« ZurückWeiter »
might, perhaps, be rendered happy “are the happy ones to be found?" "ID enough. But they must always bear the farmhouses," is the prompt reply. in mind that they are no more than a Bergeret got up and placed a half-franc kind of leprosy, a morbid growth, a race in Pied d'Alouette's hand. “You think, of vermin upon the mouldy surface of Pied d'Alouette, that happiness is to a little ball which turns awkwardly be found under a roof, in a chimney round a yellow sun already half gone corner, or a feather bed. I thought out.
you had more good sense.” The poor In the ideas of Coignard and Ber- chemineau takes the place of the cobgeret we probably get the closest view bler in Lucian's famous dialogue upon. attainable of the deliberate conclusions the vanity of riches, while Bergeret, of the subtlest and most refined artist ruminating upon the dry scraps of and thinker of our time. As a sceptic, learning in his “Vergilius Nauticus," is. M. France doubts everything, and in left wondering where the happiness of all things discovers the secret defect; erudition comes in. Charming, again, as a dilettante he amuses himself by as a pendant to the vignette of Bonnard the constant change and succession of and his cat is Bergeret's meditation forms which men are so curiously apt over a canine foundling which he to denominate progress. But, starting adopts and befriends with an unaffrom the pessimistic conviction of the fected sympathy: incurable badness and weakness of “ 'Il est joli! dit la servante. humanity, he is finally touched by the “ Non, il n'est pas joli,' dit M. Berwretchedness and instability of human geret. 'Mais il est sympathique, et ili destiny, and ends by demanding that a de beaux yeux. C'est ce qu'on disait men should judge one another with a de moi,' ajouta le professeur, 'quand. “scetticismo caritatevole.” 1
j'avais le triple de son âge et pas encoreSceptical and even cynical though the la moitié de son intelligence. Sans. majority of his later work is, M. doute, j'ai depuis lors jeté sur l'univers. France's judgments are never unchari- une vue qu'il ne jettera jamais. Mais. table, and the element of compassion is
au regard de la vérité absolue, on peut rarely absent. Few passages in the dire que ma connaissance égale la "Histoire" are more delightful than sienne par sa petitesse. C'est comme those in which he dwells upon the hum- la sienne, un point géométrique dans blest aspects of life. One of the pleas- l'infini ... antest glimpses that we have of Ber- “ 'Il faut lui donner un nom.' geret is the scene in which, while re- "La servante répondit en riant, les posing under his favorite ormes du mail
mains sur le ventre, que ce n'était pas, and meditating in his usual deprecia
difficile. tory manner upon the rhetorical mili- "Sur quoi M. Bergeret fit intérieuretarism of the eighth book of Virgil and ment cette réflexion, que tout est simthe grotesque manner in which certain ple aux simples, mais que les esprits Latin poets have been overrated, he
avisés, qui considèrent les choses sous. encounters the chemineau, or tramp,
des aspects divers et multiples, invisnamed “Pied d'Alouette." He has a
ibles au vulgaire, éprouvent une grande ready sympathy with the poor jail-bird,
difficulté à se décider même dans les who has nothing dangerous about him,
moindres affaires." unless it be his rooted belief in happi
It will be seen that, far as M. France ness. “Where, then," says the professor,
has travelled in other respects since
he achieved his first great triumph with i Vittorio Pica, Letteratura d'eccezione, 1899,
"Bonnard,” his ironic temper is still: 288.
qualified by the same deep compassion from the fact that he is in no possible for the weak and the humble. The sense a critic who has failed. In Eng. juxtaposition of the two qualities is land we are, of course, far from unelevated into an article of faith by the familiar with the pessimistic tone that writer in his admirable book of Pen- he most naturally adopts. It is scatsées (“Le Jardin d'Epicure,” 1895). tered up and down the author of the
“Plus je songe à la vie humaine, plus “Whirlpool,” and it reaches very je crois qu'il faut lui donner pour té- poignant note in Amy Levy's “Minor moins et pour juges l'Ironie et la Pitié Poet." One is, perhaps, rather in... L'Ironie et la Pitié sont deux clined to associate this heartfelt disbonnes conseillères; l'une en souriant dain of an unappreciative world with nous rend la vie aimable; l'autre qui the mental processes of the minor poet, pleure, nous la rend sacrée."
though in the case of the greatest of To avoid a weak compliance with the men the conjunction of bitterness and vulgar practice of eulogy was, in Lu- failure is sufficiently common. The cian's opinion, the first and most im- bitterness of Swift was, in part at least, perative duty of the historian. In his due to this cause, and the philosophic "Histoire Contemporaine” M. France despair of Bolingbroke was, in the has most emphatically not fallen into main perhaps, the despair of office. this pitfall. He has nowhere recklessly But Anatole France is not in any sense flattered his contemporaries; he is a failure-he, a man of humble birth, never the sychophant of his own gen- a native of the Quai Malaquais, who eration. The publicists of the hour has by the sheer force of wit scaled seem, in fact, to have irritated M. the barriers of exclusiveness and enFrance by their blatant optimism, tered the most aristocratic coterie of much as the charlatans and the thauma- the Académie. From his youth he was turges of Syria and Greece, with the très livresque, and his early books are metallic timbre of their voices and the characterized by an erudition from majesty of their long beards, afflicted which he distils a honey that has althe satirist of Samosata seventeen ways a certain acridity of flavor. But hundred years ago. In England, where it is in his latest series of volumes, we are often abused by a foreign press, upon every page of which is impressed but have not, like our neighbors, the his profound knowledge of human na.advantage of being persistently and ture, that the doctrine of Nihilism solemnly lectured upon our delinquen- stands out so boldly as the fruit of his .cies, the need for a contemporary his
mature reflections not only upon books, torian would seem to be even greater but also upon men and women. The than in France. As a corrective to the commerce of books and the habit of inmonotony of those rhapsodies upon our tense reflection and self-analysis bave noble selves, with which every paper
fitted him in a degree that has and platform in the land is forever re- never been excelled to fulfil the funcsounding, the value of an English sat
tion of an author as he has specially irist, of the calibre of M. Anatole conceived it-as that of an ironical France, could hardly be overrated. critic, namely, who from a quiet and
His tableau of modern French soci- sheltered nook of observation can mediety is a satire of the most uncompro
tate at his ease upon the clamor and mising severity; but is its severity
the folly-occasionally pathetic, but greater than its substantial truth? M. more often purely ridiculous--of his France's credibility gains enormously
fellows in the dusty market-place.
Thomas Seccombe. The Cornhill Magazine.
THE HEART OF DARKNESS. *
BY JOBEPH CONRAD.
the appreciation of this favor bad re
mained with him to the last. You "I laid the ghost of his gifts at last should have heard him say, 'My ivory.' with a lie," he began suddenly. “Girl. O, yes, I heard him, ‘My intended, What? Did I mention a girl? O, she my ivory, my station, my river, myis out of it-completely. They-the everything belonged to him. It made women, I mean-are out of it-should me hold my breath in expectation of be out of it. We must help them to stay hearing the wilderness burst into a proin that beautiful world of their own, digious peal of laughter that would lest ours gets worse. O, she had to be shake the fixed stars in their places. out of it. You should have heard the Everything belonged to him-but that disinterred body of Mr. Kurtz saying, was a trifle. The thing was to know My intended.' You would have per- what he belonged to, how many powers ceived directly then how completely she of darkness claimed him for their own. was out of it. And the lofty frontal That was the reflection that made you bone of Mr. Kurtz! They say the hair creepy all over. It was impossible-it goes on growing sometimes, but this, was not good for one, either-to try and ah-specimen was impressively bald. imagine. He had taken a high seat The wilderness had patted him on the amongst the devils of the land-I mean head, and behold, it was like a ball— literally. You can't understand. How an ivory ball; it had caressed him, and could you—with solid pavement under -10!-he had withered; it had taken your feet, surrounded by kind neighhim, loved him, embraced him, got into bors ready to cheer you or fall on you, his veins, consumed his flesh and sealed stepping delicately between the butchhis soul to its own by the inconceivable er and the policeman, in the holy terror ceremonies of some devilish initiation. of scandal and gallows and lunatic He was its spoiled and pampered favor- asylums; how can you imagine what ite. Ivory? I should think so. Heaps particular region of the first ages a of it, stacks of it. The old mud shanty man's untrammeled feet may take him was bursting with it. You would think into by the way of solitude-utter sollthere was not a single tusk left either tude without a policeman-by the way above or below the ground in the whole
of silence-utter silence, where no country. Mostly fossil,' the manager warning voice of a kind neighbor can had remarked. It was no more fossil be heard whispering of public opinion. than I am; but they call it fossil when These little things make all the great it is dug up. It appears these niggers
difference. When they are gone you do bury the tusks sometimes--but evi- must fall back upon your own innate dently they couldn't bury this parcel strength, upon your own capacity for deep enough to save the gifted Mr.
faithfulness. Of course you may be Kurtz from his fate. We filled the too much of a fool to go wrong-too steamboat with it and had to pile a lot dull even to know you are being ason the deck. Thus he could see and saulted by the powers of darkness. I enjoy as long as he could see, because take it no fool ever made a bargain for * Copyright by S. S. McClure & Co.
his soul with the devil. The fool is VOL. VIII. 407
too much of a fool, or the devil too much of a devil-I don't know which. Or you may be such a thunderingly exalted creature as to be altogether deaf and blind to anything but heavenly sights and sounds. Then the earth for you is only a standing place-and whether to be like this is your loss or your gain I won't pretend to say. But most of us are neither one nor the other. The earth for us is a place to live in, where we must put up with sights, with sounds, with smells, too, by Jove - breathe dead hippo, to speak, and not be contaminated. And there, don't you see, your strength comes in, the faith in your ability of "digging unostentatious holes to bury the stuff in-your power of devotion, not to yourself, but to an obscure, backbreaking business. And that's difficult enough. Mind, I am not trying to excuse or even explain-I am trying to account to myself for-for-Mr. Kurtz -for the shade of Mr. Kurtz. This initiated wraith from the back of Nowhere honored me with its amazing confidence before it vanished altogether. This was because it could speak English to me. The original Kurtz had been educated partly in England, and-as he was good enough to say himself-his sympathies were in the right place. His mother was half English, his father was half French. All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz, and by and by I learned that, most appropriately, the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs had intrusted him with the making of a report for their future guidance. And he had written it, too. I've seen it. I've read it. It was eloquent, vibrating with eloquence, but too high-strung, I think. Seventeen pages of close writing he had found time for! But this must have been before his-let us say-nerves went wrong, and caused him to preside at certain midnight dances, ending with
unspeakable rites, which-as far as I reluctantly gathered from what I heard at various times-were offered up to him-do you understand ?-to Mr. Kurtz himself. But it was a beautiful piece of writing. The opening paragraph, however, in the light of later information, strikes me now as ominous. He began with the argument that we whites, from the point of development we had arrived at, must necessarily appear to them (savages) in the nature of supernatural beings-we approach them with the might as of deity, and so on, and so on. 'By the simple exercise of our will we can exert a power for good practically unbounded,' etc., etc. From that point he soared and took me with him. The peroration was magnificent, though difficult to remember, you know. It gave me the notion of an exotic immensity ruled by an august benevolence. It made me tingle with enthusiasm. This was the unbounded power of eloquence-of words -of burning, noble words. There were no practical hints to interrupt the magic current of phrases, unless a kind of note at the foot of the last page, scrawled evidently much later, in an unsteady hand, may be regarded as the exposition of a method.
It was very simple, and at the end of that moving appeal to every altruistic sentiment it blazed at you luminous and terrifying, like a flash of lightning in a serene sky: 'Exterminate all the brutes! The curious part was that he had apparently forgotten all about that valuable postcriptum, because, later on, when he in a sense came to himself, he repeatedly entreated me to take good care of 'my pamphlet (as he called it), as it was sure to have in the future a good influence upon his career. I had full information about all these things, and, as it turned out, I was to hare the care of his memory. I've done enough for it to give me the indisputable right to lay it, if I choose, for
an everlasting rest in the dust bin of heavier than any man on earth, I should progress, among all the sweepings, and, imagine. Then, without more ado, I figuratively speaking, all the dead cats tipped him overboard. The current of civilization. But then, you see, I snatched him as though he had been a can't choose. He won't be forgotten. wisp of grass, and I saw the body roll Whaiever he was, he was not common. over twice before I lost sight of it forHe had the power to charm or frighten ever. All the pilgrims and the manarudimentary souls into an aggravated ger were then congregated on the awnwitch dance in his honor; he could also ing deck about the pilot house, chatterfill the small souls of the pilgrims with ing at each other like a flock of excited misgivings; he had one devoted friend magpies, and there was a scandalized at least, and he had conquered one soul murmur at my heartless promptitude. in the world that was neither rudimen- What they wanted to keep that body tary nor tainted with self-seeking. No, hanging about for I can't guess. Embalm I can't forget him; though I am not it, maybe. But I had also heard another prepared to affirm the fellow was ex- and a very ominous murmur on the actly worth the life we lost in getting deck below. My friends, the woodcutto him. I missed my late helmsman ters, were likewise scandalized, and with awfully; I missed him even while his a better show of reason-though I adbody was still lying in the pilot house. mit that the reason itself was quite inPerhaps you will think it passing admissible. O, quite! I had made up strange, this regret for a savage who my mind that if my late helmsman was was no more account than a grain of to be eaten, the fishes alone should have sand in a black Sahara. Well, don't him. He had been a very second-rate you see, he had done something, he helmsman while alive, but now he was had steered; for months I had him at dead he might become a first-class my back-a help-an instrument. It temptation, and possibly cause some was a kind of partnership. He steered startling trouble; besides I was anxious for me I had to look after him. I to take the wheel, the man in pink worried about his deficiencies, and thus pajamas showing himself a helpless a subtle bond had been created, of duffer at the business. which I only became aware when it “This I did directly the simple funeral was suddenly broken. And the inti- was over. We were going half-speed, mate profundity of that look he gave keeping right in the middle of the me, when he received his hurt, remains stream, and I listened to the talk about to this day in my memory-like a claim me. They had given up Kurtz, they of distant kinship affirmed in a had given up the station; Kurtz was preme moment.
dead, and the station had been burned "Poor fool! If he had only left that -and so on-and so on. The red-haired shutter alone. He had no restraint-no pilgrim was beside himself with the restraint-just like Kurtz-a tree thought that at least this poor Kurtz swayed by the wind. As soon
had been properly revenged. 'Say! had put on a dry pair of slippers, I We must have made a glorious slaughdragged him out, after first jerking the ter of them in the bush. Eh? What spear out of his side, which operation do you think? Say?' He positively I performed with my eyes shut tight. danced, the bloodthirsty little gingery His heels leaped together over the little beggar. And he had nearly fainted doorstep; his shoulders were pressed to when he saw the wounded man! I my breast; I hugged him from behind could not help saying, 'You made a glodesperately. O, he was heavy, heavy; rious lot of smoke, anyhow.' I had