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Title: Humanistic Studies of the University of Kansas, Vol. 1

Author: De Witt Clinton Croissant
        Arthur Mitchell
        Pearl Hogrefe
        Edmund Dresser Cressman

Release Date: April 7, 2016 [EBook #51685]

Language: English

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Volume I





Frank Heywood Hodder

Frank Wilson Blackmar

Edwin Mortimer Hopkins

Arthur Tappan Walker

Selden Lincoln Whitcomb, Editor


I. Studies in the Work of Colley Cibber.
  By De Witt C. Croissant, Ph. D.
II. Studies in Bergson’s Philosophy.
  By Arthur Mitchell, Ph. D.
III. Browning and Italian Art and Artists.
  By Pearl Hogrefe, A. M.
IV. The Semantics of -mentum, -bulum, and -culum.
  By Edmund D. Cressman, Ph. D.



Vol. I   October 1, 1912   No. 1




Assistant Professor of English Language in the University of Kansas






The following studies are extracts from a longer paper on the life and work of Cibber. No extended investigation concerning the life or the literary activity of Cibber has recently appeared, and certain misconceptions concerning his personal character, as well as his importance in the development of English literature and the literary merit of his plays, have been becoming more and more firmly fixed in the minds of students. Cibber was neither so much of a fool nor so great a knave as is generally supposed. The estimate and the judgment of two of his contemporaries, Pope and Dennis, have been far too widely accepted. The only one of the above topics that this paper deals with, otherwise than incidentally, is his place in the development of a literary mode.

While Cibber was the most prominent and influential of the innovators among the writers of comedy of his time, he was not the only one who indicated the change toward sentimental comedy in his work. This subject, too, needs fuller investigation. I hope, at some future time, to continue my studies in this field.

This work was suggested as a subject for a doctor’s thesis, by Professor John Matthews Manly, while I was a graduate student at the University of Chicago a number of years ago, and was continued later under the direction of Professor Thomas Marc Parrott at Princeton. I wish to thank both of these scholars, as well as Professor Myra Reynolds, who first stimulated my interest in Restoration comedy. The libraries of Harvard, Yale, and Columbia have been very generous in supplying books which would otherwise have been inaccessible; but especial gratitude is due to the Library of Congress, and to Mr. Joseph Plass, who called my attention to material in the Library of Congress, which would have escaped my notice but for his interest. I wish to express my gratitude to Professor R. D. O’Leary, of the University of Kansas, who has read these pages in manuscript and in proof, and has offered many valuable suggestions.

D. C. C.

University of Kansas,

October, 1912.


De Witt C. Croissant



Colley Cibber’s activity was not confined to writing plays. Besides being a leader in the development of comedy and a skilful adapter in tragedy, he was the greatest actor of his day in comic rôles; was the dominant personality in the triumvirate of managers of the playhouse, so that the healthy theatrical conditions of his time were largely due to him; was a writer of poetry, some of which is fairly good; was the author of some of the most amusing and clever controversial pamphlets of the time; and was the author of a most interesting autobiography. Today he is thought of by many merely as the hero of Pope’s Dunciad. In some respects he deserved Pope’s satire, but the things he did well entitle him to more consideration than he has received.

It is the purpose of these Notes to discuss merely his plays; and to treat these principally from the point of view of what may be called external relations, with some discussion of dramatic technique. Under the heading of external relations I have considered the dates of the various plays, the circumstances of their presentation, their sources, and their relation to the various types of the drama of the time. I have discussed the plays in chronological order within the various classes.

1. Farces.2

Of the farces ascribed to Cibber, only two, The Rival Queans and Bulls and Bears, are unquestionably his, and these two are not accessible. The Rival Queans, acted at the Haymarket, June 29, 1710, printed in Dublin in 1729, is without doubt by Cibber. But in the collected edition of his plays, published in 1777, the editors substituted a farce of the same name, which, however, deals with a different subject and is by another writer. Cibber’s farce was a burlesque of Lee’s Rival Queens; the piece that was substituted deals with the operatic situation in England.

An adaptation of Doggett’s Country Wake (1696), called Hob, or The Country Wake (1715), has been ascribed to Cibber, but Genest1 doubts his authorship because it was brought out while Doggett was still on the stage.

Bulls and Bears, Cibber’s second undisputed farce, was acted at Drury Lane, December 2, 1715, but was apparently not printed.

Chuck (1736) seems to have been ascribed to him by either the author or the publisher without grounds, for in a list of plays “wrote by anonymous authors in the 17th century,” appended to the fourth edition of the Apology (1756), there is a note on this play to the effect that “the author or printer has set the name of Mr. Cibber to this piece.” This is not proof positive that Cibber did not write the play, for Cinna’s Conspiracy, which is unquestionably by him, appears in the same list. In The New Theatrical Dictionary (1742), it is stated that “this piece [Chuck] is extremely puerile, yet the author has thought proper to put Mr. Cibber’s name to it.” This again is not necessarily convincing argument against Cibber’s authorship, for he was capable of poor work, as his poems and some of his plays show.

On the whole, it seems probable that Hob and Chuck are not by Cibber. In any case, they are entirely without value, and it is therefore a matter of no importance to literary history whether their authorship is ever determined or not.

Coffey’s The Devil to Pay (1736) is stated in the catalogue of the British Museum to have been “revised by Colley Cibber.” But the work of revision was done by Theophilus Cibber, his son, and Cibber himself contributed only one song.2

2. Operas.3

In common with many of his contemporaries, Cibber attempted operatic pieces. His undisputed operas are Venus and Adonis (1715), Myrtillo (1716), Love in a Riddle (1729), and Damon and Phillida (1729), the last being merely the sub-plot of Love in a Riddle acted separately.3 Two other operatic pieces, The Temple of Dullness (1745) and Capochio and Dorinna, have been ascribed to him.

Love in a Riddle (1729) seems to have been the cause of some unpleasantness. In the Life of Quin (1766) the following account of it is given:4

“This uncommon reception of The Beggar’s Opera induced Colley Cibber to attempt something the same kind the next year, under the title of Love in a Riddle, but how different was its reception from Gay’s production; it was damned to the lowest regions of infamy the very first night, which so mortified Cibber, that it threw him into a fever; and from this moment he resolved as soon as he conveniently could to leave the stage, and no longer submit himself and his talents to the capricious taste of the town.

“It was generally thought that his jealousy of Gay, and the high opinion he entertained of his own piece had operated so strongly as to make him set every engine in motion to get the sequel of The Beggar’s Opera, called Polly, suppressed in order to engross the town entirely to Love in a Riddle. Whether Cibber did or did not bestir himself in this affair, it is certain that Gay and Rich had the mortification to see all their hopes of a succeeding harvest blasted by the Lord Chamberlain’s absolute prohibition of it, after it had been rehearsed and was just ready to bring out.”

In this same volume5 it is stated that the failure of the piece was one of the potent causes of the dissolution of the Drury Lane company, though this seems an exaggeration, as does also the effect on Cibber that is ascribed to the failure.

Cibber denies6 that he had anything to do with the suppression of the second part of The Beggar’s Opera, and gives as his reason for writing that he thought something written in the same form, but recommending virtue and innocence instead of vice and wickedness, “might not have a less pretence to favor.”

4 The Temple of Dullness (1745), which The Biographia Dramatica7 states had been ascribed to Cibber, is in two acts of two scenes each, the second scene of each act being the comic “interlude” of Theobald’s Happy Captive (1741). These two scenes have as their principal characters, Signor Capochio and Signora Dorinna.8 The other two scenes, which give the principal title to the piece, are based, as is stated in the preface, on the fact that Pope in The Dunciad makes the Goddess of Dullness preside over Italian operas. It is inconceivable that either Cibber or Theobald would have based anything of the sort on a hint from The Dunciad and complacently given the credit to Pope, after the way they had both been handled in The Dunciad. There is nothing on the title page to indicate that Cibber had anything to do with the piece. The ascription of the authorship of The Temple of Dullness to Cibber seems to be without foundation, and the probability is that this piece was composed by a third person soon after Theobald’s death, which occurred about four months before it was acted.9

Concerning Capochio and Dorinna, The Biographia Dramatica has the following note: “A piece with this title, but without a date, is, in Mr. Barker’s catalogue, ascribed to Colley Cibber. It was probably an abridgment from The Temple of Dullness.” This statement concerning the source of Capochio and Dorinna would seem plausible from the supplementary title of The Temple of Dullness,—With the Humours of Signor Capochio and Signora Dorinna. Capochio and Dorinna is no doubt the two scenes from Theobald’s The Happy Captive which had been used in The Temple of Dullness, as is stated above.

Cibber’s operatic writings belong chiefly to the English type of pastoral drama, rather than to the type of Italian opera. In fact, they are not operas either in the Italian or in the modern sense, but are rather plays interspersed with songs appropriate to the characters who sing them. They show the common characteristics of the pastoral drama of the time.10 They possess the5 court element, have the same plot devices, and their characters belong to the same general types. It is noticeable that Cibber here, as well as in his comedies, arrays himself with the moralists, as is seen in his introduction of a moral purpose in Love in a Riddle. These pieces are in verse of varying meters. In Venus and Adonis and Myrtillo there is apparent imitation of the versification of Dryden’s Alexander’s Feast; in Love in a Riddle and Damon and Phillida the dialogue is in blank verse, but in neither case is the verse inspired.

His operas are neither intrinsically nor historically important; they are merely representative of a vogue which was popular but which left no permanent impress on the English drama.

3. Tragedies.

Cibber’s seven tragedies appeared in the following order: Xerxes, 1699; his adaptation of Shakspere’s Richard III, 1700; Perolla and Izadora, 1705; the three translations of Corneille, Ximena, acted 1712, but not published until 1719, Cinna’s Conspiracy, 1713, and Caesar in Egypt, 1725; and finally Papal Tyranny, an adaptation of Shakspere’s King John, 1745. The best stage play is Richard III, but those that make the most agreeable reading are the alterations of Corneille.

Xerxes (1699), which was a failure, belongs to the type of the tragedies of the last decade of the century, in which the material of the heroic play is handled in blank verse, in which there is no comedy, and in which there is in general a following of French models.11 In its presentation of a story of distressed womanhood, it allies itself with the sentimental tragedy of the school of Southerne and Otway. In its use of the supernatural, in its puerile use of claptrap, and in the bombast and extravagance of emotion, it follows the general usage of the tragedies of the time.

When it was written Cibber was one of the company at Drury Lane, but the play was refused there, and was accepted at Lincoln’s Inn Fields only when Cibber guaranteed the expenses of the production. Notwithstanding the fact that two such great actors as Betterton and Mrs. Barry were in the cast, the play was a failure.12

The common supposition that it was acted only once, is based6 on Addison’s inventory of Rich’s theatrical paraphernalia, in which are mentioned “the imperial robes of Xerxes, never worn but once.”13 The play had been acted ten years previously, and Addison is speaking of an entirely different playhouse and manager so that this testimony, if it does apply to this play, is probably not to be given much weight. While the play may have been withdrawn from the stage after only one performance, Addison’s evidence does not establish the matter one way or the other.

Cibber’s next venture in tragedy was more successful, for while his adaptation of Shakspere’s Richard III has not received critical commendation, it was for over a century practically the only version presented on the stage and is still used by many actors.

When Cibber’s Richard III was originally acted at Drury Lane in 1700, Charles Killigrew, Master of the Revels, forbade the first act, because the distress of Henry, introduced from Shakspere’s Henry VI, might bring the exiled King James to the mind of the people; so that only four acts could be given. The play was a comparative failure at first, owing no doubt to the omission of so important and necessary a part of the revision, so that Cibber’s profits from the third night, as author, came to less than five pounds.14 Later, when this act was restored, the piece became a success. As has been pointed out by Dohse15 and Wood16, Cibber may in making this adaptation have used the chronicles of Hall and others, and probably was influenced by The Mirror for Magistrates and Caryl’s English Princess (1667).

In his alteration Cibber has cut down the play to a little more than half its original length, and of this remainder only a little over a third is found in Shakspere’s Richard III, while the rest is from a number of Shakspere’s plays or is made up of original additions by Cibber.17 The alterations vary from the change of single words,18 to the addition of scenes entirely by Cibber. The omissions, such as Anne’s spitting at Gloster, I, ii, 146, are generally7 happy; the lines he has substituted are generally easier to understand, if less aesthetically pleasing, than those of the original; and the additions throughout are such as add clearness and theatric effectiveness.

Richard is made the central figure, so that the play revolves more closely about him than in Shakspere. A love story, more slightly developed than usual in the adaptations of this period, is introduced at the end of the play in accordance with contemporary usage. The women are made less prominent, the lyric chorus effect of the various scenes in which these women foretell and bewail is omitted, and the whole action is made more simple and direct. Shakspere’s Richard III is full of this lyric element which Cibber has excised.

With this curtailment of plot comes likewise a less highly presented delineation of character. Not only is the number of characters diminished, but modifications are made in those that remain. Richard becomes less the unfeeling hypocrite, by use of asides his motives and character are made more clear, and he is influenced more by love; his victims are not so vividly presented, and though their weakness of will and character is not less than in the original, the reader does not feel it so much. Cibber’s Richard III, like his King John, is more play than poem; in it Cibber has attempted to make everything subservient to dramatic effectiveness.

Perolla and Izadora was acted at Drury Lane on December 3, 1705, and published the next year. Lintot had bought the copyright November 14, 1705, a few weeks before its presentation, for thirty-six pounds, eleven shillings, next to the largest amount that he paid Cibber for any of his plays. Cibber explains that he omitted Woman’s Wit from the 1721 edition of his plays because it was so inferior a drama, which was no doubt his reason for omitting Xerxes; but why he should not have included Perolla and Izadora, which brought him a good third and sixth day at the theatre, though it does not appear to have been presented afterwards, is not clear, unless, as is probable, he included in this edition only such plays as had gained a more or less permanent place on the stage.

Cibber shows unusual modesty in his dedication of this play, which he founded on a part of the story of Perolla and Izadora8 from The Romance of Parthenissa19 (1654) by Roger Boyle, Earl of Orrery. He “saw so many incidents in the fable, such natural and noble sentiments in the characters, and so just a distress in the passions, that he had little more than the trouble of blank verse to make it fit for the theatre.”20 Cibber has followed the events in Parthenissa very closely, making few changes or additions. However, he has Perolla and Izadora in love before the action begins, whereas they do not meet in the romance until after Perolla has saved the life of Blacius in what makes the end of Cibber’s second act; and at the close of the play he unites the lovers, while the story goes on indefinitely in Parthenissa. The characters display about the same qualities; Blacius is made perhaps a trifle more reasonable and Poluvius a little less so. The play is much better as a play than the original is as a story.

The play in general conforms to the French classical type; the unities are observed, the characters are few and noble, it is written in blank verse, and there are no humorous touches. Only in the two deaths and the one fight on the stage does the play violate the French tradition. In the death of the wicked, the reward of the virtuous, and the general nature of the action, it groups itself with the heroic plays of the preceding century, but of course it does not conform to that type in versification. Cibber was here probably writing under the influence of Corneille.

Ximena, or The Heroic Daughter, an alteration of Corneille’s Cid, was acted at Drury Lane, November 28, 1712, when it had a run of about eight performances;21 but it was not printed until 1719, when it appeared in octavo after it had been revived at Drury Lane, November 1, 1718. Cibber explains that he thus delayed publishing the play because “most of his plays had a better reception from the public when his interest was no longer concerned in them.”22 The dedication of Ximena brought a storm of criticism on Cibber23 because in it he spoke of Addison as a wren being carried by Steele as an eagle, which figure he later applied, in his odes, to himself and the king. He had the judgment to omit this dedication from the collected edition of his plays.

As in the case of Richard III, he added a first act to the Cid in9 order that the audience might understand the situation of the various characters at the outset; a most important and necessary thing if the audience is not familiar with the story and the situation beforehand. In his alterations of Shakspere he followed the English method and presented this information to his audience by action; in his alteration of Corneille he followed the French method by having his characters tell each other about it for the benefit of the audience.

Cibber has discussed at length the changes he has made in the Cid, and his reasons for them, in the prefatory “examen.” The main reason seems to have been his desire to make the play less “romantic” and the action more probable and reasonable from the point of view of the eighteenth century Englishman, whose ideals of honor and whose general characteristics were very different from those of the seventeenth century Frenchman. Indeed, Cibber explains in relation to one of these changes: “Here they seem too declamatory and romantic, which I have endeavored to avoid, by giving a more spirited tone to the passions, and reducing them nearer to common life.”

Ximena, because of its source, would naturally have the general characteristics of French tragedy, in which almost everything happens off the stage, and in which the characters appear before the audience only to tell it what they think or what has been done. It violates the French canons by having a sub-action, though this sub-action is not sufficiently important to distract the attention materially from the main action, and is bound very closely to it. The blow which Don Gormaz gives Alvarez constitutes the nearest approach to violent action; but this blow, however, appears in the original play.

Besides the anonymity of Cinna’s Conspiracy, the closeness with which it follows Corneille’s Cinna and the difference in its tone from the rest of Cibber’s work have led to doubt as to his authorship.24 To see that Cibber was not always sprightly and inconsequential, however, as he is usually supposed to be, one has but to read his Cicero and his poems. The play was presented less than three months after Ximena, and to bring out another French tragedy translated by the same hand in so short a time might have subjected Cibber to the charge of hasty work. Though10 Ximena apparently had a run of eight nights, it did not receive critical approbation, and Cinna’s Conspiracy, if known to be by Cibber, was likely to bring further critical disapproval, so that Cibber may have thought it would have better chance of success if his authorship were not known. Cibber was ambitious to be thought wise and serious, as his prefaces and Cicero show, and the lack of success of the play together with its nearness to Ximena in time of presentation would sufficiently explain his failure to claim the authorship.

But there is external proof which would seem to be convincing in support of his authorship. Defoe, according to the Biographia Dramatica,25 in a pamphlet written about 1713 ascribed the play to Cibber; and Nichols, in Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century,26 gives an extract from a memorandum book of Lintot, entitled Copies when purchased, according to which Cibber, on March 16, 1712 (O.S.), was paid thirteen pounds for Cinna’s Conspiracy. The play was first acted at Drury Lane, February 19, 1713, about a month before the purchase by Lintot. The fact that Cibber was paid for the play so short a time after its presentation would seem to be sufficient proof that it is by Cibber, even though he apparently made no public claim to its authorship.

In the alteration of Corneille’s Cinna, Cibber has made remarkably few changes. There is only one of any moment, the account of the meeting of the conspirators in the second scene of the first act. Corneille has had Cinna give an account of this meeting to Emilie, while Cibber presents the meeting itself. This involves the omission of some narration and the creation of some new characters who have a few short speeches. Cibber throughout his adaptation seeks to gain vividness and clearness, and his handling of this incident is probably the best example of his method in11 this respect. The other changes consist merely in the omission and shortening of speeches. On the whole Cinna’s Conspiracy is almost a literal translation, though a little free here and there.

The testimony of the critics concerning the source of Caesar in Egypt, acted at Drury Lane,27 December 9, 1724, published in 1725, is somewhat confusing. The Biographia Dramatica finds its source in Beaumont and Fletcher’s The False One; Genest28 says: “The plan of this tragedy is chiefly borrowed from The False One—that part of it which concerns Cornelia is said to be taken from Corneille’s Pompée.” Stoye,29 while apparently oblivious of Corneille’s play, mentions Lucan’s Pharsalia in addition to The False One; and Miss Canfield says:30 “Taking Beaumont and Fletcher’s False One, Corneille’s Pompée, and one or two ideas of his own, he stirred them all together with such vigor, and so disguised them with his wonderful versification, that it is an almost impossible task to distinguish the different elements in the dish.... The general plan and construction of the play are undoubtedly Corneille’s, many of the best speeches are literally translated, especially some of the famous ones between Cornelia and Caesar; and the description of Pompey’s death is taken verbatim from the French.” This last statement of Miss Canfield’s comes nearest to the truth, but it leaves out of account the slight indebtedness to Lucan.31

An examination of these three plays shows, in fact, how little Cibber used The False One in the construction of Caesar in Egypt. He was no doubt familiar with the Beaumont and Fletcher play and used some things from it, though very little in comparison with what he has used from Pompée. He used it for hints in some particulars32 just as he did the Pharsalia, from which he apparently took the idea of having one scene occur before the tomb of Alexander, and from which he obtained the burning of Pharos.

One incident, the display of Pompey’s head, well illustrates the change that had come since the days of Beaumont and Fletcher.12 In The False One, the head was actually brought on the stage; but in neither Cibber nor Corneille was the head actually displayed. The actual appearance of the head would probably have been almost as distasteful to Cibber’s audience as to Corneille’s.

His method of adaptation here is more like that in his alteration of Shakspere than his method in Ximena or Cinna’s Conspiracy. He has crowded the incidents, has expanded the action and increased its liveliness, has enhanced the value of the piece as a stage play, without, however, improving its literary quality. He has a good deal happen in one day, but manages to satisfy the technical demands of the unity of time.

He increases the probability by the alteration of certain passages. For instance, whereas both the Pharsalia, as completed by Rowe,33 and The False One, from one of which he took the incident, have Caesar swimming from the island of Pharos with drawn sword in one hand and documents in the other, Cibber has him swim with only the documents.

While this play is essentially an adaptation of Corneille, the general atmosphere and effect are not those of French tragedy, but are rather those of the minor Elizabethan tragicomedy. Its beginning and end have a historical rather than a dramatic interest, so that the play produces the effect of a love story with an impersonal enveloping action, which is again more English than French.

Papal Tyranny was acted at Covent Garden, February 15, 1745, when it had a run of ten nights, and was published in the same year. Shakspere’s King John, which had been played in 1737 and 1738, after Cibber’s alteration had been talked of and withdrawn, was again revived on February 20, 1745,34 with Garrick as King John and Mrs. Theophilus Cibber, then at the height of her popularity, as Constance. This was no doubt done both to profit by the publicity Cibber’s work had brought about, and to take as much credit as possible from Cibber, by showing the lack of originality in his work.35 According to Victor,36 Cibber’s profits from Papal Tyranny amounted to13 four hundred pounds, which probably includes what he received from acting Pandulph as well as his author’s profits.

The play had been written some years before it was finally acted, the parts had been distributed, and everything was practically ready for the presentation in public during the season 1736–7. But so much criticism was leveled at Cibber for daring again to alter Shakspere that one day he quietly walked into the theatre, removed the copy of the play from the prompter’s desk, and went away with it without a word to any one.37 It was finally presented, as already stated, in 1745, when there was a threatened invasion by the Young Pretender, which made the political and anti-Catholic elements of the play timely.

Cibber says in the dedication that he had two reasons for altering the play: antagonism to Catholicism, and a desire to adjust the play to contemporary stage requirements—“to make it more like a play than he found it in Shakspere.” His additions to the anti-Catholic elements of the play are inconsistent with the rest of the action, and the changes in structure have increased rather than diminished the epic quality. He has, without being conscious that he was doing so, gone back of Shakspere’s time in introducing the anti-popish element; a quality of Shakspere’s source which Shakspere had omitted, but which Cibber reintroduced to the detriment of his play as drama.

The entire first act of Shakspere’s play is omitted, besides which there are other shorter omissions. The point of view, too, is very different; for in Cibber’s play Pandulph is the central figure, instead of King John, as is indicated by the change of title from The Life and Death of King John to Papal Tyranny in the Reign of King John. Various short scenes entirely by Cibber are introduced, the most noticeable being one in the last act in which Constance attends the funeral of Arthur at Swinestead, where King John has been brought to die.

The characters are more changed than the plot; all those which appear only in the first act are omitted, besides such characters as Peter of Pomfret, Elinor, Austria, and Chatillon. The part of the bastard Faulconbridge is very much cut down and softened, for as Shakspere conceived him he was too “low” and comic for a dignified tragedy according to the views of the eighteenth14 century. The rôle of Constance is much enlarged as well as that of Pandulph.

Cibber’s tragedies are imitative; he showed no creative ability in this field. That his Richard III has held the stage until the present is an indication that it is at least a good stage play. The other tragedies, except Xerxes and Papal Tyranny, do not possess any very positive virtues or defects; they are of average merit as compared with the work done by Cibber’s contemporaries.

They are alterations of Shakspere or Corneille, except Xerxes and Perolla and Izadora. In his alterations of the French he has anglicized some of the ideas, has had a tendency to present rather than relate incidents, and generally has tried to make the productions conform to English ideas. Turning them into English has not made them romantic or altered in any essential degree their neo-classical quality.

His alterations of Shakspere have not changed the essential qualities; they are still characteristically English, and display the characteristics of the originals. He has not altered Shakspere because Shakspere is too “Gothic,” or too romantic and extravagant, for Cibber complains that King John is too restrained.

In relation to these alterations of Shakspere one naturally thinks of the flood of plays about this time which had Shakspere as a basis.38 Cibber does not, in Richard III at least, follow the example of Tate and his kind, but adheres more closely than they to the originals. It is for this reason, principally, that Cibber’s Richard III was successful. In this he has not attempted to follow contemporary practice in adhering to the unities, in the observance of poetic justice, in the making of the hero virtuous, or in adding the element of show and pageantry. His addition of a scene of violence39 is for the purpose of helping the spectator to understand the play. Even his borrowing of lines from other plays by Shakspere has saved him partially from the incongruous or weak mixture of two styles which mars the work of other adapters. He has told the same story as Shakspere, and has not done violence to his original either in character, plot, or, for the most part, in language.

15 His adaptation of King John is handled differently. This play, even more than Shakspere’s King John, is unfitted for the modern stage; its plot is not dramatic, and its persons are not modern in their qualities. Such a play must depend for its appeal on its poetic qualities, and Cibber was personally incapable of altering the play and retaining its poetic qualities.

Although Cibber is not unaffected by the sentimental type of tragedy, as Xerxes and Perolla and Izadora show, he does not seem influenced by it to any great extent. This is remarkable in one who was in the very forefront of the movement toward sentimental comedy; though it is to be remarked that the two tragedies which do show traces of this sentimental note are the only two which are not based on previous plays.

As Thorndike40 has pointed out, during this period two influences are at work—the influence of the Elizabethan romantic drama, and the influence of the French classical drama; and Cibber rather fairly represents both of these. Xerxes shows some French influence in the construction, though it is probably more Elizabethan in the handling of the material; but Perolla and Izadora and the three plays from Corneille conform to French usage almost entirely in material as well as in method. The restraint in Richard III—for notwithstanding Hazlitt, this play is not as brutal as Shakspere’s—is due to the change brought about through the imitation of French tragedy.

In accordance with contemporary usage, all these tragedies are in blank verse; but the verse is of no great merit. Cibber’s verse for the most part is not musical nor subtle, but it has few mannerisms. He sometimes uses alliteration, but not to an objectionable or excessive degree, and although his style has been called alliterative, his use of this device in his verse is so infrequent as to make the term a misnomer.

Cibber conforms to the custom of the time in respect to rime. Occasionally he introduces a couplet in the midst of a scene, but this is seldom and for no apparent reason. The exits, except those of minor importance, are marked by rime. This device, descended from the Elizabethan drama, where it was probably used to mark more strongly the ends of scenes because of the lack of a curtain which concealed the whole stage, is continued during and after the Restoration period without any valid reason16 and becomes for the most part a mere convention, which is not confined to tragedy but appears in comedy and even in farce. Cibber shows a tendency to increase the number of couplets with the increased importance of the exits,41 and in Ximena and Caesar in Egypt we find several scenes closing with as many as three.

It has perhaps been made sufficiently evident that Cibber was not a great writer of tragedy. He lacked any deep philosophy of life, tragic consciousness, and deep poetic feeling. He was not without power of thought, but his thought concerned itself with the obvious and the external, and had an element of friskiness, so that when he turned to tragedy his work became labored and even commonplace.

Nor does he show originality in his themes. The story of Xerxes is apparently derived from history,42 and aside from Perolla and Izadora, whose story is taken from a romance, is the only one of his tragedies which is not based on the work of greater men than himself. Although Richard III is a better stage play than its source, the other adaptations are inferior to the originals both as acting versions and as pure literature.

4. Comedies.

Love’s Last Shift, Cibber’s first play, was acted at Drury Lane in January, 1696, and was published the same year, when he was a little more than twenty-four years old. The comedy was accepted by the managers through the good offices of Southerne, for Cibber’s standing with the patentees was such that they were not disposed to recognize ability in him.

So little had been expected of the piece, and so great was its success, that Cibber was immediately charged with plagiarism,43 a charge which he entirely denies in the dedication. He claims17 that “the fable is entirely his own, nor is there a line or thought throughout the whole, for which he is wittingly obliged either to the dead or the living.” There are, however, some striking similarities in the situations and the characters in the sub-action of Love’s Last Shift and Carlile’s Fortune Hunters (1689). Carlile’s Elder Wealthy and Young Wealthy are closely paralleled by Elder Worthy and Young Worthy, as are likewise the young women with whom they are in love, and Carlile’s Shamtown belongs to the same family as Sir Novelty Fashion, though he is much more crudely portrayed. So too, the jealousy of Elder Worthy in regard to Hillaria and Sir Novelty is very much like that of Elder Wealthy in regard to Sophia and Shamtown. So great is the similarity that, notwithstanding his denial, one must believe that Cibber deliberately used the situation and characters as a basis for his own, though he did not copy the language, and has made an entirely new and original thing out of his source.

So great was the failure of his second play that Cibber refuses to mention it in his Apology and omitted it from the collected edition of his plays in 1721. Woman’s Wit, or The Lady in Fashion was acted at Drury Lane in 1697, but met with a most unfavorable reception, though in management of the plot it is not inferior to a great many plays whose success was much greater.

Carlile’s Fortune Hunters (1689) and Mountford’s Greenwich Park (1691) have been suggested as the sources of that part of the plot in which Young Rakish and Major Rakish appear, but this is only partially true. In The Fortune Hunters the father and son are rivals for a young woman, in Woman’s Wit she is an elderly widow; in both, the son has obtained five hundred pounds from the father. But notwithstanding the fact that these situations are superficially similar the characters and the details of the action are so different that it does not seem possible that there can be any connection between the two plays. There does seem to be a more valid reason for affirming the influence of Greenwich Park in the play. The likeness of Sir Thomas Reveller and Young Reveller to Old Rakish and Young Rakish is so great that Cibber must have had them in mind, but the differences both of character and action are such that it seems probable that he was attempting to portray two characters of the same type rather than trying to copy them. In Greenwich Park there is not even a superficial18 similarity of situation to Woman’s Wit.44 The sub-action of Woman’s Wit was separated and acted successfully at Drury Lane in 1707 as The School Boy.

Love Makes a Man was acted at Drury Lane in 1701, and was published the same year. It continued to be played until 1828. It is made from Beaumont and Fletcher’s The Elder Brother and The Custom of the Country, and is an attempt on the part of Cibber merely to provide amusement. Ost45 points out that this play, though it has no original literary worth, helped continue the literary tradition, and notices it in connection with the healthful influence of Cibber’s work in the moralizing tendency of the drama. He adds that Cibber’s plays have more value in relation to “kulturgeschichte” than in aesthetic interest. That is entirely true so far as this play is concerned; various parts have a purely contemporary interest, or are an indication to us of the state of dramatic taste, and the aesthetic value is certainly often inconsiderable. When Cibber introduces such references as “hatchet face” of Clodio, a term which had been applied to Cibber himself, who played the part, and more particularly in the farcical discussion of the two playhouses in the fourth act, he is not even attempting to write anything but horseplay.

By the omission and transposition of scenes, and the introduction of some lines of his own, mainly for the purpose of gaining probability, as Ost has pointed out, Cibber has condensed The Elder Brother so that it forms practically the first two acts, and The Custom of the Country so that it forms the last three. In the main, the plays, so much of them as is used, are followed with very few changes, and the whole makes a sprightly and amusing, if not particularly literary comedy.

The change of place and the introduction of an entirely new set of characters with fresh plot developments are dramatically faulty; but for the purpose for which the play was written these faults are not particularly great. To join the plots of two separate plays end on end without breaking the continuity of the story, and to adjust the characters so that there is no glaring inconsistency, is surely no slight feat.

19 In the characterization Cibber has made some changes. These changes appear particularly in Eustace, who becomes Clodio, Miramont, who becomes Don Lewis, and Elvira, who is the sister instead of the mother of Don Duart. It is difficult to understand how this play could have been other than a theatrical success with Bullock to interpret the farcical obstinacy of Antonio, Penkethman to portray the humorously choleric Don Lewis, and Cibber as the “pert coxcomb,” Clodio. But it is farce rather than pure comedy.

Cibber has changed these plays from verse to prose, except in the first scene between Carlos and Angelina, in which the romantic seriousness of the situation leads him to write blank verse, which is however printed as prose.

She Would and She Would Not, considered by Genest as “perhaps his best play,” was acted at Drury Lane, November 26, 1702, and continued to be acted frequently as late as 1825.46 The striking similarity of the two plays has caused the suggestion that Cibber’s play is based on Leanerd’s The Counterfeits (1678). The similarity indicates a common source, rather than that Cibber drew from The Counterfeits. The source of Cibber’s play was no doubt The Trepanner Trepanned, which is the third story of John Davies’s La Picara, or The Triumphs of Female Subtilty, published in London in 1665.47

This play is amusing, is well constructed, and while it is not of serious import, is such as might be presented today with success.

Cibber commenced to write The Careless Husband in the summer of 1703, but laid it aside because he despaired of finding any one to take the part of Lady Betty Modish. In 1704 he again took up the writing of the play, and in that year it was acted at Drury Lane on December 7; and it was published in 1705. It was one of the best and most successful plays of the period.48 It was charged that Cibber received direct assistance in writing the20 play, but he denied the charge, and as no proof was offered, Cibber is no doubt to be believed. It seems to have no literary source; but one incident, that in which the wife finds the husband and her maid asleep in easy chairs, is said to have been suggested to Cibber by Mrs. Brett, the reputed mother of the poet Savage, from her own experience.49

This is Cibber’s best play of the sentimental type. Its plot is consistent, has dramatic probability, and is serious enough in interest to have real reason for being. The characters are well conceived and well portrayed. In style, too, Cibber is here at his best and the dialogue approaches the finest of the period.

The Haymarket opened the season 1706–7 under Swiney, and in order to encourage the new venture, Lord Halifax headed a subscription for the revival of three plays: Shakspere’s Julius Caesar, Beaumont and Fletcher’s King and No King, and the comic scenes of Dryden’s Marriage à la Mode and A Maiden Queen. The last took the form of an adaptation called The Comical Lovers, the adaptation being the work of Cibber. It was acted February 4, 1707, and was published the same year. The alteration was the result of only six days’ labor,50 and Cibber claims no originality in it. It met with slight success.

The Comical Lovers is another such adaptation as Love Makes a Man. Cibber has merely taken the two comic threads from their serious settings and interwoven them, first a scene from one and then a scene from the other, with only the changes necessary to join them, and has followed his sources almost word for word. Cibber was not under the necessity of changing verse into prose, as he had done in Love Makes a Man, for the comic sections of Dryden are in prose, according to the changed convention of his time; and in the scene between Melantha and her maid, Cibber has not even taken the trouble to alter a single one of the French words, many of which must have acquired a place in the language and been in good use by Cibber’s time. So far as Cibber’s part is concerned, this is the least important of his plays.

The Double Gallant was acted at the Haymarket, November 1, 1707, but was apparently not successful at its first performance. The Biographia Dramatica51 says:

“In a letter from Booth to A. Hill we learn that the play, at its 21first appearance was, as he expressed it, hounded in a most outrageous manner. Two years after, it was revived, met with most extravagant success, and has continued a stock play ever since.”

Cibber says nothing about any hounding of the play, but ascribes the failure of the piece to the fact that the Haymarket was too big for plays; a fact that he thinks caused the lack of success of other plays as well as his own.

In regard to the authorship, Cibber says:52

“It was made up of what was tolerable, in two, or three others, that had no Success, and were laid aside, as so much Poetical Lumber; but by collecting and adapting the best Parts of them all, into one Play, the Double Gallant has had a Place, every Winter, amongst the Publick Entertainments, these Thirty Years. As I was only the Compiler of this Piece, I did not publish it in my own Name.”

The title would lead one to suppose that it is taken directly from Corneille’s Le Galant Double, but it is a weaving together of Mrs. Centlivre’s Love at a Venture, which is an adaptation of Corneille, Burnaby’s Ladies Visiting Day, and the Lady Dainty action from Burnaby’s Reformed Wife. In consolidating such parts of these three plays as are used, the crudities of the first two are polished off, and certain additions are made to the last. These additions consist in sections of the dialogue, in the changing of Lady Dainty’s lover into a more impetuous wooer, and in the addition of the lover’s disguise as a Russian, by which subterfuge he wins her. The introductory scene, taken from Love at a Venture, is much more lively and entertaining in Cibber’s play than in the original, and Cibber likewise handles more adroitly the subterfuge of the hero’s arrest, taken from the same play, using the same device of decoy letters that he uses in Woman’s Wit. In the working over of Burnaby’s adaptation of the Horner episode, which he had taken from Wycherley’s Country Wife, Cibber has entirely eliminated the unpleasant features.

This play is the same sort of an adaptation as his working over of other earlier plays. He has taken such scenes as he wished, changed the names of the characters, and introduced sufficient lines of his own to give continuity and connection to the various actions, but has made no material additions whatever. In this22 case he has made an extremely diverting play, very superior to his originals.

The Lady’s Last Stake, which seems to be entirely original, was produced at the Haymarket, December 13, 1707, when it was acted five times; and it was published probably early in the next year. It continued on the London stage until 1786, and was last performed at Bath, in 1813. It is only a fair comedy, lacking the qualities of style, the originality in the conception of the characters, and the skilful working out of the plot that had characterized Cibber’s two earlier plays of the sentimental type. But in whatever way the plot as a whole may be lacking, the last act has plenty of liveliness; there complication follows complication and humorous incidents follow serious with great rapidity.

The Rival Fools, published in quarto in 1709 and played at Drury Lane, January 11, 1709, is an alteration of Beaumont and Fletcher’s Wit at Several Weapons, and was not successful. At its first presentation it was acted five times, and was revived only once, in 1712, when it was acted twice. The Biographia Dramatica53 relates the following incident of the first performance, the events of which may be compared with the reception accorded Thomson’s Sophonisba:

“It met, however, with bad success. There happened to be a circumstance in it, which, being in itself rather ridiculous, gave a part of the audience an opportunity of venting their spleen on the author; viz: a man in one of the earlier scenes on the stage, with a long angling rod in his hand, going to fish for Miller’s Thumbs; on which account some of the spectators took occasion whenever Mr. Cibber appeared, who himself played the character, to cry out continually, ‘Miller’s Thumbs.’”

Cibber has followed the original quite closely so far as the plot is concerned, much more closely than would be inferred from the first lines of the prologue:

“From sprightly Fletcher’s loose confed’rat muse,
Th’ unfinish’d Hints of these light Scenes we chuse,
For with such careless haste his Play was writ,
So unpersued each thought of started Wit;
Each Weapon of his Wit so lamely fought
That ’twou’d as scanty on our Stage be thought,
As for a modern Belle my Grannum’s Petticoat.
So that from th’ old we may with Justice say,
We scarce could cull the Trimming of a play.”

23 In spite of this statement by Cibber himself, he adds practically nothing to the plot, and in the dialogue adds merely a touch here and there.

As was customary in altering these old comedies written in verse, the verse of the original is changed into prose, and as is also customary in all of Cibber’s alterations, the long speeches are broken into dialogue.

The character of Pompey Doodle is somewhat enlarged in its transformation into Samuel Simple, and is one of the most amusing elements in the play. The treatment is distinctly Jacobean in its exaggeration of character, and the reception by the audience must be attributed either to the alteration of taste on the part of the public, or to the personal unpopularity of Cibber, for the rôle is well written and Cibber was particularly well fitted to act the part, both by temperament and by physical qualities.

The Non-Juror was acted at Drury Lane on December 6, 1717, with a prologue by Nicholas Rowe, poet laureate, and was published in 1718. At the time of its first presentation it had the comparatively long run of twenty-three performances, and was revived at Drury Lane and Covent Garden in 1745, when its political meaning was again pertinent.

The play came at a time of great political stress, so that it was but natural that its strong Whig and anti-Catholic sentiments should arouse the greatest antagonism.54 This antagonism was not only voiced in the many pamphlets issued at the time, but no doubt affected the general attitude toward Cibber in his later life. Cibber, in his first letter to Pope, states that one of his enemies went so far as to write a pamphlet whose purport was that The Non-Juror constituted a subtle Jacobite libel against the government. He dedicated the play to the king when it was published, and for this he received a gift of two hundred pounds. Cibber was not burdened in mind because he had offended the losing party, and any inconvenience he may have felt was amply repaid by the pension and laureateship which later came as his reward.

The Non-Juror is based directly on Molière’s Tartuffe, though two plays on the same theme had previously appeared in English: Crowne’s English Friar (1689), and Medbourne’s Tartuffe24 (1670), the latter a direct adaptation of Molière’s play. This Tartuffe was revived during the summer season of 1718 at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and was published while Cibber’s play was still running, with an advertisement that in it “may be seen the plot, characters, and most part of the language of The Non-Juror.” This statement is true only in that the two plays by Medbourne and Cibber are based on Molière, and was made to discredit Cibber’s claim to originality in the adaptation.

Cibber was no doubt familiar with Medbourne’s play, but he used Molière as a basis, and owed practically nothing to any play other than the Tartuffe of Molière. Cibber may have derived the suggestion of the reformation of Charles from the corresponding character in Medbourne’s play, but his manner of carrying out this reformation and the difference in the qualities of the characters in the two plays make this part an original creation.

In the edition of Crowne in the series of The Dramatists of the Restoration, the editors maintain Cibber’s greater indebtedness to Crowne than to Molière, in a way that makes one doubt whether they had ever read either Molière or Cibber. So far as plot is concerned there is absolutely no resemblance, except that in both a priest attempts to seduce a decent woman. The characters, style, and management are both different and inferior in Crowne, although some slight similarity may be discovered in the attempt of Finical and Dr. Wolf to allay the consciences of the respective objects of their attentions. As suggested by Van Laun, Father Finical, like Dr. Wolf, is based on Tartuffe.

Cibber has handled his sources very freely, and in some particulars has improved both the plot and the characters. That is not to say that The Non-Juror is a greater play than Molière’s Tartuffe, for as a whole it is not. The parts of Dorine, who in Tartuffe is the life and source of the humor, of Cléante, and of Madame Pernelle, are omitted, but the part of Mariane is enlivened into one of the best coquettes of the stage. The other characters and incidents correspond in The Non-Juror and Molière’s Tartuffe, though the dénouement is more artistically handled in Cibber.

The Refusal, an adaptation of Molière’s Les Femmes Savantes, published in 1721, was acted at Drury Lane, February 14, 1721, and had a run of six performances. Molière’s play had been adapted25 by Wright as The Female Virtuosoes in 1693, and this play was revived at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on January 10, 1721, to anticipate The Refusal. In like manner with the effort to discredit Cibber’s hand in The Non-Juror, though in this case after the run of Cibber’s play was over, Curll published, with a dedication to Cibber, “the second edition of No Fools Like Wits,55 as it was acted at Lincoln’s Inn Fields or The Refusal, as it was acted at Drury Lane.”

In his adaptation Cibber has made more changes than is usual with him, both in plot and in character; and in the dialogue he has anglicized the idiom to an extent not found in his adaptations of tragedies from the French.

Molière’s comedy is a satire on false learning in men as well as in women, while Cibber has added some satire on business trickery, in the same way that he added political satire in his adaptation of Tartuffe. Cibber has supplied the elder daughter with a successful suitor, and the dénouement is brought about by different, more complicated, and more characteristically English means. In the incident in Molière’s play in which Bélise takes the love of Clitandre to herself, Cibber substitutes the mother for Bélise, omits the maid, along with her impertinences, and adds some slight original incidents.

Trissotin, the poet, becomes one of the typical would-be wits of English comedy, and Chrysale is changed to a typical promoter. In Molière, Chrysale is a purely humorous character, whose vacillation and lack of force were no doubt very laughable on the stage; Sir Gilbert, his equivalent in Cibber’s play, on the other hand, is in no way a weakling and is in no way admirable or a source of laughter, but embodies a satire on contemporary business practices.

The directness and simplicity of Molière’s play, the unity of tone and plot, give way in Cibber to complication of plot and character, in which the whole piece loses the delightful quality of the humor of the original.

The Provoked Husband was presented at Drury Lane, January 10, 1728, and had a run of twenty-eight nights. There was an unsuccessful attempt on the part of Cibber’s enemies to damn the play on the first night; the interruptions were so great that during the fourth act the actors were compelled to stand still until it was26 quiet enough for them to be heard. On January 31, Cibber published Vanbrugh’s unfinished play and his own completion of it. The critics, who had condemned the play unmercifully, especially the supposed additions of Cibber, found, when the plays were published, that it was not Cibber but Vanbrugh they had been condemning. According to Cibber,56 on the twenty-eighth night the play took in one hundred and forty pounds, a greater amount than had been taken in at the last night of any play for fifty years.

Vanbrugh’s Journey to London consists of four acts, the first two practically complete, but the last two apparently unfinished. Cibber has used practically all that Vanbrugh left, omitting the trip to the theatre in the last part of Act II, and adding much of his own to the whole play. He has interspersed his additions between the parts of Vanbrugh’s play, and has changed very little of the Vanbrugh part, except to “water it down” where it had been too strong for the changed taste of the theatre goers.

Cibber’s additions to Steele’s Conscious Lovers are mentioned on a later page of these Studies.

Several of Cibber’s comedies were translated into foreign tongues: in German The Double Gallant appeared as Der doppellte Liebhaber, translated by Johann Friedrich Jünger and published in Leipzig in 1786, The Careless Husband as Der sorglose Ehemann, published in Göttingen in 1750, and The Provoked Husband as Der erzürnte Ehemann und der Landjunker, published in Frankfurt in 1753; in French The Provoked Husband appeared as Le Mari poussé à bout, ou le voyage à Londres, published in London, 1761.

The adaptations, except The Non-Juror and The Refusal, seem to have been produced merely to furnish amusement which should be in accordance with changed stage conditions and changed taste. They show little originality, being merely the stringing together of scenes without alteration, though Cibber in the prologue to The Double Gallant says:

“Nay, even alter’d Plays, like old houses mended,
Cost little less than new, before they’re ended;
At least, our author finds the experience true.”

His method seems to have been to take two plays of an older author, often plays which contained both a serious and a comic27 action, to select such scenes as suited his purpose, and to join them into a play, either alternating the scenes of the separate plays with link characters, or putting the two plays end on end, as in the case of Love Makes a Man. This latter method entailed much greater labor, as many of the characters were made by consolidating two characters from different plays.

Cibber’s comedies, which constitute his best and most important work, may be divided into two general classes: comedies of manners and intrigue, and sentimental comedies. The first class includes two adaptations from Beaumont and Fletcher which are not strictly comedies of manners but are more closely allied to the “comedy of humours,” namely, Love Makes a Man and The Rival Fools; one adaptation made out of two plays by Dryden, The Comical Lovers; two from Molière, The Non-Juror and The Refusal, into both of which he introduced contemporary social and political interest; and three other plays, Woman’s Wit, She Would and She Would Not, and The Double Gallant, the last of which takes its title, if not its plot, from Corneille’s Le Galant Double. The sentimental comedies, in which form Cibber was one of the very first to write, are Love’s Last Shift, The Careless Husband, The Lady’s Last Stake, and The Provoked Husband, the last being a completion of Vanbrugh’s Journey to London. The first class consists almost altogether of adaptations; the second class is essentially original.




1. Cibber, not Steele, the Important Figure in its Early Development.

The fully developed form of sentimental comedy may be said to begin with Steele’s Conscious Lovers (1772) and to end with the attack upon it made by Goldsmith, Foote, and their followers. Goldsmith was “strongly prepossessed in favour of the poets of the last age and strove to imitate them,”57 and by his reintroduction of humor into comedy he exerted a strong influence toward the downfall of the sentimental type. The end of this vogue is generally well understood, but the beginning of it has not been investigated with the same thoroughness. Steele is generally given the credit of being the innovator who reformed the stage,58 although Ward and others give some credit to the work of Cibber. The importance of Cibber in the development of this form and in the moral reformation of comedy, the effect of social conditions, and the gradual change from the Restoration type, have not been fully studied. Colley Cibber was the most important writer of comedy in preparing the way for the new form, and practically every element of the later sentimental comedy is found in his work. But Cibber was not a reformer calling on his age to repent; he was rather answering a general demand of his time.

30 Three stages may be discerned in the development of sentimental comedy: first, that in which the morals of comedy were purified and the new sentimental material was intermixed with the old humorous material, represented by the work of Cibber; second, that in which the sentimental theme is presented with very little comic entertainment, represented by The Conscious Lovers; and third, that in which the comedy of this second stage degenerates and in which the work becomes artificial and lifeless, represented by the plays of Holcroft and his school.

Sentimental comedy as seen in its second phase may be briefly described as comedy of manners in which the main action tends to inculcate a moral lesson, in which the incidents no longer deal with illicit intrigues, and in which the action is complicated by distressingly pathetic situations. The chief characters are generally serious and supersensitive in regard to such matters as filial duty, honor, and the like; and while these persons are in no need of being reformed, their exaggerated conceptions of honor have caused them to act so that they are placed in an equivocal position and they appear to the other characters as vicious. The language is chaste, there is constant introduction of extremely stilted moralizing, and there is a notable absence of humor.

Cibber’s work in other lines was conventional and commonplace. It is true that his Apology is lively and interesting, and his pamphlets in reply to Pope’s attacks are keen and humorous though vulgar, but the rest of his prose is extremely conventional. His poetry, except a few songs, is inexpressibly poor. Aside from one opera in which he takes the same stand in regard to virtue that he does in his comedies, his operas are merely the commonplace following of a vogue. His tragedies are generally imitative; with two exceptions they are adaptations of Corneille or Shakspere. His farces are about equal in merit to his poetry, and are devoid of originality.

Nor does Cibber’s life indicate the qualities that appear in his sentimental comedies. The moral standard he displays in his pamphlets in reply to Pope is far from high, and from the testimony of his contemporaries concerning his personal character it would seem that he was far from being the sort of man who would set about reforming anything. And in all probability he would not have done so if there had not been a general public movement in that direction.

2. Sentimental Comedy a Product of Various Forces.31

But sentimental comedy did not spring full grown from the brain of a single man. Nor was it the result of a single revolutionary force. Sentimental comedy resulted from gradual modifications of the drama of the time, developing from the prevalent type little by little until it finally appeared as an independent form. The reform of the stage was not an isolated phenomenon, nor was it directly the result of the attacks made by Collier and others. Rather are all these the result of a changed public conscience, which was manifested not merely in literature and on the stage, but in the Revolution of 1688 and a subsequent social reformation as well.

Immediately after the Restoration there may be discovered two elements in the life of the nation which had an influence both on the form and on the content of literature. On the one side was the court, whose standards affected both the form and content in the direction of foreign models. Through the long period of exile on the continent, Charles and his followers had become foreign in their literary taste and they had great influence in the direction of a French type as regards form; and because of the low and vicious standards of living prevalent at court their influence stimulated the sympathetic handling of low and vicious subjects.

On the other hand, there were the people, strictly native in their preference, who influenced the drama in the direction of native standards in form, and Puritan standards in content. As to the form of comedy, there was nothing essentially antagonistic in these two influences; the one could easily combine with the other so that a new thing, congruous and consistent, might result; but in the material presented antagonism was bound to arise and soon did arise. In the development of sentimental comedy from the type which predominated during and after the Restoration, there was not at first any modification in structural elements; the comedy of manners was adopted, so far as form was concerned; the change, which was gradual and was a direct response to changed social and moral conditions, was at first entirely in the matter of content. This change first appears in the sincere reformation of the hero at the end of the play; then in the attitude towards cuckoldom, which Restoration comedy had treated as a humorous fact; and then in the character of the language, which was altered in the direction of moral decency.

32 Under Charles II and James II the court, on which the theatre depended for its right to live and also for its patronage, was vicious and depraved. Its one grace was wit, and that it had in a superlative degree.

3. Progress in English Society.

The people in general, except the court and those more or less fashionable classes of society which would naturally follow it, were not affected by this mode. They learned to despise Charles II personally because of his lack of honor and morals, and hated his followers as well as their mode of life. In the city the Puritan element, which was “at once the most substantial and sober” part of the community, began to exercise some of the same control of manners and morals that it had practised under the commonwealth, and checked the constant disregard of its moral principles by the court.

But even during this corrupt time there were manifestations of activity on the part of other elements of society, which looked toward the betterment of conditions. In the life of the state there were events which made for general progress and a more moral life among all the people. With special reference to the regulation and restraint of the theatre, certain elements in Parliament attempted, in 1669, to tax the playhouses, which were situated in the disreputable part of town and had become centers of prostitution; but the ministers of the king intervened and the attempt to compel some restraint was unsuccessful.

In the reigns of William and Mary and of Anne a reaction is seen in the life of the court, and there appears a still greater progress in all classes of society.

The expulsion of the Stuarts brought about certain very positive results which made for progress in all directions. So too the principle of natural action and reaction was operating; but, considering the historical circumstances, it was only to be expected that the reaction toward a more moral and saner view of life should be less marked and less rapid than the preceding reaction from Puritanism.

Until after the downfall of the Stuarts, the Protestants in England had never been united; but after that event even Presbyterians joined with ecclesiastics of the Church of England in public ceremonies on terms of friendship. Now that the question of political33 and religious supremacy was permanently settled, the Protestants were free to turn to some of the questions which are popularly supposed to be the real objects of religious organizations—worship and the encouragement of right living. However far it may have failed to measure up to modern ideas in these respects, the church now began to be a greater moral force.

The court became a very different sort of place. However far William might fall short of middle class standards of today, he was a very different sort of man from Charles or James, and had a very different influence. As opposed to the Catholicism of the Stuarts, he was a Presbyterian. Instead of haunting the theatre, where Charles found more than one mistress among the actresses, William never even showed himself at the theatre. Because of William’s prolonged absences on the continent, during which Mary reigned in her own right, the person of the queen became more important than in former reigns. Mary “had been educated only to work embroidery, to play on the spinnet, and to read the Bible and the Whole Duty of Man.”59 “Her character was unimpeachable, and by the influence of the king and queen the whole court became most proper, even if it was somewhat dull.” But unlike her husband, she went frequently to the theatre, where she showed special favor for Shadwell and where she ordered such plays as The Old Bachelor, The Double Dealer, and The Committee. It must be admitted that Mary’s taste in regard to plays did not show great literary or moral discrimination.

Both under William and Mary and under Anne the court took positive grounds on moral questions. In Evelyn’s Diary for February 19, 1690, we read:

“The impudence of both sexes was now become so greate and so universal, persons of all ranks keeping their courtesans publicly, that the King had lately directed a letter to the Bishops to order their Cleargy to preach against that sin, swearing, &c. and to put the Ecclesiastical Laws in execution without any indulgence.”

Mary, on July 9, 1691, wrote to the justices of the peace directing that they execute all laws against the profanation of the Sabbath, and even went so far as to have constables stationed on street corners to capture pies and puddings that were being taken to the bakers to be cooked on that day. In 1697 and 1698 King34 William issued two orders concerning the acting of anything contrary to good morals or manners. Queen Anne, who never went to the public theatre, made frequent proclamations against immoral plays, masked women, and the admittance of spectators behind the scenes, and in 1703 she issued a proclamation against vice in general.

Altogether, the forces of the court and of the government were acting in accord to suppress the abuses which their predecessors had countenanced both by favor and by participation.

But however potent may have been the influence of the court, the real movement for social reform came from the people, whose will the court was really carrying out. The movement on the part of the people was forwarded by the rise of various societies which were established for moral, philanthropic, and religious purposes.60

The Society for the Reformation of Manners, inaugurated by a small number of gentlemen in 1692, was probably the most influential and best known of these organizations. It was organized primarily for the purpose of informing on evildoers, and that there might be no criticism concerning their sincerity, the fines were paid over to charity. In addition to carrying on this work of informing, the society established quarterly lectures on moral subjects, secured the preaching of sermons on its objects, and in 1699 it claimed to have secured thousands of convictions.61 The church was brought into the movement by Archbishop Tenison’s circular to the clergy encouraging them to cooperate with the laity in the movement. This movement went farther than the prosecution of overt acts against morality, for in 1701–2 the players at Lincoln’s Inn Fields were prosecuted for uttering impious, lewd, and immoral expressions.62

4. Collier.35

Collier’s attack on the stage, published in 1698, was no doubt a potent influence in crystallizing public opinion in regard to the drama, but it does not stand alone; it is merely a sign of a movement which the stage had begun to notice and profit by several years previously. During the year 1698 not less than sixteen books and pamphlets were published in the controversy. Collier’s book had great influence in furthering the work of reformation; but, low as was the tone of the drama at the time, one must confess that in some particulars Collier is radical and far-fetched in his arguments and conclusions.

Cibber, though he had two years previously written a play with a distinct reformatory and moral purpose, did not much relish Collier’s attack or agree with it. In the prologue to Xerxes he intimates that Collier might prove a good index for those who desired to read immoral literature:

“Thus ev’n sage Collier too might be accus’d,
If what h’as writ, thro’ ignorance, abus’d:
Girls may read him, not for the truth, he says,
But to be pointed to the bawdy plays.”

In The Careless Husband we find Lord Morelove saying:

“Plays now, indeed, one need not be so much afraid of; for since the late short-sighted view of them, vice may go on and prosper; the stage dares hardly show a vicious person speaking like himself, for fear of being call’d prophane for exposing him.”

To this Lady Easy replies that,

“’Tis hard, indeed, when people won’t distinguish between what’s meant for contempt, and what for example.”

Perhaps Cibber’s most interesting contribution to the controversy is contained in his dedication of Love Makes a Man, published in the first edition, but omitted in the collected edition of his plays:

“But suppose the stage may have taken too loose a liberty? Is there nothing to be said for it? Have not all sciences been guilty? Was it to be expected in a reign of pleasure, peace and madness, that the poets should not be merry? Did not the court then lead up the dance? And did not the whole nation join in it? Was it not mere Joan Sanderson,63 and did not the lawn-sleeves, 36cuffs, and cassocks fill up the measure? But since those dancing days are over, I hope our enemies will give us leave to grow wise, and sober, as well as the rest of our neighbors: Why shall we not have the liberty to reform, as well as the clergy, and lawyers? I believe upon a fair examination we may find, that prophaneness, cruelty, and passive obedience, are now less than ever the business of the stage, the bench or the pulpit; and I doubt not, but we can produce examples of new plays, lawyers, and pastors that have met with success without being obliged to immorality, bribery, or politics ...

“Now if the stage must needs down, because ’tis possible it may seduce, as instruct; the same rule of policy might forbid the use of physic, because not only their patients, but physicians themselves die of common diseases; or call in the milled crowns, because they are but so many patterns for coiners to counterfeit by, or might as well suppress the Courts of Judicature, because some persons have suffered for what a succeeding reign has made a new law, that makes that law that sentenced them illegal: The same conclusion might discountenance our religion, because we sometimes find pride, hypocricy, avarice, and ignorance in its teachers: So that if our zealous reformers do not stick fairly to their method we may in time hope to see our nation flourish without either wit, health, money, law, conscience, or religion....

“But this sort of reformation I hope will never be thoroughly wrought, while the king, and the Established Church have any friends: The stage I am sure was never heartily oppressed but by the enemies of both.”

Though Cibber thought Collier extreme and unjust in his criticism, his own attitude concerning the abuses of the stage was hardly less censorious than Collier’s, but he blames the audiences for the low moral standards of the entertainments:

“However gravely we may assert, that Profit ought always to be inseparable from the Delight of the Theatre; nay, admitting that the Pleasure would be heighten’d by the uniting them; yet, while Instruction is so little the Concern of the Auditor, how can we hope that so choice a Commodity will come to a Market where there is so seldom a Demand for it?

“It is not to the Actor therefore, but to the vitiated and low Taste of the Spectator, that the Corruptions of the Stage (of what kind soever) have been owing.”64

His own attitude, which he held from the first of his career as a dramatist, may be illustrated what he says in the Apology:65

“Yet such Plays (entirely my own) were not wanting at least, in what our most admired Writers seem’d to neglect, and without 37which, I cannot allow the most taking Play, to be intrinsically good, or to be a Work, upon which a Man of Sense and Probity should value himself: I mean when they do not, as well prodesse, as delectare, give Profit with Delight! The Utile Dolci was, of old, equally the Point; and has always been my Aim, however wide of the Mark, I may have shot my Arrow. It has often given me Amazement, that our best Authors of that time, could think the Wit, and Spirit of their Scenes, could be an Excuse for making the Looseness of them publick. The many Instances of their Talents so abused, are too glaring, to need a closer Comment, and are sometimes too gross to be recited. If then to have avoided this Imputation, or rather to have had the Interest, and Honour of Virtue always in view, can give Merit to a Play; I am contented that my Readers should think such Merit, the All, that mine have to boast of.—Libertines of mere Wit, and Pleasure, may laugh at these grave Laws, that would limit a lively Genius: But every sensible honest Man, conscious of their Truth, and Use, will give these Ralliers Smile for Smile, and shew a due Contempt for their Merriment.”

Davies tells us:66

“So well did Cibber, though a professed libertine through life, understand the dignity of virtue, that no comic author has drawn more delightful and striking pictures of it. Mrs. Porter, on reading a part, in which Cibber had painted virtue in the strongest and most lively colors, asked him how it came to pass, that a man, who could draw such admirable portraits of goodness, should yet live as if he were a stranger to it?—‘Madam,’ said Colley, ‘the one is absolutely necessary, the other is not.’”

Possibly this inconsistency in personal conduct and public confession explains why comedies which aimed to teach lessons of virtue were sentimental and did not ring true. The men who wrote them wrote from the head and not from the heart, influenced by a growing public demand and without real sincerity or conviction.

5. Characteristics of Restoration Comedy.

Restoration comedy up to about 1696, while it was essentially a native development, was influenced both in technique and in content by the drama to which the court had been accustomed in its exile in France. The Jonsonian comedy was developing both in the period immediately preceding the Commonwealth and during the Restoration into the same sort of thing that we have here, and Shadwell, poet laureate and especial favorite of38 Queen Mary, definitely took the work of Jonson as his model. The Jonsonian satire had thrown emphasis on fundamental traits of human nature, but in this later type satire is centered on manners, dress, the non-essential elements of life, though the characters continue to be embodiments of single traits. Molière, whose earliest effective follower in England was Etherege, taught the English writers of the comedy of manners to aim at polish, refinement of style and dialogue, and his influence confirmed the tendency of English comedy to follow the unities as they were then understood. Restoration comedy, then, is native Jonsonian comedy, influenced by the comedy of Molière.67 The chief literary sources of its plots are the comedies of Beaumont and Fletcher, of Molière, of Corneille, and Spanish comedies and novels.

Though the late Elizabethans had been gross in word, there had always been in their work a tendency to punish vice and reward virtue, or at least to make vice ridiculous. But in the Restoration this grossness becomes grossness of word, character, and idea, and it is not the violator of virtue that is made ridiculous, but his victim. The Elizabethan gaiety, spontaneity, healthy overflow of spirits, become a cynicism which is absurd in its artificiality and deliberate pose. The Jonsonian reaction from earlier Elizabethan romanticism continues its advance toward realism.

The Restoration dramatist lacks the power to construct effective plots. He is able to handle his separate incidents with skill, but when it comes to sustaining an action through five acts, he fails. His chief fault lies in too great intricacy, excessive elaboration, and complexity, which are due to his endeavor to tell too many stories. In the construction of his plays he commonly takes two, and sometimes three, plays from Molière, or Beaumont and Fletcher, to form one play of his own. Hence there is in the handling of the plot a lack of unity. Furthermore, in his extreme elaboration of single situations, which one must admit have qualities to make them lively and interesting on the stage, the dramatist fails in the great essential quality of probability; if one regards the unity of time, he makes his stories impossible. Lack of sequence is caused by the constant interruption of conversation, which is brilliant and entertaining in itself, but has nothing to do with the story.

39 The dramatist tends to the elaboration of stock themes, dealing with the pursuit of illicit pleasure, assignations, and love intrigues. The typical story might be stated as follows: a young man is entangled with one or more women, a widow, the wife of an elderly or foolish husband, or a mistress whom he is keeping or who is keeping him, and while he is carrying on these intrigues he falls in love with the virtuous young woman he eventually wins. Sometimes his mistresses object to his marrying some one else, sometimes they do not, and in the latter case the opposing force is centered in a rapacious guardian or some other complicating person or circumstance. There are usually many minor love affairs, sometimes legitimate, sometimes not, and usually so complicated that it is difficult to keep the various threads separate. Collier did no injustice when he said that “the stage poets make their principal persons vicious and reward them at the end of the play.”

The love is mere sensuality. There is tacit acknowledgment that the men will be untrue to their wives and a fear on the part of the husbands that their wives will cuckold them.68 This fear is not because of any moral scruples, but is merely because of the ridicule that cuckoldom brought on the husband. The treatment is frankly gross, licentious, cynical.

In a sense this treatment is highly realistic; to this extent, that it is a general reflection of the standards and manners of the life of the court. The fashions are contemporary, the manners and morals are those of the upper classes. The playwrights confine themselves to a limited section of but a part of the people. Social and religious institutions are treated so as to make them ridiculous and contemptible.

That any other treatment would have been difficult is seen by considering the relationship existing between the theatre and the court. The theatre had its authority for existence directly from the court, one theatre receiving its license from the King, the other from the Duke of York, while the companies of actors were known as the King’s or the Duke’s servants.69 These licenses were moreover revocable at the pleasure of those who gave them. Controversies and differences within the theatre were often settled40 personally by the King or Duke, and Charles is said to have suggested subjects to the dramatists in many instances. With so direct and personal a relation, anything other than compliance with the taste of the court could result in nothing but the downfall of the theatre. The theatre’s very life depended on its selection and presentation of themes that would satisfy and reflect the taste of the most morally degraded court that England has ever had.

The characterization in these plays is conventional and often vague. For example, it may be laid down as an almost invariable rule that a widow is never virtuous. In the embodiment of a single trait there is the continued tendency to exaggeration seen in the “humourous” characterization of Jonson, with the same use of descriptive names—Courtall, Mrs. Frail, Lady Wishfort, Justice Clodpate—to save the labor of characterization. The characters are likewise lacking in complexity and development.

There is the tendency to Jonsonian division of characters into dupes and dupers,70 but this division is not so clear as in Jonson, nor is the division based on the essential qualities of human nature, but is rather on the basis of wit and power in repartee. The heroes are all witty, usually wealthy, popular, and their life work is the pursuit of women. The women are all witty, beautiful, and all rakes, except the heroine, and even the heroines bid fair to become so in a few months after marriage. The hero or heroine of one play might be the hero or heroine of any other play so far as any distinctive characterization is concerned.

There is the pretended wit, a simpleton who apes the men of wit and fashion, who thinks himself most clever, and who is perfectly unconscious of the fact that he is being made a butt for the wit of the sensible characters. Such are the Dapperwits, the Witwouds, and the Tattles. Somewhat similar is the fop who imitates the French, thinks only of his dress, his appearance, and the figure he makes. He is all ostentation, is entirely self-centered and simple in his mental processes, but is really not such a fool as one imagines at first. Etherege’s Sir Fopling Flutter, and Cibber’s Sir Novelty Fashion—the Lord Foppingtons of The Relapse and The Careless Husband—are two well drawn presentations of this character. An interesting female type is the Miss Hoyden-Prue-Hippolyta young woman, who has been kept in secluded41 ignorance of the world, but who shows a sudden ingenuity, knowledge of the world, and desire for the sensual joys of life. There are, of course, the elderly cuckolds, dominated and fooled by their wives, and the wives who profess virtue but do not practise it.

That the view here given is not prejudiced by modern standards may be seen by a description of the characters by one of the dramatists themselves. Shadwell in the preface to The Sullen Lovers expresses himself, not without vigor:

“But in the Plays, which have been wrote of late, there is no such thing as perfect Character, but the two chief Persons are commonly a Swearing, Drinking, Whoring, Ruffian for a Lover, and an impudent ill-bred Tomrig for a Mistress, and these are the fine People of the play; and ... almost any thing is proper for them to say; but their chief Subject is Bawdy, and Profaneness, which they call Brisk Writing, when the most dissolute of Men, that relish those things well enough in Private, are shock’d at ’em in Publick.”

The dialogue, which often interrupts the movement of the plot, and often surpasses in interest the more solid quality of representation of life, is usually marked by the most brilliant and biting wit, by keenly satiric repartee, and by epigrammatic polish. The dialogue has often nothing to do with the story, but is merely the exhibition of the author’s ability in the cynical treatment of contemporary manners. The attitude is one of satire and raillery against all established institutions, against marriage, the manners of society, the Puritans, the newly developing sciences, the court, dueling, the country and its inhabitants, the opera, the new songs and novels, the affectation of foreign airs, the adoption of foreign words, poetry and dilettante writing, polite literary conversation, legal abuses, and almost everything that one can conceive.

The locality in which the plays are set is extremely narrow at first, being confined to the town; for most of the plays are set in London, in localities familiar to the audiences. Within the class and localities to which the comedy restricts itself, it is a most interesting social document; but it must always be remembered that it is no sense representative of the whole people. Sometimes we are taken to Spain or Italy, but it is Spain or Italy only in name, the people and the customs are all English. The scene may sometimes be one of the fashionable watering places in England; but it is never in the despised country.

42 Whether one agrees with it or not it is well to keep in mind Lamb’s defense in his essay On the Artificial Comedy of the Last Century:

“We have been spoiled with ... the ... drama of common life; where the moral point is everything; where, instead of the fictitious half-believed personages of the stage (the phantoms of old comedy) we recognize ourselves, our brothers, aunts, kinsfolk, allies, patrons, enemies,—the same as in life.... “I do not know how it is with others, but I feel the better always for the perusal of one of Congreve’s—nay, why should I not add even of Wycherley’s—comedies. I am the gayer at least for it; and I could never connect those sports of a witty fancy in any shape with any result to be drawn from them to imitation in real life. They are a world of themselves almost as much as fairyland.... But in its own world do we feel the creature is so very bad?—The Fainalls and the Mirabels, the Dorimants and the Lady Touchwoods, in their own sphere, do not offend my moral sense; in fact they do not appeal to it at all. They seem engaged in their proper element. They break through no laws, or conscientious restraints. They know of none. They have got out of Christendom into the land—what shall I call it?—of cuckoldry—the Utopia of gallantry, where pleasure is duty, and the manners perfect freedom. It is altogether a speculative scene of things, which has no reference whatever to the world that is.... He [Congreve] has spread a privation of moral light ... over his creations; and his shadows flit before you without distinction or preference. Had he introduced a good character, a single gush of moral feeling, a revulsion of the judgment to actual life and actual duties, the impertinent Goshen would have only lighted to the discovery of deformities, which now are none, because we think them none.... “... When we are among them [the characters of Congreve and Wycherley], we are amongst a chaotic people. We are not to judge them by our usages. No reverend institutions are insulted by their proceedings,—for they have none among them. No peace of families is violated,—for no family ties exist among them. No purity of the marriage bed is stained,—for none is supposed to have a being.... There is neither right nor wrong,—gratitude or its opposite,—claim or duty,—paternity or sonship....

“The whole is a passing pageant.... But, like Don Quixote, we take part against the puppets, and quite as impertinently.... We would indict our very dreams.”

6. Beginnings of the Change in the Drama.

Such had been the conditions surrounding the drama and in the drama itself before the reformation began. When one comes to look at the stage and the audiences, one finds very little indication43 of change at first. In 1682 there seems to have been objection to London Cuckolds on the ground of indecency, and Ravenscroft in the prologue to Dame Dobson (1682) claims to have complied with the objections which had been raised by making his own play dull and civil. In 1684 appeared Southerne’s first comedy, The Disappointment, which he calls a “play,” and in this we have the serious treatment of the marriage relations and the preservation of a wife’s chastity. Throughout, Southerne’s tendency was towards morality.

In 1696 there begins a real and easily discernible movement towards the moral treatment of dramatic themes. The She Gallants (1696) was so offensive to the ladies that it had to be withdrawn; in She Ventures and He Wins (1696) the man who would carry on an amour with a married woman is exposed and tricked and made the butt; and in Mrs. Manley’s The Lost Lover (1696) there is the noticeable introduction of a virtuous wife.

In 1697, the epilogue to Boadicea, a tragedy, tells us that

“Once only smutty jests could please the town,
But now (Heav’n help our trade) they’ll not go down.”

Waterhouse71 finds traces of sentimentality in Vanbrugh’s Aesop, which appeared the same year. Then in 1698 matters were brought to a head by Collier, and we find Congreve’s Double Dealer advertised to be acted “with several expressions omitted,” while in The Way of the World (1700) his muse is somewhat more chaste. The Provoked Wife was altered, probably in 1706, so that the clergy might not seem to be attacked.

From this time on the changed attitude was increasingly manifest in the new plays, though the old were still acted with little or no change.

In The State of the Case Restated72 it is contended that the royal patent to the Drury Lane Theatre was given to Sir Richard Steele for the purpose of correcting the abuses of the theatre, but that Sir Richard had not done this; in fact that

“The same lewd plays were acted and reviewed without any material alteration, which gave occasion for that universal complaint against the English stage, of lewdness and debauchery, from all the sober and religious part of the nation; the whole business of comedy continuing all this time to be the criminal intrigues 44of fornication and adultery, ridiculing of marriage, virtue, and integrity, and giving a favorable turn to vicious characters, and instructing loose people how to carry on their lewd designs with plausibility and success: thus among other plays they have revived The Country Wife, Sir Fopling Flutter, The Rover, The Libertine Destroyer, and several others, and it is remarkable, that the knight, or coadjutors, had condemned Sir Fopling Flutter, as one of the most execrable and vicious plays that ever was performed in public.”

The change that was occurring may be fairly illustrated by quotations from plays by Etherege and Steele, which are characteristic of the alterations not only as to morals but as to moralizing. In speaking of marriage Etherege says, “your nephew ought to conceal it [his marriage] for a time, madam, since marriage has lost its good name; prudent men seldom expose their own reputations, till ’tis convenient to justify their wives;”73 while Steele’s sentiment is that “wedlock is hell if at least one side does not love, as it would be Heaven if both did.”74

7. Cibber’s Comedies.

Cibber at the very outset of his career as a dramatist, in Love’s Last Shift (1696), deliberately attempted to reform the stage, and that the audience was ready for the innovation is shown by the way it was received, for we are told that “never were spectators more happy in easing their minds by uncommon and repeated plaudits. The honest tears, shed by the audience, conveyed a strong reproach to our licentious poets, and was to Cibber the highest mark of honor.”75 Davies further gives Cibber the credit of being the first in reforming the English stage, and of founding English sentimental comedy. “The first comedy, acted since the Restoration, in which were preserved purity of manners and decency of language, with a due respect to the honor of the marriage-bed, was Colley Cibber’s Love’s Last Shift, or The Fool in Fashion.”76 Cibber himself makes no claim to decency of language, nor is it found to any greater extent in this play than in the other plays of the period. Certainly there can be nothing bolder than the first act, or the epilogue, which reads as follows:

“Now, gallants, for the author. First, to you
Kind city gentlemen o’ th’ middle row;45
He hopes you nothing to his charge can lay,
There’s not a cuckold made in all his play.
Nay, you must own, if you believe your eyes,
He draws his pen against your enemies:
For he declares, today, he merely strives
To maul the beaux—because they maul your wives.
Nor, sirs, to you whose sole religion’s drinking,
Whoring, roaring, without the pain of thinking,
He fears he’s made a fault you’ll ne’er forgive,
A crime beyond the hopes of a reprieve:
An honest rake forego the joys of life,
His whores and wine, t’ embrace a dull chaste wife!
Such out-of-fashion stuff! but then again,
He’s lewd for above four acts, gentlemen.
* * * * *
Four acts for your coarse palates were design’d,
But then the ladies taste is more refin’d,
They, for Amanda’s sake, will sure be kind.”

The main action, that which deals with the reformation of the wandering husband, seems to be original with Cibber in every respect. It deals with the reformation of a husband who eight or ten years before has deserted his young wife for a dissolute life on the continent, and who returns to England still more degenerate in mind and morals than when he left, and so entirely depleted in purse that he has not money enough to buy a meal or pay for a night’s lodging for himself and his servant. The husband is finally led to return to his wife, whose appearance has so changed that he does not recognize her, by her pretense of being a new mistress. This subterfuge is more or less remotely suggestive of Shakspere’s All’s Well that Ends Well and Shirley’s Gamester, both of which have been suggested as its source; but it owes nothing to them in the working out of the situation.

The theme is practically that of The Careless Husband: the reformation of a husband not entirely spoiled at heart. The moral teaching is that there is the same pleasure in legitimate enjoyment as in the baser and illicit sort.

The innovation consists in the very moral ending of the piece, particularly in the definite decision of the hero to reform, a determination which he expresses as follows:

“By my example taught, let every man, whose fate has bound him to a marry’d life, beware of letting loose his wild desires: 46for if experience may be allow’d to judge, I must proclaim the folly of a wandering passion. The greatest happiness we can hope on earth,

And sure the nearest to the joys above,
Is the chaste rapture of a virtuous love.”

It is to be noticed that the illicit affair of Sir Novelty Fashion and Mrs. Flareit is made ridiculous and not happy at the end, nor does Sir Novelty acquire a mistress or a wife who has previously been chaste. Likewise there is no husband who is made ridiculous by being cuckolded, and the only amour, if it can be called an amour, that which Amanda’s maid unwillingly has with Snap, is made right the next morning by the marriage of the two.

On the other hand, the play, aside from these particulars, exhibits the technique and the material of the typical Restoration comedy. The chief incident deals in most frank style with the sex relations of the hero and heroine, treated essentially in the Restoration way, with the exception that the audience knows they are man and wife while the characters do not. The cellar incident is as frank and gross as anything of the sort in the earlier drama, though in this case the final outcome is a wedding. There is the same succession of lively and disconnected incidents, incidents which would go well on the stage, and which make up five separate threads of story. The substitution of the name of one person for another in the marriage bond is the same sort of thing that occurs over and over again in the earlier comedy.77

The characters represent the same more or less stiff drawing of conventional figures. Sir Novelty Fashion is of the same family as Sir Fopling Flutter; Lovelace and Young Worthy are the same drunken rakes as those who make the principal characters in the unreformed drama, with the exception that here they are not presented to us as carrying on their amours. Snap is the witty servingman who is invariably paired with the maid of the heroine in Restoration comedy. There is the same presentation of local scenes, particularly that in the park; there is the same coarse speech; and there is the same interruption of the story by raillery.

But the play as already suggested is a very distinct step in advance in its treatment of fundamental morality, and marks a conscious47 beginning of a new mode; not an inconsiderable achievement for the first play of an author twenty-four years old.

The two plots of Woman’s Wit (1697) are entirely dissimilar in tone and dramatic handling, and, moreover, have no essential connection with each other. The main plot, which gives the name to the piece, is in the Restoration manner, while the sub-plot, which deals with the Rakishes, is in the mould of the minor late Elizabethans. In its portrayal of manners it belongs to the type represented by the plays of Brome, marked by coarseness rather than finish, and implying about the same standard of morals.

The main plot consists of a series of complications caused by the efforts of Longeville to unmask Leonora’s unfaithfulness to Lovemore, to whom she is engaged. She convinces Lovemore that Longeville’s efforts are the result of a plot, the purpose of which is to alienate Lovemore and Leonora so that Longeville may have her to himself; and there then follows one complication after another, until the characters are at last gathered together and Leonora is made to confess her duplicity.

The situation on which the main action is based is original and highly dramatic, but in order to maintain the intrigue Cibber has had to use incidents which are marked by improbability and dramatic blindness to such an extent that the action becomes wearisome. Cibber seems to be groping for something different from the conventional Restoration intrigue. His conception is worthy of more success than he attained, but he lacked the dramatic skill and experience to carry it out.

Some of the character drawing is good. Longeville and Lovemore are rather decent young men, but are no doubt too sentimental for success on the stage at this time. The Rakishes are overdrawn and farcical. The women, with the exception of Leonora, are lacking in the spontaneity and wit demanded of seventeenth and early eighteenth century heroines, and like the men are possibly too sentimental. Leonora is the intriguer and is the best drawn and most important personage in the play. Her downfall is the result of her own character and conduct, and in the disapproval of her character and actions Cibber has repeated, to some extent, views he expressed in his first play.

The vulgar sub-plot which deals with Old Rakish and Young Rakish, when separated from Woman’s Wit and acted in 1707 as The School Boy, was a greater success than the original play.48 With the exception of the change in the names of some of the personages, minor alterations of the dialogue, the omission of parts of the incidents, and the addition of such incidents as are necessary to make it stand by itself, the play is verbatim as it appeared when a part of Woman’s Wit.

From the point of view of the reformation of the stage it must be confessed that Woman’s Wit was not of great importance. The moral tone of the main action is high; at least virtue is rewarded and vice disgraced, and there are no amours carried on. But the sub-action, which was later transformed into The School Boy, is entirely opposed to both good taste and good morals, and after a series of low comedy scenes, ends with the promise of Young Rakish to Master Johnny that he will take Johnny to the playhouse, where the latter may satisfy his disappointment in the failure to marry his mother’s woman. Although notable progress in the morality of the drama had been made, as we have seen, the fact that this sub-action was successfully presented by itself shows that the taste of the theatre-going public was not yet entirely regenerate.

Love Makes a Man (1701) is a rather close adaptation of two of Beaumont and Fletcher’s plays,78 in which Cibber does not pretend to any serious purpose. “For masks, we’ve scandal, and for beaus, French airs.” And yet his moralizing and sentimental tendency cannot be entirely restrained, for when Carlos, the hero of the play, does turn from his books to love, he speaks in a most heightened and sentimental strain. So too the efforts of Louisa to seduce him are met with sentiments of lofty morality which are actuated by his sincere love for Angelina. The Restoration lover would not have hesitated in the slightest degree to enjoy all that Louisa offered and his wife-to-be would have taken it as a matter of course, probably would have joked with her confidante, if not with the hero, on the subject. But with Cibber not only is the attitude concerning this sort of thing changed, but in his alteration he has omitted one incident79 that would have been a source of great delight to a Restoration audience, and has softened the language throughout, so that the coarseness which marks his original has largely disappeared. No one undergoes a moral reformation, for Louisa has not been evil in her life,49 and this one unsuccessful effort at seduction cures her. But the play has two characteristics of the sentimental type; it is perfectly moral in action, and it has some expression of sentimental philosophy.

She Would and She Would Not (1702) is probably more in accordance with modern taste than any other play Cibber wrote. In this regard for good taste as well as good morals it is significant of the change in English comedy, and though it is not sentimental, it indicates Cibber’s readiness to adopt and lead the new mode. In its technique it reminds us of the Spanish intrigue plays of Dryden; but it is perfectly moral, and the two lovers do not employ their time, when away from the main business of winning their wives, in carrying on intrigues with other women.

The Careless Husband (acted 1704) is Cibber’s masterpiece in sentimental comedy. In it he has reached greater excellence than in his former plays in plot and in character presentation, and in the ability to make his plot and moral purpose work out consistently and logically. The reformation of Loveless in Love’s Last Shift strikes one as not in keeping with his character; one feels that his relapse80 is quite the natural thing to happen. In this play, however, the hero’s character is presented from the first in a way that prepares one for the final reformation. In this particular Cibber rises above his contemporaries in comedy.

In The Careless Husband Cibber lays claim to deliberate and serious moral purpose and deals, as he did in his first play, with the reclaiming of a licentious husband by a virtuous wife. Dibdin extravagantly says of it that “it was a school for elegant manners, and an example for honorable actions.” Cibber expresses himself in regard to his purpose, in the dedication, as follows:

“The best criticks have long and justly complain’d, that the coarseness of most characters in our late Comedies, have been unfit entertainments for People of Quality, especially the ladies: and therfore I was long in hopes that some able pen (whose expectation did not hang upon the profits of success) wou’d generously attempt to reform the Town into a better taste than the World generally allows ’em: but nothing of that kind having lately appear’d, that would give me the opportunity of being wise at another’s expence, I found it impossible any longer to resist the secret temptation of my vanity, and so e’en struck the first blow myself: and the event has now convinc’d me, that whoever sticks closely to Nature, can’t easily write above the understandings of 50the Galleries, tho’ at the same time he may possibly deserve applause of the Boxes.”

But in The Careless Husband, in contrast with what he had previously written in this field, the tone of the entire play is moral, not merely that of the fifth act, the play is worked out consistently, and the offensive effect of an incongruous mixture of standards is lacking. It belongs distinctly to the sentimental type, and is the best of the early school.

In the prologue Cibber gives a summary of the kind of characters that should illustrate the moral the comedy writer has as his theme:

“Of all the various Vices of the Age,
And shoals of fools expos’d upon the Stage,
How few are lasht that call for Satire’s rage!
What can you think to see our Plays so full
Of Madmen, Coxcombs, and the drivelling Fool?
Of Cits, of Sharpers, Rakes, and roaring Bullies,
Of Cheats, of Cuckolds, Aldermen and Cullies?
Wou’d not one swear, ’twere taken for a rule,
That Satire’s rod in the Dramatick School,
Was only meant for the incorrigible Fool?
As if too Vice and Folly were confined
To the vile scum alone of human kind,
Creatures a Muse should scorn; such abject trash
Deserves not Satire’s but the Hangman’s lash.
* * * * *
We rather think the persons fit for Plays,
Are those whose birth and education says
They’ve every help that shou’d improve mankind,
Yet still live slaves to a vile tainted mind.”

In this play Cibber continues the general practice of basing dramatic technique upon that of the Restoration drama. We find the same multiplicity of plots, though there is here a material reduction in their number. But here the various plots are more consistently bound together and more logically worked out. The hero is a somewhat refined Restoration character; he has more gentleness and goodness in him, but the course he pursues is typical of the earlier plays in that he is carrying on two amours during the play and at the end he abandons those intrigues; with this difference, however, that the reformation of the hero of The Careless Husband is felt to be permanent.

The love story of Lord Morelove and Lady Betty, which forms the sub-action, is in the best style of the comedy of manners.51 It, as well as the main action, reminds one in its finished workmanship of the best plays written during the latter part of the preceding century.

There is a distinct effort to teach the advantage of moral living, in the unhappy outcome of the illicit affairs and in the happy outcome of the legitimate. The situation in which Edging and Sir Charles are discovered asleep, which proved too gross for Cibber’s audience, is nevertheless handled in a manner to show disapproval; the Restoration dramatist would have been salacious and humorous. Sir Charles’s feeling of guilt after this scene, however, is an entirely new note.

Some of the characters are stock figures. Lady Betty is the usual coquette, is a Millamant type, but is altogether more human and modern; Lord Foppington is the continuation of Sir Novelty Fashion, whom we recognize as a type which appears in Etherege and Crowne; and Sir Charles, until his reformation, is, in his conduct, the Restoration rake, with, however, distinctly more humanity. His whole-heartedness and inherent honor make one forgive his lapse in conduct.

Other characters indicate a new mode. Lady Easy is a modest, virtuous, capable wife, full of moderation and tact, with the gentleness of the modern ideal woman. She belongs to the patient Griselda type, and her situation, which contains not a little pathos, is handled in a way to gain the sympathy of the audience. This is a new and noteworthy contribution in the direction of the fully developed type of sentimental comedy. Even in spite of Sir Charles’s defection in conduct, we recognize an inherent goodness in his nature. Lord Morelove is the preaching, sentimentalizing type, serious minded and upright, the sort of character that Cibber has presented in Lord Lovemore in Woman’s Wit and Elder Worthy in Love’s Last Shift; a character who seldom appears in the Restoration period, or, if he does appear, is ridiculed. In this presentation of a successful lover, lacking in wit and inconstancy, Cibber was not following the convention of the preceding drama, which usually made its heroes witty scamps.

While we still have light banter and raillery, they are primarily used to display character or further the plot, functions which they disregard in the Restoration plays. The theme and its working out not only deal with the reformation of the loose character, but also endeavor to present an admirable example of womanhood52 who shows a proper fidelity to her husband in spite of all his delinquencies. In the presentation of this high type of character Cibber has again become an innovator and has made a positive contribution to the drama of the period.

In his adaptation of the plays by Dryden81 in The Comical Lovers (1707) Cibber has not attempted any changes, and the play is of no importance in the development of comedy. It was regarded merely as a revival of Dryden’s work, and was acted along with other old plays during the same season, largely because of an antiquarian interest.

The two plays from which this is made go well together and present something of the best that Dryden did in the line of satiric comedy, and no doubt the social satire was almost as pertinent in Cibber’s time as it had been forty or fifty years earlier.

But the moral standard, which is almost always present, even if in the background, in Cibber’s own plays, is almost entirely lacking here. Celadon expects to be cuckolded, but would rather be cuckolded by Florimel (who reminds one very strongly of Congreve’s Millamant even in the stipulations before their agreement of marriage), than by any one else. So too in the complications in the second story in the play, the moral defections are humorous merely because they are immoral, and there is no disapproval expressed or implied. In Cibber’s own work he may retain his disapproval until the last act, but the moral standard always appears in some way or other, so that this play is essentially uncharacteristic of Cibber’s work.

The Double Gallant (1707) is an adaption of the same sort as The Comical Lovers, derived from Restoration plays,82 but it does have more significance. It is marked by the same general tone of moral irresponsibility and lightness, but without the actual culmination of delinquencies; there is the same raillery, somewhat curtailed, and the hero, as in those plays, involves himself in intrigue with several women at once. There is more respect for morals in the general conduct of the piece. The change is indicated in the handling of the source. Burnaby83 has made use of what is probably the most notorious and grossest incident in Restoration comedy, Horner’s subterfuge in The Country Wife, but has modified53 some of the elements of the intrigue. Cibber has prevented the successful outcome of the intrigue, and has entirely omitted the unpleasant features.

The Lady’s Last Stake (1707), in the handling of a serious theme, seems the most modern of Cibber’s comedies; it represents almost an approach to the modern problem play in the Lord and Lady Wronglove story and in the theme of the Lord George and Lady Gentle story. It is a fully developed comedy of the sentimental type of this period, with its four acts of intrigue, its reconciliation at the end, and its extremely moral teaching. Cibber makes two statements of his theme, first in the dedication, and then in the prologue. His statement in the dedication is as follows:

“A Play, without a just Moral, is a poor and trivial Undertaking; and ’tis from the Success of such Pieces, that Mr. Collier was furnish’d with an advantageous Pretence of laying his unmerciful Axe to the Root of the Stage. Gaming is a Vice that has undone more innocent Principles than any one Folly that’s in Fashion; therefore I chose to expose it to the Fair Sex in its most hideous Form, by reducing a Woman of honour to stand the presumptuous Addresses of a Man, whom neither her Virtue nor Inclination would let her have the least Taste to. Now ’tis not impossible but some Man of Fortune, who has a handsome Lady, and a great deal of Money to throw away, may, from this startling hint, think it worth his while to find his Wife some less hazardous Diversion. If that should ever happen, my end of writing this Play is answer’d.”

The plot centers around a most lively intrigue, but shows a departure from the Restoration type. Cibber seems to have devised his own plot from observation rather than to have taken it from the work of some one else, though in his characters he shows some imitation of characters in older plays. Miss Notable is a Miss Prue type, but the action of the play preserves her virtue and indicates disapproval of the effort to seduce her. There is a wide difference between this and the course of Congreve’s character who rushes eagerly to her bedroom followed by Tattle.84 So too in the relations of Lady Wronglove with her husband there enters a new note. Not only does Cibber show her a virtuous woman, but he recognizes the infidelity of the husband as grave enough to merit not only condemnation but punishment; and though he does not carry his story so far as to inflict on him his just deserts, he recognizes the right of the wife to resent Lord Wronglove’s action, although he clearly feels her resentment is unwise.54 Sir Friendly Moral, who reconciles the various couples, furnishes the somewhat sentimental moralizings, and seems to be the mouthpiece of the author.

One does not waste much sympathy on either Lord or Lady Wronglove in their bickerings, and their reconciliation at the end through the good offices of Sir Friendly is decidedly lacking in probability, in view of the way in which they have been previously presented. This dénouement is brought about by a typical deus ex machina device, in which Sir Friendly, by supplying money to one of the characters, and by using his exceeding wisdom and knowledge with another set of characters, brings about the happy ending. Cibber was not unlike the other late seventeenth and early eighteenth century writers in his inability to bring his plays to a logical and probable conclusion. He was hampered by his theory that the element of surprise should enter into the happy ending, and hence he often seems to feel compelled to introduce a new force very late in the play.

The characters in the main action are somewhat serious and lacking in attractiveness. But those in the comic action, Lord George, Mrs. Conquest, and Miss Notable, are much more lively sources of interest. Miss Notable, as already stated, is a Miss Prue type, though she is probably not to be described as a “silly, awkward country girl.” She is essentially a sophisticated city miss, but her desires and ambitions, as well as some of her ingenuous characteristics, are similar to those of the Miss Prue type. She starts a flirtation with each new man she meets in order to pique the last new man, who in like manner had his turn. The discomfiture of Lord George when Miss Notable avows her love for Mrs. Conquest, who is in the disguise of a man, is very clever.

It is hard to believe that an honorable gentleman, as Sir George is described as being, would cheat at cards even for the purpose of seducing another man’s wife. It is in just such conceptions as this that Cibber’s superficiality is shown, a superficiality which prevented him from writing great drama notwithstanding his knowledge of technical requirements.

In the situations of Lady Gentle and Mrs. Conquest, especially in that of the latter, there is a distinct element of pathos, similar to that in The Careless Husband. As in The Careless Husband, this pathos is due not merely to the situation, but depends likewise on the nature of the persons presented. In this respect55 it is superior to the later sentimental comedy, in which the pathos depends more largely on the situation alone.

In its serious elements The Lady’s Last Stake attacks what are without doubt notable human failings, and the dialogue at its best reminds us of some of the best Congrevian sort. But Cibber’s practice as to the happy outcome and his theory that there must be a surprise at the end of a play, have prevented what might have been, in the hands of a more serious and larger minded dramatist, a most important handling of a new theme in a new way.

When he wrote The Rival Fools (1709), Cibber seemed, if one may judge from the prologue, to feel that his efforts for reform were not meeting with sufficient response and appreciation, and therefore tells the audience that

“All sorts of Men and Manners may
From these last Scenes go unreprov’d away.
From late Experience taught, we slight th’ old Rule
Of Profit with Delight: This Play’s—All Fool.”

But though this comedy is not didactic in its purpose, it is morally clean in its action.

In The Non-Juror (1717), a play written with an avowedly political purpose, he cannot avoid moralizing and sentimentality, qualities which appear slightly in the story of Charles, and in the relations of Dr. Wolf to Lady Woodvil and Maria. It cannot be claimed that the play has any important bearing on sentimental comedy, however.

The Refusal (1721) might be called a purified Restoration comedy, without any positive bearing on the sentimentalizing tendency except that it shows the tendency to make the drama more moral.

The Provoked Husband (1728), Cibber’s completion of Vanbrugh’s A Journey to London, is typically sentimental in treatment, with the happy ending, the reformation of the vicious, and the true but dull expression of moral sentiments by the serious characters. In it Cibber has departed from Vanbrugh’s original intention by reforming the wife, whom he has preserved as perfectly true to her husband, though unduly given to gambling. In the love affair of Mr. Manly and Lord Townley’s sister we likewise have sentimental treatment, and in the expression of pious thoughts no one could be more prolific than Mr. Manly. In this play Cibber does not strike any note he has not used before; it is merely significant56 of the permanence of the changed manner of writing in English comedy generally.

In the first plot Cibber has somewhat softened the characters of Vanbrugh’s Lord and Lady Loverule in Lord and Lady Townley, giving to the husband a much less dictatorial and more sentimental and uxorious character. Lady Townley, though she does not show any signs of softer qualities, is made to see the error of her course of late hours and gambling, and undergoes a somewhat improbable but characteristic conversion. Cibber tells us85 that it had been Vanbrugh’s intention to turn the lady out of doors, as would have been natural and logical, giving to the play a serious interest which it lacks under Cibber’s management.

The characters are shorn of their rough virility in Cibber’s version. Squire Richard is a sort of rough study of the Tony Lumpkin type,—without his wit, however,—but the credit of the portrayal is due to Vanbrugh rather than to Cibber.

While the play is far from lacking in interest and power to amuse, there is a very decided inferiority to Vanbrugh’s play, even in its unfinished and imperfect state. Cibber’s play is a typical sentimental comedy, with its undeserved happy ending, reformation of the vicious, and commonplace expression of sentiment and morals on the part of the serious characters.

Although it does not exhibit any startling new qualities, in its theme attacking the evils of gambling which Cibber has previously attacked, the play is a good example of eighteenth century comedy; fully as good, indeed, as the work of the other dramatists of the time, but suffering in comparison with Cibber’s own best work.

It may be interesting to note that Cibber is said to have added the parts of Tom and Phillis to Steele’s Conscious Lovers.86 When Steele submitted this play to him, Cibber felt that it would not satisfy the desire of an audience to laugh at a comedy. According to the account in The Lives of the Poets, Steele gladly accepted Cibber’s suggestion that a comic action be inserted and even proposed that Cibber make such additions to the play as he saw fit. The absence of humor is a mark of the form of sentimental comedy inaugurated by Steele, while the form represented by Cibber’s work is closer to the Restoration type, is indeed really a modification57 of that type, and the element of humor is consequently found in it.

8. Typical Quality of Cibber’s Work.

Cibber’s work typifies the change that was going on in the moral reformation of the drama, as it likewise shows the development characteristic of the time in other elements of the drama.87 In him, as in others, we see that while the general type of Restoration comedy was adopted in the construction of the plot, there was a tendency to simplify the plot. Moreover, Cibber further departed from the Restoration type by the selection of themes other than mere sex relations. Other dramatists were able to present such themes without reference to moral degeneration, but Cibber, when he takes such a subject as the dangers of gambling, for instance, cannot entirely avoid dealing with sex immorality.

In the dull, chaste lover, the sober, moral, worthy gentleman who is largely a result of the sentimental tendency in the drama, such as Lord Morelove in Woman’s Wit and Elder Worthy in Love’s Last Shift, Cibber developed and made more important a type which had appeared but had been relatively unimportant in earlier drama. In the comedy of Steele and his followers this character was further developed so that it became the central figure. Cibber and his predecessors seem to have been guided by some such formula as that interesting personality and morality appear in inverse ratio in male characters.

The precocious Miss Prue type, the young woman who is destined to have a lover or a husband, perhaps both, in a short time, is represented by Miss Jenny in The Provoked Husband and Miss Notable in The Lady’s Last Stake. This type of character soon disappeared from the drama, as did likewise the Millamant kind of coquette, who appears as Maria in The Non-Juror and as Lady Betty in The Careless Husband. Snap and Trappanti are typical menservants, witty and graceless, and we find the mercenary serving woman in The Provoked Husband and She Would and She Would Not. Characters of this type continue occasionally in the succeeding drama, where they furnish the comic relief.

9. General Characteristics of Cibber’s Comedies.

Cibber’s themes are taken from contemporary life and its more obvious problems. Of course so far as any serious purpose58 is concerned, a distinction must be made between those plays designed merely to afford the pleasure of an evening’s entertainment and those written with more serious intent. Cibber often distinguishes between these two classes, and frankly states his purpose in the prologue or dedication to the separate plays.

His attitude toward his audience is somewhat naïve. He frankly states that his “sole dependence being the judgment of an audience, ’twere madness to provoke them.”88 He again says89 that “every guest is a judge of his own palate; and a poet ought no more to impose good sense upon the galleries, than dull farce upon undisputed judges. I first considered who my guests were, before I prepared my entertainment.” This would seem to indicate that at times he had no high respect for his audiences; especially when he wrote The School Boy and Hob in the Well, if the latter is by him. In this connection one may note that he consciously distinguished stage and closet drama, and made no attempt to write the latter. In his “Remarks to the Reader” of Ximena he says, “though the reader must be charmed by the tenderness of the characters in the original, I have ventured to alter, to make them more agreeable to the spectator.” These statements would seem to indicate that Cibber wrote his sentimental plays because he thought the audiences desired something of the sort.

As a playwright Cibber was a strong upholder of religion and the established church. He points out that the only religious sect to close the theatre was also opposed to the established church.90 But in treating religious subjects he does not use the Puritans for dramatic material, for they were no longer a political menace, but he turns to the Roman Catholics, whose activities were not merely religious, but political. In The Non-Juror we have a play almost entirely built on anti-Catholic feeling; in King John we have another attack on the Church of Rome; and in the fourth act of Woman’s Wit we again have satire, but in this case primarily of the Catholic clergy, rather than the church itself. We do not have any references to party politics, aside from this Catholic problem.

His original plays in comedy, other than farces and operas, deal with moral problems. In the case of Love’s Last Shift59 and The Careless Husband we have presented the reformation of husbands not yet entirely spoiled at heart; in The Provoked Husband the reformation of a wife who has not committed any serious breach of the moral code; and in this last, as well as in The Lady’s Last Stake, we have plays dealing with the evils resulting from women’s gambling. It is curious to find one who was so notorious a gambler as Cibber choosing such a theme.

The language shows great change from that of the Restoration in regard to moral refinement. Cibber’s plays become less and less coarse in speech. His earlier plays have a grossness almost equal to that of Restoration comedy, but gradually grow purer. This change in the language is found in English comedy generally, and as it progresses a new element enters, the expression of moral sentiments, extravagantly and artificially stated. This last shows a gradual increase, reaching its height in the later sentimental comedy of the middle of the century.

Merely as literature, three of Cibber’s plays, at least, are well worth while: The Careless Husband, She Would and She Would Not, and The Non-Juror. They lack the briskness and sureness of touch that characterized Congreve, but compare most favorably with the work of men in the next rank, and are not only delightful and profitable reading, but are thoroughly representative of the period in which they appear. Grouped with these as possessing permanent literary value are the Apology and not more than half a dozen songs. Outside of these three plays, one prose work, and a few songs, Cibber produced nothing that is worth preserving because of its merit as literature. His greatest importance to the student of literary history lies in his contribution to the development of sentimental comedy.

10. Place of Steele in the Development of Sentimental Comedy.

In view of the place that is always given to Steele as the originator of sentimental comedy, a discussion of any phase of the subject would be incomplete without at least a reference to his relation to the particular question under discussion. We may grant that Cibber does not represent the culmination of the sentimental type: that is to be found in Steele’s Conscious Lovers (1722). He is, rather, the most prominent figure in the first stage of the development of sentimental comedy, during which the Restoration type60 was transformed by the addition of a moral purpose, by the purification of the language, and by the addition of the pathetic element; so that the new form in his hands has much of the old as well as the new, while Steele’s Conscious Lovers has almost entirely broken away from the old and looks forward. But the movement in which Cibber was so prominent a figure did make the way possible and contributed the most important elements which later developed in the hands of Steele and his followers.

A commonplace of literary history is that it was Steele who purged English comedy of its vileness and was the first to write sentimental comedy. This, as we have seen, is not true; for though The Conscious Lovers is probably the best of its type, it merely lays more stress upon the pathetic element and carries forward another step the sort of thing that Cibber had done in such comedies as The Careless Husband and The Lady’s Last Stake, which are as truly sentimental comedies as this, and which possess the pathetic interest, but in a less marked degree. In Steele’s other plays, The Funeral (1701), The Lying Lover (1705), The Tender Husband (1705), Steele, except in the matter of the purity of the language, does not show as fully developed examples of the type as does Cibber in his work of the same period and earlier.

Steele’s first play to be acted, The Funeral, lacks sentimental quality; it is merely a comedy which, when compared to the Restoration type, has a higher moral tone. Steele had no higher motive, he tells us, in writing this play than the purpose of reinstating himself in the opinion of his fellow soldiers who had ostracized him as a moral prig after the appearance of The Christian Hero (1701). In his preface he mentions two themes as those around which the comedy is written, namely, the practices of undertakers and “legal villanies.” Lady Brumpton, who had bigamously married Lord Brumpton, is discredited by being ejected from Lord Brumpton’s household, but there is no suggestion that she is in any way reformed, and in the rest of the action none of the other elements of sentimental comedy are prominent.

The Lying Lover goes a little further and reforms the hero at the end, as is done in the comedies of Cibber. But even this similarity is only superficial, for the hero is not really vicious, being guilty only of some entertaining lying, and the reformation is brought about, not by approved sentimental feminine means,61 but by the fact that the hero finds himself in prison. But even though the hero is humiliated by temporary imprisonment, his delinquencies are so diverting that the reader is entirely in sympathy with him. Our sympathy for him, indeed, is so great that it is a distinct disappointment that the lady is given to the honest and jealous lover instead of to him. Steele lays no claim to originality in the reform, “compunction and remorse” of his hero, for in his preface he says that such things had been “frequently applauded on the stage.” Nor is the versifying of the elevated portions of the play a new thing; it is found both earlier and later than sentimental comedy and is not a distinctive mark of that type.

The Tender Husband was indebted to Cibber’s Careless Husband, which had recently appeared, but is not to be compared to it in its sentimental qualities. In both plays, however, we have the reconciliation of an estranged husband and wife. In Cibber it is the husband who is the offender, and he is recalled from his vices by the patient fidelity of his wife; a reformation based on sentiment. In The Tender Husband, the wife is reformed from extravagance in her expenditure of time and money on trivialities, and from failure in her duty to her husband, but the reformation is brought about by a mere trick that the husband plays upon the wife rather than by the interaction of personality on personality. Steele shows nothing of the serious grasp of the situation that Cibber shows in his play on the same theme, The Provoked Husband. Steele’s handling is distinctly less artistic and distinctly less sentimental than in either of Cibber’s plays. This is seen also in Steele’s light treatment of the wife’s equivocal action toward Fainlove, whom she mistakenly supposes to be a man, and toward whom she makes questionable advances. Not only in regard to such situations as this, but in the attitude toward actual breaches of morality, Steele shows a lower standard than Cibber. In both The Careless Husband and The Tender Husband the hero keeps a mistress, but while Cibber brings the illicit amour to an end with the disgrace of the mistress and a distinct moral, Steele not only shows none of this disapproval but provides the mistress with a husband of means and gives her a good dowry.

Seventeen years later, though according to Genest91 the play had been written some years before it was acted, Steele produced62 his fully developed comedy of the sentimental type, The Conscious Lovers. It is entirely different from the preceding plays, for instead of containing a lively intrigue with clever satire and wit, such as we have in The Lying Lover, the tone throughout is fixed by the pathetic and didactic elements. Steele rightly felt that he was doing something new, and took credit to himself in the prologue:

“But the bold sage—the poet of tonight—
By new and desperate rules resolved to write.
* * * * *
’Tis yours with breeding to refine the age,
To chasten wit, and moralise the stage.”

Not only does this moral and sentimental note appear throughout, but in Mr. Sealand, especially in his dialogue with Sir John Bevil in the fourth act, there appears the exaltation of the tradesman class which culminated in the work of Lillo. Bevil Junior is a pattern of propriety and goodness, but his lack of virility and brilliance contrasts him most disadvantageously with the heroes of the preceding period. He is the dull, chaste lover, the hero of the second intrigue of the Restoration and Cibber type of comedy, the Lord Morelove sort, exalted to the first place. Indiana is the patient Griselda type, the Lady Easy sort of person, but in The Conscious Lovers her gentleness and goodness are not used to recall the erring, but are presented merely as desirable qualities for a virtuous young woman to possess. The witty rake has disappeared. The Wildairs, Lovelesses, Millamants, and Lady Betties are no more, and in their places are maudlin, sickly sentimentalists, whose goodness and sufferings are all that commend them. Parson Adams was right, it does contain “some things almost solemn enough for a sermon.”

This sentimental didacticism becomes still more conspicious in the work of Holcroft and his school, whose plays are rendered degenerate and emasculate thereby. If the historians of literature mean that Steele was the originator of this type, whose essential characteristic is the centering of the action around a pathetic situation, they are probably right; but any statement that it was he who introduced the sentimental or pathetic element into English comedy, or that he began the reformation of the drama in the direction of morality, is easily seen to be false by a comparison of his work with the earlier and contemporary work of Cibber.



1. Cibber’s Works.


An Apology for the Life of Colley Cibber, Comedian, and Late Patentee of the Theatre-Royal. With an Historical View of the Stage during his Own Time. Written by Himself. London, 1740. (I have used the fourth edition, London, 1756. Best edition is that of Lowe, London, 1889.)

A Letter from Mr. Cibber, to Mr. Pope, Inquiring into the Motives that might induce him in his Satyrical Works, to be so frequently fond of Mr. Cibber’s Name. London, 1742.

The Egoist: or, Colley upon Cibber. Being his own Picture Retouch’d, to so plain a Likeness, that no One, now, would have the Face to own it, but Himself. London, 1743.

Another Occasional Letter from Mr. Cibber to Mr. Pope. Wherein the New Hero’s Preferment to his Throne, in the Dunciad, seems not to be Accepted. And the Author of that Poem His more rightful Claim to it, is Asserted. With an Expostulatory Address to the Reverend Mr. W. W............n, Author of the new Preface, and Adviser in the curious Improvements of that Satire. By Mr. Colley Cibber. London, 1744.

The Character and Conduct of Cicero, Considered from the History of his Life by the Reverend Dr. Middleton. With Occasional Essays and Observations upon the most memorable Facts and Persons during that Period. London, 1747.

The Lady’s Lecture, a Theatrical Dialogue, between Sir Charles Easy and his Marriageable Daughter. Being an Attempt to Engage Obedience by Filial Liberty: and to Give the Maiden Conduct of Virtue, Chearfulness. By C. Cibber, Esq: Servant to his Majesty. London, 1748.

Non-Dramatic Poetry.

Gentleman’s Magazine. London, 1731—

London Magazine. London, 1732—

64 A Rhapsody on the Marvellous: Arising from the First Odes of Horace and Pindar. Being a Scrutiny into Ancient Poetical Fame, demanded by Modern Common Sense. By Colley Cibber, Esq. P. L.

Fame then was cheap, and the first comer sped:
Which they have since preserved by being dead. Dryden.
. . . . . . . liberius si
Dixero quid, si forte jocosius, hoc mihi juris
Cum venia dabis. Hor. Sat. 4. L 1. London, 1751.

Dramatic Works.

(Arranged in the order of stage presentation. The dates are those of publication.)

Collected editions of his Plays appeared in 1721, in two volumes; in 1636, in five volumes; in 1760, in four volumes; in 1777, in five volumes. The last named is the edition I have used.

Love’s Last Shift; or, The Fool in Fashion. 1696.

Woman’s Wit; or, The Lady in Fashion. 1697.

Xerxes. 1699.

The Tragical History of Richard III, altered from Shakespear. 1700.

Love Makes a Man; or, The Fop’s Fortune. 1701.

She Would and She Would Not; or, The Kind Impostor. 1703.

The Careless Husband. 1705.

Perolla and Izadora. 1706.

The Comical Lovers. 1707.

The School Boy; or, The Comical Rival. 1707.

The Double Gallant; or, The Sick Lady’s Cure. 1707.

The Lady’s Last Stake; or, The Wife’s Resentment. 1708.

The Rival Fools. 1709.

The Rival Queans, with the Humours of Alexander the Great, a Comical-tragedy. Dublin, 1729.

Ximena; or, The Heroick Daughter. 1718.

Cinna’s Conspiracy. 1713.

Venus and Adonis. A Masque. 1715.

Myrtillo, a Pastoral Interlude. 1716.

The Non-Juror. 1718.

The Refusal; or, The Ladies Philosophy. 1721.

Caesar in Aegypt. 1725.

65 The Provok’d Husband; or, A Journey to London. 1728.

Love in a Riddle. A Pastoral. 1729 [misprinted 1719].

Damon and Phillida; a Ballad Opera. 1729.

Papal Tyranny in the Reign of King John. 1745.

2. General Bibliography.

Actor, The, or, A Treatise on the Art of Playing. London, 1750.

Age of Dullness, The, a Satire. By a Natural Son of Mr. Pope. London, 1757.

Baker, D. E., I. Reed and S. Jones. Biographica Dramatica. London, 1812.

Beaumont and Fletcher. Works. London, 1843.

Besser, R. Colley Cibbers The Double Gallant und seine Quellen. Halle, 1903.

Betterton, T. The History of the English Stage, from the Restoration to the Present Time. London, 1741.

Betterton, Thomas, Life and Times of. Reprint, London, 1888.

Blast upon Bays, A; or, A New Lick at the Laureat. London, 1742.

Booth, Barton, Life of. London, 1733.

Boyle, Roger, Earl of Orrery. Parthenissa. London, 1676.

British Theatre, The. London. 1750.

Brown, Hawkins. A Pipe of Tobacco. London, 1744.

Burnaby, C. The Reformed Wife. London, 1700.

Burnaby, C. The Ladies Visiting Day. London, 1701.

Canfield, Dorothea Frances. Corneille and Racine in England. New York, 1904.

Carlile, J. The Fortune Hunters; or, Two Fools Well Met. London, 1689.

Case of the Present Theatrical Dispute Fairly Stated, The. London, 1743.

Centlivre, Susanna. Dramatic Works. Reprint, London, 1872.

Charke, Charlotte. A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Charlotte Charke. Written by Herself. London, 1755; reprint, London, 1827.

Chetwood, W. R. General History of the Stage. London, 1749.

Cibber, Theophilus, editor. Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland. London, 1753.

Cibber, Theophilus. Two Dissertations on the Theatres.66 London, 1756.

Corneille, Pierre. Oeuvres. Paris, 1862.

Crowne, John. Dramatic Works, in Dramatists of the Restoration, ed. by Maidment and Logan. Edinburgh, 1873.

Davies, T. Dramatic Miscellanies. London, 1784.

Davies, T. Memoirs of the Life of David Garrick, Esq. Third ed., London, 1781.

Difference between Verbal and Practical Virtue, The. London, 1742.

Dogget, T. The Country Wake. London, 1696.

Dohse, R. Colley Cibbers Bühnenbearbeitung von Shakespeares Richard III. Bonn, 1897.

Doran, J. Their Majesties’ Servants. London, 1888.

Downes, J. Roscius Anglicanus. London, 1708; reprint, London, 1886.

Dryden, John. Works. London, 1889.

Egerton, T. and J. The Theatrical Remembrancer. London, 1788.

Fielding, Henry. Historical Register for 1736. Works, London, 1852.

Fielding, Henry (?). An Apology for the Life of Mr. T.... C.... London, 1740.

Genest, J. Some Account of the English Stage from the Restoration in 1660 to 1830. Bath, 1832.

Granger, J. Biographical History of England. London, 1779–1806.

Hermann, A. Colley Cibbers Tragicomedy Ximena und ihr Verhältniss zu Corneilles Cid. Kiel, 1908.

Hutton, Laurence. Literary Landmarks of London. Boston, 1885.

Jacob, G. The Poetical Register. London, 1719–1723.

Johnson, T. Tryal of Colley Cibber for Writing a Book Intitled An Apology for his Life. London, 1740.

Kilbourne, F. W. Alterations and Adaptations of Shakespeare. Boston, 1906.

Köppe, K. Das Verhältniss von Cibbers Papal Tyranny zu Shakespeares King John. Halle, 1902.

Krüger, W. Das Verhältniss von Colley Cibbers Lustspiel67 The Comical Lovers zu J. Drydens Marriage à la Mode und Secret Love. Halle, 1902.

Laureat, The; or, The Right Side of Colley Cibber, Esq. To Which is Added, The History of the Life, Manners and Writings of Aesopus the Tragedian. London, 1740.

Learned, J. The Counterfeits. London, 1679.

Lee, W. L. M. History of Police in England. London, 1901.

Letter to Mr. C....b....r, A, on his Letter to Mr. P........ London, 1742.

Lounsbury, Thomas R. Shakespeare as a Dramatic Artist. New York, 1901.

Lowe, R. W. A Bibliographical Account of English Theatrical Literature. London, 1888.

Macaulay, T. B. History of England. Boston, 1900.

Man of Taste, The. London, 1733.

Marks, Jeannette. The English Pastoral Drama. London, 1908.

Medbourne, M. Tartuffe. London, 1670.

Michels, E. Quellenstudien zu Colley Cibbers Lustspiel The Careless Husband. Marburg, 1908.

Miles, D. H. The Influence of Molière on Restoration Comedy. New York, 1910.

Molière. Oeuvres. Paris, 1873–1900.

Molière. Dramatic Works, translated by H. Van Laun. Edinburgh, 1878.

Molloy, J. F. Famous Plays. London, 1886.

Mountfort, W. Greenwich Park, a Comedy. London, n. d. [1691].

New Theatrical Dictionary. London, 1742.

Nichols, J. Illustrations of the Literary History of the Eighteenth Century. London, 1817.

Nichols, J. Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century. London, 1815.

Ost, G. Das Verhältniss von Cibbers Lustspiel Love Makes a Man zu Fletchers Dramen, The Elder Brother und The Custom of the Country.

Pepys, Samuel. Diary. London, 1897.

Philips, Katherine. Poems. London, 1669.

Pilkington, L. Memoirs. London, 1748.

Quin, Mr. James, Comedian, Life of. London, 1766; reprint, 1887.68

Rowe, N. Pharsalia. London, 1718.

Sanger, W. W. History of Prostitution. New York, 1899.

Schneider, W. Das Verhältniss von Colley Cibbers Lustspiel The Non-Juror zu Malias Tartuffe. Halle, 1903.

Shakspere, William. Richard III, Variorum edition, ed. by H. H. Furness, Jr. Philadelphia, 1908.

Steele, Richard, and John Dennis. The Theatre, by Sir Richard Steele; to which are added, the Anti-Theatre; the Character of Sir John Edgar; Steele’s Case with the Lord Chamberlain. Illustrated with Literary and Historical Anecdotes by John Nichols. London, 1791.

Stone, E. Chronicles of Fashion. London, 1845.

Stoye, M. Das Verhältniss von Cibbers Tragödie Caesar in Egypt zu Fletchers The False One. Halle, 1897.

Strickland, Agnes. Queens of England. New York, 1851.

Temple of Dullness, The, with the Humours of Signor Capochio and Signora Dorinna; A Comic Opera in Two Acts. London, 1745.

Theatrical Correspondence in Death. An Epistle from Mrs. Oldfield, in the Shades, to Mrs. Br.ceg....dle, upon Earth. London, 1743.

Theobald, L. The Happy Captive, an English Opera, with an Interlude, in Two Comick Scenes, betwixt Signor Capochio, a Director from the Canary Islands; and Signora Dorinna. London, 1741.

Thorndike, Ashley H. Tragedy. Boston, 1908.

To diabebouloumenon; or, The Proceedings at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. London, 1722.

Tönse, L. Cibbers Comedy The Refusal in ihrem Verhältniss zu Molières les Femmes savantes. Kiel, 1900.

Traill, H. D. Social England. New York, 1902.

Vanbrugh, John. Works, ed. by W. C. Ward. London, 1893.

Victor, B. History of the Theatres of London and Dublin from 1730 to the Present Time. London, 1761.

Waterhouse, O. The Development of Sentimental Comedy in the Eighteenth Century, Anglia, XXX.

Whincop, T. Scanderbeg; or, Love and Liberty. London, 1747.

Wilkes, T. A General View of the Stage. London, 1759.69

Wilks, Robert, Esq., The Life of that Eminent Comedian. London, 1733.

Woman of Taste. London, 1733

Wood, A. I. P. Stage History of Shakespeare’s Richard III. New York, 1909.


1 II. 573.

2 Whincop, Complete List of All the English Dramatic Poets, p. 199. See also the dramatic list appended to the second volume of the fourth edition of the Apology, p. 286.

3 The sub-plot of Woman’s Wit was likewise acted separately after the original play had failed on the stage.

4 Reprint of 1887, p. 28.

5 Page 28.

6 Apology, I, 180.

7 III, 325.

8 The Advertisement prefixed to The Happy Captive says: “The interlude, which is added in two comic scenes, is entirely new to our climate; and the success of it is submitted to experiment, and the taste of the audience.” Only this portion of The Happy Captive was ever acted.

9 Theobald died September 18, 1744. The Temple of Dullness was acted January 17, 1745.

10 For a history of the pastoral drama in the eighteenth century and a summary of its qualities, see Jeannette Marks, The English Pastoral Drama, London, 1908.

11 Thorndike, Tragedy, p. 273.

12 Davies, Dramatic Miscellanies, III, 459.

13 The Tatler, Number 42, July 16, 1709.

14 Address to the Reader, prefixed to Ximena.

15 Richard Dohse, Colley Cibber’s Buehnenarbeitung von Shakspere’s Richard III, Bonn, 1899.

16 Alice I. Perry Wood, The Stage History of Richard III, New York, 1909.

17 The number and sources of the lines as given by Furness. Variorum Richard III, p. 604, are as follows: Richard II, 14; 1 Henry IV, 6; 2 Henry IV, 20; Henry V, 24; 1 Henry VI, 5; 2 Henry VI, 17; 3 Henry VI, 103; Richard III, 795; Cibber, 1069; total, 2053. The number of lines in the Globe text of Shakspere’s Richard III is 3621.

18 As “God” to “Heaven,” I, ii, 236; due in this instance to the Collier influence.

19 Edition of 1665, pp. 102–157.

20 Dedication of Perolla and Izadora.

21 Genest, II, 506.

22 To the Reader, Ximena.

23 See Canfield, Corneille and Racine in England, p. 169.

24 Genest, II, 511; and Canfield, op. cit., pp. 179 ff.

25 II, 104.

26 VIII, 204.

“Mr. Cibber.
1701 Nov. 8 A Third of Love’s Last Shift 3 4 6
1705 Nov. 14 Perolla and Izadora 36 11 0
1707 Oct. 27 Double Gallant 16 2 6
  Nov. 22 Lady’s Last Stake 32 5 0
  Feb. 26 Venus and Adonis 5 7 6
1708 Oct. 9 Comical Lover 10 15 0
1712 Mar. 16 Cinna’s Conspiracy 13 0 0
1718 Oct. 1 The Nonjuror 105 0 0
      No price or date.
      Mrytillo, A pastoral,
      Rival Fools,
      Heroic Daughter,
      Wit at Several Weapons.”

27 Although acted six times it could not be considered extremely successful. According to Genest, III, 162, Nichols speaks of having made merry with a party of friends over the pasteboard swans, on the first night of its production.

28 III, 161.

29 Das Verhaeltniss von Cibber’s Tragoedie Caesar in Egypt zu Fletcher’s The False One.

30 Op. cit., p. 223.

31 Cibber no doubt used Rowe’s translation (1710).

32 Compare, for instance, the general idea of the exposition In Act I.

33 Lucan ends before this incident, but Rowe continues the narrative, using the same material as The False One.

34 Genest. IV, 146, says that it had not been acted since 1695, though he records the performances in 1737 and 1738.

35 It is to be noted that efforts were made to deprive Cibber of credit for his work not only in this play but also in The Non-Juror and The Refusal.

36 The History of the Theatres of London and Dublin, II, 49.

37 Davies, Dramatic Miscellanies, I, 5. For a characteristic example of the criticism to which Cibber was subjected, see Fielding’s Historical Register for the Year 1736, Act III.

38 For full discussion of the relationship between Cibber’s Richard III and Shakspere’s Richard III, see A. I. P. Wood, and Dohse. The whole subject of Shaksperian alterations is taken up in Lounsbury’s Shakspere as a Dramatic Artist, and in Kilbourne’s Alterations and Adaptations of Shakspere. It is curious that Lounsbury does not discuss Cibber’s Richard III, which is not only the most famous Shaksperian alteration but the only one of any real value.

39 The addition of parts from 3 Henry VI at the beginning of the play.

40 Tragedy, VIII and IX.

41 See especially throughout Ximena.

42 According to The Life of Aesopus, this “was said to be a silly tale collected from some dreaming romance,” but as the writer does not give the title of this romance and apparently had no knowledge of the play, his testimony is of no value.

43 “The furious John Dennis, who hated Cibber for obstructing, as he imagined, the progress of his tragedy, called The Invader of His Country, in very passionate terms denies his claim to this comedy: ‘When The Fool in Fashion was first acted,’ says the critic, ‘Cibber was hardly twenty-two years of age; how could he, at the age of twenty, write a comedy with a just design, distinguished characters, and a proper dialogue who now, at forty, treats us with Hibernian sense and Hibernian English?’” Davies, Dramatic Miscellanies, III, 410.

44 Jacob, Poetical Register, p. 38, suggests Otway’s Dare Devil (that is, The Atheist) as the source of the play, but it would take a vivid imagination to see the connection.

45 Das Verhaeltniss von Cibber’s Lustspiel Love Makes a Man zu Fletcher’s Dramen The Elder Brother und The Custom of The Country, p. 82.

46 It was acted in New York, January 15, 1883, by Miss Ada Rehan, under the management of Augustin Daly. See Lowe, Apology, II, 289. Genest records, VI, 23, that when it was performed at Covent Garden in 1778, “the applause was so strong in the second act, that the performers were obliged to stop for some time.”

47 This translation of three French novels, whose original source had been Spanish, was issued again in 1712 as Three Ingenious Spanish Novels. See Chandler, Romances of Roguery, New York, 1899, pp. 462–3. These novels are ultimately based on La Garduna de Sevilla of Castillo Solorzano. It is also to be noticed that the story appears in La Villana de Ballecas by Tirso de Molina, in La Ocasion hace al ladron, by Moreto, and in the story of Aurora in Le Sage’s Gil Blas. Dunlop, History of Prose Fiction, II, 475, states that She Would and She Would Not is taken from Gil Blas. Gil Blas was published thirteen years later than Cibber’s play.

48 Wilkes, General View of the Stage, p. 40, says that were the play curtailed of one scene he “would not fail to pronounce it not only the best comedy in English, but in any other language.”

49 Boswell’s Johnson, edited by G. Birkbeck Hill, London, 1891; I, 201.

50 Preface to The Double Gallant.

51 II, 173.

52 Apology, I, 243.

53 III, 209. See also Thomes Whincop’s Scanderbeg, (1747), p. 195. An account of the lives and writings of the English dramatists is annexed to this play.

54 Following the Scottish rebellion in 1715, Lord Derwentwater and Lord Kenmure were executed, February 24, 1716. The king’s pardon, which excepted forty-seven classes of offenders, appears in The Historical Register for 1717, II, 247; so that the excitement caused by the rebellion continued for some time. Doran’s London in Jacobite Times discusses this period in a most interesting manner.

55 The second title of The Female Virtuosoes.

56 Apology, II, 58.

57 Preface to The Good Natured Man.

58 See, for example, Steele and The Sentimental Comedy, by M. E. Hare, in Eighteenth Century Literature, An Oxford Miscellany, Oxford, 1909. This speaks of “Sentimental Comedy invented by the great essayist Sir Richard Steele.”

59 Macaulay, History of England, Chapter VII.

60 During the reign of Charles not every one had been in entire sympathy with the state of the theatre. Evelyn, in a letter to Viscount Carnbury, February 9, 1664–1665, in speaking of the acting of plays on Saturday evenings says: “Plays are now with us become a licentious excess, and a vice, and need severe censors that should look as well to their morality as to their lines and numbers.”

61 Traill, Social England, IV. 593.

62 The Laureat, p. 53. “I can remember, that soon after the publication of Collier’s book, several informations were brought against the players, at the instance and at the expense of the Society for the Reformation of Manners, for immoral words and expressions, contra bonos mores, uttered on the stage. Several informers were placed in the pit, and other parts of the house, to note down the words spoke, and by whom, to be able to swear to them and many of them would have been ruined by these troublesome prosecutions, had not Queen Anne, well satisfied that these informers lived upon their oaths, and that what they did, proceeded not from conscience, but from interest, by a timely nolle prosequi, put an end to the inquisition.”

63 The “Joan Sanderson” was a dance in which each one of the company takes part. It began by the first dancer’s choosing a partner, who in turn chose another, the chain continuing until each one had danced alone and with a partner. See G. C. M. Smith, Fucus Histriomastix, Introduction, p. xviii.

64 Apology, I, 85.

65 Ibid., I, 194–5.

66 Dramatic Miscellanies, III, 432.

67 See Miles, The Influence of Moliere on Restoration Comedy, 1910: published after this paper was written.

68 Celadon, in Dryden’s Marriage a la Mode, enters marriage with the distinct expectation that his wife will be untrue to him.

69 At the Restoration ten of the actors were attached to the household establishment as the king’s menial servants, and ten yards of scarlet cloth with an amount of lace were allowed them for liveries. This connection lasted until Anne’s time. Genest, II, 362.

70 Elizabeth Woodbridge, Studies in Jonson’s Comedies, Yale Studies in English, IV.

71 The Development of Sentimental Comedy in the Eighteenth Century, Anglia, XXX.

72 The Theatre, II, 511. By John Dennis. His temper and prejudice often destroy the value of his writings as impartial evidence, but in this case he is right.

73 The Man of Mode, V, ii.

74 The Funeral, I, i.

75 Davies, Dramatic Miscellanies, III, 412.

76 Ibid., III, 409.

77 The substitution of one person for another in the marriage ceremony, or a false marriage, are favorite devices of Congreve. See, for instance, The Old Bachelor and Love for Love.

78 The Elder Brother and The Custom of the Country.

79 Rutilio’s sojourn with Sulpita. The Custom of the Country, III, iii; IV, iv.

80 Which Vanbrugh portrayed in his play, The Relapse (1697).

81 The comic scenes from Marriage a la Mode and The Maiden Queen.

82 Centlivre, Love at a Venture; Burnaby, The Ladies Visiting Day, and The Reformed Wife.

83 The Ladies Visiting Day.

84 Love for Love, II, xi.

85 To the Reader, The Provoked Husband.

86 Cibber’s Lives of the Poets, IV, 120; Wilks, A General View of the Stage, p. 42.

87 R. M. Alden, Prose in the English Drama, Modern Philology, VII, 4.

88 Preface to Woman’s Wit.

89 Dedication of Love’s Last Shift.

90 Dedication of Love Makes a Man.

91 III, 100.



Vol. I   January 1, 1914   No. 2




Assistant Professor of Philosophy in the University of Kansas





Chapter I
The Relation of Philosophic Method to the Definition of Philosophy 9
Chapter II
Bergson’s Critique of Pure Reason 17
Chapter III
The Ancient Prejudice against Analysis 26
Chapter I
Ontology and Epistemology 37
Chapter II
Mind and Matter, Spirit and Body 64
Chapter III
Doctrine of Freedom 82
Chapter IV
Bergson’s Abhorrence of Determinateness 94
Chapter V
The Mystical Yearning of Intuitionism 102


In the second part of this essay material from two papers published in the Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods has been laid under contribution, and also from my doctor’s thesis. Much of this material was written in 1909, since which time a number of views which some of mine resemble more or less have been published. It has not seemed to me necessary always to note these agreements of thought arrived at independently by myself and others.

I have reported a part of the brilliant critique of Bergson’s doctrine of freedom by Monsieur Gustave Belot. This expresses with elegance and force much of my own reaction to the doctrine. Indebtedness to Belot and other authors is acknowledged throughout the essay. Except possibly Professor Bergson himself, there is no one who has influenced my thinking so much as Professor Ralph Barton Perry, my teacher who introduced me to Bergson’s philosophy. Professor Perry’s writings are full of finished renderings of less articulate convictions of my own; and, though I have often referred to and quoted from his work explicitly, his instruction and stimulus have had so much to do with the history of my thinking that I could never say just what I owe him, but only that I owe him much.

Professor Bergson has permitted me to translate from a private letter some comments of his on certain of my criticisms.

Professor Edmund H. Hollands has given the first two parts a careful reading, in the manuscript, and his able criticisms and suggestions, mainly concerning the matter itself, have been of great benefit.

I am no less obliged, for help in improving the literary form, to Professor S. L. Whitcomb, whose critical ability has been76 patiently applied to a careful revision, page by page, of the whole manuscript.

I have tried, in the third part, to justify explicitly the great and unique value which I attach to Professor Bergson’s work, antagonistic though my own convictions are to his results. And, besides this aim, it has seemed to me interesting and instructive, in view of the very considerable literature which has grown up about Bergson’s philosophy, to bring together in a comparative view the judgments of a number of his exponents.

For literature by and about Bergson, the reader is referred to the exhaustive bibliography prepared last year by the Columbia University Press under the direction of Miss Isadore G. Mudge, the Reference Librarian. “The bibliography includes 90 books and articles by Professor Bergson (including translations of his works) and 417 books and articles about him. These 417 items represent 11 different languages divided as follows:—French 170, English 159, German 40, Italian 19, Polish 5, Dutch 3, Spanish 3, Roumanian 2, Swedish 2, Hungarian 1.” This work is invaluable to the student of Bergson. It is incomparably the fullest Bergson bibliography extant.

Arthur Mitchell.

University of Kansas,

January, 1914.




Chapter I



One of the problems of philosophy is the nature of philosophy itself. In recognizing such a problem at all, I suppose, the beginning of its solution has been made. For the very question, what is this or that? is conditioned on an incipient definition of the subject of it, a discriminating acknowledgement of it as something in particular, and, so, as something already more or less qualified or defined. Certainly there would be no common problem and no difference of theory without such initial agreement as a point of reference in disagreeing.

But the explicit statement of this starting point of agreement encounters a practical dilemma. On the one hand, anything can be defined in terms so general that the thing is bound to be included: make the genus large enough and it includes anything. The limit, in this direction, would be to define the object as a case of being; which would be safe, but hardly a start toward determining anything about it. On the other hand, the least advance toward narrowing the meaning incurs a very rigorous obligation to produce a principle of selection which shall be a satisfactory logical warrant for narrowing it in just the way selected, since this way excludes others whose claims may be in question. The situation is thus beset with the pitfall of logical presumption.

There are three quite distinct conceptions of philosophy, in the form of ill criticized assumption, each of which is taken by its adherents to be unquestionable—as safe as the concept “being.” I will word them thus: (1) An absolute evaluation of reality; (2) A revelation of reality in its essential nature; (3) A comprehension of the meaning of reality.

80 The first of these conceptions is that of Kant and Fichte and those philosophers to whom reality seems unrelated to apprehending consciousness, related only to will. Reality is neither directly nor indirectly perceivable. Knowledge of it is possible—if the term is proper at all—only in the broadest sense of “knowledge,” the sense equivalent to “consciousness,” within which will is sharply distinguished from two more or less receptive or cognitive modes, thinking and feeling. Knowledge of reality is thus, for this type of philosopher, a practical, personal evaluation of it, only; a moral disposition or attitude.

The second conception is Professor Bergson’s; its meaning is a peculiarly intimate acquaintance with reality. It is a relationship between reality and consciousness in the æsthetic mode, consciousness as the quality-knowing faculty, very explicitly distinguished by Bergson, under the name “intuition,” from the relation-knowing or intellectual faculty.

The third conception, the analytic or intellectualistic, means knowledge about reality, such knowledge as may be relatively independent of acquaintance. The second and third conceptions are distinct from each other only in emphasis, and may be indefinitely approximated toward each other, to the limit of mutual identity. But, historically, the philosopher’s besetting sin of hypostasis has pushed the emphasis, in each of these two conceptions, to so vicious an extreme that they contrast with each other sharply. Pushed to such extreme, the third conception has been stigmatized by adherents of the second as “vicious” conceptualism or intellectualism. By the same right, the intellectualist may denounce intuitionism as equally “vicious.”

To these three conceptions of philosophy this is common: a relationship between reality and consciousness which is apogeal. Philosophy is at any rate a supreme experience, a mode of consciousness which is eminent over other modes. But this initial generalization is too indeterminate to constitute a satisfactory theory of the nature of philosophy; whereas (for the other horn of the dilemma), the above attempts at greater specificity appear to invoke no logical principle, but rather to follow a deep-lying personal instinct, without due critical reflection on it; in other words, without logical justification of it. They all beg the question.

Such ill criticized assumption concerning the nature of philosophy81 is what determines a philosopher’s “method” in distinction from his “doctrine.” The names voluntarism, intuitionism and rationalism have been applied to philosophies whose method is one or other of the three outlined above. Religion, art and science are their models, respectively. Under voluntarism fall the romantic and the pietistic philosophies, wherein value is all that is real, and personal attitude towards value is the only mode of consciousness that illuminates reality. Intuitionism includes radical empiricism, temporalism and mysticism. Such philosophies are based on the conviction that only quality is real, only intuition is knowledge. And under rationalism are positivism and absolutism, in which reality is order and knowledge is reason.

If art, science and religion correspond to the ancient triad feeling (intuition), thought (intellect) and will, it would seem either that philosophy must be consciousness employed in one or more of these modes, or else that a fourth mode of consciousness, coordinate with these, must correspond to philosophy. Such a mode has not been discovered. Philosophy must therefore be one or two or all three of the above things. Can analysis of that generalization which was derived above from the more specific definitions produce a logical principle capable of determining the genuine philosophic method among the three modes of consciousness, feeling, thought and will? Yes, such analysis of the supremacy which is a feature common to all three conceptions of philosophy proves unequivocally that philosophy must be a function of intellect, and cannot be a function either of will or of intuition.

This would not be the case, needless to say, if “supremacy” were here a eulogism. Eulogistically, either of the three modes of consciousness has equal claim to supremacy. That mode of consciousness to which reality is most interesting is supreme, in the eulogistic sense, and this depends on the philosopher’s personal constitution. To the man of dominating intuition, the relations and teleology of things may be incidental characters of them; but, by comparison with reality’s qualitative aspect, those other aspects are relatively extrinisic and accidental. In whatever sense it may not be true, in the eulogistic sense it is true that such a man’s supreme experience is intuitional rather than intellectual or ethical. Bergson’s psychological life seems to be of such a type. But, for the man of ethical, and for the man of intellectual82 prepossession, supreme experience cannot be intuitional, in this sense of supreme. Yet, if an intuitional bent be regarded by anyone as a hopeful qualification for effective philosophizing, no intuitionist denies to the man in whom reason or will, instead, is paramount, the possibility, by proper effort, of achieving the genuinely philosophic—that is to say, intuitional—activity. And when such a man does, in spite of difficulty, achieve it, it has the same supremacy, as philosophy, that it has for the intuitionist, for whom it is, more fortunately, also supremely congenial and “worth while”. It is not this latter supremacy, therefore, but the other, which distinguishes philosophy, on the intuitionist conception; and that other supremacy has a meaning which is thus proved to be independent of relation to any constitutional prepossession or aptness. If philosophy is intuitional, this is not because intuition is any man’s most characteristic faculty.

And so of the two other modes of consciousness, reason and will, in which, in different beings, according to their constitution, life most naturally and best finds realization: for each of these modes of consciousness, as for the intuitional mode, there is one sort of experience, called philosophy, which is distinguished by a certain supremacy of self-same nature, independent of any distinction of personal constitution among philosophers. The voluntarist, indeed, might claim a peculiarly eulogistic supremacy for volitional experience over any other kind; for it is ethically supreme for all, whatever one’s constitutional bent. But its ethical supremacy is no more the philosophic quale of volitional experience, on the voluntaristic conception of philosophy, than is its other eulogistic supremacy, its mere congeniality, for the strongly volitional type of character. For, men of such character may be conspicuously deficient in philosophic faculty in the judgment of all, including the voluntarist philosopher.

Reason, finally, commands recognition of supremacy, among the modes of consciousness, in another sense, a sense distinct from the imperative or ethical supremacy of will. The supremacy of reason is its exclusive reflectiveness; and reflectiveness as the quale of reason is the same character as criticalness; that is, it is the faculty of judgment. It is important to note that this critical reflectiveness is a differentia of reason; it is not a character of intuition nor of will. The proof is that reflection is the substitution of a relational for a substantive object of consciousness, and relationality83 is nothing else than rationality. Thus, if feeling, will and rational thought are conceptually distinct, reflectiveness is foreign to the first two, and to anything coördinately distinct from rational thought. When consciousness is employed with an emphasis on the qualities of its object, in distinction from aspects of value and relation (which also belong to any object), consciousness is intuitive, in the intuitionist sense of the term. In entering a consciousness, the qualities become, ipso facto, content of that consciousness, taking their place in this setting under the name “sensations,” or “sense data.” It is the act of reflection which “sets” the mind’s data in contexts; which is aware of contexts, that is, and of the setting of data in them. It is the reflective act which names its data accordingly, as “quality” or “sensation”, and is conscious of them as elements of their relational setting. Consciousness is volitional when its focus is a value. In the context of the subject’s consciousness, the value becomes a purpose. Thus value as substantive object of consciousness, again, is object of will just as the substantive quality was object of intuition; while value as element in the relational complex in which it is known as “purpose,” is object of reflection. Reason, then,—that is to say, mind active in the relation-knowing way—is the mode of consciousness in virtue of which mind is reflective, critical, judgment-forming; and it is a confusion among definitions of intuition, will and reason, to attribute reflectiveness to intuition or to will, as such. The peculiar supremacy of reason which inheres in reason’s reflectiveness is due to the inclusion of consciousness itself in the content of relational consciousness and of no other mode of consciousness.

Intuitionists and voluntarists, the same as intellectualists, do, as a fact, always characterize that supremacy which distinguishes philosophy, in no other way than the critical way. There is no dissent, in intuitionist or voluntarist schools of philosophic method, from this residual core of meaning in the conception of philosophy: by universal consent philosophy is consciousness (in whatever mode) sitting in judgment on its own findings; philosophy is critical reflection. And therein is an ultimateness and absoluteness—in a word, a supremacy—which belongs to philosophy, on any view of philosophy, and to no other type of mental activity. But in rationalism, or intellectualism, alone, it is recognized that reflection, as such, is essentially and distinctively rational.

84 It is, then, the contention of this essay that the supremacy peculiar to philosophy—which, by common consent of voluntarism and intuitionism, is no eulogistic nor even ethical supremacy, but critical—decides absolutely, among the three modes of consciousness, against will and intuition in favor of intellect, as the organ of philosophy, of intellectualism as the sole genuinely philosophic method. Kant called his voluntarism the “Critical Philosophy,” to distinguish it, as genuine philosophy, from what would be but failed (because it was not critical) to be philosophy. Critical his philosophy is; but because it is critical, it contradicts its own voluntarism—the assertion that reality is knowable only in obedience of will, and not in judgment. A contradiction; for this (the gist of his voluntarism) is a judgment whose subject is reality. The inevitable fundamental intellectuality of noumenal knowledge is concealed, for Kant, under the phrase “postulate of will.” A postulate, so far as it is genuine knowledge, has indeed the character of necessity, but its necessity is simply the fact of logical implication.

With the intuitionist variety, and particularly the Bergsonian variety of anti-intellectualism, this essay is largely to be concerned. At this point I merely note the inevitable contradiction in Bergson’s intuitionism, as in Kant’s voluntarism. Intuition, Bergson explains, is “instinct that has become disinterested, self-conscious, capable of reflecting upon its object and of enlarging it indefinitely.”92 Now, consciousness reflecting upon its own data is criticism, predication, classification, judgment—whatever it is, it is the objectifying of the data of consciousness, a thing which it is essential to instinct or intuition, on Bergson’s own conception of them, never to do, and which, precisely, on his conception, is the distinguishing function of intellect. “Instinct is sympathy,” says Bergson, in the same passage; and the sense in which instinct is sympathy is lucidly and emphatically explained as just this, that there is no distinction of subject and object, in instinct; they are identical. Whereas, intelligence or intellect is explicitly distinguished by him from instinct primarily in the disjunction85 of subject and object. It is merely to turn his back on his own use of these terms to describe philosophy as instinct extending its object and reflecting upon itself.

* * * * *

That the case of philosophical anti-intellectualism is a hopeless paradox, whether in voluntarism or in intuitionism, each of these methods itself best proves by its own inevitable intellectualism. The terms voluntarism, intuitionism, and rationalism express no real distinction of psychological mode, in philosophizing, since the psychology of every philosophy is necessarily characterized by that critical reflectiveness which constitutes philosophy a function of intellect. Philosophy is always interpretation, a function alien to what anybody ever meant either by will or by intuition; a function whose essential distinctness from both those functions is attested universally in such synonyms of “interpretation” as judgment, conception, understanding, reason.

There are, it is true, voluntaristic and intuitionistic, philosophies of the highest importance. And the intention of their authors is to distinguish their method from the rationalistic method. Are they foredoomed to futility on this account? So far as this intention is realized—yes, unquestionably. No philosophy that were itself a function either of will or of intuition is conceivable, since it would then lack the essence of philosophy, which is critical primacy. That philosophies designated by these methodological terms may be invaluable products, it is necessary only that these terms apply in fact not to the psychological method of the philosophy but to its psychological starting-point. They express a constitutional bias in the philosopher, who, after all, is human. To some the qualities of things; to others, value; and, finally, to other some, the order of reality is the “essence” of reality. Such essentialness is eulogism, of course. For it is an irreducible psychological fact that there are religious, æsthetic and scientific types of mind. Each to his bias; each to his taste. The apogee of living is religion to the first, art to the second, science to the third. Hence the illusion that philosophy, which must needs be experience supremely critical, is experience eulogistically supreme. Is not this illusion chargeable to failure to see in these three modes of consciousness three emphases or biases of living? To the æsthete, certainly, quality must be realest essence. But it cannot be so to the zealot; for, to him,86 that is value: nor to the intellectualist; to him it is order.

If æsthete and zealot will philosophize, they are at this disadvantage with the wise man, that their philosophy can do no more, in expressing the nature of this “realest essence” of reality, than the wise man’s rationalism may do—discourse about it, interpret it. Philosophy indeed never can, and never should aspire to enter into the inner nature of reality in any such sense as the immediatism of Bergson and James summons it to do. There is art and there is religion for that. It is not clear how the qualitative or how the teleological aspect of reality is more internal to it than its relational aspect; but, at any rate, philosophy has its own interest, and that is distinct from those of art and religion. Wherefore the own proper interest of art or of religion is not served in their philosophy; in their philosophy they deny themselves. The efforts of such philosophies to wrest from reality, in a non-intellectual way, its secret, must be rather superhuman. This characterization is hardly a burlesque of Bergson’s own observations on his method, for it is little less than the repudiation of our natural constitution, to which he exhorts us.93 But, as with Kant, so with Bergson, prodigies of subtlety fail to produce a revelation of truth that is so subtle as to be inarticulate because immediate, or that does not lend itself to discussion and interpretation. Or, if this is not to be looked for in a philosophy which is ‘a method rather than a doctrine,’ neither is there any suggestion how such revelation may be socialized, rendered human; or even, in fact, how it can assume meaning, meaning to the philosopher himself (which is surely indispensable to truth), without becoming predication—assertion and denial;—that is to say, without becoming judgment. If humans make superhuman effort, it should not be surprising if the result is self-contradiction.

Chapter II



What, then, is called philosophic “method” and is distinguished thereby from “doctrine,” is really, in fact, always the cardinal principle of the content of the philosophy in question, its fundamental doctrine. If this doctrine is acceptable to reason, if it is reasonable, logical principles must determine it. No anti-intellectualist philosophy legitimately evades the rules of the game of dialectic by the representation that it is a ‘method rather than a doctrine.’ For this is the game that anyone plays who undertakes to show, by reasonable discourse, why reality and knowledge conform to a certain definition, or (the same mental procedure) why they do not conform to other definitions. Since dialectic is just significant discourse with a meaning to be judged, it may vary in form between any degree of syllogistic baldness, at one extreme, and of suggestive subtlety at the other. It is dialectic if it is constituted of statements, explicit or implied, which relate to each other.

There is, therefore, I say, a misleading irrelevance in the characterization which Bergson himself has set the fashion of attributing to his philosophy, the characterization of it as rather a method than a system of doctrine. A method implies a system, that is to say an ordered conviction about the nature of reality and knowledge. Such a system is essential to any meaning in Bergson’s method.

* * * * *

Intellectualism in philosophy implies the conviction that the parts of reality are connected together in thinkable ways; that a comprehensive understanding of things as a connected system or unity is therefore theoretically possible; if actually impossible,88 this is merely because of the endlessness of relationships and the limitedness of any actual thinker’s time and strength. But in fact even human finitude is no obstacle to a comprehension of the principles of reality. Detail is immaterial to the unity of such a view.

One of the sayings attributed to Professor James is that there is one thing you can always pronounce with assurance, upon any philosophical system, in advance of hearing a word of it, and that is that it is false. This suggests at any rate, very well, the meaning of philosophical anti-intellectualism, which implies the conviction contradictory to intellectualism, to wit that the parts of reality are not connected in thinkable ways.

The connectedness of the intellectualist’s universe may have any degree of significance or casualness. A mere “and” may express much of it.94 Intellectualism may be as pluralistic in this sense as you like, or as monistic. But if things are a universe in any such sense that they are comprehensible in intellect’s discursive way, which anti-intellectualism denies—on such a hypothesis anti-intellectualism and intellectualism have commonly agreed that some principle is embodied in this total comprehensibleness, a supreme induction, which would constitute the final interpretation of any fact. Like a master-key, it would open all the chambers of the many-mansioned universe. Every philosopher, as a fact, has some controlling thought which has the value, for him, of such a supreme principle. But always, it seems, there are doors which the master-key will not unlock. It is the conviction of intellectualism that this is because the maker of the key has missed them, and so left them out of account in fashioning it; while anti-intellectualism believes it is an illusion to see the situation as a case of locks to be turned by a key, at all. Entrance into possession of reality is otherwise conditioned, altogether; the procedure, in consequence, is radically different from this. But it is, I think, a true historical generalization that the success with which a philosopher, of whatever method, avoids a supreme principle of interpretation, corresponds exactly with the success with which he avoids being a philosopher at all. I suppose Omar Khayyam and Aristippus the Cyrenaic89 are two of the least unifying philosophers of history; yet their philosophy, like that of any absolutist, can be resumed in a single idea. Omar has uttered it in one of his own famous sentences: “Oh take the cash, and let the credit go!”

Aside from the presence, in each, of a generative principle, there is little enough in common between the anti-intellectualism of Omar and that of Henri Bergson. If critics have been able to find seeds of skepticism and of pessimism in Bergson,95 these characters are at any rate foreign to any intention visible in its author. No more positive philosophy, in its intention, was ever composed. The positiveness of its name, intuitionism, is altogether proper. Its significance, to be sure, is sharply defined by its negative relation to intellectualism, and therefore I stated it negatively above as the thesis that the parts of reality are not connected in a thinkable way. But the intuitionist would readily admit: if not in a thinkable way, then in no way, evidently. And, again, if not connected at all, no more are the parts of reality disconnected, since any disconnection between things is only their particular mode of connection. The fact is, reality has no parts, and that is just why intellect, which sees parts in everything, is alien and blind to the true nature of reality. Still one may object that intellect is itself a fact. What possible meaning can there be in saying that any fact is alien to reality? As Bergson himself has said, we swim in reality, and cannot possibly get clear of it. We cannot talk, we cannot think, we cannot act about nothing.

The answer to this objection is the master principle of Bergson’s metaphysics: reality is life. Knowledge is “sympathetic” living. If intellect is real, so is every abstraction, e. g., the inside of your hat. The inside and the hat itself are at any rate real in senses so importantly different that “real” and “unreal” hardly exaggerate the contrast. Intellect, says Bergson, is the cross-sectioning of reality. There is no thickness, no concreteness in it. It exists as much in inert matter as in consciousness; in fact, it exists in neither except in the sense in which a surface can be said to exist in a solid body. What is the surface in itself? Why, nothing; it is an abstract aspect of the body. The body is real,90 but its aspects are not real, because they do not constitute the body—no multiplication or addition of them does so. No millions of surfaces make any thickness. In this sense the surface is other than and alien to the real nature of the body. And so other manifestations of intellect—space, juxtaposition, extension, number, part out of part—have no existence, as the surface has none.

As facts, nevertheless, what are they? How are they facts? What is their raison d’ être? Their raison d’ être is a faculty life has, the faculty of action. They are the ways in which life acts. They are not concrete entities. In this, they are alien to the concreteness of reality. Try to reconstruct reality out of such abstractions, and the result is a construction like that of geometrical imagination. You have constructed an abstract symbol of the reality, which symbol the mind, preoccupied with its practical bias, can mistake for the reality only because it is so preoccupied.

When we physically take apart and put together, our manual activity has the same unreality of abstractness as that of our intellectual analyses and syntheses. It is the latter outwardly expressed, intellect externalized. Wherever we find life, we are experiencing reality. But when this occurs, we are never analyzing nor synthesizing. The more one divests himself of practical bias, and regards his object not as an object for the realization of any possible activity of his own, but as it is in itself—in proportion, that is, as one gets its character as a case of life—those unreal, spatial aspects of it yield to an aspect which has nothing in common with them. The parts of an anatomical model, a papier maché manikin, you may separate and put together again. An organism, as such, a manifestation of life, could not be dissected and recomposed in its living reality. What is it that makes an organism alive, a true reality? This, that every so-called part has a function which is so essential to the true function of the whole that one is present or absent with the other. They coincide. How, then, could you possibly dissect out a part of an organism? Once recognize, what is unquestionable, that any function of it coincides in this way with the function of the whole, and your analyzing operation is prevented absolutely. Obey the rule that everything which contributes at all to the function of the part shall be taken, and everything else left, and you are in Shylock’s position after Portia’s judgment: if you want the flesh you will91 have to take blood with it; but you are not entitled to the blood. It is even more hopeless than that. It is not a matter of skill with your hand. You cannot make the analysis mentally, intellectually. It is not a matter of impairing or destroying the function, of injuring or killing the organism. You cannot begin the operation, not even on the corpse. The first incision separates cells whose functions were inseparably one, for there is no cell in the body that is not in organic union with every other cell.

If there is nothing of the nature of mosaic composition in the living structure, this fact is one with the fact that there is nothing mechanical in its functioning. It is not actuated from without, as every machine is actuated which is not alive; nor is its functioning, like that of such machines, an assemblage of functions predetermined so far as the machine itself is concerned—predetermined, that is to say, except for intervention from without; unalterable, as unstartable, without external cause. The character of living function is suggested by the word “focalization.” There is a perfectly indivisible concert of function throughout the organism, in every one of its infinite varieties of activity. When the engineer reverses his engine, or otherwise alters its mode of operation, what he really does is to alter the structure of the machinery. The machinery has been specially constructed with a view to unmaking and remaking its nature more or less quickly and conveniently; that is, its parts can be displaced and replaced with reference to each other. Some parts are “thrown out of gear” and shifted back. And then everything returns to its former state. Not so in life. The functioning of an organism never remains quite the same in two consecutive instants. There is an incessantly moving emphasis or focus in it. Now one of its potentialities of function is primary or focal, now another. But none can ever cease and then be resumed. In this case, to cease is not to be thrown out of gear, but to die, to perish, to be annihilated. In every phase of the life activity of the organism, all its functions are operative, subsidiary and subservient in varying degrees to that one which for the moment is the focus of all. Thus the organic or vital focus, in its physiological aspect of activity and in its psychological aspect of attention, is never at rest. The modulation is not like the sudden transformations in a kaleidoscope. The evolutions do not take place in the manner suggested by the phrase “Presto, change!” Modulation is the92 word that describes the process. Or, as Bergson phrases it, the change is continuous, incessant, an interpenetrating flow of processes, in which analysis can make no beginning and no separation; in which analysis, in fact, is absolutely impotent. If the eye is that which sees, the ear that which hears, and so on, it is really the organism entire, and no special, locally differentiated part of it that is the organ. Those so-called parts which, with our false intellectualism, we name the eye or other organ, are, in their reality, focal aspects of the entire organism, the organism seen with a certain restriction or limitation of interest.

But, now, how can one make any discourse about, say, an animal organism—indeed, how can this become an object of perception at all—without its lending itself to that sort of division into real parts which Bergson says is an intellectual falsification of its true nature, and therefore not true knowledge of the thing? When I look at a living body, do I not see it occupying space? Is it not, then, measurable? Is not one such body larger than another? Suppose cutting out parts of a body does alter or kill the organism: they can, neverless, be cut out, and are therefore parts? If, after, and because of, being cut out, they are then not parts of the organism from which they were cut, still, they are constituents of its volume. Surely, our ordinary speech about this part and that part of our bodies, is not all false?

Bergson’s answer is uncompromising: our ordinary perception and speech does falsify the nature of reality, but (in spite of the apparent paradox) does not mislead. For our ordinary perception and speech have nothing to do with knowing. Perception is a different function of life—it is action. Our percepts are the ways in which reality can factor in our activities. Those dissected organs, you say, are at least so much of the entire volume of the organism: but the words are no sooner spoken than their falseness shows itself. If the organism ever had volume, it certainly has not, now—neither volume nor anything else. The fact is, the only meaning there is in its ever possessing volume while it still exists, is just that you might enter into activity with it in such and such ways—as that, for instance, of hacking it up. Perception, our “virtual” or potential activity on reality, is an abstract aspect of it; what it is in itself is another matter, and the only knowledge of this is that sympathetic union with it in which space and parts disappear in an “interpenetrating flow”93 not of things nor of parts, but of process, of ceaseless change. Now, quality is just the fact of change, as anyone may test for himself by introspection. Reality as it is in itself, therefore, the true nature of reality, is quality. Relations are external views or aspects, no multiplication of which makes any start at constituting a concrete reality.

There is one more reflection on Bergson’s account of intellect, which, like those made above, he anticipates and tries to meet, so far as it seems an objection to denying cognitive validity to intellect. The attempt at this point, however, is not very convincing. The point I mean is this: The ways in which reality can factor in my activities are by that warrant true characters of reality. One may cheerfully add: even as the inside of my hat is, after all, a true character of my hat. For, if reality were different, it could not factor so in my activity—in other words, which would also be the words of plain common sense, I should perceive it differently, on Bergson’s own conception of what it means to perceive. The situation is this: Reality does, indeed, possess those interesting aspects of changing process and undividedness which Bergson is so preoccupied with and which he has brought to light with exquisite skill. This is one of two equally important truths about reality. The other Bergson is simply blind to, and that is that reality also possesses an aspect of permanence and divisibility. Does this seem a contradiction? It is no more a contradiction than that a curve is both convex and concave. It is not only not a contradiction: each of these antipodally opposite aspects of reality is absolutely indispensable to the very conception of the other, just as concavity is indispensable to the conception of convexity, east to the conception of west, right to the conception of left— and vice versa. This point is resumed below (pp. 77–9, 96). The object in view at present is to see how the philosopher’s method is really his primary doctrine, in which object I am not in controversy with anyone, so far as I know; but also to see how an anti-intellectualist method depends upon a purely arbitrary, or rather constitutional, psychological prepossession for a certain emphasis of living.

I said that Bergson is entirely awake to the aptness of the objection just raised to his account of intellect. In a sense, in certain passages, he even seems to grant the truth of the contention.94 Action, he acknowledges, for instance,96 can be involved only with reality; and consequently the forms of perception and the categories of intellect (which are those forms rendered elaborately precise) “touch something of the absolute.” Sound truth, assuredly! The fitness of reality to enter as object into those active relationships which are the perceptive and intellectual categories makes the categories as genuinely own to the true, essential nature of objective reality as to the nature of subjective intelligence. That the categorization of reality depends on the real object’s being in relation to something else than itself is nothing peculiar to this (the categorical) character of reality. The same condition is common to every character of reality. The qualitative aspect of reality, which Bergson usually regards as the nature of reality “in itself,” depends no less than its relational or categorical aspect on the relatedness of the object. For the qualities of things are nothing but the differences they make—to consciousness or to other things. Reality not in relation is simply a phrase without a vestige of meaning. Reality “in itself” in such a sense is merely nonsense. It would seem, therefore, as if Bergson should account the intellectual mode of consciousness, which does indeed “touch something of the absolute,” as knowledge of precisely the same metaphysical status as a mode which touches anything else of the absolute. It is one thing for a mode of consciousness to be uncongenial or uninteresting to you or me; it is another for it to be invalid. The uncongeniality of a mode of consciousness depends on personal idiosyncrasy; the invalidity of a mode of consciousness depends on the logical nature of being.

As a fact, however, perhaps because this preference between two aspects of the nature of reality depends so obviously on personal bias instead of logical principles, Bergson vacillates, in a hopelessly confused and confusing way, all through his writings, between two conceptions of reality. First, reality is of one nature, namely life, which is pure quality, change, or duration (the four terms are actually synonyms to Bergson), and knowledge of which can be only sympathetic intuition of it, while intellect is merely “an appendage of action,” and not knowledge at all. In the other conception reality is cleft into a dualism more unutterably95 absolute than that of Descartes. Life is one kind of reality; inert matter is the other. Intuition knows the former; intellect really does know the latter (‘touching something of the absolute’), and knowledge is therefore not intuition only. Although this vacillation confuses issues in every one of Bergson’s books, the first conception is more characteristic, upon the whole, of Time and Free Will and of Creative Evolution; the other conception is pretty consistently expounded in Matter and Memory. The sphere of intellect is restricted; its cognitive validity is not explicitly denied within this sphere, but only within the domain of life. To be sure, since life exhausts reality, the sphere allotted to intellect is not real, which would seem to imply that intellect fails to know. The validity of intellectual consciousness is thus, in effect, denied equally in either case. The only difference is that the denial is conscious and explicit in one case, more or less unconsciously implied in the other.

Chapter III



The restrictive conception of intellect is a very old one. The incompatibility of intellect and life, as cognitive organ and object, is certainly as old a belief as the era of the Sophists. It can be said, that is, with historical certainty, that, from the time of Protagoras—and I have no doubt it has been true ever since the first philosopher, whoever he was, undertook to make an examination of the universe as one thing—it has always been true that many of the best minds have been convinced, by the futile results of such undertakings, that the universe as one thing, on one hand, and intellect, on the other, make a pair as incompatible, in the relation of cognitive organ and object, as the faint star and the fovea: you have an organ and an object which by nature are unsuited to each other. That kind of organ cannot see that kind of object. Not that the faint star is invisible, but, to see it, you musn’t look! Then it will swim into the field of the organ that is made to see it, the retinal tissue surrounding the fovea. Thus it is not a question of human finitude or limitation. The formulæ of intellect, applied to such an object, are mere silliness, reducible, as Kant showed, to all manner of antinomy and paradox. Not only that, but whatever is most important and interesting within this whole, everything concerning the nature and meaning of concrete cases of life, eludes and baffles conceptual statement,—which is the only kind of statement there is,—inevitably eludes it, like smoke in a child’s hand who tries to catch it. Your essences or definitions, of life or any of its manifestations, are stuff and nonsense, not inadequate, but absurd. What logical sentence has ever been uttered that, upon the least reflection, does not fail to develop into a grotesquely false caricature97 when applied to any genuine phase or interest of life, great or small—whether God, freedom, immortality, or the heart of a woman, or of a child, or of a man (to take them in a descending order of their unsearchableness)? You may labor your conception with prodigious precision—the truth of the matter is always beyond, when you are speaking of matters that are real.

This is the artist’s temper of mind when the artist has inadvertently gulped down a noxious dose of metaphysics. It is the feeling of the novelists, the dramatists, the poets, that Bergson voices: life may be lived—nobly or basely, courageously or cowardly, truly or falsely;—and the flavor and significance of life may be heightened, life may be realized more abundantly, in artistic activity, which is putting oneself into one’s object, making it become not an object, identifying oneself with it. But one thing is not given to man, and that is to interpret life.

Everyone is familiar with the telling dramatic force of the device which consists in involving a philosophical hero, a man addicted to principles of high generality, in sudden overwhelming emotional chaos, in which all his philosophy goes to smash. The refractoriness of sexual love, for instance, to all his theories is such a delicious reductio ad absurdum of the theories. First you make your philosopher develop his maxims, in a besotted, fatuous conviction of their infallibility: then a particularly impossible she enters, one who is conspiciously unfitted, by artlessness or disabilities of worldly station, for the upsetting of principles great and high. The philosopher goes through his paces, eating his maxims whole, with unction; and you have the spectacle of Life rising serene, untouched, above the futilities of theory. The theory doesn’t work. The obvious conclusion is that there is some fundamental incommensurability between it and the simple facts of life that can flout it so. Simon the Jester is a very delightful example of what I mean. Simon is bound to come to grief, he is so smugly philosophical. The wise novel-reader knows what to expect. Not that philosophy is not an ornament to a man, a civilizing, disciplining exercise. All that is one thing, but acting as if such notions apply is quite another. This good philosophical chap gives the result of his philosophy in regulating his life, as follows:

“Surely no man has fought harder than I have done to convince himself of the deadly seriousness of existence; and surely98 before the feet of no man has Destiny cast such stumbling-blocks to faith ... No matter what I do, I’m baffled. I look upon sorrow and say, ‘Lo, this is tragedy!’ and hey, presto! a trick of lightening turns it into farce. I cry aloud, in perfervid zeal, ‘Life is real, life is earnest, and the apotheosis of the fantastic is not its goal,’ and immediately a grinning irony comes to give the lie to my credo.

“Or is it that, by inscrutable decree of the Almighty Powers, I am undergoing punishment for an old unregenerate point of view, being doomed to wear my detested motley for all eternity, to stretch out my hand forever to grasp realities and find I can do naught but beat the air with my bladder; to listen with strained ear perpetually expectant of the music of the spheres, and catch nothing but the mocking jingle of the bells on my fool’s cap?

“I don’t know. I give it up.”

Giving it up is obviously the moral, here. The change of attitude implied in the last words marks the beginning of an era of glorious fulfilment of life in the former philosopher’s history. What was necessary was that he should stop theorizing and learn to live. That is, philosophy, as supreme experience, is the art of living. It is the artist that really knows, that knows inwardly and truly. The genuine philosopher is the artist in living. The intellectualist philosopher is a dissector of life’s defunct remains.

The nature of the opposition between the two modes of consciousness called intuition and intellect is discussed in the chapter on Bergson’s epistemology. The intuitionist philosopher is such never for logical reasons, always for temperamental reasons. He is a man to whom life is richer and fuller, more self-fulfilling, more natural, in the intuitional mode of consciousness than in the intellectual. Hence the suspicious and disparaging disposition toward the intellectual mode of consciousness, in a very numerous class of minds of the highest order. From a personal feeling of safety and security in intuition and of dissatisfaction with intellectual efforts, the transition is natural to a conviction that the trouble is in the essential nature of intellect. A mode of consciousness which is so inveterately and (presumably) inevitably beset with self-frustration cannot be knowledge. It is too obviously the opposite of knowledge, to wit error and delusion.

But once the opposition has reached this point, where not only the convenience but the very validity of intellect is impugned,99 one is involved in a disjunction between these two modes of consciousness that is demonstrably false, both logically and psychologically. It is surely a false hypostasis of terms whose distinction is merely abstract, to set over against each other in this way two aspects which are equally essential to any conception of the nature of consciousness. For intuition and intellect can be seen to imply each other with the same necessity with which quality and quantity imply each other. And there is the same absurdity, on the side of epistemology, in regarding intuition as valid knowledge and intellect as not valid, as, on the side of ontology, in regarding quality as real and quantity—or relation in general—as not real. As if either were conceivable except as a co-aspect or coefficient with the other, in the nature of reality. This would be to conceive of quality as quality of nothing, or relation as relation between no terms.

If philosophy must be reflective (and reflectiveness to some degree is undoubtedly an inevitable condition of human consciousness, perhaps of any consciousness), it must be, quatenus philosophy, intellectual, and not, quatenus philosophy, intuitional. Intuition will assuredly be there, in any philosophy, as the pole is inseparable from its antipodes. But the philosophicalness of philosophy is just its reflectiveness; that is, once more, quatenus philosophy, it is intellectual.

I am recording a protest against false reification of what is abstract, the very fault which intuitionism is insistent to lay to the charge of intellectualism. If intuitionism were to conceptualize intuition and intellect, instead of reifying them, it could not appropriate validity to either mode of consciousness and deny it to another. The satisfactoriness and richness of a given mode of consciousness depend no doubt on the constitution of the subject. The validity of consciousness in any mode has nothing to do with such personal idiosyncrasy.

James is less rigorous concerning the validity of relational knowledge than Bergson. Having found relations in the immediate content of conscious data, James cannot deny them an essential constitutiveness in the nature of reality. But such knowledge is “thin” and “poor”, in his homely and human phraseology. This is only a more naïve and genial expression than Bergson’s of the purely eulogistic primacy of quality over relation. Relations are thin and poor aspects of reality, no doubt,100 if you find them so. Otherwise they may be supremely interesting. That depends on your interests, which depend on your constitution. In any case, they are the aspect of reality primarily indispensable to reflective thought, which is philosophy.

* * * * *

The characteristic which is most sedulously imputed by the philosophy of instinct to intellect is usefulness, but this characteristic is treated as evidence of cognitive invalidity! In point of fact, serviceableness to action in no way distinguishes intellect from instinct. Each alike is a reactive state resulting in a new situation, a new arrangement of matter; and the only thing that can give true finality to the intelligent act is the affective value of the conscious state arising out of this new situation. But the same is true of the situation which is the outcome of the instinctive act.

The distinction sometimes seems to mean that it is only acquaintance with objects (intuitive knowledge of them) that has affective value, and that this kind of consciousness is therefore an end in itself in a sense in which intellect is not. For knowledge about the object (intellectual knowledge of it) will then be supposed to have no affective value in itself, but only as it may subserve action upon the object, which action will be accompanied by acquaintance with the object. But if knowledge about an object subserves acquaintance with it, the converse is no less true. If knowledge of the location and price of a tennis ball subserves my use of it and acquaintance with it, the latter in turn subserves my knowledge about it in an indefinite number of respects. True, acquaintance with an object may not always lead to knowledge about it so obviously as in the case of the tennis ball; but again it is equally true that knowledge about certain things, for instance lines drawn upon the blackboard, has no obvious leading toward utility; the utility of a certain mathematical equation may seem quite inscrutable. But how obvious the leading may be, or how interesting the utility, is nothing to the point. The question whether or not the connection is necessarily there in all cases is answered peremptorily a priori by the polar character of knowledge by virtue of which acquaintance-with is only an aspect of knowledge-about, and vice versa.

It is flagrantly untrue, as a fact, that knowledge-about is without affective value in itself. Experience is as emphatic to the101 contrary as reason. If a characteristically intellectual state of mind gives you less satisfaction, or more, than one that is characteristically intuitive, the reason is quite personal and accidental in either case. It may just as well give you more as less. Being knowledge in each case, awareness at least, it has its affective value in some degree necessarily, of whichever character it may be predominantly.

* * * * *

Since relation is not divorcible from quality, nor intellect from intuition, it results that, if the artist blunders through critical defect, even better art would, of itself, have saved him in spite of his critical defect. If the mustiness of the philosopher is expressible as lack of a facile instinct, merely a truer theory of life would have corrected him. No doubt life is too intricate for the most robust capacity for ratiocination. Sanity balances securely between the two biases of consciousness. Art and criticism are equally long, and the middle course a is short-cut and an economy of living. But condemnation of the validity of consciousness in any mode is a theoretical proposition irrelevant to maxims of practical sagacity. And it implies either condemning the validity of all consciousness (if intuition and intellect are aspects of each other) or else it presupposes that reality is not categorical, which Bergson fails to show. On page 24 of the present essay, we have seen that he seems, in an inconsistent way, even to maintain the contradictory thesis.

In a former paper97 I have written as follows:

“Now, Bergson’s idea of the philosopher—an artist in life—is probably no one’s else. He is of that opinion, decidedly; a considerable part of the book [Creative Evolution] is a demonstration that actual philosophers, from Plato on, are intellectualists all, dissectors, not artists. But if Bergson’s enterprise is to be a substitute for philosophy and appropriate its name, we who are much addicted to the old enterprise will be careful to know why it is futile and illusory.”

Monsieur Bergson comments on this in a private letter from which I translate:

“It would be so, I recognize, if these intellectualist philosophers had been philosophers only in virtue of their intellectualism. But102 whereas intelligence pure and simple professes to solve the problems, it is intuition alone that has enabled them to be put. Without the intuitive feeling of our freedom, there would be no problem of freedom, hence no determinist theory; thus, the different forms of determinism, which are so many forms of intellectualism, owe their very existence to something which could not have been obtained by the intellectualist method. For my part, I find, more or less developed, the seeds of intuitionism in most of the great philosophic doctrines, although the philosophers have always tried to convert their intuition into dialectic. Yet it is chiefly in the former that they have been philosophers.”

This seems to me an absolute inversion of intuition and intellect. Does intuition ‘put problems’? It is, certainly, intuition that gives us the material of our problems. But the formulating of a problem—what can be meant by intuition’s formulating anything? Giving forms, I should say, just defines the work of intellect. Intuition gives us our facts, our material. Surely, the putting of problems is an intellectual operation continuous, even identical, strictly, with their solution? A problem well put is rather more than half solved. Certainly the remainder of the solution is not a different order of activity. It carries out the ‘putting’ in its implications. A problem put is only a problem incompletely solved.98 Solving it is putting it with a satisfactory perspicacity.

Without the intuitive feeling of our freedom there would be no problem of freedom, certainly, but you might easily have the intuition without the problem. In the preface to the Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience, Bergson insists that it is the aberrations of intellect that give rise to the problems of freedom. Intellect, then, at any rate, not intuition, puts the problem.

As correlative modes of consciousness, neither is independent, nor primary, of course. Even in the putting of our problems, intellect is only a co-factor, a coefficient with intuition. And in the most abstract reasoning, the intuitive coefficient of thought is indispensable. So far as intellect is actual, concrete knowledge, it must be intuitively correlated, and so far as intuition is the real intuiting of anything, it must be intelligently correlated.

In what respect are the philosophers of whom Monsieur Bergson103 speaks intuitionists? Does this mean anything more than that they are wide-reaching and far-reaching instead of narrow and dull in their apprehension? Is not philosophy interpretation of experience? Is not the philosopher’s vision, therefore, always necessarily, just so far as he is a philosopher, a vision of the formal aspect of reality? To be sure, that is just what Monsieur Bergson is denying. But his reason is that reality is pure quality, a proposition whose logical faultiness and temperamental genesis I have sufficiently noted.

In view of the temperamental basis of the artistic and the philosophical or critical attitudes, it were fatuous for either to propose a reform in the other by way of conformity to a mode distinguished from it thus radically. It is this fatuity which it seems to me Bergson commits in regarding the success of any philosophy as due, by any possibility, to its becoming art instead. As well conceive that the virtue of an artistic product consists in its conformity to critical canons.

Philosophy that is false to art would therein necessarily be false to philosophy; and art that is false to philosophy is false to art; but art is not philosophy, nor philosophy art.




Chapter I



My reason for coupling these two subjects in one heading is suggested by the following words quoted from the Introduction to Creative Evolution: “... theory of knowledge and theory of life seem to us inseparable.” For Bergson, reality is life; and knowledge, of course, is a function of life. “The fundamental character of Bergson’s philosophy,” writes H. Wildon Carr,99 “is ... to emphasize the primary importance of the conception of life as giving the key to the nature of knowledge.”

All the essential principles of this metaphysics are contained in the first of Bergson’s philosophical books, Time and Free Will.100 The two later books, Matter and Memory and Creative Evolution, have not modified it, and have hardly even developed it—in the sense, that is, that no vital corrections or additions to the principles of the Essai have been made.

* * * * *

In discussing anti-intellectualistic philosophies, in the first part of the present essay, their suspicion and distrust of intellect was attributed to a logical illusion. The philosopher, finding life preeminently satisfactory in an intimate acquaintance with the qualitative aspect of experience, acquires an instinctive faith in the preeminent reality of quality, a faith which is the deepest root of his being. Now, this faith is absolutely justified, of course. It is only necessary that it should be understood. Illusion and error enter in with the neglect of the very preeminence of this character of reality. For evidently nothing can be preeminently108 real and at the same time real in any sense for which the adverb “preeminently” is either false or meaningless. The sense of “important” is a well accredited, proper meaning, in our language, of the word “real.” But it is a sense perfectly distinct from the metaphysical sense. Teleologically, anything is preeminently real according to circumstances. Teleologically, “real” is a synonym of “important,” a relative term capable of degree. Metaphysically, circumstances are irrelevant to the realness of anything. This is a different statement from the statement that circumstances are irrelevant to the nature of anything. It may be that there is nothing whose nature can be independent of, wholly undetermined by, circumstances. That is another question. We have nothing to do with it at present. For in either case, circumstances make it neither more nor less real. Metaphysically, then, “real” is an absolute term, incapable of degree, and the adverb “preeminently” has no meaning when applied to it. The very fitness of the adverb “preeminently” to the intuitionist’s meaning of the realness of quality determines this meaning as a teleological eulogism, and the ultimate significance of intuitionism is not the germination of a logical principle, but an instinctive propagandism in the direction of a favorite emphasis of living, an enthusiasm which has become involved in a logical illusion concerning its own foundation in the nature of things, an illusion which is clearly traceable, on analysis, to this ambiguity in the use of the word “real.”

Later in this study it will appear that Bergson’s interest centers, as the interest of French philosophy has centered ever since the Renaissance, in the problem of freedom. No doubt that very enthusiasm which motivates modern anti-intellectualism and gives it so positive a character, is a prime factor in its popular success. And in the case of Bergson, both the significance of his philosophy itself and the brilliant vogue it has achieved can be rightly appreciated only in the light of this central passion whose appeal to human nature is so universal and so profound. Anti-intellectualism and anti-determinism are one and the same thing. It will appear as we go on that a deep-lying tychism, a horror of determinism, is the specific trait of that motive (described above as a natural affinity for the qualitative aspect of reality, as distinguished from its relational aspect) which strenuously endeavors, in Bergson, to eliminate relation from reality,109 judgment from knowledge. He protests that freedom cannot be defined without converting it into necessity; for definition is determination. A would-be indeterminist theory of will is as futile as a determinist theory is false: on any theory, will is prejudged in favor of determinism. The nature of freedom cannot be known independently of the nature of will, and then attributed or denied to will, as one might attribute or deny redness to an apple. To say, Will is free, would be like saying, Will is voluntary, or, Freedom is free—not, indeed, an untruth, but without meaning and hence not a truth, either.

The one way, then, of getting the true nature of will truly comprehended which is doomed to necessary failure, is to write a psychological treatise on the subject. For, since will has no such determinate character as intellect finds in it or gives to it, a treatise conveying the true nature of will would have to be unintelligible! Now, see in will, as Leibniz101 and Schopenhauer, as well as Bergson, have seen in it, the whole of life and of reality, and you see how it is Bergson’s tychism that constitutes the specific motive for his anti-intellectualism, and how this so-called method forms, in his philosophy, the supreme doctrine which is the objective of all his discourse.

* * * * *

Bergson’s critique of intellectualism proceeds by applying to110 traditional metaphysics and epistemology his purely qualitative criterion of reality. Whether science, the product of intelligence, is physical, biological, or psychological, it is knowledge-about, and not acquaintance-with; its object is relation, and not reality; its objective is action, and not vision; its organ is intelligence, not instinct. But the object of philosophy is reality; its objective is vision; its organ instinct. The timeless, intellectual way in which science knows about, but never knows, is not the way of true philosophy. The philosopher, to know reality, must achieve a vital, sympathetic concurrence with its flow. To be known, reality must be lived, not thought. In Creative Evolution Bergson traces the genesis of instinct and intelligence to a primitive tendency, effort or spring of life (the élan vital) whose path bifurcates indefinitely in the course of its evolution. These elementary tendencies, instinct and intelligence, having issued from the same primitive tendency, are both present, at least in rudiment, in all forms of life; and it is the presence, though in a suppressed state, of instinct in man that must save philosophy from the cognitive emptiness of science, and give it a hold on the living fulness of reality.

In Time and Free Will the theory of “real duration,” which is a synonym for intuition, and for life, and for reality, and is the foundation of the Bergsonian philosophy, is enunciated, and in the light of it intellect is shown to falsify the nature of consciousness in applying to conscious states such categories as magnitude, plurality, causation. Each of these categories, in its traditional application, is a quantifying and a spatializing of consciousness. The intensity of a conscious state is nothing but the state itself; the state is pure quality or heterogeneity, incapable of measure and degree. The variousness of conscious states has no analogy with plurality. Plurality is simultaneity and juxtaposition; but conscious states prolong each other in an interpenetrating flow. Finally, the organization of conscious states is nothing like the traditional systematic “coördination” of associationistic psychology. It does not lend itself to laws and principles. It cannot be adequately expressed by words, nor artificially reconstructed by a juxtaposition of simple states, for it is always an absolutely new and original phase of our duration, and is itself a simple thing.

The first chapter of Time and Free Will consists of analyses of111 all sorts of psychological states, in order to justify the above thesis concerning intensity. They are masterly analyses, and their interest for psychology is great. So far as Bergson’s object is concerned, of showing how intellect falsifies the nature of consciousness in conceiving of sensations as more or less intense, what the chapter proves is no more than that whenever a conscious state varies—which every conscious state does continuously—it varies qualitatively. Which hardly needed to be proved. For the argument does not show that, along with the qualitative change, a quantitative change may not occur; that is, it does not exclude the proposition which Bergson is trying to refute, namely that there is something in the nature of a conscious state that is capable of increasing and decreasing.102

In saying that conscious states are pure quality, Bergson means that when one compares a sensation, for instance, with another which is regarded as of the same “kind,” but of greater or less intensity, both the sameness of kind and the difference of magnitude are illusions of intellect, due to attributing the category of magnitude, or quantity, to that whose nature admits of no such determination. A so-called more intense odor, say, it is mere nonsense to call same in any sense with another, supposed to be less intense. The two are distinguishable, that is all; they are not comparable, properly speaking. They are comparable in just the sense, and in no other (it would seem, from Bergson’s treatment of the subject, although the statement is not his, explicitly) that either of the odors can be compared with a sound or a taste. The difference is not one of degree; it is what Bergson calls absolute.

But what, then, exactly, according to Bergson, do we mean when we compare psychic states as more or less intense? In simple states, he says, magnitude of cause is associated, by a thousand experiences, with a certain quality or shade of effect in consciousness, and the former is attributed to the latter. The quantitative scale rubs off color, so to speak, by the operation of association, from the material cause to the psychic effect. In complex states intensity means the amount of our inner life which the state in question colors with its own quality. A passion is deep and intense in the fact that the same objects no longer produce112 the same impression. In this statement of the case of complex states it will be seen that Bergson fails to avoid attributing quantity to the inner life of consciousness, since the intensity of complex states is measured, by him, by a quantitative standard, the amount of that inner life colored or affected by the quality in question.

The attempt is equally hopeless whether the state in question be simple or complex. Bergson attempts, but fails,103 to prove that magnitude is a character peculiar to space, and that homogeneity and space are two names for the same conception. Two odors, two sounds are more than one, however; and that homogeneity in them by virtue of which they are more, and two, is not space. Bergson would object that number itself, the twoness of the odors or sounds, is indeed a spatial attribute falsely imputed to them. They are not plural, in themselves; it is conceptualization that accounts for the plurality imputed to them. One evolves continuously, in the flow of consciousness, out of the other. It would be a sufficient answer that such a doctrine contradicts itself in every breath by the terms necessary to any utterance of it,—such terms as sounds, they, them, one, the other—all imputing to the objects of discussion the plurality which it tries to deny. And to fall back on the disabilities of language, due to its being the work of intellect, is only to declare one’s philosophy ineffable. But not only ineffable—unthinkable. Yes, Bergson would admit, unthinkable in the narrow sense of conceptual thought, but not unknowable to immediate intuition. The final rejoinder, I think, is that immediacy is a vanishing-point, a limiting conception of the relation between subject and object, a phase of consciousness in which to use the mathematical analogy, the “coefficient” of consciousness vanishes into zero. We return later in this essay to the amplifying of this point.104 In brief, if there is no distinction between subject and object, there is no object (as, likewise, no subject, of course); hence, no truth; and Bergson could not have made these ineffable discoveries about the sounds and odors, for he could not have discovered themselves.

It is clear enough that nothing needs to occupy space, in order to be a magnitude. A line, which occupies no space, is even a spatial113 magnitude, nevertheless. That it is spatial, Bergson would say, is just the fact that it is homogeneous. But is homogeneity the only character of a line, and is its spatiality therefore necessarily the same thing as its homogeneity? Evidently a line has a quale perfectly distinct from its homogeneity, and essential to its linear nature; that quale is its direction. If an interval of time, then, or a mental state, seems not to be spatial, this does not compel us to deny that there is any homogeneity about it: if the interval or the state of mind lacks the determination—the character of direction—which is indispensable to a line and to spatiality as such, this lack determines these objects of thought as non-spatial without the slightest detriment to their homogeneity. But all the evidence of homogeneity in space applies equally to homogeneity in time and consciousness. The evidence is their additiveness: all seem to present numerically distinct cases and quantitative differences. No logical ground has been indicated, for discrimination, in the validity of this seeming, as a warrant for the homogeneity of space and not of time and consciousness. Time and consciousness are homogeneous by the same warrant as space and matter.

I think it is not irrelevant to Bergson’s theory of the associative transfer of quantity in the stimulus to the sensation, to observe that, in the stimulus, there is kind as well as amount. If the shade or quality of the sensation corresponds to the degree of the cause, is there no further determination of the sensation distinctively correlative with the kind of the cause? Such correlate seems indispensable to Bergson’s, as to any, reactive conception of sensation, but, in Bergson’s theory of intensity, it seems to be preempted for correlation with the aspect of quantity in the stimulus.

The case of plural odors and sounds, the case of the line, and an infinity of other cases prove that magnitude is intensive as well as extensive. The contradictory thesis, that of Bergson, reduces, at bottom, to the self-contradiction that consciousness discovers what is no object of consciousness.

* * * * *

In admitting that sensations are comparable in this sense, that two odors, for instance, regarded as of the same kind, can be compared with each other in the same way as either can be compared with a sound or a taste, Bergson evidently means that they can be distinguished as different; and he regards this as implying that114 sensations are absolutely heterogeneous with each other, absolutely different. This phrase, I am sure, conceals a bald contradiction. It seems to mean a relation, namely difference, in which, however, the terms are absolute, that is not in relation. Difference cannot be so conceived. Difference, I submit, cannot be conceived without that (common to the differing terms) in respect of which they are different. Monsieur Bergson, therefore, in admitting that sensations are comparable in any sense, is still confronted with an element common to all sensations; he has still to eliminate the character of homogeneity from sensation, by virtue of which a purely subjective evaluation of their relative intensities is possible.

The root of the difficulty Monsieur Lévy-Bruhl has shown105 to be a reific separation of quantity and quality, which are separable in truth only by abstraction of attention. Real existence in absolute homogeneity or space, as Bergson represents the existence of the external world, is as unthinkable as real existence in absolute heterogeneity, which existence is consciousness or life, for Bergson. External things, he says, which do not lapse (“ne durent pas”), seem to us, nevertheless, to lapse like us because to each instant of our lapsing duration a new collective whole of those simultaneities which we call the universe corresponds. “Does this not imply,” writes Lévy-Bruhl, “a preestablished harmony much more difficult to accept than that of Leibniz? Leibniz supposes a purely ideal concord between forces of the same nature. Monsieur Bergson asks us to admit an indefinite series of coincidences, for each instant, between ‘a real duration, whose heterogeneous moments compenetrate,’ and a space which, not lapsing, has no moments at all. Monsieur Bergson really places external reality, which does not lapse, in a sort of eternity. He ingeniously shows that everything in space may be treated as quantity and submitted to mathematics. Now, mathematical verities, expressing only relations between given magnitudes, are abstracted from real lapsing duration. All the laws reduce to analytical formulæ. But then they are, according to the saying of Bossuet, eternal verities, and how shall the real be distinguished from the possible?”

This sundering, in Bergson’s theory of reality, of what rightly115 is one, is already implied, in his theory of knowledge, in the mutual exclusion of the two cognitive modes, intuition and conception. The predicaments into which philosophy falls in reasoning conceptually (and there is no other reasoning) about the subjective “world,” are due. Bergson thinks, not to faults in the use of logic, but to an essential incongruity between the matter and the logical mode of being conscious of it. But such an essential incongruity between any mode of consciousness and what it is aware of would imply that the modes of consciousness, on the one hand, are parts of consciousness, of which accordingly, you can have one without the other (theoretically if not actually); and, on the other hand, there is the corresponding implication for ontology, that what consciousness is aware of is also composed of two parts, which match, respectively, the parts of consciousness. Divide consciousness into two parts, then divide what it is aware of into two parts; suppose that each of your parts of consciousness suits one, and not the other, of your two parts of what it is aware of—all this is necessary before there can be any possibility of incongruous mismatching between consciousness and being. Therefore uneasiness about this incongruity, the very motive of intuitionism, presupposes first the sharpest conceptual treatment of the subjective “world,” and then the flagrant reification of the resulting abstractions. In other words, the indispensable precondition of dialectical defense of intuitionism is an intellectualism of the “vicious” type.

* * * * *

The first chapter of the Essai having criticized the application of magnitude to consciousness, and found that psychological intensity has nothing quantitative about it, the second chapter proceeds with an analogous criticism of number, and finds that psychological variousness has nothing plural about it. The multiplicity of material objects is number or plurality; the variousness of the facts of mind is nothing of the sort. Numerical multiplicity is distinct and objective, given or thought in space; subjective variousness is indistinct and compenetrating.

The medium of the facts of consciousness being lapsing duration, and not extension, they are never simultaneous in the same consciousness. But then they cannot be counted; to count is to have things together, simultaneously. That, again, is to have them in space. And that, finally, is to have them as objects.116 Now, the essential nature of psychic facts is to be subjective and not objective. If, therefore, you find yourself counting facts within a consciousness, you are deluded; they cannot be what you take them for; they can only be (spatial) objects, symbols by which you are representing facts that are not objective,—because they are subjective!—and not spatial but temporal.

This statement of the case will satisfy few people as it stands. Professor Bergson is aware of this, and he will grant that such alleged facts of consciousness as you distinguish and count may be set in the medium of time rather than in space, if time, as well as space, is a homogeneous medium; but time so understood, he thinks, turns into space. And time is so understood very generally, without any doubt. When we speak of time, says Bergson, we are usually thinking of space; that is, we are thinking of a homogeneous medium, a medium, therefore, in which psychic states are aligned or juxtaposited, as things are in space, forming a distinct multiplicity.

This is, of course, another aspect of what Bergson regards as the same vice, conceptualism, that is discussed in the first chapter of the Essai. An intensive magnitude is a distinct concept, sharply bounded; all within is the concept, all without, its other. But no psychic fact is sharply bounded; it penetrates the whole consciousness. The whole consciousness is one with it. We work quantitatively with concepts, always, arithmetically and geometrically. But then we work in space, which is enough, says Bergson, to show that intensity applied to a psychic fact is not a magnitude, since psychic facts are not in space. So here, in the second chapter, the elements which one pretends to count and add in time are, in order to be counted and added—in order merely to be distinguished—distinct concepts. Then they are not in time but in space.

The application of intensive magnitude and of numerical multiplicity to psychic facts is thus the same fallacy in two aspects, the fallacy of conceptualism, the nature of which is to substitute space for time as the form of mental existence.

But Professor Bergson is not altogether dogmatic in saying that conceptual time is a spatialized symbol of real time. He goes on now to show how it is that the nature of real time is nothing like conceptual time. Durée, his name for real time, seems a bad term for such a use; for the essence of Bergson’s “durée” is change, while duration in every other connection117 means just the waiting or standing still of the flow of time. Some term like “lapse” seems nearer the idea.

The genetic or empirical theory of space perception regards the sensations by which we succeed in forming the notion of space as themselves unextended and purely qualitative; extension results from their synthesis, as water results from the combination of two elements. Bergson remarks that the fact that water is neither oxygen nor hydrogen nor merely both is just the fact that we embrace the multiplicity of atoms in a single apperception. Eliminate the mind which operates this synthesis and you will at the same time annihilate the water qualities so far as they are other than oxygen and hydrogen qualities; you will, that is, annihilate the aspect under which the synthesis of elementary parts is presented to our consciousness. For space to arise from the coexistence of non-spatial qualities, an act of the mind is necessary, embracing them all together and juxtapositing them—an act which is a Kantian a priori form of sensibility.

This act is the conception of an empty homogeneous medium. It is a principle of differentiation other than qualitative differentiation, enabling us to distinguish qualitatively identical simultaneous sensations. Without this principle, we should have perception of the extended, but we should not have conception of space. That is, simultaneous sensations are never absolutely identical, because the organic elements stimulated are not identical. There are no two points of a homogeneous surface that produce the same impression on sight and touch. So there is a real qualitative difference between any two simultaneous points. This, Bergson says, is enough to give us perception of the extended. But the conception of space is en outre. The higher one rises in the series of intelligent beings, the more clearly the independent idea of a homogeneous space stands out. Space is not so homogeneous for the animal as for us. Directions are not purely geometrical; they have their quality. We ourselves distinguish our right and left by a natural feeling. We cannot define them.

Now, the faculty of conceiving a space without quality is not at all an abstraction; on the contrary, to abstract presupposes the intuition of a homogeneous medium. We know two realities of different order, one heterogeneous, that of sensible qualities, the other homogeneous, which is space. The latter enables us to make sharp distinctions, to count, to abstract, perhaps even to118 speak. Everybody regards time as an indefinite homogeneous medium, and yet everybody regards it as different from space. Is one, then, reducible to the other?

The genetic or empirical school tries to reduce the relations of extension to more or less complex relations of succession in duration. The relations of situation in space are defined as reversible relations of succession in duration. But succession in duration is not reversible. Pure duration is the form of succession of conscious states when one refrains from reflectively setting up a distinctness between the present state and former states. This does not mean being wholly absorbed in the passing sensation or idea, nor forgetting former states; but it means organizing them instead of juxtapositing them; they become like the notes of a melody, which, though they succeed each other, are apperceived in each other; they interpenetrate like the parts of a living being. Succession, then, can be conceived without distinctness, as a mutual penetration, a solidarity, an intimate organization of elements each of which, representative of the whole, is distinguished and isolated therefrom only for a thought capable of abstraction. We introduce the idea of space into our representation of pure succession; we so juxtaposit our states of consciousness as to perceive them simultaneously, not in, but beside each other; we project time upon space, we express duration in terms of extension. Succession then takes the form of a continuous line or of a chain, whose parts touch without interpenetration, which implies a simultaneous before and after instead of a successive—that is, a simultaneous succession, which is a contradiction.

Now, when the genetic school defines the relations of situation in space as reversible relations of succession in duration, it represents succession in duration in this self-contradictory way. You cannot make out an order among terms without distinguishing the terms and comparing the places they occupy, without perceiving them, therefore, as juxtaposited. Then to make out an order in the terms of a succession is to make the succession a simultaneity. So this attempt to represent space by means of time presupposes the representation of space. Of space in three dimensions, moreover; for the representation of two dimensions—that is, of a line—implies that of three dimensions: to perceive a line is to place oneself outside it and account for the void surrounding it.

119 Pure duration is nothing but a succession of qualitative changes fusing, interpenetrating, without outlines or tendency to externality by interrelation, without any kinship with number. Pure duration is pure heterogeneity.

No time that can be measured is duration, for heterogeneity is not quantity, not measurable. When we measure a minute we represent a quantity and ipso facto exclude a succession. We represent sixty oscillations of a pendulum, for instance, all together, in one apperception, as we represent sixty points of a line. Now, to represent each of these oscillations in succession, just as it is produced in space, no recollection of a preceding oscillation can enter the representation of any one, for space has kept no trace of it. One is confined to the present, and there is no more succession, or duration, in such a representation than in that of the group as a whole. A third way of representing these oscillations is conceivable. Like the first, it involves retention of preceding oscillations; but, unlike the first, it retains preceding oscillations in succeeding ones, instead of alongside of them; they interpenetrate and interorganize, as was just said, like the notes of a melody. Like the conceptual representation, the intuitional involves a multiplicity. A conceptual multiplicity is distinct, homogeneous, quantitative, numerical; an intuitive multiplicity is indistinct, heterogeneous, qualitative, without analogy with number. Now, it is the latter that characterizes reality; and the multiplicity that we represent conceptually is only a symbol of the reality known to intuition.

Oscillations of a pendulum measure nothing; they count simultaneities. Outside of me, in space, there is only a single position of the pendulum; of past positions none remains. Because my duration is an organization and interpenetration of facts, I represent what I call “past” oscillations of the pendulum at the same time that I perceive the actual oscillation. Eliminate the ego, and there is only a single position of the pendulum, and no duration. Eliminate the pendulum, and there is only the heterogeneous duration of the ego. Within the ego is succession without simultaneity or reciprocal externality: without the ego, reciprocal externality without succession, which can exist only for a conscious spectator who remembers the past, and juxtaposits the symbols of the two oscillations in an auxiliary space.

Now, between this succession without externality and this120 externality without succession a kind of endosmotic commerce goes on. Although the successive phases of our conscious life interpenetrate, some of them correspond to simultaneous oscillations of the pendulum; and since each oscillation is distinct—that is, one is no more when another is produced—we come to make the same distinctness between the successive moments of our conscious life. The oscillations of the pendulum decompose it, as it were, into mutually external parts: hence the erroneous idea of an internal homogeneous duration analogous to space, whose identical moments follow each other without interpenetrating. On the other hand, the pendular oscillations benefit by the influence they have exerted on our conscious life. Thanks to the recollection of their collective whole, which our consciousness has organized, they are preserved and then aligned; in short, we create a fourth dimension of space for them, which we call homogeneous time, and which enables the pendular movement, although produced in a certain spot, to be juxtaposited with itself indefinitely.

There is a real space, without duration, but in which phenomena appear and disappear simultaneously with our states of consciousness. There is a real duration, whose heterogeneous moments interpenetrate, but each of which can touch a state of the external world contemporaneous with it, and so be made separate from other movements. From the comparison of these two realities arises a symbolic representation of duration drawn from space. The trait common to these two terms, space and duration, is simultaneity, the intersection of time and space. This is how duration comes to get the illusory appearance of a homogeneous medium. But time is not measurable.

Neither is motion, the living symbol of time. Like duration, motion is heterogeneous and indivisible. But it is universally confused with the space through which the movable passes. The successive positions of the movable are in space, but the motion is not in space. Motion is passing from one position to another, which operation occupies duration and has reality only for a conscious spectator. Things occupy space; processes occupy duration, because they are mental syntheses and are unextended.

The synthesis which is motion is obviously not a new deploying in another homogeneous medium, of the same positions that have been perceived in space; for if it were such an act, the necessity121 for resynthesis would be indefinitely repeated. The synthesis which is motion is a qualitative synthesis, a gradual organization of our successive sensations with each other, a unity analogous to that of a melodic phrase. The space traversed is a quantity, indefinitely divisible; the act by which space is traversed is a quality, and indivisible. Again that endosmotic exchange takes place, as between the melodically organized perception of the series of the pendulum’s motions and its distinct objective presence at each instant. That is, we attribute to the motion the divisibility of the space traversed; and we project the act upon space, implying that outside as well as inside of consciousness the past coexists with the present. In space are only parts of space. In any point of space where the movable may be considered, there is only a position. You would search space in vain for motion.

From the fact that motion cannot be in space, Zeno concluded wrongly that motion is impossible. But those who try to answer his arguments by seeking it also in space, find it no more than he. Achilles overtakes the tortoise because each Achilles step and each tortoise step is not a space but a duration, whose nature is not addible nor divisible, and whose production therefore does not presuppose productions of parts of themselves, ad infinitum. Their development is not construction. They are entire while they are at all, and since the intersections of their terminal moments with space are not at equal distances, these intersections will coincide, or their spatial relations will be inverted, after a certain number of these simultaneities—whether of Achilles’ steps or of the tortoise’s—with points of the road have been counted; in other words, Achilles will have overtaken or outrun the tortoise after a certain number of steps.

To measure the velocity of a motion is simply to find a simultaneity; to introduce this simultaneity into calculation is to use a convenient means of foreseeing a simultaneity. Just as in duration there is nothing homogeneous except what does not lapse, to wit space in which simultaneities are aligned, so the homogeneous element of motion is that which least pertains to it, to wit the space traversed, which is immobility.

Science can work on time and motion only on condition of first eliminating the essential and qualitative element, duration from time, mobility from motion. Treatises on mechanics never define122 duration itself, but call two intervals of time equal when two identical bodies in circumstances identical at the commencement of each of these intervals, and subjected to identical actions and influences of every kind, have traversed the same space at the end of these intervals. There is no question, in science, of duration, but only of space and of simultaneities between outer change and certain of our psychic states. That duration does not enter into natural science is seen in the fact that if all the motions of the universe were quicker or slower, then, whereas consciousness would have an indefinable and qualitative intuition of this change, no scientific formulæ would be modified, since the same number of simultaneities would be produced again in space.

Analysis of the idea of velocity proves that mechanics has nothing to do with duration. If, on a trajectory AB, points M, N, P ... such that AM = MN = NP ... are reached at equal intervals of time, as defined above, and AM etc. are smaller than any assignable quantity, the motion is said to be uniform. The velocity of a uniform motion is therefore defined without appeal to notions other than those of space and simultaneity. By a somewhat complicated demonstration106 the same is shown to be true of the velocity of varying motion. Mechanics necessarily works with equations, and equations always express accomplished facts. It is of the essence of duration and motion to be in formation, so that while mathematics can express any moment of duration or any position taken by a movable in space, duration and motion themselves, being mental syntheses and not things, necessarily remain outside the calculation. The movable occupies the points of a line in turn, but the motion has nothing in common with this line. The positions occupied by the movable vary with the different moments of duration; indeed, the movable creates distinct moments merely by the fact that it occupies different positions; but duration has no identical nor mutually external moments, being essentially heterogeneous and indistinct.

Only space, then, is homogeneous; only things in space are distinctly multiple. There is no succession in space. So-called “successive” states of the outer world exist each alone. Their multiplicity is real only for a consciousness capable of preserving123 it and then juxtapositing it with others, thus externalizing them by interrelation. They are preserved by consciousness because they give rise to facts of consciousness which connect past and present by their interpenetrating organization. But one ceases when another appears, and so consciousness perceives them in the form of a distinct multiplicity, which amounts to aligning them in the space where each existed separately. Space used in this way is just what is meant by homogeneous time.

The spatial and the temporal kind of multiplicity are just as different as space and the real time that lapses. Spatial multiplicity is always substituted for the temporal kind, in discourse; their distinction cannot be expressed in language, because language is a product of space so that terms are inevitably spatial. Even to speak of “several” conscious states interpenetrating is to characterize them numerically, and so interrelate and mutually externalize or spatialize them.107 On the other hand, we cannot form the idea of a distinct multiplicity without considering, parallel to it, a qualitative multiplicity. Even in counting units on a homogeneous background, they organize in a dynamic, qualitative way. That is the psychological explanation of the effect of a “marked-down” price. The figures $4.98 have a quality of their own, or rather the price has, that is quite inexpressible by the formula “$5 minus 2¢.” Quantity has its quality.

In a succession of identical terms, then, each term has two aspects, spatial and temporal, objective and subjective, one always identical with itself, the other specific because of the unique quality its addition gives the collective whole of the series. Now, motion is just such a “qualifying,” the subjective aspect of what, objectively, is a succession of identical terms, to wit the movable in successive positions. It is always the same movable, but in the synthesis, the images of it that memory calls earlier interpenetrate with the actual image; the synthesis, the interpenetration, is motion. Motion is real, and absolute; it is subjective, however, not objective. To represent motion is to objectify it. That is what Zeno did, and what everyone must do for practical purposes. But Zeno’s purpose was speculative, and that, Professor Bergson124 thinks, is fatally different. When you objectify motion you deny it, for its essence is subjective. Strictly speaking, Zeno was right in finding motion unthinkable; he was wrong only in supposing that what is unthinkable is ipso facto impossible.

Evidently, the ego has these two aspects. The ego touches the external world; and its sensations, though fused in each other, retain something of the reciprocal externality which objectively characterizes their causes. Now, in dreaming, the ego does not touch the external world, and, in dreaming, time is not homogeneous; we do not measure time, in dreams, but only feel it. For sleep retards the play of organic functions and modifies the surface of communication between the ego and external things. But we need not sleep, to be thus withdrawn from environment. As I compose this train of thought, the hour strikes. When I notice the striking, I know some strokes have sounded which I did not notice. I know even their number, four. I know it by filling out the “melody,” as it were, of which I am now conscious. I found the “four” in a way that was not counting, at all. The number of strokes has its quality, and anything but four fails to suit, differs in quality. A counted four and a felt four are absolutely different forms of multiplicity, and each is multiplicity. Under the ego of clearly-defined and countable states is the real ego which it symbolizes, in which succession implies fusion and organization. The states of this real ego language cannot seize, for that were to objectify it and fix its mobility. In giving these states the form of those of the symbolic ego, language makes them fall into the common domain of space, where they straightway become common and impersonal. This common and impersonal ego is the social and practical ego; this is the ego that uses language.

To language is due the illusion that qualities are permanent. But objects change by mere familiarity. We dislike, in manhood, smells and tastes which we call the same as those we liked in childhood. But they are not the same. It is only their causes that remain the same. The interpenetrating elements of conscious states are already deformed the moment a numerical multiplicity is discovered in the confused mass. Just now it had a subtle and unique coloration borrowed from its organization in developing life; here it is decolored and ready to receive a name.

This is the error of the associationistic school. Psychology125 cannot reason concerning facts being accomplished, as it may concerning accomplished facts. The accomplishing of a fact can in no wise enter into discourse. It is unthinkable in precisely the same way as motion; or rather, it is the same case. Psychology cannot present the living ego as an association of terms mutually distinct and juxtaposited in a homogeneous medium.108 And association is just conceptualism applied to psychology. Its problems of personality have to be absurdly stated, in order to be stated at all. The terms of such problems deny what the problem posits, merely by being terms or names; they name the unnamable and define the indefinable. The solution is to cease thinking spatially of that which is temporal, to take the other attitude.109 Or, the author says here, using merely a different phrase, the solution is to substitute the real and concrete ego for its symbolic representation.

* * * * *

This second chapter of Time and Free Will undertakes to show that the successiveness of conscious states makes them uncountable. Simultaneity is indispensable to distinctness, and so to number. One can count the spatialized symbols of conscious states because these are not successive, but simultaneous.

Psychic multiplicity is non-numerical in the same sense and for the same reason that psychic intensity is non-quantitative, namely that it is pure heterogeneity and temporality. In the foregoing report, I have sometimes mitigated the baldness of the paradox as it is stated by Bergson, by substituting the term “variousness” for “multiplicity,” in speaking of psychic facts. After all, it was a thankless subterfuge—an impertinence, perhaps, since Bergson himself is frank enough to insist that psychic multiplicity is as genuine multiplicity as the spatial and material sort. The126 difference is that the former is indistinct and the latter distinct. But this difference is abysmal—indeed, it is absolute. All the power of Bergson’s forceful style is concentrated on it. The point is turned and re-turned in every variety of expression. At the same time, the common multiplicity belonging in both conceptions is emphasized as much as their difference. The thesis thus reduces to this, that two varieties of the same genus are “absolutely different;” for we are explicitly advised, on one hand, that there is a multiplicity which is distinct, and a multiplicity which is indistinct; each is multiplicity. And, on the other hand, one is numerical and the other “has no analogy with number.”

In view of the superior qualities of the mind that is guilty of this unreasonableness, the conviction of sincerity which it carries tortures the conscientious critic. One cannot approve of the intolerant scorn of a certain book, in which Bergson’s arguments are vilified as vain display, mere word-play; but patience is overtaxed in finding one’s way through the plausibility of this chapter. The thesis, certainly, may be dismissed from any consideration whatever. Because of it, one knows in advance, beyond peradventure, that there is no validity in any argument in its defense. Yet, in spite of all, the chapter challenges study; and thorough study of it cannot fail to put the truth in clearer light, just because its error is so plausible.

Counting is synthesis, the argument goes; but a synthesized succession is not a succession, it is a simultaneity. And simultaneity presupposes spatial determination in the coexistent elements. From Bergson’s point of view, it is a radical error, however universal an error, to regard the relation of simultaneity as a temporal determination. In fact, there is no such thing as a temporal determination; and every determination, for Bergson, not only is not temporal, but is spatial. Like the argument about non-quantitative intensity, this argument for non-plural multiplicity (save the mark!) turns on the equation of homogeneity with space. But the present argument involves its own peculiar fallacy, as well, namely the fallacy which Professor Perry describes110 as confusion of a relation symbolized with the relation between symbols. “It is commonly supposed,” Perry writes, “that when a complex is represented by a formula, the elements127 of the complex must have the same relation as that which subsists between the parts of the formula; whereas, as a matter of fact, the formula as a whole represents or describes a complex other than itself. If I describe a as ‘to the right of b,’ does any difficulty arise because in my formula a is to the left of b? If I speak of a as greater than b, am I to assume that because my symbols are outside one another that a and b must be outside one another? Such a supposition would imply a most naïve acceptance of that very ‘copy theory’ of knowledge which pragmatism has so severely condemned. And yet such a supposition seems everywhere to underlie the anti-intellectualist’s polemic. The intellect is described as substituting for the interpenetration of the real terms [in an “indistinct” psychic multiplicity] the juxtaposition of their symbols; as though analysis discovered terms, and then conferred relations of its own ... Terms are found in relation, and may be thus described without any more artificiality, without any more imposing of the forms of the mind on its subject-matter, than is involved in the bare mention of a single term.

“... one may mean continuity despite the fact that the symbols and words are discrete. The word ‘blue’ may mean blue, although the word is not blue. Similarly, continuity may be an arrangement meant by a discontinuous arrangement of words and symbols.”

So of the simultaneity or coexistence among the conceptual symbols by which successive psychic states are counted: there is nothing in such a relation among the symbols to falsify the process of counting as a cognitive process whose meaning is a non-simultaneous relation among the psychic facts symbolized. As was noted above,111 the quantitative determination of psychic facts depends solely on an aspect of homogeneity essential to such facts, for which aspect no better evidence is possible than that other aspect which Bergson attributes to them, of heterogeneity; for the two conceptions, instead of excluding each other, imply each other absolutely. All that is necessary, in order that psychic facts should be countable, is that they should possess an aspect of homogeneity. And for this, spatiality is unnecessary; for spatiality is a conception distinct from homogeneity.

Bergson’s identification of homogeneity with spatiality is a case128 of what Professor Perry calls “definition by initial predication.”112 Space is homogeneous; therefore homogeneity is space. As if the fact that homogeneity is a character of space were anything against its being a character also of time or anything else. The following is the justification offered by Bergson for identifying homogeneity with space: “If space is to be defined as the homogeneous, it seems that inversely every homogeneous and unbounded medium will be space. For, homogeneity here consisting in the absence of every quality, it is hard to see how two forms of the homogeneous could be distinguished from one another.”113 The first clause begs the question by defining space as “the” homogeneous. Such identification of space and homogeneity is the point to be proved. The second sentence begs the question again, where homogeneity is supposed “here” (i. e. in the case of space) to consist in the absence of every quality. Moreover, as we have noted above (p. 43), space possesses a very determinate quality, direction, which differentiates it from other homogeneity. Finally, it can be true that homogeneity is absence of quality only on the Bergsonian assumptions that quality is exclusively subjective, that homogeneity is exclusively objective, and that only the subjective is positive. Now, if quality is not objective, judgments cannot be made concerning it; but Bergson is constantly making such judgments. And to distinguish, in point of homogeneity or of positivity, between “the subjective” and “the objective” is to reify two equally abstract aspects of positive reality. The quality of the homogeneous is doubtless simple, and so indefinable. But Bergson nowhere shows how the homogeneous is less positive than the heterogeneous, although the thesis is the sum and substance of his philosophy. Lacking further light on the point, one can only invoke such experiences as the simple colors, for instance,—or, for that matter, any simple quality—for cases of reality as positive as any heterogeneity, and, obviously, no less qualified. And nothing seems easier than the distinction between redness, for instance, and spatiality. Bergson’s whole dialectic rests on reification of such correlative abstractions as homogeneity and heterogeneity, quality and relation etc. in a “purity” which not only is not concretely experienced, but is not even capable of being conceived, because each concept129 drags the other ineluctably into its own definition. If either space or homogeneity were indeed absence of quality, they could not be distinguished from time, nor from heterogeneity, nor from anything else; in short, they could not be conceived at all.

The present essay aims to report Bergson’s own work with a fair degree of fulness; but it is beyond my plan to follow exposition with criticism point by point in the details, even, in some cases, when these are of important and wide implication. For discussion of Bergson’s contention (based on analysis of the idea of velocity, as outlined above) that mechanics has nothing to do with time, the reader is referred to pages 255–61 of Perry’s Present Philosophical Tendencies. Perry shows, in this passage, that such a contention, again, depends on “confusing the symbol with what it means. To one who falls into this confusion, it may appear that an equation cannot refer to time because the structure of the equation itself is not temporal; because the symbols are simultaneously present in the equation. But if t is one of the terms of the equation, and t means time, then the equation means a temporal process. Furthermore, an equation may define a relation, such as =, <, or >, between temporal quantities, in which case the full meaning of the equation is still temporal. For changes, events, or even pure intervals, may stand in non-temporal relations, such as those above, without its in the least vitiating their temporality.”

Bergson’s solution of Zeno’s paradoxes is another detail of this chapter which is of a good deal of interest; but it applies no new principle to the support of the impossibility of counting psychic facts. Without a clearer conception of the commerce or intersection between time and space, which he characterizes only by the name of “simultaneity,” his reply to Zeno leaves the question of the divisibility of time as problematic as ever. Achilles out-strips the tortoise, he says, “because each of Achilles’ steps and each of the tortoise’s steps are indivisible acts in so far as they are movements, and are different magnitudes in so far as they are space.”114 They are indivisible in the same sense in which a living organism is indivisible: if you divide them, no division is a part of that which was. But the trouble is that they are divisible130 also in the same sense in which the organism is divisible. It is the most extravagant of assumptions that analysis of a living body into right and left etc.—which, to be sure, is serviceable to activity upon it—is, because of its service to action, not a character of the object itself. And of motion the same sort of analysis is a patent fact of experience: there is an earlier, middle and latter phase. The possibility of this patent fact is the crux of the problem. No extant answer to Zeno is satisfactory to everybody. I shall refer the reader to Professor Fullerton’s treatment of the paradoxes, in Chapter XI of his System of Metaphysics, as the solution which seems to me to be at the same time the most closely related of any that I know, to Bergson’s, and free of Bergson’s error. Bergson’s solution has at least this element of truth, that Zeno confuses the space traversed with something else concerned in every case of motion. Fullerton makes a distinction between any actual experience of space or time, and the possibility of indefinitely magnified substitutes for such experience; and shows a way in which motion can be relegated to the former (“apparent” space) and denied to the latter (“real” space) without either denying reality to motion or infinite divisibility to real space and time.

Bergson’s differentiation of temporal succession from spatial seriality gets all its cogency from an exclusive attention, when consciousness is concerned, to the aspects of heterogeneity (quality) and compenetration (continuity) which consciousness shows; and, when space is concerned, to its aspects of homogeneity (quantity) and juxtaposition of parts (discreteness). As always, with correlative abstractions, Bergson reifies them: they exclude each other, for him, whereas, in truth, they imply each other, entering into each other’s definition so that each is unthinkable except by means of the other. Time is continuous, Bergson insists rightly; but jumps to the conclusion that therefore time is not discrete. Time is heterogeneous, therefore not homogeneous. Space is discrete (its parts spread out), therefore not continuous; homogeneous, therefore not heterogeneous. If any demonstration is necessary that these terms do imply each other, instead of excluding each other, the case of heterogeneity and homogeneity is only the case of resemblance and difference (cf. page 44). In regard to the heterogeneity of space, its differentiation by way of direction must not be forgotten. As for the other pair of terms, continuity131 can manifest itself only in extenso, and discreteness requires a separating medium.

Wherever Bergson objects to expressing time in terms of space, the real objection is to the expression of time in terms of homogeneity. This he would not only admit, but insist upon. But his demonstration that homogeneity is a character exclusively spatial is a petitio principii.115 Of the attempt to measure a minute, he writes as follows: “I say, e. g., that a minute has just elapsed, and I mean by this that a pendulum, beating the seconds, has completed sixty oscillations. If I picture these sixty oscillations to myself all at once, by a single mental perception, I exclude by hypothesis the idea of a succession. I do not think of sixty strokes which succeed one another, but of sixty points on a fixed line, each one of which symbolizes, so to speak, an oscillation of the pendulum. If, on the other hand, I wish to picture these sixty oscillations in succession, but without altering the way they are produced in space, I shall be compelled to think of each oscillation to the exclusion of the recollection of the preceding one, for space has preserved no trace of it; but by doing so I shall condemn myself to remain forever in the present; I shall give up the attempt to think a succession or a duration.”

Notwithstanding his acuteness as a psychologist, Bergson misses the nature of the apperception both of sixty points on a line and of sixty oscillations of a pendulum. And the impossibility of counting psychic facts depends on this misapprehension. He misses the fact that an apperception of sixty points on a line includes, as an essential feature, the serial order, the here-and-there determination (a distinctive qualitative determination) of this spatial fact. And he misses the fact that an apperception of a non-spatial rhythm includes, as an essential feature, the successive order, the earlier-and-later determination, of this psychic fact. Now, seriality is not succession, if you like, except in so far as each is order. But this is no more than to say that the two orders, time and space, are distinguishable—are two, in fact. It is not the slightest obstruction to conceiving each as order, and as numerically determined. For there is no evidence except Bergson’s fundamental fallacy of “definition by initial predication,” to show why homogeneity and order, as such, are exclusively132 spatial. The discreteness of parts of space is thinkable only by the intervening spaces: space is as continuous (as “compenetrative”) as time.116 On the other hand, the compenetration of time is not only nothing against its divisibility, but divisibility and compenetration (in the only rigorous meaning the word will bear, that is, continuity) are indispensable to each other, inverse aspects of each other. You can divide only what is connected, as you can connect only what is distinct. Time, then, is as discrete as space.

For every instance of temporal “compenetration,” and “solidarity,” its perfect spatial analogue is plain to the inspection of anyone who will only look that way, to anyone whose attention is not hypnotized by an ulterior purpose to its exclusion.117 Thus the melodic phrase is present in each of its parts as much as, and no more than, the mosaic figure is present in each of its parts. The “felt four” of the clock strokes is felt as four not otherwise, I think, than a four which might figure in the pattern of a frieze. The same limitations, moreover, apply to such felt multiplicity, whether of rhythm or of pattern. It must be a relatively simple complex, to be apperceived, in either case. You could not feel fifty, and the difficulty is the same difficulty in time as in space. One measures a minute or a century just as one measures an inch or the distance from the earth to the sun: the indispensable condition is the continuity and homogeneity which belong to both quantities.

The proposition that oscillations of a pendulum measure nothing, but count simultaneities apparently means that oscillations, as physical facts, have no duration of their own, and so cannot overlie duration as a unit of measurement. This would at least be an intelligible, even if a false, representation; but, if oscillations cannot measure, how can they count? What is just that difference between counting and measuring, by virtue of which that which can count cannot measure? Simultaneity Bergson defines as the intersection of space and time. Now, counting, as well as measuring, implies a continuum. Measuring,133 certainly, if it is theoretically perfect, can apply only to a continuum; but counting, which obviously presupposes discreteness, then requires also the indispensable condition and correlative of discreteness, which is continuity. The intersection of space and time thus evidently involves equal continuity and discreteness in both; if they can intersect, and their intersections are countable, each is both countable and measurable. The “purely” temporal phenomena of our conscious life, although interpenetrating, “correspond individually” to an oscillation of the pendulum, which, though a “purely” spatial phenomenon, “occurs at the same time with” the former. Such “endosmotic commerce” between psychical and physical events seems to be decisive for a real community of nature between their respective forms, time and space—such, for instance, as common homogeneity and continuity.

Chapter II



Bergson regards knowledge of oneself as the optimal case of knowing; oneself, he thinks, is the sample of reality which best serves for an acquaintance with the nature of reality in general. “The existence of which we are most assured and which we know best is unquestionably our own, for of every other object we have notions which may be considered external and superficial, whereas, of ourselves, our perception is internal and profound.”118 It is this perfect or optimal relation of identity or inwardness—which one bears to oneself—that is the condition of true (i. e. intuitive) knowledge. And in this case we find existence to be a perpetual flow of transition. That we think of our states as distinct from each other is due to the fact that reflection on one’s own existence is, unlike the flow of that existence itself, necessarily discontinuous. It is only now and then that motives arise which turn the attention to the self as an object, like others, for examination. The flow of change is not uniform, to be sure. It is quite imperceptible to our reflective attention most of the time, but if it ever ceased, we should at that moment cease to exist. Only the relatively sudden and interesting periods of transition get our attention. Then we see a new “state of consciousness” which we add to the others that we have mentally strung together in a temporal line. So we conceive of our history as the sum of elements as distinct as beads on a string.

This intellectualistic view of the self eliminates the peculiar characteristic of its reality, namely, its duration, or the flow of its change, like a snowball, accumulating its substance as it rolls, duration goes on preserving itself in incessant change that accumulates135 all its past. Time, Bergson says, is the very stuff the psychological life is made of. “There is, moreover, no stuff more resistant nor more substantial.”119

Life and inertia or matter are two antagonistic principles or tendencies. Life is the positive and active principle; reality and duration are predicable only of life. Matter is an “inversion” or “interruption” of life; its value is negative to life and to reality. “All that which seems positive to the physicist and to the geometrician would become, from this new point of view, an interruption or inversion of true positivity, which would have to be defined in psychological terms.”120 Matter is a determination of reality in much the same sense as that in which the reality of the Platonic idea suffers diminution under the influence of the principle of not-being, resulting in a world of sensible experience or of appearance. Bergson points out that the real in Plato is the timeless, motionless, definite idea, and the relatively unreal is the ever-changing “infinite” or indefinable datum of experience, to which duration is essential. Bergson reverses the Platonic metaphysics: reality is the ever-changing and indefinable; rather, it is change itself. “There are no things, there are only actions.” “... things and states are only views, taken by our mind, of becoming.”121 The principle antagonistic to reality gives rise to the timeless, definite concept, which is a view or appearance of reality operated by intelligence in the service of action. As our practical interests break up the continuum of time into discrete states, so they break up the continuum of matter into distinct bodies. The active antagonism of time, which is pure quality or heterogeneity, and space, which is pure quantity or homogeneity, results in the world of our experience, comprising “states” of consciousness and things or objects.

The relation between life and matter in the evolution of the world, Bergson represents by the figure of a generation of steam in a boiler.122 Life, the positive principle, streams or flows, like the steam, by the force which is its very nature. In its course, this vital impetus is checked, as a jet of steam is checked, by its condensation, and falls back upon itself in drops, retarding, but not annihilating, the flow. But we are warned that the figure must be136 corrected in that the interruption or inversion of the impetus is due to a principle inherent in the impetus itself, not to an external determination. If there were such an external principle, the two would seem coördinate in reality, but the reality of matter is as the reality of rest, which, as the negation of motion, is nothing positive, yet is not a mere naught.

Sometimes, in reading Bergson, it seems very clear that reality and matter must exclude each other, since one is the negation of the other; and perception and conception, whose object is matter, are not knowledge, because that object is unreal. Moreover, not only is the stuff of reality that psychic process which is life and lapsing time, but there is no stuff more resistant nor more substantial. And in numerous other ways the mutual exclusion of reality and matter seems quite fundamental to Bergsonism. One can never remain long in any security about this, however. If Bergsonism is Platonism reversed, it is natural that the peculiarities of the latter should reappear in some form. Platonic not-being is much too important and too active to be denied a coequal positivity with being. Over and above these “worlds,” moreover, there is that one in which we live, with a third status. Perhaps it is this which is most like Bergsonian matter—“nothing positive, yet not a mere naught”! In the letter from which I have already quoted, Monsieur Bergson wrote me, concerning a previous paper of mine:123 “You give me the choice between ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ whereas I cannot respond with either, but must mix them. In each particular case, the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ have to be apportioned, and this is just why the philosophy I adhere to is susceptible of improvement and progress. For instance, you find that my premises lead to this conclusion: ‘Matter has no duration; but duration is synonymous with reality; therefore matter is not real.’ But, to my mind, matter has exactly the same reality as rest, which exists only as negation of motion, yet is something other than absolute nothingness. All that is positive in my ‘vital impetus’ is motion; stoppage of this motion constitutes materiality; the latter, therefore, is nothing positive, yet not a mere naught, absolute nothingness being no more stoppage than motion.”

If one seek (it is not to be found, I think, in Bergson’s writings) an explanation of this abatement or diminution of the élan vital,137 this tendency toward rest, the problem turns into the very ancient problem of the polarity of being in subject and object. In Platonism, matter arises as product of an eternal antagonism between two coeval principles, the Idea and Not-being. Not-being is thus something efficient, something that is capable of entering as a factor, together with the Idea, into a product, the Sensible Object. The truth is, therefore, that Not-being is something very real: it is something because it does something. It is as real as the Idea, because it is as efficient as the Idea. And in the Bergsonian creative evolution there often seems just such an antagonism as this, between two coördinate, efficient, and therefore real principles. Thus: “The impetus of life ... is confronted with matter, that is to say, with the movement that is the inverse of its own.”124 And: “Life as a whole ... will appear as a wave which rises, and which is opposed by the descending movement of matter.”125 But, as with Plato, so with Bergson, dubbing the hated principle “Not-being” or “Negation of Positive Reality” hardly avails against the soundness of its claim to positivity. And the case is not different if the “élan vital” is a self-limited absolute instead of an eternal dualism: the philosopher’s selection of one of the two coefficients or poles of this self-polarized absolute, rather than the other, to be snubbed, is arbitrary, instinctive, personal. With Plato it is one, with Bergson the other; no logical principle determines it, in either case.

On no other point, I believe, is criticism of Bergson so clamorous or so unanimous as on his conception of matter. Without doubt, his conception of matter is obscure. Time and space (terms equivalent for Bergson, to life and matter) being essentially antagonistic, must essentially imply each other; and if so, do they not stand in the same rank as real existences? In what sense, then, is either real and the other unreal, except by an arbitrary decree? The ontological obscurity has its corresponding epistemological obscurity as to the cognitive status of knowledge of matter, which is the crux of Bergson’s philosophy. Instinct is suited to life and duration; intelligence, to matter and space. Science says many things about time, but affords no acquaintance with time itself. The duration of the unit of time is a matter of indifference to the138 meaning and value of any scientific formula.126 For example, if this unit were made infinity, and the physical process represented by the formula were thus regarded as infinitely quick, i. e. an instantaneous, timeless fact, the instantaneity of the fact would be irrelevant to any truth expressed by the formula. The only truth the formula expresses is a system of relations, which remains the same for any unit of time. Science knows no past or future, nothing but an incessantly renewed instantaneous present, without substance. The conclusions of science are given in the premises, mathematically; the world of science is a strict determinism. In the real world of consciousness, on the other hand,—knowledge of which can only be acquaintance with it—the future is essentially contingent and unforseeable, for each new phase is an absolute creation, into which the whole past is incorporated without determining it.

* * * * *

The active principle of life Bergson describes by the phrase tendency to create. Its movement is a creative evolution. Life flows, or, as we have said, rolls on like a snowball, in an unceasing production of new forms, each of which retains, while it modifies and adds to, all its previous forms. But the figure of the snowball soon fails. One of the most significant facts of the creative evolution of life is the division of its primitive path into divergent paths. The primitive élan contains elementary virtualities of tendency which can abide together only up to a certain stage of their development. It is of the nature of a tendency to break up in divergent elementary tendencies, as a fountain-jet sprays out. As the primitive tendency develops, elements contained in it which were mutually compatible in one and the same primitive organism, being still in an undeveloped stage, become incompatible as they grow. Hence the indefinite bifurcation of the forms of life into realms, phyla, genera, species, individuals. It is a cardinal error, Bergson thinks, to regard vegetative, instinctive and intellectual life, in the Aristotelian manner, as successive stages in one and the same line of development. They represent three radically different lines of evolution, not three stages along the same line.

A tendency common to all life is to store the constantly diffused139 solar energy in reservoirs where its equilibrium is unstable. This tendency, of alimentation, is complementary to the tendency to resolve equilibrium of potential energy by sudden, explosive release of energy in actions. As the primitive organism developed (undoubtedly an ambiguous form, partaking of the characters of both the animal and the vegetable) these two tendencies became mutually incompatible in one and the same form of life. Those forms which became vegetables owe their differentiation from ancestral forms to a preponderant leaning toward the manufacture of the explosive, as the animal owes its animality to a leaning toward the release of energy in sudden and intermittent actions.

The vegetable, drawing its nourishment wherever it may find it, from the ground and from the air, has no need of locomotion. The animal, dependent on the vegetable or on other animals for food, must go where it may be found. The animal must move. Now, consciousness emerges pari passu with the ability to act, and torpor is characteristic of fixity. The humblest organism is conscious to the extent to which it can act freely. Actions may be effective either by virtue of an excellence in the use of instruments of action or by virtue of an excellence in adapting the instrument to the need. Action may thus assume either of two very different characters, the one instinctive, self-adaptive reaction, the other intelligent manufacture. The two tendencies have bifurcated within the animal realm. One path reaches its present culmination in certain hymenoptera (e. g. ants, bees, wasps), the other in man.

Thus the development of instinct in man has become subordinate; human consciousness is dominated by intelligence. Hence the universality of the vice of intellectualism in philosophy. Man, because he is dominated by intelligence, supposes intelligence to be coextensive with consciousness, whereas it is only one of the elementary tendencies which consciousness comprises, and the one which is impotent to know the flow of reality. Spencer’s evolutionism affords no acquaintance with the reality of life. His so-called evolution starts with the already evolved. Hence all it reaches is the made, the once-for-all, the timeless. It is merely a biological theory, and no advance over positive science. It is not a philosophy.

Having shown the origin of intelligence in the more extensive principle of life, and limited its sphere of operation to inert matter,140 the author turns to the nature of instinct. The greater part of the psychic life of living beings that are characteristically instinctive Bergson believes to be states which he describes as knowledge in which there is no representation.127 “Representation is stopped up by action.”128 A purely instinctive action would be indistinguishable from a mere vital process. When the chick, for example, breaks the shell, it seems merely to keep up the motion that has carried it through the embryonic life. But neither instinct nor intelligence is ever pure, and we have in ourselves a vague experience of what must happen in the consciousness of an animal acting by instinct. We have this experience in phenomena of feeling, in unreflecting sympathies and antipathies. “Instinct is sympathy. If this sympathy could extend its object and also reflect upon itself, it would give us the key to vital operations.... Intuition, to wit, instinct that has become disinterested, self-conscious, capable of reflecting upon its object and of enlarging it indefinitely, leads us into the very inwardness of life ... It is true that this æsthetic intuition ... attains only the individual, but we can conceive an inquiry turned in the same direction as art, which would take life in general for its object.”129

* * * * *

In Matter and Memory, mind is represented as varying, in its states, between two limits, “pure perception,” which is just action, and “dreaming.” The limit of action is where the rôle of mind ceases, the vanishing-point of knowledge. But at the other limit, dreaming, mind is in full swing, having freed itself, by an inner tension, from the obstructive influence of body. Far from vanishing at this limit, as at the other, knowledge is here at its apogee. It is here “pure.”

It is important for Bergson to recognize an organic connection (obstructive to mind, as he Platonically conceives) between mind and body, in order that he may establish the possibility of the state of “pure perception,” in which mind activity coincides with bodily activity by a yielding, relaxed concurrence with the latter’s influence. Mind is here passive; its rôle in the life of the organism ceases in this state. But it is equally important, for the ontological independence of mind, that at the “dreaming” pole the141 tension which is the very constitution of its knowing should free mind from bodily influence. This tension, at its ideal limit, must so disconnect the mind from the body that the former becomes impotent, as Bergson says, for any efficiency in the physical world. It seems to be, to all intents and purposes, a disembodied state. Knowledge having then no possible end in action is clearly its own end. Intellection is a utility, operating in the world of matter; knowledge is absolute, self-centered identity of subject and object. Such, I suppose, is God’s “thought of thought” in Aristotle’s conception.

This fluctuation of the relation between mind and body, from a connection which is vital to absolute disconnection, is a reappearance of the ambiguity discussed on pages 66–7. At one moment the world seems a Platonic dualism; in the next, a self-limited or polarized absolutism, like Fichte’s or Hegel’s. Whatever the “ideal limit” of mind’s cognitive “tension” may be conceived to be, there ought to be no question of more and less, in the matter of disconnectedness, strictly speaking. We do not understand movement from connection to disconnection, through intermediate stages, as mind is here represented to move, in its states of knowledge. First mind must be like a certain part of matter, so that it can rebound by its “tension” from a certain other part; and then, as soon as it has rebounded, what would be true of the thing that could do this must suddenly become untrue of it, presumably because of the rebound, no other reason being assignable to account for the ensuing disconnection with matter. One bit of matter can rebound from another, but it is then as much connected with matter as before. We do not understand how mind, when it has thus rebounded from one particular material attachment thereby becomes materially unattached.

This is nevertheless a suggestive scheme of relation. It seems to me to be marred with one radical fault: these limits of knowledge are wrongly related. Their negation of each other should be the opposition of antipodes, not of contradictories. The difference is the radical difference between implication and exclusion. They do not exclude each other, but imply each other. Each vanishes without the other.

In activity, there is externalized motion on one hand and resistance, or virtual reaction, on the other. Action and reaction are cases of polarity; they are necessary to each other to give each142 other form. In the cognitive subject, reaction that were purely virtual, without externalizing implication, would be indeterminate dreaming; motion that were purely externalized, without implication of inner virtuality, would be indeterminate activity. Now, anything that is indeterminate or formless simply is not, if being has any significance whatever; for formless significance is a contradiction; certainly the significance of anything would constitute a formal aspect of it. “Pure” matter or quantity is pure nothing, in the sense that it is quantity of nothing. These “pure” limits thus snuff themselves out. And variation between them is not a progression from not-being to being or vice versa, not a strengthening or weakening of the variable function’s essence. Such a notion depends on the absurdity of a not-being that can do things to being, with fluctuating prepotency in the struggle! Strengthening and weakening—degree in any guise—has no application to essence. In any phase, that is, knowledge is itself and nothing else; it cannot be more or less itself.

That which varies concomitantly with the variations in complexion of consciousness, is the dynamic relation between subject and object. It may be expressed as variation of ratio between virtual and real action. At each pole activity vanishes, and consciousness with it. At one pole, where the ratio is zero, it vanishes in the direction of “real” or externalized action, which means that the subject meets no opposing negativity, and so no object; the relation of activity is extinguished through lack of one of its terms. At the other pole, where the ratio is infinity, action vanishes in the direction of “virtuality.” And this means that in the subject there is no positivity, no subjectivity, to oppose to universal negativity or objectivity. The result is the same extinction of the relation through lack of a term. A subject term is lacking in one case, an object in the other.

Knowledge, for Bergson, corresponds only to the ratio infinity, of virtual to real action; all other ratios between them are less than knowledge. To this I object that infinite virtuality is indeterminate virtuality, which is a naught reached in the opposite way from that naught which is infinite and indeterminate actuality. Indeterminate action is nothing, and so is indeterminate knowledge. Identification of knowledge with any specific value of the ratio of virtual to real action is not determined by any logical principle. When a function varies between a positive and a143 negative pole, neither pole is an apogee where the function is most itself. On the contrary, as in the variation of an including angle, each pole is a limiting position in which the essential nature of the variable is extinguished. Nor is it most itself midway between the poles, nor at any other privileged position, for it is absolutely and fully itself, and nothing else, in every phase. The genuineness of a state of awareness would then depend also on the genuineness of the reciprocity between the terms of this dynamic ratio. Where they are not distinct, where subject and object are identical, awareness vanishes through lack of a quantitative coefficient, as it vanishes at each pole through lack of a qualitative coefficient. In other words, knowledge of a thing by itself, like action of a thing on itself, is a cancelation of terms of opposite sign, a contradiction, and the subject and object, whether of action or of consciousness, are essentially external to each other.

Bergson is treating consciousness as such as if it could be more or less conscious, as, indeed, a conscious subject may be. That is, he is treating consciousness as if it could be of a nature more or less aware or cognitive; he is treating variations of phase as if they were augmentations and diminutions of essence; he is treating quality quantitatively, an error which would not have been possible if he had adhered to the purely conceptual distinction between quality and quantity. And he is treating the variations of cognitive complexion or phase as if they depended on variations in a certain relation (the mutual externality of subject and object) which is invariable and absolute—incapable, that is, of degree.

* * * * *

“This book,” says the first sentence of Matter and Memory, “affirms the reality of spirit and the reality of matter.” Lower in the same page, however, it is explained that “Matter, in our view, is an aggregate of ‘images.’ And by ‘image’ we mean a certain existence which is more than that which the idealist calls a representation, but less than that which the realist calls a thing,—an existence placed half-way between the ‘thing’ and the ‘representation.’ ... the object exists in itself, and, on the other hand, the object is, in itself, pictorial, as we perceive it; image it is, but a self-existing image (pp. vii, viii).

“... memory ... is just the intersection of mind and matter ... the psychical state seems to us to be ... immensely wider than the cerebral state ... our cerebral144 state contains more or less of our mental state in the measure that we reel off our psychic life into action or wind it up into pure knowledge ... our psychic life may be lived at different heights, now nearer to action, now further removed from it” (pp. xii, xiii, xiv).

The “intersection of mind and matter” suggests a profound dualism, and this Bergson acknowledges to be essential to his theory. It is true that no opportunity is lost, to discount the reality of matter; but the relations which it sustains to mind are such as can exist only between terms whose reality is coördinate. Perception is just that biological reactive function of material organism engaged with material stimulus, which every psychological text-book proclaims it to be. But the actual conscious state always has memory in it, as well as perception; or rather, the state as conscious is nothing but memory; perception itself, “pure” perception, is action pure and simple, and not cognitive at all.

This is an abuse of the word “perception,” but the epistemology can show a good deal of reason. After all, our perceptions (as we call the states of mind in which we are involved with a material stimulus) mean something, necessarily. They mean something, I insist, the strangest of them. We sometimes speak otherwise, saying that an object of perception means nothing to us. But, I submit, this is only a manner of speaking. A state that meant nothing, absolutely, were genuinely blank, empty, contentless; and there is no difference, I take it, between a state without content and a state that is unconscious. Well, then, meaning something, as a conscious state must, what does it mean? Bergson, I am sure, is right in holding that to mean is to recognize, to recall, to remember. This makes of every concrete perceptive state, so-called, a rudimentary deduction, a genuine syllogism, a work of intellect. The major premise is a memory; the minor is an immediate reactive, sensori-motor datum; the conclusion is the subsumption of the present datum under the memory. Thus: The experience to which I attach the name “orange” has such and such characters (remembered major premise); the present reactive state has these characters (perceptive datum, minor premise); therefore this state is a case of the orange experience. The only difficulty is the nature of the process of subsumption of the present datum with the memory. The present datum in its purity as present is a reaction merely, an event in the physical world. Its nature owns nothing145 psychical. What commerce, then, can it have with mind? To call its commerce with mind “subsumption” is to give a label to a problem. To call memory the “intersection” of the physical world with mind seems another label, of a metaphorical sort, for the same problem.

But, for the present, let us hear the doctrine. To my thinking, it is Bergson’s best work, and full of illuminating suggestion. To the radical dualist, it should be completely satisfactory. As an adherent of a certain double-aspect conception of the body-mind relation, I shall eventually propose a correction and completion, very radical, certainly, but all that is necessary to make Bergson’s treatment of this problem of the highest interest and value to myself.

The body, then, in Bergson’s theory, yes, the brain itself, is no producer, repository nor reproducer of any element of consciousness. The body is a center of reaction, and nothing else. “The size, shape, even the color, of external objects is modified according as my body approaches or recedes from them, ... the strength of an odour, the intensity of a sound, increases or diminishes with distance; finally, ... this very distance represents, above all, the measure in which surrounding bodies are insured, in some sort, against the immediate action of my body. In the degree that my horizon widens, the images which surround me seem to be painted upon a more uniform background and become to me more indifferent. The more I narrow this horizon, the more the objects which it circumscribes space themselves out distinctly according to the greater or less ease with which my body can touch and move them. They send back, then, to my body, as would a mirror, its eventual influence; they take rank in an order corresponding to the growing or decreasing powers of my body. The objects which surround my body reflect its possible action upon them.130 Cut a sensory nerve, and the reactive process is destroyed, and with it, perception. “Change the objects, or modify their relation to my body, and everything is changed in the interior movements of my perceptive centres. But everything is also changed in ‘my perception.’ My perception is, then, a function of these molecular movements; it depends upon them.”131 “What then are these movements?... they are, within my body, the movements146 intended to prepare, while beginning it, the reaction of my body to the action of external objects ... they foreshadow at each successive moment its virtual acts.”132 It may seem that my reaction to a body is the same whether I perceive it visually or tactually or otherwise. But movements externally identical may differ internally; there is a different organization of the same gross function with different microscopic functions. The meaning has ultimately an important sameness, since meaning is a function of biological adjustment. But different inner organizations are still the explanation of different ways of perceiving what is, in all biologically important respects, the same object.

Serious fault has been found133 with Bergson’s attempt to establish, by scientific research in the subject of aphasia, the ontological independence of spirit, the seat of memory, from body. But on other grounds than such scientific investigation the issue of this attempt appears to me at best a futile achievement; for the result is in any case the reinstatement, untouched, of that problem of all radical dualism, a problem which Bergson solves only by metaphor whose brilliance may be luminous itself, but has no illumination for the problem, which is how reactive states are also conscious.

There is a theory which relates consciousness and matter to each each other as the opposite sides of a surface in relief. The objection to this “double aspect” theory that has weighed most, in criticism, is that the ground of the parallelism between convexity and concavity—to wit, a logical implication of each other—is obviously absent in the parallelism of consciousness and matter. Whatever parallelism experience actually finds between them is not deducible from either concept: there is nothing in the definition of the sensation blue to suggest an afferent nervous current; nothing in the latter to suggest a sensation. They are incommensurate. But when you conceive convexity, in that fact you conceive concavity also, and vice versa. They are related as plus and minus. The objection appeals to analysis of the definition of consciousness or of matter, or challenges the advocate of the theory to study his sensation or his neural process and see if there be in either of them anything of the other.

A difficulty which immediately arises when this challenge is 147accepted has been understood to be decisive against the theory. It is this: Any definition of consciousness which the advocate of the theory may propose as the concept to be analyzed must, in order to fulfil the first requirement of logical definition, be in terms of that which is not consciousness. And this seems to the critic to beg the question. If you define consciousness so, he objects, you make its definition imply matter; but there is then nothing of consciousness in it; what you have got is only matter. That is to assume an equation between them. You state the value of x in terms of y, but then you haven’t got x, but only y. It is otherwise with terms that really have the correlation you claim for consciousness and matter. Thus you can equate convexity with concavity in terms of either alone, as m = -(-m). In this there is no assumption. But what you say of x is that it equals ay, which is something distinguishable from x and whose equality to x is just the problem.

But if it be allowed that the disparity between consciousness and matter must be either a distinction between two kinds of reality, or else the distinction between being and not-being, the predicament just described is worse for the critic of the “double aspect” theory than for its advocate. If the distinction is that of being and not-being, whichever is not-being has an internal constitution and structure by virtue of which parts and relations are recognized within it: matter has physical laws and the interaction of bodies; consciousness has interrelated states. Not-being, so interpreted, is hardly distinguished from being. And if the distinction is within being, and exhausts it, either the connotation of consciousness and that of matter are referable to each other—expressible in terms of each other—or else the distinction is only denotative, and they are not distinguished as different; for difference is a discursive relation between differents: differing from each other is a case of referring to each other.

Excessive emphasis on the “ultimateness” and “absoluteness” of the difference between these two concepts is just the inductive cue that results in the “double aspect” theory. No one can regard consciousness as not different from matter—least of all our critic, who finds them incommensurable. Nay, among real things that are other than each other, experience gives us no fellow to such difference; for difference so utter, they that differ should coincide. And so, in the fact of aspect, we have, indeed, in a thousand forms, disparity that matches the difference between the concepts now148 before us: e. g., right, left; up, down; plus, minus; convex, concave.

We confess three obvious differences between the two equations which we have taken to represent our critic’s conception of the relation of convexity to concavity and the relation of consciousness to matter. In equation (1), which is m = -(-m), representing the former relation, the same symbol m stands on both sides; in equation (2) the symbols are different, x on one side, y on the other. In (1) the coefficient also is the same on both sides, namely unity; in (2) the coefficients are different, unity on one side, a on the other. And in (1) the signs are opposite on the two sides, while in (2) the sign is the same on both sides.

What do these differences mean? To begin with, is (1) monomial and (2) binomial? No; in spite of the fact that there is only one symbol in (1), this equation is binomial in precisely the same sense as (2) is binomial; for it means that a certain attitude toward m, symbolized by the minus sign, transforms m into something distinguishable from m. If equation (1) expressed an identity, it would not represent the relation of convexity to concavity, which are not identical but distinguishable. But what is thus expressed in (1) by difference of sign is expressed in (2) by difference of coefficient; for (2) means that a certain attitude toward the entity symbolized by x (an attitude symbolized by the phrase “divide by a”) transforms x into y. In short, the connotation differs, on the two sides, in both equations alike. But on the other hand, the denotation is the same on both sides in each equation, for such is the nature of all equations, whether binomial or any other kind. Thus we have identity of denotation with difference of connotation in each of these equations, and they are so far homogeneous with each other. Now connotation is aspect, which is determined by subjective attitude; and attitudes are interrelated in determinate and accurately expressible ways; as, for instance, by antagonism or mutual exclusion, or by any of an indefinite number of forms of implication. The difference of attitude called antipodal oppositeness, or polarity, is the specific difference expressed in equation (1); whereas the coefficient a, in (2), expresses mere difference of attitude, difference in general, including, therefore, that specific difference which is expressed by opposition of sign. Thus equation (1) is a case of equation (2).

To sum up: The objection, stated in these algebraic symbols, was this: m implies -m; x does not imply y. Express the fact of relief149 in terms of m and you have the correlative fact in -m implied in the very definition of m; while if you express x in terms of y, you have y values, and nothing but y. In short, x and y exclude each other; m and -m imply each other. Our answer is that x implies y just as m implies -m; for ay is an aspect of the same denotation as x; and, since the specificity of every aspect of a given denotation is determinable or definable by relation to all other aspects of the same denotation, any one of such aspects, as x, implies, in its definition, every other, and so y, instead of excluding y.

Turning from such abstract considerations to empirical study of the sensation, the same sort of difficulty reappears. We think we find a dynamic relationship of organic to extra-organic processes; this relationship presents a material aspect, which we call neural activity, and a formal aspect, which we call blue, for instance. But the critic objects that all this is much more than sensation, and that we have read our hypothesis into our data. We must keep to the pure sensation; in that, there is no neural process. So, even as, before, all our attempts to propose a definition of consciousness for analysis were ruled out as begging the question, now every sample of the experience to be observed is rejected as impure. There is no sensation that is pure in such a sense as our critic means, for he means subjectivity that implies no objectivity. If this is more than a word, it is a self-contradiction, since subjectivity is subjectivity only in the fact of correlation with objectivity. Indeed, if our critic were to observe convexity as he proposes that we observe sensation, he would find no implication of concavity in it; nor would he find it convex. His observation would be the convexity; the two would coincide, and so would not be two. Convexity in its essence, as convex, would therein no longer be the object of the observation. You have to get outside of your convexity to observe it and its implication of concavity; just so, you have to get outside of your sensation to know it; in it, you know only the object of it. When convexity is said to imply concavity, convexity is just therein not “pure,” as the sensation is supposed to be. “Pure” convexity, analogous to “pure” sensation or subjectivity, would be convexity without implication of concavity. That would be zero convexity, so to speak—a self-contradiction. Just so, the “pure” sensation, without implication of objectivity, is a fact of consciousness without the essence of consciousness, which is dynamic relatedness150 to an object. “Pure” consciousness is consciousness of nothing, or no consciousness.

If our critic have his way, we have nothing left us to discuss. Let us invite his attention to a discussable phenomenon of our own designating, and definable in some such way as this: the simultaneous belonging of an experience to an organism and to another material fact, say the sky. The two belongings are distinguished by a sui generis difference of direction or relational “sense,” which unambiguously determines the organism to be the subject of the belonging, the sky the object. We have at least as good a right to call this phenomenon by the name of consciousness, or sensation, as our critic has to name that a sensation which he so defines that its definition is contradicted by the naming.

Now, experience is essentially dynamic, and, for an organism, to be active is to be functionally ordinated or focalized. For example, the eye and other parts may be subservient, in different ways and degrees, to the hand. Then the organism is focalized into an organ of touch, of striking, or whatever it may be. Every other function contributes as accessory to this primary function, in the organism’s present phase.

We have called consciousness the formal aspect of activity, and we mean by “form” applied to activity what we mean elsewhere, determinateness or definableness. Here, in particular, it is that character which depends on resistance or reactivity. Activity without resistance would be without determination; its character or content would have vanished; it would be activity upon nothing, which, like consciousness of nothing, is nothing. So the resistance that factors in activity is not extraneous to the essence of activity, and consciousness and material processes imply each other not only with the same logical necessity but with the same polar oppositeness of mutual relation, as the aspects of relief.

Consciousness is thus the inversion or reciprocal aspect of organic activity, virtual, in distinction from externalized or real, activity. Where attention is focalized, action is most resisted. As action approaches free vent, consciousness of the object of this free activity becomes more and more evanescent. At the limit where action is unresisted, it and consciousness go out, vanish together, in inverse “sense” or directions. Where action approaches “pure” (i. e., unresisted) activity, pure positivity, pure subjectivity, consciousness approaches “pure” (i. e., unreacting) passivity, pure151 negativity, pure objectivity. And such “pure” action and consciousness are pure nothing, action on nothing, sensation of nothing. The vanishing of the two relations together is, in each case, for lack of one of its terms inverse to the term lacking in the other case.

This mutual symmetry between action and consciousness is an implicate of their identity of denotation and mutual inversion of aspect; and any study of the fluctuations and transitions of consciousness, with its modulations of attention and inhibition, is accordingly a study in inverse, a perfect logical function, of corresponding modifications of organic activity; for in the play of the organic functions we shall find incessant modulations between their focalization and their dispersion, incessant shifting of their mutual rank and of the position of primacy among them, to correspond with the changes between margin and focus that are always going on among the elements of consciousness.

The organism is structurally and functionally centralized in a sensori-motor system, where the afferent activity is opposed by the efferent, in a common focus, or in coincident foci, in which action and reaction give form to each other. Here organic reaction has its inception in a preformation, schema or design, as Bergson says, of the developed activity. An intricate manifold of functions are organized: interest determines the ascendency or primacy of a certain function, while others are subservient, being inhibited or reinforced in varying degrees. The whole complex process has this character of focal, unifying organization, a unity expressed in opposite aspects as the simple form of activity, on the one hand, and as the simple object of perceptive consciousness on the other.

Chapter III



The fallacy of conceptualism, which, as Bergson conceives it, is to substitute space for time as the form of mental existence, has been discussed in the first chapter of Time and Free Will in the aspect of applying intensive magnitude, and in the second chapter, numerical multiplicity, to psychic facts. It is the same fallacy which is discussed in the third chapter, in the aspect of applying to them the conception of determinate, causal organization. The outcome of the book is thus that the problem of freedom is just the problem of conceptualism, a problem of philosophic method. This book, Time and Free Will, is a manual of instruction for knowing the reality of mental existence; and its object is the practical object of indicating the attitude necessary for that purpose. There are two possible attitudes, that of space and that of time, or that of conception and that of intuition. The conceptual is the attitude taken by philosophy universally, to be sure; which explains the futility of all extant discussions of the “persistent problems of philosophy.” It is clear, for instance, Monsieur Bergson thinks, that this attitude gives rise, in an automatic and inevitable way, to the problem of freedom—that is, that there would be no such problem but for this false cognitive attitude;—and at the same time that by originating in this unhappy way the problem is necessarily a pseudo-problem, cannot be stated without contradiction. For when you regard mental facts in the spatial or conceptual way, the question automatically arises, how are these facts causally related with other spatial facts? It is a contradiction because by “these” facts you mean non-spatial facts, which, in the nature of causation, can not be causally related with spatial facts, but which, the question presupposes, are so related. Such is the real meaning153 of the traditional problem of freedom. The solution, says Bergson, is to cease thinking spatially of that which is temporal; take the other attitude. Once you have done so, the problem vanishes; the causal relation is by definition a spatial relation, and there are no longer two spatial terms to be related. Such determinism is the associationistic conception of mind as an assemblage of distinct, coexistent elements of which the strongest exerts a preponderant influence on the others. Their organization is a mechanical system, and their operations obey the laws of mechanical causation.

As relative (i. e. quantitative) intensity is to absolute, qualitative intensity, as juxtaposited multiplicity is to interpenetrating multiplicity, so is determinate organization to organization by free evolution. The categories magnitude, number and cause apply to space. The difference, for Bergson, between space and time is, as we have seen, so absolute that it hardly expresses his theory aright to say that to the above three characters of space three temporal characters correspond. Reason seems lacking for any correspondence whatever. This is certain, at any rate: that when intellect makes time an object, and sees it greater or less, divisible and regularly consequential, three things are true about the real, non-objective nature of time, each of which truths manifests itself to intellect, but wrongly, erroneously. Moreover, it is plainly by reasoned, analytic discourse that Bergson discovers that the above intellectual manifestations of time’s essence are false. One discovers, furthermore, by this conceptual process, just how they are false, and corrects them with a result so conceptually precise and intelligible that, instead of these three characters falsely spatial, other three are determined as truly temporal. Instead of magnitude, quality has in this way been substituted; instead of multiplicity, indivisible variousness. For cause, the last chapter of the Essai substitutes freedom.

We should now be well prepared for divining the nature of the freedom which is consciousness, or more generally, life. The organization of the facts of a given consciousness is such that the person is focally entire in any one of them, even as the entire body functions in each of its functions (cf. page 20). The determinate type of organization is analogous to the mechanically actuated manikin, not to the natural man, even though those fragments which build up the structure of the associationist soul are forces;154 for these forces are mutually distinct parts of the soul, whose union in it, and so whose interaction, depends on some principle extrinsic to any of them and is thus wholly determined from without. In the developmental type of organization, on the contrary, the wholeness of action is its freedom, rather than independence of what is not itself. Although such independence seems to belong to it, as well, what Bergson is interested to emphasize about the freedom of the free action is that it is the expression of the entire person.

In the domain of life, there is no identity, for there is no permanence—“the same does not remain the same,” as Bergson puts it. The ego is not the same ego in any two moments; it is not the same ego that deliberates from moment to moment; and two contradictory feelings that move it are never respectively self-identical in two moments. Indeed, if the case were otherwise, a decision would never be made; the equilibrium of the opposing feelings would never be resolved. Merely by the fact that the person has experienced a feeling, he is modified when a second feeling comes. The feelings are the continually modified ego itself, a dynamic series of states that interpenetrate, reinforce each other and result in a free act by a natural evolution, because it emanates from the entire person.

Such is the character of the free act, a very intelligible character, it would seem, a character lending itself tractably enough to verbal definition, that is, conceptual definition, as a certain relation of act to agent. Yet it must immediately be added that what seems so intelligible and so conceptual an explication of this “certain relation”—what is contained in the two paragraphs preceding—is not regarded by the author as a definition of freedom. It seems that there is a distinction between the formulation of a conception on one hand, and a definition, on the other, though Bergson does not elucidate this distinction explicitly, and I have had to give up the attempt. The distinction is evidently of crucial importance, nevertheless. “We can now formulate our conception of freedom,” says the author, on page 219 of Time and Free Will. “Freedom is the relation of the concrete self to the act which it performs. This relation is indefinable just because we are free. For we can analyze a thing, but not a process; we can break up extensity, but not duration. Or, if we persist in analyzing it, we unconsciously transform the process into a thing, and duration155 into extensity ... and, as we have begun by, so to speak, stereotyping the activity of the self, we see spontaneity settle down into inertia and freedom into necessity. Thus, any positive definition of freedom will ensure the victory of determinism.”

The attempt is therefore unwisely made by indeterminists to define freedom by meeting determinists on their own ground when the latter turn the question of freedom into considerations of the relations of the voluntary act to its antecedents, characterizing voluntary activity as essentially foreseeable before, or apodictically intelligible after the fact. When indeterminists permit themselves to be thus ambushed, they commit themselves to the support of determinism, by accepting the deterministic postulate, in the one case that “foreseeable” has intelligible meaning applied to psychic states, which it has not; or, in the other case, that willed acts are intelligible both before and after the fact.

The determinist, that is,—to take the second case first—professes that an act depends in a mechanical way upon certain antecedents. The indeterminist contends that the same antecedents could have resulted in either of several different acts, equally possible. Defenders and opponents of freedom agree in making a kind of mechanical oscillation between two points precede the action. I choose A. The indeterminists say, You have deliberated; then B was possible. The determinists reply, I have chosen; therefore I had some reason to do so, and when B is declared equally possible, this reason is forgotten; one of the conditions of the problem is ignored. Both represent the activity by a deliberative route which divides. Call the point of the division O; then the divisions of the forked line OA and OB symbolize the two divisions which abstraction distinguishes within the continuous activity, of which A is the termination. But while determinists take account of everything, and find that the route MOA has been traversed, their opponents ignore one of the data with which they have constructed the figure; and, after tracing the lines OA and OB, which ought to be united if they are to represent the progression of the ego’s activity, they make this progression go back to O and begin oscillating again!

The trouble with both these solutions, Bergson says, is that they presuppose an achieved deliberation and resolution, representable in space by a geometrical figure. The question, Could the ego, having traversed the route MO and decided on A, have chosen B?156 is nonsense: to put such a question is to affirm the possibility of adequately representing time by space, succession by simultaneity. It is to attribute to the figure traced the value of an image and not merely of a symbol. Figures represent things, not progressions: how shall a figure furnish the least indication of the concrete motion, of the dynamic progression by which the deliberation results in the act? The defenders of freedom say, The route is not yet traced; therefore one can take any direction. To which we reply, You can speak of a route, in such a connection, only after the action is accomplished, and then it has been traced. The determinists say, The route has been traced thus; therefore its possible direction was only that particular direction. To which we reply, Before the route was traced there was no direction, possible or impossible; there could, as yet, be no question of a route. In its lowest terms this merely means: The act, once accomplished, is accomplished; and the argument of the determinists: The act, before being accomplished, was not as yet an act. The question of freedom is not touched, because freedom is a shade or quality of the act itself, not a relation of this act with what it is not nor with what it can be. Deliberation is not oscillation in space; it is dynamic progression, in which the ego and the motives are in a continual becoming, as living beings.

Indeterminists, Professor Bergson says, must beware, again, of arguing against the prevision of voluntary acts. Once more, this is not because prevision of a voluntary act is possible, but because there is no sense in the phrase. If Paul knew all the conditions under which Peter acts, his imagination would relive Peter’s history. He must pass through Peter’s very own psychic states, to know with precision their intensity and their importance in relation to his other states. The intensity, in fact, is the peculiar quality of the feeling itself. Now, to know all the antecedents of the act would bring you to the act itself, which is their continuation, and not merely their result, and above all in no way separate from them. To relive Peter’s history is just to become Peter—that is the only way Paul could conceivably “know all the antecedents” of the act in question. There is no question of predicting the act, but simply of acting. Knowledge of the antecedents of the act without knowledge of the act is an absurdity, a contradiction. The indeterminists can mean nothing, by such a contention as this, but that the act is not an act until it is acted—which is hardly157 worth meaning;—and the determinists can mean only that the act, once acted, is acted—which is no better. The subject of freedom is beside the point, in such a debate.

So the question of prevision comes to this: Is time spatial? You drew Peter’s states, you perceived his life as a marking in space. You then rubbed out, in thought, the part OA, and asked if, knowing the part before O, you could have determined OA beforehand. That is the question you put when you bring in Paul’s representation of the conditions (and therefore their materialization) under which Peter shall act. After having identified Paul with Peter, you make Paul take his former point of view, from which he now sees the line MOA complete, having just traced it in the rôle of Peter.

Prevision of natural phenomena has not the slightest analogy with that of a voluntary act. Time, in scientific formulæ, is always and only a number of simultaneities. The intervals may be of any length; they have nothing to do with the calculation. Foreseeing natural phenomena is making them present, or bringing them at least enormously nearer. It is the intervals, the units themselves—just what the physicist has nothing to do with—that interest the psychologist. A feeling half as long would not be the same feeling. But when one asks if a future action can be foreseen, one identifies physical time, which is a number, with real psychological duration, which has no analogy with number. In the region of psychological states there is no appreciable difference between foreseeing, seeing and acting.

According to the mechanical law of causation, the same causes always produce the same effects. But, in the region of psychic states, this law is neither true nor false, but meaningless; for in this region there is no “always:” there is only “once.” A repeated feeling is a radically different feeling. It retains the same name only because it corresponds to the same external cause, or is outwardly expressed by analogous signs. It was just said that the ego is not the same in any two moments of its history. It is modified incessantly by the accumulation of its past. One’s character at any moment, is the condensation of one’s past. Duration acts as a cause; but this temporal or psychological causation has no more analogy with what is called causation in nature than temporal variousness has with number, or intensity with magnitude. A causality which is necessary connection is, at bottom,158 identity; the effect is an expression of the cause, as mathematical functions are expressions of each other. But no psychic state has this virtual identity with, or mathematical reducibility to, any other with which it would thus be in the “necessary” kind of causal relation. Such effect is not given in the cause, but is absolutely new.

Time that has passed is an objective thing, and is representable by space; time passing is a subjective process, and is not representable. The free act is the actual passing of time; time in its passing is the very stuff of the existence of freedom. Analyze an act, and you make it a thing. Then its spontaneity is altered into inertia, its freedom into necessity. Hence any definition of freedom makes it determinism. But, though the analysis of the act and the definition of freedom are illusory undertakings, the fundamental fact of freedom remains unassailable by any argument.

* * * * *

Bergson’s way of vindicating freedom is thus to find no case against it. Of the positive sort, the only, and sufficient proof is appeal to consciousness. Freedom is an immediate datum of consciousness.

This is confusing to anyone who cannot follow Bergson in his view that subject and object, in actual intuitive consciousness, are indistinguishable, identical. And this fusion of the poles of consciousness while the nature of consciousness not merely suffers nothing but even attains its apogee thereby, needs more justification than Bergson has given it. Freedom is a datum of consciousness; but, as undetermined, it must, on Bergson’s principles, be consciousness itself—which, indeed, is plainly enough the teaching intended. Freedom is consciousness, then, purely subjective. In what sense is it a datum of consciousness? If it is a datum, is it not an object, of consciousness? It seems a case where, in order to see, you musn’t look, lest looking make what is purely subjective an object! This is hardly the case of the fovea and the faint star, where looking loses your object; for here, looking rather produces it where no object belongs, or—perhaps one should say—transforms it. Your look, says Gustave Belot,134 congeals and immobilizes it, denatures it like the Gorgon’s stare! It is knowable, says Bergson, only by being lived. It is a feeling we have. But the trouble is that, to be159 known as undetermined, as freedom, to be even a feeling we have, it is back upon our hands as a datum, as an object.

Before I comment in my own way on the Bergsonian view of freedom, I wish to call to the attention of English readers the keen reaction of this French critic of Bergson. Belot objects to the modest-seeming statement that freedom is a feeling we have. Neither psychology, he thinks, nor common sense, approves.135 They establish, on the contrary, a sensible difference between freedom, whatever it may be, and the feeling we have of it—any feeling we can possibly have. Our feeling of freedom is much less variable than our freedom. “We agree not to attribute a veritable practical freedom to the dreaming man, to the somnambulist, to the man affected with some mental disease. Yet the man who, in dream, sees himself act, sees himself free in his action; the somnambulist equally feels himself free and attributes to himself, in his dream, a responsibility that we decline to put upon him, and which he will reject, himself, when he wakes136 ... The furious madman must ordinarily feel himself free in the accomplishment of a murder for which a tribunal will not consent to punish him. The fact is, it suffices, in order that we should feel ourselves free, that our acts should be in harmony with our ideas and our feelings. Now, that may very well be, in the cases of the dreamer, the somnambulist, the madman.... They would therefore feel themselves free. But they are not free; for they only act from an incomplete consciousness; and a great number of elements of their normal ego, which would permit the revision, the correction, the inhibition, are lacking.” A glimmering of the fact of one’s madness is a token of the only residuum there is of freedom. “It is to conserve some freedom, to perceive that one no longer is master of oneself.”

Bergson is alive to all this—sometimes, as when he says that the freedom of a free action is its entirety, its expression of the total personality. But Belot is quite justified in charging him with forgetting it, for only by forgetting it could he conceive of freedom as an immediate datum of consciousness. It is, indeed, far from the case that our freedom is nothing but the feeling we have of it, or that it is proportional to this feeling. What is so altered by the160 determinist habit of mind, by the conceptual attitude toward will, is not at all one’s feeling of freedom, but only one’s interpretation of it. An immediate, spontaneous feeling, being prior to theory and analysis, is safe from any influence from them. In the most incorrigible determinist, consciousness of the wish, other things equal, is exactly the same as in the most incorruptible indeterminist.

Precise determination of will is not only not contrary to freedom but is indispensable to it. Minimizing the value of motive in activity is loss, not gain, to freedom. The motive is what connects our act to our whole personality, and makes it ours. Without this connection, we are not free; its interruption is a limitation, not the condition, of freedom. And indeed freedom is so limited by the mass of our unreflecting impulses. Bergson is right in saying that we are rarely free. But therefore he is wrong in saying that freedom is the mere spontaneity of the ego.

In a certain passage137 Bergson describes freedom in a way which seems almost explicitly to deny the doctrine that it is the entirety of will. Here it is a revolution of one part of the self against the rest, far from emanating from the total self. And such revolution, just so far as it is purely spontaneous, or arbitrary, is irresponsible instead of free. Just so far, on the other hand, as it is not arbitrary, it is determined. In fact, however, appearance of arbitrariness argues nothing about determination except that one is ignorant about it.

In showing the absurdity of all argumentation for or against the determination of a future voluntary act by present conditions, the considerations offered by Bergson are almost perfect proof of such determination. The reason we cannot think another’s thought without disfiguring it is just that the conditions of the thought, and so of the act, are not all reunited. The act, then, is supposed to depend on these conditions. Now, an absolute present is a fiction; each moment of the true duration of consciousness is a commencement and an achievement. Determination is nothing but that intimate connection of events which prevents us from isolating an absolute present. The case of Peter and Paul then, proves only that foresight could not be adequate to determination, not that determination is absent. The inability of even the author161 of an act to foresee it is no criterion of its freedom. Any free acts of our own that we do foresee, we foresee as connected with our present state, as ours, in fact; it is that which makes their freedom, but that supposes also their determination. This foresight, it may be said, is always insufficient and imperfect. So much the worse for freedom, not the better. It is thereby limited, not made. There are, indeed, always events outside of us that baffle our calculations, as well as unconscious tendencies, unperceived forces within us, indistinctly developing beneath the reflective and clear-seeing ego (Bergson calls this the superficial, Belot the higher ego) which suddenly break out, rout it and upset it. Such civil war is anything but freedom.

The uniqueness of psychic states, whether free or not, neither exempts them from determination nor even differentiates them from physical states. That a psychic state is not reproducible Bergson shows to be because the past, incessantly accumulating and modifying itself, is never the same in two moments. A clearer statement of the solidarity of past and present—i. e. of determination—could not be made. It may well be true that in the physical as well as in the moral world, every individual is without counterpart; it is none the less a product of nature, for its uniqueness; and, as a product of nature, determined, in its own uniqueness, by nature. Among our most unique acts, the most original are far from being the freest. The eccentricities of the madman are more original than the sober doings of the rational, but not so free. The more enlightened men are, the freer; but the more they do and think the same thing. Their divergences come from their ignorances and their unconsciousness, which are also the limits of their freedom. It is the same with them as with nature: it is when it produces monsters that it is most new, but it is then also that it has been least free, most constrained in its doings.

Monsieur Bergson has not done away with psychological determinism; but if he had, he would have hindered freedom rather than helped it. But the problem is not purely psychological; it is psycho-physical. We are at once body and consciousness. A freedom which were not exerted in the outer world would be absolutely nominal and illusory; and in order to manifest itself therein, it must be accompanied by physical processes. These too, then, if determinism is contrary to freedom, must be exempt from determination.

162 Bergson’s denial of psycho-physical parallelism138 is no gain for freedom. If no external effect is essentially involved in a volition, the volition is impotent—which is surely not to be free. Nor would it be characteristic of freedom to have activities going on in the organism without the avowal of consciousness. So far as we do possess such unconscious goings-on, we are absolutely passive to their operation. Psycho-physiological parallelism139 is a condition of freedom, not its negation. Some sort of correspondence is necessary to the feeling of freedom, and in that case freedom cannot dispense with determinism in nature, at least. One might, perhaps, suppose a preestablished harmony between a contingency (the moral world) and a determinism (the physical); it would be easier to suppose it between two determinisms; but between two contingencies—that is too much to ask!

Suppose, then, the ability of mind to produce, veritably cause physical modifications. Suppose an energy not subject to calculation. But how shall we ever know such an energy in the external world? All that is spatial is calculable, if number is derived from space. How could an energy, then, be manifest in the physical universe, i. e. in space, without being thereby subjected to the same forms of quantity and to the requirements of calculation?

Bergson’s attempt to repudiate the problem of determinism, as a pseudo-problem, results in his vacillation between the two sides of the controversy. Sometimes he accepts the solidarity of our acts with the rest of our conscious life, sometimes he denies it; which is to vindicate freedom sometimes by determinism, sometimes by indeterminism. In the beginning he founds freedom in the mutual penetration of the states of consciousness; even sensation is a commencement of freedom, because it embraces “the sketching and, as it were, prefiguring of the future automatic movements;”140 and the free act is defined as that which “springs from the self”141 without intervention of anything strange. Then, little by little, the contrary thesis takes the upper hand: the act of163 will becomes a coup d’état; “the successive moments of real time are not bound up with one another;”142 the dynamic conception supposes “that the future is not more closely bound up with the present in the external world than it is in our own inner life.”143 Bergson maintains, to be sure, that solidarity can be admitted between the past and the present and denied between present and future. Once the event happens it is indeed necessary that we should be able to explain it, and we can always do so by plausible reasons. But this connection is established after the fact for the satisfaction of our discursive reason. The past is fixed, it cannot not have been; it has become a thing, under the domain of the understanding and of analysis. Whereas, at the moment of enactment, the activity is a process, and so not capable of analysis. When the route is traced, we can analyze its directions and windings, but it is not traced in advance of being traced; it is the tracing that makes the route, not the route that determines the tracing. You can explain what is given, but there is no explaining what is not given.

Bergson, however, does not keep this point of view. The future, we have just seen, is “prefigured” in the present. Then it is as necessary to the feeling of our freedom to be able to connect our future to our present in our decision, as to be able, once the act is accomplished, to give account of it by reasons drawn from our consciousness. Bergson’s thought vacillates this way because he attributes two incompatible characters to the inner life, qualitative heterogeneity and mutual penetration of its states. Grant the heterogeneity and you have an infinitesimal dust, the very denial of connection and penetration. If the states penetrate there are always two near enough to each other in quality to form an identical whole, while they differ only in degree, as two very near shades of the same color. But then there is a quantitative, and so a homogeneous, aspect of the inner life.

Chapter IV



A deep, temperamental abhorrence of determinateness—that is the motive of Bergsonism. By admission of Bergson, any object of the mind is determinate. But therefore a philosophy that repudiates determinateness in the nature of reality is ineffable because it is objectless. It is ineffable also because any reason offered for the indeterminateness of reality is determination of it. The dread of determinateness is the dread of reason, of explanation, of interpretation—in a word, of philosophy. A consciousness which can ‘testify that we are free’ is not an objectless consciousness; and freedom, if consciousness can testify to it, cannot be an indeterminate nor an immediate (i. e. unobjectified) datum of consciousness. Bergson’s position is that it is essential to the true nature of reality in itself, under whatever aspect—e. g. duration, motion, freedom etc.—to be subjective; and that this is why Zeno is right in finding motion, for instance, unthinkable; for “unthinkable” properly means (though it did not mean, for Zeno) incapable of becoming objective. This to say, is it not, that the true nature of reality independently of all point of view is to be viewed from a certain point! It comes to this, at least, if to be subjective is compatible with being known in any sense, with being contained within consciousness at all. Otherwise it comes to the skeptical (and self-contradictory) doctrine that it is essential to the true nature of reality to be unknowable in every sense. The former, of course, is Bergson’s view regarding subjectivity.144

The anti-intellectualist doctrine, however, that data of consciousness cannot be understood, conceptualized, defined, or even165 named—cannot, in short, be objectified—without contradiction is as important for the problem of knowledge as it is for the problem of freedom. Professor Perry’s analysis of immediatism145 shows the misunderstanding of what it is to conceptualize, which underlies such a doctrine. The anti-intellectualist idea seems to be that the concept is static, and common to more than one consciousness, and universal in its denotation, and sharply discrete; and that for these reasons it could not correspond to what is fluid and private and uniquely particular and continuous. It is evidently the “copy theory” of knowledge, which unconsciously determines this criticism of the concept. Concepts are invalid, applied to life, because they are not like living objects! “You cannot make continuous being out of discontinuities,” is James’s criticism.146 And Bergson’s: “Instead of a flux of fleeting shades merging into each other [intellect] perceives distinct and, so to speak, solid colors, set side by side like the beads of a necklace.”147 But, as Perry shows, to conceptualize is nothing like this procedure. Conception is substitution of one object of immediate consciousness which is conveniently abstract, for another object which is, in the circumstances of the conceiving, inconvenient in its concrete fulness. All that is necessary in order that this substitutional mode of consciousness should be valid and true knowledge of the object so symbolized, is that the substitute should mean that object. And that it can and does mean it when the object is a subjective state is no more than the fact that, on Bergson’s own showing, such states are symbolized. For to mean is essentially to symbolize. Certainly no one concept is a rounded-out exhaustive awareness, so to speak, of the symbolized object. But this is no more than to say that conceiving is a selective and eliminating mode of consciousness—which does not distinguish it from any other mode, the most immediate and intuitive possible state of genuine significant consciousness being essentially as much an elimination as a positing.

Since, then, a symbol never has (just by reason of its function as symbol) the same structure as the object symbolized, there is nothing either in the immobility, or the publicity, or the universality, or the discreteness of any concept, or in its inclusion of all these characters, to prevent its validly meaning the fluid and private166 and particular and continuous. And the real must necessarily have the conceptual characters, since the characters correlative to them, alone regarded by Bergson as characters of reality, have no meaning except correlatively to the conceptual characters. Thus “fluidity of nothing” is a phrase without meaning. The something which is fluid, requires, in order that fluidity as such shall be a datum of experience, a coefficient aspect of immobility. It is not fluidity that flows. The immobile, snap-shot conceptual form—not only does this belong to the cataract, as the possibility of photographing it proves, but this very form is indispensable to the fact of flow in its genuine concreteness. As for uniqueness, a fact so unique that it is like nothing else in any respect, could not be discriminated. The bare discernibleness of a datum requires a basis of discrimination which is common to it and to that from which it is discriminated. Continuity is analogous with unity, and has no meaning if there is no aspect, in it, of composition, and so of discreteness, as unity is nothing if not union of a plurality. That the real has the aspects eulogistically favored by intuitionism is beyond question. That it has not the complementary conceptual aspects is demonstrably false, and is an illusion of “exclusive particularity,” explainable only by that prepossession with a certain abstract view, whose psychological origin has been repeatedly noted in this study.

Is it not truly a paradox to give the unnamable a long list of names—life, consciousness, freedom, duration, intensity, quality, heterogeneity etc.—and to write a book, whether practical or speculative, concerning that which will not articulate into discourse, (cf. above, p. 54–5), employing these names on every page; and to conclude with a studied definition of freedom; and to avow that the purpose of it all is to make the fact understood that the subject-matter cannot even be named, still less defined or discoursed about or understood? It seems improper to consider that the book is about such a subject, and yet necessary to suppose that it is about some subject, and impossible to assign another. If it is true that, in seeming to name this subject, you are deluded; that, in trying to talk about it, you fail, and name and talk about something else, instead, its spatialized symbol—then the conclusion is perfectly valid that such a book is a case of this delusion. And the trouble lies in that reifying of the coefficients of reality and of consciousness which is the condition of a philosophy of “pure”167 intuition (cf. page 29). To suppose that genuine cases of awareness can be either pure intuition or pure conception is to reify these coefficient aspects of consciousness, which are as truly both indispensable for the genuine concreteness of an actual case of awareness as are the positive sine and cosine for the real acuteness of an angle (i. e. for the angle to enclose acutely space revolved-through). As the zero point of either trigonometric projection is the vanishing-point of the entity of whose nature they are coefficient functions, so the “purity” of either coefficient function of consciousness is the vanishing of any real awareness.148

If no logical reason impugns the validity of conceptual knowledge of subjective states, no more does the pragmatic test discredit such knowledge. It is as good, genuine knowledge in its satisfaction of vital interest as the sensation, say, which is the object of the state in question. Helen Keller, incapable of the sensation blue, knows the sensation—conceptually alone, of necessity—rather better, even, it may be, than she would ever have known it if her life had been more occupied in the knowing of blue—and other such—things; better, at any rate, certainly, than most people know it. All this knowledge can be is a rationalizing of “blue:” she can name it, define it, understand it, make articulate and significant statements about it. The intellectual mode of knowing blue is thoroughly significant. It finds blue in experience, and enables the conscious subject to identify this object when she comes across it. By this knowledge, blue is part of the currency of Helen Keller’s social commerce. It is a factor in her life, with its importance and interest. Obviously, she can have got it only by conceptualizing it.

Of course the proposition that consciousness is indefinable has the same futility as the proposition that it is unnamable; because, indeed, they have the same meaning. The meaning, we have seen, is that, in trying to name or define what is fluid, private, etc., there is a miscarriage; it is something else that gets named or defined, to wit the representative or symbol of what was aimed at. This symbol, being fixed and public, is able to lend itself to application of the fixed and public name or concept. But we have also seen that a name is only a symbol; an unnamable thing could not be symbolized. If, by hypothesis, it is symbolized, it is therein namable.

168 But naming a thing is ipso facto relating it, for it is associating it with something else, its name or symbol; in naming the thing you have started upon the process of defining it, which is the infinite process of relating it or understanding it. Exempting things from naming or definition, sequestering them from the rational domain, is like setting a limit to space. Sequestering from the rational domain is relating to it, and that is putting into it.

If the illusion in trying to name and define mental states is due to their fluidity and privacy, by the same token the same treatment of physical objects, which Bergson regards as valid treatment, is in fact equally illusory. To be sure, physical objects have not, according to the author, the flow of duration, but they are even less dependable creatures than mental states, for in every new moment they are something absolutely other than anything which was in the moment before. Besides which, in spite of this really incessant instantaneity, something, not explained, causes them, upon the “intersection” of our duration with them, to appear to us to be self-identical but changed, even as we ourselves. Physical objects are not fixed. One finds no exceptions in nature to the universal law of change; and the state of any physical thing at a given moment is the outcome, in continuity, of its previous states, to an indefinite regress of antecedents, quite as the case stands with the ego. In respect to duration, discriminating between physical and mental is not valid. Even between organic and inorganic matter or between conscious and unconscious organisms the difference is only one of degree or tempo of change. But if so, it is arbitrary, if one regards the present state of the conscious organism as embodying the whole of its past, to deny this of the stick and the stone. Of course mental states are not permanent; subjects, objects—nothing is permanent that has existence. Nothing stays as it is. The scope of naming and defining is not limited by permanence. Neither, however, is the flux of nature chaos, that it should not be understandable. Change, on the contrary, is the manifestation of law, in the time of Heraclitus, now, and forever.

Privacy or uniqueness is no more obstructive to understanding than is change, and, like change, has no peculiar applicability to mental states as matter of knowledge. Privacy or uniqueness applies to physical objects of knowledge in essentially the same way as it applies to mental states. Mere accessibility is, in principle,169 common for all objects of knowledge, to all subjects.149 But there is a special reason why the subject of the state is particularly disqualified, as compared with others, for knowing his state immediately, i. e. intuitively; namely, that, at the time of the existence of the state, when, alone, it could be known intuitively, he is mainly occupied with another object of knowledge, the object of the state in question. You do not, then, know a mental state best by living it, or rather in living it; your knowledge of it is just then at its worst, since you are then preoccupied in knowing something else. The state, as an attribute of the subject, is clearly one of the subject’s relations, and, so, conceptually distinct from either term. It cannot be at once a knowledge and the object of that same knowledge. Bergson’s treatment of the conscious state conceives it in just that way—as if the relation were itself one of its own terms, the object.

Knowing a mental state can only mean understanding it. It is not a concrete datum, like the sky, but an abstraction from the relationship in which the subject and the sky function as terms. One does not intuitively know the subjective process of blueness, in looking at the sky; one knows the sky in that sense, but the process only conceptually, by reflection. Is it any less an authentic object of knowledge? Is it not itself—is it any symbol of itself?—which you name and define and talk about and understand?

The practical significance of saying that one felt and now remembers a feeling is not that the feeling is what one ever felt. Feeling Number One is not an object for feeling Number Two, neither during Number One nor afterward, in reminiscent feeling. So far as the reminiscent state is another intuition, its object is the same as that of the intuition remembered—so far. But to be reminiscent, a conscious state must reflect upon, or refer to, a conscious state distinct from itself. This reflective reference is a conceptual co-element together with the intuitional character of the reminiscent state. So far as the memory is reflective, consciousness is oriented toward the original state itself as a fact, a process, conceptually distinguishable from the object of it. It is thus only so far as conceptual that subjective processes can be objects of knowledge, or, in short, be known. But if so, Bergson is wrong in two essential points: in denying that subjectivity can be objectified, and in170 affirming that knowledge of subjectivity is immediate (i. e. non-conceptual) or intuitive.

Any reminiscent state, like every other conscious state, undoubtedly is intuitive in a certain degree. The calmest reflection on an originally affective experience is tinctured with a rudimentary fluttering of the old feeling; just as, on the other hand, the most violent early repetitions of a tempestuous joy or grief must relate, in order to be reminiscent, to the original experience. No one else, it may be said, can appreciate my feeling as I do, myself: this appreciation is no conceptualization of that feeling. This is only to say that the affective as well as the representative aspect of any conscious state is unique for each subjective center of interest. But privacy no more distinguishes subjectivity from objectivity than does change. Every object, being self-identical, is unique, its quality private. Inasmuch as each conscious subject is a distinct center of interest as well as a distinct cognitive subject, the affective value of a state of a given subject must also be theoretically unique for that subject. But the state is nevertheless objective and common as well as subjective and private, since in fact it is an object for understanding. My state of mind is as accessible to your understanding as your own (it may be more so, to be sure). The understanding names the intuitive state—anybody’s at all, indifferently, one’s own or another’s— as truly as it names any other relationship or process, by virtue of its conceptual coefficient; and as truly relates it to the rest of the rational universe, therein understanding and defining it.

The derivation of the three heterologies elucidated in the three chapters of the Essai, is the inevitable consequence of the fundamental heterology of an “absolutely” two-fold universe. The intensity of mental states could not be homogeneous, for Bergson, the variousness that belongs to them could not be plural, their organization could not be determinate, because then they would be objective, by his definition of objectivity. But why may a subjective state not be an objective state? To the conceptualist, to whom these terms are abstract concepts, points of view, discursive contexts, there is no reason at all. To Professor Bergson, who does what he accuses conceptualism of doing, namely substituting concepts for concrete realities, it is a contradiction, for one concrete reality cannot be another. But a concrete reality which, for a certain purpose and in a certain context, one symbolizes by the171 term “subjective state,” may very well be the same concrete reality which, for another purpose, one symbolizes by the phrase “objective state.”

We have seen that intensity which is “pure,” pure quality, is pure nothing, being quality of nothing; since, if it is quality of anything, it has its quantitative coefficient, which destroys its purity. So variousness which is “pure” heterogeneity, is not even various, but “nothing” again. For it is “interpenetrating” instead of “juxtaposited” or impenetrable heterogeneity. But impenetrability is just identity, as Bergson remarks;150 it is a logical principle rather than a physical law. That two bodies cannot occupy the same space and time means that they would therein not be two, or coexistent. Now, interpenetration in any rigorous sense, any but the loose colloquial sense of small division and uniform diffusion, is the mere contradiction of impenetrability or identity. It means that two bodies do occupy the same space at the same time. If, then, this law of interpenetration thus means to require (in the subject) the relation of coexistence, and also (in the predicate) to forbid it—in other words, if it is contradictory to itself—mental states can obey it no better than pebbles. And, finally, non-quantitative causality is a third contradiction, since its “pure” heterogeneity destroys its continuity in time as well as in space (cf. above, page 93).

How can any of these three pairs of heterologous principles of space and time be “absolutely” different if, however different, each pair have such essential community of nature that both must be called by one name and thought under one category, as two species of the same genus? For, in spite of all their differences, they are, throughout the discussion, two kinds of intensity, of multiplicity, of causation.

Chapter V



I will conclude these comments on Professor Bergson’s teaching by noting the mystical nature of the central idea of his epistemology, the identification of subject and object. The yearning for a more intimate acquaintance with the thing-in-itself, for a knowledge truer and more searching than the “practical” and “useful” reactive relations which we bear to our “phenomenal” objects—as if such experience were unworthy the sacred name of knowledge—this, the prime aspiration of the intuitional philosophy of Bergson, reduces to a futile, if not a morbid, yearning after self-contradiction. The more you know a thing “in itself,” the more you “internalize” your relation to it—in short, the more you identify yourself with it—the less you bear any significant relation to it at all, any relation, obviously, but that of identity; the less, notably, you bear the active and cognitive relations toward it. The indispensable condition of Paul’s knowing Peter is that Paul should not become Peter. Things can neither be nor be conceived except in some relations, any more than relations without terms. If you know the thing in its relations, you know the thing as much in itself as a thing is capable of being.

“You show,” writes Professor Bergson, in the letter quoted before, “that perfect intuitive knowledge, as I mean it, would consist in coincidence with the object known; but that then there would no longer be knowledge of any object, since only the object remains.—Yet, in the case of an entirely free action, i. e. an act in which the entire person takes part, one is altogether in what he is doing; one has, at the same time, consciousness of what he is doing; and yet he is not duplicated in observing his own activity, absorbed as he is in the act itself: here to act and to know (or rather to173 possess) are one and the same thing. Intelligence, always outside of what it observes, cannot conceive of knowledge without distinctness of subject and object. It is intelligence that propounds your dilemma: ‘Either there is knowledge of the object, hence distinctness of object and subject; or subject coincides with object, and then there is only object: knowledge vanishes.’—But reality does not accept this dilemma. It presents us, in the case cited, subject and object as a single indivisible reality, action and knowledge of the action as a single indivisible reality, of which intelligence subsequently takes two points of view, that of object and that of subject, that of action without knowledge and that of pure knowledge. We have no right to set up these points of view of reality as constitutive elements of reality itself.”

The last sentence accuses me of doing what I am most zealous to show is the foundation fallacy of intuitionism! I have been contending that, when Monsieur Bergson says that subjectivity cannot be objectified, he is speaking as if “objectifying,” instead of meaning to take a point of view, means to alter the reality symbolized by the word “subjectivity.” (Of course the question concerns concrete cases of subjectivity, the intuitionist contending that a given subjective state cannot be objectified—i. e. named, defined, etc.) Now, this seems to me precisely to “set up a point of view of reality as a constitutive element of reality itself.” But intuitionism does even worse than this. Having set up this point of view of reality, and treated it in this concrete way, and worshipped it as the Absolute, it snubs that other point of view, which, by the very nature of the genuinely concrete reality, is coördinate with the deified abstraction, its brother and peer. The object has “such reality as that of rest, which is the negation of motion,” the absolute and positive; “yet it is not absolute naught.”

It seems to me that Bergson virtually admits the impossibility of the coincidence of subject and object when he says that instinct and intellect are neither possibly pure, which is deeply true. But then an action “completely free” is only a limiting case, is it not?—a case which would put the action out of relation and so out of activity? In a certain obvious sense “the whole person takes part,” perhaps, in any action; but I cannot imagine any action or state that could be other than a relation between object and subject. I cannot see how perfect self-expression in one’s act makes in any degree for obliteration of ontological distinctness174 between agent and patient, subject and object. How may action be conceived to dispense with reaction? How deny its relational character, then, without denying its activity—in short, without contradiction? “Perfect self-expression” distinguishes certain acts, no doubt, but the distinction is ethical, denoting a teleological harmony, not a metaphysical identity between subject and object.

To say that one is completely one’s act and yet knows his act again confuses a relation with one of its terms. Is it merely a matter of taste to choose to say that such a state—i. e. perfect absorption in one’s act—is not knowledge of the act just in so far as it is the act? Is it not necessary to distinguish between the subject’s relation to the act, on one hand, and to those things, on the other (which are neither subject nor act) entering, together with the subject, into the act? Those things, it seems to me, are the object, and the act itself a relation between the subject and them, a relation which wears a conscious as well as an active aspect, and which, as knowledge, is knowledge of the things, not of the act, not of itself.




Bergson’s Genius


Logical soundness is never amiss, and is notably desirable in a philosopher; but Professor Bergson is assuredly right in thinking that it is no measure of a philosopher’s genius. One’s feeling about the fallacies of Spinoza and Berkeley and Kant may pale almost into indifference, in the enthusiasm of following such heroic feats of insight.

But then, it would seem, their greatness is their insight, and not their logic, and insight therefore, after all, is philosophical genius.

We have seen that this is Professor Bergson’s conclusion. It can be interpreted in a sense that is valid, of course: all depends on the meaning of “insight.” I have insisted sufficiently on the reasons why I cannot think Professor Bergson’s interpretation of it is valid. It is a case in which the etymological and the actual meaning of a word, in a certain context, differ and so give rise to ambiguity. The word “intuition,” etymologically, means just “insight.” But then it means consciousness functioning most completely, least abstractly. Now, Bergsonian “intuition” is a conception so far from concrete completeness that almost the primary object of his philosophy is the demarcation of intuition from any actual state of which consciousness is normally capable. It is true that Bergson insists that consciousness, in a supernormal effort, is capable of the purely intuitive act, and that in the capacity for this feat of knowing lies all the hope of metaphysics. This is the ground principle of Bergsonism, and I have nothing to add here, concerning its merits. In a word, its fallacy is the fallacy of reification. No such feat of consciousness is possible, not because it is more than the limited power of actual mind can compass, but because it is a contradiction, since it is consciousness without object, which is consciousness of nothing.

178 The Bergsonian will object that, if Bergsonian “intuition” is abstract, no less abstract is intellect; and, if philosophy is insight,—consciousness most complete,—the thesis contrary to intuitionism, that philosophy is intellectual judgment, is a case of the same fallacy that has been charged to intuitionism, and is inconsistent with the admission that philosophy is essentially an insight which involves more than intellect.

The answer is first, that intellectualism, unlike intuitionism, regards philosophy as indeed an abstract interest, and for that reason as not separable from the living of a life which supports this interest in a larger total interest; but, also for that reason, as not possibly identical, either with life entire or with any interest, such as the æsthetic, of like abstractness with philosophy. The answer to the second part of the objection is that an insight which is more than intellect is not for that reason without its intellectual aspect. Consciousness is always significant, certainly; but if it has any meaning, if it is significant, it is, in that fact, intellectual. And insight without meaning is a contradiction, and is assuredly not philosophy. The appearance of inconsistency arises from the unconscious identifying of insight with intuition in the falsely reified sense. Insight in any such sense philosophy certainly is not. And yet the intellectualist may properly attribute the greatness of a philosophy to its insight rather than to its logical cogency, since cogent logic may be dull and shallow and therefore not great. It is great if it is far-seeing and deep. There is analytic insight, as well as intuitive.

After all is said, the feeling that even serious lapse of logic may not be sufficient to destroy the value of a great philosophy is not the same as the opinion that logic is immaterial to that value. No one, I dare say,—intuitionist, intellectualist or anyone else—ever thought this. The genius of a great philosophy is a superior perspicacity in the recognition of the significance of problems, a superior discernment of the problematic as such. “The earliest philosophers” says Professor James,151 “... were just men curious beyond immediate practical needs, and no particular problems, but rather the problematic generally, was their specialty.” But the perspicacity which sees the meaning and bearings of a problem cannot fail to attack its further interpretation with a superior freshness and originality. And the interpretation of a179 problem, carried to the end, is its only solution. Genius in philosophy thus also turns into superior richness of suggestion in the solutions which it invents. Inasmuch as the problem-putting and the problem-solving processes are continuous with each other, and in this important sense one and the same thing, it should be expected that philosophical genius would possess both virtues, in any actual instance. And no doubt this is the historical fact. On any view it is suggestiveness, fertility, which is the measure of philosophical genius. And it seems to the intellectualist that the possibility of philosophical fertility depends on a discursive, intellectual co-implication of the parts of the realm of truth.

But although these two phases of philosophical genius—the problem-putting and the problem-solving phases—have so intimate a relation with each other, they can and do appear in different emphases in different philosophers. The emphasis in any particular case is undoubtedly determined in part from without, notably by the philosopher’s epochal relations. Thales is greater, as well as more momentous historically, in his quest of an ἀρχή than in the consummation of the quest. With Hegel’s material to work upon, the emphasis in Thales’ genius would have been proportionately modified. And if Bergson has not, like Thales, unearthed new problems, that is nothing, for the question of the value of his work.

Indeed, the historical momentousness of a philosophy is quite largely independent of its intrinsic merit in either of these senses, or in any sense. Conditions which contribute to the vogue and influence of a philosophy are many, some obvious enough, others more recondite. The question of historical momentousness is thus only partly germane to an estimate of a philosophy’s own intrinsic worth; and, in the case of a contemporary philosophy, is in the nature of things (while the history is yet to be made) an almost unmitigated speculation. Such speculation regarding Bergson is no part of the present purpose.

One word more—before undertaking to appraise the genius of Bergson—as to the motive of such an undertaking in this particular essay. It is no part of the primary object of the essay. That object is the very impersonal one of understanding his doctrine. If logical fallacies are in any sense or degree irrelevant to the value of a philosophy, it is nevertheless a method of studying a philosophical work which is not without its value, to square it with180 logical principles. When the philosophy under criticism is already a classic, the omission of appreciative comment needs no apology, just because the merit of the work is beyond dispute. On Platonism and on Kantism much valuable light has been thrown in this severe way. In studies so occupied, disquisition on the immortal inspiration of the vision bequeathed to mankind in syllogisms which sometimes halt would not have enhanced the value of the study.

When our philosopher is a contemporary, the case is different in that then personal predilection and prejudice are without the regulation imposed by historical perspective; and injustice, even negative or privative, either to the living philosopher or to his living antagonists, has a certain human import of which the conditions are removed with mere temporal remoteness of the subject of study, when history has placed him in a setting which includes an “after” as well as a “before.”

* * * * *

Professor A. D. Lindsay has pointed out152 that, in one important respect, Bergson’s genius is of the Kantian kind. It is capacity for such interpretation of old problems that they become veritably renewed. “It is a great and essential proof of cleverness or insight,” said Kant, “to know how to ask reasonable questions.” Now, comments Professor Lindsay (without suggesting any comparison in importance between Kant and Bergson), there is this resemblance between them, that much of the interest of Bergson’s work, as of Kant’s, consists in statement and exposition of antinomies in philosophy. Like Kant’s, Bergson’s philosophy is interesting because it is a new method, and, in the same sense as Kant’s, is a critical philosophy, for it consists in finding the main source of previous difficulties in uncriticized false assumptions.

Such criticism of the question (“interpretation of the problem” I called it above) is just the proper business of the philosopher. For, every question is also an unconditional assertion. Falseness in this implied assertion is a case of the fallacy of “many questions,” which, accordingly, may be regarded as the philosopher’s first concern.

Bergson is a philosopher preeminently in this sense. He is a philosopher also (in spite of the cavalier denial of Sir. E. Ray Lankester)181153 in that he is a man with an articulate conviction concerning the nature of being and of knowledge. In the aspersion of Bergson’s thought by the above writer and by Mr. Hugh S. R. Elliot,154 there is a rancour which, in spite of much valid criticism in detail, produces an impression of ill-regulated prejudice.

This impression is no more than fairly counterbalanced by the contrary enthusiasm of such whole-souled votaries of Bergsonism as Edouard LeRoy, William James and H. Wildon Carr.

“There is a thinker,” writes M. LeRoy, “who is deemed by acknowledged philosophers worthy of comparison with the greatest.... Beyond any doubt, and by common consent, Mr. Henri Bergson’s work will appear to future eyes among the most characteristic, fertile and glorious of our era. It marks a never-to-be-forgotten date in history; it opens up a phase of metaphysical thought, it lays down a principle of development the limits of which are indeterminable; and it is after cool consideration, with full consciousness of the exact value of words, that we are able to pronounce the revolution which it effects equal in importance to that effected by Kant, or even by Socrates.”155 It is a “profoundly original doctrine.” And of endless fertility: “There is no doctrine ... which is more open, and none which ... lends itself to further extension.” Again: “... a doctrine which admits of infinite development ... a work of such profound thought that the least passing example employed takes its place as a particular study.”156 And so on ad libitum.

These are the glowing words of an ardent disciple (even though not a pupil) and may be expected to be not, after all, altogether regulated by a “full consciousness of the exact value of words.” Such phrases as “worthy of comparison with the greatest,” “beyond any doubt,” “by common consent,” are pleasantly vague, and should not offend any judgment that is not literal in season and out of season. As to the Bergsonian “revolution,” it should offend no one at all who can put up with an expression of purely speculative relish. So far, on the other hand, as this revolution is accomplished fact in the prime of our philosopher’s middle age, the mention of Socrates and Kant does savour of the ornate!

182 Bergson is at least preeminent over all other living philosophers as the expression of a very revolutionary Zeitgeist. The generation of Taine and Renan (LeRoy goes on to say) was characterized by the positivistic presumption that any object whatever could be ‘inserted in the thread of one and the same unbroken connection.’ But rationalistic arrogance has never failed to arouse an answering voice of protest and dissent; and of our own generation such anti-intellectualism is one of the controlling ideas. It is primarily the reactionary conviction that the analytic method of philosophy is abstract and empty. It is, says LeRoy, a demand for “complete experience, anxious to neglect no aspect of being nor any resource of mind.” “Everything is regarded from the point of view of life, and there is a tendency more and more to recognize the primacy of spiritual activity.” “That the attitude and fundamental procedure of this new spirit are in no way a return to skepticism or a reaction against thought cannot be better demonstrated than by this resurrection of metaphysics, this renaissance of idealism, which is certainly one of the most distinctive features of our epoch.” “But ... we wish to think with the whole of thought, and go to the truth with the whole of our soul ... And what is that, really, but realism? By realism I mean the gift of ourselves to reality, the work of concrete realization ... to live what we think and think what we live. But that is positivism, you will say; certainly it is positivism. But how changed! For, from considering as positive only that which can be an object of sensation or calculation, we begin by treating the great spiritual realities with this title.”

“A new philosophy was required to answer this new way of looking at things. Already, in 1867, Ravaisson, in his celebrated Report, wrote these prophetic lines: ‘Many signs permit us to forsee in the near future a philosophical epoch of which the general character will be the predominance of what may be called spiritualist realism or positivism, having as generating principle the consciousness which the mind has in itself of an existence recognized as being the source and support of every other existence, being none other than its action.’

“... What Ravaisson had only anticipated, Mr. Bergson himself accomplishes, with a precision which gives body to the impalpable and floating breath of first inspiration, with a depth which renews both proof and theses alike, with a creative originality183 which prevents the critic who is anxious for justice and precision from insisting on any researches establishing connection of thought.”

“... Mr. Bergson has contributed more than anyone else to awaken the very tendencies of the milieu in which his new philosophy is produced, to determine them and make them become conscious of themselves.”157

In the new and significant relation which LeRoy and others find in Bergson to motives of thought so distinct as idealism, realism, and positivism, he is a writer of the fertility of genius; in the skill of his transfusion of these motives into a type of conception underlying a very deep and widely extended tendency of the age, he is the foremost expression of that tendency. In a very limited way, only, can such enthusiasm as LeRoy’s, in a mind of his excellent discernment, be reasonably discounted. Trimmed of all its abounding fervours its fighting weight is still sufficiently impressive: how resonant to motives and convictions of actually controlling interest that mind must be which can elicit such response, needs no better proof than the response itself. No one else is so well attuned as Bergson to that demand for complete experience which, if anything, is the spirit of our time. No one else has carried so far in theory the possibilities of an intense instinctive living, as the answer to the riddle of the universe. What can be said for instinct as an organ of philosophy, Bergson has said.

All philosophers of immediacy hold Bergson as chief. Carr, like LeRoy, thinks Bergson’s doctrine as momentously original as those of the greatest classics. “Great scientific discoveries,” he writes,158 “are often so simple that the greatest wonder about them is that humanity has had to wait so long for them.” Thus with Berkeley’s “esse est percipi” and Kant’s autonomy of the intellectual categories. And equally so with Bergson’s interpretation of reality as life, “living creative evolution,” as distinct both from solid matter and thinking mind.

James, while others find quite determinate differences between him and Bergson, was far less cognizant, himself, of differences than of agreement. He was one of the keenest of Bergsonians, and regarded himself, certainly with a great deal of genial modesty, as a follower, a disciple. “... if I had not read Bergson,”184 he says,159 “I should probably still be blackening endless pages of paper privately, in the hope of making ends meet that were never meant to meet ... It is certain that without the confidence which being able to lean on Bergson’s authority gives me, I should never have ventured to urge these particular views of mine ... In my opinion he has killed intellectualism definitively and without hope of recovery.”

* * * * *

The quantity and quality of the study of Bergson’s problems by others, which his own treatment of them has stimulated, is already an enviable monument to that best quality of philosophic genius in his work, its fertility of suggestion. Speaking, as the present writer must, from the point of view of critical reaction, the value of Bergson is indeed incalculable. This is no conventional phrase. His theoretical opponent is almost inclined to feel that the stimulus which Bergson’s lucid exposition affords, to a mind of contrary conviction, to understand itself, must be a more precious good even than the quickening which his followers so eloquently confess.

The fact is that this eloquence is always more than eloquence; it is a fervour almost like religious fervour. Witness the words just quoted from James. Every true Bergsonian testifies in the same tone. Thus LeRoy:160 “Mr. Bergson’s readers will undergo at almost every page they read an intense and singular experience. The curtain drawn between ourselves and reality, enveloping everything, including ourselves, in its illusive folds, seems of a sudden to fall, dissipated by enchantment, and display to the mind depths of light till then undreamt, in which reality itself, contemplated face to face for the first time, stands fully revealed. The revelation is overpowering, and, once vouchsafed, will never afterwards be forgotten.

“Nothing can convey to the reader the effects of this direct and intimate mental vision. Everything which he thought he knew already finds new birth and vigor in the clear light of morning; on all hands, in the glow of dawn, new intuitions spring up and open out; we feel them big with infinite consequences, heavy and saturated with life. Each of them is no sooner blown than it appears fertile forever. And yet there is nothing paradoxical or185 disturbing in the novelty. It is a reply to our expectation, an answer to some dim hope....

“... whether, in the long run, we each of us give or refuse complete or partial adhesion, all of us at least have received a regenerating shock, an internal upheaval ... henceforth a new leaven works and ferments in us; we shall no longer think as we used to think.” As for the attitude of mind proper to bring to the reading of Bergson, “where the end is to understand rather than to judge, criticism ought to take second place. It is more profitable to attempt to feel oneself into the heart of the teaching, to relive its genesis, to perceive the principle of organic unity, to come at the mainspring. Let our reading be a course of meditation which we live.”

And Gaston Rageot: “... the reading of a work of Bergson’s requires at the very beginning a sort of inner catastrophe; not everyone is capable of such a logical revolution.”161 A little further on he speaks of this preparation of the mind to receive the Bergsonian doctrine as “cette volte-face psychologique.”

Conversion to Bergsonism, indeed, suggests religious conversion. Compare James’ words with the above. “... if, as Bergson shows, [the conceptual or discursive form of reality] cannot even pretend to reveal anything of what life’s inner nature is or ought to be; why, then we can turn a deaf ear to its accusations. The resolve to turn the deaf ear is the inner crisis or ‘catastrophe’ of which [M. Rageot] spoke ... [This] comes very hard. It is putting off our proud maturity of mind and becoming again as foolish little children in the eyes of reason. But difficult as such a revolution is, there is no other way, I believe, to the possession of reality.”162

Is not this experience very suggestive of the “regeneration” of Christianity? I think it is, indeed; and I think this fact is suggestive of the essential nature of Bergsonism. One may turn a deaf ear to reason, one may execute a volte-face psychologique; but, whatever the rewards, it seems unlikely (to the unregenerate, of course!) that among them will be included a better comprehension of the meaning of reality.


92 Creative Evolution p. 176. I have italicized “reflecting” and “object” to indicate the contradiction of “instinct.” And since, for Bergson, intuition is philosophic consciousness, this reflectiveness which he imputes to it is no accident, no inadvertence. Intuition must, indeed, in order to be philosophic, be reflective; that is to say, it must absolutely contradict its own nature. (In all of the references to Bergson’s works, the pages mentioned are those of the English translation.)

93 See especially Creative Evolution, pp. 191–2 and 266.

94 Cf. R. B. Perry’s Present Philosophical Tendencies, the first two sections of Chapter XI.

95 J. W. Scott, Pessimism of Bergson, Hibbert Journal. XI. 90–116. See also below p. 94.

96 Creative Evolution, p. xi.

97 Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods. Volume V. No. 22

98 Cf. the second sentence of the present essay.

99 Henri Bergson: The Philosophy of Change, p. 14.

100 This title has been given to the English translation of the Essai sur les donnes, etc.

101 Possibly this representation of Leibniz’s thought requires a word of explanation. Leibniz expresses the nature of reality in terms of force, on one hand, and of consciousness on the other. The monad or elemental reality is a unit of perception and also a unit of force. It is a living unit; as in Bergsonism, reality is life, though life in Leibniz’s philosophy is ultimately plural instead of a simple impetus. It is true that will is not a characteristic Leibnizian term, but existence is always, I think, conceived by him very clearly as conation. The self-realization of the monad is at the same time an intensification of its perceptiveness and of its dynamic. Cf. the following passages from Rogers’ Student’s History of Philosophy, pp. 307–8: “Leibniz was led by various motives to substitute, for extension, power of resistance, as the essential quality of matter.... But when, instead of extension, we characterize matter as force, a means of connection [between matter and mind] is opened up. For force has its analogue in the conscious life; corresponding to the activity of matter is conscious activity or will. Indeed, are there any positive terms in which we can describe the nature of force, unless we conceive it as identical with that conscious activity which we know directly in ourselves?” This activity, then, “Is at bottom, when we interpret it, a spiritual or perceptual activity.” In short, it is will.

Leibniz is properly regarded as the first modern spiritualist. Leibnizian matter is real, if you like, but then it is continuous, and of essentially identical nature, with spirit. Matter is spirit in a low stage of development. Bergson has no such clear and unambiguous conception of matter as this, when you consider the whole or his doctrine; but there are passages in Bergson which might almost have been written by Leibniz himself. For instance: ... “if, in fact, the humblest function of spirit is to bind together the successive moments of the duration of things, if it is by this that it comes into contact with matter and by this also that it is first of all distinguished from matter, we can conceive an infinite number of degrees between matter and fully developed spirit—a spirit capable of action which is not only undetermined, but also reasonable and reflective.” (Matter and Memory, pp. 295–6.)

102 There is a good discussion of this point in an article reviewing the Essai, by L. Levy-Bruhl, in the Revue Philosophique, Vol. XXIX (1890), pp. 513–538.

103 Cf. below, pp. 57, 58.

104 Pages 72, 73, 97. Professor Perry’s analysis of the conception of immediacy (Present Philosophical Tendencies, Chapter X) has a result that is similar in principle to the above.

105 Op. cit., p. 525.

106 Time and Free Will, pp. 118–119.

107 But Bergson apparently does not see that even the word “interpenetrate” falls to express anything radically different in temporal “multiplicity” from a certain character of spatial multiplicity. Cf. pp. 62, 101. In this, as in all its argument, intuitionism arguing is inevitably intuitionism contradicting itself. It is ineffable philosophy (see Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods, Vol. IV, p. 123.)

108 The living ego is a fact-in-the-accomplishing. You cannot really discourse about it! If psychology ever seems to manage this (and if this present book of Bergson’s seems to manage it), the ego discoursed about is, in that fact, proven to be not the concrete and living ego at all, but the impersonal and objective one.

109 The attitude, that is, of intuition, which we have called the temporal attitude. The terms “spatial,” “logical,” “conceptual,” applied here so often to the word “thought,” are epithets of thought generally. There is no thought, in any meaning of the word more specific than “consciousness,” that is not logical, conceptual and spatial in this Bergsonian sense.

If we cannot conceptualize our psychic facts, we cannot think them, then—the meaning is the same. But if we say that anything (which we name and, in the saying, define and think) is unnamable, indefinable and cannot be thought, we contradict ourselves. The doctrine, if true, must mean something that is not a self-contradiction. Does it mean that what we name and discourse about is only the spatialized symbol of the psychic fact? There can be little doubt. I think, that this is Bergson’s meaning; but then the psychic fact is of such a nature as to be symbolized; and the distinction between a symbol and a name, by virtue of which a thing which can be symbolized may not be namable, requires explanation.

110 Present Philosophical Tendencies, pp. 232–4.

111 Pp. 42, 43. Cf. also below, p. 93.

112 Op. cit., p. 128.

113 Time and Free Will, p. 98.

114 Time and Free Will, p. 113.

115 Cf. above, p. 58.

116 In order to give any meaning to the term “compenetrating” or “interpenetration” (which I take to be mutually equivalent, in Bergson’s use), I am compelled to interpret them as synonymous with the “compactness” of a continuum—as synonymous. In fact, with “continuity.” Bergson does not make clear how these terms can mean anything else (cf. below, p. 101.)

117 Bergson himself, of course, is perfectly aware—in other connections—of the continuity of space!

118 Creative Evolution, p. 1.

119 Ibid., p. 4.

120 Ibid., p. 208.

121 Ibid., p. 248.

122 Ibid., p. 247.

123 Jour. Phil. Psy. and Sci. Meth., Vol. V, No. 22.

124 Creative Evolution, p. 251.

125 Ibid., p. 269.

126 Cf. Perry’s comment, Present Philosophical Tendencies, p. 235.

127 Creative Evolution, p. 175.

128 Ibid., p. 144.

129 Ibid., pp. 176, 177.

130 Matter and Memory, pp. 6, 7.

131 Ibid., p. 8.

132 Ibid., p. 10.

133 Hugh S. R. Elliot’s Modern Science and the Illusions of Professor Bergson, pp. 98 ff.

134 Une theorie nouvelle de la liberte (Les donnees immediates), in the Revue Philosophique, Vol. XXIX (1890), pp. 361–392.

135 Op. cit., p. 368.

136 The feeling of guilt, and, so, of responsibility and freedom, can be crushing in dreams, as anyone knows who is given to appearing in dream public indecently clothed, or not clothed at all.

137 Time and Free Will, p. 158.

138 Matter and Memory, p. x: also an article entitled Le paralogisme psycho-physiologique in the Revue de Metaphysique et de Morale, Vol. XII (1904), pp. 895–908. This article is also in the Rapports et comptes rendus du deuxieme congres international de philosophie, 1905, Part I.

139 The causal relation between mental and cerebral states—i. e. interaction—would be an alternative “condition of freedom;” but this relation is included in Bergson’s denial of any sort of correspondence or equivalence (such as the quantitative equivalence of causation) between states of brain and states of mind.

140 Time and Free Will, p. 34.

141 Ibid., p. 172.

142 Ibid., p. 208.

143 Ibid., p. 215.

144 Time and Free Will, p. 83.

145 Present Philosophical Tendencies, Chapter X, section 6.

146 A Pluralistic Universe, p. 236. Quoted from Professor Perry’s work, named above.

147 Creative Evolution, p. 3.

148 The analogy holds even in the oppositeness of direction in which the evanishment, in the limiting cases, occurs (cf. above, pp. 72, 80).

149 Cf. Perry’s analysis of subjective privacy, in Chapter XII of Present Philosophical Tendencies.

150 Time and Free Will, p. 88.

151 Some Problems of Philosophy, p. 10.

152 The Philosophy of Bergson, pp. 1, 2, 3.

153 Modern Science and the Illusions of Professor Bergson, pp. vii, viii.

154 Op. cit., passim.

155 The New Philosophy of Henri Bergson, pp. 1 and 2.

156 Ibid., pp. 120, 230.

157 Op. cit., pp. 128 ff.

158 Henri Bergson: The Philosophy of Change, p. 12.

159 A Pluralistic Universe, pp. 214, 215.

160 Op. cit., pp. 3, 4, 5, 6.

161 Revue Philosophique, Ann. 32, No. 7 (July 1907), p. 85.

162 Op. cit., pp. 272–3.



Vol. I   May 15, 1914   No. 3




Instructor in Mansfield College, Mansfield, Louisiana



To G. A. L.189

Who Made Possible My
College and University Training


This paper has been prepared with the understanding that while much has been printed concerning a few individual art poems of Browning, such as Abt Vogler, Andrea del Sarto and Fra Lippo Lippi, no complete, systematic survey of the place of Italian art in Browning’s text has appeared; and in the belief that such a survey might be worth while.

Much of Browning’s treatment of art is of course omitted in the discussion; for he introduces art data from other countries than Italy, and has much to say of the nature and purpose of art in general.

Within the limits chosen, the purpose has been to make a practically complete survey for each of the five fine arts, sculpture, music, poetry, architecture and painting, in the order here given. The attempt has also been made, based on data from letters and biographies, to trace to some extent the chronological perspective of Browning’s interest in the individual arts, and to indicate the apparent sources of that interest. Chapter VII deals with “comparative aesthetics” (within the limits of our title), the poetic values Browning finds in the arts, the causes determining the relative emphasis upon each art, and the relations of these data to Browning’s dominant concern as a poet—human personality.

That the study has been brought to its present form is due, in part, to help and encouragement given by Professor S. L. Whitcomb. The manuscript has been carefully read by Professor D. L. Patterson and Professor Margaret Lynn. The former has given valuable suggestions concerning the historical aspects of the paper, and the latter, helpful criticism based on her special knowledge of Browning’s text. To these three instructors in the University of Kansas, and to all others who have given assistance, including fellow students, a grateful acknowledgement of indebtedness is here made.

Pearl Hogrefe.

Mansfield, Louisiana,

May 1, 1914.



Chapter I
Browning’s General Interest in Art.
I. Subject Matter of Browning’s Poems 9
II. Interest in Music 10
III. Relation to Painting 10
IV. Relation to Sculpture 12
V. Significance of the Preceding Sections 12
VI. Time Spent in Italy 13
VII. English Knowledge of Italian Art in Browning’s Time 13
VIII. Non-English Themes and Settings in General 14
IX. A Quantitative Statement 14
Chapter II
Italian Sculpture in the Poems of Browning.
I. General Statement 15
II. Historical Scope 16
III. Poetic Functions of the References to Sculpture 17
IV. Source of Browning’s Knowledge 22
Chapter III
Italian Music in the Poems of Browning.
I. General Statement 23
II. Catholic Hymns 23
III. Poetic Functions of the References to Music 24
IV. Lack of Modern Italian References 26
V. Conformity to Facts 27
VI. Source of Browning’s Knowledge 27
Chapter IV
Italian Poetry in the Poems of Browning.
I. General Statement 29
II. Predominance in Early Poems 29
III. Sordello 30
IV. The Imaginary Poets 30
V. The Italian as the Type of Failure 31
VI. Italian Men of Letters: Dante 32
VII. Other Real Writers 33
VIII. Browning’s Knowledge of Italian Literature 33194
IX. Browning’s Interest in Italian Literature 34
Chapter V
Italian Architecture in the Poems of Browning.
I. General Statement 35
II. Source of Browning’s Knowledge 36
III. Importance of Architecture in the Poems 37
IV. Comparison with Other Writers 38
V. Architecture and Personality 39
Chapter VI
Italian Painting in the Poems of Browning.
I. General Statement 40
II. Extent of Browning’s Knowledge 40
III. Irregular Distribution of References 41
IV. Sources of the Poems 42
V. Poetic Functions of the References to Painting 44
VI. Conformity to History 47
Chapter VII
General Comparisons: Browning and the Fine Arts of Italy.
I. Poetic Function and Method 48
II. Amount of Material Used from Each of the Fine Arts 49
III. Personality and the Arts 52
IV. Browning as the Poet of Humanity 54
I. Poems Containing Reference to Italian Art 55
II. Tabulation of References to Individual Arts:  
  Sculpture 56
  Music 58
  Poetry 60
  Architecture 61
  Painting 66
Index   75



Browning’s General Interest in Art.

I. Subject matter of browning’s poems.

—Three prominent facts concerning the subjects of Browning’s poetry are: the comparative insignificance of nature, the extensive treatment of art, and the predominance of the human soul. Only a few poems contain any extended reference to nature; and where such reference is found, nature is usually treated, as in By the Fireside, for its effect on human beings, and the soul still remains the dominant subject. Nature for its own sake is never a supreme concern. It is never considered as a primary moral force, akin to a personality, as in Wordsworth. The loveliness of nature is never personified for the sake of its own sensuous beauty, as in Keats or Shelley. Pauline, a youthful effort of which Browning later became ashamed, was written under the influence of Shelley, and approaches the style of that poet in the prominence and beauty of its nature descriptions; but no such examples of pure nature descriptions are found in Browning’s mature work. Several of the well-known longer poems—Pippa Passes, Christmas-Eve and Easter-Day, The Flight of the Duchess, for example—as well as other shorter lyrical poems, contain the nature element; but it is comparatively slight, and usually introduced for harmony, for contrast, or to give a mere unshaded background for the characters.

Concerning the predominance of the soul in Browning, every critic of the poet has written. It does not seem necessary to repeat any of this familiar criticism here. However, the emphasis placed upon personality and the soul does have a bearing on the discussion of Italian arts and artists as found in Browning. For personality is the dominant factor behind Browning’s selection and treatment of the Italian arts. Those arts in which personality is strongest196 he uses most. The poems having some one of the arts as a main theme usually had their origin in an interest aroused by some unique personality. Some further discussions of the relations of art and personality will be found in each of the five following chapters devoted to the individual arts; and more extended discussion is given in the general summary of Chapter VII.

Concerning Browning’s treatment of art, numerous articles have been written; but they are limited for the most part to consideration of one art or one poem. Browning, however, is the poet not of any one art but of art in general and of all the arts. Throughout life he was interested in more than one art and in spite of the seeming improbability of his ever having had serious doubts on the subject, it is stated163 that he was long undecided whether to become a poet, a musician, or a painter. He might, says his biographer, have become an artist and perhaps a great one, because of his brilliant general ability and his special gifts.

II. Interest in music.

—As a child, Browning received a musical education and became a pianist of some ability. His appreciation of music was further cultivated, during his young manhood, by attendance at the best concerts and operas which London afforded. Beethoven seems to be the composer mentioned most frequently in biographical sketches and in his letters, a fact which may indicate his preference in music. During the latter years of his married life, according to letters by Mrs. Browning, he took charge of the musical education given to their son, Wiedemann. So far as appreciation of Italian music and attendance at concerts in Italy are concerned, he seems to have been little interested. But again in the years following 1873, while Browning was in London, he was in frequent attendance at musical concerts. His interest in music, then, was no intermittent fancy. It was constant and above the average. If any further proof of his interest in music were needed, it is found in the influence of that interest upon his poems; for they show a finer appreciation of music and a greater knowledge of its technique than those of any other writer.

III. Relation to painting.

—A knowledge of painting and a liking for it as well, were cultivated in Browning’s earliest years, through the medium of the Dulwich Gallery. Though it is probably impossible to trace the exact influence of this gallery on his197 writings, it may be suggested as the source of references to Italian art before his visits to Italy, and as the original stimulus of his interest in the subject. At least, the Dulwich Gallery was only a pleasant walk from his home, and there his father constantly took him.164 There “he became familiar with the names of the great painters and learned something about their works. Later he became a familiar figure in one or two London studios.”

Whatever the cause of a certain decline of interest in painting previous to 1841 may have been, that decline was of short duration. Probably it was due to the increasing attention he was giving to poetry as a serious occupation. When he began to feel himself better established in his poetical career, he returned to his interest in the sister art. A letter which he wrote to Miss Haworth (probably in 1841) says that he is coming to love painting again as he did once in earlier years. In the same letter he speaks of his early efforts at the age of two years and three months, and characterizes himself as a wonderful painter in his childhood; but he adds, “as eleven out of every twelve of us are.” Such a remark, while it shows an early interest in art, and indicates that his fond relatives may have considered him a youthful prodigy in art, as fond relatives have a habit of doing on slight premises, implies that he himself did not consider his artistic ability seriously.

Browning’s interest in painting, as well as in sculpture, was retained throughout his life. On September 19, 1846, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Browning set sail for Italy; and from that time on, the wife’s letters are full of references to her husband’s interest in art. In a letter from Pisa dated November 5, 1846, she says she means to know something of pictures; for Robert does, and he will open her eyes for her. Here at Pisa, she continues, the first steps in art, for her, are to be taken. A letter dated October 1, 1847, mentions their friend, Mr. Powers, the American sculptor. Mr. Story, another sculptor; Mr. Kirkup, the art connoisseur; Fredrick Leighton; a French sculptress named Mme. de Fauveau; Gibson; Page; a Mr. Fisher, who was painting the portraits of Mr. Browning and Wiedemann; Mr. Wilde, an American artist; and Harriet Hosmer—all these artists are named as acquaintances of the literary Brownings who were stay-at-home people in Florence. Many letters also mention trips to certain places where individual pictures198 were seen, such as “a divine picture of Guercino” (August 1848), Domenichino’s “David” at Fano (August, 1848), and the works of Guido Reni, Da Vinci, the Carracci, and Correggio.

Although Browning never had a course of thorough instruction in art, he gave some attention to drawing during the reaction from literary work that followed the publication of Men and Women, in 1855. A letter from Mrs. Browning to her old friend, Mrs. Jameson, dated May 2, 1856, gives the story. After thirteen days application on the part of her husband, she tells us, he produced some really astonishingly good copies of heads, though his purpose was only to fill in the pause in his literary career. Then Mrs. Browning adds: “And really, with all his feeling and knowledge of art, some of the mechanical trick of it can not be out of place.”

IV. Relation to sculpture.

—A similar though less conspicuous interest in sculpture165 was maintained through Browning’s entire career. The first mention of it in either letters or poems is found in a letter of 1838, to Miss Haworth, in which the statement concerning Canova implies disappointment and previous expectation. Sordello, 1840, contains the first reference found in a poem; and from that time on, some references are found with a considerable degree of regularity in both poems and letters. While the interest was not great compared with that taken in painting, it was fairly continuous. No mention of Italian sculpture is found in the poems of Browning after the publication of The Ring and the Book, in 1868–9; though references to the art of Greece, the great home of sculpture, occur frequently.

In 1860, a letter from Mrs. Browning says that her husband has begun modeling under the direction of Mr. Story at his studio. She speaks of his progress, of his turning his studies in anatomy to account, and of the fact that he had already copied two busts—those of young Augustus, and of Psyche. At this time he was working six hours a day at modeling. “His habit,” says Mrs. Browning, “was to work by fits and starts”; and as in the case of drawing, he had undertaken work in sculpture until his mind should be ready again for poetical work.

V. Significance of the preceding sections.

—Many other statements showing an appreciation of the arts are found in the199 biographies and letters of the Brownings. Of these, some details will be mentioned later, in connection with the treatment of each separate art. Only such facts have been noted here as tend to establish the basis on which our discussion is built—namely, that Browning had a great and continuous interest in the fine arts and that it is only reasonable to expect a considerable amount of knowledge and appreciation of them to appear in his writings. Our final conclusions will concern personality as the source of Browning’s interest in the arts.

VI. Time spent in italy.

—The amount of time spent by Robert Browning in Italy is a further reason for expecting Italian art themes in his writings. In 1838, at the age of twenty-six, he made his first trip to Italy; and in 1844 he was again there, from August or September until December. In 1846, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning went to Italy to live, and excepting intervals for trips to France and England, were there until the death of the latter in 1861. For several years after this, Browning spent most of his time in England. In 1878, however, he returned to Northern Italy; and of his eleven remaining years, seven autumns were spent in Venice, until his death there in 1889.

VII. English knowledge of italian art in browning’s time.

—In spite of the fact that Browning spent so much time in Italy, the space given to Italian art in his poems is remarkable because so little was known of that subject in England at that time. Vasari’s rambling, gossipy, and sometimes inaccurate biographies may have been known in England at this time. Even if so, Browning, at least, seems not to have become acquainted with them until the years of his residence in Italy; for a letter written in 1847 by Mrs. Browning to Horne, says that they are engaged in reading Vasari.

During the nineteenth century, the history of art began to assume a more important place as a distinct branch of general history. The century was well advanced, however, when the first complete work in this subject appeared—Kugler’s Handbook of the History of Art. It was not translated from the German until 1855, when the part referring to Italy was published in an English translation by Sir Charles Eastlake. (Many of Browning’s best art poems were published in 1855, and some of them previous to that time.) Taking this work as the beginning of modern treatment of art history, and noting the fact that the next200 work of importance referring to Italian art alone and treating it from the historical standpoint was published by Crowe and Cavalcaselle in 1876, it is evident that nothing like the present general knowledge of it could have existed in England in Browning’s time. Certainly this makes his treatment of art history, particularly the facility with which he presents the tendencies of different periods, more remarkable than similar attainment would be in more recent times. Even with the added knowledge resulting from recent investigations, no other writer has been able to produce such perfect poems of the musician or the painter as Browning has built about Fra Lippo Lippi, or the Italian by adoption, Abt Vogler.166

VIII. Non-english themes and settings in general.

—The Italian element is only one result, though a very significant result, of a general tendency on the part of Browning to choose poetic subjects of non-English character. From the Orient,167 from Greece,168 from France,169 from any region, in fact, which pleased his fancy, however remote, he levied his contributions. With this general non-English tendency, it is not surprising that in Italy, where he spent so much time, he found material for every sort of poem from Fra Lippo Lippi to Luria and The Ring and the Book, and that he should shape his material into poems with much of the atmosphere of Italy, the home of the arts.

IX. A quantitative statement.

—As a matter of fact, the supposition that Browning’s poetry embodies a large amount of Italian art reference is correct. Forty-nine poems out of two hundred and twenty-two, or more than one-fifth of the entire number, have some mention of one or more of the arts or artists of Italy, while other poems deal with the arts of other nations or with a general comparison of the arts.



Italian Sculpture in the Poems of Browning.

I. General statement.

—While forty-nine out of a total of two hundred twenty-two poems by Robert Browning refer to some one of the five fine arts—sculpture, music, poetry, architecture, and painting—only eight mention sculpture; and the references in these poems are comparatively insignificant. No one poem deals with sculpture as a theme, nor does any sculptor express his views of the art in dramatic monologue, as Abt Vogler does for music, and Fra Lippo Lippi for painting. Reasons for the preponderance of the other arts will be discussed later, in connection with further suggestions concerning personality and its relations to art in Browning’s poetry.

It is often difficult to estimate separately Browning’s treatment of sculpture and painting, since he discusses the two arts together in several of his poems (for example, Old Pictures in Florence) and since many important Italian artists were both painters and sculptors. However, the predominant art of the man in question, or the art which Browning emphasizes most in connection with him, has been taken as a basis for classification. Estimating in this manner, one finds that the poet refers, in the eight poems, to seven artists—Niccolo Pisano and Giovanni Pisano, Canova, Ghiberti, Giovanni da Bologna, Baccio Bandinelli and Bernini—all of historical interest. Claus of Innsbruck (in My Last Duchess), and Jules (in Pippa Passes) with his companion art students, are purely imaginary. Reference is made to seven historical works of sculpture: the Psiche-fanciulla and Pietà of Canova, the statue of Duke Ferdinand, John of the Black Bands, Pasquin’s statue, the Fountain of the Tritons, and the Bocca-dell’-Verità. Three fictitious pieces of sculpture which are named are also introduced, besides a number of imaginary unnamed works.

202 Such references to sculpture as exist in the poems seem to conform entirely to the facts of history, where there is any pretense of historical accuracy. Sculpture is so unimportant a feature of most of the poems that there was certainly very little temptation to enlarge on the facts for dramatic purposes, or for any other reason.

II. Historical scope.

—It is improbable that Browning consciously, or unconsciously either, for that matter, decided to treat different periods of sculpture until he had covered the historical field, or that he ever selected any one phase of this art with so general a purpose in mind. In certain cases he chose some event or characteristic feature of a period, and before he had finished the poem referred to a sculptor, or to the condition of the art at that time, as one of the details in a realistic background for his picture of the times. Nevertheless he has accomplished, without any definite purpose, a result similar to a brief historical survey of sculpture in Italy; his references showing relation to practically every important period of the art.

The first reference to sculpture is in Sordello (1840), where the lines concerning the Pisani (Book I, l. 574) characterize the art of Sordello’s time as just dawning into the Renaissance. In Pippa Passes (1841) the poet, passing over something like five hundred years’ development, brings before the reader a picture of nineteenth century art life among students in Italy. My Last Duchess (1842) deals with the decadent Renaissance, while The Bishop orders his Tomb at St. Praxed’s Church (1845) presents a faithful picture of the same period. In Christmas-Eve and Easter-Day (1850), the pendulum swings backward to the early days of Christianity, when the church Fathers abhorred the physical beauty of their art inheritance from Greece. The Statue and the Bust (1855) relates events of the sixteenth century also; but they are such as have no historical significance in a chronological way, and could just as readily have happened in the thirteenth or the nineteenth century. Old Pictures in Florence (1855) has the early masters as its theme, with another reference to Niccolo Pisano, the first Renaissance sculptor, though the poem concerns itself mainly with architecture and painters. The Ring and the Book (1868–69) can hardly be said to deal with any particular period in art history.

Chronological order is not followed, nor is there any reason in203 the logic or emotion of poetry why such order should obtain. Whether one denies or affirms on the question of poetical inspiration, one is compelled to admit that the practice in the past has not been to follow set formulas of time or place. No poet, unless it be a pedantic one whose work would fail utterly in spontaneity, would read history and write a poem on each period as he read.

The diagram below indicates that Browning’s work was no exception to the normal procedure.

1. Early Art .........................e..............
2. Dawn of Renaissance .....a................/....\........g..
3. Height of Renaissance ........\............/.........\f/......
4. Decadent Renaissance ..........\...c__/d..................
5. Modern ..........b\./..........................
a. Sordello—1840.
b. Pippa Passes—1841.
c. My Last Duchess—1842.
d. The Bishop orders his Tomb—1845.
e. Christmas-Eve and Easter-Day—1850.
f. The Statue and the Bust—1855.
g. Old Pictures in Florence—1855.

III. Poetic functions of the references to sculpture.

—Of the function of portraying the times, Sordello gives an example. Browning became interested in the thirteenth-century troubadour, and then in his historical surroundings. In working out the social medium in which Sordello was to live and move, Browning named the Pisan Brothers to illustrate the sculptural conditions at the time—one of those numerous small details of which the ordinary reader is scarcely conscious, which are yet extremely important in making a perfect word picture. He spoke of Sordello as—
. . . “Born just now,
With the new century, beside the glow
And efflorescence out of barbarism;
Witness a Greek or two from the abysm
That stray through Florence-town with studious air,
Calming the chisel of that Pisan pair:
If Nicolo should carve a Christus yet!”

While the entire passage is carefully subordinated to the main purpose of studying Sordello, it also clearly pictures the dawn of the Renaissance light upon sculpture.

204 The Bishop orders his Tomb at St. Praxed’s Church, and My Last Duchess, deal with characteristics of their times; but in neither case is sculpture used as a mere detail in the picture. Because of the extensive art treatment in each, the two will be discussed together under the head of Renaissance decadence.170

Besides being important enough in itself to deserve somewhat extensive treatment, the art element in Pippa Passes is notable because it marks the only instance in which Browning concerns himself with the life of modern art students. He certainly did did not begin the poem with the intention of making the artists a theme, nor did he attain any such unexpected result. Instead he began with the thematic idea of the power in unconscious influence, and through four sections of this dramatic poem developed this idea by recording the effects of the song of Pippa, upon murderers, an art student, a fanatical patriot and a scheming bishop. About one-fourth of the poem deals directly with the student life of artists. Canova, who is frequently mentioned, represents the ideal of sculpture; and Jules, the young student who is seeking to attain. In contrast to Jules, the idealist, is the group of evil-minded students who induce him to marry a model, under the impression that she is a cultured Greek woman. It is Browning’s best example of the “other side,” as illustrated by the group of plotting would-be artists. This is the only example in all of Browning’s poetry (with the exception of A Soul’s Tragedy) in which the poet descends to the level of prose as a medium of speech, and here it is used by knaves and villains. All the crude reality of life among low-minded students, their jealousy of one with higher ideals than their own, the poet gives us in detail by means of their prose speeches; returning to blank verse, however, for the ideals of Jules and the aspirations of Phene’s awakening soul. Love of personality, that great guide to the appreciation of Browning from whatever position we approach him, and the possibilities of human development, are written large throughout his works. Nowhere are these ideas in relation to art more clearly expressed than in the words of Jules. An artist of the highest ideals, he has just realized through the singing of Pippa, that a woman’s soul is in his keeping. He meditates:

“Shall to produce form out of unshaped stuff205
Be Art—and further, to evoke a soul
From form be nothing? This new soul is mine!”

Then, since art is the expression of personality, and Jules has met with so great a change in ideals, he resolves to break his ‘paltry models up To begin Art afresh.’ His change in personality, it should be noticed, is due to the fact that he realizes the soul has greater significance than art—an idea exactly expressing Browning’s view.

My Last Duchess (1842) is entirely imaginary, but it sums up, in a short poem, the entire decadent Renaissance attitude toward art so fully that no historical names could improve it. Its one mention of sculpture is in the closing lines:

. . . . . “Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!”

In two and one-half lines it gives a powerful suggestion of admiration for art because it was fashionable, of emphasis on technique rather than content, of the classical subject matter and bronze material that were in vogue at the time, and of the character expressed in the intellectual but heartless Duke’s purpose of taming the Duchess.

The Bishop orders his Tomb at St. Praxed’s Church (1845) is imaginary in its narrative, and probably in all the sculpture named, though the church of Santa Prassede, in Rome, by its richness of decoration, and by a tomb similar to the one the Bishop is represented as desiring, gave the suggestion for the poem. Probably in all literature there is no more skilful summary of a corrupt churchman’s attitude toward his church, his fellow churchmen, the future, earthly love, and art. The characterization is both fearless and powerful. This poem and My Last Duchess are companion studies. Both the Duke and the Bishop are fond of power and prestige, both are jealous and envious, each displays his attitude toward woman and toward art. The Bishop has more feeling, though it is largely feeling for himself; and the Duke possesses more icy pride. Each values art, particularly sculpture, as something for display, something luxurious and (contrary to the highest ideas of art) something beyond the power of common people to appreciate. The poems deal with the same period, but My Last Duchess is a summary of the secular attitude, The Bishop orders his Tomb presents the view of an official of the church.

206 Christmas-Eve and Easter-Day (1850), in a section devoted to the reverie of the seeker for religious truth after his inspection of Catholicism at Rome, censures the attitude of the early church toward the physical beauty of the statuary Italy had inherited from Greece. While the subject of the poem is religion, not art, incidentally it contains one of Browning’s best defences of the nude. He viewed the nude as a fitting expression of the beauty God has placed in the world, and rejoiced in the “noble daring, steadfast duty, The heroic in action or in passion,” or even the merely beautiful physique—all as presented in sculpture. In Chapter VI will be found further mention of the nude, in connection with Francis Furini (1887).171 The Lady and the Painter, a non-Italianate poem, published in the Asolando group (1889), also throws further light on Browning’s attitude toward the nude. These two poems are of interest in the present discussion, however, only because they prove the attitude expressed in 1850 to have been a permanent one.

In The Statue and the Bust, the art references were not introduced for their own sake, but because they suggested a situation with dramatic possibilities. The statue of Duke Ferdinand exists as Browning pictured it. The bust seems to be an addition for poetic purposes, but it conforms to the spirit of the palace decorations, in that it was made of Robbia ware, for traces of that material still adorned the palace when the poem was written.

In Sordello (1840), the first poem containing any reference to Italian sculpture, the castle of Goito, the early home of Sordello, is rich in sculpturesque effects. “Those slim pillars, ... Cut like a company of palms—Some knot of bacchanals, flushed cheek combined With straining forehead, shoulders purpled—A dullish grey-streaked cumbrous font ... shrinking Caryatides, Of just-tinged marble—” all present a physical setting. They do more, however, than merely locate. Their lonely magnificence harmonizes with the tone of the story, and they exercise an influence on the nature of the dreaming, beauty-loving Sordello.

The best examples of sculpture used purely for setting are found in The Ring and the Book. Containing only its few references to pieces of sculpture in Florence and Rome, it is the one of the list of poems in which this art is least prominent. It presents no picture of a period, no discussion of an attitude toward art, no207 poetical background of the times aided by art references. Each instance tells us that at such-and-such a place in Rome, in sight of the statue named, a certain event occurred. “Toward Baccio’s Marble” (Part I, l. 44) is used to help locate the Florentine book-stall where Browning found the ‘old yellow book’ that became the basis of the poem. Part I, l. 889, quotes an example of the current gossip in Rome, as taking place “i’ the market-place O’ the Barberini by the Capucins; Where the old Triton ... Puffs up steel sleet.” This instance serves as setting, and further, in a continuation of the description—“out o’ the way O’ the motley merchandising multitude”—contrasts the quiet, regular play of the fountain to the turmoil of the characters. Part VI refers to Pasquin’s statue in a double comparison which emphasizes Pompilia’s innocence in contrast to the bestiality of the squibs that were formerly posted on the statue. In Part XI Guido says his first sight of an instrument for beheading was ‘At the Mouth-of-Truth o’ the river-side you know, Retiring out of noisy crowded Rome’—a reference which serves as a definite means of location.

Yet all instances from The Ring and the Book prove little concerning Browning’s interest in art, or his specialized attention to sculpture. The fact that pieces of statuary serve a man as landmarks in Florence or Rome implies little beyond an effort at clearness in location. The Ring and the Book, then, in sculpture, is interesting rather for absence than for presence of such references. In fact sculpture is not prominent in the Italian art references of Browning. Not only is it a lesser art quantitatively in Browning’s poetry, but it seems to be placed on a distinctly lower plane. Reasons for these facts, are, in part, the predominance of the other arts over sculpture in Italy, and the particular quality of sculpture as an art which makes it tend toward the expression of physical beauty instead of the soul.

Though Browning himself did some work in modeling,172 he used very few technical terms connected with that art. Since he never put a sculptor speaker on the stage of his poet-world, one does not expect to hear the language of that art spoken. The Duke and the Bishop, it is true, express considerable interest in art, though it is rather in the dilettante spirit than that of serious criticism. “Caryatides,” used in Sordello, and “caritellas,” evidently208 used for cartellas173 seem to be almost the only instances of technical—or semi-technical—terms connected with sculpture.

IV. Source of browning’s knowledge.

—Proof has already been given of the statement that Browning had a strong, lasting interest in the arts, even before he went to Italy. The remark in the letter to Miss Haworth (1838) concerning disappointment in Canova, implying previous knowledge, was written during his first visit to Italy. It is certain, then, that he had formed an opinion of one Italian sculptor before going to that country. Probably some of his knowledge of sculpture was gained from reading, also. In every case in which he described a particular piece of work, he had previously visited the place where it was located. Sordello, while it refers to artists rather than particular works, and exhibits an art knowledge that was probably gained from reading, was published two years after Browning’s first Italian visit in 1838. Pippa Passes (1841) was one of the direct results of the same trip, when Venice and delicious Asolo were visited. My Last Duchess contains none but imaginary works. The Bishop orders his Tomb (1845) has its architectural setting at Rome, one of the points included in Browning’s second visit in 1844. Christmas-Eve and Easter-Day (1850) also mentions Rome. The Statue and the Bust (1855) refers to Florence, Old Pictures in Florence (1855) has the same setting; and The Ring and the Book (1868–9) refers to Rome and Florence, visited in 1844 and 1847. These data all tend to support the foregoing statement that the poet had seen the things of which he wrote.



Italian Music in the Poems of Browning.

I. General statement.

—Only ten poems refer to Italian music or musicians—seemingly a small number for a writer who is known as the musician’s poet. Thirteen Italian musicians—Bellini, Galuppi, Palestrina, Verdi, Rossini, Abt Vogler, Grisi, Corelli, Guarnerius, Stradivarius, Paganini, Buononcini, and Geminiani—constitute the group of performers whom he mentions. Four of these were famous violinists; one was a vocalist. Only two, Galuppi and Abt Vogler, received any extended treatment, though an entire poem is also devoted to Master Hugues of Saxe-Gotha, an imaginary composer. There are many references to musicians of other nationalities in Browning; but every poem having this art as its main theme, unless it be Saul, in which the influence of music is prominent, is included among the ten referring to Italy.

Thus while Browning is known, even to the general mind, as a poet who writes about musicians, his fame in this particular field is founded on a very few well-known poems. Suppose it were possible to eliminate Abt Vogler from the text of Browning’s poetry and from the consciousness of the world. Would the cursory student then know him as the celebrator of music? Or at least, if one could filch from the human race both Abt Vogler and A Toccata of Galuppi’s, their author might still be known in the popular mind as an admirer of the arts, but hardly as a devotee of music. Quality rather than quantity, then, is the measure of the element of music in the poems of Robert Browning.

II. Catholic hymns.

—A by no means unusual introduction of music, nor one peculiar to Browning (see Byron and others) is found in the mention of Catholic hymns. However, they are not employed in any of the poems whose principal theme is music,210 nor are they introduced because he deliberately wished to write about that art. They form a part of the Italian consciousness; they are stages in daily life; and they mark the passing of time in a highly poetic way, and in a method characteristic of the Italian nation.

The Ring and the Book, in five of the twelve sections, includes the names of Catholic hymns. In Part IV the Magnificat signifies the triumphant spirit of Violante Comparini, the old woman who has completed the bargain by means of which she is to trick her husband into the belief that he is to have an heir. The same section gives an account of the plan of Pietro and Violante Comparini to find a titled husband for their so-called daughter, and illustrates the situation in these words—“And when such paragon was found and fixed, Why, they might chant their ‘Nunc dimittis’ straight.” Both of these passages, then, mark psychological states, in one or both of the parents of Pompilia. Section VI, the defense of Caponsacchi, contains two references which mark the time of day. The first, in a quotation from one of the forged letters purporting to be from Pompilia to Caponsacchi, suggests that he come to her window at the time of the Ave. The second, in the account of the flight of Pompilia and Caponsacchi to Rome, is phrased “At eve we heard the angelus,” indicating time and suggesting, also, a certain regret for the past on the part of Pompilia. In Section VII, Pompilia, yielding at last to her own desires for rescue and to the importunities of her treacherous maid, names the Ave Maria to indicate the time when she will be standing on the terrace to talk with Caponsacchi. The Pope, in Section X, gives his opinion of what will be said of his leniency to the church, should he free Caponsacchi, and sarcastically observes “in the choir Sanctus et Benedictus, with a brush Of soft guitar strings that obey the thumb.” Section XII, in describing the death of Guido, the wife-murderer, gives his last words as a request for a Pater, an Ave, with the hymn Salve Regina Cœli. This completes the list of Catholic hymns mentioned by Browning—six in all.

III. Poetic functions of the references to music.

—Six different poems contain the names of Italian musicians for purposes of comparison. The Englishman in Italy, in an implied comparison, contrasts the fiddlers, fifers, and drummers, at the Feast of the Rosary’s Virgin, to Bellini. So courageous and confident do they become on this day that (implying their inferiority)211 they play boldly on, says the poem, not caring even for the great Bellini.

Bishop Blougram’s Apology presents that politic churchman’s defense of his fidelity to established doctrines on the ground of expediency—ease in this life and a possible reward in the next. He admits that wise men look beneath his pretense of a belief in the winking Virgin and class him as either knave or fool. In this respect the Bishop likens himself to Verdi at the close of his worst opera. Though the populace applauded, the composer looked beyond them for the judgment of Rossini, the master.

In Youth and Art, the struggling girl with aspirations for operatic honors, who misses a possibility for happiness in her futile quest for fame, compares herself with Grisi in her hopes of success. To surpass that prima donna, which, by the way, she never succeeds in doing, constitutes the height of her dream of happiness. Red Cotton Night-Cap Country, with its fantastic symbolism of night-caps, mentions the many varieties of that article and compares them to the various kinds of violins on exhibition at Kensington when the poem was composed, with special reference to those of Italy:

“I doubt not there be duly catalogued
Achievements all, and some of Italy,
Guarnerius, Straduarius,—old and new.”
* * * * *
“Over this sample would Corelli croon,
Grieving by minors, like the cushat-dove,
Most dulcet Giga, dreamiest Saraband.
From this did Paganini comb the fierce
Electric sparks....”

Parleyings with Charles Avison, the only poem which has comparative estimates of different musicians, names the Italians Buononcini and Geminiani as having been appreciated along with Wagner, Dvorak, Liszt and Handel. It is worthy of note that Rossini, Bellini, and Verdi, of the modern Italian school, are not mentioned in any such connection.

Abt Vogler, A Toccata of Galuppi’s, Master Hughes of Saxe-Gotha, and Charles Avison, are all concerned with music as the principal subject. Each has minor references to Italy, and in the first two, the musician is an Italian one. Abt Vogler is probably the finest poem on music in the English language. It contains a perfect idealized expression of the aims of the musician212 and a thorough knowledge of his technique. Like A Toccata of Galuppi’s it is based on extemporization and the transitory quality of music; but it is unlike that poem in emphasizing the permanence of good. Abt Vogler voices the musician’s own musings on the stately but vanishing castle he has built. A Toccata probably refers to an improvization on the harpsichord, a frequent occurrence at the time concerned, and presents the poet as speaker, questioning the musician concerning the effect of his performance on the audience. Very different psychological states produced these two poems. Abt Vogler was written in a mood of reverent optimism; A Toccata, in a mood of half careless, half earnest pessimism. Where A Toccata closes with “dust and ashes” the other poem passes on to the “ineffable name,” and a belief in the future existence of “All we have willed, or hoped, or dreamed, of good.” The one closes hope in the grave; the other poem opens heaven. The transitory quality of human life in A Toccata of Galuppi’s accords with the music being played, and many terms, such as “lesser thirds,” “sixths diminished,” “suspensions,” “solutions,” “commiserating sevenths,” express the different phases of the listener’s mood.

No attempt will be made in this paper to consider Browning’s musical terms; for with the exception of “toccata”, meaning a light touch piece, an overture, they seem mostly non-Italianate. Abt Vogler, A Toccata of Galuppi’s, Master Hugues of Saxe-Gotha, and Parleyings with Charles Avison, all contain a considerable number of musical terms; but beside the fact that they are non-Italianate, those in at least part of the poems have already been discussed somewhat extensively in various articles among the Browning Society papers.

IV. Lack of modern italian references.

—The number of references to Italian musicians is comparatively small, even though the treatment of music in a few poems is unexcelled. Especially when one considers that the great modern group of Italian opera composers was so near Browning in both time and place, his mention of them seems curiously insignificant. Verdi, the greatest of them, appears in the poems only once, and then in connection with his worst opera. That the Brownings heard at least one of Verdi’s operas produced, is established by a letter by Mrs. Browning dated in 1853. She speaks of their having heard Il Trovatore a few nights previous, at the Pergola in Florence, and concludes213 with the peculiarly suggestive remark, “Very passionate and dramatic, surely.”

Probably there are several reasons for this neglect of Italian opera composers. Few poets, least of all Browning, are prone to bestow unmitigated praise on contemporaries. In the poems of Browning there are few extended references to any artists who were living at the time. He particularly loved to choose an obscure Galuppi, or an Andrea del Sarto, instead of a Michael Angelo or a Raphael, as a personality about whom to weave a poem. A more potent reason for the indifference to modern Italian music, however, lies in the diverging values of the Italian school and that of northern Europe. A musician who had been trained in the German music of London concerts could hardly be expected to welcome the operas of Verdi and Rossini with anything approaching ecstatic admiration. At the most he might venture a half-conciliatory remark, such as Mrs. Browning’s concerning Il Trovatore.

V. Conformity to facts.

—Browning seldom took occasion to depart from the facts of history in his presentation of Italian music. One exception is found, going beyond all allowances for poetic idealization. It is the Verdi reference in Bishop Blougram’s Apology.174 The statement concerns a Verdi composition, and mentions it as having been given in Florence with Rossini present. As a matter of fact Un Giorno di Regno, conceded to be Verdi’s worst opera, and the only one which was a complete failure, was not given in Florence on its first production and was probably never repeated. Macbeth alone was given at Florence first, and it met with a moderate degree of success.

VI. Source of browning’s knowledge.

—Browning’s life in Italy probably had less influence on his poetic use of music than on his use of any other art, as the data he gives might easily have become known to him without any such experience. Six of the thirteen musicians whom he named performed in London, and three of them, Grisi, Bellini, and Paganini, in Browning’s youth. It is even possible that he attended some or all of their concerts. Rossini was living in Florence from 1847 to 1855, while the Brownings were also making that city their home. But while letter after letter written to friends at home refers to such painters or sculptors214 as Story, Powers, and Leighton, there is absolute silence concerning Rossini. As compared with remarks on sculpture, architecture, or painting, the letters from Italy, as a whole, show an almost absolute indifference to Italian music as a historical development, or as a national achievement. With his fondness for out-of-the-way investigations and obscure characters from any nation, however, Browning has taken some characters from Italian music and has woven their personalities into a few of the best poems on music ever written.



Italian Poetry in the Poems of Browning.

I. General statement.

—Of the two hundred and twenty-two of Browning’s poems, ten contain the name of an Italian poet or of his writings. Five imaginary writers—Aprile, Plara, Bocafoli, Eglamor, Stiatta—and eleven who belong to the history of Italian literature—Sordello, Nina, Alcamo, Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Tasso, Sacchetti, Marino, Aretino, and Tommaseo—compose the list. Of the historical poets, Dante is given the most important place; for besides the direct tribute that is paid him, his name or the name of his great work occurs in seven poems out of the ten. Sordello, a most insignificant poet from the historical standpoint, receives more extended treatment than any other literary figure in Browning’s works. Of the entire list of poems, three deal with the life and aspirations of a poet as the main theme—Pauline, which, by the way, is really non-Italianate, Paracelsus, in which the poet Aprile is contrasted with the scholar, and Sordello.

II. Predominance in early poems.

—Within the first eight years of Browning’s career, he published four long poems—Pauline, Paracelsus, Strafford, and Sordello. Three of them deal in some way with the life of a poet. After this first period, with the possible exception of One Word More, which is essentially a study in comparative art, there is no extended discussion of this sort in any poem, either Italianate or non-Italianate. How it Strikes a Contemporary deals with the attitude of the general public toward the life and purposes of a poet, but not, as did the early group, with the poet’s solution of his own problem concerning his relation toward his work and humanity. It was written much later, when Browning was more fully settled in his poetical career.

216 Pauline is an autobiographical sketch of a poet’s early doubts and aspirations, largely devoted to appreciation of Shelley, and without Italianate quality; Paracelsus and Sordello deal with Italian writers of verse. Since these all belong in the same period and that the early one, it is clear that Browning was endeavoring to establish his own ideas of a poet, and these poems were the expression of that effort. But he chose to express his conclusions by giving the negative side, not the positive; for Aprile, Sordello, Eglamor, Plara, Bocafoli, and in a lesser degree Nina and Alcamo, are all failures. Not all of them absolute and hopeless, for Sordello dies with a moral victory won, Aprile is successful in part, and Nina and Alcamo have their strength and grace; but still none of these poets has fully attained.

III. Sordello.

—In Sordello, the character of that name has a shadowy existence in history as one of the most famous of the Italian troubadours. He seems to have been confused with another Sordello who was a politician and man of action. Since such scant facts as can be gathered speak of scandals, and tavern brawls, Browning’s portrait of him is clearly an idealization, and he probably chose Sordello instead of some better known figure that the facts might not interfere with the imaginative picture with which he wished to surround him. The thirty books which Browning read on the history of the period were not read to add to his knowledge of the troubadour, but since even the idealized Sordello had to be represented as having lived at some time and place, to give the correct background for his life and actions.

Browning shows that Sordello failed because he loved the applause he received rather than the poetry itself, because the aspirations of the man and the poet were at war within him, because he lacked feeling for humanity, and because he was not decisive enough to succeed when he attempted action. The moral victory at the close is for dramatic purposes, and the dominant theme of the poem as a whole is the failure of a poet.

IV. The imaginary poets.

—Eglamor, a purely fictitious poet in Sordello, has made verse his only ambition. Lacking all perception of his life as a man, when he is vanquished in verse-making, he dies. Plara, in the same poem, stands for the poet without depth or genius, unable to write anything of thought value, polishing his poems until they were merely pretty words, lacking utterly in any interpretation of human life. Bocafoli, with his217 “stark-naked” psalms, represents the sensualist. While Nina and Alcamo belong to history, they have such shadowy existence so far as present knowledge is concerned, that they will be considered here. They stand respectively for strength and for grace, and Browning represents the low voice as saying to Sordello:
“Nina’s strength, but Alcamo’s the grace,
Each neutralises each then! Search your fill;
You get no whole and perfect Poet—still
New Ninas, Alcamos, till time’s midnight
Shrouds all—or better say, the shutting light
Of a forgotten yesterday.”

Aprile, in the poem fashioned about Paracelsus, the wandering scholar, typifies love as the latter represents knowledge. Through Aprile, the foil to Paracelsus, the latter comes to see in part the mistakes in his attitude toward life, and declares

“I too have sought to KNOW as thou to LOVE
Excluding love as thou refusedst knowledge.
* * * * *
Are we not halves of one dissevered world,
Whom this strange chance unites once more?”

And Aprile exclaims:

“Yes, I see now. God is the perfect poet,
Who in his person acts his own creations.”

V. The italian as the type of failure.

—Browning used seven poets to typify failure, three historical and four imaginary ones. All these were Italians, and all suggest the conclusion—“You get no whole and perfect Poet.” This, then, must have been Browning’s conclusion. Naturally enough he does not picture for us a poet representing that for which he himself, after considering different kinds of failure, has decided to strive. By the very values the failures do not represent, however, Browning gave us a vision of his own ideals. Lack of knowledge, lack of strength, of grace, sensuality, superficiality, lack of purpose, and of interest in humanity—these are the causes of failure as represented by Aprile, Alcamo, Nina, Bocafoli, Plara, and Sordello.

It would be unfair to say that these unsuccessful poets are typical of the Italian nation; but it can be safely stated that they are fairly representative of Italian weaknesses. A predominance of ill controlled feeling is the most inclusive characteristic of the group218 —a trait which is perhaps marked in Italians of the least desirable class. It is also significant, in contrast to Browning’s own nature, that no poet of his group of failures represents an intelligent, unselfish interest in human life.

VI. Italian men of letters: dante.

—Of the great Italian men of letters, Dante is the only one who is mentioned in Sordello, and with the exception of the Shelley references in Memorabilia and Pauline, Browning pays him the most perfect tribute he ever gave a writer, in the last two lines of the following passage:
“Dante, pacer of the shore
Where glutted hell disgorgeth filthiest gloom,
Unbitten by its whirring sulphur-spume,
Or whence the grieved and obscure waters slope,
Into a darkness quieted by hope;
Plucker of amaranths grown beneath God’s eye,
In gracious twilights where his chosen lie.”

Referring to the fact that Dante’s Divina Commedia includes Sordello as a character, and that De Vulgari Eloquio praises him because he had first attempted to establish an Italian vernacular, Browning names Sordello as the forerunner of Dante. Again in the same poem, Dante is mentioned as having called the “Palma” of Browning’s poem “Cunizza,” and as having taken advantage of Sordello’s lost chance to establish a vernacular.

In most of the other poems, the references to Dante are merely incidental. Up at a Villa refers to the great literary triumvirate of Italy, Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, as standing in the popular mind for all that is great in Italian letters. In Time’s Revenges Dante appears as being, in the mind of a poor, starving poet, the highest possible standard of fame.

The only other Dante reference of any importance is in One Word More. In this poem, Browning’s most beautiful tribute to his wife, he represents every artist as wishing once, in his life, to honor his Margarita or his Beatrice. Dante, he says in speaking of that poet, once prepared to paint an angel, laying aside his own art of poetry. A historical basis for this statement is found in the Vita Nuova. But Browning, either intentionally or unintentionally, probably the former, for the purpose of making this basis accord with his poetical conception, departs from the facts in two important particulars. Dante plainly states that his attempt at the drawing grew out of his meditations on the anniversary of219 the death of Beatrice; and the people who broke in upon him were those of his own town, to whom he apologized for his delayed salutation, by “Another was with me.” Browning assumes that the picture was drawn to please Beatrice and that the people who interrupted symbolized Dante’s own thoughts about the characters of his Inferno.

VII. Other real writers.

—Aretino and Boccaccio are both presented throughout The Ring and the Book as examples of questionable morality in literature, or at least of tendencies in that direction.

In Part III, the gossipers speak of the case of Guido and his wife as “this last best of the Hundred Merry Tales.” In Part V, Guido, in his complaint against the parents of Pompilia, appeals to Boccaccio’s “Book” and “Ser Franco’s [Sacchetti’s] Merry Tales,” as proofs of the greed and wrong-doing of the parents in contrast to his own innocence. Caponsacchi, in Part VI, refers to the forged letters claimed to have been passed between himself and Pompilia, as worthy of the profligate Aretine. In Part X, the Pope makes the same comparison, declaring that the letters are “False to body and soul they figure forth—As though the man had cut out shape and shape From fancies of that other Aretine.” In Part XI, Guido attempts to prove that the Pope, in former times, was very human, since he used to “chirrup o’er the Merry Tales.” Later in the same section, he asserts his right to enjoy “When Master Pietro [Aretino] rhymes a pleasantry.”

VIII. Browning’s knowledge of italian literature.

—Browning’s poems display no remarkable knowledge of Italian literature. In comparison with that of the average American or English citizen, it is above the ordinary, but not more than any student of literature might very readily acquire without visiting Italy or residing there. However, the average English student of literature, if he were a poet, would probably embody less of that knowledge of Italy in his verse than Browning has done. Except for the idea of failure as typified by lesser Italian poets, the references are mainly of secondary importance, introduced because he had chosen an Italian theme and wished to give it reality of detail. The stimulus of Italian residence on Browning, then, probably led to the embodiment in his poems of the literary knowledge he already possessed. He seems to have made no particular study of Italian letters, even after going to that country. Some scattered220 references to readings in Italian literature (for example in the novels of Sacchetti175) exist in the records of the Brownings in Italy; but these references are few in comparison to those concerning sculpture and painting.

IX. Browning’s interest in italian literature.

—While all the historical references, except the one to Dante noted above as a probably intentional departure from history, are substantially correct in both fact and spirit, Browning did not have any great interest in Italian literature as it existed in his day. Much more space is given to the treatment of imaginary poets, or to the idealization of a historical one, for the sake of personality, as in the case of Sordello. As for the other arts, then, personality is the keynote of Browning’s appreciation of Italian literature, and of its place in his poetry.

Browning gives very little space to any formal praise of Italian poetry or poets, either of the past, or contemporary with himself. In this respect his treatment of them is very similar to that he gives to English poets. Memorabilia, in praise of Shelley, is his only poem which has for its theme the unmodified praise of another poet. As this poem and the Shelley references in Pauline are Browning’s only tributes to writers of his own country, so the praise of Dante, in Sordello, is the only instance of an expressed appreciation of Italian literature. The only Italian poet contemporary with himself whom he mentions is Tommaseo; and he is noticed only as the author of the inscription on the tablet erected by the city of Florence to the memory of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.



Italian Architecture in the Poems of Browning.

I. General statement.

—Twenty-five poems of Robert Browning make some reference, brief or extended, to an Italian work of architecture. Two architects, as such, are mentioned in Old Pictures in Florence. They are Giotto (1267–1337), the original designer of the Florentine Campanile, and Taddeo Gaddi (c. 1300-c. 1366), his successor. In the twenty-five poems, about fifty-eight Italian buildings are named, not all of them important architecturally. Of these, almost exactly one-third are in Florence, and one or two less than another third are in Rome. Venice and Asolo claim mention of five and six respectively; but all the remaining towns must content themselves with a mention of one, two, or three buildings. The entire number of works of architecture is divided between twelve towns: Venice, Verona, Bassano, Rome, Florence, Passagno, Asolo, Padua, Fano, Bagni di Lucca, Arezzo and Siena.

There are two apparent reasons why the number of buildings named at Rome and Florence is exceptionally large: first, the former city has been the historical and political center of Italy ever since the beginning, and the latter is the art center of the world; second, Browning spent a considerable amount of time in Rome, both in 1844, during his second trip to Italy, and in his visits of 1853 and 1854, while Florence was his home for fifteen years.

The number of ecclesiastical buildings is something more than one-half of the entire list; while the remaining ones are about equally divided between those for state use and private buildings of a secular character. Considering the large number of beautiful churches and cathedrals in Italy, the result so far as these are222 concerned is in entire accordance with one’s expectations. St. Mark’s, St. Peter’s, the Vatican, and the Florentine Duomo, all buildings of world interest, lead in the number of times they receive mention.

II. Source of browning’s knowledge.

—Browning had seen almost all if not every one of the Italian buildings he introduces in his poems. He knew whereof he wrote. Sordello, published in 1840, is concerned with the cities of Venice, Bassano, Verona, Rome, and Florence; but the references to the last two are very slight. The first three cities he had visited in his trip of 1838, along with his “delicious Asolo”, which became the scene of Pippa Passes, in 1841. Ferrara formed a very large part of the setting in Sordello, also; but no particular buildings in it are described. A Toccata of Galuppi’s, 1855, refers to St. Mark’s in Venice. Old Pictures in Florence, with its distinct Florentine setting, was given to the world after Browning had lived in that city for nine years. Doubtless its Campanile, which he mentions in the poem, was at that time as familiar to him as any building of his native land. By the Fireside (with reference to the chapel in the gorge) was written either during the visit of the Brownings to Bagni di Lucca in 1853, or shortly after it, and was published in 1855. Near Bagni di Lucca is the scene of the story. There is the same relation between architectural subject and personal observation in The Boy and the Angel (Rome), 1842; The Italian in England (Padua), 1845; In a Gondola (Venice), 1842; The Statue and the Bust (Florence), 1855; Luria (Florence), 1846; Christmas-Eve and Easter-Day (Rome), 1850; Fra Lippo Lippi (Florence), 1855; The Bishop orders his Tomb (Rome), 1845; Bishop Blougram’s Apology (Rome), 1855; One Word More (Florence), 1855; Abt Vogler (Rome), 1864; Pacchiarotto (Siena), 1876. Padua and Venice were visited in 1838, Rome in 1844, Florence in 1846, if not sooner, and Siena in 1850.

The Ring and the Book is an interesting example of Browning’s procedure in the case of an architectural work he wished to introduce. Florence and Rome, more particularly the latter, are concerned with the whole action of the poem, while Arezzo is utilized in a minor way. By this time (1864–68) Browning had long been familiar with Florence and Rome. However, the poem was written in England; and a letter to Frederick Leighton, October 17, 1864, asks him if he will go into the Church of San Lorenzo, in the Corso, look at it carefully, and describe it to Browning. Browning223 asks particularly about the arrangement of the building, nave, pillars, the number of altars, and the ‘Crucifixion’ over the altar, by Guido, and adds that he does not care for the outside. This church Browning uses more than any other in The Ring and the Book, making it the scene of the baptism and the marriage of Pompilia, as well as the place to which the dead bodies were taken. Mr. Kenyon tells us that the poet was always accustomed to visualize a scene completely and to keep it constantly before him mentally as he wrote. It was his general rule to use only buildings which he had seen, even when he refers to them very slightly; and in this case, he wrote to inquire about one which he had seen, but of which he did not have a perfectly clear mental image. The only possible exception to the personal observation of a building to be poetically described is in the case of the Pieve, at Arezzo. The Pieve is described in considerable detail; and so far as can be learned, the poet probably did not visit it. The Brownings had planned to visit it in September, 1847, on their way to Rome. But this trip, in connection with which Arezzo is mentioned, was abandoned. Later trips were made to Rome, however, and it is very possible that Arezzo was made a stopping place on one of them, and the Pieve, after all, was not an exception to the general rule.

III. Importance of architecture in the poems.

—When the amount of architecture Browning introduces is first considered, it seems remarkably large. But such conclusion could be reached only by failing to take into consideration the manner in which the references are employed. About ten of the buildings he names, including those at Asolo and a few others, are of no importance whatever, from either an architectural or a historical standpoint. Most of the remaining ones are discussed in histories of architecture or mentioned in guide books, and a considerable number of them are of importance architecturally. But with very few exceptions, Browning does not employ them for the sake of their architecture; and cared very little whether they were architecturally good or bad. He usually had a story to tell; and for that story a location was necessary. Often he used such buildings as had been significant in the original events on which he based his poem.

There are, to be sure, numerous instances in which the particular church or castle he names suits the tone of the story just a trifle better than anything else he could have found. In Sordello, for224 example, he constructed an imaginary castle, Goito, which both harmonized with the character of Sordello and influenced his life, since it was the home of his youth. An excellent example of a building chosen to illustrate the theme of the story is The Bishop orders his Tomb at St. Praxed’s Church. Perhaps no such tomb as the Bishop’s ever existed, exactly as described in the poem; but if it had, St. Praxed (Santa Prassede) with its ornate beauty was exactly suited to be its location.

The Ring and the Book and The Statue and the Bust are both excellent examples of poems in which the buildings were already selected for Browning by the stories on which he based his poems.

Examples of buildings chosen for harmony, such as those in Sordello and The Bishop orders his Tomb, are rather exceptional cases. Browning’s poetic architecture, for the most part, may be grouped in three divisions—(1) buildings already chosen for him by the story which he wished to embody in a poem, (2) buildings chosen by himself, to harmonize with the tone of the story, (3) buildings used for setting with no regard whatever for architectural qualities. The last division is by far the largest. Or, to classify more broadly, there are two ways in which he uses architecture—(1) for the sake of an emotional value, of which there is one example, and (2) for the sake of background effects, to which practically all the other instances belong.

IV. Comparison with other writers.

—Wordsworth has several poems—for example, Old Abbeys, In the Cathedral at Cologne, Inside of King’s College Chapel—that within a short space and in a lyrical fashion deal with architecture in a highly appreciative manner. Somewhat similar examples from Byron are the Elegy on Newstead Abbey and the familiar Sonnet on Chillon. But Browning, whose writings contain few poems of lyric or descriptive subjectivity, did not devote himself to any such effusions over inanimate objects. His only description of architecture as something appealing to the emotion and imagination of man is contained in a few lines of a very long poem, Christmas-Eve and Easter-Day. The speaker is searching for religious truth and finds himself, in his visit to the homeland of Catholicism, viewing St. Peter’s at Rome. Then follows that wonderfully comprehensive description—
“And what is this that rises propped,
With pillars of prodigious girth?
Is it really on the earth,225
This miraculous Dome of God?
Has the angel’s measuring-rod
Which numbered cubits, gem from gem,
’Twixt the gates of the New Jerusalem,
Meted it out,—and what he meted,
Have the sons of men completed?
—Binding, ever as he bade,
Columns in the colonnade,
With arms wide open to embrace
The entry of the human race ...”

But even in this instance, Browning, before his description is finished, cannot content himself with mere abstract statements of beauty divorced from human life. He turns to the builders—the people, and to the purpose—service to humanity.

In the only poem of Browning which deals with an architect at all, (Old Pictures in Florence, in which Giotto is considered at some length), the discussion is from the standpoint of the architect’s aim, his partial achievement, and the relation his work, when it is finally finished, will have to the people of his city; not from the standpoint of any technical interest in the art.

V. Architecture and personality.

—With all his mention of Italian works of architecture, then, Browning’s primary object was never the abstract beauty of that art itself. He has far less treatment of it, from an abstract standpoint, than many another English writer who has scarcely gone outside his native land for material. A building, as a building! What was there in it related to personality as that expressed itself in the struggles of the soul? And, therefore, what could there be in it to concern Robert Browning?



Italian Painting in the Poems of Browning.

I. General statement.

—Twenty-nine poems contain the names of Italian painters, and fifty-one Italian painters are mentioned by name; while several of the great artists are mentioned in many poems. Michael Angelo is referred to in ten different poems; Raphael in seven, besides the duplicate mention in three sections of The Ring and the Book; Correggio, and Titian, each in six poems, and Da Vinci in five different poems. These are all great masters of the High Renaissance in Italy; and therefore, they are the greatest artists the world has known: the repeated introduction of their names is perfectly natural. But among Browning’s fifty-one painters, some of so little importance are named that references to them are rare in histories of art. Even with the most insignificant, some telling phrase is often used to express with admirable precision the artist’s relation to the history of art. The best example of this is found in Old Pictures in Florence, where the poet capriciously calls the roll of the past Florentine artists, chiding them because none of their works have come into his possession. In the one poem seventeen men who have been classified as painters, besides some who are sculptors and architects primarily, find a place. Only two or three of the artists are given more than a line or two; but many of even the most insignificant are summed up in some phrase like the following: “Da Vincis derive in good time from Dellos;” “Stefano ... called Nature’s Ape and the world’s despair;” “the wronged Lippino,” or “my Pollajolo, the twice a craftsman.”

II. Extent of browning’s knowledge.

—To cover the entire field as he does, from Cimabue through the Renaissance and down to modern times (for he omits almost no artist of importance in227 the whole history of painting, besides including many surprises in the way of insignificant ones), Browning must have had a wonderful amount of historical knowledge. This familiarity with the development of the art was gained in three ways—by some study of the subject before he went to Italy, by reading histories of the painters after going there, and by visiting galleries and churches in Italy and studying the pictures found therein.

The fact that Browning had an interest in studying the London galleries before he went to Italy, and indeed, was a student of pictures from his childhood, has already been noted in the introductory remarks.176 Just how great the poet’s knowledge of Italian art was at this period, is hard to determine. But his first poem, Pauline, contains a reference to Andromeda, a picture by Caravaggio, who was a Renaissance artist. Mrs. Orr177 tells us that the picture was always before him as a boy and that he loved the story of the divine deliverer and the innocent victim which it represented. In one of his early letters to Elizabeth Barrett, Browning gives the following account of his fondness for Andromeda: “How some people use their pictures, for instance, is a mystery to me. My Polidore’s perfect Andromeda along with ‘Boors Carousing’ where I found her—my own father’s doing, or I would say more.”

These statements prove that a fondness for some Italian art, at least, had been a part of his life from a very early age; and in addition, they suggest that a person who had so keen an appreciation for a picture by an artist so little known as Caravaggio, must have known a great deal more about Italian art than is implied in this one statement. Browning was in his twenty-first year when Pauline, the poem referring to Andromeda, was published. This was five years before his first visit to Italy, but even at this time, his appreciation of the picture was so complete that he compared the ever-beautiful and unchanging Andromeda to himself and seemed to feel that she had as real an existence.

III. Irregular distribution of references.

—While the influence of painting began so early in Browning’s poetical career, and extended to its close, the last art poem being Beatrice Signorini, in the Asolando group, published just at the time of his death, the chronological distribution of the subject is by no means228 regular. In Paracelsus, reference to painting is found; Sordello has some minor references; Pippa Passes contains some mention of painting and much concerning sculpture. Pictor Ignotus, the first poem devoted entirely to a painter, was published in 1845. All these items form a comparatively slender thread of references up to the publications of 1855. At that date Browning had lived in Italy nine years, had studied art histories, and seen pictures. Our chronicler, Mrs. Browning, we recall, furnishes us the information—in the previously mentioned letter of 1847 to Horne—that they were reading Vasari. This was the next year after the Brownings went to Italy to take up their residence there. Though Browning’s early trips (in 1838 and 1844) seem to have had small influence on his poetic treatment of painting, the Italian residence bore fruit. Between 1847, the year when the residence began, and 1855, only one poem of Browning’s was published, and some references to painting are found in it. The publications of 1855 include the following poems on painting: Old Pictures in Florence, The Guardian Angel, Fra Lippo Lippi, Andrea del Sarto, and One Word More. In this one year, all the finest and best known of his poems on painting were given to the world. Just why this is true is hard to prove but easy to conjecture. The time just previous to their publication marks the period of greatest, most intimate art study, since these poems were the product of the first nine years in Italy. There was a certain power, appreciation, and a fineness of feeling associated with these first years in the great art center of Florence that never returned again. For some time before this, Browning had been an interested student of art, and the Florentine residence brought his ideas to their full maturity. The best that he was capable of putting into verse on the subject of painting was both imagined and written during this first period in Italy, the home of painting.

IV. Sources of the poems.

—An event recorded by Mrs. Browning, in a letter to Mrs. Jameson, dated May 4, 1850, throws light on the source of Old Pictures in Florence. She says that her husband had picked up at a few pauls each some “hole and corner pictures” in a corn shop a mile from Florence. Mr. Kirkup (one of the best judges of pictures in Florence) threw out such names for them as “Cimabue, Ghirlandajo, Giottino, a Crucifixion painted on a banner, Giottesque, if not Giotto, but unique or nearly so, on account of linen material—and a little Virgin by a Byzantine master.229 Two angel pictures, bought last year, prove to have been sawed off of the Ghirlandajo, so-called.”

Besides showing, as do many other statements of their life in Italy, that Browning was deeply interested in art, these words suggest both the title and the origin of Old Pictures in Florence, in which the poet reproaches the spirits of the early masters for failing to leave some of their works to one so appreciative as himself. What could be more natural in its development? A poet-artist finds the pictures, is told that they are genuine, and is very desirous of believing it. His interest in personality turns his mind to the painters themselves, his fancy runs with a loose rein—and we have the half-thoughtful whimsicality of Old Pictures in Florence. On the serious side it pleads for the following: (1) more attention to the early almost unknown masters, instead of praise for Angelo, Raphael, and such famous artists; (2) a greater appreciation of the development of Italian painting, because it was development, than of the dead perfection of Greek sculpture; (3) Italian freedom from Austria, and with it the return of art to Florence, resulting in the completed Campanile with the new flag upon it. The first two pleas are made on the ground of the noble development of the early Italian painting, in contrast with the later art of Italian painting and that of perfect Greek sculpture, which were at a standstill.

The Guardian Angel was the direct result of a visit by the Brownings to Fano; probably in 1848, for during that year Murray sent them there to find a summer residence. Mrs. Browning reports178 that it was unspeakable for such a purpose, but “the churches are very beautiful, and a divine picture of Guercino’s is worth going all that way to see.” The poem was published with the group of 1855, and in it mention is made of three trips to see the picture while the Brownings were at Fano.

While The Guardian Angel may be the only poem written as a direct result of seeing a picture, Andrea del Sarto was at least the result of the existence of a picture. Mr. Kenyon, an intimate friend of the Brownings, and a relative of Mrs. Browning, asked them to obtain for him, if possible, a copy of Andrea’s picture of himself and wife. Since he was unable to secure it, Browning wrote the poem and sent it as a record of what the picture contained.

230 Vasari was the source of much of the historical material which Browning used in his poems. His gossipy narrative was followed almost exactly in Fra Lippo Lippi, and partly in Andrea del Sarto and other poems. Baldinucci’s histories of the Italian painters furnish material for Beatrice Signorini, and the first part of Filippo Baldinucci. Browning invented the last part of the latter, and makes his invention more real by Filippo’s declaration, “Plague o’ me if I record it in my book.”

V. Poetic functions of the references to painting.

—Many references to painters or painting are used for comparisons, just as in the case of other arts. Such is the one in Pauline, in which the poet describes the Andromeda of Caravaggio, and contrasts her to his own changing soul; and also the comparison in Sordello, of the hero to the same picture. A third mention of Andromeda, in Francis Furini, illustrates the beauty of the nude art. The painter of Andromeda, Polidoro da Caravaggio, is introduced in Waring, in a far from serious comparison, in which Browning wonders if his long-silent friend is splashing in painting “as none splashed before, Since great Caldara Polidore.”

In Pippa Passes, the Bishop compares one artist with another, by expressing the hope that Jules will found a school like that of Correggio. In Three Days includes a comparison of the lights and shades of a woman’s hair to painting, with the line, “As early Art embrowns the gold.” Any Wife to Any Husband compares the husband who greatly admires other beautiful women, with anyone who looks at Titian’s Venus—“Once more what is there to chide?” Passages in Bishop Blougram’s Apology name Correggio’s works and the pictures of Giulio Romano as desirable things to own. The Bishop also states that he keeps his restless unbelief quiet, “like the snake ’neath Michael’s foot,” referring to the well-known painting by Raphael. In James Lee’s Wife, the attitude toward an unbeautiful hand is illustrated by the line—“Would Da Vinci turn from you?”

One of the most striking examples of the comparison of a person with a picture is found in Part VI of The Ring and the Book, where Caponsacchi likens Pompilia to the Madonna of Raphael in innocence. In Part VII, Pompilia compares her deliverer, Caponsacchi, to the picture of St. George. In Part VIII, the speaker who defends Guido reads a description of a man moved by too much grief, and says it fits Guido’s case just as exactly as Maratta’s portraits231 are like the life. The prosecutor, in Part IX, compares himself in his descriptions of the family of Pompilia, to a painter, carefully planning to paint a ‘Holy Family’. In this connection he names Carlo Maratta, Luca Giordano, Angelo, Raphael, Pietro da Cortona, and Ferri. Four or five other comparisons are found in The Ring and the Book, but in general, they are very similar to the ones given above, and little would be gained by enumerating all of them.

About forty lines of Fifine at the Fair are concerned with an extended comparison of a man’s treatment of his wife with his attitude toward an authentic Raphael which he has bought. In each case he makes much over the new treasure when it has first come into his possession, then seems neglectful, but in case of any danger, thinks first of his real object of affection, forgetting such light fancies as other women and Doré picture books. The comparison is further extended by likening the soul in its choice of another soul to finding satisfaction in art—poetry, music, and painting. The Italian artists, Bazzi, Raphael, and Michael Angelo, are named as examples in this connection.

Red Cotton Night-Cap Country contains a very Browningesque description of a soul, and pleads:

“Aspire, break bounds! I say,
Endeavor to be good and better still,
And best! Success is nought, endeavor’s all.”
* * * * *
... “there the incomplete,
More than completion, matches the immense,—
Then Michael Angelo against the world.”

With Charles Avison, Cenciaja, and With Christopher Smart contain comparisons similar to those noted above.

Eleven poems in all deal with Italian painters or painting as the principal theme. They are: Pictor Ignotus, Old Pictures in Florence, The Guardian Angel, Fra Lippo Lippi, Andrea del Sarto, One Word More, A Face, Pacchiarotto, Filippo Baldinucci, With Francis Furini, and Beatrice Signorini. Eight of these center around the work, personality, or history of a single artist. Of the eight, Pictor Ignotus, Andrea del Sarto, Fra Lippo Lippi, and With Francis Furini, are serious poetic efforts, having as the theme a painter’s endeavor, and dealing in each case with some shortcoming or lack of acknowledged success. Each of the first three, as poetry, is excellent in conception and execution. With Francis232 Furini, however, is rather didactic and heavy, lacking in lyricism and beauty.

The failure of Pictor Ignotus was due to his high conception of art—so high that he could not bear to submit pictures of real worth to the world. With his extremely sensitive disposition he could not endure the thought of ignorant criticism by people who had no comprehension of the aim or purpose of the artist. Lippi failed to gain approbation because he would not sacrifice his conception of painting things as God made them to the misguided saintliness of the monks. Furini, according to Browning’s estimate, failed in part, because of his attitude toward the nude. Andrea del Sarto, the greatest failure in all Browning, possessed a masterly technique, but failed through his weakness of character.

Of the later art poems, published after 1855, With Francis Furini is the most serious effort. It contains an extended defense of the nude in art, the substance of which is summed up in the following quotations:

“No gift but in the very plentitude
Of its perfection, goes maimed, misconstrued,
By wickedness or weakness: still some few
Have grace to see thy purpose, strength to mar
Thy work with no admixture of their own.”
* * * * *
... “Show beauty’s May, ere June
Undo the bud’s blush, leave a rose to cull
—No poppy neither! Yet less perfect-pure,
Divinely precious with life’s dew besprent.
Show saintliness that’s simply innocent
Of guessing sinnership exists.”

Among the less serious works, Pacchiarotto tells the story of a reformer-painter, suffering at the hands of the people who opposed him. With a decidedly humorous treatment, rollicking verse, and impossible rhymes, Browning carried on the poem to its conclusion of a fling at the critics of his own verse. Filippo Baldinucci simply retells a rather amusing story, quite distinct from any serious consideration of the painter as an artist, with an added conclusion which Browning imagined for himself. In like manner, Beatrice Signorini consists of a poetized version of some very personal history, which Browning took from Baldinucci. The husband of Beatrice, who was the painter Romanelli, fell in love with Artemisia Genteleschi, and having painted her portrait,233 showed it to his wife. She immediately destroyed it, Romanelli approved her spirit, and ever after loved her more.

VI. Conformity to history.

—A few instances of departure from historical facts are found in the poems on painting, though it is really remarkable that they were not less accurate, written as they were at a time when the history of painting had been so slightly investigated. Such errors as existed are usually the result of mistakes in the sources Browning followed, though these were the best in their day, rather than from carelessness on his part.

Some very recent investigators assert that Browning unduly exaggerated the character of Andrea’s wife, in Andrea del Sarto. However, no less an authority than W. M. Rossetti insists that he was essentially true to the facts in representing her. Others insist that he was somewhat unfair in the general impression which he gives of Andrea. At least he has not changed the facts materially in this particular case; and if any liberty has been taken, from a poetic standpoint it is well taken. There are several slight errors in Fra Lippo Lippi. For example, Guidi (Masaccio) is now known to have been the master, not the pupil of Lippi, and the picture in Sant’ Ambrogio was probably not the expiation of a prank.

The few changes in the facts, however, are comparatively slight, all told. Allowing for mistaken authorities whom Browning followed, variations are much more trivial than might be expected. By the old well-worn charity cloak of poetic license it is customary to allow for considerable idealization. But Browning, the artist of things as they really exist, held to the truth as he saw it, even in his treatment of art. This he did in spite of the fact that his purpose was not to give art history, but to present personality as it existed in relation to art. With his deep insight into human nature, as well as art history, he took the characters which he found in the world of art, the good or bad, and gave them to us as examples of the striving, often unsuccessful soul.



General Comparisons: Browning and the Fine Arts of Italy.

I. Poetic function and method.

—About fifteen poems from Browning deal with the arts or artists of Italy as primary subject matter. The remainder of the entire number of forty-nine which refer to art at all, treat it as a secondary consideration. Taking the subject art as a whole, as Browning introduces it in poetry, it appears in the following forms: (1) main theme; (2) comparison of two or more artists working in the same art; (3) comparison of artists in one art with those in another, as painters with musicians, or with poets; (4) illustrative material when the main theme of the poem has no immediate bearing on art. Abt Vogler, in music, or Fra Lippo Lippi, in painting, are examples of the first. Andrea del Sarto, besides exemplifying the first form, contains numerous comparisons of its main character with other painters. With Charles Avison has a musician as a theme, and he is compared with other artists, for example, Michael Angelo. Fifine at the Fair, whose main theme has no connection with art, names Raphael, Bazzi, and Angelo as illustrative material. Numerous instances of incidental art references, used in such ways as these, attest the fact that Browning had a large art consciousness, gained from past interest in the different fields, and of sufficient activity to cause almost constant references to the fine arts.

Where Wordsworth would have chosen English natural scenery for purposes of illustration, and Shelley nature in Italy, Browning chose art. Fifteen poems with nature as the main theme, besides numerous others with references to nature, would not seem unusual; but a group of fifteen poems, all moderately long, based on the fine arts, besides a very large number of comparisons235 to the arts in other poems, seems an exceptional product for a nineteenth century English poet.

Browning’s art monologue is of two kinds—the monologue of the artist who is the chief character in the poem, and the monologue of the poet addressing the artist directly. Nor are these forms confined entirely to Italian art poems. My Last Duchess, The Bishop orders his Tomb, Pictor Ignotus, Fra Lippo Lippi, Andrea del Sarto, Abt Vogler, are all in dramatic monologue, with either an artist or one interested in art, as the speaker. A Toccata of Galuppi’s, Master Hughes of Saxe-Gotha, and Old Pictures in Florence, represent the poet addressing the artist. Filippo Baldinucci is presented in the first person, in monologue form. In The Guardian Angel the poet directly addressed the angel of the picture. One Word More and A Face, in which the art element is strong, are written in the first person, the former addressed directly to Mrs. Browning with the poet speaking, and the second addressed to no particular person. This review establishes the fact that the monologue is Browning’s favorite form for poems about art, since the list just quoted includes all important poems of that kind. In every case he made some personality prominent, and in all serious poems on art, that personality is either speaking or spoken to, the very finest poems being of the former type.

II. Amount of material used from each of the fine arts.

—In the foregoing discussion of the five branches of Italian art in Browning,—sculpture, music, poetry, architecture, and painting—the order has been determined largely by a quantitative standard. In the Appendix are systematic lists showing the number of poems and the exact references in connection with each art. No extensive comparison of the different arts regarding frequency of introduction, therefore, is needed here; but a few generalizations concerning some of the reasons for the variation in emphasis seem not amiss.

Architecture is the art of a concrete bodily form, absolutely separated from any representation of humanity, unless one looks beyond it to the architect, or to the people for whom it is constructed. In contradistinction to the other fine arts discussed here, it is characterized by usefulness. While it should, and does, in its highest forms, surmount mere utility, and give an impression of harmony, beauty, and grandeur, it never directly portrays the finest feelings of which humanity is capable and never inspires236 one directly with a feeling of achievement or struggle in character. Utility is the chief interest guiding Browning’s treatment of architecture—not architectural utility, but the service to the poet in fixing the setting of his poems. Such service is clear in nearly every instance in all of the twenty-five poems in which some Italian building is mentioned, and in the case of nearly all the fifty-eight edifices named. The description of St. Peter’s in Christmas-Eve and Easter-Day is practically the only exception, and there, as has already been stated, the poet passed from the grandeur of the structure itself to the builders. Lack of personality in architecture is, then, the reason for its very slight introduction as an actual art in Browning’s verse.

Passing on from architecture to sculpture one finds that we have another art of concrete bodily form, with the added power of portraying the human form, face, and to a very slight degree, the soul. While the number of sculptors named is very small, then, Browning’s appreciation of this art surpasses his appreciation of architecture. Examples of this are Old Pictures in Florence, in which sculpture is treated at considerable length, by comparing its merits with the aspirations of the early painters, and Pippa Passes, in which Jules, the sculptor, is a prominent figure. The Bishop orders his Tomb deals almost entirely with sculpture. Still sculpture was not Browning’s favorite art by any means. Bodily perfection he admired; but he wished to go beyond it to the soul in dramatic situations, to its struggle and endeavor. And for these values the powers of sculpture are limited. To portray successfully any very great struggle or intense feeling of the soul is beyond its nature.

A cause for the large amount of Italian poetry in the writings of Browning has already been suggested, in part.179 But one must further consider the fact that he did not continue to deal with poets and their writings as subject matter. After the first eight years of his career, he ceased to deal with the causes connected with the failure of poets. Fundamentally, all arts are agencies of expression through the representation of nature and humanity. With the breadth of vision which Browning possessed concerning the possibilities of expression in all the arts, there was none of the five in which he did not, at some time or other, wish to express237 himself. In the beginning of his career, when he was formulating his ideas of a poet, he expressed his ideas of that art by writing about other poets. But with ideas and forms for his own art once fully established, the art became self-expressive. He no longer needed to write about other poets; for the poet in himself had found his own purpose and method.

It has already been suggested that Browning’s appreciation of music, as he expressed it in his poems, was qualitative, rather than quantitative, so far as Italian music is concerned. This art rivals poetry in expressing the highest yearnings and ideals of which the soul is capable, and is, therefore, in a very high degree, though in abstract form, the art of personality. And this art Browning expressed most perfectly, as to the aims and ideals of its artists, when he chose to do so. But with all his own feeling for music and with such ability as he expressed in performance, it, like poetry, was largely self-expressive for him. That is he played, instead of writing poetry about music. Browning’s evident preference for other music than that of the modern composers of Italy explains the lack of space accorded to them. Yet in spite of this preference the best of his musical poems were built about Italians—obscure ones though they may be.

Browning did no work in actual study of the technique of painting. The nearest he came to it was at the time of his thirteen days application to drawing.180 Yet painting is in a very large degree expressive of the soul—its anguish, sorrow, failure, joy, ecstasy, or endeavor. Drawn to it by his interest in personality, Browning made it contribute largely to his poems. The Italian painting with which he dealt had little to do with landscape or other phases of nature. It portrayed persons; and stimulated by the pictures which he saw, or by records of personality in the biography of artists, he incorporated many references to painting in his poems, dealing more largely with it than with any other art. Since, too, Italy was the home of painting, his environment was very conducive to a development of his tendency to make painting an important element in his poems.

Browning, as poet and man, was able to forgive any sort of failure if the person whom he was judging had only made a thorough effort to accomplish something. He carried this doctrine238 so far as to make a lack of effort the cause of his censure of the Duke and the Lady in The Statue and the Bust, even though the fulfillment of their plan would have been a sin. This love for endeavor, which always accompanies his attitude toward any personality, along with his enthusiasm for personality itself explains his selection and emphasis in his treatment of the arts. Painting he decidedly preferred above sculpture for other reasons than its greater ability in portraying the soul. This preference is stated in Old Pictures in Florence, and is based on the fact that Greek art had run, and “reached the Goal.” Its effort, then, was over:

“They are perfect—how else? they shall never change:
We are faulty—why not? we have time in store.
The Artificer’s hand is not arrested
With us ...”
* * * * *
“’Tis a life-long toil till our lump be leaven—
The better! What’s come to perfection perishes.”

These quotations from Old Pictures in Florence, in which the poet, by using the first person in his references to the early masters of Italy places himself in their group and refers to Greek art in the third person, are indications of the spirit of the poem and of Browning’s entire attitude toward endeavor in art.

To summarize, then: few persons have as great an interest in expressing themselves through all the arts as did Robert Browning. Architecture and sculpture he appreciated least; therefore he expressed least concerning their spirit and feeling. Music was a fundamental part of his life; but he was able to embody his feelings about it in music itself, not merely in poetry about it. Yet because of his perfect understanding of it, he has embodied its spirit in a few choice poems, making permanent, by his treatment of its evanescent quality, the ideas that could not be left to the world by his playing. Painting he deeply appreciated from childhood; but beyond a few amateur efforts for diversion, he could not express his appreciation of it by means of that art itself. Consequently, in an unusually large number of his poems, he gave us his view of that art, his portraits of its followers, historical or imaginary.

III. Personality and the arts.

—Through his presentation of artists, Browning has given the world many different types of character. Prominent among them are the following: The non-altruistic,239 impractical poet—Sordello; the sensualist—Bocafoli; the superficial character—Plara; the regretful but optimistic idealist—Abt Vogler; the coarse realist, who yet possessed a really fine appreciation of God’s world—Fra Lippo Lippi; the weak, ambitionless man—Andrea del Sarto; the keenly sensitive mind—Pictor Ignotus; and the reformer—Pacchiarotto.

Art is also connected with Browning’s character portrayal in a secondary sort of way, of which The Ring and the Book furnishes excellent illustrations. In that poem people are characterized by their likeness to some work of art—e. g., Pompilia is compared to Raphael’s Madonna; or by their fondness for some particular work of art—e. g., the Pope chuckling over the Merry Tales.

While Browning mentioned the great masters in many different poems, it is noticeable that he never used one of them as the main subject of a poem. There are Andrea, Lippo, and Furini, but there is no Angelo and no Raphael. This is due to the one element of interest on Browning’s part that has already been emphasized in this chapter and previous ones—personality. Browning was interested in the artist he selected, not merely as an artist, not as a distinguished figure, but as a human being, whose attempts, partial failure, or development, the poet wished us to study with him.

Very often the characters whom Browning chose to present either in connection with the arts or otherwise, were such as we do not approve of—but neither did Browning approve of them. His theory of art was no mere aesthetic one of art for art’s sake, no mere dogma of didacticism. It was rather, art for the sake of human nature, of personality. Of all the characters he has drawn for us, the one whose expression of art best gives Browning’s own sentiments is Fra Lippo Lippi, the painter and realist, enthusiastic for

“The beauty and the wonder and the power,
The shapes of things, their colors, lights, and shades,
Changes, surprises—and God made it all!
* * * * *
“But why not do as well as say,—paint these
Just as they are, careless what comes of it?”

Numerous instances might be cited as a proof of this—Guido, the Duke, the Bishop, and many others. All his human beings, then, Browning chose because their personality appealed to him,240 as a study, rather than because they compelled his admiration, whether he selected them from the world of art or elsewhere.

IV. Browning as the poet of humanity.

—By consideration of Browning’s general attitude towards the arts, of his fondness for the struggle of the human soul as a poetic theme, and by a discussion of his relative emphasis on each art and the method in which he chose to treat it, the fact has been established that Browning was primarily the poet of the human soul, and a poet of the arts as seen through the medium of personality.

When he was once asked if he liked nature, he replied, “Yes but I love men and women better.” The arts—architecture, music, poetry, sculpture, and painting—he loved also; but he loved them most because they recorded human experience, and best when they most fully expressed the struggles of the soul, and thus became the direct embodiment of personality.






163 Mrs. Sutherland Orr’s Life of Browning, revised by Frederick G. Kenyon.

164 Mrs. Orr: op. cit.

165 For the sources and nature of this interest, see below, Chapter II and p. 50.

166 Bavarian by birth, Abt Vogler was ordained a priest at Rome, and played in that city for years. His significance in musical history seems associated with Italy rather than Bavaria.

167 See An Epistle of Karshish; Ferishtah’s Fancies.

168 See Pheidippides; Aristophanes’ Apology; Herakles; Agamemnon.

169 See Gold Hair, A Story of Pornic; The Two Poets of Croisic.

170 See the next page.

171 See below, pp. 44, 46.

172 See above, p. 12.

173 See Ring and the Book, I.

174 Line 382.

175 Letter by Mrs. Browning, December, 1847.

176 See above, p. 10.

177 Op. cit.

178 August, 1848.

179 See Chapter IV, p. 30 and passim.

180 See above, p. 12.



Vol. I   January 1, 1915   No. 4




Assistant Professor of Latin in the University of Kansas




This treatise is printed in substantially the same form in which it was presented to the faculty of Yale University as a doctor’s thesis. The subject was suggested by Professor E. P. Morris, and the study was carried on under his direction. To him, and to Professor Hanns Oertel, who made helpful suggestions, the author is under obligation not only for the method employed but also for the general theory underlying the whole study.

The writer also wishes to thank Professor S. L. Whitcomb, the editor of this series, for valuable help in preparing the work for publication.

E. D. C.

Lawrence, Kansas,

Jan. 1, 1915.



Chapter I
Introductory 7
Chapter II
Influence of Stem-Meaning 10
I. -Mentum.
  A. Concrete -mentum Words on Verb Stems.
    1. Nouns denoting result of action, with general application 10
    2. Nouns denoting result of action, with restricted application 11
    3. Nouns denoting instrument, with general application 12
    4. Nouns denoting instrument, with both general and figurative application 13
    5. Nouns denoting instrument, with specialized application 14
    6. Nouns denoting instrument, with both specialized and figurative application 15
    7. Nouns not classified 16
  B. Concrete -mentum Words on Noun and Adjective Stems 17
  C. Abstract -mentum Words on Verb Stems.
    1. Nouns denoting result of action 18
    2. Nouns denoting instrument 20
    3. Nouns denoting action 22
  D. Abstract -mentum Words on Noun Stems 23
II. -Bulum.
    1. Nouns denoting instrument 24
    2. Nouns denoting place 25
    3. Nouns denoting person 26
III. -Culum.
  A. Concrete -culum Words.
    1. Nouns denoting instrument 27
    2. Nouns denoting place 29
    3. Nouns denoting object of action 30
  B. Abstract -culum Words, All Denoting Action 30
Chapter III270
Influence of Context 32
Chapter IV
Overlapping of Suffixes 43
  A. Parallels of -mentum and Accessory Suffixes 44
  B. Parallels of -bulum and Accessory Suffixes 49
  C. Parallels of -culum and Accessory Suffixes 50
Chapter V
Suffixes and the Theory of Adaptation 52
Index of Words 55

The Semantics of -mentum, -bulum, and -culum271



The primary object of this study will be to show, first, the range of semantic variability discernible in a set of noun-formative suffixes and the reason for it; and second, by a comparison of these suffixes with other suffixes used on the same stem, to illustrate the comparatively fluid semantic condition of formative suffixes in general. The semantic value will be determined by an examination of the meaning of the whole noun and its relation to the surrounding context.

The suffixes chosen for investigation were -mentum, -bulum, and -culum. They form neuters and are joined mainly to verb stems. In all grammars they are grouped together as forming nouns signifying the instrument or means of action, sometimes result of action, sometimes place, rarely the action itself. Such general statements are true and perhaps adequate for the purpose of stating a brief grammatical rule; but it will be seen from the following pages that these suffixes are capable of much greater variations.

The material for investigation was collected from the literature extending to the Augustan period, and consisted of approximately four thousand examples, many of which were of course duplicates, so that comparatively only a small percentage of them were really valuable. In order that the material might not seem too slight for drawing conclusions as to later periods, useful examples were also gathered from the literature of the Empire, by means of the lexicons and indexes; but the evidence contributed by the latter was272 in large part only cumulative, not revealing any other influences upon meaning than those found in the earlier period. In Chapter IV the difference in frequency of use of nouns in different periods will be discussed in detail.

Inscriptions were not taken as sources of material on account of the isolated positions in which words usually occur. Such fragmentary evidence would not contribute much where the meaning of a word, which depends so much on its immediate context, is to be examined.

For purposes of clearness, it will be well to explain here in just what sense the term “meaning” will be used. Linguistic history shows that “words are constantly gaining in precision. Through the associations set up in the process of expression, the meaning of a word is being constantly deepened and enriched. The connotation is, in general, increasing and the denotation, that is, the range of application, is narrowing.”181

There is of course something fundamental in every word that distinguishes it from other words; but this does not exhaust the whole meaning of most words. Only when used in a sentence, with other words, in a context, does a word acquire its full and precise meaning. By stripping a word of the connotation and denotation which it shows in many contexts, there is left, as it were, a common denominator; and it is as a result of this logical operation that we assign a meaning to a detached and isolated word.

Caution must also be exercised in speaking of the “meaning” of suffixes. Isolated suffixes have a meaning even less than words do. It is incorrect to say that -mentum, or -bulum, or -culum means instrument; the nouns made with them may have this meaning, but the suffixes are perhaps colorless in themselves. This is true of suffixes used to form other parts of speech as well as nouns; e. g., a suffix forming an adjective signifying material or appurtenance cannot be said to mean “made of,” “belonging to,” or “full of,” although its equivalence to such expressions can be shown when in each occurrence of the adjective the relation of the stem of the adjective to the governing noun is taken into consideration.

273 The etymology of the three suffixes will be explained in Chapter IV.

The investigation of my material revealed at least two fairly definite influences at work on any single meaning of a word: (1) Stem-meaning; (2) Context; while (3) a very important factor in illustrating the variability and non-stability of the suffixes is seen in comparing them with other suffixes on the same stem, noting their similarity or difference, and finding if possible the reason for it. A chapter will be devoted to each one of these main topics. Sometimes all three of these factors exert their influence on a word, more often one or both of the first two make the meaning clear. The first, or stem-meaning, regularly gives a general meaning to the word, while the context gives a special or more precise meaning. As far as possible only one influence will be discussed in each chapter, but as the determination of the meaning of a word is so complex a process, a slight overlapping will be unavoidable in some instances.



Influence of Stem-Meaning

The examination of the words with a view to finding the influence of stem-meaning is not directly concerned with semantic variability: that will be illustrated in the next chapter. For purposes of classification in this chapter, only the prevailing meaning of each word is considered. For doubtful etymologies, Walde (Lat. Etym. Wörterbuch) is taken as guide.


The great majority of the stems with which this suffix is used are verb stems, but there are a few noun stems and two adjective stems. For convenience, the whole number may be divided into two large classes: one consisting of those that denote concrete things, and the other, of those that denote abstract things. An absolute division here is impossible and for the present purpose unimportant, and any criterion must be somewhat arbitrary. I have called everything concrete which has physical form, and everything else, including actions, abstract. Many concrete words, especially those capable of general application, are often used in a transferred or figurative sense, and thus have also an abstract meaning.

A. Concrete -mentum Words on Verb Stems.
1. Nouns denoting result of action, with general application.
—Of the concrete words, there are a few, like fragmentum, caementum, ramentum, which clearly do not express the instrument of an action, nor the action itself, nor the place, but the result of an action. Some, like fragmentum and stramentum, are formed on verbs whose action can be directed toward several kinds of materials or objects. This class of nouns then has general275 application, and their precise meaning must be obtained from the context. This influence will be pointed out in the next chapter.

As far as the verb stem (frango) is concerned, the examples show only that fragmentum means “a piece broken off” or “fragment”: tribunum adoriuntur fragmentis saeptorum, Sest. 79; cum puerum fragmentis panis adlexisset, Plin. 9, 8, 8; ut glaebum aut fragmentum lapidis dicimus, N. D. II, 82; non modo fragmenta tegularum sed etiam ambusta tigna ad armatos pervenire, Liv. 34, 39, 11.

In the first two examples, the fragmenta, being in the ablative, are plainly the instrument of the action of the main verb, but without the dependent genitives we should not know what sort of “pieces” or “fragments” were used. In the last two examples the meaning of “particle” is suggested by “glaebum” and “tigna”. The dependent genitives here also give precision.

Many things may be strewn or scattered, so stramentum gets from its verb stem (sterno) the general meaning of something strewn or scattered: noctem in stramentis pernoctare, Truc. 278; casae quae stramentis tecta erant, B. G. 5, 43; fasces stramentorum ac virgultorum incendunt, B. G. 8, 15.

Ramentum (rado) is “something scraped or rubbed off,” “bits or small pieces:” et ramenta simul ferri furere intus ahenis in scaphiis, Lucr. 6, 1043; ramenta ligni decocta in vino prosunt, Plin. 24, 2, 2; patri omne [aurum] cum ramento reddidi, Bacc. 680.

Delectamentum (delecto) might at first sight be taken to be the means by which one is delighted. That such is not necessarily so may be seen from the examples: qui me pro ridiculo ac delectamento putat, Heaut. 952; inania sunt ista delectamenta puerorum, captare plausus, vehi per urbem, Pis. 25, 60. In both these examples the source of delight and the delight itself are too close in meaning to warrant the drawing of any distinction.

2. Nouns denoting result of action, with restricted application.
—The preceding four words, as has been said, are of general application, because their verb stems have a general meaning. There are five nouns expressing result of action which have a narrower and more restricted sense than their verb stems would require.

Caementum (caedo) means not everything that is cut off, but a piece of rough stone: in eam insulam materiem, calcem, caementa, arma convexit, Mil. 27, 74; caementum de silice frangatur, Vitr.276 8, 7, 14. The influence of caedo here is slight; only the context shows the meaning of “stone.”

Sarmentum (sarpo) is not everything that is plucked, but twigs or fagots: ligna et sarmenta circumdare, ignemque subicere coeperunt, Verr. II, 1, 27; sarmentis virgultisque collectis, quibus fossas compleant, ad castra pergunt, B. G. 3, 18; ne vitis sarmentis silvescat, C. 15. In the last example the noun is used of objects not at all necessarily affected by the verb stem sarpere.

Pavimentum (pavio) is a floor, or pavement (something beaten down): ubi structum erit, pavito fricatoque oleo, uti pavimentum bonum siet, Cato, R. R. 18; mero tingete pavimentum, Hor. C. 2, 14, 26. In Bell. Alex. 1, it means a roof: aedificia tecta sunt rudere aut pavimentis. The predominating element in the meaning of the word is that it denotes the result of the action expressed in pavire.

Sicilimentum (sicilio) in the single instance of its occurrence plainly means what is cut with a sickle: faenum cordum, sicilamenta de prato, ea arida condito, Cato, R. R. 5.

Testamentum (testor) is not necessarily the means of bearing witness nor of making a will—a particular significance which this verb stem sometimes has,—but is the document itself: antequam tabulas testamenti aperuit, Ad Her. I, 24; quare sit in lege aut in testamento scriptum, Inv. II, 137; una fui, testamentum simul obsignavi, Mil. 18, 48.

Lutamentum (lutare) in the single occurrence we have of it evidently means, by inference from the passage in which it is found, a mud wall, or a piece of work bedaubed with mud: neque lutamenta scindent se, Cato, R. R. 128.

The contribution of stem-meaning, in this class of -mentum words to the meanings of the words themselves is quite apparent. Whatever else they suggest, the verb stems all suggest the result of the action expressed by them; and this result of action is expressed by the -mentum word.

3. Nouns denoting instrument, with general application.
—A second, and the largest class of concrete -mentum words clearly express in a general way the instrument of the action. Here, too, some of the words keep a general meaning which they get from the verb stem, while others receive a special meaning. The verb stems themselves admit more or less of a general or special meaning.

277 Ammentum (apo?) is a means of fastening, a strap, or thong: epistola ad ammentum tragulae deligata, B. G. 5. 48; umor iaculorum ammenta emollierat, Liv. 37, 41. Both these examples show it to be a strap fastened to a javelin.

Armamenta (always plural) are utensils for almost any purpose. It is difficult to say whether the word is formed on the verb stem armo, or is an extended form of the noun arma; the former is entirely possible, while the equivalence of meaning in the two nouns supports the latter supposition. At any rate the meaning is “equipment”, “that with which one is armed”: hic tormenta, armamenta, arma, omnis apparatus belli est, Liv. 26, 43; cum omnibus Gallicis navibus spes in velis armamentisque consisteret, B. G. 3, 14; armamenta vinearum, Plin. 17, 21, 35. The most frequent use is that seen in the second example, where it means the rigging of a ship, in this instance, however, excluding the sails.

Medicamentum (medicor) is a remedy, a means of healing or curing: Si eo medicamento sanus factus erit, Off. 3, 24; multis medicamentis propter dolorem artuum delibutus, Brut. 60.

Operimentum (operio) is a cover, or means of covering: nuces gemino protectae operimento, Plin. 15, 22, 24; detracto oculorum operimento, Plin, 8, 42, 64. That the meaning “covering” is general, may be seen by comparing the second example with N. D. 2, 52, 147: palpebrae, quae sunt tegumenta oculorum. In the latter instance the “covering” is the eyebrow, in the former, some external object, probably wearing apparel.

Suffimentum (suffio) is a means of fumigating: in iis sine illius suffimentis expiati sumus, Leg. 1, 14, 40; laurus sit suffimentum caedis hostium et purgatio, Plin. 15, 30, 40.

Tegumentum, like operimentum, gets its fundamental meaning of “covering” from its verb stem, (tego), but is capable of being applied to many objects, as will be shown in Chapter III: tegumenta corporum, vel texta, vel suta, N. D. 2, 60; scutis tegimenta detrudere non tempus erat, B. G. 2, 21.

4. Nouns denoting instrument, with both general and figurative application.
—The generalized concrete instruments so far illustrated have rarely any abstract meaning. The remainder of them are used both concretely and figuratively.

Alimentum (alo) signifies a means of support or nourishment:278 nec desiderabat alimenta corporis, Timaeus, 6; addidit alimenta rumoribus, Liv. 35, 23.

Instrumentum (instruo) is a very general word meaning implement, furniture, supplies: arma, tela, equos et cetera instrumenta militiae parare, Sall. Jug. 25, 2; spolia, ornamenta, monumenta in instrumento et supellectile Verris nominabuntur, Verr. 2, 4, 44; ut instrumentum oratoris exponeret, De Or. II, 146.

Integumentum (intego) is so similar to tegumentum that it hardly needs separate treatment; however, it is used more frequently with an abstract meaning: istaec ego mihi semper habui aetati integumentum meae, Trin. 313; lanx cum integumentis, quae Iovi adposita fuit, Liv. 40, 59, 7.

Monumentum (moneo) is anything that serves as a reminder: statuam quae sit factis monumentum suis, Curc. 441; tum monumenta rerum gestarum oratori nota esse debere, De Or. I, 201.

Ornamentum (orno) is anything for adorning or equipping: hominem cum ornamentis omnibus exornatum adducite ad me, Pseud. 765; audieram quae de orationis ipsius ornamentis traderentur, De Or. II, 122; vidi hunc ipsum Q. Hortensium ornamentum rei publicae paene interfici, Milo, 37.

Saepimentum (saepio) is any means of inclosure or defense: haec omnia quasi saepimento aliquo animus ratione vallabit, Leg. I, 62; tertium militare saepimentum est fossa et terreus agger, Varr. R. R. 1, 142.

Stabilimentum (stabilio) is a means of support or strength: haec sunt ventri stabilimenta: pane et assa bubula, Curc. 367; Sicilia et Sardinia stabilimenta bellorum, Val. Max. 7, 6, 1.

5. Nouns denoting instrument, with specialized application.
—This concludes the list of generalized concrete instruments. Those with specialized meanings are as follows; sometimes the verb stem is specialized, but more often not.

Armentum (aro) always means cattle, originally those used for plowing: et variae crescunt pecudes, armenta feraeque, Lucr. 5, 228; armentum aegrotat in agris, Hor. Ep. I, 8, 6. This word can mean only the secondary instrument for plowing, viz., cattle, because there is another word (aratrum) for the plow itself.

Calceamentum (calceo) always means a shoe, an “instrument” for covering the feet: mihi amictui est Scythicum tegimen, calceamentum solorum callum, T. 5, 90.

279 Frumentum (fruor) always means grain, a “means of enjoyment”: ut hortum fodiat atque ut frumentum metat, Poen. 1020; non modo frumenta in agris mature non erant, B. G. I, 16, 2.

Lomentum (lavo) is a “means” of washing, of a particular kind, however, viz., a cosmetic: lomento rugas condere temptas, Mart. 3, 42, 1. In Ciceronian Latin it occurs only once, and then figuratively: persuasum ei censuram lomentum aut nitrum esse, Fam. VIII, 14, 4.

In iugumentum (iugo) it is a little difficult to see the influence of the stem. The two occurrences of it in Cato are the only ones in literature, and from the context it would seem to mean “threshold” or some other part of the front of the house: limina, postes iugumenta, asseres, fulmentas faber faciat oportet, R. R. 14, 1; iugumenta et antepagmenta quae opus erunt indito, R. R. 14, 5.

Iumentum (iungo) always means an animal for drawing or carrying, a beast of burden: iumento nihil opus est, Att. XII, 32; omnia sarcinaria iumenta interfici iubet, B. C. 1, 81.

Supplementum (suppleo) before the Augustan period means only that with which an army is “filled up” or recruited: partem copiarum ex provincia supplementumque quod ex Italia adduxerat, convenire iubet, B. G. 7, 7, 5; ceterum supplementum etiam laetus decreverat, Sall. Jug. 84, 3. Later it has its literal meaning: ex geminis singula capita in supplementum gregis reservantur, Col. 7, 6, 7.

In vestimentum, the verb stem vestio has the same influence that “clothe” does in our word clothing: me vides ornatus ut sim vestimentis uvidis, Rud. 573; huc est intro latus lectus vestimentis stratus, Heaut. 903.

Libamentum (libo) is a libation, drink offering: dona magnifica, quasi libamenta praedarum, Rep. 2, 44; haec ego ad aras libamenta tuli, Stat. S. 3, 1, 163.

6. Nouns denoting instrument, with both specialized and figurative application.
—The specialized concrete nouns so far given are never used figuratively; there are six additional ones which do sometimes have an abstract meaning.

Tormentum (torqueo) is an instrument of torture, an instrument for hurling, or torture itself: rotam id est genus quoddam tormenti apud Graecas, T. 5, 24; castella constituit ibique tormenta collocavit, B. G. 8, 3; huic licebit tum dicere se beatum in summo cruciatu atque tormentis, T. 5, 73.

280 Condimentum (condio) is anything used for spicing or seasoning: cocos equidem nimio demiror, qui utuntur condimentis, Cas. 219: animus aequus optumumst aerumnae condimentum, Rud. 402.

Fundamentum (fundo) is that with which anything is founded, a foundation: quin cum fundamento aedes perierint, Most. 148; fundamenta rei publicae ieci, Fam. XII, 25, 2.

Impedimentum (impedio) is a means of hindrance, and in the plural, baggage: hinc vos amolimini, nam mi impedimenta estis, And. 707; Demosthenes impedimenta naturae diligentia industriaque superavit, De Or. I. 61, 260; ad impedimenta et carros se contulerunt, B. G. 1, 26.

Nutrimentum (nutrio) like alimentum, is a means of nourishment or support, but it is not found meaning food for the body: educata huius generis nutrimentis eloquentia, Orat. 42; arida circum [igni] nutrimenta dedit, Aen. 1, 176.

Pigmentum (pingo) is paint, or material for coloring: quem Appella et Zeuxis duo pingent pigmentis ulmeis, Epid. 626; sententiae tam verae, tam sine pigmentis fucoque puerili, De Or. II, 188.

7. Nouns not classified.
—This completes the list of concrete -mentum words on verb stems with the exception of three whose stems are unusual or uncertain and contribute little if any influence to the meaning of the word. They do not mean instrument, nor result of action. The fewness of examples also makes it difficult to say just what the words mean. However, they probably have the following signification.

Antepagmentum (from pango, with prefix ante-) from the context seems to be some sort of ornament for the exterior of a house: iugumenta et antepagmenta quae opus erunt indito, Cato, R. R. 14, 5; fulloniam I, antepagmenta, vasa torcula II faber faciat oportet, Cato, R. R. 14, 2; ostiorum et eorum antepagmentorum in aedibus hae sunt rationes, Vitr. 4, 6.

Coagmenta (cogo) undoubtedly means a “joint” of some kind, as may be seen from the context: viden coagmenta in foribus? Most. 829; ut aptior sit oratio, ipsa verba compone et quasi coagmenta, quod ne Graeci quidem veteres factitaverunt, Brut. 68.

Omentum, whatever its etymology, means “fat”: omentum in flamma pingue liquefaciens, Catul. 90, 6.

Each of these -mentum nouns has been illustrated not for the purpose of showing that the verb stem does have influence on the281 meaning of the noun—that is of course very obvious; the purpose has rather been to show that the character of the verb stem—e. g., whether it admits of general or special application, or whether it suggests the result of action or requires an instrument—so affects the resulting character of the noun, as to make it, as a rule, similar to that of the stem. Of this second class of nouns (those that mean instrument) we may say that among other influences of the verb stems, one is that they have such a meaning as requires an instrument for the accomplishment of their action. This does not imply that those in the first class do not also require an instrument. While these nouns do mean instrument or result of action, when viewed in regard to their verb stems, we can not say that such meaning is always felt in every occurrence of the noun. In certain contexts, even most contexts, they lose it entirely and are used as perfect equivalents of nouns that have no such meaning.

Of the two classes of concrete -mentum words on verb stems, therefore, the smaller class has the tendency to mean result of action, the larger class, instrument of action. Whether the instrument is literal or figurative (as it is in the case of a few of these nouns), must be ascertained from the context.

B. Concrete -mentum Words on Noun and Adjective Stems

The concrete -mentum nouns on noun and adjective stems must, on account of their fewness, clearly be analogical formations. They cannot express the instrument or result of an action, but are only an extended form of the noun with a specialized meaning.

Ferramenta are tools made of iron (ferrum): de ferramentorum varietate Cato scribit permulta, ut falces, palas, rastros, Varro, R. R. 1, 22, 5.

Nidamentum (used only once, and allegorically) is material for a nest (nidus): in nervum ille hodie nidamenta congeret, Rud. 889.

Pulpamentum (and its shorter form pulmentum) are tidbits made from pulpa (meat): voltisne olivas, aut pulpamentum, aut capparim? Curc. 90; mihi est cubile terra, pulpamentum fames, T. 5, 90; primus ad cibum vocatur, primo pulmentum datur, M. G. 349; num ego pulmento utor magis unctiusculo? Pseud. 220.

Salsamenta are pickled fish (salsus) although once in Cicero the word in the singular means brine: salsamenta haec, Stephanio,282 fac macerentur, Adel. 380; de vino aut salsamento putes loqui quae evanescunt vetustate, Div. II, 117.

Sincipitamentum (Ritschl and Brix) is a comic word, with the same meaning as its noun stem, sinciput: iube opsonarier pernonidam aut sincipitamenta porcina, Men. 211; comedam, inquit, flebile nati sinciput elixi, Juv. 13, 85.

Atramentum is a liquid possessing the quality expressed by the adjective stem (ater); this context shows it to mean ink: calamo et atramento res agitur, Q. fr. II, 14, 1. In one example it means shoe blacking: pater accusatus a M. Antonio sutorio atramento absolutus putatur, Fam. IX, 21, 3. In one example also, it is used in speaking of fish: atramenti effusione sepiae se tutant, N. II, 127.

Scitamenta (scitus) are tidbits, dainties both literal and figurative: iube aliquid scitamentorum de foro opsonarier, Men. 209; ὁμοιοτέλευτα καὶ ὁμοιόπτωτα ceteraque huiusmodi scitamenta, Gell. 18, 8, 1.

Perhaps the variety of meaning of these analogical formations indicates that no single precise meaning had become attached to -mentum.

C. Abstract -mentum Words on Verb Stems

The majority of abstract -mentum words also fall into the two large classes of result of action and instrument, but there is a small list of nouns which plainly express the action itself. There are only two words on noun stems.

1. Nouns denoting result of action.
—Additamentum (addo) is an increase, or accession: intercessit Ligus iste nescio qui, additamentum amicorum meorum, Sest. 31; sapientia erit ultimum vitae instrumentum et, ut ita dicam, additamentum, Sen. Ep. 17.

Adiumentum (adiuvo) means aid, assistance: Romae vos esse tuto posse per Dolabellam eamque rem posse nobis adiumento esse, Fam. XIV, 18, 1; nulla res est quae plura adiumenta doctrinae desideret, De Or. III, 84.

Cruciamentum (crucio) is not the instrument of torture, but torture itself, or rather the feeling caused by torturing: vidi ego multa saepe picta quae Acherunti fierent cruciamenta, Capt. 998; carnificum cruciamenta et morborum tormenta, Phil. XI. 4, 8.

Delenimentum (delenio) is an allurement or blandishment;283 illam furiam omnibus delenimentis animum suum avertisse atque alienasse, Liv. 30, 13; paulatim discursum ad delenimenta vitiorum, Tac. A. 21; simul comparant delenimenta et differunt vos in adventum Cn. Pompei, Sall. Macer, 21.

Dehonestamentum182 (dehonesto) is a general word for any object of dishonor or disgrace: Fufidius, ancilla turpis, bonorum omnium dehonestamentum, Sall. Lep. 22; auribus decisis vivere iubet, ostentui clementiae suae, et in nos dehonestamento, Tac. A. 12.

Deliramenta (deliro) means nonsense, the result of “going out of the furrow”: audin tu ut deliramenta loquitur? Men. 920; matrimonia inter deos credi puerilium prope deliramentorum est, Plin. 2, 7, 5.

Detrimentum (detero) nowhere has its literal meaning of “loss by rubbing”, but only loss in general, more often disadvantage or misfortune: tantis detrimentis acceptis Octavius sese ad Pompeium recepit, B. C. 3, 9, 8; futurum ut detrimentum in bonum verteret, B. C. 3, 73, 6; ne quid res publica detrimenti accipiat, Cat. 1, 2. (et saepe).

For the etymology of the interesting word elementum, see Walde.

Emolumentum (emolior) means the result of effort, gain, reward: suscepta videntur a viris fortibus sine emolumento ac praemio, De Or. II, 346.

Inanimentum (inanio) occurs only once, but in its context clearly means “emptiness”: inanimentis explementum quaerito, Stich. 174.

Intertrimentum (intertero) unlike detrimentum, does have the literal meaning of “loss by rubbing” as well as loss in general: in auro vero, in quo nihil intertrimenti est, quae malignitas est? Liv. 34, 7; sine magno intertrimento non potest haberi, quidvis dare cupis, Heaut. 448.

Laxamentum (laxo) means relaxation, alleviation, any unit of time or space: ego nactus in navigatione nostra pusillum laxamenti, Fam. XII, 16, 3; alii removentes parietes aedis efficiunt amplum284 laxamentum cellae, Vitr. 4, 7; eo laxamento cogitationibus dato, quievit in praesentia seditio, Liv. 7, 38.

Momentum (moveo) means weight, impulse, importance: astra forma ipsa figuraque sua momenta sustentat, N. II, 117; animus paulo momento huc vel illuc impellitur, And. 266; sentiebat nullius momenti apud exercitum futurum, Nep. VII, 8, 4.

Temperamentum (tempero) means moderation, moderate condition: senatus Caesar orationem habuit meditato temperamento, Tac. A. III, 12; egregium principatus temperamentum, si demptis utriusque vitiis solae virtutes miscerentur, Tac. H. 2, 5.

Termentum (tero) is used once, in Plautus, where it is equivalent to detrimentum: non pedibus termento fuit praeut ego erum expugnabo meum, Bacch. 929. Festus says (p. 363) termentum pro eo, quod nunc dicitur detrimentum, utitur Plautus in Bacchidibus.

Formamentum may be, and probably is, only an extended form of the noun stem forma. It is not inconceivable that it is made on the verb stem formo, but the other supposition is better. In the one occurrence of it in classical Latin, the context plainly shows that it means shape, form: omnia principiorum formamenta queunt in quovis esse nitore, Lucr. 2, 817. Arnobius (3, 109) uses it of the gods: formamenta divina.

2. Nouns denoting instrument.
—As was the case in the corresponding list of concrete words, the foregoing words are all formed on verb stems which suggest the result of their action. And again there is a larger class of abstract -mentum words which in a general way express the figurative instrument. The idea of instrument is not always strong, but when viewed in regard to their verb stem, all the nouns will be seen to show this meaning in a greater or less degree.

Allevamentum (allevo) is ἃπαξ λεγόμενον; the context shows it to mean a remedy or means of alleviation: Sulla coactus est in adversis sine ullo remedio atque allevamento permanere, Sulla, 66.

Auctoramentum (auctoro) is a means of binding, or of bringing one under obligation, a contract, also the pay or hire: illius turpissimi auctoramenti [gladiatorii] sunt verba: uri, vinciri, ferroque necari, Sen. Ep. 37; est in ipsa merces, auctoramentum servitutis, Off. 1, 42.

Argumentum (arguo) is primarily a means of proving, a proof, but takes also many other meanings as will be shown in the next285 chapter: quid nunc? vincon argumentis te non esse Sosiam?, Am. 433; quod ipsum argumento mihi fuit diligentiae tuae, Fam. X. 5, 1.

Blandimentum (blandio) is a means of flattering or alluring: illum spero immutari potest blandimentis, oramentis, ceteris meretriciis, Truc. 318; epistolae muliebris blandimentis infectae, Tac. H. 1, 174.

Complementum (compleo) is a means of filling up: apud alios numero servientes inculcata reperias inania quaedam verba, quasi complementa numerorum, Orat. 69.

Documentum (doceo) is a very general word, meaning primarily a means of warning or instructing: documento, quantum in bello fortuna posset, B. C. 3, 10, 6; ego illis captivis aliis documentum dabo ne...., Capt. 752; quarum rerum maxima documenta haec habeo, Sall. Cat. 9. 4.

The strong influence of the verb stem is seen in this noun by the subordinate adverbial clauses which follow it, as in the first two examples given. It is interesting also to note the contrast between documentum and monumentum; their verb stems are practically synonymous, but one noun is prevailingly concrete, while the other is always abstract or figurative. Monumentum has an additional shade of meaning, in that it regularly looks toward the past, while documentum looks toward the future. The explanation for this is difficult to find; perhaps it is only the result of usage and association.

Explementum (expleo) is a means of filling: inanimentis explementum quaerito, Stich. 174. (“Look for something to fill your empty stomach with.”).

Hostimentum (hostio) is a means of making requital, a recompense: par pari datum hostimentum est, opera pro pecunia, As. 172.

Incitamentum (incito) is a means of inducing or inciting: hoc maximum et periculorum et laborum incitamentum est, Arch. 23; quae apud concordes vincula caritatis, incitamenta irarum apud infensos erant, Tac. A. 1, 55, 15.

Invitamentum (invito) is the means of inducing or attracting: cum multa haberet invitamenta urbis et fori propter summa studia amicorum, Sulla, 74.

Irritamentum (irrito) is very similar to the preceding two nouns, meaning a provocative or incentive: neque salem neque286 alia irritamenta gulae quaerebant, Sall. Jug. 89, 7; iras militum irritamentis acuebat, Liv. 40, 27.

Hortamentum (hortor) is probably the exhortation itself as well as the means of exhorting: ea cuncta Romanis ex tenebris et editioribus locis facilia visu magnoque hortamento erant, Sall. Jug. 98, 7; in conspectu parentum coniugumque ac liberorum quae magna etiam absentibus hortamenta animi sunt, Liv. 7, 11, 6.

Oblectamentum is probably the condition of delight as well as the means of delighting: ut meae senectutis requietem oblectamentumque noscatis, C. 15; cum spinae albae cauliculi inter oblectamenta gulae condiantur, Plin. 21, 2, 39.

Levamentum (levo) is a means of alleviating, also the resulting condition: nos non solum beatae vitae istam esse oblectationem videmus, sed etiam levamentum miseriarum, F. 5, 53; ad unicum doloris levamentum, studia confugio, Plin. Ep. 8, 19.

Opprobramentum (opprobro) is another example of ἃπαξ λεγόμενον but clearly means, like opprobrium, a disgrace or reproach: facere damni mavolo quam opprobramentum aut flagitium muliebre exferri domo, Merc. 423.

Praepedimentum (praepedio) occurs only once, and then with a meaning exactly equivalent to impedimentum: intro abite, ne hic vos conspicatur leno neu fallaciae praepedimentum obiciatur, Poen. 606.

Turbamentum (turbo) occurs twice, meaning in both cases, a means of disturbance: maxima turbamenta rei publicae atque exitia probate, Sall. Lep. 25; inserendo ambiguos de Galba sermones, quaeque alia turbamenta vulgi, Tac. H. 1, 23.

Firmamentum (firmo) is a means of strengthening, a support: transversaria tigna iniciuntur, quae firmamento esse possint, B. C. 2, 15, 2. In this instance it is concrete; more often it is abstract: eum ordinem firmamentum ceterorum ordinum recte esse dicemus, Pomp. 7, 17.

Libramentum (libro) is probably rather the result of the action than the instrument, at least in the meaning of “level surface” which it has in its only occurence in Ciceronian Latin: punctum esse, quod magnitudinem nullam habet, extremitatem et quasi libramentum, in quo nulla omnino crassitudo sit, Ac. II, 116. In Livy it means “weight”: arietem admotum, libramento plumbi gravatum, ad terram urgebant, Liv. 42, 63.

3. Nouns denoting action.
—There remain a few nouns which287 clearly express the action itself. The reason for this does not lie in the suffix—even in -tio nouns it does not lie in the suffix; but these nouns, through usage and association, came to have this meaning in spite of the fact that the tendency of other nouns with the same suffix was to mean instrument or result of action.

Molimentum (molior) means exertion, effort: neque se exercitum sine magno commeatu atque molimento in unum locum contrahere posse, B. G. 1, 34, 3.

Experimentum (experior) means a trial, experiment: probatur experimento, sitne feracius...., Plin. Ep. 10, 43. More often the result is emphasized and it means proof: hoc maximum est experimentum, aegritudinem vetustate tolli, T. 3, 74.

Oramentum (oro) is not found in the manuscripts, but is adopted by Ritschl and Leo, and as we may judge from its context, means a begging, or praying: spero illum immutari potest blandimentis, oramentis, ceteris meretriciis, Truc. 317. The Ambrosian manuscript has hortamentis, the others ornamentis, but neither of these readings is suitable.

Sternumentum (sternuo) is a sneezing: pedis offensio nobis et sternumenta erunt observanda, Div. 2, 84. But in Pliny and Celsus it sometimes also means a provocative of sneezing, sneezing powder: fit ex callitriche sternumentum, Plin. 25, 86; radix ranunculi sicca concisa sternumentum est, Plin. 13, 109.

Tinnimentum (tinnio) occurs only once, but from the context it plainly means a tinkling: illud quidem edepol tinnimentumst auribus, Rud. 806.

D. Abstract -mentum Words on Noun Stems

Of the two noun stem words in this class of abstract words, cognomentum is properly not a -mentum word. According to Lindsay (p. 335) the -to suffix is merely added to the -men suffix. An example is: meum cognomentum commemorat, M. G. 1038.

Lineamentum (linea) is seen from the following parallel examples to have the same meaning as its noun stem: in geometria lineamenta, formae, intervalla, magnitudines sunt, De Or. I, 187; ignis rectis lineis in caelestem locum subvolat, T. 1, 40; lineamentum esse longitudinem latitudine carentem, Ac. II, 116; eam M. Varro ita definit: linea est, inquit, longitudo quaedam sine latidudine et altitudine, Gell. 1, 20, 7.

288 This detailed view of the -mentum words gives occasion for making the following comment: the tendency of these nouns is to mean the instrument of an action, often the result of an action, rarely action itself. The verb stems are such as require an instrument for their action or suggest its result. The instrument is sometimes literal, sometimes figurative, and whether it is the one or the other is determined by the context. Given a verb stem which both suggests the result of action and requires an instrument, it is difficult to explain why a -mentum noun formed on it should mean only instrument, and not result of action, or vice versa.


The list of -bulum words is small, and they are nearly all concrete. Only two are abstract. As these two denote only figurative instruments, the treatment here will take no account of the division into concrete and abstract. There are two noun stem words. Three distinct classes of these words may be made, when viewed in relation to their verb stems: (1) Those denoting instrument; (2) Those denoting place; (3) Those denoting person. The second meaning is quite as common as the first, the third very rare (found only in two nouns).

1. Nouns denoting instrument.
—Infundibulum (infundo) is an instrument for pouring from one vessel to another, a funnel: illa quae reflexa et resupina, more infundibuli per medullam transmittit quidquid aquarum superfluit, Col. 3, 18; in qua machina impedens infundibulum subministrat molis frumentum, Vitr. 10, 10.

Patibulum (pateo) is plainly an instrument, but having the shape expressed by the verb stem, a fork-shaped yoke: dispessis manibus patibulum quom habebis, M. G. 360; caedes, patibula, ignes, cruces festinabant, Tac. A. 14, 33.

Rutabulum (ruo) is an instrument for raking or stirring up: iubebis rutabulo ligneo agitari quod decoxeris, Col. 12, 20. It occurs twice in Cato, in a list of other tools for use around a fire-place.

Tintinnabulum (tinnio) is an instrument for making a ringing noise, a bell: lanios inde accersam duo cum tintinnabulis, Pseud. 332; tintinnabula quae vento agitata longe sonitus referant, Plin. 36, 13, 19.

289 Pabulum (pasco) is that with which anything is fed, usually with reference to the feed of cattle: bubus pabulum parare oportet, Cato, R. R. 54, 1.

Venabulum (venor) is a hunting spear, an instrument for hunting: tantam bestiam percussisset venabulo, Verr. 5, 7.

Exorabulum, which occurs only twice, is perhaps rather the begging (exoro) itself, which is, in turn, a means of obtaining something: quod modis pereat, quotque exoretur exorabulis, Truc. 27; exorabula incidantium, decipula adversantium artificia dicentium perdidicit, App. Flor. n. 18. The first example is interesting as the noun is used with a form of the same verb as its verb stem.

Vocabulum (voco) is the instrument for calling or naming, a name: si res suum nomen et proprium vocabulum non habet, De Or. III, 159; Aristotelis orationis duas partes esse dixit, vocabula et verba, ut homo et equus, ut legit et currit, Varr. L. L. 8.

Two interesting analogical formations with the suffix -bulum are nucifrangibula and dentifrangibula in Plautus: ne nucifrangibula excussit ex malis meis, Bacc. 598; ita dentifrangibula haec meis manibus gestiunt, Bacc. 596.

2. Nouns denoting place.
—Conciliabulum (concilio) is a place of assembly183, a public place, but also the assembly itself: supplicationem in biduum per omnia fora conciliabulaque edixerunt, Liv. 40, 37; ne penetrarem me usquam ubi esset damni conciliabulum, Trin. 314; per conciliabula et coetus seditiosa disserebant, Tac. A. 3, 40.

Latibulum (lateo) is a hiding place: cum etiam ferae latibulis se tegant, Rab. Post. 42.

Sessibulum is a place for sitting, a chair: quae tibi olant stabulumque stratumque, sellam et sessibulum merum, Poen. 268.

Stabulum (sto) is in general a place for standing; its precise meanings as acquired from the context will be illustrated in the next chapter: neutrubi habeam stabile stabulum, siquid divorti fuat, Aul. 233.

Vestibulum184, is probably originally the place for putting on and taking off garments (vestio), then entrance, or space in front of290 a house185: viden vestibulum ante aedes hoc? Most. 819; si te armati non modo limine tectoque aedium tuarum, sed primo aditu vestibuloque prohibuerint, Caec. 12, 35.

Acetabulum and turibulum are both formed on noun stems, and are both receptacles for holding the material denoted by the noun stem. But all the examples of acetabulum show the noun extended to mean any kind of vessel, or a measure: melanthi acetabulum conterito in vini veteris hemina, Cato, R. R. 102; turibulis ante ianuas positis atque accenso ture, Liv. 29, 14, 13.

Desidiabulum occurs only once, and from the context clearly means the place of action of its stem, which is a verbal noun (desidia): ut celem tua flagitia aut damna aut desidiabula, Bacc. 376.

Cunabula and incunabula are formed on the same noun stem cunae, the latter with the preposition in prefixed. Both the nouns and the stem all mean the same thing (cradle, or origin), but incunabula has the additional meaning of “swaddling clothes”: opus est pulvinis, cunis, incunabulis, Truc. 905; qui cum esset in cunabulis, Div. F. 79; de oratoris quasi incunabulis dicere, Orat. 42; si puer in cunis occidit, ne quaerendum quidem, T. 1, 93; qui non in cunabulis sed in campis sunt consules facti, Agr. 2, 100.

3. Nouns denoting person.
—The two -bulum words that denote persons are mendicabulum (mendicor) and prostibulum (prostare). Their bad meaning is due in large part to the stem; but undoubtedly the contempt underlying the application to a person of a neuter word denoting a thing is also responsible for the formation of these words as neuters and with the suffix -bulum. Examples of such terms of reproach are seen also in monstrum hominis, and in the German das Mensch.

Mendicabulum is found only twice: istos reges ceteros memorare nolo, hominum mendicabula, Aul. 703; cum crotalis et cymbalis circumforaneum mendicabulum producor ad viam, App. Met. 9.

Of prostibulum also there are only two examples: bellum et pudicum vero prostibulum popli, Aul. 285; nam meretricem adstare in via solam prostibuli sanest, Cist. 331.

The influence of stem meaning on the -bulum words may then be said to be the same as in the case of the -mentum words, only291 here there is a class of verb stems that suggest the place of action, and none that suggest the result of action.


A. Concrete -culum Words

The great majority of -culum words186 also are concrete. They may be grouped into three classes as far as their verb stems are concerned: (1) Those denoting instrument; (2) Those denoting place; (3) Those denoting the object of the action expressed by their verb stems.

1. Nouns denoting instrument.
—Adminiculum (ad-manus) is properly anything on which the hand may rest, but the examples show it meaning regularly a prop, or support, both concretely and figuratively: adminiculorum ordines me delectant, capitum iugatio, religatio vitium, C. 53; natura semper ad aliquod tamquam adminiculum adnititur, Lael. 88.

Baculum (etymology very uncertain, but probably same root as seen in βαίνω) from its verb stem, should mean only a walking stick, but it is applied to almost any kind of staff or sceptre: proximus lictor converso baculo oculos misero tundere vehementissime coepit, Verr. 5, 142; baculum aureum regis berylli distinguebant, Curt. 9, 1, 30.

Everriculum (everro) is a sweep net (also used figuratively): neque everriculo in litus educere possent, Varr. R. R. 3, 17, 7; quod umquam huiusmodi everriculum ulla in provincia fuit?, Verr. 4, 5, 3.

Ferculum (fero) is that on which anything is carried: spolia ducis hostium caesi suspensa fabricato ad id apte ferculo gerens in Capitolium ascendit, Liv. 1, 10, 5; ubi multa de magna superessent fercula cena, Hor. S. 2, 6, 104.

Gubernaculum (guberno) is an instrument for guiding: piscium meatus gubernaculi modo regunt caudae, Plin. 11, 50, 111; hic ille naufragus ad gubernaculum accessit, et navi, quod potuit, est opitulatus, Inv. 2, 154.

Incerniculum (incerno) is an instrument for sifting, a sieve; it occurs only twice, and it is difficult to see how it differs from another292 noun on the same stem, cribrum: opus est incerniculum unum, cribrum unum, Cato, R. R. 13; Athenienses decretum fecere, ne frumentarii negotiatores ab incerniculis eum [mulum] arcerent, Plin. 8, 44, 69. In the latter example the incernicula are the vessels in which bran, sifted from the flour, was set up for sale.

Operculum (operio) like operimentum is an instrument for covering: aspera arteria tegitur quodam quasi operculo quod ob eam causam datum est, ne spiritus impediretur, N. II, 136; operculum in dolium imponito, Cato, R. R. 104.

Perpendiculum (perpendo) is a plumb line, but is found most frequently with ad forming an adverbial phrase meaning perpendicularly: non egeremus perpendiculis, non normis, non regulis, Cic. A. fr. 8; tigna non directa ad perpendiculum, sed prone et fastigate, B. G. 4, 17.

Piaculum is a means of appeasing, an offering; perhaps also the appeasing itself; and the act requiring expiation: decrevit habendas triduum ferias, et porco femina piaculum pati, Leg. 2, 22; nonne in mentem venit quantum piaculi committatur? Liv. 5, 52; duc nigras pecudes: ea prima piacula sunto, Aen. 6, 153.

Poculum (probably from root seen in bibo) is a drinking vessel, cup: Socrates paene in manu iam mortiferum illud tenens poculum, T. 1, 71.

Redimiculum (redimio) is anything used for binding, a band or fillet: et tunicae manicas, et habent redimicula mitrae, Aen. 9, 616; ut esset aliquis laqueus et redimiculum, reversionem ut ad me fecerit denuo, Truc. 395.

Retinaculum (retineo), always used in the plural, is anything which holds back or binds: ratem pluribus validis retinaculis parte superiore ripae religatam humo iniecta constraverunt, Liv. 21, 28; missae pastum retinacula mulae nauta piger saxo religat, Hor. S. 1, 5, 18.

Spiraculum (spiro) is a breathing hole: per spiracula mundi exitus introitusque elementis redditus exstat, Lucr. 6, 493.

Subligaculum (subligo) is a waistband, judging from the context in which the only example of it occurs: scenicorum quidem mos tantam habet veteri disciplina verecundiam, ut in scenam sine subligaculo prodeat nemo, Off. 1, 35.

Sarculum (sario) is an instrument for hoeing, a hoe: familiam cum ferreis sarculis exire oportet, Cato, R. R. 155; gaudentem patrios findere sarculo agros numquam dimoveas, Hor. C. 1, 1, 11.

293 Vehiculum (vehor) is a means of transportation, a carriage or ship; its meaning and that of ferculum differ exactly as their stems differ: ut procul divinum et novum vehiculum Argonautorum e monte conspexit, N. II, 89; mihi aequum est dare vehicula, qui vehar, Aul. 502.

2. Nouns denoting place.
—Cenaculum (ceno) originally was the dining room.187 As this was usually in an upper story, the word came to have the regular meaning of attic or garret, and the force of the stem meaning was lost: in superiore qui habito cenaculo, Am. 863; ipse Circenses ex amicorum cenaculis spectabat, Suet. Aug. 45.

Conventiculum (convenio) like conciliabulum, means both the place of assembly and the assembly itself. As far as the form is concerned, it might be a diminutive from conventus, but it shows no such meaning: exstructa sunt apud nemus conventicula, Tac. A. 14, 15; conventicula hominum quae postea civitates nominatae sunt, Sest. 91.

Cubiculum (cubo) always means a place for reclining, a bedroom: cubui in eodem lecto tecum una in cubiculo, Am. 808.

Deverticulum (deverto) is a place to turn aside, a by-path, also a lodging: ubi ad ipsum veni deverticulum, constiti, Eun. 635; cum gladii abditi ex omnibus locis deverticuli protraherentur, Liv. 1, 51.

Hibernaculum (hiberno) is a place for spending the winter, and, particularly in the plural, the winter quarters of soldiers: hoc hibernaculum, hoc gymnasium meorum est, Plin. Ep. 2, 17, 7; legionum aliae itinere terrestri in hibernacula remissae sunt, Tac. A. 2, 23.

Propugnaculum (propugno) is the place for (means of?) defending, a bulwark or tower: solidati muri, propugnacula addita, auctae turres, Tac. H. 2, 19; lex Aelia, et Fufia eversa est, propugnacula tranquillitatis atque otii, Piso, 9.

Receptaculum (recepto) is a place to receive or keep things, also a place of refuge: illud tibi oppidum receptaculum praedae fuit, Verr. 5, 59; insula incolis valida et receptaculum perfugarum, Tac. A. 14, 29.

Tabernaculum (taberna), “tent,” has a meaning specialized294 from its noun stem: Caesar eo die tabernacula statui passus non est, B. C. 1, 81.

Umbraculum (umbra) means both a shady place and the thing that furnishes shade: aurea pellebant tepidos umbracula soles, Ov. F. 2, 311; prope aream faciundum umbracula, quo succedant homines in aestu tempore meridiano, Varro, R. R. 1, 51, 2.

3. Nouns denoting object of action.
—There is also a small group of concrete -culum words which are alike in that they denote the object of the action expressed by their verb stems.

Deridiculum (derideo) is something to laugh at, an object of derision, (also ridicule itself): deridiculo fuit senex foedissimae adulationis tantum infamia usurus, Tac. A. 3, 57; quid tu me deridiculi gratia sic salutas? Am. 682.

Ientaculum (iento) is something to eat, or breakfast: epulas interdum quadrifariam dispertiebat: in ientacula et prandia et cenas commissationesque, Suet. Vit. 13.

Miraculum (miror) is something to wonder at, a miracle: audite portenta et miracula philosophorum somniantium, N. 1, 18; omnia transformat sese in miracula rerum, Ignemque horribilemque feram, Georg. 4, 441.

Spectaculum is something to look at, a spectacle, show: quom hoc mihi optulisti tam lepidum spectaculum, Poen. 209.

The verb stems of these four nouns, with the exception of the first, could conceivably form nouns meaning instrument, or result of action, or place; but only one of them, spectaculum, has any of these meanings, and that, of place: tantus est ex omnibus spectaculis usque a Capitolio plausus excitatus est, Sest. 124.

B. Abstract -culum Words, All Denoting Action

There are four abstract -culum words, all expressing primarily action itself.

Curriculum (curro) is a running: curre in Piraeum atque unum curriculum face, Trin. 1103.

Periculum (stem seen in experire) is a trial, attempt, also danger, risk: fac semel periculum, Cist. 504; nescio quanto in periculo sumus, Phor. 58.

Saeculum (sero), if this etymology is correct, is originally a sowing, then the thing sown, a generation, race, period of time: quid mirum si se temnunt mortalia saecula, Lucr. 5, 1238; et muliebre oritur patrio de semine saeculum, Lucr. 4, 1227; saeculum spatium annorum centum vocarunt, Varro, L. L. 6, 2.

295 Oraculum (oro) is an utterance, usually of some god or prophet, sometimes the place where it is given: oracula ex eo ipso appellata sunt, quod inest in his deorum oratio, Top. 20, 77; exposui somnii et furoris oracula, quae carere arte dixeram, Div. 1, 32, 70; numquam illud oraculum Delphis tam celebre fuisset nisi...., Div. 1, 19, 37.

With regard, then, to the verb stems of the -culum nouns we may say that they are such as require an instrument, suggest a place, or imply the object of their action, while a few form nouns denoting action itself.

* * * * *

The tendency seen in the above classification must not be taken as a systematic and conscious process of language for the purpose of making these suffixes mean one thing more than another. The verb stems do strongly influence the meaning of the whole noun, usually more than anything else does, but the variety of precise meanings due to context, which will be shown in the next chapter, almost precludes a systematic classification on any basis.



Influence of Context

An attempt was made in the preceding chapter to show how the meaning of words formed with -mentum, -bulum and -culum was influenced by the verb stem. It will be the purpose of this chapter to illustrate how such general meanings get still greater precision from some element in the context. This study, as is intimated in the introductory paragraph of this paper, is a semantic one, but it is not lexicographical; and no attempt will be made to explain, any farther than was done in the preceding chapter, such words as show no variation in meaning due to context. For example, frumentum always means grain, no matter in what context it stands; iumentum, cattle; testamentum, a will; venabulum, a hunting spear; cubiculum, a bed-room. The reason is that these words are neat expressions of a precise idea and their meaning is therefore less likely to be shifted. This fact also illustrates, in general, the difference in variation possible in a noun and in an adjective. The latter, being in so many instances equivalent to a genitive, can, like the genitive, express a great variety of relations between its governing noun and its noun stem; while a noun, being a more finished product, that is, its meaning settling more easily in clear-cut limits, cannot be expected to show such wide variations. Aside from the figurative use of the nouns, the most frequent influence of context comes from a genitive dependent on the noun. The other elements that enter in will be noticed as each word is discussed, and wherever possible, the word or group of words which contributes to the meaning will be italicized.

First, there are a few nouns which are used in apposition with a proper noun, or are applied to persons. This use is a special illustration of the figurative meaning of these words: intercessit iste Ligus nescio qui, additamentum inimicorum meorum, Sest. 68;297 Sertia uxor, quae incitamentum mortis et particeps fuit, Tac. A. 6, 29; in conspectu parentum coniugumque ac liberorum, quae magna etiam absentibus hortamenta animi sunt, Liv. 7, 11, 6; acerrima seditionum ac discordiae incitamenta, interfectores Galbae, Tac. H. 2, 23; Fufidius, ancilla turpis bonorum omnium dehonestamentum, Sall. Lep. 22; P. Rutilius qui fuit documentum hominibus nostris virtutis, antiquitatis, prudentiae, Rab. Post. 27; illius sum integumentum corporis, Bacc. 602; vidi hunc ipsum Hortensium, ornamentum rei publicae, paene interfici, Milo, 37; ipsa quae sis stabulum nequitiae, Truc. 587; quod umquam huiuscemodi everriculum [Verres] ulla in provincia fuit, Verres, 4, 5, 3; quid, duo propugnacula belli Punici, Cn. et P. Scipiones cogitassene videntur, P. 12; qui sibi me pro deridiculo et delectamento putat, Heaut. 952.

These examples show that the suffixes do not imprint on the nouns the idea of instrument, or any other idea, so strongly that the nouns may not be applied to human beings as well.

Of those nouns which get precision of meaning from a dependent genitive, perhaps there is no better example than fragmentum, which, expressing the result of the action of breaking, may mean a piece or fragment of any breakable object: tribunum adoriuntur fragmentis saeptorum, Sest. 79; ut glaebum aut fragmentum lapidis dicemus, N. II, 82; fragmenta tegularum, Liv. 34, 89, 11; fragmenta ramorum, Liv. 23, 24, 10; fragmenta crystalli sarciri nullo modo queunt, Plin. 37, 2, 10; fragmenta panis, Plin. 9, 8, 8; mille carinis abstulit Emathiae secum fragmenta ruinae [the remnants of the army], Lucan, 9, 38. The genitives all answer the question, fragments of what?

Another noun of general meaning which gets precision from a genitive is fundamentum; whether literal or figurative, we want to know, the foundations of what? and the context tells, though not always merely by means of a genitive: quin cum fundamento aedes perierunt, Most. 148; solum et quasi fundamentum oratoris vides, locutionem emendatam et Latinam, Brut. 258; fundamenta rei publicae ieci, Fam. XII, 25, 2; fundamenta ieci salutis tuae, Fam. X, 29, 1; arcem Syracusis a fundamentis disiecit, Nepos, XX, 3, 3; hic locus sicut aliquod fundamentum est huius constitutionis, Inv. II, 19; qui a fundamentis mi usque movisti mare, Rud. 539; prima fundamenta urbi iacere, Liv. 1, 12, 4; alta fundamenta theatri locare, Aen. 1, 428; fundamenta altae Carthaginis298 locare, Aen. 4, 266; urbs a fundamentis diruta, Liv. 42, 63, 11; fodere fundamenta delubro, Plin. 28, 2, 4; pietas fundamentum est omnium virtutum, Planc. 29; fundamentum iustitiae est fides, Off. 1, 7, 23; narratio est fundamentum constituendae fidei, Part. 9, 31; fundamentum eloquentiae, De Or. 3, 151; fundamentum philosophiae, Div. 2, 1, 2; initium ac fundamentum defensionis, Clu. 10, 30; quod fundamentum huius quaestionis est, id videtis, N. I, 44; fundamentum horum criminum, Cael. 13, 30; disciplina nixa fundamento veritatis, Gell. 14, 1, 20; fundamentum et causa imperii, Sen. Ep. 87, 41; fundamenta libertatis, Balb. 13, 31; fundamentum consulatus tui, Pis. 4, 9; senectus quae fundamentis adolescentiae constituta est, C. 18, 62; fundamenta pacis ieci, Phil. 1, 1, 1; fundamentum domus novae iacere, Suet. Cal. 22; villa a fundamentis inchoata, Suet. Caes. 46.

Incitamentum is nearly always followed by a genitive or a gerundive construction expressing the object toward which a thing or circumstance is an inducement. The noun is used most frequently in Tacitus: hoc maximum et periculorum incitamentum est et laborum, Arch. 23; uxor, quae incitamentum mortis fuit, Tac. A. 6, 29; incitamenta irarum, Tac. A. 1, 55; incitamenta victoriae, Tac. Agr. 32; incitamentum ad honeste moriendum, Curt. 9, 5, 4; incitamentum fortitudinis, Tac. G. 7, 9; incitamentum cupidinis, Tac. A. 6, 1, 10; incitamenta belli, Tac. A. 12, 34, 2; est magna illa eloquentia alumna licentiae, comes seditionum, effrenati populi incitamentum, Tac. D. 40, 11. In the last example the genitive is a real objective genitive, while the participle limiting it expresses the result of incitement expressed by the genitives in the other examples.

Like incitamentum, invitamentum and irritamentum usually get precision of meaning from a genitive: invitamenta urbis et fori, Sulla, 74; honos, non invitamentum ad tempus, sed perpetuae virtutis praemium, Fam. X, 10, 2; invitamenta temeritatis, Liv. 2, 42, 6; invitamentum sceleris, Vell. 2, 67, 3; pulchritudinem eius non libidinis habuerat invitamentum, sed gloriae, Curt. 4, 10, 24; fons reperiendus est, in quo sint prima invitamenta naturae, Fin. 5, 6; neque irritamenta gulae quaerebant, Sall. Jug. 89, 7; quod irritamentum certaminum equestrium est, Liv. 30, 11; opes, irritamenta malorum, Ov. M. 1, 140; irritamenta luxuriae, Val. Max. 2, 6, 1; irritamentum invidiae, Tac. A. 3, 9; irritamentum pacis, Tac. Agr. 20.

299 Tegumentum and integumentum have only their general meaning of “cover” which they get from their verb stem, unless something in the context tells what it is a covering for: lanx cum integumentis, quae Iovi adposita fuit, Liv. 40, 59, 7; illius sum integumentum corporis, Bacc. 602; istaec ego mihi semper habui integumentum meae, Trin. 313; integumentum frontis, Cic. post Red. in Sen. 7, 15; integumentum flagitiorum, Cael. 20, 47; integumentum dissimulationis, De Or. 2, 86; tegumenta galeis milites ex viminibus facere iubet, B. C. 3, 62, 1; ad tegumenta detrahenda scutis tempus defuerit, B. G. 2, 21, 5; quae [palpebrae] sunt tegmenta oculorum, N. II, 142; tunicos aut tegimenta fuerant, B. G. 3, 44, 7; humus satis solidum est tegimentum repellendis caloribus, Sen. Ep. 90; equo purpurea tegumenta dedit, Suet. Cal. 55.

Documentum has the meaning of “example”, particularly when there is a limiting genitive: Rutilius qui documentum fuit virtutis, antiquitatis, prudentiae, Rab. Post. 10, 27. The common occurrence of the word with verbs like dare, together with an indirect question, shows it to mean proof: dederas enim, quam contemneres populares insanias, iam ab adolescentia documenta maxima, Mil. 8; multa documenta egregii principis dedit, Suet. Galb. 14. With capere the natural meaning is “warning” or “instruction”: ex quo documentum nos capere fortuna voluit, quid esset victis pertimescendum, Phil. 11, 2. This meaning is also very commonly seen in the use of the dative case to express purpose, followed by a supplementary clause of purpose. The noun need not be in the dative, however: insigne documentum Sagunti ruinae erunt ne quis fidei Romanae aut societati confidat, Liv. 21, 19, 10; deletum cum duce exercitum documento fuisse, ne deinde turbato gentium iure comitia haberentur, Liv. 7, 6, 11.

Monumentum is quite as general in meaning as documentum, and shows as great variety of meaning. It is applied to a whip: vos monumentis commonefaciam bubulis, Stich. 63; a statue: statuam volt dare, factis monumentum suis, Curc. 441; a literary record: monumenta rerum gestarum oratori nota esse debent, De Or. I, 201; an action or circumstance: cum Sex. Pompeium restituit civitati, clarissimum monimentum clementiae suae, Phil. 5, 39; a tomb: sepultus est in monumento avunculi sui, Nepos, Att. 22, 4. Sometimes the word gets precision of meaning from an appositional genitive: hoc statuae monumento non eget, Phil. 9, 11;300 ut tu monumentum aliquod decreti aut litterarum tuarum relinquas, Q. fr. I, 2, 11; sepulcri monumento donatus est, Nep. Dion. 10. Sometimes it is used without any suggestion of a concrete object (cf. also the third example above): nullum monumentum laudis postulo praeterquam huius diei memoriam sempiternam, Cat. 3, 11, 26.

Argumentum (always abstract) has the very frequent general meaning of proof, reason, argument: quid nunc? vincon argumentis te non esse Sosiam?, Am. 437; nunc, huc qua causa veni, argumentum eloquar, Rud. 31; quod pridie noctu conclamatum esset in Caesaris castris argumenti sumebant loco non posse clam exiri B. C. 1, 67, 1. A common meaning in comedy is plot, or theme of a play (our “argument” of an epic or a drama): ne exspectetis argumentum fabulae, Adel. 22. Then it comes to mean the subject matter of a speech or letter: ut mihi nascatur epistulae argumentum, Fam. XV, 1, 22, 2; a sign or indication: ubi lyrae, tibia et cantus, animi felicia laeti argumenta, sonant, Ov. M. 4, 762; reality or meaning: haec tota fabella quam est sine argumento, Cael. 27; the subject of artistic representations: ex ebore perfecta argumenta erant in valvis, Verr. II, 4, 56. Twice in Ciceronian Latin this word is defined in two of the ways mentioned: argumentum est ficta res quae tamen fieri potuit, velut argumentum comoediarum, Ad Her. 1, 8; argumentum esse rationem quae rei dubiae faciat fidem, Top. 8.

Experimentum, when followed by indirect discourse, as in the following example, must mean the result of trial; viz., “proof”: hoc maximum est experimentum hanc vim esse in cogitatione diuturna, T. 4, 56. In the plural, being the accumulation of a number of trials, it is equivalent to experientia, (experience): Metello experimentis cognitum erat, genus Numidarum infidum esse, Sall. Jug. 46, 3.

Firmamentum often gets precise meaning from a limiting genitive, which is also sometimes appositional: ossa nervique et articuli, firmamenta totius corporis, Sen. De Ira, 2, 1, 2; firmamenta stabilitatis constantiaeque est eius quam in amicitia quaerimus fides, Lael. 65; eum ordinem firmamentum ceterorum ordinum recte esse dicimus, Pomp. 17; transversaria tigna iniciuntur, quae firmamento esse possint, B. G. 2, 15, 2; firmamentum ac robur totius accusationis, Mur. 28, 58; firmamentum rei publicae, Planc. 9, 23;301 firmamentum dignitatis, T. 4, 7; inventa ratione firmamentum [orationi] quaerendum est, Inv. I, 34.

Instrumentum is a word which has the most general meaning, and really receives less influence from its verb stem than from the context. Even when there is a qualifying genitive or other limiting factor it retains more or less of its general character. Probably its most definite meaning is that of furniture (of a house): decora atque ornamentum fanorum in instrumento ac supellectili C. Verris nominabuntur, Verr. 2, 4, 44; instrumenti ne magni siet (of a villa), Cato, R. R. I. 5. A common meaning is that of a tool, or utensil of any kind: inest huic computationi sumptus fabrorum et venatorii instrumenti, Plin. 3, 19; crudelia iussae instrumenta necis, ferrumque ignisque parantur, Ov. M. 3, 697; arma, tela, equos et cetera instrumenta militiae parare, Sall. Jug. 43, 3; naves nautico instrumento aptae, Liv. 30, 10, 3. The following example shows it meaning a legal document: opus est intueri omne litis instrumentum; quod videre non est satis, perlegendum est, Quint. 12, 8, 12. The meaning of supply, provisions (both literal and figurative) is illustrated by the following examples: quid viatici, quid instrumenti satis sit, Att. XII, 32, 2; instrumenta naturae deerant, sed tantus animi splendor erat ut.., Brut. 77, 268; in oratoris vero instrumento tam lautam supellectilem numquam videram, De Or. I, 36, 165. In one instance it plainly means apparel, dress: in iuvenem rediit, anilia demit instrumenta, Ov. M. 14, 766. The meaning of aid or assistance is seen in these citations: quanta instrumenta habeat ad obtinendam adipiscendamque sapientiam, Leg. 1, 22; industriae subsidia atque instrumenta virtutis in libidine audaciaque consumpsit, Cat. 2, 5.

Ornamentum is very similar in meaning to instrumentum, and shows similar variety of signification due to context, although the verb stem is a little more specialized. The number of things which may be spoken of as having ornamenta are seen from the examples: ornamenta bubus, ornamenta asinis instrata (esse oporteat), Cato, R. R. 11, 4; elephantos ornatos armatosque cum turribus et ornamentis capit, Auct. B. Afr. 86; pecuniam omniaque ornamenta ex fano Herculis in oppidum Gadis contulit, B. C. 2, 18, 2; eloquentia principibus maximo ornamento est, F. 4, 61; pecuniam et ornamenta triumphi Caesaris retinenda curaret, Auct. B. Afr. 28, 2; audieram quae de orationis ipsius ornamentis traderentur, De Or. I, 144; pulcherrima totius Galliae urbs, quae302 praesidio et ornamento est civitati, B. G. 7, 15; mihi hoc subsidium comparavi ad decus atque ornamentum senectutis, Orat. 1, 45; Hortensius, lumen atque ornamentum rei publicae, Mil. 14; urceoli sex, ornamentum abaci, Juv. 3, 203; neminem omnium tot et tanta, quanta sunt in Crasso, habuisse ornamenta dicendi, Orat. 2, 28. Sometimes adjectives show the ornamenta to be a special sort of distinction: pluribus triumphalia ornamenta decernenda curavit, Suet. Aug. 38; decem praetoriis viris consularia ornamenta tribuit, Suet. Caes. 76. In comedy especially it means dress, costume: ipse ornamenta a chorago haec sumpsit: si potero ornamentis hominem circumducere, dabo operam ut...., Trin. 859, 860; hominem cum ornamentis omnibus exornatum adducite ad me, Pseud. 756; also trinkets: i, Palaestrio, aurum, ornamenta, vestem, omnia duc, M. G. 1302; in one instance, the dress of tragedy: ornamenta absunt: Aiacem, hunc quom vides ipsum vides, Capt. 615.

Stramentum is applied to a number of things which can be conceived of as being strewn or covered with straw, but is also sometimes used absolutely: fasces stramentorum virgultorumque incenderunt, B. G. 8, 15, 5; iubet magnum numerum mulorum produci deque his stramenta detrahi, B. G. 7, 45; cum ea noctem in stramentis pernoctare (a bed), Truc. 278; stramenta si deerunt, frondem ligneam legito: eam substernito ovibus bubusque, Cato, R. R. 5. There are two examples in which it means the roof of a house, or thatch: casae, quae stramentis tectae erant, B. G. 5, 43; pars ignes casis stramento arido tectis iniciunt, Liv. 25, 39.

Tormentum, an instrument with which anything is turned or twisted, is applied especially to a military engine for hurling missiles: aciem eo loco constituit, unde tormento missa tela in hostium cuneos conici possent, B. G. 8, 14, 5; the missile itself: quod unum genus tegumenti nullo telo neque tormento transici posse, B. C. 2, 9; a (twisted) cord or rope: praesectis omnium mulierum crinibus tormenta effecerunt, B. C. 3, 9, 3; a chain or fetter: nam si non ferat, tormento non retineri potuit ferreo, Curc. 227; an instrument of torture: rotam, id est genus quoddam tormenti apud Graecos, T. 5, 24; tum verberibus ac tormentis quaestionem habuit pecuniae publicae, Phil. 11, 2, 5; torture, pain: cum incredibles cruciatus et indignissima tormenta pateretur, Plin. Ep. 1, 12, 6; hinc licebit tum dicere se beatum in summo cruciatu atque tormentis, T. 5, 73.

303 Vestimentum, in addition to having its common meaning of clothing: me vides ut sim vestimentis uvidis, Rud. 573; is once applied to the covering of a bed: huc est intro latus lectus, vestimentis stratus, Heaut. 903.

From the above examples it will be clear that at least some -mentum words get precision of meaning from the context. The different means by which the context exerts influence would be difficult to classify; still less could one assert that -mentum tends to have any meaning. Perhaps we should not speak of a word varying semantically when it is used figuratively, yet it is only from the context that we can ascertain whether it is used figuratively or not. A word can be used in a figurative sense only when, in one context, it has certain elements identical with those which it has in another context. The more definite and concrete the object expressed by a noun, the less variability will be expected, either in a literal or figurative use. This is true of the -bulum and -culum words, which, while admitting a small range of variation, are much more limited in their variation than the -mentum words were found to be. The best examples will be given below.

Conciliabulum is a place of assembly and is expressly so defined by Festus (cf. Chapter II, p. 25): mulieres ex oppidis conciliabulisque conveniebant, Liv. 34, 1, 6; sacerdotes non Romae modo, sed per omnia fora et conciliabula conquiri, Liv. 39, 14, 7. The following example, however, shows that it may also mean the assembly itself: igitur per conciliabula et coetus seditiosa disserebant, Tac. A. 3, 40. In a few instances it takes on a bad meaning: ne penetrarem me usquam ubi esset damni conciliabulum, Trin. 314; forte aut cena, ut solet in istis fieri conciliabulis, Bacc. 80.

Latibulum is seen to be a hiding place for different animals and even of men, and also a refuge (figurative): cum etiam se ferae latibulis tegant, Rab. Post. 42; repente te tamquam serpens a latibulis intulisti, Vatin. 4; defendendi facilis est cautio non solum latibulis occultorum locorum, sed etiam tempestatum moderatione et conversione (of pirates), Flacc. 13, 31; ego autem volo aliquod emere latibulum et perfugium doloris mei, Att. XII, 13, 2.

Pabulum is used not only of food for animals but also, in poetry, of food for men, and sometimes for the pastures, or feeding places. Its figurative meaning is also quite common: bubus pabulum parare304 oportet, Cato, R. R. 54, 1; pabula carpsit ovis, Ov. F. 4, 750; ferae pecudes persultant pabula laeta, Lucr. 1, 14; novitas mundi pabula dura tulit, miseris mortalibus ampla, Lucr. 5, 944; si animus habet aliquod tamquam pabulum studii atque doctrinae, C. 49; sed fugitare decet simulacra et pabula amoris, Lucr. 4, 1063.

Stabulum has its literal and general meaning of standing-place in only two examples: neutrubi habeam stabile stabulum, siquid divorti fuat, Aul. 233; nusquam stabulum confidentiae, Most. 350. Most frequently it means a stable for animals or lair of wild beasts: neque iam stabulis gaudet pecus aut arator igni, Hor. C. 1, 4, 3; itur in antiquam silvam, stabula alta ferarum, Aen. 6, 179. The agricultural writers use it in speaking of a variety of animals, birds and fishes: pecudibus sient stabula, Col. 1, 6, 4; avium cohortalium stabula (an aviary), Col. 8, 1; ut sit pavonum stabulum, Col. 8, 11, 3; hac ratione stabulis ordinatis aquatile pecus inducemus, Col. 8, 17, 7; absint et picti squalentia terga lacerti pinguibus a stabulis (of bees), Georg. 4, 14. It also means a cottage, a hut, a dwelling like a stable: cum Catilina pastorum stabula praedari coepisset, Sest. 12; pueros ab eo ad stabula Larentiae uxori educandos datos, Liv. 1, 4, 7. A number of times the context shows it applied to a house of ill fame: pistorum amicas, quae tibi olant stabulum stratumque, Poen. 267. Twice it is applied to persons as a term of reproach: ipsa quae sis stabulum flagitii, Truc. 587; faciam uti proinde ut est dignus vitam colat, Acheruntis pabulum, stabulum nequitiae, Cas. 160. In the last example pabulum is also used with an emotional tone.

Vocabulum is a name or appellation, the name of the thing itself being expressed, if at all, in the genitive, or in the nominative with vocabulum in the ablative: si res suum nomen et proprium vocabulum non habet, De Or. III, 159; deligitur artifex talium vocabulo Locusta, Tac. A. 12, 66. It also signifies as a grammatical term, a noun, as opposed to a verb: Aristotelis orationis duas partes esse dicit, vocabula et verba, ut homo et equus, et legis et currit, Varro, L. L. 8.

Conventiculum regularly means an assembly (without any diminutive notion): conventicula hominum quae postea civitates nominatae sunt, Sest. 91; but it may also mean the place of assembly: exstructa sunt apud nemus conventicula, Tac. A. 14, 15.

Oraculum may mean a prophetic declaration by gods, or by men: cum praesertim deorum immortalium iussis atque oraculis id305 fecisse dicantur, Sex. Rosc. 66; haec ego nunc physicorum oracula fundo, vera an falsa nescio, N. 1, 66. Also the place where oracular responses were given: numquam illud oraculum Delphis tam celebre fuisset nisi...., Div. I, 19, 37.

Periculum, in the sense of trial, is always the object of the verb facere: fac semel periculum, Cist. 504; priusquam periculum faceret, B. G. 4, 21. Its change to the meaning of danger must have been by some such step as is seen in the following example, although periculum facere, “make a trial,” is also practically the same as “run a risk”: nescio quanto in periculo sumus, Phor. 58. The common meaning of risk or danger hardly needs to be illustrated: salus sociorum summum in periculum vocatur, Pomp. 5, 12. The context shows it to have also two other meanings; viz., a lawsuit: meus labor in periculis privatorum caste integreque versatus, Pomp. 1, 2; a judicial sentence: petiit ut in periculo suo inscriberent, Nep. Ep. 8; est honestus, quod eorum hominum fidei tabulae publicae periculaque magistratuum committuntur, Verr. 2, 3, 79.

Piaculum is properly an offering performed as a means of appeasing a deity: porco femina piaculum faciundum est, Leg. II, 57; apparet omnia nec ullis piaculis expiari posse, Liv. 5, 53; and then naturally it is applied to the victim itself: duc nigras pecudes: ea prima piacula sunto, Aen. 6, 153; then also a sinful action, which needs expiation: nonne in mentem venit, quantum piaculi committatur?, Liv. 5, 52.

Spectaculum is properly a “sight”, anything seen: quom hoc mihi optulisti tam lepidum spectaculum, Poen. 209; then a show, on the stage or in the arena: spectacula sunt tributim data, Muren. 72. Once in Plautus it clearly means a part of the theater itself: exoritur ventus turbo, spectacula ibi ruont, Curc. 647; that it means also the theater in general is seen from a few examples: resonant spectacula plausu, Ov. M. 10, 668; ex omnibus spectaculis plausus est excitatus, Sest. 58.

Umbraculum is a shady place: faciundum umbracula, quo succedant homines in aestu tempore meridiano, Varro, R. R. I, 51; also anything that furnishes shade, an umbrella: aurea pellebant tepidos umbracula soles, Ov. F. II, 311. The limiting genitive in the following example shows the noun to have lost its regular stem-meaning and to have been used for “school”: Demetrius306 mirabiliter doctrinam ex umbraculis eruditorum otioque produxit, Leg. III, 14.

Vehiculum, a means of transportation, is applied to wagons or carts: omnes di, qui vehiculis tensarum solemnes coitus ludorum initis, Verr. 5, 186; but also to ships: ut procul divinum et novum vehiculum Argonautarum e monte conspexit, N. II, 89.

* * * * *

That the words which we have treated vary in meaning according to the context seems perfectly obvious; but the extent to which this is true in general has received little if any attention from linguistic students. The tracing of the meaning of a word through various periods of the language has been commonly enough done; that side of the question, however, this investigation has not touched except incidentally. But the material presented in this chapter and the preceding has, it is hoped, been sufficient to illustrate how the words formed with our suffixes, while revealing a limited tendency in meaning due to their verb stems, often also owe much of their meaning to the context in which they are used.



Overlapping of Suffixes

However great a tendency the suffixes under investigation have toward giving to the nouns a certain meaning, the variations of which they are capable,—due, as has been shown, to stem and context,—strongly suggest that there can be nothing very stable in the suffix itself. If there really were a fundamental meaning in the suffixes, there would be no such variation as we find.

But a consideration which points even more to the comparatively fluid condition of these suffixes is the fact that we find other words, formed on the same stem, but with a different suffix, meaning precisely the same as the nouns made with these suffixes. Here again, the meanings are derived from an examination of the context. Sometimes the contexts are exactly parallel, at other times there is a sufficiently large element common to both to warrant us in saying that the nouns do not, at least in these particular instances, differ in meaning.

The fact that some of these parallel words occur at different periods in the language does not weaken the argument, as the mere occurrence of them shows the unstable influence of the suffix; and, moreover, we need not suppose because one word is not found at a certain period while another on the same stem with a different suffix is found, that the first word was not in existence. It is just as reasonable to assume that the preservation of one word and not the other is due merely to common usage or the personal preference of the author. Metrical considerations might exclude the use of a certain word in poetry, but the instances are very rare, and will be noted in the proper place.

The most common suffix which makes accessory forms with -mentum is -men. Most authorities regard -mentum as an extension of -men by the addition of -to. Whether this is true or308 not, there are many -mentum words that have no accessory forms in -men, and a large number of -men words that have no accessory forms in -mentum. Corssen (Krit. Nach. p. 125 ff.) gives fifty-one -men words from old, classical, and later Latin to which there are no forms in -mentum, fifty-two -mentum words from the same periods to which there are no forms in -men; twenty-five words with both forms in any one period. He also gives a table showing how the words in the older and classical language preferred the form -men while in later Latin the same words preferred the form -mentum. He says the suffix -mentum is only the the extension, on Latin soil, of the suffix -men (Sanskrit, -man) with -to; and this explains why in later Latin the forms in -mentum become more frequent, also why they are not found in other Italic dialects, nor in the Greek and other related languages.

Lindsay says (p. 335) that the suffix -men is found more often in poetry, while -mentum predominates in prose.

Etymologically, the suffixes -bulum and -culum go back to original -dhlo and -tlo respectively (Lindsay pp. 334 and 332).

A study of the other suffixes which make accessory forms to these words would probably yield results similar to those seen in the case of our suffixes; but all that will be attempted here will be to show parallels wherever possible. Italics will be used here, also, to show what elements in the context go to prove the equivalence in semantic content of the nouns under discussion.

A. Parallels of -mentum and Accessory Suffixes

One of the neatest examples of identity in meaning is the following exactly parallel usage of stramen and stramentum: tectam stramine vidit casam, Ov. M. 5, 443; casae, quae stramentis tectae erant, B. G. 5, 43.

From the use of a genitive denoting a concrete object, fragmentum and fragmen are seen to be identical in meaning in the following examples: adiacebant fragmina telorum equorumque artus, Tac. A. 1, 61; tribunum adoriuntur fragmentis saeptorum, Sest. 79.

The genitives depending on irritamen and irritamentum in the following examples are not exactly alike, one being concrete and the other abstract; but they are near enough in meaning, and the nouns themselves are used in sufficiently similar contexts309 to justify us in saying that either one might have been used in place of the other: nisi adiecisset opes, irritamen animi avari, Ov. M. 13, 434; neque salem neque alia irritamenta gulae quaerebant, Sall. Jug. 89, 7.

Levamen and levamentum are used in parallel examples: cuius mali (debt) plebes nullum levamen speraret, Liv. 6, 35, 1; non aliud malorum levamentum quam si linquerent castra, Tac. H. 1, 30, 9.

The verbs used with medicamen and medicamentum show a lack of differentiation between these nouns: quod diceres te violentis quibusdam medicaminibus solere curari, Pis. 6, 13; si eo medicamento sanus factus esset, Off. 3, 92.

The verbs with molimen and molimentum in the following examples are very similar, and there is the same adjective modifying each noun: temptat revellere annosam pinum magno molimine, Ov. M. 12, 357; neque exercitum sine magno commeatu atque molimento in unum locum contrahere posse, B. G. I, 34, 3.

Identity of verbs and the case of momen and momentum show there is no difference in their meaning: momine uti parvo possint impulsa moveri, Lucr. 3, 188; animus paulo momento huc vel illuc impellitur, And. 266.

Parallel instances of blanditia and blandimenta are seen in these examples: haec meretrix meum erum sua blanditia intulit in pauperiem, Truc. 572; illum spero immutari potest blandimentis, oramentis, ceteris meretriciis, Truc. 318; benevolentiam civium blanditiis et adsentando colligere turpe est, Lael. 61; Lepida blandimentis ac largitionibus iuvenilem animum devinciebat, Tac. H. 13, 13.

Adiutorium is a rare word, but in the following examples it is seen to have the same general meaning as adiumentum, “help”: sine adiutorio ignis nihil calidum est, Sen. Ep. 31; neque apud homines res est ulla difficilior neque quae plura adiumenta doctrinae desideret, De Or. III, 84.

Experimentum in the plural naturally means the same as experientia (experience), but in the singular also they both mean a trial or attempt, or the result of trial, proof: debemus temptare experientia quaedam, sequentes non aleam, sed rationem aliquam, Varro, R. R. 1, 18, 8; hoc est maximum experimentum, hanc vim esse non in die positam sed in cogitatione diuturna, T. 3, 74. With the meaning of experience: Agrippa non aetate neque310 rerum experientia tantae moli par, Tac. A. 1, 4; Metello experimentis cognitum erat, genus Numidarum infidum esse, Sall. Jug. 40, 3.

Firmamen and firmamentum might be interchanged, in both their figurative and literal meanings: ruptosque obliqua per ungues porrigitur radix, longi firmamina trunci, Ov. M. 10, 491; ossa nervique, firmamenta totius corporis, Sen. De Ira, 2, 1, 2. Both the dependent genitives above express concrete objects; in the following they express abstract objects: unicum lapsae domus firmamen, unum lumen afflicto malis temet reserva, Sen. Herc. Fur. 1251; sic ille annus duo firmamenta rei publicae per me unum constituta evertit, Att. I, 18, 3.

Documen occurs only once, but its context shows it to be equivalent in meaning to documentum, which is used in strikingly similar contexts: flammas ut fulguris halent pectore perfixo, documen mortalibus acre, Lucr. 6, 391; ut sint reliquis documento et magnitudine poenae perterreant alios, B. G. 7, 4, 10.

Words with the suffix -tio we naturally think of as verbals, or nomina actionis, but in the following examples the context makes it fairly certain that they mean the same as their corresponding -mentum nouns.

Formamenta is found only twice: omnia principiorum formamenta queunt in quovis esse nitore, Lucr. 2, 819; si vos fateremini id quod vestra suspicio credidisset formamentis divinis attribuisse, minus erat iniuriae praesumpta in opinatione peccasse, Arn. 3, 16. In the first example, formamenta is used closely following formae and must mean the same thing, the “shapes” of the atoms; in the second example the adjective “divinis” indicates a similar meaning for formamentum; in the following example Vitruvius is giving directions concerning the building of a forum: ita enim erit oblonga eius [forum] formatio et ad spectaculorum rationem utilis dispositio, Vitr. 5, 1. While the directions for the future building might lead us to believe that the word has a predominant verbal force, yet it is just as possible to conceive of it as expressing the result of the process; and this interpretation is even more probable, as the adjective oblonga would properly not be applied to a purely verbal noun.

The verb fodior shows the identity in meaning between fundatio and fundamenta in the following instances: cum fodientes delubro fundamenta caput humanum invenissent, Plin. 28, 2, 4; fundationes311 eorum operum fodiantur, Vitr. 3, 3. Res Romana and libertas are near enough alike to show that fundamen and fundamentum have the same general meaning in these instances: fundamine magno res Romana valet, Ov. M. 4, 808; haec sunt fundamenta firmissima nostrae libertatis, Balb. 13.

The contexts of hortamen and hortamentum in the two following examples are near enough alike to warrant our saying that the nouns might be interchanged: Decii eventus, ingens hortamen ad omnia pro re publicia audenda, Liv. 10, 29, 5; in conspectu parentum coniugumque ac liberorum quae magna etiam absentibus hortamenta animi sunt, Liv. 7, 11, 6.

There is undoubtedly no more verbal force in the following example of allevatio than in the example of allevamentum, (which is the only one extant): tantis rebus urgemur, nullam ut allevationem quisquam non stultissimus sperare debeat, Fam. IX, 1; Sulla coactus est in adversis fortunis sine ullo remedio atque allevamento permanere, Sulla, 66.

Besides alimentum there are two other nouns, formed on the verb alo, alimonium and alimonia, which also mean support or nourishment, as seen from these parallel examples: plus alimenti in pane quam in ullo alio est, Cels. 2, 18; quid temperatus ab alimonio panis, cui rei dedistis nomen castus?, Arn. 5, 16; amisso omni naturalis alimoniae fundamento, homo exhaustus intereat, Gell. 17, 15, 5.

Although -tus is also usually considered as forming nomina actionis, the example of cruciatus clearly is parallel with that of cruciamentum: confectus iam cruciatu maximorum dolorum, ne id quidem scribere possim, quod...., Att. XI. 11, 1; nec graviora sunt tormenta carnificum, quam interdum cruciamenta morborum, Phil. 11, 4.

Calceamentum, “shoe” or covering for the feet, has two accessory forms, calceamen and calceatus, which are synonymous with it (the former being found only in Pliny): mihi est calciamentum solorum callum, amictui Scythicum tegimen, T. 5, 90; vestitu calceatuque et cetero habitu neque patrio neque civili usus est, Suet. Calig. 52; hinc [sparto] strata rusticis eorum, hinc ignes facesque, hinc calceamina et pastorum vestis, Plin. 19, 2, 7.

The use of ad and a gerund after both invitatio and invitamenta indicate their lack of difference in meaning in these two instances: ad eundem fontem revertendum est, aegritudinem omnem abesse312 a sapiente, quod inanis sit, quod frustra suscipiatur, quod non natura exoriatur, sed iudicio, sed opinione sed quadam invitatione ad dolendum, cum id decreverimus ita fieri oportere, T. 3, 82; quocirca intellegi necesse est in ipsis rebus, quae discuntur et cognoscuntur, invitamenta inesse, quibus ad discendum cognoscendumque moveamur, F. 5, 52.

Munitio is another -tio noun that ordinarily has verbal force, but not at all infrequently it coincides in meaning with both munimen and munimentum: cum urbem operibus munitionibusque saepsisset, Phil. 13, 9, 20; castella et munitiones idoneis locis imponens, Tac. A. 3, 74. The genitives following munimen and munitio are alike in meaning and function, both being appositional: confisus munitione fossae, B. C. 1, 42, 3; narrat esse locum solidae tectum munimine molis, Ov. M. 4, 771. Munimentum is used of the same kind of “fortification”: fossa, haud parvum munimentum, Liv. 1, 33, 7.

Natura and ignis are the similar elements in the following contexts that indicate the identity in meaning between nutrimen and nutrimentum:

nempe ubi terra cibos alimentaque pinguia flammae
non dabit absumptis per longum viribus aevum
naturaeque suum nutrimen deerit edaci, Ov. M. 15, 354;
suscepit ignem foliis atque arida circum
nutrimenta dedit, Aen. 1, 176.

In the first example, curiously enough, nutrimen seems to be also synonymous with alimenta in the second line before it.

Nato and puerorum following oblectamina and oblectamenta indicate identity in meaning, although the latter is still vague, while the former is specified by “flores”: carpserat flores, quos oblectamina nato porrigeret, Ov. M. 9, 342; obsecro te non ut vincla virorum sint, sed ut oblectamenta puerorum, Par. 5, 2, 38.

We have the clear testimony of Varro that operculum and operimentum are both used to mean “covering”: quibus operibantur operimenta et opercula dixerunt, Varro, L. L. 5, 167; and the fact is illustrated by the following examples, in which both are used in the ablative after tego: aspera arteria tegitur quasi quodam operculo, N. 2, 54; nuces gemino protectae operimento sunt, Plin. 15, 22.

Both ornatus and ornamentum are used of a speech, oratio:313 mihi eripuisti ornamentum orationis meae, Planc. 83; reliqua quasi lumina afferunt magnum ornatum orationi, Or. 39, 134. The following examples of these nouns, although still general in meaning, are interesting as being used with the verb which is their stem: ornatus appellatur cultus ipse, quo quis ornatur, Fest. 184; hominem cum ornamentis omnibus exornatum adducite ad me, Bacc. 756.

Although the circumstances in the following passages are not alike, the immediate contexts are similar enough to show that sarmen and sarmentum have the same meaning: iam iubeo ignem et sarmen arae, carnifex, circumdari, Most. 1114; ligna et sarmenta ignemque circumdare coeperunt, Verr. 2, 1, 69.

Tegimen and tegimentum both mean a covering for the body: mihi amictui Scythicum tegimen est, T. 5, 90; pennarum contextu corpori tegimentum faciebat, F. 5, 32.

As shown earlier in this paper, tinnimentum in its single occurrence undoubtedly means a “tinkling” in the ears, caused by chattering talk; tinnitus also seems to mean the same thing in the following contexts: cuminum silvestre auribus instillatur ad sonitus atque tinnitus, Plin. 20, 15, 57; illud tinnimentumst auribus, Rud. 806.

If there is any difference between vestitus and vestimentum in these two examples, it is difficult to find: credo te audisse, venisse, eo muliebri vestitu virum, Att. I, 13, 3; mulierem aequomst vestimentum muliebre dare foras, virum virile, Men. 659.

From the fragments in Nonius we find that two of our -mentum nouns have accessory forms in -menta (fem.) with the same meaning: ipsius armentas ad easdem, Ennius ap. Non. 190, 20; tu cornifrontes pascere armentas soles, Pacuvius ap. Non. 190, 22; labei labuntur saxa, caementae cadunt, Ennius ap. Non. 196, 30.

B. Parallels of -bulum and Accessory Suffixes

Latibulum and latebra: repente te tamquam serpens e latibulis intulisti, Vat. 2; curvis frustra defensa latebris vipera, Georg. 3, 544; cum etiam ferae latibulis se tegant, Rab. Post. 15, 42; Maenala transieram latebris horrenda ferarum, Ov. M. 1, 216. Latibulum is an example of a word that could not be used in verse on account of the quantity of its syllables.

Common elements in the context show identity of meaning in314 sedile and sessibulum: cum pater assedisset appositumque esset aliud filio quoque eius sedile, Gell. 2, 2, 8; asside istic, nam prae metu latronum nulla sessibula parare nobis licet, App. Met. 1. Varro (L. L. 8, 54) says that a form sediculum is also correctly made, but not in use.

Stabulatio, another apparent verbal noun, must mean the same as stabulum in the following examples, both on account of the adjective and the general significance of the passages: hibernae stabulationi eorum (cattle) praeparanda sunt stramenta, Col. 6, 3, 1; iubeo stabula a ventis hiberno opponere soli, Georg. 3, 302.

Besides a few examples in Arnobius, only one instance of vocamen is found, in Lucretius, but that it means the same as vocabulum can be seen from the parallel passages: si quis Bacchi nomine abuti Mavult quam laticis proprium proferre vocamen, Lucr. 2, 657; si res suum nomen et vocabulum proprium non habet, De Or. III, 159.

C. Parallels of -culum and Accessory Suffixes

Among -culum words, we find cenaculum having an accessory form cenatio that has, not the verbal idea, but the genuine meaning of place for eating, while cenaculum has lost its literal meaning and taken a more general signification: vel cubiculum grande vel modica cenatio [sit] quae plurimo sole lucet, Plin. Ep. 2, 17, 10; nos ampliores triginta vidimus in cenatione quam Callistus exaedificaverat, Plin. 36, 7, 12; ubi cubabant, cubiculum, ubi cenabant, cenaculum vocitabant; posteaquam in superiore parte cenitare coeperunt superioris domus universa cenacula dicta, Varro, L. L. 5, 162.

On the stem curro there are three nouns, all signifying “a running”: exercent sese ad cursuram, Most. 861; ibi cursu, luctando sese exercebant, Bacc. 428; unum curriculum face, Trin. 1103. A use of curriculum with exerceo would parallel the first two examples, but in such a case it takes on the meaning of place (running course): cum athletae se exercentes in curriculo videret, C. 27.

In the same paragraph deversorium and deverticulum are used of the same place: ut in deversorium eius vim magnam gladiorum inferri clam sineret, Liv. 1, 51; cum gladii abditi ex omnibus locis deverticuli protraherentur, Liv. 1, 51.

315 Feretrum and ferculum both are used depending on suspensa in the two following examples, but mean different kinds of “instruments for carrying”: quis opima volenti dona Iovis portet feretro suspensa cruento, Sil. 5, 168; spolia ducis hostium caesi suspensa fabricato ad id apte ferculo gerens in Capitolium ascendit, Liv. 1, 10, 5.

The stem cerno (sift) forms two nouns which both mean a sieve, although the use of them side by side indicates that there must be some difference; as there are no other examples of incerniculum, this difference cannot be discovered: in torcularium quod opus est cribrum unum, incerniculum unum, Cato, R. R. I, 13, 3; caseum per cribrum facito transeat in mortarium, Cato, R. R. 76, 3.

In the following examples, spiramen and spiracula are both used to mean “breathing holes” in the earth or universe, while spiramenta is applied to the cells in a beehive:

sunt qui spiramina terris
esse putent magnosque cavae compages hiatus,
Lucan, 10, 247;
quasi per magni circum spiracula mundi
exitus introitusque elementis redditus exstat, Lucr. 6, 493;
apes in tectis certatim tenuia cera
spiramenta linunt, Georg. 4, 39.

No difference can be seen in spectamen and spectaculum in these examples: miserum funestumque spectamen aspexi, App. M. 4, 151; potius quam hoc spectaculum viderem, Mil. 38, 103; constitutur in foro Laodiceae spectaculum acerbum et miserum, Verr. I, 76.



Suffixes and the Theory of Adaptation

As stated in the introductory chapter, it has been the primary object of this paper to examine certain word-building suffixes for the purpose of finding out, if possible, what the force of the suffixes themselves is, and how the nouns formed with them get their meaning. The material presented has, it is hoped, shown that these nouns are capable of wide semantic variation, the influencing elements being the verb stem and context (the former exerting greater influence than the latter); also that these suffixes overlap with other suffixes in forming words of identical semantic content to such an extent that they cannot be said to have any sort of fundamental meaning whatever. This is the significance of our investigation in so far as semantics is concerned.

But it is possible also to connect our results with another question, the entire solution of which will doubtless never be possible, at least not soon; viz., the theory of the origin of inflection. Nothing but mere suggestion can be made in this direction from the conclusions of this study; the field will need much wider working-over before any thing definite can be asserted.

Of the two chief explanations of the origin of inflection, one, the theory of adaptation, as held at the present time, answers the question by saying that “inflectional endings are not essentially different from word-building suffixes, but are rather to be regarded as word-building suffixes in a new rôle and partially systematized into paradigms. Inflection comes at the point—wherever in the long course of development that point may be—where the endings of two or more different forms of a word begin to be felt to be the carriers of relations of case, or of mode and tense, to a certain extent independently of stem and context. It is therefore not317 properly a matter of forms, but of meanings, and that theory which accounts for the meanings and for their association with forms explains inflection, whether it accounts for the forms or not.”188

In other words, inflectional forms got their meanings in a manner similar to that we have illustrated in the case of our nouns.

(1.) The apparent definiteness that case-endings have does depend largely on their stem-meaning. Many of the functional distinctions of case can be made only by the meaning of the nouns, e. g., in “gladiis pugnatum est”, Caes. B. G. 1, 52; “uno tempore omnibus locis pugnatur,” B. G. 7, 84; “pugnatum continenter horis quinque vario certamine,” B. C. 1, 46, we have five ablatives, expressing instrument, time when, duration of time, manner, and place, only because the words in the ablative are capable of these meanings. Just so, we saw that our nouns got their general meaning of instrument, place, result of action, etc., because their verb stems were such as to admit of such meaning.

(2.) While our nouns naturally get an important part of their meaning from the verb stem, yet they derive great specialization of meaning from some element in the context. It is very probable, too, that originally our so-called inflectional system was in reality only a large number of undifferentiated forms which, by a process of centralization and adaptation, and influenced by the associations in which they were used, acquired their present meaning.

(3.) The variety and overlapping of suffixes may also be paralleled by case-endings; for example, in both the first and second declensions the same form serves for the dative and ablative plural, while there is another form for the other declensions. The genitive singular, and nominative and accusative plural of the fourth declension are alike in form. In the historical language, the genitive singular, dative singular, and nominative plural of the first declension have become identical in form. Other similar comparisons might be drawn to illustrate the similarity in meaning of forms with different endings, and from the verb as well as the noun. The very fact that we have five declensions and four conjugations, with many variations inside the system and irregularities outside, goes to show that it is not real system that we have here, but the survival of an original mass of undifferentiated forms, which318 through a long period of development have acquired their present inflectional meaning.

The parallel suggested here is put forth merely as a suggestion; all we can say is, that it is possible that inflectional forms did get their meaning in some such way as the nouns treated in this paper got theirs. More evidence will be necessary for establishing this theory, if it can be established at all.




181 Cf. Morris, Principles and Methods in Latin Syntax, p. 65. It must be noted, however, that this is only one direction in which semantic development takes place. The opposite (decrease of connotation) is also observable as a definite line of semantic development.

182 This is one of four -mentum words which occur first in Sallust. The others are hortamentum, irritamentum, turbamentum. Norden mentions the use of -mentum words as a peculiarity of Sallust’s style (Gercke und Norden. Einleitung in die Alt. Wiss. I. 578), but with the exception of these four words, which occur, moreover, only once each in this author, the examples scarcely justify the statement.

183 Cf. Festus, p. 38: conciliabulum dicitur locus, ubi in concilium venitur.

184 Cf. Walde, who gives as the etymology of this word, ver(o)-stabulum, in which *uer = “door”.

185 See Mommsen, Röm. Gesch. Bk. I, Ch. XV.

186 Only those -culum words were examined which were not diminutives. Some of the words formed with this suffix do have diminutive meaning, but for a diminutive to be formed on a verb stem is impossible.

187 Cf. Varro, Lingua Latina, 5, Art. 162.

188 See the article by Professors Oertel and Morris on The Nature and Origin of Indo-European Inflection, Harvard Class. Stud., Vol. XVI, p. 89.

End of Volume One

University of Kansas Humanistic Studies


This text contains Greek phrases in several places and numerous words and phrases in Latin. Greek and Latin passages have been rendered as they appear in the original publication. No attempt has been made to make corrections.

Obvious punctuation errors have been repaired. Occasional missing commas have been left unchanged. Identifyable inconsistencies in punctuation in headings, footnotes, index, and bibliography have been repaired.

Variations in hyphenation and spelling, particularly in the use of accent marks, have, for the most part, been left unchanged. If it was clear from the predominance of occurrences that the difference was due to a typo and not the intent of the author, the correction was made. However, the variations were frequently the result of references or quotes from different sources and therefor the variations were left as found. For instance, the reader will find the following variations left as found in the original: Bocca-dell’-Verità also appears as Bocca-dell’-Verita; Marriage à la Mode sometimes appears as Marriage a la Mode; both Lévy-Bruhl and Levy-Bruhl are used; De Vulgari Eloquio is also spelled De Vulgario Eloquio; The Rival Queans is also given as The Rival Queens.

Spelling of non-dialect wording in the text was made consistent when a predominant preference was found in this book; if no predominant preference was found, or if there is only one occurrence of the word, spelling was not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced quotation marks repaired.

The original text has duplicate words in several places. For example, Page 308 ... “is only the the extension, on Latin soil”; Page 146 ... “matter to each each other”. These have been rendered as found without correction.

Because of the propensity in this text for quotations starting and ending in the middle of a sentence, ellipsis have been rendered as found in the text with no assumptions made as to the ending of sentences within quotations. Ellipsis that are obviously errors have been standardized to common usage. In several places within the English text and in the Latin phrases, periods have apparently been used to represent missing letters in a word or name. These have been rendered as found in the original.

There are several typographical errors in sequential numbering in the Appendix for section 3, the paper on Browning and Italian Arts and Artists. On page 253, the section shown in the original as “IV. Pippa Passes.” should be numbered “III.” if properly sequenced. On page 258, the section shown in the original as “XX. Pacchiarotto and How He Worked in Distemper.” should be numbered “XXIV.” if properly sequenced. On page 257, under “XX. The Ring and the Book”, the numbering skips for “8” to “10”, leaving out “9”. All these have been repaired.

In the Appendix for section 3, the paper on Browning and Italian Arts and Artists, some of the Roman Numerals are in parenthesis. About a third of them have the period inside the parenthesis [i.e. (III.)] and about 2/3 have the period outside the parenthesis [i.e. (III).]. No attempt has been made to standardize these. They have been left as found in the original text.

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