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TWO YEARS AGO.:
Years Ago! What does it chanced two years ago, you may be mean, this name set to a novel of sure that the things which chanced two to-day?
years ago are as marvelous in his eyes, Nobody asked such a question when with a marvel of their own, as any * Waverley" claimed the world's ear for things that ever happened on this earth a tale of “Sixty Years Since.” Sixty at any time made memorable in the years-two generations of human life
annals of men. For he is not a man to these pleaded the author's excuse, at look up a title, as Proudhon looks up a once, to the memories and the imagina. theory, for the purpose of " firing it off tions of all men. Everybody was will like a pistol in the street,” to attract ing, avon anxious, to believe that things the attention of the circulating libraries which happened when his father and his and the rest of mankind. If over there mother were but children must have lived a writer who wrote his life out been wonderful, racy, rich in interest into his books, Charles Kingsley is that and in instruction. Then, too, in the writer, and the life which he leads is interval of those special sixty years, not a life of surprises, ecstasies, and over which the first readers of « Was sensations, but a life of sincere, and verley" were invited to travel back- earnest, and resolute manliness-a life wards in seareb of pictures and emo worth leading, in the first place, and, tions, how many amazing changes had therefore, in the second place, worth been brought to pass ! The long wars writing out into books, for the help and of the Stuarts had been forever stilled behoof of all men and women, whom a the ancient monarchy of Franco had manly life can reach, and touch, and been shattered into pieces-the systems bless, with strength, and faith, and of the world, social, political, religious, peace. Not that Kingsley is one of economical, had been revolutionized, those solemn Stylites (unhappily no and that in the most tremendous man more rare in modern Anglo-Saxondom
Men looked back over the last than they were in ancient Egypt), who chaotic decade of the eighteenth cen erect themselves, not " above themtury, to the age of Jacobin plots and selves" (as wise Wordsworth and wiser divine right, with a curiosity of which Daniell before him said all men should), we now can hardly appreciate the in- but above all their neighbors, upon the tensity.
height of a “conscious mission." On But “ Two Years Ago!" From what the contrary, his writings teem with does this mere chink and cranny of time evidences of his extremo dislike, not to divide us ? Two years ago, you, the say horror, of all such assumptions and reader, and we, the writer, of these absurdities, and we dare say he would pages were much the same creatures, have heartily cheered the stout Pennwere wo not, that now we are-living sylvania farmer, of whom is related a much the same kind of lives, seeing celebrated and crushing reply to premuch the same people, hoping the same tensions of this kind, put forth by the hopes, fearing the same fears, wearied parson of the village in which he lived : with the same weariness, or busy with Why will you preach to us every the same business, as now ? Two Sabbath about the damnation of in. years ago the same men of little wig- fants ?” asked the sturdy parishioner. dom ruled the world, the same sinners "Because it is my duty to do so !" anplagued it, the same sufferers endured swered the pastor, impressively: "Oh! it. Why should any man tell us a story' I dare say, and it's all very well to hold of two years ago ?
forth about it once in a while—but why Before you heed our answer to this every Sabbath ?” “Because I am conquestion, oh, serious reader, think for a strained to preach upon it continually!" moment what manner of man he is “ Constrained! Who constrains you ?” whose work has provoked it!
• The Lord !-the Lord lays it upon me When Charles Kingsley asks the to cry aloud, and spare not, concerning world to hear him talk of things which this vital truth!" '. The Lord lays it
• Two Years Ago. A Novel By Rev. CHARLES KINGSLEY. Boston: Ticknor & Fields 1857.
upon you, indeed! I don't believe the limbo of memory till they have yielded Lord never knowed there was such a up their treasures of all kinds.
For man as you!
him the great Eastern War did not end Charles Kingsley never dilates upon with the peace signed at Paris. It any theme of morals or religion after & would not have ended with a peace fashion to provoke any such rejoinder. signed at St. Petersburg; but must go He is as free from dogmatism as from on till its last victories are won in many indecision and double-dealing, and he an English home and many an Engnever claims to be uttering oracles lish heart-victories, spiritual, sublime. whereby dogs and men shall be forth, whereof the trophies are immortal, and with stricken dumb, but, simply, and the records unseen of natural eyes forvaliantly to be speaking his own mind.
For every true poet the sum of So much, however, he does, and with all human histories, however vast, how. his might; and, doing so much, we may ever ancient, however magnificent, rebe sure he explodes no fireworks and sults, at last, in the living men he sees sounds no superfluous trumpets before and deals with; and not less surely than himself when he is about to open his he rises from the particular to the gelips and speak.
neral, does he descend (if, indeed, that Why, then, has he given to this new way descent do lie) from the general to novel of his, which everybody, we sup the particular, and find a sermon for pose, will have read, long before any. you and me--a song, to strike along body can have the privilege of glancing your soul and mine, in the splendors over these our lucubrations, the sim and terrors of continental wars, and the ple and singular title of “ Two Years convulsions of empires.
You have not forgotten the voices Dating back from the fall of 1856, that went up when the war came on two years carry us into the heart of the England ? So few believed that war great whirlwind of 1854—a whirlwind could come again on her! If ever the which drew up into its vortex the three great god Pooh-Pooh was worshiped mightiest kingdoms of the earth, and, by any people, he was worshiped by the for a while, made Europe and the world fat and fortunate British of the thirty quiver, as at the opening of the sixth years' peace. They laughed at the seal. Two years ago, there came upon Peace Societies, it is true, as absurdiall Christendom, and most specially and ties; but they laughed just as much at severely upon that core of Christendom the Horse Guards, as superfluitics. in which Kingsley's life is set, a most They cared little for the “ vagaries” of sudden, and sharp, and tremendous Manchester and Exeter Hall; but they visitation of trial and of tears. Two grumbled sorely at the extravagances yoars agn, England, that had lived for of the War Department and the proforty years at peace with all her peers, portions.of the army estimates. They and had grown richer, and greater, and disbelieved, with the impatiently creprouder, than ever, in the eyes of all dulous incredulity of business-men, in mankind and in her own, found herself the possibility of any serious interfercalled upon to try, once more, the truth ence with the “ interests of commerce." of her greatness and the foundations of War, they held, was an exploded barher pride by the terrible ordeal of war. barism; and you will not find, at any
As a son of England--and England banker's table in all America to-day, a has no son more true and loyal-Charles single man more obstinately bent on Kingsley, desires to make known to persuading himself that the collision beall men his conviction that, out of this tween the two great principles which fiery purgation, his native land has fairly faced each other, for the first come ennobled, purified, made stronger, time in the history of our country, at and braver, and better; as a Christian the polls in November last, has been poet, he desires to bring home to the gotten safely over, than were hundreds privato consciences, and the hearts of of thousands of well-to-do Englishmen all men, the lessons of individual life on convincing themselves and their which burn and glow along the pages of neighbors that England would never that history of two years ago.
come to blows again with any great He is not content, as no poet can be, power, just two years ago! to dismiss the fierce world-shaking hours All this was very natural. Just as of that earnest, solemn time into the men, in barbarous countries and under
the influences of iniquitous institutions, (For I cleaved to a cause that I felt to be pure
and true) grow up to believe with Attila, the Scourge of God," or Mr. Toombs,
'It is time, 0, passionate heart, and naked
eye, the Senator from Georgia, or Paddy at The old hysterical mock disease should die !"" Donnybrook Fair, that “war is the natural state of man," so in civilized The good that Tennyson looked for, countries, and under the influence of and more good, too, Kingsley has institutions which foster equity by aim- found. His heart beat with the heart ing to establish justice, men naturally of his country, pulse for pulse, through come to be convinced, or, rather, pos all the weary, terrible months of the sessed with a nolion, that war is a thing war; and, when the war was done, his so dreadfully abnormal and unredeem first thought was to put the lesson it edly detestable, as to be put quite be had taught him into words. This work yond the palo of political possibility. is no light work, when it is a Christian If this notion were radically sane, well poet and a Christian patriot who is to and good! But it is not so. Odious do it. That rush of victory at the Alma as war is and dreadful, it is still a con --that gallop, with death at Balaklavatingency upon which men and nations that mêlée of heroes at Inkermann-and must count, however remotely, in cal that long agony of the trenches, did not culating their career, just so long as pass before Charles Kingsley as a pagehonor and the capacity of indignation ant kindling up in his soul a poor rapagainst wrong, and the determined love
ture of song.
For in all the horror of right, survive to sway our human and in all the glory of those days, in nature's purposes and destiny. And, the anguish and in the exultation of on the other hand, just so long as self- England, he saw the moving hand of interest, too exclusively pursued, and Heaven, and he found, in this mighty self-indulgence pushed to luxury, shall spectacle of a nation's strife, and shame, retain the quality of corruption to viti- and sorrow, what he would find in the ate prosperity and cultivation, just so simplest story of a human heart, a very long must peace have its dangers to solemn dealing of God with men, and a be averted and its sins to be chastised in new reading out to him and to his of the way and manner which Providence truths as old as Christianity, and yet shall see fit to choose. These dangers as fresh to every living man as his own England had incurred; these sius, as temptations are, bis own bopes and desoher best sons most loudly protest, she lations, his own affections, wretchedhad not escaped. Who has forgotten nesses, and sins. how grandly, even though a little fierce Therefore it is that Kingsley has ly, ber laureate sang of peace and war, given to his new novel this namein the beginning of that great crisis * Two Years Ago"-which seems to reof “two years ago," inspired with the fer us to the events of a passing age ; passionate thought
and yet really points us to thoughts and emotions which transcend all time
which seems to confine our interest to “That a war would arise in defense of the
one race and land, and yet involves us right, That an iron tyranny now should bend or
in principles whereof the application is
wide as the creeds of men. And as in The glory of manhood stand on his ancient criticising, so in reading his book, this height,
must be borne steadily in mind, if we Nor Britain's one sole God be the millionaire;
would do justice either to the author No more shall commerce be all in all, and or ourselves. Not that it is impossible peace
to learn the lesson of "Two Years Pipo on her pastoral billock a languid pote, And watch her harvest ripen, her herd 'in. Ago" without being distinctly conscious
that the author meant to teach it us. And the cannon-bullet rust on the blothful For that lesson was so thoroughly masshore,
tered by himself, and had entered so And the cobweb woven across the cannon's absolutely into his own mind and heart,
throat Shall shake his threaded tears in the wind no that it pervades the book like an atmosmore!
phere, and, while it is nowhere positiveAnd as months ran on, and rumor of battle ly obtruded, cannot fail to write itself grew,
out in the quickened breathing and 'It is time, it is time, O, passionate heart ! said Í.
heightened color of every brave and
generous man or woman who simply Two years ago, the outbreak of the follows the poet's guidance, never heed great European war found in England, ing how like are his " singing robes" to and occupying towards each other the the garments of the altar.
various relations of ordinary English But it will be impossible for any one life, such as English lif nas been during to estimate aright, or adequately to re the feverish twenty years of steam-his cognize, the power displayed in this tory, certain persons more or less inter extraordinary book, without grasping esting, either from their character or firmly and fully the central and domin their position. Some of these persons ant idea of its construction. That idea belonged to what are called the better once seized, much that might have classes of English society, and were seemed, when looked at from beneath, certainly no worse, if they were not mere superfluous episode, will be seen much better than the average members to spring most really from the neces of their order. Of these were Lord sary life of the composition.
Scoutbush, a young peor and guards• Two Years Ago," for instance, is a man, a good-hearted, wholo-souled novel without a hero or a heroine. Four fellow," in the St. James's street accept men come and go through its pages, ation of these terms ; generous, wellmaking love to, and variously complicat- bred, honorable, frivolous as much by ing the lives of as many women; and habit as by constitution, flighty, inyet no one of these men or these women adequate, certainly not very happy, monopolizes so large a share of the nor, indeed, very positively estimable, reader's attention and interest as to and yet really willing and even anxious throw the others quite into a secondary to be a brighter, and better, and more position. Now, a novel without a bero useful man, if by any means he could or beroine is a very unusual novel; and compass such ends; and of these, too, as every body revolts at first from what were Lord Scoutbush's sisters, Valencia is unusual, many people, no doubt, will and Lucia St. Just—Valencia, a sweet, think this a sad fault in the book. It lovely, and lovable, half-spoilt woman is, on the contrary, one of its highest of the world, a fiery heart and a pas merits, for the generative idea of the sionate soul, hidden in a character way work requires that our special interest ward capricious, un dofined, a in the fortunes of this or that person ture to be pitied at once and adored, should be subordinated to our percep- wept over, and worshiped, a being hard tions of the wonderful manner in which enough to seize and hold, but if once reality-reality of passion, of purpose, seized and held, a most true and graci. and of effort-vindicates by its absence, ous woman-Lucia, a wife wedded in as well as by its presence,
of the Aush of a young romantic passion, God, and bears witness of Him to men. and clinging, after the sweet romance This is the upshot of the book; the of life had been cruelly worn away sum of the whole matter—for this Kings from her heart and her home, with a ley holds to be the lesson of Two Years kind of hushed and desperate tenAgo." It is to him what the lesson of derness to the idol she had made for all history is to Carlyle.
herself; a quiet martyr to that mystery alike in the dismal disasters which in of utter self-surrender which men so competency and presumption brought glibly call the devotion of women," and upon England's gallant army, and in count upon as calmly, as if it were the the heroism of England's soldier sons, simplest thing in nature, not worth, and in the saintly devotion of her daugh. indeed, so much as the pains of looking ters—alike in all the good and in all the for its sacred meaning. ill of that eventful season, simply a new Not quite of the same rank and bread and tremendous proclamation of God's ing with this noble family were the per wrath against shams, and blunders, and sons most intimately connected with its vanity, and of His everlasting presence fates. Elsley Vavasour, Lucia's dowith simplicity, sincerity, faith, and mestio Juggernaut, though the world courage.
knew him two years ago only as poet, The personages of the story, through gentleman, and husband of a viscount's which Kingsley has undertaken to set sister, had begun life, and, in fact, forth this teaching, may be arrayed makes the acquaintance of Kingsley's somewhat after the manner of them readers in the opening chapter of the who write dramas, in this wise following. book, as John Briggs—bottle-boy and
apprentice to the leading medical prac he recognized his old fellow-apprentice, titioner of Whitbury town. He had a Jobn Briggs, and on Frank Headley, soul above pestles and mortars, how whose clerical ways amused him as ever, and so had run away from his much as his stout, true nature attractbenefactor and best friend, and from all ed; and there Tom Thurnall set to work his family, in a fit of rage against his to acquire influence and pounds sterling, fellow-apprentice, after nearly poison much after the manner and in the spirit ing the most respectable old banker in of the old Viking, who professed to be the town, by giving him a frightful lieve neither in Christ, nor Mahomet, dose, mixed for quite another person. nor Odin, but in his own good sword, Genius he had, this John Briggs, of a and the keel of his own sea-dragon ! certain kind, and a genial naturo, alter Tom is not left, as will easily be supDately fierce and feeble, as such natures posed, without a romance. He loves, are wont to be; a brain less accessible in bis Berserking way, the beautiful, to inspiration than addicted to self fanatical yonng schoolmistress of intoxication; a spirit delighting in adu- Aberalva, Grace Harvey, who had saved lations and aspirations more than in his life from the shipwreck, and given achievements and affection. He was, in her heart to tho man whom she had short, what not a few blazing lights of snatched from the abyss. And he has these latter days have been—a curious a vague connection, never cleared up and pathetic creature, combining in ono wholly, till the story has considerably altogether lamentable entity, the soul advanced, with a strange, tropical creaof a Brahmin with the mind of a Saddu ture, the Signora Cordifiamma, who is oee, and the senses of a Sybarite. Not the wonder and delight of London, and much like Elsley Vavasour, is Frank to whom Lord Scoutbush pays hopeless, Headley, the curate of Aberalva, and fruitless, piteous court. Her Scoutthe true, devoted lover of Valencia St. bush seos most frequently at the house Just. Two years ago, the cholera in of his friend Claude Mellot, the painter, his parish, and war in his land, and love and Sabina, his wife-two very charmin his own manly soul, found him a ing, gay, affectionate, brilliant, happy perplexed, bewildered, but, altogether, souls, who live in the most delectable right-hearted, noble, and high-spirit- possible humming-bird's nest of a home od man, trying to be a priest of God -bright with pictures, and sweet with according to what he fancied his com flowers an ideal artist's paradise ; so mission from the church to be, rather fair, you wonder that even Scoutbush's than according to his authentic capacity, stammering suit should not prosper withand the consecration of God in his own in its enchanted bounds. Or, rather, you simple manhood; trying to govern and might so wonder, were it not for the guide other men, while he was striving presence there of an accomplished, to put down and put out of sight all in stately, and handsome American, who his own nature that drew him most kneels nearer to the luxurious beauty, olosely and sympathizingly to them, and wields a stronger word, and a and so, very naturally, coming to clearer, it is plain, than the poor
little grief” all the while.
warm-hearted peer. Tom Thurnall, again, led a very dif Such are the leading personages upon ferent kind of life from Headley. From whose fates and characters the storm of his youth up, a mortal full of re “ Two Years Ago" comes down, to desources, spirit, passions, and percep velope and decide them forever. How tions—a quick-handed, quick-sighted, it comes to pass that an American quick-thoughted Ulysses of a man, Tom is brought within the scope of this hisThurnall had como home to England tory, we shall presently show. We two years ago, from an Odyssey of must now ask the reader to go to the years, laden with Australian gold enough perusal or reperusal of the book itself, to cbeer his poor old father's lonely with this conception of it in bis mind, fireside forever; and having lost the and then to tell us whether we are not same in a shipwreck on his native right in pronouncing "Two Years Ago" coast, had forth with set to work to to be not only the most powerfullymake up his fortunes again in the vil. written and the most exuberant in life lage whereof the Viscount Scoutbush of all the books which Kingsley has was ohief lord and man of rank. There given to the world, but the most cohe stumbled on Mr. Vavasour, in whom horent also, and complete in an artistio