Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

him with unblunted edge. When Burne-Jones wrote to relinquish the idea of a joint household he received the news with no equable philosophy. Your letter was a blow to me • at first, Morris answered him, “... in short I cried,

but I have got over it now.' And in later days, when in Iceland he sought and found no home letters at that black

white-windowed cottage that I have seen in night-dreams and day-dreams so often since,' he wondered why doesn't one drop down or faint, or do something of that sort when it comes to the uttermost in such matters, and other people's calmness astonishes him, as the reassuring packet, when discovered, is read, and his 'terror cured' he can take ship homewards in peace, the 'glorious simplicity of the ' terrible tragic but beautiful land, with its well-remembered stories of brare men,' having made all the dear faces of wife and children and love and friends dearer than ever • to me.'

And if that deep-hearted tenderness lay beneath some superficial and inconsiderate roughness of bearing, under the violence, like the fugitive fury of a child, which was so familiar a feature of his character, lay a generosity which held no sediment of those long-hatched rancours--the root of many a man's wrath-that betray in one moment's flash the controlled resentment of colder tempers. In truth, it might be said that to do Morris an injury was to lay him under an inverse debt of kindliness to the offender, as some may have realised when, a few years before his death, he appeared in court to make himself surety for the editor of the very newspaper which, owing its existence to Morris, had in Mr. Mowbray's hands been made not only a medium of adverse opinion but of personal attack. Nor can any, to whatsoever camp of political warfare they belong, fail to recognise the actuating principle of a true humani. tarianism, a sincere and self-sacrificing desire for the • bettering of the world,' which transformed as life went on the history of the artist whose aim was the Restitution of Beauty into that of the man whose service was primarily given to his fellow-men. Flaws all may find in his creed and in his practice; the narrowness of the dogmatist and the arrogance of the partisan. The transference of barriers is not their abolition. To make outcasts of the rich is no less contrary to the communism of the spirit than to make outcasts of the poor, and if true equality of soul does not question if a man be clothed in rags, neither does it inquire if he be clad in purple. Something of that

[ocr errors]

broader sympathy which caused Morris's fellow-poet of Socialism * to find a place among his songs of 'Les jours . de Combat' for the sorrows of " les pauvres petits riches' is undoubtedly lacking in Morris's utterances, as it is in the plagiarisms of many of his imitators. Yet such flaws remain the ephemeral accidents of what those who hold a sadder if a wiser faith must needs regard as transitional ideals of aim, while the labour, the courage, the devotion that at length undermined even Morris's strength belong to those eternal ideals of character which ennoble all aims and sanctify all ideals. “Though I have many hopes and ' pleasures, or at least strong ones,' his own simple words to a friend may well serve as his life's epitaph. “Though

life is dear to me, so much as I seem to have to do, I ' would give them away, hopes and pleasures, one by one, or * all together, and my life at last for you, for my friendship, ' for my honour, for the world.'

So in the October of 1896, after not too prolonged a period of failing strength, surrounded by love, and care, and kindness, Morris, in the common word for a man's dying 'he puts into John Ball's mouth, 'changed his life. He left to art, as an artist, an abiding inheritance—the ideal of beauty in common things. As a man he bequeathed to men an ideal of beauty in human lives.

‘Dust to dust fell idly on my ears,' wrote one of the friends f who had stood beside the open grave in the village churchyard, and in its stead a vision of the England which he dreamed of filled my mind. The little church grew brighter, looking as if it were filled with the spirit of a fuller faith embodied in an ampler ritual. ... John Ball stood by the grave, with bim a band of archers all in Lincoln green; birds twittered in the trees, and in the air the scent of apple-blossom and white bawthorn hung. All was much fairer than I have ever seen the country look, fair with a fairness that was never seen in England but by the poet, and yet a fairness with which he laboured to endue it. Once more the mist descended, and my sight grew dimmer; the England of the Fellowship was gone, John Ball had vanished, with him the archers; and in their place remained the knot of countrymen, plough-galled and bent with toil; the little church turned greyer, as if a reformation had passed over it.'

In 1898 the death of Edward Burne-Jones followed that of his friend, leaving the revolution they with their followers had wrought in art an accomplished fact, leaving, likewise, as revolutions are apt to do, the world unquietly expectant of a new dynasty.

* [Cloris Hugues.] * Robert Cunninghame Graham.

ART. V.-1. Italy : From the Fall of Napoleon I., in

1815, to the year 1890. By John WEBB PROBYN. New

Edition. London : 1891. 2. The Union of Italy, 1815–1895. By W. J. STILLMAN.

Cambridge: 1898. 3. A History of Italian Unity: being a Political History

of Italy from 1814 to 1871. By BOLTON King, M.A.

2 vols. London: 1899. ITALIAN Unity was the work of three generations of men.

They found Italy, in Metternich's bitter phrase, a mere geographical expression; they left her a great and united nation. The story of this marvellous change falls into three periods, each with its own special watchword : Liberty, Independence, Unity. These are the successive ideals which followed each other in a natural process of historic developement.

The first period, from 1815 to 1831, includes the earlier and later Carbonaro movements; the strife for liberty with the stolid and benighted reaction of the restored princes of 1815. But the foreigner in the land was too strong. Every effort broke against the rock of Austrian predominance and power, till it became clear that without independence there could not be liberty. During the second period, which lasts from 1831 till the fall of Rome in July 1849, independence is the goal. It is the watchword of the great struggle of 1848. But enthusiasm without union was no match for Austria, even in her hour of anguish, or for the forces of clerical and despotic reaction, which triumphed at Rome and in the South. Bitter experience taught the patriots that to enthusiasm they must add knowledge; to boldness, deliberate self-restraint. Only unity could lead to independence, as independence to liberty. For the sake of unity Republicans and Moderates had to subordinate their own political prejudices; regions had to sacrifice their autonomy, and even their institutions, till in the end too hasty assimilation, and pedantic craze for uniformity, may have somewhat restricted liberty itself.

Such is the story told in the three books before us. In the main they tell it in the same way, but they devote very different proportions of their space to our three periods. Mr. Probyn and Mr. Stillman both allow 120 pages only to the eventful years from 1849 to 1871, while the former gives 160 and the latter 240 pages to the first two periods. On the other hand, Mr. King allows 447 pages to the third period and only 352 to the first two. It follows that his account of the last period is far the fullest and most interesting, and we think there is some internal evidence that it is the part of his work to which he bas devoted most labour and thought.

Book-learning, however, is not the only road to the understanding of contemporary or quasi-contemporary history, and we are glad to learn from Mr. Probyn that * during the period which elapsed between the summer of * 1859 and the commencement of 1867 he passed the greater ‘ part of each year in Italy and amongst Italians, as well as the memorable autumn and winter of 1870 and the spring of 1871. Similarly Mr. Stillman tells us that ' from boyhood a romantic lover of Italy, he went thither ' in 1861, and during subsequent years there has been no ' long interval in which he was not intimately conversant ! with the course of events. In fact, he was for many years correspondent of the Times' at Rome, a post from which he did not retire until 1898.

Mr. Probyn's little book is a straightforward and simple account, written from a Liberal, but not Radical, point of view. His list of authorities is a modest one. fesses to have read or consulted only nineteen works against the 171 of Mr. Stillman's, and the 775 of Mr. King's, bibliography. Nevertheless the value of his book is by no means to be measured by these figures. By not attempting too much detail, and avoiding frequent or lengthy criticisms, and discussions of debateable points, he is able to give us a most clear and readable sketch of events, down, at any rate, to 1859. From that date his book can hardly compete with the other two. The first edition came out in 1884, when much of the material for the later history was not yet available. Even Cavour's letters had not then been published.

The volume from Mr. Stillman's pen is fully worthy of the series to which it belongs. It is the very thing for the student who wishes to be introduced to modern Italian history. The newest, and at the same time the most controvertible, matter is contained in the last chapter; but as that deals with politics and parties since the completion of the union in 1871, we need say no more of it here. There are, however, two of the writer's peculiar prejudices and partialities which peep out at an earlier period. His strong dislike of the French, and his admiration, by no means

He pro

[ocr errors]

unjustifiable, for Crispi, lead occasionally to reflexions which conflict with his otherwise just estimate of Cavour, whom he calls the greatest of modern Italians.' The following is an instance of that over-emphatic statement of individual and very disputable opinion to which Mr. Stillinan is prone :

• It was a sound apprehension, growing out of the perception of the danger of French friendship, that led England to oppose those tendencies of Cavour which ended in the war of 1859 and the emancipation of Lombardy. And I am profoundly convinced that most of the morbid conditions of current Italian politics are due to the germs planted in the national constitution by that initial mistake.

We have no weakness for Louis Napoleon. It was not for his beaux yeux that Cavour, that Victor Emmanuel bad, of very necessity, to make use of that two-edged sword, that slippery friend, without whose aid, nevertheless, advance was impossible. But for the initial mistake' there would never have been an Italy at all! Mr. Stillman cannot really think, with the Republicans of that day, that Italians could by their own unaided martial vigour have won their way to unity in the teeth of Catholic Europe. Still less does he believe, as is clear from other passages, that they had much to hope from the system of conspiracies and insurrections. We find it only natural that, in his brief account of Garibaldi's dictatorship in Sicily, he should take an extremely * Crispino' view of the bickerings and of the real conflict of policy between the nominees of Garibaldi and of Cavour, and throw all the blame on Cavour. It does not seem to occur to him that both parties were wrong, possibly equally wrong.

Mr. King's opinion is a very different one: Crispi's • misrule was the first of the series of blunders which ‘marred the early years of Italian rule in the South ; 'and again : 'In the cool judgement of after years no excuse is

possible for the men who, led by Crispi at Palermo, and • Bertani at Genoa, were trying to postpone annexation

indefinitely.' Yet of our three historians it is Mr. King who usually approximates most to the Radical, occasionally even to the Mazzinian, point of view! We do not wish to enter the fray. This is not the place. The dispute has much greater importance for the social and political history of the South than for that of the union of Italy. Be it here said that none of our three guides has the clue to the problem of the South. Although they write with feeling and sympathy of the struggles of Sicily, and cannot

« ZurückWeiter »