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LITERARY LIGHTS OF THE 'NINETEENTH…

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LITERARY LIGHTS OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY. TILâCHARLES KINGSLEY. BY MORICE GERARD. Rightly to be great Is not to stir without great argument, But greatly to find quarrel in a straw, When honour's at the stake. THE words that the greatest of all poets put into the mouth of one of the greatest of liis conceptions may be taken as the motto of Kingsley's life. The motive which moves men and women to write is generally to be found at the basis of the creative work given to the world. It rewards search and in- tensifies interest to the seeker after psychic phenomena. There must always be the gift, but what stimulates the exercise of the gift varies with the individual ivrite r. To Charles Kingsley it meant at the outset the expression of a wide appeal. He had a message. The pen and the printing press appealed to him because they helped to give that message to the world. Shorthouse wrote a.s a hobby; Dickens, Thackeray, and Trollop-a as a, profession; Kingsley to reach the world of thinking men, to stir men's hearts, to raise the lot of those to whom the world was a place of misery and hardship. Dickens shared the same instinct, and here the two writers join hands. Hood had it in an almost greater degree than either of them. But with Kingsley it came first and foremost, with Dickens only second, longo intervallo. "Alton Locke" and "Yeast." The pulpit, even of Westminster Abbey âand by that time his strength was well- nigh spentâdid not supply a powerful enough fulcrum to move the world. F. D. Maurice shared Kingsley's enthusiasm, aimed at the same social amelioration for the masses; but because he restricted his appeal to the pulpit he lived and died ineffective. The greatest of preachers must necessarily have a limited audience. Charles Kingsley, at the time a mere vil- lage priest, realised this. The outcome was the great human appeal of Alton Locke, of Yeast, and of countless essays given to the world under the pen name of Parson Lot." It is difficult, almost impossible, for us, after the lapse of seventy throbbing years, to appreciate the way in which the best men and women of the fifties, in the middle of the nine- teenth century, were kindled into enthu- siasm by Kingsley's pen. Nearly thirty years after these great: books were pub- lished the present writer went up to Cam bridge. He can remember the intense interest with which those early books, which emanated from Eversley, were read one after another. They were the stimulating food of men who have since made their mark in the arena of life, when the eager brain and the sensitive hands were alike at rest. It may be doubted whether, with the possible exception of Alton Locke, they are read now. The reason is obvious Object Attained. The obj ect for which they were written is attained. Kingsley saw the first in- gathering of his harvest. The full har- vest home came later. It sounds like a paradoxâthat Westward 11 o llypaiia, Hereward the Wake, and The Water Babies aTe the immediate outcome, the offspring of those first strenuous books. It is nevertheless true. Alton Locke, and the rest showed Kingsley the talent he possessed--alld. he was the last man in the world to bury a talent in the ground or hide it in a napkin. The' novelist was the same man, but with a less obvious and strenuous purpose. Enthu- siasm, passionate admiration of, and devotion tcmlie right stirred in him- as of yore. The fiery eloquence of Ily- patia secured it- a place in the affec- tions of the reading public, which its un- familiar setting and somewhat recondite phraseology might have denied it. As is the case with the great majority, of authors, the scenes in which Kingsley's youth was passed were chosen as the setting of his stories. His father was beneficed at Holne, near Ashburton, on the borders of Dartmoor, and subse- quently in the fen country near Stamford and Peterborough. The salt tang of the Devon air is in the breath of Westward Ilo! while the fenland finds its epic in Hereward the Wake. Kingsley's bio- grapher in the "Dictionary" sums up this aspect of his life:â" He had a pas- sion for the beautiful in art and nature. No one surpassed him in first-hand descriptions of the scenery that he loved. He was enthusiastic in natural history, recognised every country sipfct and sound, and studied birds, beasts, fishes and geo- logy with keenest interest." Amyas Leigh. Here is a description of Amyas Leigh in his native setting, which makes the hearts of those who love Devon leap with the joy of the West'.Country â So he goes up between the rich lane- banks, heavy with drooping ferns and honeysuckle; out upon the windy down towards the old Court, nestled amid its ring of wind-clift oaks; through the gray gates .up into the home-close. And then he pauses a moment to look around, first t the wide bay to the westward.. with its southern wall of purple cliffs; then at the dim isle of Lundy far away at sea; then at the cliffs aj|d downs of Morte and Braunton, right in front of him; then at the vast yellow sheet of rolling sand-hill and green alluvial plain dotted with red cattle at his feet, through which the sil- very estuary winds onwards toward the sea." Kingsley could describe a tragedy, as .witness the fate of poor Rose Salterne and the final catastrophe of Hypatia; but one feels that to describe'these horrors must have rent the deep-feeling, sym- pathetic soul of the author. They were, perhaps, necessary to the story, but utterly abhorrent to the spirit of the writer. What he loves is the epic of heroic souls, the story of brave deeds done by fine menâHereward' the Wake, Sir Amyas Leigh, Salvation Yeo, Sir Richard Grenville, Philammon! "Wcstwartl Ho Kingsley's men linger in the memory when his books are read and put away. The women are less distinct, less insis- tent. Torfrida is perhaps an exception, but this is probably because she had some of the qualities the author loved to depict in his menâcourage, self-sacrifice, noble ambition. She was a worthy mate for Hereward. In Two Years Ago, which. was pub- lished in 1857, the author gives us hi! n-i-t elaborate study of feminine charac- ter. The book is, perhaps, judged merely from the literary point of view, the best of his novels; but Westward Ho! will live long after all the rest are forgotten. It appeals to the young, the virile, the lovers of England, and as such has no equal, certainly no superiorâunless it be found in another epic of the ^^stâ> Lorna Doane.

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