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endeavoured to show in a previous article, a very long pedigree. The early romance writer drew his incidents from the field of heroic action and marvellous enterprise ; he revelled in noble sentiments, astonishing feats, and the exhibition of all the cardinal virtues in tragic situations; his mission was to preserve and hand down to us magnified figures of mighty men, or the pictures of great events, as they had impressed themselves upon the popular imagination. For such material he was obliged to travel abroad into remote countries, or backward to bygone ages; but if his images of gallant knights and fair damsels were well modelled, if the language was superb, and the deeds or sufferings sufficiently astonishing, no one cared about anachronisms, incongruities, or improbabilities. But as the heroic romance dwindled and withered under the dry light of precise knowledge and extending erudition, the purveyors of fiction, accommodating themselves to a more exacting taste, applied themselves seriously to the reproduction of famous scenes and portraits by the aid and guidance of historic documents and antiquarian research. The modern romantic school, of whom the master, if not the founder, is Scott, represented a clear step forward to what is now called Realism, and a proportionate abandonment of the classic convention, or the method of drawing from traditional or imaginary models. To Scott may be ascribed the authoritative introduction of descriptions of landscape, of storms, sunsets, and picturesque effects; not the artificial scene-painting of Mrs. Radcliffe, but artistic delineations of the aspects of earth, sea, and sky which gave depth and atmosphere to his dramatic situations. From this period, also, may be dated the practice, so entirely contrary to the spirit of true romance, of verifying by documentary evidence the details of a story. It was Scott who, in the first years of this century, set prominently the example of appending copious notes to his stories in verse or prose, wherein he displayed his archaeologic lore and produced his authorities for any striking illustration of manners or characteristic incident. This practice, which was largely adopted by others, was at least an improvement upon the old unregenerate system of seasoning the conversation of warriors and peasants with uncouth phrases picked up at random, or trusting to mere fancy or accepted formula for the description of battles or of the ways of folk in mediaeval castles and cottages. But the process savoured too much of the workshop. A novel or poem that required an appendix of notes and glossaries must be of high excellence to ayoid suspicious resemblance to an elaborate literary counterfeit, since open and avowed borrowing from dictionaries of anti.
quities or volumes of travel must damage the illusion which is
fancied himself to be a judge. The use of notes was discarded as contrary to the high artistic principle that in fiction everything must resemble reality while nothing must be demonstrably matter of fact. The appearance of famous personages must be occasional, after the manner of gods in an epic poem ; they must not be, as formerly, the leading characters and chief actors in the drama. And great battles, instead of marking the grand climacteric of a story's development, were now merely traversed, so to speak, on their outskirts, or were only approached near enough to throw a glowing sidelight on certain groups and situations. The gradual adoption of these limitations may be traced back to the naval and military novels that reflect the traditions of the great French war. No one even then thought of writing a romance with Nelson or Bonaparte as the hero, or of finishing off in the full blaze of Trafalgar or in the rout of Waterloo; although with Marryat and Lever the English reader revelled in the dashing exploits or bacchanalian revels of sailors and soldiers. Lever did indeed give glimpses of Wellington or Napoleon; but his business was with Connaught rangers and French guardsmen; while Marryat and Michael Scott gave us daring sea-captains and reckless sailors with inimitable vigour
and animation. But as the echo of thunderous battles by sea and land died away, this particular offshoot of modern romance ceased to flourish, and has never had any considerable revival. The taleteller of adventure, like his ancestor the epic poet, requires a certain haziness of atmosphere; he must have elbow room for his inventive faculty; and he is liable to be stifled in the flood of lucid narrative and inflexible facts let loose upon recent events in our day by complete histories, personal memoirs, public documents, war correspondence, and all-pervading journalism. This is probably the main reason why the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny, which broke for brief intervals the long peace of England, have furnished no fresh material contribution of importance to the romance of war, either in prose or poetry, to stamp the memory of a long weary siege, or of a short and bloody struggle, upon the popular imagination. Another reason must be, of course, the nonappearance in England of the vates sacer; for Tolstoi, has shown us that within and without Sebastopol there might be sound material for work of the highest order. However this may be, it is a remarkable fact that just about that time the novel of adventure turned back for a moment, in Kingsley's hands, to the spacious times of great Elizabeth, to the Armada and the legends of filibustering on the Spanish main; and at the the present time we may observe that the leading writer of this school goes back at least a hundred years for the field of his best stories. The eighteenth century, whose politics, philosophy, and literature seemed to Carlyle's somewhat bookish conception to be flat, prosaic, and comparatively uninteresting, was in truth for Englishmen pre-eminently the age of energetic activity, which touched the high level of romantic enterprise at two points, the Scottish rebellions and the exploits of famous buccaneers. Mr. Stevenson has re-opened, with great skill and success, these mines of literary ore that had been discovered but only partially worked by Walter Scott. His rare artistic insting divined the rich veins which they still contained; while in other stories his intimate acquaintance with actual life and circumstance on the coasts and islands of the Pacific Ocean has provided him with those elements of distance and unfamiliarity which are essential, as we have suggested, to the composition of the novel of adventure. Other less original writers have travelled in search of these elements to the Australian bush or
the outlying half-explored regions of South Africa. This very cursory survey of the main influences and cir. cumstances that have shaped the course and set the fashion of our modern novel of adventure, may be useful in explaining its actual position at the present moment. Scepticism and research have effectually retrenched the very liberal credit formerly assigned to romance writing ; the art now consists in spinning a long narrative out of authentic materials which mus be disguised or kept hidden ; while its leading features are a delight in elaborate accessories and that very modern sentiment, a horror of anachronism. A few living artists, like Mr. Short. house and Mr. Stevenson, can still excel under these difficul conditions, which have driven a crowd of second-rate novelists into the extreme of minute realism. Into this retreat, however, they have been followed by a host of readers; for in these days of universal instruction and flat uneventful existence nothing satisfies the average mind like photographic detail, which is a commodity to be had of every industrious or studious composer. As the range of accurate information extends, as the dust heap of old records, private as well as public, is site more narrowly, as the antique habit of taking things readily for granted disappears, the novel becomes more and more an arrangement of genuine facts and circumstances, interleaved by such fiction as the skill and imagination of the author can produce. . . It may be worth observing that this demand so exact verification has affected the use of the early chronicles in two contrary ways; they are relied upon implicitly or they at arbitrarily arbitrarily discredited, in proportion as the facts stated appear credible or not credible to critics or professors who are working upon them. All the particulars of a great battle or of some famous event that can be gleaned out of some ancient monkish annalist, who must always have collected his information by hearsay and often after many years, are treated as authentic so long as they do not sound improbable; but if they offend against the canon of probability set up by a library-hunting student, they are liable to be summarily rejected. We may venture upon the conjecture that the true result of this process is to assimilate the work of the critical historian much more nearly than he would for a moment allow to that of a skilful historic novelist. A romancer of insight and imaginative power, who studied his period, would be quite as likely to make a lucky selection of real incidents, motives, and characters, in a story of the Roman Empire or of England under the Plantagenets, as an erudite writer of history. Perhaps the best measure available to us of what we may believe in regard to far-off times is afforded by observation of what now happens in rough societies or remote places; and this test the novelist is rather more apt, on the whole, to employ than the historian. In the novels, as upon the stage, this demand for minute accuracy of scenic or historical details has necessarily elicited an abundant supply; though whether the entire picture is rendered much more natural and real by an accumulation of correct particulars, may be questioned. “La recherche exagérée du vrai peut conduire au faux. It is most doubtful whether laborious research can reconstruct a lifelike presentation of a vanished society, its modes of life, its ways of thinking and acting. In vain the novelist or the painter studies archaeology, takes a journey to the Holy Land for his local colouring, reads up the records of the time, or works in museums. The result may be ingenious and even instructive; but there are sure to be great errors and anachronisms, although they may now be undiscoverable; while the general tone, point of view, and balance of motives are nearly certain to be obscured or distorted. For the modern novelist, like the ancient myth-maker, is necessarily the child of his time; his work takes the bent of his personal temperament, and is moulded by the environment of ideas and circumstances within which he lives. The Myth, the Romance, the Historic Novel, each in its successive period, did at least this service to later generations; they preserved and handed down to us the popular impressions, the figures or pictures of great men and striking events, as they were reflected upon the imagination of subsequent ages. It can never be discovered, and