Слике страница

sanguine man. However he has had the play for a year, and not having produced it nor seeing his way to producing it within a reasonable period, has given the author leave to publish it as a book. Alfred de Musset's comedies, which most of us would think the finest flower of French drama within this century, appeared in the same way, yet they are played still, and probably will hold the stage indefinitely. Every nation has the stage and the press that it deserves; and it is no longer possible to affirm that good plays are not produced because no good plays are written. If the theatregoing public does not wish to see Paolo and Francesca' acted-and to have its full effect this play, which is written to be acted, needs to be acted--the theatre-going public has lost all capacity for enjoying serious dramatic art. That is a thing which we see no reason to believe; we still trust that we are not damned to an eternity of Charley's Aunts' and Gaiety Girls.' 'Paolo and Francesca’ is finer poetry, stronger in passion, stronger in logic, and more dramatically effective—in a word, more interesting—than Maeterlinck's • Pelleas and Melisande,' yet. Pelleas and Melisande’ had a considerable success-quite sufficient to prove that a taste for poetry exists among theatre-goers. Robespierre,' a savage pantomime about as artistic as a bull-fight, drew crowded houses, and we are entitled to deduce from this that farce and comedy have no monopoly. But whether · Paolo

and Francesca' be seen on the boards in this country or not-even if it have to be translated into German to find actors and audience intelligent enough to play and understand it—the fact remains that a great play has been written which is also a great poem.

[ocr errors]

ART. IV.-1. England in the Age of Wycliffe. By GEORGE

MACAULAY TREVELYAN. Second edition. 8vo. London:

1899. 2. The Peasants' Rising and the Lollards : a Collection of Un

published Documents, forming an Appendix to · England in the Age of Wycliffe.' Edited by EDGAR POWELL and G.

M. TREVELYAN. 8vo. London : 1899. . 3. Le Soulèvement des Travailleurs d'Angleterre en 1381. Par

ANDRÉ RÉVILLE; Études et Documents publiés, avec une Introduction historique, par Ch. PETIT-DUTAILLIS. Mémoires et Documents publiés par la Société de l'Ecole des

Chartes. 8vo. Paris : 1898. 4. The Rising in East Anglia in 1381. By EDGAR POWELL.

.8vo. Cambridge University Press : 1896. IT appears to be a pure and unexpected coincidence that

these three important books on the Peasants' Rising of 1381 should have been written and published at approximately the same time. Mr. Powell's valuable little monograph on a particular phase of the insurrection is, indeed, an outcome of researches originally undertaken with a totally different aim; what is really curious is, that two young historical students, on different sides of the Channel, should bave selected this period as the subject of an academical thesis. M. Réville, born in January 1867, after a brilliant career in the Ecole des Chartes presented for his diploma, in January 1890, this essay on the insurrection in Hertfordshire, Suffolk, and Norfolk. He obtained une bourse de voyage,' which permitted him to make a lengthened visit to England, where, at the Record Office, British Museum, and the University Library at Cambridge, he examined and transcribed or abstracted many unpublished documents relating to the subject of his essay. Unfortunately for us, his academic success secured for him a professorship in Paris, which he took up in July 1891. For the time his work of research was brought to an end; and his premature and sudden death in July 1894 effectually destroyed the hopes of its being resumed. It is this thesis, together with a selection of documents inédits' from his papers, which is now published by his friend, M. Petit-Dutaillis, previously known by an interesting study on 'Le Traité de Brétigny,'*

* Le Moyen Age, Jan.-Fevr. 1897.


[ocr errors]

who has also illustrated it by a long and interesting introduction, based in part on Réville's crude notes. That these two capable young Frenchmen should have thus devoted time and thought to a careful and exact study of a difficult period of English sociology is not the least remarkable thing about this remarkable volume.*

Mr. Trevelyan's book, as its author explains, was originally composed as a dissertation sent in to compete for a fellowship at Trinity College, Cambridge, but is now expanded so as to give a general picture of English society, politics, and religion, .. and to recount the leading and

characteristic events of a brief period ... which represents, as far as England is concerned, the meeting-point of the

mediæval and the modern. So considered it is an interesting and, indeed, important monograph on a period which has hitherto been much neglected, if not by the student, at any rate by the historian ; and if the historian does not write, the everyday reader cannot read. The want is now very well supplied, and the work before us appeals to the cultivated reader as well as to the student; and if to the latter some of the statements may seem doubtful, or some of the deductions unwarranted, he will at least feel called on to re-examine the references or to reconsider the arguments—a proceeding which, wbatever the result, always means advantage gained.

The cultivated reader, on the other hand, less critical as to the matter, will find bis attention caught by the manner, which in many ways will remind him of that of the author's grand-uncle, Lord Macaulay, as filtered, it may be, through the writings of his own father, Sir George Trevelyan. This, though in the circumstances perhaps unavoidable, is not always pleasant; and it is well to point out to a writer who adds youth to the other good gifts of nature, that imitation of style should be not in the letter, but the spirit; that the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. A grea

A greater fault seems to rise out of an hereditary protest against the dignity of history,' which, in its practical form, is too frequently allowed to degenerate into the careless or affected misuse of words; into colloquialisms, Americanisms, or what may be called newspaperisms, which are certainly out of

* Its reception by the public seemed to promise it a commercial success commensurate, in some degree, with its historical value. It ran out of print within two months of its first appearance, now a year ago. As yet, however, its publishers or the Société de l'Ecole des Chartes have not thought fit to issue a second edition.


place in a sustained narrative. On the other hand, modern comparisons or analogies are often introduced with very happy effect; for assuredly, to the average reader, nineteenth or even eighteenth century politics and personages are more familiar than those of the fourteenth; and such passages as 'From its purely political aspect the alliance of * Lancaster and Percy with Wycliffe] was much like that of Oxford and Bolingbroke with Swift ;' *[Lancaster] was not playing Marlborough to [the Council's] Harley .and St. John; the Waldenses occupied in Christendom

the position of the Armenians in Turkey; ' 'to alter by · legislation established rights of individuals and public ·bodies was no less unusual in the time of Richard II. • than under the régime that was ended by the first Reform

Bill and the Municipal Corporation Act,' and many similar, although not unfrequently strained, and hardly just, do at least serve to bring home the author's meaning with a force and precision which might otherwise be wanting.

But, after all, it is the matter of the book on which it must be judged. Considered as an essay in social and political history, it is admirable ; less so where it treats of questions military, naval, or religious, the pages and chapters on which seem to betray a want of familiarity with their subjects, and suggest that the author, feeling it necessary to say something about them, proceeded to get them up for the occasion, not always with perfect success. In the course of the following pages it will be our duty to point out some lapses in these respects; but notwithstanding these, the book, as giving a connected story of an intricate and important period, is not only valuable, but will come to most readers with the additional charm of novelty.

The important fringe to the narrative is the story of the disastrous war with France, a story which our text-books cut very short. What few of them even mention is that the defeat of the English was largely due to the intervention of the King of Castile. Even Mr. Trevelyan scarcely gives it sufficient weight; but, on the other hand, he brings it in some three years too soon. Nor is it quite correct to say that King Henry of Castile was restored to his throne by * French arms in the face of English opposition ;' for the English opposition came practically to an end when the Black Prince--cheated, betrayed, possibly poisoned-withdrew the shattered remnant of his army; and the restoration of Henry was due less to French arms tban to his own dagger. Nor was the action of Henry against England prompted by gratitude to France, as Mr. Trevelyan implies, but by the semi-barbarian's intuitive recognition of the • influence of sea-power' on his own safety. When, in the spring of 1372, John of Gaunt married Constance, the elder daughter of the butchered Pedro, and in her right laid claim to the crown of Castile, Henry saw at once that the danger would come from the sea, and ought to be met on the sea. On June 23 the Castilian fleet destroyed the English fleet off Rochelle; and then, in alliance with the French, completely reversed the conditions of the war which, in its earlier years, had shed such lustre on English arms.

But before the disaster at Rochelle things had been going badly with the English. The Black Prince's illness seemed to invite the attacks which his unruly subordinates provoked. Ponthieu, left without a sufficient force to defend it, was taken possession of, rather than conquered ; and in Aquitaine there were neither troops, money, stores, nor any longer a capable commander. The nobles and the people of Aquitaine, too, had come to the conclusion that a governor at Bordeaux was more objectionable than a king at Paris ; that being a province of England was now a harder lot than being a province of France. When their ill-will rendered the security of the province dependent on the English garrison, and when the intervention of the Spaniards, at Rochelle and afterwards, made it impossible to reinforce the garrison, the end was very near. It was not due to any effort from England that the English power in the south of France was not then utterly wiped out.

But in England people were not disposed to take the disasters quietly, and the Parliament of 1371, which called the incompetent Ministers to account, marks the commencement of those political movements and party combinations which continued throughout the next fifteen years.' It is with the story of these fifteen years that Mr. Trevelyan is chiefly concerned. He has chosen to call his essay the Age of Wycliffe ;' but though the years correspond with those of Wycliffe's activity, the interest of the drama circles round the insurrection; it is social or political, not religious; and, in point of fact, the religious chapters of the work are those which many well-informed readers will wish that he had kept back till he could write of the controverted questions with fuller knowledge and riper judgement.

In February 1371 the Ministry, as all previous Ministries, was composed of bishops who were dependent solely on

« ПретходнаНастави »