best work of Christina Rossetti.  Nevertheless her poems exhibit high qualities of their own.  First among these qualities is lyrical charm.  Hence it is that her poems have gained such widespread popular acceptance, for, as Mr Ashcroft Noble has pointed out with true critical discernment, "there is no maxim of the critics that finds more favour with the general public than thisthat the poet must be, before all other things, a singer."  Jean Ingelow's verse is always distinguished by graceful fancy, and often by imagination of the more lofty kind.  Though it cannot be said that her range is wide, her pictures within this range are vivid, and her verse always displays a tender womanliness, a reverend simplicity of religious faith, and a deep touch of sympathy with the pain inherent in human life which are very fascinating.

    She has also the rare quality of depicting faithfully, and sometimes with minute accuracy, the aspects of nature in purely lyrical measures of anapaestic movement.  The best example of this is seen in "Divided," where the colour of the landscape is rendered in an exquisitely lyrical measure with as much faithfulness as if the poem had been written in iambic lines.  And, remembering how seldom the great English poets have succeeded in such efforts, Jean Ingelow's success in this respect may, indeed, be regarded as a worthy achievement.

    Born at Boston, in Lincolnshire, in 1820, Jean Ingelow's first book, "A Rhyming Chronicle of Incidents and Feelings," appeared in 1850.  This was followed in 1851 by a novel, entitled "Allerton and Dreux; or, The War of Opinion," and in 1860 by "Tales of Orris."  But it was not until the publication in November 1863 of the first series of her "Poems" that she gained any important recognition.  This volume, however, was received with warm praise by the critics, and their praise was immediately echoed and confirmed by the general public.  But we feel no surprise at this somewhat unusual occurrence when we remember some of the poems the volume contained.  The very first poem, "Divided", was well fitted to attract both the critic and the general reader.  For while the critic would observe its distinctive lyrical qualities, and a certain touch of sadness which is often characteristic of its author's best moods, the general reader, whatever the extent of his culture, could at least understand and enjoy its directness and its simplicity, together with its lovely descriptions of some of Nature's more familiar aspects.  Perhaps none of Jean Ingelow's other poems quite equals this in perfection of music and lyrical freedom, though "The High Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire, 1571" has other notable qualities.  Cast in an archaic mould, and full of deep and passionate human feeling, the pathetic motive of the latter poem is handled with an earnestness which is absolutely convincing.  This, even more than its high technical excellence, makes it one of the finest modern ballads.  But perhaps the exquisite poems "Requiescat in Pace" is, in many respects, the highest effort of Jean Ingelow's poetical genius.  In it there is a touch of the supernatural which we find elsewhere in some of her best work, though in a less intense degree.  Moreover it is full of that concentrated fervour which comes only to the poet when the creative imagination is fully alive.  The manner in which the tender mournfulnessalmost the despairof the concluding stanzas is handled makes the poem irresistible in its appeal to our sympathies.  "Strife and Peace," another beautiful lyric, calls also for mention.

"Supper at the Mill," "Brothers and a Sermon," and "Afternoon at a Parsonage," all in blank verse, with interspersed songs, belong to a different class of poems-a class for which Jean Ingelow evidently had a marked predilection-poems of mingled narrative and reflection.  In the extreme simplicity of the poems just named we see the influence of Wordsworth; while in their mingling of narrative with reflection with snatches of song we see the influence of Tennyson.  It would be a mistake, however, to suppose that these remarkable poems are imitative.  On the contrary they display dramatic insight and originality of thought and treatment.  All three poems contain striking examples of Jean Ingelow's gift of delineating character.  In the first named poem the middle-aged farmer's wife, as she chats at her son's house on a market day, is as real to us as if she had been sketched by Crabbe, although, in Jean Ingelow's verse, there is nothing of that hardness of touch that sometimes detracts from the effect of Crabbe's marvellous fidelity.  Indeed, the character painting throughout Jean Ingelow's poems is frequently very good.  But, as with the similar works of Tennyson, we often feel it to be the character-painting of the writer of prose fiction rather than of the poet.  "Brothers and a Sermon" with its true vein of devotional feeling, exhibits a true vein of idiosyncrasy of conception peculiar to its author.  The pretty song begins "Goldilocks sat on the grass," which occurs in this poem, is one of her most simple, and, at the same time, one of her most finished efforts.  The last two stanzas, beginning, "As a gloriole sign o' grace," bring before the mind of the reader, in a few delicate touches full of subtle beauty, the change, the almost unconscious sympathy, which, to the eye of the beholder, comes over the aspect of external nature after the first dawn of love.

    "Persephone" is interesting as being a rendering of that favourite theme of the poets-the story of Demeter and her daughter.  The brevity of Jean Ingelow's ballad does not admit of the elaboration observable in the poem of Tennyson, nor in that of Mr. Aubrey de Vere on the same subject.  But her version has a certain beauty of its own.  "The Letter L," fine as it is in part, is injured by that diffuseness into which Jean Ingelow's facility both in verse and prose, not infrequently betrayed her.  It is unnecessary to dwell at any length on so widely popular and so admirable a series of poems as "Songs of Seven."  Several of these lyrics are almost perfect of their kind.  Where all is so good it is difficult to give adequate reasons for the awarding of especial praise.  I may remark, however, that the first lyric, entitled "Exultation," has pre-eminent merit from the fact that in it Jean Ingelow shows a rare dramatic gifta gift of interpreting faithfully a child's emotion.

    "A Story of Doom and other Poems" appeared in 1867.  The title poem of this collection, the longest of Jean Ingelow's poetical efforts, tells in flowing blank verse the Biblical narrative of Noah.  The theme is handled with no little skill, and many of the individual pictures are effective.  Still the poem in its entirety shows that the subject she has here chosen is not so well suited to her powers as some others which she has elsewhere treated.  She is a lyricist above all else, and although (as I have already remarked) she shows a dramatic instinct in some of her shorter narrative poems, such as "Supper at the Mill" and "Afternoon at a parsonage," she does not show that consummate degree of dramatic power required by the writer who would cope effectively with the great difficulties inherent in such a theme.  Much better work is to be found in "Songs of the Voices of Birds," particularly in one of these called "A Raven in a White Chine," and in the series of poems entitled "Songs of the Night Watches."  The opening lyric "Apprenticed" and "A Morn of May," the lyric which closes the sequence, are probably the most beautiful.  "Songs with Preludes," and "Contrasted Songs," ought also to be mentioned.  Of the last-named poems "Sailing Beyond Seas" and "A Lily and a Lute" are fine examples of Jean Ingelow's work.

    As a novelist, as well as a poet, Jean Ingelow gives token of very considerable power in the delineation of character, especially as seen in child-life.  But her work in faction is sometimes disfigured by deficiency in construction, and by occasional prolixity in narrative.  "Studies for Stories" (1864), a series of brief tales, contains some of Jean Ingelow's best work in this department of literature.  There is often a quaint realism about these "Studies" which is very delightful.  "Off the Skelligs" (1872) is, perhaps, the most successful of Jean Ingelow's full-length novels.  Her exceptional faculty of delineating child-life is shown here, and again in "Don John" (1881), where more attention is paid to the strict lines of plot than is usual with this writer.  The dénouement is cleverly conceived and unexpected, so unexpected, indeed, that possibly some readers might be inclined to resent a conclusion so different from that which they had been disposed to look for.  Among her other novels are "Fated to be Free" (1873); "Sarah de Berenger" (1879); "John Jerome: His Thoughts and Ways" (1886); and "Very Young and Quite Another Story" (1890).  Jean Ingelow has long been known favourably as a writer of stories avowedly for childrenstories, however, which have an appeal to readers of all ages. Indeed, some of the most fascinating of all her prose works belongs to this class.  "Stories Told to a Child" (1865) must here be named.  This was followed in 1869 by "Mopsa the Fairy."  Some episodes of the last mentioned tale are very fine of their kind; as, for example, Jack's voyage from the enchanted bay where lie the ships of bygone ages which have been sent on voyages of evil purpose.  Doubtless some of Jean Ingelow's prose fiction will live by reason of the real imaginative power displayed in it.

    Jean Ingelow's third series of "Poems" was published in 1885.  If it cannot with candour be said that this volume is altogether free from the faults discernable in her earlier verse, and if it cannot be said that it shows a wider range, it may be said emphatically that it possesses the same great qualities which originally gained for her and still maintain her wide popularity.  We see the same mingled sweetness and simplicity, the same rare lyrical gift, the same remarkable power in the description of nature, and the same profound knowledge of child-life.  Her lyrical faculty, her power of depicting nature, and her subtle knowledge of the heart of a child are all revealed in the lovely poem "Echo and the Ferry".  "Rosamund," a narrative poem in blank verse, is of some considerable length.  The scene is laid in the time of the Spanish Armada.  The story is well planned and told throughout with much imaginative ardour.  Jean Ingelow here exhibits more than her customary ability in handling blank verse.  Many excellent descriptive passages and felicitous phrases occur, and, occasionally, comes a note of true passion.  "Preludes to a Penny Reading" belongs to the same class as "Supper at the Mill."  Some of the interspersed songs, such as "For Exmoor," are full of the lyrical beauty which we expect from Jean Ingelow.  "Lyrical and other poems, selected from the Writings of Jean Ingelow" was published in 1886.  Jean Ingelow died on the 20th of July, 1897.



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