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decay. An exceptionally large part of it has a direct practical aim. To this practical aim it owes some of its greatest merits; its rude vigor and its prevailing commonsense. But this practical aim cau be attained only by arts irreconcilable with lasting worth. No writer can produce an immediate effect unless he is in sympathy with the public, or with some large por tion of the public. If he shares the ideas and the passions of the hour, he cannot write for all time. If he is to convince here and now, he must not see too wide, he must not search too deep, he must not soar too high. He must not draw distinctions too fine for a multitude to grasp; he must not indulge feelings too fine for a faction to share.
case in the seventeenth century. hardly realize the bulk of printed matter under which the presses groaned at every crisis in the political and religious struggle of the Stuart period. It was so great as to suggest wonder where sufficient buyers or readers could be found. In the eighteenth century the newspaper and the review began to displace the pamphlet. When Parliamentary debates came to be freely reported, statesmen at all events lost their chief motive for writing pamphlets. But it was not until our own century that the pamphlet became obsolete as a political weapon.
By far the greater number of these pamphlets had a merely momentary value. But a few had something more. Most of the celebrated English men of letters of "He must be bold, proud, pleasant, resolute, the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
And now and then stab as occasion serves.'
And as he must take care that his matter shall not be too good, so he must take care that his style shall not be too exquisite. Plain palates like rough flavors. Men hot with passion do not care for a style which renders with precision each delicate shade of thought. They like a style which expresses most forcibly what they most intemperately feel. In one word, immediate effect is obtained only at the expense of permanent effect. A writer striving after practical results may be hampered by his very genius. Practical results are often attained by a writer without any genius at all.
Considerations like these can hardly fail to strike any one who turns over the best known of English political pamphlets. The application of literary skill to political purposes is scarcely possible except in free states. In the free states of antiquity this application was made by the orator. In the free states of to-day this application is made by the journalist. But in the seventeenth and even in the eighteenth century political discussion was carried on chiefly by means of pamphlets. Interest in public affairs was felt by many whom spoken eloquence could not reach. Yet readers were not numerous enough to maintain a crowd of magazines appearing once a month, still less a crowd of newspapers appearing every day and every hour. Accordingly pamphlets did most of the work which at other times has been done by means of speeches or of newspaper articles. Especially was this the
wrote at least a pamphlet or two, and some of them unfortunately wrote little else, at least in prose. Among these pamphleteers of genius three stand conspicuous above all others, Milton, Swift, and Burke. Three more illustrious names cannot be found in the whole range of our literature. The pamphlets written by these men are still numbered among our classics. A strictly literary criticism of their pamphlets is the object of this paper. By a strictly literary criticism is meant a criticism which as far as possible avoids an attempt to pronounce upon the merits of the particular controversies which gave occasion to the writings criticised. Limited in this way, the criticism of a political pamphlet may sometimes be worth undertaking, because such a pamphlet may have an interest and a value which outlast the discussion that gave it birth. A fugitive publication may be of lasting worth because of the soundness of its substance, because of its moral and political wisdom, or because of the excellence of its form, because of the force and beauty of its expression. The pamphlet especially affords freer scope to genius than can ever be afforded by the newspaper. The pamphlet is not tied down to those hard conditions of time and space which govern the leading article. It is not robbed by editorial supervision of all personal force and favor. The pamphlet may attain to character and individuality. Things of general human interest have now and then found their way into pam phlets, oftenest, perhaps, into those pam
phlets which were of little use toward the purpose aimed at by the author.
Of the three men whose names have been mentioned, Milton had the most powerful genius, yet was the least admirable pamphleteer. That this should have been so, will not surprise anybody who considers Milton's bent of mind and way of life. A poet by natural vocation, a student by deliberate choice, Milton lived in habitual commerce with his own high imaginings and with the noblest thoughts of the mighty dead. A temper as fastidious as it was severe may be traced in the fewness of his friendships and in the jars of his domestic life. Passionate as were his love of country and desire of fame, their singular intensity drew him not nearer to but further from the crowd of his fellow-men. Such a man was not likely to be a serviceable party hack. He was aware of his own unfitness for this drudgery: "Knowing myself inferior to myself, led by the genial power of nature to another task, I have the use, as I may account, but of my left hand." * Yet he would not refrain from a species of writing which alone enabled him to take part in a contest as thrilling to him as to Hampden or to Cromwell. So he gave twenty years, his eyesight, and the best strength of an incomparable genius to writing pamphlets which had but a restricted influence upon the public.
The most obvious shortcoming of these pamphlets is the lack of contact with the circumstances and the opinion of the day. Compared with Swift's or Burke's pamphlets, these are the pamphlets of an inspired book-worm. Not himself a public man like Burke, nor even living habitually with public men like Swift, Milton was at a hopeless disadvantage in a time when Parliamentary debates and State papers were kept secret, when newspapers were only beginning to appear, and when one part of England scarcely knew as much about the thoughts and feelings of another part as we know about the thoughts and feelings of Berlin or Madrid. Milton as a journalist could never be up to date: It was impossible for him to catch the latest breath of an agitated public. He wanted that every-day knowledge which is the one thing needful for an every-day
"Reason of Church Government."
argument. Thus at the very moment when the Commonwealth was crumbling into military anarchy, Milton was still confident that it could be made perpetual. After setting out his plan of a republic, he writes :
"The Grand Council being thus firmly constituted to perpetuity, and still upon the death or default of any member supplied and kept in full number, there can be no cause alleged why peace, justice, plentiful trade and all prosperity should not thereupon ensue throughout the land; with as much assurance as can be of human things, that they shall so continue (if God favor us and our wilful sins provoke Him not) even to the coming of our true and rightful and only to be expected King, only worthy, as He is our only Saviour, the Messiah, the Christ, the only Heir of His Eternal Father, the only by Him anointed and ordained since the work of our redemption finished, universal Lord of all mankind."'*
These words were written in the year 1660, just before the Restoration of Charles the Second. The writer who used them moved perhaps in a higher sphere, but not in the sphere of human policy.
Nor had Milton that innate political tact which goes far to supply the want of political knowledge. He discussed politics, sometimes with the inspiration of a poet, sometimes with the pedantry of a schoolmaster, but never as a man accustomed to manage mankind would discuss them. The most fearless and outspoken of enthusiasts, he every where acknowledged, nay asserted with peculiar fervor and insistence, opinions and aspirations which might not be unworthy of John Milton, but which must have seemed as dangerous and detestable to the average Puritan as to the average Cavalier. these pamphlets can be found no trace of the art so familiar to advanced politicians, the art of getting dull people to accept new principles by withdrawing their minds from the consequences which these principles must involve. Were this all, we could not regret that Milton lacked the low cunning of a partisan. But his deficiency went further. He lacked the equable prudence of a true statesman. When he took a side in the debate
"The Ready and Easy Way ! Free Commonwealth.''
rougher and coarser natures he lost all balance and all measure. Those who upheld Monarchy and Prelacy he esteemed altogether bad. Those who warred against Monarchy and Prelacy he esteemed. altogether good. In this simple faith he was often rudely tried. When the Long Parliament triumphed, he was disappointed to find that new presbyter was but old priest writ large. Such will ever be the disappointment of the dreamer who looks for the fulfilment of his ideals by men who are powerful because they are practical.
Even the learning which these pamphlets display is rather a blemish than a merit. With too much erudition to please the multitude, they have too little science to satisfy a philosopher. They exhibit knowledge in its least alluring or improving form; a mass of citations and references, undigested and chaotic, unleavened by historic sense or by critical discrimination. Authorities ancient and modern, Scriptural and classical, geniune and spurious, are all equally laid under contribution for the purpose in hand. Learning thus employed, even by a tranquil seeker after truth, would be supremely useless. Employed thus by an angry partisan, learning becomes absolutely ridiculous. It is true that in making this use of his learning Milton was no more singular than in his lavish use of ferocious invective. Pedantry and scurrility disfigured the works of most learned men in that age. Against Milton himself the injudicious and uncritical use of authorities ought not to be made a reproach, but in his writings it is a grave fault, seeing that it makes them obsolete and disagreeable.
The one thing which redeems these pamphlets is their revelation of a heroic nature whose splendor no fumes of controversy or mist of bewildered learning can obscure. This intense and glowing mind, devoted with entire simplicity to what it deemed the cause of God, compels our admiration even when it most repels us by its arrogance, its injustice, its bitter and implacable party-spirit. Eminently characteristic of the man was the love of liberty which inspires these writings. The liberty for which Milton thirsted was above all things liberty of conscience. "Although I dispraise not the defence of just immunities, yet love my peace better if that were all. Give
me the liberty to know, to utter and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties."* It is true, unhappily, that he grudged this liberty to Roman Catholics, and in a less degree to Anglican Protestants. The only valid excuse which we can urge for this large exception to a scheme of general liberty lies in the fact that neither Anglican nor Catholic would at that time have consented to tolerate other forms of Christianity. The Independent was forced to choose whether he would be hammer or anvil. Saints might have chosen the part of the anvil; the part of the hammer was naturally preferred by men.
So long as Milton might secure liberty of conscience, he was not nice about political details. He does not seem to have cared particularly for popular government. He seems to have expected that under the Commonwealth, as under the Monarchy, the nobility and gentry would remain the leaders of the nation. He proposed in one of his latest pamphlets that the Grand Council which he wished to substitute for Parliament should consist of members holding their seats for life or during good behavior. When Cromwell expelled the Long Parliament, Milton forgave the outrage which to him seemed the only way of securing the benefits won in the Civil War. When the Commonwealth was tottering, he wrote in the same sense :—
"They who past reason and recovery are devoted to kingship, perhaps will answer that a greater part by far of the nation will have it so, the rest therefore must yield. Not so much to convince these, which I little hope, as to confirm those who yield not, I reply; that this greatest part have both in reason and the trial of just battle lost the right of their election what the government shall be ; of them who have not lost that right, whether they for kingship be the greater number, who can certainly determine? Suppose they be, yet of freedom they all partake alike, one main end of government; which if the greater part value not, but will degenerately forego, is it just or reasonable that most voices, against the main end of government, should enslave the less number, that would be free? more just it is, doubtless, if it come to
force, that a less number compel a greater to retain, which can be no wrong to them, that liberty than that a greater number, for the pleasure of their baseness compel a less, most injuriously to be their fellow slaves. They who seek nothing but their own just liberty have always right to win it and to keep it, whenever they have power, be the voices never so numerous that oppose it. And how much we above others are concerned to defend it from kingship, and from them who in pursuance thereof so perniciously would betray us and themselves to most certain misery and thraldom will be needless to repeat.
In truth, Milton's love of liberty was far removed from the love of liberty so widely professed to day. Milton was by circumstances a rebel, but by temper an aristocrat. He did not stand in awe of the masses, or profess to copy their ideas or to share their tastes. He was morally and intellectually fastidious. He was as proud as his own Lucifer. If he was a republican, it was less because he desired to find equals than because he scorned to acknowledge a lord. He was a republican not of the modern but of the antique school. He had nourished his mind upon the utterances of Roman statesmen, and Greek philosophers, and Hebrew prophets, and he had caught their accent of conscious worth and unbending courage. This accent, however, soothes the ear neither of kings nor of crowds. Milton's republican strain will always find an echo in young and enthusiastic readers; but it will not recommend him to the general public, even when all the world has been Americanized.
In point of style Milton's pamphlets cannot be praised without reserve. They display, indeed, those literary qualities which might be expected in anything written by the author of "Comus" or of "Paradise Lost," the "wealth of magnificent words, the varied music of the long and involved but carefully modulated period, and ever and anon, when rising to the height of some great argument, a swelling pomp of rhetoric, a profusion of living images which silences criticism and leaves admiration breathless. But then they have none of the literary qualities
"The Ready and Easy Way to establish a Free Commonwealth.''
which are most essential to the pamphlet. They have not lucid order. There is in them hardly a trace of that skilful disposition of topics which multiplies the weight of an argument as nuch as the skilful marshalling of troops multiplies the power of an army. There is hardly a sign of that logical art which produces the greatest effect upon the reader's opinions with the least trouble to his understanding. Not all the richness of language can conceal the awkwardness of arguinent. Again, the undigested learning of these pamphlets is a defect in point of form as well as of substance. Long strings of citations cannot be made eloquent even by Milton. So likewise their scurrility is an artistic as well as a moral blemish. Party spirit is natural in party pamphlets; but it should not vent itself merely in downright abuse, unrelieved by wit or irony. Anger is a powerful literary motive; but only when under intellectual governance. If the angry advocate can portray characters which, possibly not appropriate to his adversaries, are yet true of certain men in every age, then he may expect to find in every age delighted readers. Possibly Aristophanes and Tacitus libelled the contemporaries whom they have immortalized; but the characters of Aristophanes and Tacitus still walk in our streets, and sit in our assemblies. The sneer of Tacitus and the caricature of Aristophanes still find a response in every reader of Latin or of Greek literature; while Milton's representations of his adversaries already strike us as forced and unnatural, and merely awaken regret that so transcendent a writer should have conformed to the bad fashion of his time.
Milton's pamphlets are the uneven result of the drudgery of a man of genius in a field not truly his own. Swift's pamphlets are the triumphs of a master in the art of polemical writing. We may regret that the energies of Swift even more than of Milton were consumed in this profitless travail. Milton's poems alone would assure his fame. Swift's verses, admirable as they sometimes are, would not by themselves establish him a classic. Out of his prose, which fills fifteen volumes, only "Gulliver's Travels," the "Tale of a Tub," and the "Journal to Stella." have enough human interest to keep them fresh for many ages. His remaining works have been likened, not quite un
justly, to a row of rusty cannon in an old armory. Once resistless to beat down and break in pieces, they move us now only by the faint remembrance of the havoc which they have made. Yet we must own that in controversy Swift was at home, and that the pamphlet was a form of expression well suited to his genius. Few men have joined so clear an intellect to a temper so combative. Fewer still who have felt such an agony of angry passion have been able to subdue it to an irony so grave and austere. Since Swift wrote, thousands of able men have used the pen as a weapon of political warfare, and half-a-dozen of them have become famous. But which of the half-dozen shall we place even second to Swift? Compared with Swift, Junius is a commonplace rhetorician, Cobbett a sturdy clown, Sydney Smith a monotonous humorist. Swift plays upon every key of party emotion, and always finds the note needed at the moment. Fear and scorn, hate and distrust, anger and revenge, he can command them all. He in his own way not less than Marlborough could "ride on the whirlwind and direct the storm." He wrote his political pieces not with the left hand but with the right; and it was the right hand of Achilles.
Judged with reference to their object, these pamphlets of Swift are among the best things in our literature. They have lost much of their interest now that the occasions which prompted them are forgotten. Their constant bitterness, and now and then their nastiness, make them distasteful to sensitive readers. Their simplicity of style seems poverty-stricken to those who think that good writing means fiue writing. But those who know what style means will own these pamphlets models of literary art. To be perfectly familiar yet by no means vulgar, to be precise without being pedantic, to argue without becoming tedions, to tell impossible things in a way which makes them seem quite natural, to prejudice your reader while yourself seemingly unprejudiced, to stir him to madness while yourself seemingly unmoved, to employ every artifice of the most dexterous advocate while never dropping the disguise of the modest parish priest or homely tradesman; all this Swift has done so often and with so much address, that after reading him it seems quite easy to do. and one
forgets for a moment that in our literature it has been done by Swift alone. has done the feat best in the " Drapier's Letters." I know of nothing else like them, and I know of nothing else which may wait longer for a rival. The reader feels that they could not have been written by a tradesman; yet he cannot well believe that they were written by the Dean. The language has all the literary qualities, yet is that of an illiterate man. The arguments are often unsound enough to find general acceptance, yet the author conceals admirably his knowledge of their unsoundness. The result of the blending of the real author and his imagined trader is as piquant to us as it was exciting to his countrymen.
About the efficacy of Swift's poletnical writings there can be no question; but there has been much question as to the nature of Swift's personal opinions. Nor is this surprising when we consider Swift's peculiar position. He put forth all his powers on behalf of the Tories; but he had reached middle-life before he quitted the Whigs. He fought the battles of the Church; but he certainly had no clerical vocation. He pleaded the cause of Ireland, but the country he disliked and the bulk of the people he despised. It is therefore natural that many, especially those who disagreed with him, should have regarded this puissant champion as a mere soldier of fortune, careless for whom he fought, and chagrined only because he failed to secure his booty. What seems to confirm their suspicion is the impartial and unqualified scorn which Swift, in his freer moods, pours out upon all factions, civil or ecclesiastical. What he thought of our venerable Constitution he has betrayed in Gulliver's conversation with the King of Brobdingnag. What he thought of politicians he has told us in the last of the "Drapier's Letters." "Few politicians, with all their schemes, are half so useful members of a commonwealth as an honest farmer; who, by skilfully draining, fencing, manuring and planting, hath increased the intrinsic value of a piece of land, and thereby done a perpetual service to his country, which it is a great controversy whether any of the former ever did since the creation of the world; but no controversy that ninetynine in a hundred have done abundant mischief." What Swift thought of eccle