Robert Louis Stevenson, 1850-1894 Robert Louis Stevenson composite image

Non-Fiction > Uncollected essays > Volume 6, 1874 - Academy

(24) Page 407

‹‹‹ prev (23) Page 406Page 406College for men and women

(25) next ››› Page 602Page 602Review: A quiet corner of England

(24) Page 407 -
Oct. 10, 1874.]
than I have since been able to justify. When the
eider's nest was plunilered for the first, second, and
third times it was robbed of its illusions and of great
life-inspiring hopes. At times, too, I felt that I -with
others stood responsible for a. period when high
thoughts and noble aspirations were buried under
songs and feasting.* But let me leave this subject, and
ask what is the poet's work ? I understood it late in
life. It consists mainU' in seeing, but .also in making
others see, objects as they appear to the poet's eye.
But one's own life-experience can thus alone be seen
and shown. This need of life-experience is precisely the
secret spring of all modern poetry. Every poem I
have composed during the past ten years I have lived
through in spirit. But no poet's experience can be
his own alone. That which he sees and feels, his
contemporaries see and feel also, for if they did not
how could the giver render himself intelligible to the
receiver ?
"And what have been the life-experiences whence
my poetry was inspired ? The field was wide. I \VTO_to
partly of those things which, but as glimpses and in
my best hours, have moved me with the living force of
all that is great and beautiful. I -BToto of that which
stood above my daily self, and wrote of it in order to
hold it fast before my eyes and in my soul. But I
wrote also of things of an opposite nature — of things
that inw<ard contemplation shows us as the dregs and
refuse of our own being. In this case the poet's work
has been to me as a bath, whence I felt that I arose
purer, healthier, freer. Yes, Gentlemen, no one can
represent as a poet that of which he has not to a cer-
tain degree, and at all events at certain moments, had
the model in himself. Where is the man amongst us
who has not, now and .again, felt and acknowledged
in himself a contradiction between word and act, be-
tween wish and dtity, between life and doctrine ? Or
■where is the man who has not on some ooc;isions
revelled in a feeling of egotistical self-sufBciency, and
half as a foreboding, half in downright earnest, painted
his state in fair words botli to himself and others ?
"In speaking thus to you as students, my words
will be understood as they should be. The student's
mission is in many points identical with the poet's ;
the one as well as the other has to render first to him-
self, and then through himself to others, a clear account
of the questions both temporal and eternal agitate
the times and the world to which he belongs.
"In this sense I may truly say that during the
years I h.aye spent on foreign soil. I have tried to be a
good student. A poet belongs by nature to the far-
seeing. Never have I seen my native land and the
life there so fully, so clearly, so" closely, as I did_from
my far-off home beyond the sea.
" And now, my dear countrymen, let me end with a
few words that also have reference to an experience in
real life. When the Emperor Julian towards the
close of his rareer saw himself surrounded by crumb-
ling ruins, nothing struck so deep iuto his mind as
the thought that all he had achieved was to be re-
membered with honour and esteem by a few cold cl**ar
heads, whilst his advers;iry was enshrined with love
in warm liring human hearts. And pondering on
this ancient story a question has often arisen in my
own mind during mj- solitude in a distant country.
To that question the youth of Norway has replied to-
night, and by an answer fuller and warmer than I
expected to receive. I shall carry back that answer
as the richest memory of my visit to my country-
men, and I trust that" the events of this day are an
experience wliich will some day be reflected in a future
work. If this shoidd h.appen, and if I do some day
send home such a work, I beg the students to accept
it as a clasp of the hand, and as thanks for this our
meeting I beg them to receive it as a work in which
they have a part."
After the speech, ■which ■was received with
'oud cheers, the students sang the third verse of
their song and then quietly dispersed.
The evening closed -with the performance of
Ibsen's comedy of De Z'nr/es Forbund at the
Xational Thea-tre. Edith Pradez.
* The poet here alludes to the " Scandinavism "
which the youth of his gener.ation imagined they could
found by means of speeches, patriotic songs, and fes-
tive gatherings of the students of three Scandinavian
kingdoms. Nothing came of this powerless efferves-
cence of enthusiasm, and Scandinavia still awaits her
JIb. Rryan Waller Procter, better known
as Barry Cornwall, who died last Monday, was a
pathetic example of the wastefuhiess of destiny.
lie ■was horn thirty years too soon, or two hundred
years too late, and so his rare and high powers
ran to seed. He had great quickness and delicacy
of literary feeling, and a combination not very
common, of force and vividness of expression,
•n'ith a suggestive artistic reserve. He had not the
kind of imagination ■which is capable of organising
and peopling a coherent ideal world, and the real
■world did not supply him -with the materials
■which ■would have fertilised his talent. He never
revolted against the complicated decorums of
modern civilisation and respectability, but his
works show an inexpressible pining after a freer
and simpler life, ■where primitive passions could
have fair plav, and attain to an elevation.
Instead of finding characters and scenery among
his contemporaries to inspire him, he had to in-
sph-e himself ■with the literature of the Kenais-
sauce, especinlly that of the Elizabethan age.
His literary activity ■was concentrated into a very
small space — the years between 1819 and 182.3 ;
after that he ■wrote nothing except songs and
editions and criticisms and biography. It is
curious at first sight that he should have wTitten
nothing till he ■was over thirty, if the accepted
date of his birth be right ; but after he had es-
caped from the solicitor's office at Calne to the
intellectucil atmospliere of London, and the com-
parative freedom of the bar, he had to educate
himself in company •with those who, like Lamb
and Leigh Ilimt, were rediscovering the age of
Shakspere and Boccacio. To judge from Mr.
Jerdan's autobiography, he had scarcely begun to
write before he began to publisli, and, ■when he
began, he poured out a singularly fuU and rapid
stream of all kinds of verse, that was never hasty
or unfinished in form, though often crude and
incomplete in substance. Ilis writings were well
received, but he found he had to work at his pro-
fession, and the muse is a jealous mistress, who
only pays flying visits to those who cannot spend
their lives in waiting upon her. It shows the
essential healthiness of his nature that, under
these uncongenial conditions, he should have
made so few excursions into the poetry of revolt.
" Tartarus," a scene in which a Mooorish magician
sees the famous souls lost long ago, and then
loses his o^wn, is the most conspicuous instance,
and proves that he could imagine, if he could not
produce, most of the effects of the Satanic school.
Magic had rather a fascination for him always,
but his fancy was hampered by his judgment :
his perception of the dreariness of commonplace
found better expression in the " Fall of Saturn,"
the " Letter of IJoccacio," and even in the lyrics
dedicated to convicts and beggars and outlandish
patriots. But the deepest expression of all the
passion which could find no outlet for itself in
life is the ever-recurring idealisation of Death,
now as the jovial king who welcomes aU to his
court, now as the grim stranger who takes
the fairest from the feast, now as the gentle
comrade with whom the weary are at rest, now
as the bride of the spirit " amorous-eyed."
The worship of Death is for the most part con-
fined to the lyrics, and it is probably true that
Barry Cornwall wiU be best remembered as a
lyric" poet: his talent was of the kind which
is apt to be fragmentary except when it is sus-
tained by a tradition, and it is only in the lyrical
form that such a talent can reach complete-
ness, the completeness of a snatch of a bird's
song. Perhaps Barry Cornwall felt this him-
self, for he persevered in wi-iting lyrics after
he had given up most other forms of verse,
and set before himself the systematic object of
giving an expression to the varied and subtle
moods of modern life, which should be as fresh
and spontaneous as the lays of the minstrels of a
simpler and, he owned, a coarser time. Perhaps
the archaism detracts a little from the spontaneity,
at least it could hardly be said that the greatest •
excellence of his lyrics is to flow easily. Hi»
dramatic works show another side of his talent
quite as exquisite as his lyrics, though circum-
stances hindered their attaining even the same
degree of perfection. He understood thoroughly
how to conduct a poetical conversation, which
should be graceful and moving, with enough
imagery and not too much ; he could even, as his
tragedy of Mirandola proves, arrange five acts with
intelligent regard to stage effect : but he had little or
no invention, he is always repeating the device of
lovers parted by being led to believe each other false,
and most of his dramatic scenes could hardly form
part of complete plays. The situation is explained
and not advanced. "The fact is, that he showed
his complete appreciation of the poetical language
of the Elizabethan age by reproducing it instead
of by describing it. And" this applies to the least
intei-esting section of his work, the metrical tales,
which are a medlev of bright and clear descriptions
strung together by" a thin thread of sentimental or
humorous nan-ative, and only remarkable as show-
ing how freshly he had felt classic and Italian
literature. His directly critical writings have
little value, with the exception of the very dignified!
and graceful tribute to Lamb. His preface to
Kenny Meadows's illustrated Shakspere is curiously-
naive "and almost boyish : he was too old at seventy
to learn the temperof a critical age, and he came
too late to find the place for which he was really
fit— -at the feet of Ford and Fletcher.
General Literature and Art.
EODEXSTEDT, Fr. Aus deni Xacblasse des Mirza Schaffy (nene
Folee). Mit Prolog n. Erlauterndein Kachtrag. Berlin :
Hoffmann. I Thl. 1.5Sgr.
CoxzE, A. Heroen n. Gottergestalten der griecmschen Kunst.
•2te Abthg. Gr. Fol. Wien; Von Waldheim. 5 Thl.
CosJio IsxES, Memoir of. Edinburgh : Paterson.
De Royas y ZoRRn.LA, Francisco. Los Bandos de Verona.
Englisbed by F, W. C isens. London ; Printed at the Chis-
wlck Press for luivate Distribntion. 1874.
Graxvillk, A. B., Antobiography of, being 8S years of the life-
of a Physician. Edited by Panlina B. Granville. 2 vols.
London : King &: Co.
Gbimm, Hermann. Fahfzehn E=says. Berlin : Dummler.
HlLLEBRASTJ, K. Italia. Leipzig : Hartnng.
iliXTO, W. Characteristics of English Poot3. London : Black-
MoitLEY, JoHX. On Compromise. (Reprinted -n^ith additions
from the ForlmtMhi Reririr.) London : Chapman & Hall.
Plath, J. H. C.inf'„.uiv n, ^PinerSchUler Leben u. Lehren.
ry. Siimmt1i--li in;. , v. Confucius u. seinen SchUlera
1. Abth. Miir ■ I ■ : UThl.
ScULAGiNTWErr-.- , , II. von. Die r;issc iibcr die
KammUnien d. k,.i .u. i .lui -a. d. Kunklun in Balti, m Lad;l,t
u. im ostUchen Turkiatau. llUnchen : Franz. 1 Thl.
The Origix.ii. Lists of Emigrants, &o., who went to
America 1600-1700, from IISS. in the State Paper Depart-
ment of the Record Office. Edited by J. C. Hotten. Lon-
don ; Chatto & Windns.
BiJcnER, K. Die Aufstande der nnfreien Arbeiter. 14 J-129 v.
Chr. Frankfurt a. M. : Sauerliinder. j Thl.
Clocet, C. Invasions dcs Xormands dans le Berry. Hutoire
et Conjectni-es. Origine probable de Vierzon. (Extraitdes
Memoires de la Soci^te historiqne dn Cher.) Bonrges
Imprim. Veret. ,
PARK-M4N. F. The Old Regime in Canada. A .series ot His-
torical Narratives. Part IV. Boston : Little, Brown Sl
Co. (London: Sampson Low & Co.)
Pae Soldan, M. F. HistDria del Pern independiente. Segimdo-
periodo. 1822-7. Tom. ii. Le Havre ; imp. Lemale ame.
Peacock, E. The Army Lists of the Roundheads and Cava-
liers, London : Chatto & Windns.
Biccio C. M. Alcnni fatti rignnrdanti Carlo I. di Angio da!
6 di Agosto 1252 al -30 di Decembre 1270, tratti dall' Archi-
vio Angioino di Napoh. Napoh : Hoeph. 2 Thl.
SCHLTEMANN, Th. Salomon Henning's Livliindisch-Enrran-
disohe Chronik. Eine Quellenuntei-snchung. Mitau ;
Bebre. 16 Ngr. ,. t- ,
ScnOLz, P. Erwerbung der Mark Brandenburg durch
IV. Breslau : Ma.\. i Thl.
Brinkley's AsTI^o^■o^rr, revised and partly rewritten, -with
additional chapters, by J. W. Stnbbs and F. Brunnow.
London : Longmans.
DEHERAtN, P. P., et Laxdrin, E. Recherches sar la gemuna-
tion. Paris : G. Masson.
DEHEBArx, P. P., ET LiNDRix, B. Recherches slur 1 absorption
d'o.xygSne et remission d'acide carbonique par les plantes
maintenues dans I'obscuritS. Paris : G. Masson.
Heppe, G. Die chemischen Reactionen der wichtigsten anor-
ganischen n. organischen Stoftc. 7. Lfg. Lelprig : Koll-
mann. 24 Ngr.
Lloyd, Hu-MrHREy. A treatiseonmagnetism. London: Long-

Images and transcriptions on this page, including medium image downloads, may be used under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence unless otherwise stated. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence

Early editions of Robert Louis Stevenson > Non-Fiction > Uncollected essays > Academy > (24) Page 407
(24) Page 407
Permanent URL
Volume 6, 1874 - Academy
DescriptionFrom the 'Academy', a monthly record of literature, learning, science and art. (London: John Murray, Vol. 1(1869)-5 ; vol. 17-87(1914)). Volume VI [6], July-December, 1874 contains reviews by Robert Louis Stevenson, pages 142-143, 173, 406-407, 602-603.
ShelfmarkX.231.b,c ([Vol. 2 (1870)-v. 9 (1876)]
Additional NLS resources:
Attribution and copyright:
  • The physical item used to create this digital version is out of copyright
Display more information More information
Form / genre: Written and printed matter > Periodicals
Dates / events: 1869 [Date published]
Places: Europe > United Kingdom > England > Greater London > London (inhabited place) [Place published]
Subject / content: Essays
Reviews (document genre)
Person / organisation: John Murray (Firm) [Publisher]
Stevenson, Robert Louis, 1850-1894 [Contributor]
Uncollected essays
DescriptionEssays and reviews from contemporary magazines and journals (some of which are republished in the collections). 'Will o' the Mill', from Volume 37 of the 'Cornhill Magazine', is a short story or fable.
Early editions of Robert Louis Stevenson
DescriptionFull text versions of early editions of works by Robert Louis Stevenson. Includes 'Kidnapped', 'The Master of Ballantrae' and other well-known novels, as well as 'Prince Otto', 'Dynamiter' and 'St Ives'. Also early British and American book editions, serialisations of novels in newspapers and literary magazines, and essays by Stevenson.
Display more information More information
Person / organisation: Stevenson, Robert Louis, 1850-1894 [Author]
NLS logo