Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

mond; ” with “Pickwick,” “Oliver Twist,” “Nicholas Nickleby,” and “David Copperfield”; but how is it with respect to “Pelham,” “Rienzi,” “Paul Clifford,” “The Caxtons,” and “What Will He Do With It?” Are there many who can pass an examination in these and their companions? A goodly and even gorgeous company were they, but do they survive as a favorite part of every choice and well-selected library 2 A critic can hardly know, but there are signs that Bulwer is not dead, notwithstanding some critics have asserted that he was. His complete works may still be found on the shelves of book stores, and publishers do not wittingly publish books that do not sell, so that it is reasonable to believe that these great works of fiction still have readers and admirers. And they deserve to have. In versatility, in capacity to work, and in determination to succeed, Bulwer-Lytton had no equal among his contemporaries, surpassing even Macaulay in those respects. The quantity of work that he did is almost appalling, and the story of his life affords an example for young men that they cannot too carefully study and imitate. If he was not a man of genius, as many

critics have said, he possessed those other qualities,

patience and industry, which the highest authorities have told us were synonymous with genius. Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer was born May 25, 1803. His father, General Bulwer, was a distinguished British officer, who somewhat late in life married Elizabeth Lytton, the heiress of Knebworth. Edward was the youngest son, and his father died during his infancy. He was educated at home and did not have the advantage of the public schools, a circumstance he often deplores in his essays. At seventeen he was sent to Cambridge, where his fellow-collegians were Macaulay, who was soon to take his degree; Charles Williers, who was long the “father of the House of Commons,” Mackworth Praed, the brilliant poet, satirist, and politician, who died young; Alexander Cockburn, afterward Lord ChiefJustice of England, and Charles Buller, subsequently a distinguished member of parliament. It was Macaulay's omnivorous reading and power of oratory even at that early day that stirred young Bulwer's emulation, and in a letter to his mother describing Macaulay's successes he writes: “The trophies of Miltiades will not suffer me to sleep.” Even among such brilliant youths his industry was noticeable, and his then ambition

being to be a poet, he won the Chancellor's medal for verse in 1825. After leaving the university his first published work was a volume of poems. Soon after leaving the university, Bulwer contracted an imprudent marriage with an Irish beauty named Rosina Wheeler. His mother opposed the alliance and cut down his allowance to two hundred pounds a year—an income upon which he could not live even as a single man, his tastes and habits being very expensive. There was nothing to be done therefore but to take up literature as a calling, and he commenced writing with the utmost industry. His first novel and his first play were failures, but in his lexicon there was no such word as fail, and in 1828 “Pelham ” appeared. It became the most popular novel of the day. A friend said to him : “I had no idea, Bulwer, that you had it in you to write such a book.” To which he replied: “No man knows what he can do till he tries,” a maxim that Bulwer made the corner stone of his success. He never knew what he could do till he tried, and he never was satisfied with a single trial. He kept at work until he achieved his ideal. In that volume of essays, which he entitled “Caxtoniana,” a most delightful volume, written somewhat late in life, in which he sums up his

experiences in life, he sets down many of the rules he seems to have followed, and they are worthy of quotation and imitation. In fact, the young man just setting out in life, who will practice Bulwer's maxims, will not fall far short of accomplishing Bulwer's success. A few of them are here given:

To find what you seek in the road of life, the best proverb of all is that which says, “Leave no stone unturned.”

When you are engaged in any undertaking in which success depends partly on skill and partly on luck, always presuppose that the luck may go against you, for that presupposition redoubles all your efforts to obtain the advantages that belong to skill. Hope nothing from luck, and the probability is that you will be so prepared, forewarned, and forearmed, that all shallow observers will call you lucky. Before you commence anything, provide as if all hope were against you. When you set about it, act as if there were not such a thing as fear. When you have taken all the precautions as to skill in the circumstances against which you can provide, dismiss from consideration all circumstances dependent on luck which you cannot control. When you can't choose your ground it is “ Forward and St. George l’’ But look for no help from St. George unless you have taken the same pains he did in training his horse and his dogs before he fought with the dragon.

Consider within yourself what it is you really covet ! What it is that constitutes such a want, whether in your intellectual or moral being, as you must more or less satisfy or your whole life will be one regret 2 Is it for something that must be won through competition with those who, in Academe, Forum, or Mart, do the business of this world, or through a superior grace in the attitude you assume among its idlers ? The one object necessitates labor, the other is best gained by ease. Take your choice—do not seek to unite life's business with life's holiday. Each may have place in turn ; but remember that the business leads to distinction and the holiday away from it.

He is seldom overworked who can contrive to be in advance of his work. If you have three weeks before you to learn something which a man of average quickness could learn in a week, learn it the first week and not the third. Business dispatched is business well done, but business hurried is business ill done.

These are but a sample of the practical sayings on life and its objects that may be found scattered all through Bulwer's works, particularly in his essays and later novels.

“Pelham ” was followed by “Devereux" and the “Disowned,” both written before he was twenty-six. He also became the editor of Colburn's New Monthly, succeeding Tom Campbell in that position. His domestic life proved unhappy after love's young dream had passed. That story has long been before the world in his wife's book, which, though exaggerated, is substantially true. Her tongue exasperated him and he beat her. It is a sordid tale. They separated, but were never divorced. The late Earl Lytton (Owen. Meredith) was their only child.

Bulwer wrote many novels, and all had success,

« ZurückWeiter »