The grief of Augustine was not less keen, it seems, than it had been at the death of his friend. But he could remember how “she related with great dearness of affection, how she never heard any harsh or unkind word to be darted out of my mouth against her.” And to this consolation was added who knows what of confidence and tenderness of certain hope, or a kind of deadness, perhaps, that may lighten the pain of a heart very often tried and inured to every pain. For it is certain that “this green wound” was green and grievous for a briefer time than the agony of his earlier sorrows. He himself, so earnest in analysing his own emotions, is perplexed by the short date of his tears, and his sharpest grief: “Let him read it who will, and interpret it as it pleaseth him.”
So, with the death of Monica, we may leave Saint Augustine. The most human of books, the “Confessions,” now strays into theology. Of all books that which it most oddly resembles, to my fancy at least, is the poems of Catullus. The passion and the tender heart they have in common, and in common the war of flesh and spirit; the shameful inappeasable love of Lesbia, or of the worldly life; so delightful and dear to the poet and to the saint, so despised in other moods conquered and victorious again, among the battles of the war in our members. The very words in which the Veronese and the Bishop of Hippo described the pleasure and gaiety of an early friendship are almost the same, and we feel that, born four hundred years later, the lover of Lesbia, the singer of Sirmio might actually have found peace in religion, and exchanged the earthly for the heavenly love.
CHAPTER IX: SMOLLETT
The great English novelists of the eighteenth century turned the course of English Literature out of its older channel. Her streams had descended from the double peaks of Parnassus to irrigate the enamelled fields and elegant parterres of poetry and the drama, as the critics of the period might have said. But Richardson, Fielding, Smollett, and Sterne, diverted the waters, from poetry and plays, into the region of the novel, whither they have brought down a copious alluvial deposit. Modern authors do little but till this fertile Delta: the drama is now in the desert, poetry is a drug, and fiction is literature. Among the writers who made this revolution, Smollett is, personally, the least well known to the world, despite the great part which autobiography and confessions play in his work. He is always talking about himself, and introducing his own experiences. But there is little evidence from without; his extant correspondence is scanty; he was not in Dr. Johnson’s circle, much less was he in that of Horace Walpole. He was not a popular man, and probably he has long ceased to be a popular author. About 1780 the vendors of children’s books issued abridgments of “Tom Jones” and “Pamela,” “Clarissa” and “Joseph Andrews,”