Abbildungen der Seite

Greeks, expresses the opinion repeatedly that, whatever their literature may indicate, they themselves were capable of feeling strong and pure love; and the eminent American psychologist, Professor William James, put forth the same opinion in a review of my book. Indeed, this view was broached more than a hundred years ago by a German author, Basil von Ramdohr, who wrote four volumes on love and its history, entitled Venus Urania. His first two volumes are almost unreadably garrulous and dull, but the third and fourth contain an interesting account of various phases through which love has passed in literature. Yet he declares (Preface, vol. iii.) that "the nature [Wesen] of love is unchangeable, but the ideas we entertain in regard to it and the effects we ascribe to it, are subject to alteration."


It is possible that Hegel may have read this book, for it appeared in 1798, while the first manuscript sketches of his lectures on esthetics bear the date of 1818. He may have also read Robert Wood's book entitled An Essay on the Original Genius and Writings of Homer, dated 1775, in which this sentence occurs: "Is it not very remarkable, that Homer, so great a master of the tender and pathetic, who has exhibited human nature in almost every shape, and under every view, has not given a single instance of the powers and effects of love, distinct from sensual enjoyment, in the Iliad?" This is as far as I have been able to trace back this notion in modern literature. But in the literature of the first half of the nineteenth century I have come across several adumbrations of the truth regarding the Greeks,2 by Shelley, Lord Lytton, Lord Macaulay, and Théophile Gautier. Shelley's ideas are confused and contradictory, but interesting as show

In the New York Nation of September 22, and the Evening Post of September 24, 1887. My reasons for not agreeing with these two distinguished professors will be dwelt on repeatedly in the following pages. If they are right, then literature is not, as it is universally held to be, a mirror of life.

2 No important truth is ever born full-fledged. The Darwinian theory was conceived simultaneously by Wallace and Darwin, and both were anticipated by other writers. Nay, a German professor has written a treatise on the "Greek Predecessors of Darwin."

ing the conflict between traditional opinion and poetic intuition. In his fragmentary discourse on "The Manners of the Ancients Relating to the Subject of Love," which was intended to serve as an introduction to Plato's Symposium, he remarks that the women of the ancient Greeks, with rare exceptions, possessed "the habits and the qualities of slaves. They were probably not extremely beautiful, at least there was no such disproportion in the attractions of the external form between the female and male sex among the Greeks, as exists among the modern Europeans. They were certainly devoid of that moral and intellectual loveliness with which the acquisition of knowledge and the cultivation of sentiment animates, as with another life of overpowering grace, the lineaments and the gestures of every form which they inhabit. Their eyes could not have been deep and intricate from the workings of the mind, and could have entangled no heart in sonl-enwoven labyrinths." Having painted this life-like picture of the Greek female mind, Shelley goes on to say perversely "Let it not be imagined that because the Greeks were deprived of its legitimate object, that they were incapable of sentimental love, and that this passion is the mere child of chivalry and the literature of modern times."

He tries to justify this assertion by adding that "Man is in his wildest state a social being a certain degree of civilization and refinement ever produces the want of sympathies still more intimate and complete; and the gratification of the senses is no longer all that is sought in sexual connection. It soon becomes a very small part of that profound and complicated sentiment, which we call love, which is rather the universal thirst for a communion not merely of the senses, but of our whole nature, intellectual, imaginative, and sensitive."


Here Shelley contradicts himself flatly by saying, in two consecutive sentences, that Greek women were certainly devoid of the moral and intellectual loveliness" which inspires sentimental love, but that the men nevertheless could feel such love. His mind was evidently hazy on the subject, and that is probably the reason why his essay remained a fragment.


Macaulay, with deeper insight than Shelley showed, realized that the passion of love may undergo changes. In his essay on Petrarch he notes that in the days of that poet love had become a new passion, and he clearly realizes the obstacles to love presented by Greek institutions. Of the two classes of women in Greece, the respectable and the hetairai, he says: "The matrons and their daughters, confined in the hareminsipid, uneducated, ignorant of all but the mechanical arts, scarcely seen till they were married-could rarely excite interest; while their brilliant rivals, half graces, half harpies, elegant and refined, but fickle and rapacious, could never inspire respect."

Lord Lytton wrote an essay on "The Influence of Love upon Literature and Real Life," in which he stated that "with Euripides commences the important distinction in the analysis of which all the most refined and intellectual of modern erotic literature consists, viz., the distinction between love as a passion and love as a sentiment. .. He is the first of the Hellenic poets who interests us intellectually in the antagonism and affinity between the sexes."

Théophile Gautier clearly realized one of the differences between ancient passion and modern love. In Mademoiselle de Maupin, he makes this comment on the ancient love-poems:

"Through all the subtleties and veiled expressions one hears the abrupt and harsh voice of the master who endeavors to soften his manner in speaking to a slave. It is not, as in the love-poems written since the Christian era, a soul demanding love of another soul because it loves.


Make haste, Cynthia; the smallest wrinkle may prove the grave of the most violent passion.' It is in this brutal formula that all ancient elegy is summed up."


In Romantic Love and Personal Beauty I intimated (116) that Oliver Goldsmith was the first author who had a suspicion of the fact that love is not the same everywhere and at all times. My surmise was apparently correct; it is not re

futed by any of the references to love by the several authors just quoted, since all of these were written from about a half a century to a century later than Goldsmith's Citizen of the World (published in 1764), which contains his dialogue on "Whether Love be a Natural or a Fictitious Passion." His assertion therein that love existed only in early Rome, in chivalrous medieval Europe, and in China, all the rest of the world being, and having ever been, "utter strangers to its delights and advantages," is, of course a mere bubble of his poetic fancy, not intended to be taken too seriously, and, is, moreover, at variance with facts. It is odd that he overlooks the Greeks, whereas the other writers cited confine themselves to the Greeks and their Roman imitators.

Ten years before Goldsmith thus launched the idea that most nations were and had ever been strangers to the delights and advantages of love, Jean Jacques Rousseau published a treatise, Discours sur l'inégalité (1754), in which he asserted that savages are strangers to jealousy, know no domesticity, and evince no preferences, being as well pleased with one woman as with another. Although, as we shall see later, many savages do have a crude sort of jealousy, domesticity, and individual preference, Rousseau, nevertheless, hints prophetically at a great truth-the fact that some, at any rate, of the phenomena of love are not to be found in the life of savages. Such a thought, naturally, was too novel to be accepted at once. Ramdohr, for instance, declares (III. 17) that he cannot convince himself that Rousseau is right. Yet, on the preceding page he himself had written that it is unreasonable to speak of love between the sexes among peoples that have not yet advanced so far as to grant women humane consideration."



All these things are of extreme interest as showing the blind struggles of a great idea to emerge from the mist into daylight. The greatest obstacle to the recognition of the fact that love has a history, and is subject to the laws of evolution, lay in the habit of looking upon it as a simple feeling.

When I wrote my first book on love, I believed that Herbert Spencer was the first thinker who grasped the idea that love is a composite state of mind. I now see, however, that Silvius, in Shakspere's As You Like It (V. 2), gave a broad hint of the truth, three hundred years ago. Phoebe asks him to tell what 't is to love," and he replies:


It is to be all made of sighs and tears.

It is to be all made of faith and service.

It is to be all made of fantasy,

All made of passion, and all made of wishes,

All adoration, duty, and observance,

All humbleness, all patience, and impatience,
All purity, all trial, all obedience.

Coleridge also vaguely recognized the composite nature of

love in the first stanza of his famous poem :

[ocr errors]

All thoughts, all passions, all delights,
Whatever stirs this mortal frame,
All are but ministers of love,
And feed his sacred flame.

And Swift adds, in "Cadenus and Vanessa:

Love, why do we one passion call,
When 'tis a compound of them all?

[ocr errors]

The eminent Danish critic, George Brandes, though a special student of English literature, overlooked these poets when he declared, in one of his lectures on literary history (1872), that the book in which love is for the first time looked on as something composite and an attempt made to analyze it into its elements, is Benjamin Constant's Adolphe (which appeared in 1816). "In Adolphe," he says, "and in all the literature associated with that book, we are informed accurately how many parts, how many grains, of friendship, devotion, vanity, ambition, admiration, respect, sensual attraction, illusion, fancy, deception, hate, satiety, enthusiasm, reasoning calculation, etc., are contained in the mixtum compositum which the enamoured persons call love." This list, moreover, does not accurately name a single one of the

« ZurückWeiter »