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AUSTIN DOBSON'S CAREER.
THERE are few literary careers more enviable than that of Austin Dobson. He is an example of what England does for her literary men of genius—or, at least, of sane genius. Mr. Dobson is a poet and essayist and has written delightful verse and charming essays. He seems to have justly estimated his own powers, and has never attempted Homeric flights with the wings of Theocritus. He has kept himself strictly within a particular corner of English literature and has been content to master that, leaving the larger fields of study and inquiry to other adventurers. The result is that he is one of the most popular, most entertaining, and most accurate writers in his domain that we have ever had. Mr. Dobson was born at Plymouth, England, in January, 1840, and after an education at private
schools he became a clerk in the government board of trade in 1856, where, by gradual steps, he rose to be the chief. After forty-five years of service he now retires on a pension, while he also receives a pension from the literary fund. It was in 1873 that he first attracted public attention in a volume of verses entitled “Vignettes in Rhyme.” They were so pleasing, so fresh, so novel in style to English readers that they attracted immediate attention and for a time seemed to set a fashion in verse. He was one of the first, if not the very first, of the younger school of English poets to make the old French style of poetry—the triolet, the rondel, the villanelle, and the ballade—familiar and delightful to English ears, while his vers de société challenged, in lightness of touch, even Mr. Locker-Lampson. Verses have rarely tripped to a daintier measure than those of Mr. Dobson. His pictures are genre, his themes are common and of everyday life, but he clothes them with an auroral charm that makes them seem evanescent and elusive. His verses are so light and evasive that they can be subjected to no analysis. You cannot say the beauty is here, for when you point the finger at the spot, lo l it seems somewhere else. The lines appeal to feeling only. His point of view is never that of the clubman, but always that of the poet, although he writes on subjects that are topics of the clubs.
What an exquisite charm there is in the ballade, “On a Fan that belonged to the Marquise De Pompadour.”
Chicken skin, delicate, white,
The mere thought brings up the images of the courtiers, the beauties, and all the gossip and intrigue of Louis XVth's court, and then : Where are the secrets it knew P Weavings of plot and of plan 2
But where is the Pompadour, too
So, too, his poem on the picture of the “Marquise" appeals to one for what the poet does not say as well for what it does.
The poems are not great. They come into no rivalry with Shelley or Keats or Tennyson, and yet they are in their kind almost perfect. They are like a finely painted miniature, or a per
fectly finished cameo.
Mr. Dobson's prose is as finished as his poetry. He has absorbed eighteenth century literature until it has become to him more familiar than the literature of his own time. He was first led into this domain by Thackeray and he has never left it. He could have had no better master, and have found no more delightful ground. Its highways and byways he has traveled in every direction, and he has made many pleasant revelations to the world concerning it. Hogarth is one of his passions, while Goldsmith is his hobby. He has written on Steele, Gay, Fielding, Walpole, Goldsmith, Boswell, Johnson, Reynolds, Prior, Spence, Pope, Jonas Hanway, Gray, Chesterfield, Swift, Richardson, Lady Mary Coke, Lady Mary Montague, Mary Lepel, Cowper, Garrick, and almost every one else of the time about whom there could be any human curiosity, and in addition to these on the fashions, amusements, manners, and places of entertainment of the Englishmen of the Georgian era.
These books and essays are written in pure and limpid English and belong to the books in Bacon's category that “serve for delight.” No one can read them without lasting enjoyment.
ARTHUR HUGH CLOUGH. (1819–1861.)
Among the men of the Victorian era who gave promise in youth of great eminence in life Arthur Hugh Clough stands among the foremost. His name is now the shadow of a shade, and his works are but little known, but fifty years ago there were few Englishmen who seemed more sure of a permanent place in our literature. Short and broken as his career was, and little as his actual performance proved to be, it is still worthy of remembrance, as well for what it was as for what it might have been.
Arthur Clough was one of the true Victorians, having been born in the Queen's year, 1819. His father was a Liverpool cotton merchant, and the child passed his earliest years in Charleston, S. C. At the age of ten he was sent to Rugby School, and belonged to the famous boy set described in the story of “Tom Brown.” He was not the
Arthur of the novel, that portraiture being now