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M. Zola
by [?]

“It was Burke’s peculiarity and his glory to apply the imagination of a poet of the first order to the facts and business of life…. Burke’s imagination led him to look over the whole land: the legislator devising new laws, the judge expounding and enforcing old ones, the merchant despatching all his goods and extending his credit, the banker advancing the money of his customers upon the credit of the merchant, the frugal man slowly accumulating the store which is to support him in old age, the ancient institutions of Church and University with their seemly provisions for sound learning and true religion, the parson in his pulpit, the poet pondering his rhymes, the farmer eyeing his crops, the painter covering his canvases, the player educating the feelings. Burke saw all this with the fancy of a poet, and dwelt on it with the eye of a lover.”

Now all this, which is true of Burke, is true of the very first literary artists–of Shakespeare and Balzac. All this, and more–for they not only see all this immense activity of life, but the emotions that animate each of the myriad actors.

Suppose them to treat of commerce: they see not only the goods and money changing hands, but the ambitions, dangers, fears, delights, the fierce adventures by desert and seas, the slow toil at home, upon which the foundations of commerce are set. Like the Gods,

“They see the ferry
On the broad, clay-laden
Lone Chorasmian stream;–thereon,
With snort and strain,
Two horses, strongly swimming, tow
The ferry-boat, with woven ropes
To either bow
Firm-harness’d by the mane; a chief,
With shout and shaken spear,
Stands at the prow, and guides them; but astern
The cowering merchants, in long robes,
Sit pale beside their wealth….”

Like the Gods, they see all this; but, unlike the Gods, they must feel also:–

“They see the merchants
On the Oxus stream;–but care
Must visit first them too, and make them pale
Whether, through whirling sand,
A cloud of desert robber-horse have burst
Upon their caravan; or greedy kings,
In the wall’d cities the way passes through,
Crush’d them with tolls; or fever-airs,
On some great river’s marge,
Mown them down, far from home.”

Mr. Moore speaks of M. Zola’s vast imagination. It is vast in the sense that it sees one thing at a time, and sees it a thousand times as big as it appears to most men. But can the imagination that sees a whole world under the influence of one particular fury be compared with that which surveys this planet and sees its inhabitants busy with a million diverse occupations? Drink, Money, War–these may be usefully personified as malignant or beneficent angels, for pulpit purposes. But the employment of these terrific spirits in the harrying of the Rougon-Macquart family recalls the announcement that

“The Death-Angel smote Alexander McGlue….”

while the methods of the Roman Expérimental can hardly be better illustrated than by the rest of the famous stanza–

“–And gave him protracted repose:
He wore a check shirt and a Number 9 shoe,
And he had a pink wart on his nose.”