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manner, and for the same reason, that the Byronians protest against harmony.
“ A Plot!" they exclaim- Surely no one can think a plot necessary to a novel ! Such an opinion is by much too old fashioned for the present day. The author of Waverly has taught the world better; and has nobly broken the fetters which the necessity of telling a story had imposed on the novelists of older times. Drawing characters, and sketching scenes, are all the qualities, in these indulgent days, necessary for a good novel. Thanks to the Great Unknown, who first discovered other means of interesting readers, than by the excitement of curi. osity, or the production of alarm and sympathy for the fate of human characters led through a series of affecting and interesting adventures!"
The advocates of storyless novels, who in this manner plead the example of the unknown Scottish romancer, seem to forget that his works are not altogether so destitute of plots as they would make us believe. It is true, as we have already observed, the unity of his tales appears to be of less consideration with him than the giving strong colouring to his scenes and characters. But he has alway sufficient story to keep alive expectation ; and if his catastrophe fails, as it generally does, to give satisfaction, the progress of the narrative seldom fails to excite curiosity and inspire an interest in the result. In contemplating his works, we cannot avoid admiring the entire fabric of even the least finished, although we feel that there is something wanting in its construction to make it what it should be. The particular parts, however, are mostly so perfect as to command our unqualified approbation, and so beautiful that they never fail to atone for both the want of contrivance in adapting them to each other, and the remissness in giving to the edifice, when put together, the proper finish.
But it is surely unreasonable to esteem this want of contrivance, and this remissness in finishing, advantageous to his works, or to cite them as improvements in novel writing. They are blemishes, let inconsiderate critics say as they please, and such considerable ones too, that it frequently requires all the fascination possessed by the separate parts of the productions to neutralize the disagreeable effects of these blemishes, and save some of the novels from utter condemnation. If these imperfections in the construction of the Waverly plots did not exist, is there any one who will be hardy enough to say, that the works would not be more perfect, give more entire satisfaction, and obtain more unanimous applause, than they do? At all events, there can be no greater instance of injudicious criticism, than that of eulogizing the defects of these, or any other works of genius ; nor can there be a more absurd fashion in literature, than that of looking upon such defects as models worthy of imitation.
For our parts, we have always thought it dangerous to praise defects, and wrong to imitate them, ro matter how great or glorious the original from which they spring. The world will always, one day or other, see the cheat and desist from supporting it. The wry neck of Alexander the Great, and the hunch back of Richard the Third, could not be permanently converted into personal beauties, although flattery for a time rendered them fashionable. In both cases, the world in a few years resumed its primitive taste, and deformity was again declared to be deformity. Such has always been, and always will be, the fate of bad literature. During the reign of bad taste, it may flourish ; but bad taste seldom reigns long. The whims of fashion which support it, are formed of slight and brittle materials. They are prone to sudden overthrow; and in their fall the veil which false taste throws over the faults of authors, is torn, and the true marks of distinction between the beauties and blemishes of the same production, are exposed to a fairly judging public, and the just and proper character awarded to each.
There is, indeed, in the human mind, a latent relish for truth and nature, which, although the gale of capricious fashion may occasionally drive it astray, sooner or later, returns to the right path, and, in the end, never fails to attain the goal of cor. rect judgment. Absurd opinions and perverted tastes have sometimes arisen to a perfect mania; but reason has generally detected the error. Mankind have often become ashamed of their conduct; and have retraced their steps from the wilderness of whim and folly, to the more genial regions of reason, nature and propriety.
The annals of the world afford us so many instances of this kind of reformation, that we do not despair of again seeing the day, when a book of adventures will be considered the better for having a story to tell ; when exciting the curiosity by narraing a series of properly continues and connected incidents, and interesting the sympathy by a detail of perils and misfortunes overtaking a favourite and deserving character, from which, at last he is relieved by unexpected but probable means, will be acknowledged as useful at least, if not absolutely necessary, to the formation of a good novel. When this reforma- . tion takes place, such books will no longer be misnamed. A series of mere sketches, with scarce a connexion between them, will no longer be called a tule : but sketch-books will be sketchbooks, anni novels will be novels, the former devoted to descriptions, and the latter to narrating a iventures, according to the true lexicographical meaning of the words.
But it may be asked, to what misnamed novels do we allude ? Who are the writers of works of this description, whose contents falsify their titles: No reader of the new school of romances, we should think, need ask these questions. But to such as will ask them, we reply, that we allude to the Galts, the Hoggs, the Lee Gibbons, the Neals, and we regret to say, our justly admired Cooper, and the still more justly admired leader of this school, the Great Unknown.
We wish not to assert that all the works of these novelists are deficient in plots. We know to the contrary; and if we were to assert it, the Spy of Cooper, Guy Mannering, and a few others of the Unknown, would rise in testimony against us. But we fear not to say that the great majority of the works of these writers, are of the storyless kind, and are, therefore, misnamed when they are called novels. That the public have done wrong in patronizing some that are even of this storyless kind, we are not so fastidious as to suppose ; a few of them are interesting as sketches of nature andi manners, and will fairly enough compensate for the time spent in their perusal. This applies, indeed. but to few of them The general mass, we would consider to be incumbrances in any judiciously selected library. Indeed we cannot. at this moment, think of any of
VOL. 1.- No. III. 26
the mere sketch-drawing novels, that, we believe, will receive much favour fro'n posterity, except those of the Great Unknown, and Mr. Cooper's last performance, the Pilot.
We regret that this last mentioned work, which is the best series of marine sketches, we have ever read, should be defective in any particular, especially in one which we conceive so essential to a good novel as that of a well constructed and eventful story. The Pioneers is equally destitute of an interesting story; and as it has but few of the redeeming qualities of the Pilot, we must confess that its perusal lowered the author extremely in our estimation as a novelist. The Spy had greatly exalted our ideas of him, and we expected perhaps too much from the Pioneers. However this may be, when the latter work appeared, we felt extremely disappointed. Six hundred pages of dry, minute description, given in a slovenly, unwieldy, and frequently ungrammatical style, was too great a trial on our patience, when we expected an animated and busy tale, abounding with action and passion, as well as with bold and vigorous representations of scenes and characters. We met with two or three good scenes in this work, but we really thought it unkind in Mr. Cooper, to drag us through two ponderous volumes of lifeless description in order to find them. However his Pilot, story less as it is, has reconciled him to us, and we not only forgive him, but we rejoice that he is so likely to receive from the world all that increase of literary reputation to which such a work so justly entitles him.
The Pilot, it is true, like every other human production has faults. Of these, as well as its beauties, we intend to take an | early occasion to express our opinion more in detail ; and we hope we shall do so, as our duty to the public requires, without permitting either partiality or prejudice towards the author to influence our remarks. In the mean time we must say, that much as we now admire the Pilot, we should have admired it still more, had its plot been more worthy of praise. We hope that in his next novel, Mr. Cooper will join to his admirable manner of describing scenes and characters, a story which will possess all the advantage of unity of plot and variety of incident. By so doingo he may rely on it, that, justly popular, as
he now is, he will become still more so—he will interest more readers and satisfy more critics than he now does, for he will produce what the author of Waverly has produced only in the instance of Guy Mannering-a novel almost perfect.
FOR THE AMERICAN MONTHLY MAGAZINE.
Annals of the Late War.
“ Methinks I hear the sound of times long past
BURNING OF WASHINGTON........A FRAGMENT.
That day I'll ne'er forget!............ The Raid of Reidswire.
with a spirit that had much out-grown The number of his years..........MA'D'S TRAGEDY.-- Beaumont and Fletcher.
RANDOLPH took the sword, and as with a countenance charged with youthful enthusiasm, he held it in his hand, proving its weight, and measuring its length, he sail: (adressing himself to his crippled and aged sire) • May this weapon my dear father, which when wiel:led by your well nerved arm, like Heaven's lightning, brought destruction wherever it struck upon the invaders of our country, fall now as dea:ily, when drawn by me!” “My dearest Randolph ;" cried the anxious and doating mother, her eyes humid with tears, as she beheld the youthful soldier, accoutring himself for battle ; "do not, do not, dwell so much upon this subject ; every word you speak concerning the war, is like a sharp instrument piercing my heart." “Forgive your thoughtless son, my mother:" returned the youth ; " Indeed, if I have wounded thy maternal feelings. it was unintentional;" and with tender solicitude, he drew near his mother, and took her hand in his own. “I believe you, my dear boy I know you wish not to grieve me.” The youth answered not, for his heart was full ; but the kiss lie imprinted upon the pallid cheek of his mother, was sufficiently descriptive of his internal sensations.