The Fleshly School of Poetry and Other Phenomena of the Day/Chapter 3

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"Je cherche le vide, et le noir, et le nu!"
"I seek the Black, the Empty, and the Nude!"

Fleurs de Mal.

I have before me, as I write, the portrait of Baudelaire, the memoir by Gautier, the original edition of the "Fleurs de Mal," and the collected edition of Baudelaire's works, published since his death.

Gautier's memoir is a miracle of cunning writing, containing hardly a syllable with which one disagrees, and yet skilfully and secretly poisoning the mind of any unsuspicious reader. The best antidote I can recommend against such clever trash is the tiniest pinch of humour, the least sense of the absurd; for directly the whole thing is put in the proper light, contempt yields to laughter, and laughter dies away in pity for the poor "æstheticized" figures to whom we are being introduced. It may also be as well, at the same time, to call to mind how even the mighty genius of George Sand, at first so promising and so commanding (in those days when even Mazzini's pure soul did it homage), slowly decomposed under the inner action of the artistic and self-critical instinct, until it falsified all hopes, and ended in utter demoralisation. This literary finessing, this intellectual fingering, constitutes a tithe of the genius of Hugo, a half of the genius of George Sand, the whole of the genius of Charles Baudelaire and his biographer. A little Shaksperian sense of quiddity would soon show us what a poor, attenuated, miserable scarecrow of humanity Baudelaire was in reality, and what a mere serving-man, self-deluded and self-deluding, is this poor old Gautier-Malvolio, who holds forth, "cross-garter'd," over his grave.

Gautier first met Baudelaire in "that grand salon in the most pure style of Louis XIV.," where the hasheesh-eaters of Paris were wont to hold their meetings; and his description of the furniture of this chamber is very great, quite in the spirit of a French upholsterer. Here is his vignette portrait of Baudelaire as he appeared on that occasion:—

"Son aspect nous frappa: il avait les cheveux coupés très ras et du plus beau noir; ces cheveux, faisant des pointes régulières sur le front d'une éclatante blancheur, le coiffaient comme une espèce de casque sarrasin; les yeux, couleur de tabac d'Espagne, avaient un regard spirituel, profond, et d'une pénétration peut-être un peu trop insistante; quant à la bouche, meublée de dents très-blanches, elle abritait, sous une légère et soyeuse moustache ombrageant son contour, des sinuosités mobiles, voluptueuses et ironiques comme les lèvres des figures peintes par Léonard de Vinci; le nez, fin et délicat, un peu arrondi, aux narines palpitantes, semblait subodorer de vagues parfums lointains; une fossette vigoureuse accentuait le menton comme le coup de pouce final du statuaire; les joues, soigneusement rasées, contrastaient, par leur fleur bleuâtre que veloutait la poudre de riz, avec les nuances vermeilles des pommettes; le cou, d'une élégance et d'une blancheur féminines, apparaissait dégagé, partant d'un col de chemise rabattu et d'une étroite cravate en madras des Indes et à carreaux. Son vêtement consistait en un paletôt d'une étoffe noire lustrée et brillante, un pantalon noisette, des bas blancs et des escarpins vernis, le tout méticuleusement propre et correct, avec un cachet voulu de simplicité anglaise et comme l'intention de se séparer du genre artiste, à chapeaux de feutre mou, à vestes de velours, à vareuses rouges, à barbe prolixe et à crinière échevelée. Rien de trop frais ni de trop voyant dans cette tenue rigoureuse. Charles Baudelaire appartenait à ce dandysme sobre qui râpe ses habits avec du papier de verre pour leur ôter l'éclat endimanché et tout battant neuf si cher au philistin et si désagréable pour le vrai gentleman. Plus tard même, il rasa sa moustache, trouvant que c'était un reste de vieux chic pittoresque qu'il était puéril et bourgeois de conserver."—Œuvres de Baudelaire, précédées d'une notice par Théophile Gautier, Paris, 1869.

This interesting creature, with his nose sniffing "distant perfumes," his carefully-shaven cheeks, and his general air of man-millinery, was in earnest conversation with the "model" Maryx, who, with the immobility acquired in the studio, was reclining on a couch, resting her superb head on a cushion, and attired "in a white robe, quaintly starred with red spots resembling drops of blood!" Hard by, at the window, sat another superb female, known as "La Femme au Serpent," from having sat to Clevinger when he painted his picture of that name. The latter, having thrown on a fauteuil "her mantle of black lace and the most delicious little green hood that ever covered Lucy Hocquet or Madame Baudraud, shook her yellow lioness-locks, still humid, for she came from the swimming school (L'Ecole de Natation), and from all her body, clad in muslin, exhaled like a naiad the fresh perfume of the bath!" In the same company were Jean Fenchères, the sculptor, and Jean Boissard, the latter with "his red mouth, teeth of pearl, and brilliant complexion." One scarcely knows which to admire most in this description,—the writer's fine apotheosis of the lupanar into an "artistic decameron," or the avidity with which he seizes on personal traits and on male and female millinery. He is "up" in both under and over- clothing, as worn by both sexes. He is, moreover, candour itself. He 19 makes no secret of Baudelaire's little weaknesses and his own. "With an air quite simple, natural, and perfectly disengaged, he advanced some axiom satanically monstrous, or sustained with an icy sang-froid some theory of a mathematical exactness; for there was a vigorous method in the development of his absurdities." In a word, it is not denied that Baudelaire was that most unsympathetic of all beings, a cold sensualist, and that he carried into all his pleasures (until they slew him) the dandyism and the self-possession of a true child of Mephistopheles.

After a youth spent in wanderings in the East, and in acquiring, as Gautier naïvely says, "that love of the black Venus, for whom he had always a taste," Baudelaire returned to Paris, rented a little chambre de garçon, and assumed all the privileges of a literary life in the most debauched city of the world. His reading, which seems to have been of a very limited nature, developed his already singular disposition into true literary monstrosity, and the morbid nature of his tastes may be gathered from the fact that his first public effort was a translation of the American Tales of Edgar Poe. To Poe he seems to have borne an extraordinary resemblance, both in genius and in character. Equally clever, affected, and cold-blooded; equally incredulous of goodness and angry at philanthropy; equally self-indulgent and sensual, he lived as useless a life, died as wretched a death, and left for his legacy books even more worthless—the very dregs of his unhappy and sunless moral nature. Like Poe and Swinburne, he affected innovations in verse, and sought out the most morbid themes for poetical treatment. Encouraged by Poe, he tried to surpass him on his own ground—to triumph over him in the diablerie of horror. Encouraged in his turn, Mr. Swinburne has attempted to surpass Baudelaire, and to excel even that frightful artist in the representation of abnormal types of diseased lust and lustful disease.

"Art," said Baudelaire in effect, "has but one object, like life—that of exciting in the reader's soul the sensation of enjoyment. What poetry is to life, the drug hasheesh is to me personally, enabling me to extract supreme enjoyment out of the sheerly diabolical ideas of my own mind. I despise humanity, and I approve the devil." Animated by these noble sentiments, he killed himself by self-indulgence, and virtually exclaimed to the youth of France, with his dying breath, "Go ye and do likewise!"

I know well how much may be said in defence of a man like this by a wise and beneficent criticism; but I know, too, that defence has been overwrought, till mercy for the sinner has enlarged into sympathy with the sin. I am well aware, moreover—no man can be better aware—of the charm of writers like Baudelaire, and even of a certain service they may do to literature by careful attention to æsthetic form. Having few ideas, they endeavour to express them neatly, and with novelty. But no good can come to life or literature from the atrocious system of painting such figures in the light voluptuous colours of art; of exalting such contemptible persons into first-rate literary positions, and of evading the moral of their lives for the sake of pointing an epigram and delighting the fool. Charles Baudelaire lived and died a slave to his own devil; every line he wrote was slave's work; every picture he ever painted was in one hue—the dark blood-tint of his own shame. And yet it is this man, this dandy of the brothel, this Brummel of the stews, this fifth-rate littérateur, who, adopting to a certain extent the self-explanatory and querulous system of the Italian school of poets, and carefully avoiding the higher issues of that noble school of which Hugo is the living head, has been chosen (by no angel certainly) to be the godfather as it were of the modern Fleshly School, and thus to fill the select salon of English literature with a perfume to which the smell of Mrs. Aphra Behn's books is savoury, and that of Catullus' "lepidum novum libellum" absolutely delicious.

This is our double misfortune—to have a nuisance, and to have it at second hand. We might have been more tolerant to an unclean thing, if it had been in some sense a product of the soil. We have never been foolish purists, here in England. We freely forgave Byron many a wicked turn, because we knew he loved much, because we saw how much he was the product of national forces darkly working to the light. We welcomed Goethe, even when he sent the "Elective Affinities" and the cerebellic autobiographies. But to be overrun with the brood of an inferior French sonnetteer, whose only originality was his hideousness of subject, whose only merit was in his nasal appreciation of foul odours, surely that is far too much: it would have been a little too much twenty years ago, when the Empire began creating its viper's nest in the heart of France; it is a hundred times too much now, when the unclean place has been burnt with avenging fire.

A few years before his death, Baudelaire published his chief work—"Fleurs de Mal." This book was a little too strong even for Paris under the Empire; so the censor came down, and some of the vilest poems were ruthlessly expunged. But Baudelaire gained his end, and secured a spurious notoriety. Some years later Mr. Swinburne thought the French poet's success worthy of emulation, and he therefore published his "Poems and Ballads," which was so very hot that his publishers dropped it like a blazing cinder in the very month of publication, and only one publisher, who shall be nameless, had the courage to lift it up.

All that is worst in Mr. Swinburne belongs to Baudelaire. The offensive choice of subject, the obtrusion of unnatural passion, the blasphemy, the wretched animalism, are all taken intact out of the "Fleurs de Mal." Pitiful! that any sane man, least of all any English poet, should think this dunghill worthy of importation! In the centre of his collection Baudelaire placed the most horrid poem ever written by man, a poem unmatched for simple hideousness even in Rome during the decadence—a piece worthy to be spoken by Ascyltos in Petronius Arbiter—and entitled "Femmes Damnées." The interlocutors in this piece are two women, who have just been guilty of the vilest act conceivable in human debauchery, but the theme and the treatment are too loathsome for description.Encouraged by the hideousness of "Femmes Damnées," Mr. Swinburne attempted to beat it in "Anactoria," a poem the subject of which is again that branch of crime which is generally known as the Sapphic passion. It would be tedious, apart from the unsavouriness of the subject, to pursue the analogy much further through individual poems. Perhaps the best plan is to give a few specimens of Baudelaire's quality, and leave the reader to compare them with Mr. Swinburne's book at leisure.

In the very first poem of his collection Baudelaire avows his true character, and accuses the reader of being not a whit better:—

"Hypocrite lecteur,—mon semblable,—mon frère!"

He purposes, he says, on his way (the way of all humanity) down to absolute Hell, to pass in review a few of the horrors he sees on his path. His way lies—

"Parmi les chacals, les panthères, les lices,
Les singes, les scorpions, les vautours, Ies serpents,
Les monstres glapissants, hurlants, grognants, rampants
Dans la ménagerie infâme de nos vices!"

And of all these monsters the most infernal is—L'Ennui! The very next poem sweetly chronicles the birth of the Poet, whose mother, affrighted and blaspheming, stretches her hands to God, crying: "Cursed be that night of fleeting pleasure, when my womb conceived my punishment!" In the next poem the poet is compared to the albatross, splendid on the wing, but almost unable to walk; and the comparison strikes me as very applicable to this poet himself, only that his whole book is a waddling, unwieldy, and unsuccessful attempt to begin a flight. In a number of short lyrics he talks of poetry, music, and life, without affording us much edification (save in a really powerful picture called "Don Juan in Hell") till he begins to sing, not the delights of the flesh, but the morbid feelings of satiety. Accustomed to the Swinburnian female, we at once recognise her here in the original, as the serpent that dances, the cat that scratches and cries, and the large-limbed sterile creature who never conceives. She "bites," of course:—

"Pour exercer les dents à ce jeu singulier,
Il se faut chaque jour un cœur au râtelier!"

She has "cold eyelids that shut like a jewel:"—

"Tes yeux, où rien ne se révèle
De doux ni d'amer,
Sont deux bijoux froids!"

She is cold and "sterile:"—

"La froide majesté de la femme stérile!"

She is, necessarily, like "a snake:"—

. . . "un serpent qui danse," &c., &c.

She is, in fact, Faustine, Mary Stuart, Our Lady of Pain, Sappho, and all the rest,—quite as nasty, and to all intents and purposes, in spite of her attraction for young poets, seemingly as undesirable. It is quite impossible for me, without long quotation, to fully represent the unpleasantness of Baudelaire, with his "vampires," his "cats," and "cat-like women," his poisons, his fiends, his phantoms, his long menagerie of horrors, his long catalogue of debaucheries. At one time we are in a brothel, and the poet is lying by the side of a dreadful Jewess with "cold eyelids:"—

"Une nuit que j'étais près d'une affreuse Juive,
Comme au long d'un cadavre un cadavre étendu!"

At another time we hear the poet saying to a fair companion—"Seek not my heart; the beasts have eaten it." Grim and wearied as he is, our poet is not above the favourite conceits of his school:—

"Tes hanches sont amoureuses
De ton dos et de ses seins,
Et tu ravis les coussins
Par tes poses langoureuses!"

And this is quite in the symbolizing style of the Italian school, of which I shall give many examples when treating of Mr. Rossetti:—

"La Haine est un ivrogne au fond d'une taverne,
Qui sent toujours la soif naître de la liqueur
Et se multiplier comme l'hydre de Lerne.

"—Mais les buveurs heureux connaissent leur vainqueur,
Et la Haine est vouée à ce sort lamentable
De ne pouvoir jamais s'endormir sous la table!"

At one time we have a poem on "her hair," in the course of which we learn (what indeed we should have guessed) that, as other persons delight in love's "music," he (Baudelaire) revels in its "perfume." He is still insatiable, and yet uncomplimentary, actually comparing his attack on her "cold beauty" to the attack of a swarm of worms on a corpse ("comme après un cadavre un chœur de vermisseaux!") and yet crying fiercely:—

"Je chéris, O bête implacable et cruelle!
Jusqu'à cette froideur par où tu m'es plus belle!"

He finds delight in tracing resemblances between this marble person and his cat:—

"Viens, mon beau chat, sur mon cœur amoureux;
Retiens griffes de ta patte,
Et laisse-moi plonger dans tes beaux yeux
Mêlés de métal et d'agate."(Page 135.)

But it would be tedious indeed to trace all the morbid sensations of such a lover as this; at Paris or in the East, he is equally used up and yet insatiable; and after having tried all sorts of complexions, from the pale wax-like Jewess of the Parisian brothel to the black and lissom beauty of Malabar, he finds himself still wretched and disgusted with human nature. It is soon quite obvious that he is possessed by the demon of Hasheesh. Thoughts horrible and foul surge through his brain as the filth drives through a sewer. At least half of all the "Fleurs de Mal" read as if they had been written by a man in one of the worst stages of delirium tremens. No one certainly can accuse him of making crime look beautiful. To him, in his own words,

"La Débauche et la Mort sont deux aimables filles!"

His crime is, that he sees only these two shapes on all the solid earth, and avers that there is nothing left for men but to sin and die. His dreams and thoughts are wretched. The sun rises, and immediately he pictures it shining, not into happy homes, but into dens of crime and ghastly hospitals. Night comes, but sleep comes not; and he only cries:—

"Voici le soir charmant, ami du criminel;
Il vient comme un complice, à pas de loup; le ciel
Se ferme lentement comme une grande alcôve,
Et l'homme impatient se change en bête fauve."

The gas-jets of prostitution are lit, and flare on the doomed faces of pale women and jaded men. Some few men sit at happy hearths, but the majority "have never lived." On such a night, doubtless, he composed such poems as this, which I quote entire in all its morbid pain and horror:—


"'De ce ciel bizarre et livide,
Tourmenté comme ton destin,
Quels pensers dans ton âme vide
Descendent?—Réponds, libertin.'

"—Insatiablement avide
De l'obscur et de l'incertain,
Je ne geindrai pas comme Ovide
Chassé du paradis latin.

"Cieux déchirés comme des grèves
En vous se mire mon orgueil!
Vos vastes nuages en deuil

Sont les corbillards de mes rêves,
Et vos lueurs sont le reflet
De l'Enfer où mon cœur se plaît!"

Truly enough did Edward Thierry say, in writing of this poetry, that "it is sorrow which absolves and justifies it. The poet does not delight in the spectacle of evil." Still, Baudelaire broods over evil things with a tremendous persistency, a morbid satisfaction, which shows a mind radically diseased and a nature utterly heartless. In and out of season, he invoked the spirit of Horror. Jaded with self-indulgence, he had a mad pleasure in considering the world a charnel-house, and in posing the figures of Love and Beauty in the agonies of disease and the ghastly stillness of death. As a necessary pendant to his pictures of human ugliness, he delighted to add a few glimpses of divine malignity. Looking to the section of his book called "Révolte," we find where Mr. Swinburne got his first lessons in blasphemy. In "The Denial of St. Peter" we have the following picture of the Deity, quite in the fleshly manner:—

"Comme un tyran gorgé de viande et de vins,
Il s'endort au doux bruit de nos affreux blasphèmes!"

And after passing in review the horrible sufferings of Christ, he concludes bitterly:—

"Saint Pierre a renié Jésus. . . . Il a bien fait!"

In another poem he draws a series of contrasts between the race of Cain and the race of Abel,—in other words, between the domestic type of humanity and the outcast type,—concluding in these memorable words:—

"Race de Caïn, au ciel monte
Et sur la terre jette Dieu!"

—words which bear a sort of resemblance, in their foolish. and reckless no-meaning, to that passage in Mr. Swinburne's writings wherein the Devil is described as "playing dice with God" for the soul of Faustine. Next comes a piece entitled "Les Litanies de Satan," a prayer to the evil one:—

"Père adoptif de ceux qu'en sa noire colère
Du paradis terrestre a chassés Dieu le Père!"

and in conclusion a few lines called "Prayer:"—

"Gloire et louange à toi, Satan, dans les hauteurs
Du Ciel, où tu régnas, et dans les profondeurs
De l'Enfer, où, vaincu, tu rêves en silence!
Fais que mon âme un jour, sous l'Arbre de Science,
Près de toi se repose, à l'heure ou sur ton front
Comme un Temple nouveau ses rameaux s'épandront."

It will hardly be contended that Mr. Swinburne has surpassed this, although his effusions are wilder and more distorted; and we may well rejoice, meanwhile, that our contemporary blasphemy, as well as so much of our contemporary bestiality, is no home-product, but an importation transplanted from the French Scrofulous School, and conveyed, with no explanation of its origin, at second hand.

Of a similar character to Baudelaires "Fleurs de Mal" are his "Petites Poèmes en Prose," in which this cynic of the shambles touches on many themes besides lust and ennui, and touches none that he does not darken. There is here, as in the "Fleurs," an occasional delicacy of touch, a frequent delicacy of perfume, which deepens the prevalent horror and despair of the surrounding chapters. In one piece he compares the public to a dog, which flies in horror when offered some delicate scent, but greedily devours human ordure; and although he wishes us to infer that his own wares are too fine for so coarse a monster, the reader cannot help feeling that there is something in the nature of excrement in his very choice of a foul metaphor to express his meaning. Indeed, throughout all his writings there is a parade of the olfactory faculty, which awakens the suspicion that Baudelaire, like Fabullus, had one day, after smelling some choice unguent, prayed God to "make him all nose"—

"Quod tu cum olfacies, Deos rogabis,
Totum ut te faciant, Fabulle, nasum!

Cat., lib. xiii.

—and that the prayer had been actually granted. There is plenty of sensitiveness to smell, to touch, even to colour; there is even a kind of perception, neither very acute nor very exquisite, of the beauties of external form; but of that higher sensibility which perceives the subtle nuances of spiritual life and trembles to the beating of a tender human heart, there is not one solitary sign.This poetry is like absinthe, comparatively harmless perhaps if sipped in small quantities well diluted, but fatal if taken (as by Mr. Swinburne) in all its native strength and abomination. Here I must leave the writings of Charles Baudelaire, only observing in conclusion that, in spite of their seeming originality, they belong really to the Italian school, in so far as they are the posings of an affected person before a mirror, the self-anatomy of a morbid nature, the satiated love-sonnets of a sensualist who is out of tune with the world and out of harmony with the life of men. They are, from another point of view, the reductio ad horribilem of that intellectual sensualism which Goethe (in one of a giant's weak moments) founded, and which Heine repeated with a shriller and more mocking tone in his "Buch der Lieder." But Baudelaire, not content with playing with wickedness occasionally, as Goethe did, not strong enough to gibe and jeer at it, as Heine did, and too morally weak ever to soar beyond it into the clear region inhabited by both these masters in their best moments, formed the monstrous disjecta membra of vice into the poetic Vampire we have been examining. There are flashes of beauty in the creature's eyes at times, but they scarcely charm us, and we willingly pass away from the moral dungeon in which it lurks.

A few years ago Baudelaire died. Mr. Swinburne immediately commemorated his death in some verses quite worthy of the deceased himself. Since that period, I am happy to say, Mr. Swinburne seems to have partly shaken off the horrible influence of the "Fleurs de Mal." Although, in his political effusions, the same sterile woman of the amours is seen sitting (as Mater Dolorosa) by the wild wayside,

"In a rent stained raiment, the robe of a cast-off bride,"

and as France,

"Spat upon, trod upon, whored!"

and although the blasphemy is repeated tenfold in a series of aimless attacks on a Deity who is assumed to be a shadow, there are not wanting signs that the poet is waking up from an evil dream. The Sapphic vein of Baudelaire has been abandoned to begin with. Next, let the same writer's blasphemous vein be abandoned too. Then, let Mr. Swinburne burn all his French books, go forth into the world, look men and women in the face, try to seek some nobler inspiration than the smile of harlotry and the shriek of atheism—and there will be hope for him. Thus far, he has given us nothing but borrowed rubbish, but even in his manner of giving there has been something of genius. His own voice may be worth hearing, when he chooses, once and for ever, to abandon the falsetto.

In the discussion which follows I have scarcely included Mr. Swinburne, because he is obviously capable of rising out of the fleshly stage altogether; and I have said little of Mr. Morris, because he has done some noble work quite outside his ordinary performances as a tale-telling poet. I have chosen rather to confine my attention to the gentleman who is formally recognised as the head of the school, who avows his poems to be perfectly "mature," and who has taken many years of reflection before formally appealing to public judgment. Far too self-possessed to indulge in the riotous follies of the author of "Chastelard," and infinitely too self-conscious to busy himself with the dainty tale-telling of the author of the "Earthly Paradise," the writer whose works I am about to examine has carefully elaborated a series of lyrical and semi-dramatic poems in the mediæval manner, with certain qualities superadded which I shall have to criticize severely, and with the faults and insincerities so cunningly disguised that they seldom lurk on the surface in such a way as to awaken immediate suspicion.

Before turning to the writer in question, let me add a few words on the Fleshly School in general. What a great master has touched at one point of his poetic genius, has been expanded by the erotic school into a whole system of poetry in itself.

In the sweep of one single poem, the weird and doubtful "Vivien," Mr. Tennyson has concentrated all the epicene force which, wearisomely expanded, constitutes the characteristic of the writers at present under consideration; and if in "Vivien" he has indicated for them the bounds of sensualism in art, he has in "Maud," in the dramatic person of the hero, afforded distinct precedent for the hysteric tone and overloaded style which is now so familiar to readers of Mr. Swinburne. The fleshliness of "Vivien" may indeed be described as the distinct quality held in common by all the members of the last sub-Tennysonian school,[1] and it is a quality which becomes unwholesome when there is no moral or intellectual quality to temper and control it. Fully conscious of this themselves, the fleshly gentlemen have bound themselves by solemn league and covenant to extol fleshliness as the distinct and supreme end of poetic and pictorial art; to aver that poetic expression is greater than poetic thought, and by inference that the body is greater than the soul, and sound superior to sense; and that the poet, properly to develop his poetic faculty, must be an intellectual hermaphrodite, to whom the very facts of day and night are lost in a whirl of æsthetic terminology. After Mr. Tennyson has probed the depths of modern speculation in a series of commanding moods, all right and interesting in him as the reigning personage, the "walking gentlemen," knowing that something of the sort is expected from all leading performers, bare their bosoms and aver that they are creedless; the only possible question here being, if any disinterested person cares whether they are creedless or not—their self-revelation on that score being so perfectly uncalled for. It is time, nevertheless, to ascertain whether any of these gentlemen has actually in himself the making of a leading performer. It would be scarcely worth while to inquire into their pretensions on merely literary grounds, because sooner or later all literature finds its own level, whatever criticism may say or do in the matter; but it unfortunately happens in the present case that the Fleshly School of verse-writers are, so to speak, public offenders, because they are diligently spreading the seeds of disease broadcast wherever they are read and understood. Their complaint too is catching, and carries off many young persons. What the complaint is, and how it works, may now be seen on a very slight examination of the works of Mr. Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

  1. I say sub-Tennysonian because these gentlemen, with all their affinities to the Italian and French race of sonnetteers, follow Tennyson in the historical sense, and touch nothing in their poetry which he has not lightly touched in some way. The ways of a great poet lead him in all directions, into all moods, while the way of a small poet is narrow and without variety. The gain of good in the Pre-Raphaelite style comes from the laureate; what is bad in it comes from Italy and France.