and, behind or above, the power which is conveniently
called God. It is now that the confusion, the misjudg-
ment, and the difficulty begin. For, simple in them-
selves, these objects can be made monstrous, strange,
and indeed unrecognizable by the manner in which they 
are related to each other. People who live cheek by jowl
and breathe the same air yet see trees very large and
human beings very small, or the other way about, man
vast and trees in miniature. Writers who live at the 
same moment yet see nothing the same size. Here is
Scott, for example, with his mountains looming huge,
and his men therefore drawn to scale; Jane Austen pick-
ing out the roses on her tea-cups to match the wit of her
dialogue; while Peacock bends over heaven and earth
one fantastic distorting mirror, in which the tea-cup
may be Vesuvius or Vesuvius a tea-cup. Never-
theless, Scott, Jane Austen, Peacock, lived through the 
same years; beheld the same world, and are covered, in
text-books, by the same curve of history. It is in
their perspective that they are different. It is the 
difference not of time of birth or circumstances, not of
those worn old labels, classic and romantic, that distin-
guishes one writer from another, but the difference in 
perspective. And if it were granted us to read our
writers in the proper focus, then the battle would end
in victory, and we could settle down, with the help of 
critics and historians, to enjoy the fruits.

But here many difficulties arise. For we bring with
us a vision of the world which we have taken from
reality, composed with our own hands, which is there-
fore all bound up with our vanities and our loves. It is
impossible then not to feel injured and insulted if tricks
are played and our own private harmony upset. “Jude
the Obscure” appears, or a new volume of Proust, and
the papers are flooded with protests. Major Gibbs of 
Cheltenham would shoot himself to-morrow if life were
as Hardy paints it; Miss Wiggs of Hampstead must pro-
test that though Proust’s art is wonderful, the real
world, thank God, has nothing in common with the dis-
tortions of a perverted Frenchman. Both gentleman and
lady are trying to control the novelists’ perspective so
that it shall resemble and reinforce their own. But the 
great writer—the Hardy, the Proust—goes his way,
regardless of private property, and by the sweat of his
brow brings order from chaos, plants his tree there, his
man here, and lets the robes of the deity flow where he 
will. In those masterpieces, where his vision is clear and
he has achieved order, he inflicts his own perspective
upon us so severely and consistently that as often as not
we suffer that agony of boredom—we are being wrenched
from our supports—tinged with exultation—the view is
beautiful all the same—by which we know a great book
when we see it.

To return to “Robinson Crusoe”—there are those
among us who must admit that it is with tears of bore-
dome, with anguish mixed with exultation that they read
it, for it is a masterpiece, and a masterpiece largely
because De Foe has throughout kept consistently true to
his own sense of perspective. For this reason he thwarts
and flouts us at every turn. His subject—a man alone
on a desert island—evokes in us who have read Shake-
speare and Rousseau, and have our own private idiosyn-
cracy, a vision, shall we say, of sunrises and sunsets, a 
mind driven to reflect upon society and the soul, in its
solitude taking the imprint of every leaf and pebble and
yet steeped in the gulfs of its own bitter waters, into
which at last burst a troop of man-eating men—some such
idea as this rises in outline, and, being false in every 
particular, has to be corrected at every turn. There
are no sunsets and no sunrises; no solitude and no soul.

[new column]

For, as a painter takes his brush and draws a 
line on the blank canvas to which everything in
his picture must conform, so De Foe takes his 
pen and upon the very first page depicts a large
uncompromising solid object—an earthenware pot,
a chopping-block—which we cannot evade or think into 
non-existence. When we are told, that is to say, where 
Crusoe got his name, how his father had the gout, and
how it was the first of September, 1651, that he set sail,
we realize that it is reality, the fact, the substance, that
is going to dominate all the rest. So nature must recede,
furl her wings close to her side, and become no fountain
of awe and splendor, but engine of drought or
harvest; man be reduced as far as possible to a life-
preserving animal; and God shrivel into a magistrate
whose seat, cloudy but doubtless convenient, is only a 
little way above the horizon.

Each sortie of ours in pursuit of information upon
those cardinal points of perspective—God, man, nature
—is snubbed back with ruthless common sense. Robin-
son Crusoe thinks of God: “sometimes I would expostu-
late with myself, why providence should thus completely
ruin its creatures . . . . But something always return’d
swift upon me to check these thoughts.” God does not
exist. He thinks of nature, the fields “adorn’d with
flowers and grass, and full of very fine woods, “but the
important thing is that they harbour an abundance of
parrots, one of which, if caught, might be tamed and
taught to speak. Nature does not exist. He 
considers the dead, whom he has killed himself. It is of
the utmost importance that they should be buried at
once, for “they lay open to the sun and would presently 
be offensive.” Death does not exist. Nothing exists
except an earthenware pot. Finally, that is to say, we
are forced back upon what De Foe gives us, and then per-
ceive how, like a great artist, he has forgone this, dared
that, in order to bring the prime quality which he knows
he possesses to perfection—a sense of reality—into supreme
relief. Any enthusiasm for God, any introspection into
the soul, any feeling for the beauty of nature would have
weakened the massive effect of fact. As it is, nothing 
is allowed to move out of its sphere by a hairsbreadth;
no shadow mitigates the solidity of any object. Every
ingenuity is made use of—now a slip in a name, now
a detail needlessly given, now a catalogue inserted—to
heighten the sense of reality. The result is that we
believe implicitly and imbibe without a shadow of doubt
the full value of facts; bake, build, dig, and store with
a belief in the necessity of all these processes which re-
news our delight in them until it becomes serious and 
intent like a child’s delight; expand incidents, like those
of the wild cat, of the footprint, of the dying goat in
the cave, to their full size and importance; and then as
the story moves on with a regular normal march, it
achieves a certain grandeur by its perfect seriousness,
and by the dignity of its truth rouses in us sensations of
sublimity and romance for which there is no warrant in
the actual facts. None of Stevenson’s romances, with
all their art, have the same power, for they lack serious-
ness; no one object is believed in with sufficient
conviction to compel the rest to harmony. But
De Foe, reiterating that nothing but a plain
earthenware pot stands in the foreground, and that to
its plainness and earthiness everything else must give 
way, finally ropes the whole universe into harmony. And
is there any reason, we ask ourselves as we shut the 
book, why the perspective that an earthenware pot re-
quires should not satisfy us as completely, once it is
grasped, as man himself, in all his gloom and confusion,
with a broken background behind him of Alps and