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XII.

AN ANALYSIS AND SUMMARY OF

FIFINE AT THE FAIR.

BY THE REV. JOHN SHARPE, M.A.

Part I. The Problem stated. $1-18. $ 1-6. The fair. § 7–12. Gipsy happiness and virtue different from ours.

§ 13. The problem : why so? § 14–18. Fifine, a subject for scientific study.

Part II. The method of love. $19_59.

(a) Elvire supreme in beauty. § 19—42. § 19–21. Procession of beauties.

$ 22, 23. Elvire surpasses all. § 24–28. The interest of Fifine : bodies show minds.

§ 29. All is good. $ 30—33. Special merit of Fifine. $ 34–37. Elvire a Rafael : Fifine a Doré.

$ 38, 39. Ideal description of Elvire. $ 40–42. Seen by soul as in Art, where sense sees only material cause

and effect.

(B) The secret of love. § 43—49. $ 43. Body reveals dim traces of soul,

§ 44. Whence soul reconstructs the ideal. $ 45—49. As the motive is discerned in the rough sketch, $ 50, 51. So love discerns the ideal :

$ 52. So I discerned Eidothèe,

§ 53. And Elvire. $ 54, 55. The ideal is a lasting gain. $ 56, 57. The Master is vindicated, $ 58, 59. And truth attained by communication of gains.

Part III. The method of philosophy. $ 60—88. $ 60–63. The problem restated, how to rise out of the false into the

true. § 64—68. Floating symbolizes the method : immersed in falsehood, a

soul can breathe the true. § 69–80. Woman helps us here more than man.

i. he is selfish, $ 71, 72.

she self-sacrificing, $ 73.
ii. man envies superiority, $ 75.

woman admires, $ 76—78.
iii. man shows himself in hate, $ 79.

woman in love, which proves to me, I am. $ 80. § 81–83. Fifine helps more than Elvire, for difficulty stimulates effort. $ 84–88. The gypsy actors avow a false outside ; let me seek the true :

and from the least spark of truth let soul recreate the ideal.

Part IV. The Dream. § 89—125. $ 89–93. Introduction : music expresses feeling. § 94—104. The Carnival at Venice.

i. viewed by pride, all is ugly, $ 94—98.

ii. viewed by sympathy, good is discerned, § 99–104. $ 105-108. Its lesson universally true.

§ 109. Welcome what is. $ 110-125. Proof of universality.

i. All is change, $ 110–117.

In religion, learning, philosophy, $ 110–112.
Yet Truth does its work by maintaining faith in

Truth, $ 113, 114.
In history, morals, art, music, poetry, change is still

more rapid, § 115—117.
ii. All is Permanent, $ 118—123.

Partial truths will blend in one, § 118—120.
Not in a learned theory, but the intuitive truth of

unsophisticated man, $ 121-123.
iii. Under the Changing, seek the Permanent: let soul

look up, not down; not hate, but love, § 124. So through Fifine I reach the ultimate, $ 125.

Part V. The End. The Fall.
§ 126, 127. We end where we began, in instinctive truths.

$ 128. A humiliating fact, therefore no self-deception.
§ 129. Such also is the duty of conjugal fidelity : from the wife

evolve Woman.

the poem.

§ 130. Am I parted from Elvire ?
§ 131. Never more will I speculate.

§ 132. The temptation and fall. The key to Fifine is supplied by the passage of Molière, prefixed to

Molière's Elvire says to her husband, whom she suspects of an intrigue, “Why do you not say to me all that a husband ought to say to his wife?" Browning's Don Juan, accordingly, does say all that a man ought to say to his wife, whilst secretly intriguing with Fifine. He puts forward a philosophy partly true, partly sophistical. His avowed object is to study Fifine scientifically, and so to test the truth of a philosophy which deals with the mystery of imperfection and evil in a world of God's creation ($ 13, 29, 43, 67, 86, 101, 108).

From the analysis of true love, he evolves a theory applicable to the universe and its development. Outwardly a wife may be faded, and her character imperfect ($ 33, 40): in the eyes of love she is faultless and supremely beautiful ($ 38, 39). For under the imperfect exterior, the soul seeking its complementary soul, discerns traces of beauty from which it reconstructs the whole ($ 44, 50). This ideal soul is the object of love.

This method should be applied to all the rest of God's creation. If we regard all mankind with the eyes of love, we shall find beneath moral and physical deformity, traces of goodness and beauty : from which we can reconstruct each soul as God designed it, fair and pure ($ 52–58).

So in all things, beneath the false we may discern the true : beneath the changing we may seize the permanent. We cannot soar into absolute truth, but as we float in the sea of speculation we can breathe the pure air of truth sufficiently to keep the soul alive.

I desire, therefore, says Don Juan, to study Fifine : bodies show minds, she has a beautiful body, and therefore beneath it a beautiful mind ($ 28): she is an actress, therefore her true self is far removed from the immodesty which she displays on the surface ($ 84): Fifine regarded with sympathy and viewed in the true light, will reveal to me her real soul as God designed it.

Elvire is not persuaded by her husband's argument, and leaves him when he receives a note from Fifine. After death she returns to fetch his penitent soul from its house “embrowned with sin and shame.”

Don Juan knows the good, and deliberately does the evil. Thus Pornic affords another instance of the action of that infection of nature which theologians call Original Sin' (see Gold Hair a story of Pornic'). The mystery of evil remains unsolved

258

Bibliography, p. 45, 169. (16) In a Gondola, 1. 192. “Castelfranco"

(, • is of course Giorgione: Giorgio Barbarelli, " born in the year 1478, at Castelfranco, in the territory of Treviso, and ... at a later period called Giorgione [big George), as well from the character of his person as for the exaltation of his mind." He died in his 34th year, 1511, from the plague, caught from the lady he was in love with. He was a fellowstudent with Titian under the Bellini. Vasari englisht, ed. Bohn, ii. 394-402.

Bibliography, p. 149, 1. 9, for “another” read “author." p. 152, 1. 2. from foot, for her father's” read his (that is, Browning's) father's."

In Household Words, vol. iv, p. 213, no. 87, Nov. 22, 1851, there is a sonnet addressed to Browning.-W. G. Stone.

[graphic]

The Honorary Secretary of the Ballad Society is Mr. W. A. Dalziel.

The Honorary Secretary of the English Dialect Society is J. H. Nodal, Esq., The Grange, Heaton Moor, near Stockport. Subscription a guinea a year.

The Hunterian Club, Glasgow, has reprinted in 4to the complete works of Samuel Rowlands, is doing those of Lodge, &c. Subscription 2 guineas a year. Hon. Sec., Mr. John Alexander, Regent Street, West, Glasgow.

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Prof. E. Arber's excellent English Reprints, &c., are now publisht by him at the omme, Mason College, Birmingham. He will send a Catalogue to any applicant.

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