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Herein, in these subjective chatty confidences, is part of the spell he lays upon us: while we read we are IN the East: other books, as Warburton says, tell us ABOUT the East, this is the East itself. And yet in his company we are always ENGLISHMEN in the East: behind Servian, Egyptian, Syrian, desert realities, is a background of English scenery, faint and unobtrusive yet persistent and horizoning. In the Danubian forest we talk of past school- days. The Balkan plain suggests an English park, its trees planted as if to shut out "some infernal fellow creature in the shape of a new-made squire"; Jordan recalls the Thames; the Galilean Lake, Windermere; the Via Dolorosa, Bond Street; the fresh toast of the desert bivouac, an Eton breakfast; the hungry questing jackals are the place-hunters of Bridgewater and Taunton; the Damascus gardens, a neglected English manor from which the "family" has been long abroad; in the fierce, dry desert air are heard the "Marlen" bells of home, calling to morning prayer the prim congregation in far-off St. Mary's parish. And a not less potent factor in the charm is the magician's self who wields it, shown through each passing environment of the narrative; the shy, haughty, imperious Solitary, "a sort of Byron in the desert," of cultured mind and eloquent speech, headstrong and not always amiable, hiding sentiment with cynicism, yet therefore irresistible all the more when he condescends to endear himself by his confidence. He meets the Plague and its terrors like a gentleman, but shows us, through the vicarious torments of the cowering Levantine that it was courage and coolness, not insensibility, which bore him through it. A foe to marriage, compassionating Carrigaholt as doomed to travel "Vetturini-wise," pitying the Dead Sea goatherd for his ugly wife, revelling in the meek surrender of the three young men whom he sees "led to the altar" in Suez, he is still the frank, susceptible, gallant bachelor, observantly and critically studious of female charms: of the magnificent yet formidable Smyrniotes, eyes, brow, nostrils, throat, sweetly turned lips, alarming in their latent capacity for fierceness, pride, passion, power: of the Moslem women in Nablous, "so handsome that they could not keep up their yashmaks:" of Cypriote witchery in hair, shoulder-slope, tempestuous fold of robe. He opines as he contemplates the plain, clumsy Arab wives that the fine things we feel and say of women apply only to the good-looking and the graceful: his memory wanders off ever and again to the muslin sleeves and bodices and "sweet chemisettes" in distant England. In hands sensual and vulgar the allusions might have been coarse, the dilatings unseemly; but the "taste which is the feminine of genius," the self-respecting gentleman-like instinct, innocent at once and playful, keeps the voluptuary out of sight, teaches, as Imogen taught Iachimo, "the wide difference 'twixt amorous and villainous." Add to all these elements of fascination the unbroken luxuriance of style; the easy flow of casual epigram or negligent simile;--Greek holy days not kept holy but "kept stupid"; the mule who "forgot that his rider was a saint and remembered that he was a tailor"; the pilgrims "transacting their salvation" at the Holy Sepulchre; the frightened, wavering guard at Satalieh, not shrinking back or running away, but "looking as if the pack were being shuffled," each man desirous to change places with his neighbour; the white man's unresisting hand "passed round like a claret jug" by the hospitable Arabs; the travellers dripping from a Balkan storm compared to "men turned back by the Humane Society as being incurably drowned." Sometimes he breaks into a canter, as in the first experience of a Moslem city, the rapturous escape from respectability and civilization; the apostrophe to the Stamboul sea; the glimpse of the Mysian Olympus; the burial of the poor dead Greek; the Janus view of Orient and Occident from the Lebanon watershed; the pathetic terror of Bedouins and camels on entering a walled city; until, once more in the saddle, and winding through the Taurus defiles, he saddens us by a first discordant note, the note of sorrow that the entrancing tale is at an end.
Old times return to me as I handle the familiar pages. To the schoolboy six and fifty years ago arrives from home a birthday gift, the bright green volume, with its showy paintings of the impaled robbers and the Jordan passage; its bulky Tatar, towering high above his scraggy steed, impressed in shining gold upon its cover. Read, borrowed, handed round, it is devoured and discussed with fifth form critical presumption, the adventurous audacity arresting, the literary charm not analyzed but felt, the vivid personality of the old Etonian winged with public school freemasonry. Scarcely in the acquired insight of all the intervening years could those who enjoyed it then more keenly appreciate it to-day. Transcendent gift of genius! to gladden equally with selfsame words the reluctant inexperience of boyhood and the fastidious judgment of maturity. Delightful self- accountant reverence of author-craft! which wields full knowledge of a shaddock-tainted world, yet presents no licence to the prurient lad, reveals no trail to the suspicious moralist.
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Biographical Study of A. W. Kinglake -by- Rev. W. Tuckwell