« ZurückWeiter »
Celt has a right to complain of the way and are struggling, with fainter and in which, by too crude an application of fainter efforts, in the meshes of the certain ethnological views, the claims of Roman system. The Latin tongue, the his race have been lately dealt with. Latin laws, and Latin habits overspread That doctrine of the intellectual and them; and Celtic druidism dies out, historical worthlessness of the Celt (for leaving no such native record of itself, by many it is pushed even to this ex as has remained of the Scandinavian treme) which he resents with the in- mythology of the sons of Odin. For stinctive anger of his whole insulted three or four centuries, whatever of being, which writhes his features to Celtic activity, whatever manifestation their darkest scowl, and to which, of Celtic genius, was possible, whether mouthed out too rudely in his presence, in Gaul or in Britain, was necessarily it might chance that the answer would such as might consist with the state of be his dirk,—this very doctrine the these countries as part and parcel of the candid Saxon himself ought to declare Roman empire. In such circumstances false, and disprove by his research. how did the Celtic mind acquit itself? Most affirmations of this emphatic kind, By no means ill. Not to speak of those after they have served a year or so in men and women, named and nameless, literature, lose whatever virtue they who died in doing what all account it had, and require to be re-edited ; and, creditable in a race to have had men while the doctrine of the worthlessness and women capable of doing—those of the Celt will still be clung to by those Gaulish and British chiefs and chief who must have something to say and tainesses who resisted Cæsar and Agrican't change their phrases, it is perhaps cola—is it not a fact, known to scholars, time that those who think for themselves that, when the Gauls were once fairly should be trying to substitute for it a subjects of Rome, they learnt so fast, more exact appreciation of the Celtic and took so cleverly to the new tongue influence in history. Materials for such and the new civilization, that many of an appreciation are not wanting, and the eminent soldiers, rhetoricians, actors, Mr. Campbell's work may help as a and even writers who figure in the lists stimulus to it.
of the later Empire under the general Passing over the vague traditions of name of Romans, were in reality Cisalthe primeval or very ancient migrations pine or Transalpine Celts ? Even from of the Celts, of their dashings hither Britain itself was there not some similar and thither against the more consolidated small contribution of native talent to populations of Southern Europe, and the general stock of the Empire of which finally of their descent into Italy in that it was a province ? At all events, terrible hour when infant Rome was at when Christianity possessed the Empire, their mercy, one may point out, as per and there was added everywhere to the tinent to the present inquiry, that the exercises of mind and of heart which chance of the Celt in history preceded had been formerly possible for the that of the Goth, and fell upon a time provincials, the new exercise afforded when the conditions were different from by theology and ecclesiastical business, those which the Goth experienced. It Britain, as well as Gaul, performed a was not the fate of the Celt to enter on competent part. Names here abound; the stage of history as a dominant or but pre-eminent among them, as that of conquering race, carrying forward its at least one British-born Celt whose own institutions and its own traditions, influence ran round the margin of the intact out of the past. When the Celtic Mediterranean and agitated the Roman populations and their religion of Druid- empire, while as yet the Empire survived, ism first fairly present themselves to is the name of the heresiarch Pelagius. the historic student, they are already In that “ British heresy," concerning absorbed, all but a few outlying bits, freewill and nécessity, which roused in within the body of the Roman empire, opposition to it even the distant or.
thodoxy of Africa, and the continuation Angles, Saxons, and Norsemen, as by of which may be traced throughout the the right of might and fitness its proper subsequent theology of Europe, till even lords ; let it be to them, and not to the in our own day the charges of Pelagian- Celts, that we look back with pride as ism and semi-Pelagianism are bandied our ancestors, as the founders of our about, the Celtic genius signalled first, national system-still, all this supposed, as it has exhibited so often since, its our quest of farther Celtic influence a capacity for systematic speculation. mere beggarly search of empty boxes, a
But anon the scene changes. The fool's errand through dirt and turbuRoman empire is no more. The in- lence and mist? Unless we shut our breaking Goth, split into a thousand eyes, by no means so! What, for exstreams, disintegrates by his advances ample, of the Celtic missionaries from the fabric of Roman society ; and over Wales, from Scotland, from Ireland, Western Europe new rudimentary states who co-operated in the conversion of are rising on its ruins. Is the Celtic the Anglo-Saxons ? What of the struginfluence then extinct ? Can no strokes gles of these missionaries to maintain and results of important action then be for the whole island a purer faith, and a discerned which are indubitably Celtic ? more free ecclesiastical system, than AuNot so. Allowing to the full for the gustine and the agents of Rome brought Frankish and other Teutonic effects on with them across the Channel ? There Gaul, do we not discern in modern is a period in our national history—that France, and in all that France has been between the withdrawal of the Roman among the nations, the re-assertion—nay, legions and the full establishment of the to some extent, the dominance of the Anglo-Saxon power—during which the Latino-Celtic genius ? Shall we, when educated Celtic mind, in the persons we want to satirize the French—to ex- of Irish and Scoto-Irish saints and press our dislike of their restlessness, ecclesiastics, exerted itself to an extent, their mobility, their alternate phrenzies and in a manner, not yet sufficiently of revolution and subjections to military recognised. Nay, more, when we pass despotism-account for it all by naming beyond this period, and draw out a list them Celts off-hand ; and yet, when we of the more eminent intellectual natives are in another mood with them, and of this land during the Anglo-Saxon think more of all that France has period properly so called—those, at all done that is spirit-stirring and splendid, events, who distinguished themselves as shall we recant the name, or forget that writers in the then universal Latin-it we used it It does not seem fair. An will be found that at least as many were, analysis backward of French activity certainly or presumably, of the subject into the ingredients severally derived Celtic race as of the dominant Anglofrom the races that compose the Saxon. It is worthy of remark, too, that, French population, might indeed be a if these Celtic writers are compared with difficult problem ; but, on any analysis, their Anglo-Saxon contemporaries in rethe career of France—and that certainly spect of the nature of their works, the is no little thing in the history of the aptitude for systematic thought, rather world—would have to be admitted as, than for mere historic compilation or in great part, a Celtic phenomenon. mere ethical and practical discourse, will
But turn we to our own Celts of be found to have been still characteristic Britain and Ireland. Let the strug- of the Celtic intellect.
If the Anglogles of the Romanized Britons in the Saxons can adduce as perhaps all in all south, of the Picts and Scots in the their foremost literary name in this penorth, against the invading Angles, riod that of the Venerable Bede, and if Saxons, and Norsemen, pass as things it is disputed whether Alcuin, the famous inconsequential in history, mere footing intellectual vizier of Charlemagne, was ground for poetic myths; let the bulk a British Celt or a British Saxon, the the most illustrious European one might point to that extraordinary thinker of his period, the forerunner and body of Welsh and Armorican legend father of the schoolmen-Joannes Scotus embracing in its totality the mythical Erigena.
foreworld of these islands from Brut the We talk fondly of the Anglo-Saxons Trojan to Arthur and his knights inclu. as the fathers of all that is good and sive-which, conveyed into general cirstalwart in us; but it is very question- culation through Geoffrey of Monmouth's able whether this country would ever Latin, and elaborated and shaped by have been one tithe of what it has been early Norman and English minstrels, has in the world, politically or intellectually, been a permanent inheritance in our but for the Norman Conquest. No one own and in all European Literature, an can study English History before and inspiration and exhaustless magazine of after that event without perceiving the subjects for our Spensers, our Shakeimmense change, which it wrought, the speares, our Miltons, and our Tennysons. extraordinary stimulus which it commu- Through much of our greatest poetry, nicated. It is like the infusion of a when the melody is listened for through new supply of the most electric nerve the harmony, there is heard the strain into what had formerly been a somewhat of the old British harp. sluggish body of large thew and bone. In pursuing the inquiry down to our Now, there is fair room for an investiga- own times, it divides itself more obvition whether and to what extent, in that ously into two branches—the investigaprocess which transmuted the Scandina- tion of Celtic influence as operating vian colony of Norsemen into the French- more latently in the mixed populations speaking Normans as they came among of these islands, known as English and us—light and yet strong, flashing and Scotch ; and the investigation of the yet persevering—the combination of Cel. same influence as exerted in or from the tic blood with Norse may have contri- portions of the country where the purest buted. But, let the Normans be voted, remains of the Celtic race are shut upas is usually done, pure Norsemen who Wales, the Scottish Highlands, and had but changed their language, is the Erse-speaking Ireland. recognisable Celtic element of the mixed The difficulties of the former investipopulation of which they became masters gation are so great that it is never made. of no farther account in the land during As no one can tell who among us of the the period of their mastery—theso-called mixed populations is more Celt and Anglo-Norman period? In answer to who more Saxon—as we meet every this, if the realm of literature is still day the most sturdy Saxon-looking chiefly attended to, it would be possible and Saxon-thinking fellows, who have not only to pick out, in the list of those Celtic names, and, vice verså, dark little writers of the Anglo-Norman period who Celtic-looking men, who have Norse or used the common Latin, Celts inter- Saxon names—so, in the general sea of mingled with Normans and Anglo- English and Scottish thought and Saxons, and exhibiting the Celtic ten- doings during the last three or four dency to speculation qualifying the hundred years, it is impossible to dismainly ethical tendency of the Saxon criminate what may have been Celtic. mind and the mainly narrative tendency The Celt surely exists among us, though of the Norman, but also, extending our submerged. For the credit of our Angloview beyond the common Latin to the Saxon forefathers it is to be assumed three vernacular tongues which then di- that they did not murder out all the vided with it the total literature of these Celts in England and the Scottish Lowislands, to produce Celtic authors Irish lands, when they took possessionat annalists, Welsh poets, and the like- least, not the women, though they may not unworthy of note by the side of the have sent their spouses packing to the Anglo-Norman trouvères and the first hills. Now, is nothing to go to the credit rude practitioners of English. Above all, of the submerged Celt ? An industrious
partisan of that race might collect hints in our national constitution, though it and reasons to the contrary. A writer would be as difficult to ealculate the inwith whom I and the readers of this fluence of the submerged Celt in the magazine are acquainted has done national character and career, as it would justice, in a way that the world has be to calculate the activity of the Joneses recognised, to the virtues and claims of of the last three centuries in relation to the Saxon family of the Browns. the Smiths, the Browns, and the Robin“ centuries,” he says, “in their quiet, sons, yet the admission of some influence “dogged, homespun way, they have cannot be avoided. Historical general“ been subduing the earth in most izations, a little vague and rash perhaps, "English counties, and leaving their mark might even be made, indicating the “ in American forests and Australian up- nature of the influence. What, for ex. “lands. Wherever the fleets and armies ample, if something of that difference “of England have won renown, these which has distinguished and still distin“stalwart sons of the Browns have done guishes the national character of the “yeoman's work. With the yew-bow Scotch from that of the English should
and cloth-yard shaft at Cressy and depend on the fact that the mixture “ Agincourt—with the brown biil and called Scotch consists more of “pike under the brave Lord Willoughby union of the Scandinavian or Norse “ — with culverin and demi-culverin variety of the Gothic with the Gaelic “ against Spaniardsand Dutchmen—with variety of the Celtic; and the mixture "hand-grenade and sabre, and musket called English, more of a union of “and bayonet, under Rodney and St. the Saxon variety of the Gothic with “ Vincent, Wolfe and Moore, Nelson and the Cambrian or British variety of the “Wellington-they have carried their Celtic ? Again, it might be averred, “ lives in their hands; getting hard with some backing of evidence, that “knocks and hard work in plenty, much of the peculiar history of Scotland, “which was on the whole what they especially in relation to England, from “ looked for, and the best thing for the Norman Conquest downwards, might
them; and little praise or pudding, be construed as the activity of Saxons “which indeed they and most of us are and Normans coming in aid of a Cel“ better without. Talbots and Stanleys, tic sentiment-a Celtic tradition of “St. Maurs and such like folk, have led nationality-which inhered in the very “armies and made laws time out of region they occupied, and making good
mind; but these noble families would that sentiment and that tradition against “be somewhat astonished, if the ac- their southern kinsmen. The standard “ counts ever came to be fairly taken- which the Teutonic or Norman Wallace “ to find how small their work for bore against Edward Longshanks, and “ England has been by the side of that which the English-born Bruce bore “ of the Browns.” Well said for the against his successor, might have had a Browns ! But will nobody take up the Celtic blazon. cudgels for the Joneses, or the Hugheses, What the Celt has done in and from for example? The Joneses outnumber the portions of these islands in which the Browns, and even the Smiths, I he has been more peculiarly cooped up, believe, in the London Directory; and is more appreciable than what he has something might be made out of that done in his submerged capacity as Jones Smith, Brown, Jones, and Robinson are of the London Directory. the four popular types of English In respect of what he has done in those wandering and hard English work-one regions, there is certainly a sad side to of them a Celt, it will be perceived, but the story. Rich green Welsh valleys, with not one of them a Norman. Is the broken wheels, tin pans, bits of crockery, proportion, and is the omission, signifi- and every slatternly thing tumbled cant? Who knows? But, if Jones is through them, and the most illiterate form exercise of their natives ; large tracts of beginning with Shakspeare—who evi. fertile and picturesque Ireland wretched dently loved the Welsh while he quizzed and restless, a confusion of mud cabins and them ; for there is no Welshman in his dilapidated villages, more wildly under plays but is a right good fellow, with all the sway of the priests than any other his pepperiness, and capable of turning spot of Roman Catholic Europe ; the the tables against any swaggering Pistol beautiful Scottish Highlands, save where that offends him. And that the tracks of comfort have been carved virtues with which Scott invested the through them for the tourists, still fast- Scottish Gael in his poems and novels nesses of native laziness and squalor, equal- were not the mere strong colours of the ly under the régime of that zealous Vītra- artist, studying picturesque effect, but a Calvinism which has penetrated into deliberate rendering of his own intimate them and possessed them, as in the days acquaintance with the Gaelic character, when the Presbyterian Lowlands regarded rests on his own assurance. To Scott's them as Popish and heathen-these high tribute throughout his works to the are the pictures uniformly given us of character of the Scottish Highlanders, the still Celtic portions of our islands. others might be added—such as the It is, indeed, with reference mainly to testimony of school-inspectors to the such contemporary descriptions of the aptitude of the Highland children for Celt at home that there has grown up learning, or Hugh Miller's more emthe doctrine of the worthlessness of the phatic testimony in behalf of those RossCelt; and the accompanying assertion shire and Sutherlandshire men with generally is that, not till the Saxon has whom he had mingled. In relation to taken possession of these regions with the very matter already mentioned of his energy and capital, will they be the backwardness of the Highlanders in brought up to the mark. There might material respects, their aversion to change, here, of course, be a discussion, in be- their contentedness with their poor half of the Celt, how much of his back- shielings which a Saxon would have wardness in his native regions may
scorned, Hugh Miller's testimony was have been owing to insurmountable con- that he had known the inhabitants of ditions, geographical and political. Coop these shielings better than most people, up a race apart, it may be said, in a and that, with all the poverty of their region of hills, and that accumulation environment, they were, as strongly as of capital which is the necessary agent he could phrase it, a race of men. in all material progress, cannot so easily Corresponding with these accounts take place as might be thought-capital of the Celt in his native regions is the must come into it from the flat lands. impression derived from the retrospect With the faith which we have, however, of their activity as manifested from that man may almost anywhere be mas- these regions. True, this activity has ter of his conditions if the proper stuff consisted, in great part, in fitful bursts is in him, this kind of argument, though athwart and against the general current it may apply in part, will be of less of British policy, so that again and again avail on the whole than the testimony the Saxon has had to wrestle to his ends borne by those who have known and with the Celt clinging round his neck. studied the Celt at home to the many But is there nothing considerable on the interesting and even noble qualities ob- other side in the very desperateness with servable in him, despite circumstances which the Celt has maintained this so unpromising to the Saxon. Of Irish chronic, though unavailing, struggle ? wit, brilliant sociability, inquisitiveness, Can it be that that is altogether a paltry and readiness in all kinds of intellectual race, which has dashed across the equable acquisition, even the most difficult, we course of British domestic history, have evidence on every hand. To the during the last hundred and fifty years, good qualities of the Welsh a long line almost the only events charged with the of literary witnesses may be challenged, elements of collective daring and romance