Imágenes de páginas

field at Lexington or at Bunker Hill, from some ground of personal or local dissatisfaction, had thrown away their weapons, what think you would have been their feelings in all the remaining years of their lives when the Liberty Bell rang out on every recurring anniversary of American independence? This is a roll of honour. This is a roll of freedom; and in the name of honour and in the name of freedom I summon every Democratic member of this House to inscribe his name upon it."

The next Presidential election will have to settle between these two gentlemen and the great parties they represent. A reference to the history of American tariffs will show how long each has lasted. Thus:

The tariff of 1842, Protectionist, lasted four years.

The tariff of 1846, Democratic and less protective, but still maintaining high duties, lasted till 1857, or eleven years.

The tariff of 1857, still more Democratic and less Protectionist by 25 per cent, lasted four years.

The tariff of 1861, Republican and Protectionist, was made more Protectionist in 1862 and 1864, and lasted in its protective form till 1870, or nearly ten years in all. The tariff of 1870 and 1872, reduced and Democratic, lasted till 1875, in all five years.

The Protectionist tariff of 1875 lasted till 1883, or eight years.

The tariff of 1883, moderately Protectionist, lasted till 1890, or seven years.

The tariff of 1890, extremely Protectionist, anti-European, and Republican, lasted till 1894, or four years.

It will thus be observed that history affords no promise of permanence in the matter of American tariffs. The present tariff has

opposed to it the whole Republican party: the manufacturers as class; the labour organisations as a class; the anti-European element as a class; the silver States and the men who control them; the corporations that will have to pay income-tax; and the unclassified series of interests and industries

which, as even the Democratic report on the bill confesses, have grown up under the influences of the Protectionist system. Mr Cleveland, to whose personal popularity much of the enthusiasm that brought about the American victory was due, having filled the office for two terms, will be unable, unless the political history record of the country is broken, to accept a nomination for a third term in 1896. Mr Wilson, whose name is now so prominent as the responsi ble author of the new tariff, seems to be a man of precarious health. And all the signs seem to point to a reaction towards Protection in 1896. It must be remembered that the reaction will not need to be great in the case of a country having still a protective duty of more than 30 per cent on the average. But even the Protectionists in the United States may be expected not to ignore the sharp lessons of experience; and we may assume that no further attempts will be made to ruin the trade of other countries, to dissever the American colonies of European nations from the parent States, to force a silver-based currency upon the reluctant countries of Europe, and to insolently parade a policy of enmity and of defiance of not merely the power and the riches of the great commercial nations of the world, but of the indignation which an offended civilisation can feel, and the punishment it can inflict.

Printed by William Blackwood and Sons.

[blocks in formation]

IT is surely high time that healthily constituted mortals, of whom, despite the demonstrations of a Tolstoi, Zola, Bourget, and Ibsen, some isolated specimens may yet be supposed to exist, should rise in arms against the growing encroachments of disease, mental and physical, upon the subjects of fiction. We are tired of the uninterrupted society of dipsomaniacs, morphinists, and epileptics; weary of the neuresthenic heroes and their scrofulous lady loves who have so often been forced down our throats of late years; and dead sick of those mysterious hereditary blood-curses without which, as some of these learned gentlemen would have us believe, no self-respecting family can possibly exist in these fin de siècle days. With a yearning that is almost pain we have come to long for the sight of a hale, hearty young woman, devoid of manias or nerves, gifted with VOL. CLVI.-NO. DOCCCXLIX.

[ocr errors]

an unimpaired digestion, and with nothing more constitutionally morbid about her inclinations than a comprehensible desire to make her lover as wretched as possible before she accepts the inevitable foregone conclusion of being happy with him. Why should disease necessarily be more interesting than health, and deformity more fascinating than well-grown limbs and a straight backbone? We are not all born physicians, whose mission it is to gauge the depth of every wound, and lay bare the infirmities of each running sore; although of late the demarcation line which used to divide doctors from novelists seems to have got somewhat vague, and it has become the fashion nowadays to put scientific labels on many things which, in the happy days of our ignorant youth, used to be explained in less complex fashion. Thus in a recent lecture which it was our good fortune to attend, it

2 Q

was decidedly startling to be informed by a learned German professor that Hamlet was now known to have been a confirmed neuresthenic, and Ophelia a striking example of that form of mental disease known to science as nymphomania (N.B.-It would be interesting to know whether Shakespeare himself was aware of these facts or is it possible that our greatest poet was in the same predicament as Monsieur Jourdain, who talked prose without knowing it?); while the learned Italian master Lombroso has lately been at great pains to demonstrate that from certain evidence contained in some passages of the "Inferno,' Dante was undoubtedly addicted to epileptic fits, although it cannot as yet be conclusively decided whether the particular form of the disease from which he suffered is to be designated as hysteroepilepsia or genuine epilepsy.

[ocr errors]

those who might not inaptly be
described as pathological or noso-
logical bards stands, of course,
the prolific Monsieur Zola, who,
having scarcely completed the long
dreary series of the Rougon-
Macquart novels, has just launched
upon the world a fresh cargo of
disease, under the
the ensign of
'Lourdes,' 1. -a remarkable work
which, scarcely issued from the
printer's press, has achieved the
melancholy distinction of being put
on the Index.

It had been with a sigh of distinct relief that, at the conclusion of the work entitled 'Dr Pascal,' we had mentally assisted at the destruction of the Rougon-Macquart annals; and as we beheld Madame Felicité Rougon (to our mind the one sensible and sympathetic person in the whole book), with her own frail fingers, withered and bloodless with extreme old age, yet strong with the power of a tenacious resolve, crush down into the roaring flames the papers that represented her erudite son's lifework, we could not forego a feeling of sneaking admiration for the spirited old matron, and would even have been delighted, had circumstances permitted, to lend her a helping hand in the work of wholesale destruction. It was an unspeakable comfort to imagine that these odious RougonMacquart annals, which had taken their author no less than the quarter of a century to compile, existed no more, and that on his own solemn assurance we should never more be called upon to renew acquaintance with any one of the unsavoury members of this ill-starred family. But our hopes of a fresh departure, which might possibly indicate the return to more natural and wholesome First and foremost amongst lives, were rudely dispelled by

What indeed is to become of poetry and art, if our favourite heroes and heroines of romance are thus ruthlessly to be subjected to pathological analysis, and their most delicate feelings and passions brutally laid bare by the dissecting knife? We live in daily terror of being told that all the tears weakly shed over the woes of Romeo and Juliet were but wasted sympathy, since these misguided young people were really suffering from a rather acute attack of some repulsive disease with a long Latin name; or of learning that Katherine the Shrew's bad temper was solely due to a touch of liver complaint, which might have been far more easily and pleasantly cured by a dose of Carlsbad salts than by the brutal treatment of a conjugal bully.

1 Lourdes, par Emile Zola. Paris: Charpentier, 1894.

the perusal of the first half-dozen pages of 'Lourdes,' bearing in upon us the melancholy conviction that we had here but exchanged the frying-pan for the fire - since for a dozen invalids served up to us in previous volumes, we find them here bristling by scores. And, verily, what more fortunate opportunity for gratifying his pet propensities could Monsieur Zola have found than the famous express - train from Paris to Lourdes, the so-called train-blanc, which yearly in the month of August conveys to the miraculous grotto a wholesale and miscellaneous assortment of human misery in quest of relief? Blind people and dumb, paralytics from birth or from accident, victims of dissipation or of hereditary disease, sybarites whose sad afflictions have been chiefly brought about by a mistaken desire to make one stomach do the work of two, and others who have never yet known what it is to feel otherwise than weary or famished, —are here all swept along by the same current, all actuated by one identical impulse, the hope of discovering in the obscure Pyrenean village the answer to those riddles which have hitherto baffled science. What a glorious field for research! what a rich harvest here to be gleaned of mouldering and putrefied fruits! and needless to say that Monsieur Zola seizes upon the occasions thus presented with all his customary energy and relish for the repulsive, for it is melancholy to have to recognise with a kind of shuddering admiration that this gifted artist's greatest and highest flights of genius are ever inspired by the dunghill or the charnel - house. The sight of a twelve-antler stag, in the full pride of its virile and vigorous beauty, will leave him unmoved, as something insignifi

[ocr errors]

cant and commonplace; but show him the carcass of a dead dog, devoured by maggots and in the last stage of putrefaction, and straightway his inspiration will take fire, and for the glorification of this rotten hound he will discover such brilliant metaphors, such surprising and novel depths of hue and shade, as effectually to dazzle and delight the ignorant, and even to bewilder momentarily the critic's equanimity.

So likewise in 'Lourdes' it is, of course, with the most repulsive forms and branches of disease that we are chiefly called upon to deal; and in the long weary journey, occupying upon paper alone 126 pages of small-printed type, we are spared none of the loathsome details which must necessarily accompany the transport of three hundred more or less afflicted persons, when forcibly compressed in midsummer into the narrow limits of a train. Our eyes are forced to probe their most hidden and repulsive sores, our ears are lacerated with their shrieks and groans, and our olfactory organs are repeatedly offended by the suggestion of perfumes more potent than sweet. Having once landed the weary and disgusted reader at the terminus station, Monsieur Zola resumes his well-known documentary style, and gives us in full not only the entire history of the so-called miraculous springs of Lourdes, and of the subsequent net of intrigue, deception, mystery, and speculation woven around the little mountain village; but he likewise forces down our throat all the official, sanitary, and domiciliary arrangements introduced of late years for the reception of the pilgrims forming part of this gigantic picnicing party. Crushed down and overshadowed beneath this overwhelming mass of historical, statistical, scientific,

and theological information, there is, it is true, a thin vein of romance, which, like a feeble thread of water meandering aimlessly through the vast rocky bed intended for a giant cascade, asserts its thin puny voice from time to time, without, however, succeeding in arousing any serious interest. This is the tale of the loves of Pierre and Marie, an ethereal, vapoury young couple, who seem to have nothing stronger than rosewater in their veins, and to be considerably less encumbered by their mortal coils than a pair of transparent-winged butterflies who dew. live upon sunshine and Marie has been afflicted since childhood by an inexplicable paralytic complaint, and Pierre, despairing of ever being able to wed the only woman he can love, has meanwhile become a priest. They meet again at Lourdes, where Marie has come with a last despairing hope of there recovering the use of her limbs through the Virgin's intercession; and Pierre, who has lost his faith as a Catholic priest, makes his own spiritual conversion dependent upon Marie's cure. She regains her health in consequence of one of those strong nervous revulsions for which science has as yet no precise label; but the corresponding miracle in Pierre's spiritual state does not take place, for he has been convinced by a medical friend that Marie's cure was solely due to natural causes. Pierre has, however, the courage and self-denial to conceal his convictions from Marie, and suffers her to go on believing that a miracle alone has restored her lost health. At the conclusion of the book we see Pierre's return to Paris after a five days' absence, bereft of his last illusion, yet with no other choice but to go on preaching a creed he has ceased believing in, but which pity

and compassion for his fellowcreatures prevent him from openly disowning:


"Of his whole journey there remained to Pierre but a mighty compassion overflowing from his heart, and leaving it wounded and bruised. He had seen thousands of those poor creatures praying, sobbing, imploring the Almighty to have compassion on their sufferings; and he had wept and sobbed along with them, keeping within him, like a raw flesh wound, the lamentable fraternity of all their woes. Nor could he think of these poor creatures without burning with the desire to relieve them. What indeed if the old simple faith no longer sufficed, if in retracing our footsteps backwards there was danger of going astray, would it then be necessary to close the grotto, to preach other objects of effort, another sort of patience? But his compassion rebelled at the suggestion. No, no! It were a crime to close the dream of their heaven to those sufferers of soul and body, whose sole alleviation it was to kneel down midst the splendour of waxlights, rocked by the dreamy lullaby of the chanted hymns. He himself had not committed the crime of undeceiving Marie. He had sacrificed himself in order to leave to her the joy of her delusion, the divine consolation of having been cured by the Virgin. Where, then, could be the man so cruel as to prevent the humble from believing, to destroy in them the consolation of the supernatural? . . . No, no! We have not the right to discourage any one. Lourdes must be tolerated, as we tolerate a fiction which is necessary to life."

In these and similar passages the author sums up his impressions of Lourdes and its pilgrimage; for who can doubt that the writer has more or less identified himself with his hero Pierre? But if, as he tells us, the whole significance of the wonder-place rests but upon a flimsy illusion in the mind of the ignorant, which it were mere wanton cruelty to

« AnteriorContinuar »