Page images
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]





[ocr errors]

Inglesant passes over to France. The life of the Royalist he
exiles in Paris is very accurately described, with the help of
of Evelyn's Diary and the Athenæ.' Sometimes, as
when the King and the Duke of York communicate in
the Ambassador's chapel, with Lords Biron and Wilmot
holding a white cloth before them ('a long towel' in
Evelyn) or when we read of Dr Cosin comforting and
supporting' (Evelyn: establishing and comforting ') the
Maids of Honour who had been dis missed for their
Anglicanism, the description follows very closely on the
original. Then there really was a Monsieur Saumeurs, a
brilliant tennis player, and a Monsieur Febur (not 'Febus,'
as Shorthouse names him) who gave courses of chemistry.
Inglesant goes to consult de Cressy, whose antecedents
are quoted from Antony à Wood and Aubrey, as to
spiritual things, and a beautiful chapter results. It is
not a little curious that Cressy and Sancta Clara, in actual
history, both became Chaplains in after life to Queen
Catherine in Somerset House, and à Wood visited them
there. In the Romance they are in opposition over
Inglesant's soul; he accepts Sancta Clara's proposals,
and goes to Italy.

And then, indeed, the hunt is up. For Shorthouse has his hero well in hand now, and is resolved to allow him to forgo no experience that would test or mould mind, flesh, or spirit. Hitherto, spite of little lapses, and mistakes not always accidental, Shorthouse has been meticulously accurate, in facts and dates, after a fashion not at all, we think, appreciated by his readers. But there was a growing tendency with him to exercise his skill in the peculiar way we have indicated, that is, to borrow from the very text of his authorities, contemporary and otherwise, and then to mix the real with the unreal in a skein most difficult to unravel. Once he leaves England-and Inglesant resides in Italy about eight years the events of six Papacies and of nearly sixty years are crowded into the reigns of two Popes, Innocent X and Alexander VII. Yet the Cession of Urbino (Umbria) was made by the last of the House of Rovere (not 'Revere') to Urban VIII about 1630, and the Quietist controversy and condemnation of Molinos took place during Innocent XI's Papacy in 1681. No wonder that Acton waxed indignant, and suspected everything

e he read. Yet his suspicions carried him somewhat out th of the way. We have already mentioned his concern et as to the date of the Trinità steps. But he does not

[ocr errors]

notice Shorthouse's carelessness in writing Count Vespi¿ riani' every time, when the well-known Count Vespiniani to is meant. Again : 'the name of the Pope's sisteror in-law,' he declares, 'was Olimpia Maidalchini.' But Olympia Maldachini' is found in Ranke, as are also the for variations Maidalchina' and 'Maidalchini.' Ranke, in fact, is neglected by Acton, but he is Shorthouse's authority for a good deal of life-like detail. If the reader, for example, were to turn to 'The History of the Popes,' vol. II, pp. 350-1, he would find nearly all the opening speech of the Rector of the English College to Inglesant (p. 262) reproduced or paraphrased from Spon's 'Voyage d'Italie,' which Ranke quotes. 'Who

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

sat for the profane and sceptical Cardinal? There is some likeness to Retz,' writes Acton. But Retz is ruled out, for he appears elsewhere in the Romance, and the truth is that the Cardinal' is just, to Shorthouse's mind, representative of the late Renaissance in general, as is the architecture of the supposed Palace of 'Umbria.'

[ocr errors]


Nevertheless, the first rencontre of the Cardinal with Inglesant and Agostino Chigi-a real personage, by the way—is lifted from the pages of Evelyn's Diary (Nov. 2, 1644). A certain Cardinal Donghi arrives at the diarist's osteria in great state, with his own bedstead and all the furniture, yet would by no means suffer us to resign the room we had taken up in the lodging before his arrival' (cf. 'J. I.,' p. 215). But Donghi would never do as a name in the graceful pages of 'John Inglesant,' and so a duplicate 'Rinuccini' has to take his place. The Cardinal's Villa is a conflation of several Villas seen by Evelyn in Rome, but it must have taken all Shorthouse's audacity to make his Cardinal speak of his bas-reliefs as 'antique incrustations of history' ('J. I.,' p. 288) when the phrase is Evelyn's very own, used of the Villa Borghese (Nov. 17, 1644). Indeed, a great part of the description of the Villa comes from that of the Villa Borghese, in the Diary. But then so much of Rome is Evelyn's Rome, a sentence here, an adjective there, and the same may be said of Genoa, Siena, and Florence, with occasional assistance from Reresby. As

[ocr errors]

146 SOME TRUTHS ABOUT JOHN INGLESANT' to the interiors of St Peter's and the Lateran, it is a curiosity to compare pp. 267 and 357-8 of 'John Inglesant' with Evelyn's Diary, Nov. 19 and Nov. 20, 1644. Little touches of everyday life, such as the sale of wine on the ground-floors of noblemen's houses, the performance of comedies during the Carnival on country carts, arched with boughs, in imitation of the oldest kind of itinerant theatres, the equipages in the streets of Rome with their metal work of massy (massive) silver,' the love of the Fathers of the Oratory for music, also derive from the Diary.


A friend once wrote to Mr Shorthouse in admiration of the life likeness of the scene near Siena (ch. xxi), when Inglesant climbs to the hill-top, and sees the clouds rolling beneath him, and the landscape breaking through. Well, Evelyn undertook the selfsame climb, and saw the selfsame prospect (Nov. 2, 1644). As for Guardino's account of the vendettas among Italian families, and of the gentleman in Lucca who was for years confined to his house for fear of assassination if he went out, that is to be discovered, in part verbatim, in Reresby's Diary, only the town was Padua, not Lucca. And, talking of Padua, the physician there who is so versed in Boccalini, gets his advice and part of his narcotic prescription word for word from Burton's Anatomy' (p. 460).

Space compels us to leave on one side the episode of the condemnation of Molinos, several exact sentences and phrases in the last chapter culled from à Wood's Athenæe' and his Diary, and, indeed, many other sudden transcriptions from this author and that which make their appearance in the setting of the story. We may conclude by a reference to two that are stranger in their incidence than any others.

There is no more exquisite experiment in a very difficult métier than the blind Malvolti's tale to Inglesant in the darkening Church of the Santa Chiara at Naples of the Vision of the Christ to him on the steps of the Ara Coeli in Rome. So powerful and so persuasive is it that it reads to some as if it were a real recorded appearance of the Lord. Spiritual exaltation and consummate mastery of style surely reach their height here. And yet, in the midst of his mystical outpouring of soul, the fatal








[ocr errors]


habit of the writer dogs him still, the other side of his craftsmanship is fully awake, and—his 'Evelyn' lies close at his elbow. It was Christmas Eve, says Malvolti, and the new Pope went in procession to S. Giovanni in Laterano. Suddenly the account of that procession is derived from the inaugural procession of Innocent X, as Evelyn witnessed it in his Diary (Nov. 22, 1644). Nearer and nearer the two descriptions draw in details, until at last Malvolti and Evelyn unite. Both processions pass re along with all excess of joy and triumph,' and as midnight drew on, 'the streets were as light as day.' But the climax is reached when, the wondrous story told, Inglesant asks, 'Heard you nothing else?' and Malvolti answers 'in a quieter voice' 'No; by this time it was morning. The artillery of St Angelo went off. His Holiness sang Mass, and all day long was exposed the cradle of the Lord.' Cut out the 'No,' and put our' for 'the,' and that quieter voice is not Malvolti's at all, but a transcription verbatim with a little shifting out of Evelyn (Christmas Eve, 1644). But we have said enough, and, when it has once more been recalled that we have not quoted the lengthier borrowings at all, it is clearly time to draw conclusions. For what are we to make of all this?

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]

In the first place, that 'John Inglesant' still remains, from the literary point of view, a very remarkable book. This article has laid stress on a curious series of discoveries never, we believe, brought to light before, and the impression must inevitably have been given that the Romance is packed tight with literal borrowings.' The borrowings, and many more than we have had space to indicate or disentangle, are there, and they constitute a serious solecism. Perhaps, indeed, they do rob 'John Inglesant' of its claim to be reckoned' an English classic.' The habit of mind that indulged in their use is simply baffling. But enough remains of original and careful work—work of amazing delicacy and power-to give the book a very high place indeed in literature. Yet it is also a literary curiosity of the first magnitude. What it cries out for is appreciative and critical editing. a process it would, we are confident, gain very considerably. Making all allowance for little slips in places, and deliberate confusion of dates and names in others,

By such

the solecism which, in no invidious mood, we have exposed adds greatly to the worth of the book as a representation of the atmosphere of thought and the play of events in the 17th century. What was believed to be brilliant imagination is often prosaic and even pedestrian fact. Acton is sometimes wrong where Shorthouse is right. Did the exact sense of the solecism he was committing pass away from Shorthouse's mind during the long and exciting toil of writing his book, and the fitting in of his excerpts become an engrossing sort of literary adventure? There is a good deal of evidence, at any rate, from his published Correspondence that in after days he had in part forgotten the extent and preciseness of his copyings. Half a century has now elapsed since John Inglesant' was written, and, after that lapse of time, we trust that we wound no susceptibilities by drawing attention to a circumstance in its composition which, while it transgresses the laws of ordinary literary production, lends piquancy to what was already delightful in artistry and suggestive in thought, and in one sense adds value to what has been regarded as merely an imaginative excursion into a bygone age. For the conflicting ideals of religion and politics with which it deals still find a place in contemporary Faith and Life.

[ocr errors]


« PreviousContinue »