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FOR APRIL, 1817.

Art. I. Tales of my Landlord, collected and arranged by Jedediah

Cleishbotham, Schoolmaster and Parish Clerk of Gandercleugh. 4 Vols. 12mo. Price 11. 8s. Edinburgh. 1817. TRUTH,' says one of our best metaphysical writers, is

not the less true, for that some hold it they know not show or why.' There are many general opinions afloat in the world, which we are apt to regard as mere prejudices, because they seem to have no root in the mind, and because many who receive and transmit them, would be at a loss to assign an intelligent reason for holding them; and yet they nevertheless are truths- portions of truth broken off, as it were, from the reasonings in which they had their origin. Prejudices are in fact only the accretions of error that have formed around the truths they envelop, and in rejecting them altogether, we are sure to throw away too much.

A prejudice, and it may appear to some of our readers an unreasonable prejudice, has prevailed among a very large and respectable portion of the community, with respect to those distinguished and entertaining literary productions styled Novels and Romances. There is no question that many works under these titles, have been sufficiently pernicious in their tendency, to justify parental caution as to the indiscriminate admission of them; many that have been little better than artful preparations of moral poison. But a licentious or profane novel affords no sufficient ground for a sweeping condemnation of the whole class, wiiich may possibly comprise some good ones ; the general objection must therefore be established on other grounds. Opinions that rest on mere association of ideas, may properly be denominated prejudices; and that indefinite stigma expressed by a thing's having a bad name, which has rested upon works of this kind, and which has occasioned their being regarded in some instances with a sort of obscure religious horror, may seem to bave no better foundation. When one of these conVol. VII. N. S.

2 C

traband articles has by chance or by stealth found its way into the hands of a young person taught thus to regard them, the increased zest acconıpanying the perusal, has been mingled with surprise at not finding it so very bad. Of late, however, this. prejudice has been giving way in favour of exceptions seeming to respect, but insidiously undermining, its authority; Novels under the unassuming name of tales,-“ Moral Tales, and “ Simple Tales,” and strangest of all, Religious Tales, have found their way in channels where the proscribed name of Novel would immediately have roused alarm. Imboldened by success, modern novelists have assumed a higher tone, have proceeded to give lessons in history, civil and ecclesiastical, on the principles of education and of political economy, in ethics and in divinity. It suits well the superficial character of the age, to bave information or opinions thus insinuated into the mind, without incurring the fatigue of inquiry or of studious attention, and without being exposed to thie rude shock of truths hostile to its prejudices; and the facility with which an Author may by this means make any desired impression on the imagination of his readers, gives him a species of multiplying power in the re-production of his own sentiments, far above what is possessed by any writers who attempt to conduct their readers to a definite opinion, by means of a process

of reasoning, or of the cautious details of history. With regard to the labour that is by this means saved to the writer bimself, we shall have occasion to speak presently; but as to the advantageous effect of this new method of writing philosophy and history, we can compare it to nothing better than the assistance which a certain class of readers derive from what are termed illustrations of our poets, or, as they used to be familiarly denominated, cuts, and which serve at once as a picture to relieve the eye, and as a hieroglyphic to aid the memory. Applied to history, indeed, the art of the novelist may be considered as strictly analogous to landscape gardening. In his hands the most rugged course of events is made to sweep along in the line of beauty; facts the most repulsive, are, by the skilful management of light and shade, made to assume a picturesque aspect; graceful and romantic incidents planted in the foreground, serve either for relief or concealment to the more obstinate features of the scene; and the dark array of truths which frown over the page of history, are thrown into perspective, and mellowed down into a pleasing indistinct grandeur. The omne tulit punctum is thus perfectly realized; for what is more useful than history, and what more pleasing than a. novel? An historical novel, therefore, must possess pre-eminent charms, and the Author of these Tales certainly deserves to be ranked as the very Repton of his art.

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