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TALFOURD'S MISCELLANIES .
ON BRITISH NOVELS AND ROMANCES, INTRODUCTORY TO A
SERIES OF CRITICISMS ON THE LIVING NOVELISTS.
(New MONTHLY MAGAZINE.]
We regard the authors of the best novels | fair and glistening eyes in moments snatched and romances as among the truest benefactors from repose, and beneath counters and shopof their species. Their works have often con- boards minister delights “secret, sweet, and veyed, in the most attractive form, lessons of precious.” It is possible that, in particular the most genial wisdom. But we do not prize instances, their effects may be baneful; but, on them so much in reference to their immediate the whole, we are persuaded they are good. aim, or any individual traits of nobleness with The world is not in danger of becoming too which they may inform the thoughts, as for romantic. The golden threads of poesy are not their general tendency to break up that cold too thickly or too closely interwoven with the and debasing selfishness with which the souls ordinary web of existence. Sympathy is the of so large a portion of mankind are encrusted. first great lesson which man should learn. It They give to a vast class, who by no means will be ill for him if he proceeds no farther; if would be carried beyond the most contracted his emotions are but excited to roll back on his range of emotion, an interest in things out of heart, and to be fostered in luxurious quiet. themselves, and a perception of grandeur and But unless he learns to feel for things in which of beauty, of which otherwise they might ever he has no personal interest, he can achieve have lived unconscious. Pity for fictitious suf- nothing generous or noble. This lesson is in ferings is, indeed, very inferior to that sympa- reality the universal moral of all excellent rothy with the universal heart of man which mances. How mistaken are those miserable inspires real self-sacrifice; but it is better even reasoners who object to them as giving "false to be moved by its tenderness, than wholly to be pictures of life-of purity too glossy and etheignorant of the joy of natural tears. How real-of friendship too deep and confiding—of many are there for whom poesy has no charm, love which does not shrink at the approach of and who have derived only from romances ill, but looks on tempests and is never shaken," those glimpses of disinterested heroism and because with these the world too rarely blosideal beauty, which alone “make them less for. soms! Were these things visionary and unlorn," in their busy career! The good house- real, who would break the spell, and bid the dewife, who is employed all her life in the seve- licious enchantment vanish? The soul will rest drudgery, has yet some glimmerings of a not be the worse for thinking too well of its state and dignity above her station and age, kind, or believing that the highest excellence and some dim vision of meek, angelic suffer- is within the reach of its exertions. But these ing, when she thinks of the well-thumbed vo- things are not unreal; they are shadows, inlume of Clarissa Harlowe, which she found, deed, in themselves; but they are shadows cast when a girl, in some old recess, and read, with from objects stately and eternal. Man can breathless eagerness, ai stolen times and mo- never imagine that which has no foundation in ments of hasty joy. I'm careworn lawyer or his nature. The virtues he conceives are not politician, encircled w: · all kinds of petty the mere pageantry of his thought. We feel anxieties, thinks of the A abian Nights Enter- their truth-not their historic or individual tainments, which he de, ured in his joyful truth—but their universal truth, as reflexes of school-days, and is once n re young, and in- human energy and power. It would be enough nocent, and happy. If the s! rnest puritan were for us to prove that the imaginative glories acquainted with Parson A ams, or with Dr. which are shed around our being, are far Primrose, he could not hare the clergy. If brighter than “the light of common day," which novels are not the deepest eachers of hu- mere vulgar experience in the course of the manity, they have, at least, the widest range. world diffuses. But, in truth, that radiance is They lend to genius "lighter wings to fly." not merely of the fancy, nor are its influences They are read where Milton and Shakspeare lost when it ceases immediately to shine on are only talked of, and where even their names our path. It is holy and prophetic. . The best are never heard. They nestle gently beneath joys of childhood—its boundless aspirations the covers of unconscious sofas, are read by and gorgeous dreams, are the sure indications
of the nobleness of its final heritage. All the purity of an angel. She is at the same time softenings of evil to the moral vision by the one of the grandest of tragic heroines, and the gentleness of fancy, are proofs that evil itself | divinest of religious enthusiasts. Clarissa shall perish. Our yearnings after ideal beauty alone is above her. Clementina steps statelily show that the home of the soul which feels in her very madness, amidst " the pride, pomp, them, is in a lovelier world. And when man and circumstance" of Italian nobility; Clarissa describes high virtues, and instances of no- is triumphant, though violated, deserted, and bleness, which rarely light on earth; so sub- encompassed by vice and infamy. Never can lime that they expand our imaginations beyond we forget that amazing scene, in which, on the their former compass, yet so human that they effort of her mean seducer to renew his outmake our hearts gush with delight; he disco- rages, she appears in all the radiance of menvers feelings in his own breast, and awakens tal purity, among the wretches assembled to sympathies in ours, which shall assuredly one witness his triumph, where she startles them by day have real and stable objects to rest on ! her first appearance, as by a vision from
The early times of England-unlike those of above; and holding the penknife to her breast, Spain-were not rich in chivalrous romances. with her eyes lifted to heaven, prepares to die, The imagination seems to have been chilled if her craven destroyer advances, striking the by the manners of the Norman conquerors. vilest with deep awe of goodness, and walkThe domestic contests for the disputed throne, ing placidly, at last, from the circle of her foes, with their intrigues, battles, and executions, none of them daring to harm her! How pahave none of that rich, poetical interest, which thetic, above all other pathos in the world, are attended the struggles for the Holy Sepulchre. those snatches of meditation which she comNor, in the golden age of English genius, were mits to the paper, in the first delirium of her there any very remarkable works of pure fic-wo! How delicately imagined are her prepa. tion. Since that period to the present day, rations for that grave in which alone she can however, there has been a rich succession of find repose ! Cold must be the hearts of those novels and romances, each increasing the who can conceive them as too elaborate, or stores of innocent delight, and shedding on hu- who can venture to criticise them. In this man life some new tint of tender colouring. novel all appears most real; we feel enve
The novels of Richardson are at once loped, like Don Quixote, by a thousand among the grandest and the most singular crea threads; and like him, would we rather retions of human genius. They combine an ac- main so for ever, than break one of their silken curate acquaintance with the freest libertinism, fibres. Clarissa Harlowe is one of the books and the sternest professions of virtue-a sport- which leave us different beings from those ing with vicious casuistry, and the deepest which they find us. “ Sadder and wiser" do horror of free-thinking—the most stately ideas we arise from its perusal. of paternal authority, and the most elaborate Yet when we read Fielding's novels after display of its abuses. Prim and stiff, almost those of Richardson, we feel as if a stupenwithont parallel, the author perpetually treads dous pressure were removed from our souls. on the very borders of indecorum, but with a We seem suddenly to have left a palace of solemn and assured step, as if certain that he enchantment, where we have pasi through could never fall. “The precise, strait-laced long galleries filled with the most gorgeous Richardson,” says Mr. Lamb in one of the pro-images, and illumined by a light not quite found and beautiful notes to his specimens, human nor yet quite divine, into the fresh air, “has strengthened vice from the mouth of and the common ways of this “bright and Lovelace, with entangling sophistries, and ab- breathing world." We travel on the high struse pleas against her adversary virtue, road of humanity, yet meet in it pleasanter which Sedley, Villiers, and Rochester wanted companions, and catch more delicious snatches depth of libertinism sufficient to have invent- of refreshment, than ever we can hope else. ed.” He had, in fact, the power of making any where to enjoy. The mock heroic of Fieldset of notions, however fantastical, appear asing, when he condescends to that ambiguous "truths of holy writ,” to his readers. This he style, is scarcely less pleasing than its stately did by the authority with which he disposed of prototype. It is a sort of spirited defiance to all things, and by the infinite minuteness of his fiction, on the behalf of reality, by one who details. His gradations are so gentle, that we knew full well all the strongholds of that do not at any one point hesitate to follow him, nature which he was defending. There is not and should descend with him to any depth in Fielding much of that which can properly before we perceived that our path had been be called ideal—if we except the character of unequal. By the means of this strange magic, Parson Adams; but his works represent life we become anxious for the marriage of Pa- as more delightful than it seems to common mela with her base master; because the author experience, by disclosing those of its dear imhas so imperceptibly wrought on us the belief munities, which we little think of, even when of an awful distance between the rights of an we enjoy them. How delicious are all his reesquire and his servant, that our imaginations freshments at all his inns! How vivid are regard it in the place of all moral distinctions. the transient joys of his heroes, in their After all, the general impression made on us checkered course-how full and overflowing by his works is virtuous. Clementina is to are their final raptures! His Tom Jones is the soul a new and majestic image, inspired by quite unrivalled in plot, and is to be rivalled virtue and by love, which raises and refines its only in his own works for felicitous delineconceptions. She has all the depth and in-ation of character. The little which we have tensity of the Italian character, with all the told us of Allworthy, especially that which re
lates to his feelings respecting his deceased | fair; the blameless vanities of his daughters, wife, makes us feel for him, as for one of the and his resignation under his accumulated best and most revered friends of our child- sorrows, are among the best treasures of mehood. Was ever the "soul of goodness in mory. The pastoral scenes in this exquisite things evil" better disclosed, than in the tale are the sweetest in the world. The scents scruples and the dishonesty of Black George, of the hay-field, and of the blossoming hedgethat tenderest of gamekeepers, and truest of rows, seem to come freshly to our senses. thieves ? Did ever health, good-humour, frank- The whole romance is a tenderly-coloured heartedness, and animal spirits hold out so picture, in little, of human nature's most freshly against vice and fortune as in the genial qualities. hero? Was ever so plausible a hypocrite as De Foe is one of the most extraordinary of Blifil, who buys a Bible of Tom Jones so de- English authors. His Robinson Crusoe is lightfully, and who, by his admirable imitation deservedly one of the most popular of novels. of virtue, leaves it almost in doubt, whether, It is usually the first read, and always among by a counterfeit so dexterous, he did not merit the last forgotten. The interest of its scenes some share of her rewards ? Who shall gain in the uninhabited island is altogether pesay the cherry lips of Sophia Western ? The culiar; since there is nothing to develope the story of Lady Bellaston we confess to be a character but deep solitude. Man, there, is blemish. But if there be any vice left in the alone in the world, and can hold communion work, the fresh atmosphere diffused over all only with nature, and nature's God. There is its scenes, will render it innoxious. Joseph nearly the same situation in Philoctetes, that Andrews has far less merit as a story—but it sweetest of the Greek tragedies; but there we depicts Parson Adams, whom it does the heart only see the poor exile as he is about to leave good to think on. He who drew this cha- his sad abode, to which he has become atracter, if he had done nothing else, would not tached, even with a child-like cleaving. In have lived in vain. We fancy we can see Robinson Crusoe, life is stripped of all its him with his torn cassock, (in honour of his social joys, yet we feel how worthy of cherishhigh profession,) his volumes of sermons, ing it is, with nothing but silent nature to which we really wish had been printed, and cheer it. Thus are nature and the soul, left his Æschylus, the best of all the editions of with no other solace, represented in their that sublime tragedian! Whether he longs native grandeur and intense communion. after his own sermons against vanity-or is With how fond an interest do we dwell on absorbed in the romantic tale of the fair Leo- all the exertions of our fellow-man, cut off Dora-or ses his ox-like fists in defence of from his kind; watch his growing plantations the fairer Fanny, he equally imbodies in his as they rise, and seem to water them with our person, “ the homely beauty of the good old tears! The exceeding vividness of all the cause,” of high thoughts, pure imaginations, descriptions are more delightful when comand manners unspotted by the world.
bined with the loneliness and distance of the Smollet seems to have had more touch of scene “placed far amid the melancholy main" romance than Fielding, but not so profound in which we become dwellers. We have and intuitive a knowledge of humanity's hid- grown so familiar with the solitude, that the den treasures. There is nothing in his works print of man's foot seen in the sand seems to comparable to Parson Adams; but then, on appal us as an awful thing !—The Family Inthe other hand, Fielding has not any thing of structor of this author, in which he inculcates the kind equal to Strap. Partridge is dry, and weightily his own notions of puritanical dehard, compared with this poor barber-boy, meanour and parental authority, is very with his generous overflowings of affection. curious. It is a strange mixture of narrative Roderick Random, indeed, with its varied de- and dialogue, fanaticism and nature; but all lineation of life, is almost a romance. Its done with such earnestness that the sense of hero is worthy of his name. He is the sport its reality never quits us. Nothing, however, of fortune rolled about through the “many can be more harsh and unpleasing than the ways of wretchedness," almost without re- impression which it leaves. It does injustice sistance, but ever catching those tastes of joy both to religion and the world. It represents which are everywhere to be relished by those the innocent pleasures of the latter as deadly who are willing to receive them. We seem sins, and the former as most gloomy, austere, to roll on with him, and get delectably giddy and exclusive. One lady resolves on poisonin his company.
ing her husband, and another determines to The humanity of the Vicar of Wakefield is go to the play, and the author treats both less deep than that of Roderick Random, but offences with a severity nearly equal! sweeter tinges of fancy are cast over it. The Far different from this ascetic novel is that sphere in which Goldsmith's powers moved best of religious romances, the Fool of Quality. was never very extensive, but within it he The piety there is at once most deep and most discovered all that was good, and shed on it benign. There is much, indeed, of eloquent the tenderest lights of his sympathizing ge- mysticism, but all evidently most heartfelt nius. No one ever excelled so much as he in and sincere. The yearnings of the soul after depicting amiable follies and endearing weak- universal good and intimate communion with nesses. His satire makes us at once smile at the divine nature were never more nobly and love all that he so tenderly ridicules. shown. The author is most prodigal of his The good Vicar's trust in Monogamy, his intellectual wealth_"his bounty is as boundson's purchase of the spectacles, his own sale less as the sea, his love as deep." He gives of his horse to his solema admirer at the to his chief characters riches
endless as the
spiritual stores of his own heart. It is, indeed, (of gratitude, Mrs. Radcliffe's wild and won. only the last which gives value to the first in drous tales. When we read them, the world his writings. It is easy to endow men with seems shut out, and we breathe only in an enmillions on paper, and to make them willing chanted region, where lover's lutes tremble to scatter them among the wretched; but it is over placid waters, mouldering castles rise the corresponding bounty and exuberance of conscious of deeds of blood, and the sad voices the author's soul, which here makes the mo- of the past echo through deep vaults and lonely ney sterling, and the charity divine. The galleries. There is always majesty in her terhero of this romance always appears to our rors. She produces more effect by whispers imagination like a radiant vision encircled and slender hints than ever was attained by with celestial glories. The stories introduced the most vivid display of horrors. Her conin it are delightful exceptions to the usual rule clusions are tame and impotent almost without by which such incidental tales are properly example. But while her spells actually operegarded as impertinent intrusions. That of rate, her power is truly magical. Who can David Doubtful is of the most romantic in- ever forget the scene in the Romance of the terest, and at the same time steeped in feeling Forest, where the marquis, who has long the most profound. But that of Clement and sought to make the heroine the victim of licenhis wife is perhaps the finest. The scene in tious love, after working on her protector, over which they are discovered, having placidly whom he has a mysterious influence, to steal lain down to die of hunger together, in gentle at night into her chamber, and when his tremsubmission to Heaven, depicts a quiescence bling listener expects only a requisition for the most sublime, yet the most affecting. No- delivering her into his hands, replies to the thing can be more delightful than the sweeten- question of “then-to-night, my Lord!” “Adeing ingredients in their cup of sorrow. The laide dies”-or the allusions to the dark veil in heroic act of the lady to free herself from her the Mysteries of Udolpho-or the stupendous ravisher's grasp, her trial and her triumphant scenes in Spalatro's cottage? Of all romance acquittal, have a grandeur above that of writers Mrs. Radcliffe is the most romantic. tragedy. The genial spirit of the author's The present age has produced a singular faith leads him to exult especially in the re- number of authors of delightful prose fiction, pentance of the wicked. No human writer on whom we intend to give a series of critiseems ever to have hailed the contrite with so cisms. We shall begin with MacKENZIE, cordial a welcome. His scenes appear over- whom we shall endeavour to compare with spread with a rich atmosphere of tenderness, Sterne, and for this reason we have passed which softens and consecrates all things. over the works of the latter in our present cur
We would not pass over, without a tribute sory view of the novelists of other days.
[New MONTHLY MAGAZINE.)
ALTHOUGI our veneration for Mackenzie has | appreciation from the critics. It has its own induced us to commence this series of articles genuine and peculiar beauties, which we love with an attempt to express our sense of his the more the longer we feel them. Its consegenius, we scarcely know how to criticise its crations are altogether drawn from the soul. exquisite creations. The feelings which they The gentle tinges which it casts on human life have awakened within us are too old and too are shed, not from the imagination or the fancy, sacred almost for expression. We scarcely but from the affections. It represents, indeed, dare to scrutinize with a critic's ear, the blend- humanity as more tender, its sorrows as more ing notes of that sad and soft music of human- gentle, its joys as more abundant than they ity which they breathe. We feel as if there appear to common observers. But this is not were a kind of privacy in our sympathies with effected by those influences of the imagination them-as though they were a part of ourselves, which consecrate whatever they touch, which which strangers knew not-and as if in pub- detect the secret analogies of beauty, and bring licly expressing them, we were violating the kindred graces from all parts of nature to sanctities of our own souls. We must recol-heighten the images which they reveal. It lect, however, that our readers know them as affects us rather by casting off from the soul well as we do, and then to dwell with them those impurities and littlenesses which it contenderly on their merits will seem like dis-tracts in the world, than by foreigó aids. It coursing of the long-cherished memories of appeals to those simple emotions which are friends we had in common, and of sorrows not the high prerogatives of genius, but which participated in childhood.
are common to all who are “made of one The purely sentimental style in which the blood," and partake in one primal sympathy. tales of Mackenzie are written, though deeply The holiest feelings, after all, are those which felt by the people, has seldom met with due I would be the most common if gross selfish
ness and low ambition froze not "the genial| as sacred treasures. The sorrows over which current of the soul.” The meanest and most it sheds its influence are “ill-bartered for the ungifted have their gentle remembrances of garishness of joy;" for they win us softly from early days. Love has tinged the life of the life, and fit us to die smiling. It endures, not artisan and the cottager with something of the only while fortune changes, but while opinions romantic. The course of none has been along vary, which the young enthusiast fondly hoped so beaten a road that they remember not fondly would never forsake him. It remains when some resting-places in their journeys; some the unsubstantial pageants of goodliest hope turns of their path in which lovely prospects vanish. It binds the veteran to the child by broke in upon them; some soft plats of green ties which no fluctuations even of belief can refreshing to their weary feet. Confiding love, alter. It preserves the only identity, save that generous friendship, disinterested humanity, of consciousness, which man with certainty require no recondite learning, no high imagi- retains-connecting our past with our present dation, to enable an honest heart to appreciate being by delicate ties, so subtle that they viand feel them. Too often, indeed, are the sim- brate to every breeze of feeling; yet so strong plicities of nature and the native tendernesses that the tempests of life have not power to of the soul nipped and chilled by those anxie-break them. It assures us that what we have ties which lie on them “like an untimely frost.” been we shall be, and that our human hearts “ The world is too much with us.” We be shall vibrate with their first sympathies while come lawyers, politicians, merchants, and for the species shall endure. get that we are men, and sink in our transitory We think that, on the whole, Mackenzie is vocations that character which is to last for the first master of this delicious style. Sterne, ever. A tale of sentiment-such as those of doubtless, has deeper_touches of humanity in that honoured veteran whose works we would some of his works. But there is no sustained now particularly remember-awakens all these feeling—no continuity of emotion-no extendpulses of sympathy with our kind, of whose ed range of thought, over which the mind can beatings we had become almost unconscious. brood in his ingenious and fantastical writings. It does honour to humanity by stripping off its His spirit is far too mercurial and airy to suffer artificial disguises. Its magic is not like that him tenderly to linger over those images of by which Arabian enchanters raised up glit- sweet humanity which he discloses. His cletering spires, domes, and palaces by a few ca- verness breaks the charm which his feeling balistic words; but resembles their power to spreads, as by magic, around us.
His exquidisclose veins of precious ore where all seemed site sensibility is ever counteracted by his persterile and blasted. It gently puts aside the ceptions of the ludicrous, and his ambition brambles which overcast the stream of life, after the strange. No harmonious feeling and lays it open to the reflections of those deli- breathes from any of his pieces. He sweeps cate clouds which lie above it in the heavens. " that curious instrument, the human heart," It shows to us the soft undercourses of feeling, with hurried fingers, calling forth in rapid which neither time nor circumstances can succession its deepest and its liveliest tones, wholly stop; and the depth of affection in the and making only marvellous discord. His soul, which nothing but sentiment itself can pathos is, indeed, most genuine while it lasts ; fathom. It disposes us to pensive thought, but the soul is not suffered to cherish the feelexpands the sympathies and makes all the ing which it awakens. He does not shed, like half-forgotten delights of youth “come back Mackenzie, one mild light on the path of life; upon our hearts again," to soften and to but scatters on it wild coruscations of evercheer us.
shifting brightness, which, while they someToo often has the sentiment of which we times disclose spots of inimitable beauty, have spoken been confounded with sickly af- often do but fantastically play over objects fectations in a common censure. But no things dreary and revolting. All in Mackenzie is can be more opposite than the paradoxes of calm, gentle, harmonious, No play of misthe inferior order of German sentimentalists timed wit, no flourish of rhetoric, no train of and the works of a writer like Mackenzie. philosophical speculation, for a moment diReal sentiment is the truest, the most genuine, verts our sympathy. Each of his best works and the most lasting thing on earth. It is more is like one deep thought, and the impression ancient as well as more certain in its opera- which it leaves, soft, sweet, and undivided as tions than the reasoning faculties. We know the summer evening's holiest and latest sigh. and feel before we think; we perceive before The only exception which we can make to we compare; we enjoy before we believe. As this character, is the Man of the World. Here the evidence of sense is stronger than that of the
attempt to obtain intricacy of plot disturbs. testimony, so the light of our inward eye more the emotion which, in the other works of the truly shows to us the secrets of the heart than author, is so harmoniously excited. A tale of the most elaborate process of reason. Riches, sentiment should be most simple. Its whole honours, power, are transitory – the things effect depends on its keeping the tenor of its which appear, pass away—the shadows of life predominant feeling unbroken. Another dealone are stable and unchanging. Of the re- fect in this story is, the length of time over collections of infancy nothing can deprive us. which it spreads its narrative. Sindall, alone, Love endures, even if its object perishes, and connects the two generations which it emnurtures the soul of the mourner. Sentiment braces, and he is too mean and uninteresting has a kind of divine alchymy, rendering grief thus to appear both as the hero and the chorus. itself the source of tenderest thoughts and far-When a story is thus continued from a mother reaching desires, which the sufferer cherishes to a daughter, it seems to have no legitimate