KENELM CHILLINGLY.* NONE of Lord Lytton's books would give so pleasant an impres- sion of the author as this. The first volume is full of his peculiar cleverness, of the knowledge of the world and the sarcasm which have always relieved the unreal flights of his ambitious imagina- tion, and the third contains the tenderest and truest picture of a child-like woman's loveableness which we remember in his . works. In fact, there is plenty of wit and a little genuine poetry in this book, and the latter assertion is one we should hardly be inclined to make, or at least should make with much reservation, of any other of Lord Lytton's novels. The tale has a certain flavour of Goethe's Wilhelm Meister, not enough to make it in any respect an imitation, but enough to make it probable that the plan of Kenelm Chillingly was suggested to Lord Lytton by the study of the first part of Wilhelm Meister. There is the same looseness of construc- tion intended to admit of all sorts of criticism on the opinions, artistic theories, and politics of the day. There is the same element of incognito Bohemian adventure,—the hero escaping from his own class into contact with the ideas and opinions of quite different classes of the community. And there is the same impression left upon the reader that the author intended to com- plete the ' Apprentice-years' by a supplementary tale, giving his maturest political and social convictions, such as Goethe gave in Meister's " Wanderjahre." Perhaps, however, this continua- tion might, like the great German's, have been a failure, spoiled by the pedantry of system. For Kenelm Chillingly's adven- tures, even in the period of youth and passion, are—here again resembling Wilhelm Meister's—by no means exciting. Indeed, but for the wit of some of the descriptions of life and manners, the greater part of the tale would be languid reading ;—nor are we encouraged by such glimpses of Lord Lytton's social and political philosophy as are given, to wish particularly for more. Perhaps it was not without happy result for the author's fame, that his last novel contains rather an acute, and often witty criticism on fashionable ideas, than the mature convictions which he would have endeavoured to substitute for these fashionable ideas. In this story, at all events, where Lord Lytton ceases to be critical and attempts to support his criticisms by positive teaching, he is very apt to fall into his old vein of stilted rhapsody.
Kenelm Chillingly is a youth of passionate chivalry at heart—Lord Lytton evidently thinks that the name "Kenelm" had its influence in making him so—but thoroughly imbued with the modern in- difference and doubt of the day and the superficial hardness which that indifference and doubt foster. Indeed, there is meant to be
* Kenelm Chillingly : his Adventures and Opinions. By the Author of "The Cartons." 3 vols. Edinburgh and London : Blackwood. an element of frost in the Chillingly constitution which this, indifference and doubt confirm. Mr. Chillingly Mivers, the head of a cadet branch of the family, is the editor and pro- prietor of The Londoner, a weekly paper of the cold critical schooli_ whose line of policy is very cleverly described, though the power of diagnosis of that gentleman seems to be grossly caricatured when it is gravely represented that he can judge by the failing pulses of his friends in the great world, as he shakes hands with them, how soon they are likely to die, and whether it is time to get their obituaries written. Mr. Chillingly Gordon, the head of another- cadet branch, who takes up the hard liberal view iu the interests of his own advancement, and advocates democratic politics. solely because democracy is the winning side, would evidently have been Kenelm's chief antagonist in the continuation of this story which we suspect Lord Lytton had planned. But in Kenelm, beneath the frosty temperament of the Chillinglys,, there is a vein of romantic passion, derived through his father,. Sir Peter, who is a Chillingly of exceptional tenderness of nature, while his wife, on the contrary, is more chilly than the Chillinglys, being very cleverly described as a virtuous matron, " morals irre- proachable, manners dignified and she-baronety." Kenelm is early submitted to the moral influence of his cousin Mivers and others on the staff of The Londoner. It is this influence which Kenelm, in the course of this tale, works himself rid of, and some of the wittiest parts of the work are the various attacks on The Londoner and its school of destructive critical thought. Here are a few of the chief aphorisms of its editor and proprietor Mr. Mivers had some other aphorisms on this important subject One was, ' Refuse to be ill. Never tell people you are ill ; never own• it to yourself. Illness is one of those things which a man should resist. on principle at the onset. It should never be allowed to get in the thin end of the wedge. But take care of your constitution, and, having ascertained the best habits for it, keep to them like clockwork.' Mr. Mivers would not have missed his constitutional walk in the Park before breakfast, if, by going in a cab to St. Giles's, he could have saved the city of London from conflagration. Another aphorism of his was, If you want to keep young, live in a metropolis ; never star above a few weeks at a time in the country. Take two men of similar constitution at the age of twenty-five ; let one live in London and enjoy a regular sort of club-life ; send the other to some rural district, pre- posterously called 'salubrious.' Look at these men when they have both reached the age of forty-five. The London man has preserved his figure, the rural man has a paunch. The London man has an. interesting delicacy of complexion; the face of the rural man is cross- grained and perhaps jowly.' A third axiom was, 'Don't be a family man ; nothing ages one like matrimonial felicity and paternal ties. Never multiply cares, and pack up- your life in the briefest compase you can. Why add to your carpet-bag of troubles the contents of a lady's imperials and bonnet-boxes, and the travelling fourgon required by the nursery. Shun ambition—it is so gouty. It takes a great deal out of a man's life, and gives him nothing worth having till he has ceased to enjoy it.' Another of his aphorisms was this, ' A fresh mind keeps the body fresh. Take in the ideas of the day, drain off those of yesterday. As to the morrow, time enough to consider it when it becomes to-day.' Preserving himself by attention to these rules, Mr; Mivers appeared at Exmundham totes, teres, but not rotundus—a man of middle height, slender, upright, with well-cut, small, slight features,. thin lips, enclosing an excellent set of teeth, even, white, and not indebted to the dentist For the sake of those teeth he shunned acid wines, especially hock in all its varieties, culinary sweets, and hot drinks. He drank even his tea cold. ' There are,' he said, 'two things in life that a sage must preserve at every sacrifice, the coats of his stomach and the enamel of his teeth. Some evils admit of consolations: there are no comforters for dyspepsia and toothache.' A man of letters, but a man of the world, he had so cultivated his mind as both, that he was feared as the one, and liked as the other. As a man of letters he despised the world ; as a man of the world he despised letters. As the, representative of both he revered himself."
Amongst the friends of Mr. Chillingly Mivers, Kenelm learns well the slang and the cynicism of the age. Perhaps the most amusing part of the book is the account of his adventures as a day-labourer, when he makes a farmer's hay for him, and to his own great surprise receives a florin for so doing,—the first money. he had ever earned in his life. The farmer finding Kenelm a clever fellow, above his apparent station, immediately begs him to put down his own son, who is a prig, whereupon Kenelm muses on the request, his old friend The Londoner coming in for a caustic hit :— " Hold; you seem a sharp fellow, and certainly no fool. I have a son, a good smart chap, but stuck up ; crows it over us all; thinks no small-beer of himself. You'd do me a service, and him too, if you'd let him down a peg or two.' Kenelm, who was now hard at work at the pump- handle, only replied by a gracious nod. But as he seldom lost an oppor- tunity for reflection, he said to himself, while he laved his face in the stream from the spout, 'One can't wonder why every small man thinks it is so pleasant to let down a big one, when a father asks a stranger to let down his own son for even fancying that he is not small-beer. It is upon that principle in human nature that criticism wisely relinquishes its pretensions as an analytical science, and becomes a lucrative profession. It relies on the pleasure its readers find in letting a man down.'"
If the novel has any distinct purpose at all, it must be said to be to defend the old idealist instincts of man against those who
delight in the depreciation of all earnest faith and prin- ciple. And so far as this idea goes, it is a good one. But we must admit that it is very imperfectly worked out. Kenelm is intended to personify the chivalric spirit, so far as it can be reconciled with our own day, and is meant to show how the chivalric spirit implies and involves not indeed democracy, but the spirit of the heartiest friendship and alliance between the aristocracy and the members of the middle and lower class. Kenelm's chivalry, fortunately armed in early youth with unparalleled skill in boxing, shows itself by vanquishing a blacksmith, a great village bully, the persecutor of a pretty girl and her lover, and by turning the man whom be has vanquished with his fists into a faithful personal friend. The story in this part is utterly unnatural, and becomes almost ludicrous when Kendra, after falling in love and suffering the bitterest possible disappointment, and going abroad in his bitterness of spirit, is pursued by this farrier friend, who insists on consoling Kenelm in his broken-hearted loneliness by his own delightful society. his obvious that Lord Lytton was greatly at a loss how best to give ex- pression to the true heart of chivalry in such an age as ours, and that in his wish to draw the picture of a sort of modern knight-errant's spirit and adventures, he fell into great improbabilities and even absurdities of detail. He was much clearer as to what he disliked and wished to oppose, than as to what he wished to teach ; and so be manages to make us prefer Kenelm when he snubs the sneerers, to Kenelm when he tries to shadow forth the positive ideas he is dimly grasping at. For instance, in almost the only place where he tries to set down the principles of thought which would save him from utter scepticism, be delineates the shallowest and tritest Conservatism on which any man ever yet tried to build a life of faith :— " Yes ; I rejoice to have made friends with Mr. Emlyn. I have learned a great deal from him, and am often asking myself whether I shall ever make peace with myconscience by putting what I have learned into practice.'—' May I ask what special branch of learning is that ?'—' I scarcely know how to define it. Suppose we call it ' Worth-whileism.' Among the New Ideas which I was recommended to study as those that must govern my generation, the Not-worth-while Idea holds a very high rank ; and being myself naturally of calm and equable constitution, that new idea made the basis of my philosophical system. But since I have become intimate with Charles Emlyn I think there is a great deal to be said in favour of Worth-whileism, old idea though it be. I see a man who, with very common-place materials for interest or amusement at his command, continues to be always interested or generally amused ; I ask myself why and how ? And it seems to me as if the cause started from fixed beliefs which settle his relations with God and man, and that settlement he will not allow any speculations to disturb. Be those be- liefs questionable or not by others, at least they are such as cannot displease a Deity, and cannot fail to be kindly and useful to fellow- mortals. Then he plants these beliefs on the soil of a happy and genial home, which tends to confirm and strengthen and call them into daily practice ; and when he goes forth from home, oven to the farthest verge of the circle that surrounds it, he carries with him the home influences of kindliness and use. Possibly my lino of life may bo drawn to the verge of a wider circle than his ; but so much the better for interest and amusement, if it can be drawn from the same centre ; namely, fixed beliefs daily warmed into vital action in the sunshine of a congenial home.' " To imagine that any man as able as Lord Lytton could attach any real value to such teaching as this is very difficult. What it comes to is simply this : take any creed such as cannot dis- please a Deity, and cannot fail to be kindly and useful to fellow- mortals,' into which you may happen to have been born, use your will to prevent its being disturbed, i.e., resist all invasions of doubt by simply ignoring the doubts suggested, plant the creed you have so inherited ' on the soil of a happy and genial home,' and act upon it with all your might. That is a recommendation which, if it means anything, means that you ought to water and foster make-belief till it answers as well as belief,—a procedure fatal to its practical power. And this is no doubt the source of the ideal weakness of the tale.
In character, as usual, Lord Lytton is not happy. While he merely describes the superficial character and talk of cultivated men of the world, he is exceedingly amusing, and in a surface way very life-like. Now and then he will for a few pages give a rather happy photograph of the talk even of a country farmer and his family. But there is but one figure in these volumes that shows the least sign of an imagination that goes beneath the surface. Kenelm himself is a perfect failure, and his father is not much better. Lady Chillingly and Mr. Chillingly givers are better only because they are far more of surface descriptions, far more within the scope of mere observation. But Lily, the child- like, fairy-tale-loving girl, who is represented as so much more infantine than her age warrants, is a conception of real beauty, though only a new modification of one that was always hover- ing before Lord Lytton's imagination. You can see that a tender feminine character, of less than ordinary intellectual
vigour, which he sometimes represents as really deficient in intellect, and sometimes,—bere, for example,—as only of very tardy growth, bat which in either case alike is awakened into new force and beauty by the power of love, was• always haunting his dreams. It occurs in one form or another in many of his novels, but in none in a more fascinating form than this. Lily is a truly poetical conception. Her little letter of fare- well to her lover is one of the simplest and most touching things which Lord Lytton's too often stilted genius ever produced. And. though here and there the sketch of her does not seem quite to reach the mark, the conception is always beautiful. The pathos of her story has none of the artificial effect of Lord Lytton's ordinary efforts. We may add that the novel contains at least one little poem which strikes us as full of real poetic feeling :— " THE FLOWER-GIRL BY THE CROSSING. "By the muddy crossing in the crowded streets Stands a little maid with her basket full of posies, Proffering all who pass her choice of knitted sweets,
Tempting Age with heart's-ease, courting Youth with roses.
"Age disdains the heart's-ease, Love rejects the roses ; London life is busy—
Who can stop for posies ?
"One man is too grave, another is too gay—
This man has his hothouse, that man not a penny ; Flowerets too are common in the month of May, And the things most common least attract the many.
"Ill on London crossings Fares the sale of posies ; Age disdains the heart's-ease, Youth rejects the roses."
Almost every reviewer of this tale has noticed the curious fact that the key-note of the last six pages of this tale,—that is, of Lord Lyt- ton's earthly musings—was Nelson's saying before giving battler "Victory orWestminster Abbey," with which Lord Lytton contrasts, the vulgarer cry, "Defeat and the Three per Cents." Yet surely neither cry is very elevated. The truest and highest chivalry would' not embody so much of personal ambition and vanity in its dreams as to mix up Westminster Abbey in all its calculations of patriotic purpose. To the artist, indeed, as Lord Lytton justly maintains, the- desire for fame must be admitted to be natural ; the crave for the stimulus of sympathy and admiration is of the essence of the artist's motive power, is needful apparently to the production of works of' mere beauty, which, without the desire of that sympathy and ad- miration, would hardly find any sufficient force to bring them out of the imagination of the poet or painter into a form in which they can delight others. But for that very reason the motive of the- artist, the motive which exercised so magical an influence over Lord Lytton himself, is quite distinct from the motive of chivalry which seeks to redress wrong and to extend protection to the weak for the mere pleasure of redressing wrong and preventing it. In this tale the two ideas are too much confused. Lord' Lytton wished to paint a figure representing the heart of modern chivalry, and he did paint him as at first entirely des- titute of ambition and the desire for fame. But as far as= we understand the meaning of the last chapter, Kenelm is intended to merge the purer chivalry of his youth in the rather spurious ambition of the artist's love of fame, and to accept the cry of " Victory or Westminster Abbey " as the motto of his maturity. Thus with all its cleverness and its gleams of real beauty, Kenelm. Chillingly leaves on us the impression of a mind in which there was- a rooted confusion between the love of good and the love of fame. Still it is, perhaps, the pleasantest of all Lord Lytton's books ; it+ contains the tenderest of his pictures, perhaps the most truly poeti- cal of his poems, many admirable specimens of his wit, and far less than almost any other of his works, of his tinselly rhodomontade.