Page images
PDF
EPUB

once more as in the religions of dead centuries, or a mere medium for emotional expression; and landscape in literature is pre-eminently man as the glass of nature, or by inversion, nature as the glass of man. And those scenes of nature which, taken from the poets, have in especial become as household words to thousands, which have printed themselves with indelible strokes upon the imaginations of a whole world of readers, are in general those fraught with some such reflected human emotion (" And in our life alone

does nature live'), Keats in his Ode to the Nightingale' cited by Mr. Palgrave, and in his almost perfect lyric

In a drear-nighted December,' a lyric crowned with cypress if not with laurel-Shelley, in his best-known stanzas, written in dejection, call up, as only genius could, images of nature. But over her face their own shadows fall-grass, thicket, white hawthorn, fading violets and frozen tree, ice-bound stream, sea wave and weed and sand are interpenetrated with the lassitude, the melancholy, the fevered exhaustion of life, where hope, passion and the desire of the heart, the soul and the mind are sinking on the ebb-tide of the ocean whose further shores are the land of the unknown. And it is to the thought and feeling of the poet that our response is made-to what the forgetfulness of the winter tree meant to Keats, to what the vision of the southern waters meant to Shelley, to, that is, what was outside, beyond and apart from nature. They echo the old cry of sorrow-reiterated through all the generations—of sorrow individual to the sympathy of sorrow universal, the cry of the sorrower who, even while he for ever esteems himself a monopolist of pain, appeals to all who pass by, demanding from each a comprehension based upon the experience of all—'is there any

sorrow like unto my sorrow?' and the starting point and the goal of the landscape are alike a human emotion. Or, it may be, the poet comes a step farther from himself. His starting point may chance to be nature, but the changes of the carillon ring back to the same note-self. Nature ceases to be the mirror of man only to make of man its mirror.

But now our yew is strook, is fallen, yea,

To this and that men say, ...

Stirred by its fall-poor destined bark of Dis,
Along my soul a bruit there is

Of echoing images.
Reverberations of mortality
Spelt backward from its death, to me.'

And, as if to make it yet clearer that the disentanglement of man and nature is a task words essay in vain, even Walt Whitman, lover, worshipper, devotee of nature and realism alike and in almost equal measure, cannot forget in the apple orchard of spring and the lilac-time of earth, his soul. Above, below, around are "... the blue sky, the grass, the morning drops of dew, The lilac scent, the bushes with dark green heart-shaped leaves, Wood-violets, the little delicate, pale blossoms called Innocence. ... Springtime is with him and summer is come, but the question earth never asks still falls from his lips,

What is this in it and from it ? Thou soul unloosen'd—the restlessness after I know not what.' With Mr. Francis Thompson the felled yew is a subordinate theme to that echoing image of mortality (spelt • backward' from its death to the poet. With Whitman, although for a moment here and there the voices of nature might seem to drown all other voices, the spirit of man still claims the last word.

That amongst writers whose landscape scenes are most ineradicably infected with an emotional human atmosphere there occur descriptive passages where all that is not nature recedes wholly from sight is undeniable. That in the purest pictorial nature-realism the selfhood of the artist betrays itself—and character manifests itself scarcely less in what a man chooses to look at than in what he stamps upon his reproductions of what he has seen-is equally true, and analysis in the end must confess itself as merely the definition, the indication, of tendencies. But to bring home to ourselves the divergencies of tendencies, to grasp the standpoint of the artist and the aim of the writer, to demand of neither that he shall give more than from such a standpoint and with such an aim it is his to bestow, is to rid ourselves of much unintelligent injustice toward both. While as readers or picture seers to recognise clearly our own attitude of mind toward landscape, the bent of our own perceptive sympathies, our inclination to use the eyes of the body or the eyes of the mind, to see nature with the imagination in its relationship to gods or men, or to see it in its actual semblance—to see it, as far as may be, as it exists indepen. dently of all else besides—is to have gauged the limits and lengths of our own appreciative capacity of the artist's truth of representation or the writer's sincerity in description.

ART, III.-The Love of an Uncrowned Queen. Sophia Dorothea,

Consort of George I., and her Correspondence with Philip Christopher Count Königsmarck. (Now first published from the originals.) By W. H. WILKINS. 2 vols.

London: Hutchinson & Co., 1900. SOME twelve years after the Princess Sophia Dorothea o had been divorced from the Electoral Prince George Lewis of Hanover, and consigned to a durance in which she remained for nearly twenty years longer-her hopes set almost to the last on an escape which only came to her with death-the story of her early misfortunes was first published to the world. Her relations with Count Königsmarck, over which an apparently impenetrable veil had been cast by the Electoral House that had ruthlessly thrust her forth, had been made the theme of a literary effort combining with an unmistakeable element of personal • knowledge’ the license of treatment familiar to a practised writer of historical romance. In 1707 had been published the first edition of the supplementary sixth volume of Duke Antony Ulric of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel's " Roman Octavia,' a roman de longue haleine in the manner of the “Grand Cyrus,' or perhaps it would be more accurate to say in that of the Princesse de Clèves.' This volume contained the allegorical · History of the Princess Solane,' and of her lover Aquilius,* in whom it needed no Edipus to recognise the unfortunate Sophia Dorothea and Philip Christopher von Königsmarck. Duke Antony Ulric's hostility to his kinsfolk of the younger or Brunswick-Lüneburg line, and to the ambitious Electoral House of Hanover in particular, was as notorious as was his friendly interest in

* In the revised edition of 1712 the name of Solane is altered to Rhodogune, and that of Aquilius to Petilius; Cotys (Prince George Lewis) becomes Eteocles, and there are several further changes. The first edition of the romance is examined by Professor A. Köcher in the earlier of the two articles Die Prinzessin von Ahlden'in Sybel's • Historische Zeitschrift' for 1882, which contain a masterly review of the historical evidence bearing on the story of Sophia Dorothea, and of the literary versions and perversions through which it has passed. Although we cannot follow Professor Köcher in his summary rejection of the Königsmarck correspondence, we are greatly indebted to the guidance of the foremost living authority on the later history of the House of Brunswick. The revised edition of Duke Antony Ulric's romance is analysed by J. F. Neigebaur in his disjointed but suggestive • Éléonore d'Olbreuse' (Brunswick, 1859).

Sophia Dorothea, whom he had formerly hoped to secure as his own daughter-in-law, and with whom he kept up a correspondence both before and after her marriage to her Hanoverian cousin. This transparent allegory is not, however, the first extant attempt at a narrative of her catastrophe and its causes. As early as March 1695, some eight or nine months after the disappearance of Königsmarck at Hanover, the Duchess of Orleans received at Versailles from the Danish ambassador a pamphlet forwarded to him from Hamburg, of which she sent a copy, with annotations of her own, to her aunt, the Electress Sophia. But though this pamphlet abounds in positive assertions as to the relations between the Princess and Königsmarck, it cannot have exercised any influence on the beliefs or conclusions of the public; for the Duchess had taken prompt steps to secure its suppression.* The 'Roman Octavia,' on the other hand, became a main source of the current version of the true history of Sophia Dorothea and her downfall. She is here represented as the pure and guileless victim of craft and cruelty, and Königsmarck as her devoted though unworthy adorer. They meet in secret to plan her flight from Hanover for the following day; but neither on that day nor ever after is he again seen among men. The jealous fury of the Elector's mistress, of whose favours as well as of the confidence of the Princess he has boasted in his cups, has, aided by the wiles of her father's minister, driven the brave adventurer to his doom.f How prevalent this version remained at the beginning of the present century may be seen from a literary relic of peculiar interest—a series of rough drafts in Schiller's hand, comprising the scheme, characters, and action of a drama to be called The Princess of Celle.' | Another hundred years

* The extracts made from it by Leibniz, together with a series of strictures upon them by the Duchess of Orleans and himself, are preserved in manuscript at Hanover, and printed by Köcher in the appendix to his second article.

+ This doom is related in two different ways in the successive editions of the romance.

See Schiller's . Dramatischer Nachlass, ed. G. Kettner, vol. ii. (Kleinere dramatische Fragmente'), pp. 220 sqq. (Weimar, 1895). The outline of the dramatic action contemplated by Schiller includes the following passage : "The pathetic element in the situation is this : that Sophia attaches herself with a certain fervour of gratitude and friendship to Count Königsmarck, who loves her, but is not worthy of her ; that, in perfect innocence, she exposes herself to the gravest have passed, and in the latest work on the same subject, although in its central and principal portion founded on evidence claiming to be first-hand, we find the author elsewhere once more falling back on his early predecessor, from whose free mixture of fact and fiction the long-lived legend to which Schiller might have given literary immortality was in the first instance derived.

It is, therefore, well to note at the outset that in the book of which the title is prefixed in this article a distinction should be drawn between what appertains to the special problem treated by the author and the adjuncts due to his way of workmanship. Mr. Wilkins is an accomplished writer, and capable, as his Romance of Isabel, Lady Burton,' shows, of telling both clearly and effectively a story which want of tact or of sympathy would be certain to run aground. The volumes now before us contain many vivid incidental touches and some admirable descriptions of localities. Even without the aid of his illustrations he would have brought back to our remembrance the grim rococo castle of Celle, with the moat surrounding the little garden at the foot of its high yellow walls, and the dreary expanse, made up of rough pasture and reedy marsh, in the midst of which rises the other castle-80 called-of Ahlden. Moreover, although apparently not a trained historical scholar, and liable to slips in matters of detail,* Mr. Wilkins shows a commend

suspicions on account of him; and that a quite irrefutable semblance of guilt falls upon her, although she is as pure as innocence itself.'

* Sophia Dorothea the younger was born, not in 1686 (p. 108), but on March 16, 1687. The restriction, in the peace of Westphalia, of the choice of a bishop of Osnabrück to the Brunswick-Lüneburg family applied only to the case of Lutheran bishops, who were to alternate with Catholic. Curiously enough, in 1715, when it was the turn of a Lutheran, the Chapter chose Prince Maximilian William, George I.'s unlucky brother (who plays a prominent part in these volumes), but the election was held void, as Maximilian had recently become a convert to the Church of Rome, and his younger brother Ernest Augustus was hereupon chosen in his place. What authority has Mr. Wilkins for relating that in 1656 the Princess Palatine was living at the Court of her brother Charles Lewis, at Heidelberg, 'as State governess to his children'? The eldest of them was at this time barely five years of age, and the position indicated would hardly have suited the pride of Sophia. "Burnet's edition of the Correspondence of the Duchess of Orleans' should, of course, be • Brunet's. The printer is doubtless also responsible for "George II.' instead of George I.' (p. 70, note), and for Frederick William I.' instead of Frederick William II.' (p. 19). But in the spelling of proper

« PreviousContinue »