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less youth, and to bear without shrinking the keenest of mortal agonies. In the fierce and hunted child of the mist—in the daring and reckless libertine Staunton—in the fearful Elspeth—in the vengeful wife of M.Gregor— are traits of wild and irregular greatness, fragments of might and grandeur, which show how noble and sacred a thing the heart of man is, in spite of its strangest debasements and perversions. How does the inimitable portrait of Claverhouse at first excite our hatred for that carelessness of human misery, that contempt for the life of his fellows, that cold hauteur and finished indifference which are so vividly depicted;—and yet how does his mere soldierly enthusiasm redeem him at last, and almost persuade us that the honour and fame of such a man were cheaply purchased by a thousand lives! We can scarcely class Rob Roy among these mingled characters. He has nothing but the name and the fortune of an outlaw and a robber. He is, in truth, one of the noblest of heroes—a Prince of the hether and the rock—whose very thirst for vengeance is tempered and harmonized by his fondness for the wild and lovely scenes of his home. Indeed the influences of majestic scenery are to be perceived tinging the rudest minds which the author has made to expatiate amidst its solitudes. The passions even of Burley and of Macbriar borrow a grace from the steep crags, the deep masses of shade, and the silent caves, among which they were nurtured, as the most rapid and perturbed stream which rushes through a wild and romantic region bears some reflection of noble imagery on its impetuous surface. To some of his less stern but unlettered personages, nature seems to have been a kindly instructor, nurturing high thoughts within them, and well supplying to them all the lack of written wisdom. The wild sublimity of Meg Merrilies is derived from her long converse with the glories of creation; the floating clouds have lent to her something of their grace; she has contemplated the rocks till her soul is firm as they, and gazed intently on the face of nature until she has become half acquainted with its mysteries. The old king's beadman has not journeyed for years in vain among the hills and woods; their beauty has sunk into his soul; and his days seem bound each to each by “natural piety,” which he has learned among them. That we think there is much of true poetical genius—much of that which softens, refines, and elevates humanity in the works of this author—may be inferred from our remarks on his power of imbodying human character. The gleams of a soft and delicate fancy are tenderly cast over many of their scenes— heightening that which is already lovely, relieving the gloomy, and making even the thin blades of barren regions shine refreshingly on the eyes. We occasionally meet with a pure and pensive beauty, as in Pattieson's description of his sensations in his evening walks after the feverish drudgery of his school— with wild yet graceful fantasies, as in the songs of Davie Gellatly—or with visionary and aerial shapes, like the spirit of the House of Avenel. But the poetry of this author is, for
the most part, of a far deeper cast;-flowing from his intense consciousness of the mysteries of our nature, and constantly impressing on our minds the high sanctities and the mortal destiny of our being. No one has ever made so impressive a use of the solemnities of life and death—of the awfulness which rests over the dying, and renders all their words and actions sacred—or of the fond retrospection, and the intense present enjoyment, snatched fearfully as if to secure it from fate, which are the peculiar blessings of a short and uncertain existence. Was ever the robustness of life—the mantling of the strong current of joyous blood —the high animation of health, spirits, and a stout heart, more vividly brought before the mind than in the description of Frank Kennedy's demeanour as he rides lustily forth, never to return 1—or the fearful change from this hearty enjoyment of life to the chillness of mortality, more deeply impressed on the imagination than in all the minute examinations of the scene of his murder, the traces of the deadly contest, the last marks of the struggling footsteps, and the description of the corpse at the foot of the crag" Can a scene of mortality be conceived more fearful than that where Bertram, in the glen of Dernclugh, witnesses the last agonies of one over whom Meg Merrilies is chanting her wild ditties to soothe the passage of the spirit? What a stupendous scene is that of the young fisher's funeral—the wretched father writhing in the contortions of agony—the mother silent in tender sorrow—the motley crowd assembled to partake of strange festivity—and the old grandmother fearfully linking the living to the dead, now turning her wheel in apathy and unconsciousness, now drinking with frightful mirth to many “such merry meetings,” now, to the astonishment of the beholders, rising to comfort her son, and intimating with horrid solemnity that there was more reason to mourn for her than for the departed' Equal in terrific power, is the view given us of the last confession and death of that “awful woman”—her intense perception of her long past guilt, with her deadness to all else—her yet quenchless hate to the object of her youthful vengeance, animating her frame with unearthly fire—her dying fancies that she is about to follow her mistress, and the broken images of old grandeur which flit before her as she perishes. These things are conceived in the highest spirit of tragedy, which makes life and death meet together, which exhibits humanity stripped of its accidents in all its depth and height, which impresses us at once with the victory of death, and of the eternity of those energies which it appears to subdue. There are also in these works, situations of human interest as strong as ever were invented—attended too with all that high apparel of the imagination, which renders the images of fear and anguish majestical. Such is that scene in the lone house after the defeat of the Covenanters, where Morton finds himself in the midst of a band of zealots, who regard him as given by God into their hands as a victim—where he is placed before the clock to gaze on the advances of the hand to the hour when he is to be slain,
amidst the horrible devotion of his foes. The whole scene is, we think, without an equal in the conceptions which dramatic power has been able to imbody. Its startling unexpectedness, yet its perfect probability to the imagination—the high tone and wild enthusiasm of character in the murderers—the sacrificial cast of their intended deed in their own raised and perverted thoughts—the fearful view given to the bodily senses of their prisoner of his remaining moments by the segment of the circle yet to be traversed by the finger of the clock before him, enable us to participate in the workings of his own dizzy soul, as he stands “awaiting till the sword destined to slay him crept out of its scabbard gradually, and, as it were by straw-breadths,” and condemned to drink the bitterness of death “drop by drop,” while his destined executioners seem “to alter their forms and seatures like the spectres in a feverish dream ; their features become larger and their faces more disturbed;” until the beings around him appear actually demons, the walls seem to drop with blood, and “the light tick of the clock thrills on his ear with such loud, painful distinctness, as if each sound were the prick of a bodkin inflicted on the naked nerve of the organ.” The effect is even retrospectively heightened by the heroic deaths of the Covenanters immediately succeeding, which give a dignity and a consecration to their late terrific design. The trial and execution of Fergus MacIvor are also, in the most exalted sense of the term, tragical. They are not only of breathless interest from the external circumstances, nor of moral grandeur from the heroism of Fergus and his follower, but of poetic dignity from that power of imagination which renders for a time the rules of law sublime as well as fearful, and gives to all the formalities of a trial more than a judicial majesty. It is seldom, indeed, that the terrors of our author offend or shock us, because they are accompanied by that reconciling power which softens without breaking the current of our sympathies. But there are some few instances of unrelieved horror—or of anguish, which overmasters fantasy—as the strangling of Glossin by Dirk Haiteraich, the administering of the torture to Macbriar, and the bloody bridal of Lammermuir. If we compare these with the terrors of Burley in his cave—where with his naked sword in one hand and his Bible in the other, he wrestles with his own remorse, believing it, in the spirit of his faith, a fiend of Satan—and with the sinking of Ravenswood in the sands; we shall feel how the grandeur of religious thought in the first instance, and the stately scenery of nature and the air of the supernatural in the last, ennoble agony, and render horrors grateful to the soul. We must not pass over, without due acknowledgment, the power of our author in the description of battles, as exhibited in his pictures of the engagement at Preston Pans, of the first skirmish with the Covenanters, in which they overcome Claverhouse, and of the battle in which they were, in turn, defeated. The art by which he contrives at once to give Whe mortal contest in all its breadth and vast
ness—to present it to us in the noblest masses, yet to make us spectators of each individual circumstance of interest in the field, may excite the envy of a painter. We know of nothing resembling those delineations in history or romance, except the descriptions given by Thucydides of the blockade of Plataea, of the Corcyraean massacres, of the attempt to retake Epipolae in the night, of the great naval action before Syracuse, of all the romantic events of the Sicilian war, and the varied miseries of the Athenian army in their retreat under Nicias. In the life and spirit, and minuteness of the details—in the intermingling of allusions to the scenery of the contests—and in the general fervour breathed over the whole, there is a remarkable resemblance between these passages of the Greek historian, and the narratives of Scottish contests by the author of Waverley. There is, too, the same patriotic zeal in both; though the feeling in the former is of a more awful and melancholy cast, and that of the latter more light and cheerful. The Scottish novelist may, like the noblest historians, boast that he has given to his country “Kotzoa or au"—a possession for ever! It remains that we should say a word on the use made of the supernatural in these romances. There is, in the mode of its employment, more of gusto—more that approaches to an actual belief in its wonders, than in the works of any other author of these incredulous times. Even Shakspeare himself, in his remote age, does not appear to have drank in so deeply the spirit of superstition as our novelist of the nineteenth century. He treats, indeed, all the fantasies of his countrymen with that spirit of allowance and fond regard with which he always touches on human emotions. But he does not seem to have heartily partaken in them as awful realities. His witches have power to excite wonder, but | little to chill men's bloods. Ariel, the visions of Prospero's enchanted isle, the “quaint fairies and the dapper elves” of the Midsummer Night's Dream glitter on the fancy, in a thousand shapes of dainty loveliness, but never affect us otherwise than as creations of the poet's brain. Even the ghost in Hamlet does not appal us half so fearfully as many a homely tale which has nothing to recommend it but the earnest belief of its tremulous reciter. There is little magic in the web of life, notwithstanding all the variety of its shades, as Shakspeare has drawn it. Not so is it with our author; his spells have manifest hold on himself, and, therefore, they are very potent with the spirits of his readers. No prophetic intimation in his works is ever suffered to fail. The spirit which appears to Fergus—the astronomical predictions of Guy Mannering—the eloquent curses, and more eloquent blessings, of Meg Merrilies—the dying denunciation of Muckle wrath—the old pro phecy in the Bride of Lammermuir–all are fulfilled to the very letter. The high and joyous spirits of Kennedy are observed by one of the bystanders as intimations of his speedy fate. We are far from disapproving of these touches of the super-human, for they are
made to blend harmoniously with the freshest
hues of life, and without destroying its native colouring, give to it a more solemn tinge. But we cannot extend our indulgence to the seer in the Legend of Montrose, or the Lady of Avenel, in the Monastery; where the spirits of another world do not cast their shadowings on this, but stalk forth in open light, and “in form as palpable” as any of the mortal characters. In works of passion, fairies and ghosts can scarcely be “simple products of the common day,” without destroying all harmony in our perceptions, and bringing the whole into discredit with the imagination as well as the feelings. Fairy tales are among the most exquisite things in the world, and so are delineations of humanity like those of our author; but they can never be blended without debasing the former into chill substances, or refining the latter into airy nothings.
We shall avoid the fruitless task of dwelling on the defects of this author, or the general insipidity of his lovers, on the want of skill in the development of his plots, on the clumsiness of his prefatory introductions, or the impotence of many of his conclusions. He has done his country and his nature no ordinary service. He has brought romance almost into our own times, and made the nobleness of humanity familiar to our daily thoughts. He has enriched history to us by opening such varied and delicious vistas to our gaze, beneath the range of its loftier events and more public characters. May his intellectual treasury prove exhaustless as the purse of Fortunatus, and may he dip into it unsparingly for the delight and the benefit of his species 1
[New Moxthly MAgazine.]
Mn. Gonwix is the most original—not only of living novelists—but of living writers in prose. There are, indeed very few authors of any age who are so clearly entitled to the praise of having produced works, the first perusal of which is a signal event in man's internal history. His genius is by far the most extraordinary, which the great shaking of nations and of principles—the French revolution—impelled and directed in its progress. English literature, at the period of that marvellous change, had become sterile; the rich luxuriance which once overspread its surface, had gradually declined into thin and scattered productions of feeble growth and transient duration. The fearful convulsion which agitated the world of politics and of morals, tore up this shallow and exhausted surface— disclosed vast treasures which had been concealed for centuries—burst open the secret springs of imagination and of thought—and left, instead of the smooth and weary plain, a region of deep valleys and of shapeless hills, of new cataracts and of awful abysses, of spots blasted into everlasting barrenness, and regions of deepest and richest soil. Our author partook in the first enthusiasms of the spirit-stirring season—in “its pleasant exercise of hope and joy”—in much of its speculative extravagance, but in none of its practi. cal excesses. He was roused not into action but into thought; and the high and undying energies of his soul, unwasted on vain efforts for the actual regeneration of man, gathered strength in those pure fields of meditation to which they were limited. The power which might have ruled the disturbed nations with the wildest, directed only to the creation of high theories and of marvellous tales, imparted to its works a stern reality, and a
moveless grandeur which never could spring from mere fantasy. His works are not like those which a man, who is endued with a deep sense of beauty, or a rare faculty of observation, or a sportive wit, or a breathing eloquence, may fabricate as the “idle business” of his life, as the means of profit or of fame. They have more in them of acts than of writings. They are the living and the immortal deeds of a man who must have been a great political adventurer had he not been an author. There is in “Caleb Williams” alone the material—the real burning energy—which might have animated a hundred schemes for the weal or wo of the species. No writer of fictions has ever succeeded so strikingly as Mr. Godwin, with so little adventitious aid. His works are neither gay creatures of the element, nor pictures of external life—they derive not their charm from the delusions of fancy, or the familiarities of daily habitude—and are as destitute of the fascinations of light satire and felicitous delineation of society, as they are of the magic of the Arabian Tales. His style has “no figures and no fantasies,” but is simple and austere. Yet his novels have a power which so enthralls us, that we half doubt, when we read them in youth, whether all our experience is not a dream, and these the only realities. He lays bare to us the innate might and majesty of man. He takes the simplest and most ordinary emotions of our nature, and makes us feel the springs of delight or of agony which they contain, the stupendous force which lies hid within them, and the sublime mysteries with which they are connected. He exhibits the naked wrestle of the passions in a vast solitude, where no object of material beauty disturbs our attention from the august spectacle, and where the least beating of the
presses us with the immortality of virtue; and
heart is audible in the depth of the stillness. while he leaves us painfully to regret the stains
His works endow the abstractions of life with
more of real presence, and make us more intensely conscious of existence than any others with which we are acquainted. They give us a new feeling of the capacity of our nature for action or for suffering, make the currents of our blood mantle within us, and our bosoms heave with indistinct desires for the keenest excitements and the strangest perils. We feel as though we could live years in moments of energetic life, while we sympathize with his breathing characters. In things which before appeared indifferent, we discern sources of the fullest delight or of the most intense anguish. The healthful breathings of the common air seem instinct with an unspeakable rapture. The most ordinary habits which link one season of life to another become the awakeners of thoughts and of remembrances “which do often lie too deep for tears.” The nicest disturbances of the imagination make the inmost fibres of the being quiver with agonies. Passions which have not usually been thought worthy to agitate the soul, now first seem to have their own ardent beatings, and their tumultuous joys. We seem capable of a more vivid life than we have ever before felt or dreamed of, and scarcely wonder that he who could thus give us a new sense of our own vitality, should have imagined that mind might become omnipotent over matter, and that he was able, by an effort of the will, to become corporeally immortal! The intensity of passion which is manifested in the novels of Godwin is of a very different kind from that which burns in the poems of a noble bard, whom he has been sometimes erroneously supposed to resemble. The former sets before us mightiest realities in clear vision; the latter imbodies the phantoms of a feverish dream. The strength of Godwin is the pure energy of unsophisticated nature; that of Lord Byron is the fury of disease. The grandeur of the last is derived from its transitoriness; that of the first from its eternal essence. The emotion in the poet receives no inconsiderable part of its force from its rebound from the dark rocks and giant barriers which seem to confine its rage within narrow boundaries; the feeling of the novelist is in its own natural current deep and resistless. The persons of the bard feel intensely, because they soon shall feel no more ; those of the novelist glow, and kindle, and agonize, because they shall never perish. In the works of both, guilt is often associated with sublime energy; but how dissimilar are the impressions which they leave on the spirit ! Lord Byron strangely blends the moral degradation with the intellectual majesty: so that goodness appears tame, and crime only is honoured and exalted. Godwin, on the other hand, only teaches us bitterly to mourn the evil which has been cast on a noble nature, and to regard the energy of the character not as inseparably linked with vice. but as destined ultimately to subdue it. He makes us everywhere feel that crime is not the native heritage, but the accident, of the species, of which we are members. He im
which the most gifted and energetic characters contract amidst the pollutions of time, he inspires us with hope that these shall pass away for ever. We drink in unshaken confidence the good and the true, which is ever of more value than hatred or contempt for the evil “Caleb Williams,” the earliest, is also the most popular of our author's romances, not because his latter works have been less rich in sentiment and passion, but because they are, for the most part, confined to the development of single characters; while in this there is the opposition and death grapple of two beings, each endowed with poignant sensibilities and quenchless energy. There is no work of fiction which more rivets the attention—no tragedy which exhibits a struggle more sublime, or sufferings more intense, than this; yet to produce the effect, no complicated machinery is employed, but the springs of action are few and simple. The motives are at once common and elevated, and are purely intellectual, without appearing for an instant inadequate to their mighty issues. Curiosity, for instance, which generally seems a low and ignoble motive for scrutinizing the secrets of a man's life, here seizes with strange fascination on a gentle and ingenuous spirit, and supplies it with excitement as fervid, and snatches of delight as precious and as fearful, as those feelings create which we are accustomed to regard as alone worthy to enrapture or to agitate. The involuntary recurrence by Williams to the string of phrensy in the soul of one whom he would die to serve—the workings of his tortures on the heart of Falkland till they wring confidence from him—and the net thenceforth spread over the path of the youth like an invisible spell by his agonized master, surprising as they are, arise from causes so natural and soadequate, that the imagination at once owns them as authentic. The mild beauty of Falkland's natural character, contrasted with the guilt he has incurred, and his severe purpose to lead a long life of agony and crime, that his fame may be preserved spotless, is affecting almost without example. There is a rude grandeur even in the gigantic oppressor Tyrel, which all his disgusting enormities cannot destroy. Independently of the master-spring of interest, there are in this novel individual passages which can never be forgotten. Such are the fearful flight of Emily with her ravisher—the escape of Caleb Williams from prison, and his enthusiastic sensations on the recovery of his freedom, though wounded and almost dying without help-and the scenes of his peril among the robbers. Perhaps this work is the grandest ever constructed out of the simple elements of humanity, without any extrinsic aid from imagination, wit, or memory. In “St. Leon,” Mr. Godwin has sought the stores of the supernatural;-but the “metaphysical aid” which he has condescended to accept is not adapted to carry him farther from nature, but to ensure a more intimate and wide communion with its mysteries. His hero does not acquire the philosopher's stone and the
elixir of immortality to furnish out for himself | hour; but it is ever the peculiar power of Me a dainty solitude, where he may dwell, soothed Godwin to make us feel that there is something with the music of his own undying thoughts, within us which cannot perish! and rejoicing in his severance from his frail “ Fleetwood" has less of our author's chaand transitory fellows. Apart from those racteristic energy than any other of his works. among whom he moves, his yearnings for The earlier parts of it, indeed, where the formasympathy become more intense as it eludes tion of the hero's character, in free rovings him, and his perceptions of the mortal lot of amidst the wildest of nature's scenery, is his species become more vivid and more fond, traced, have a deep beauty which reminds us as he looks on it from an intellectual eminence of some of the holiest imaginations of Wordswhich is alike unassailable to death and to joy. worth. But when the author would follow him Even in this work, where the author has to into the world—through the frolics of college, conduct a perpetual miracle, his exceeding the dissipations of Paris, and the petty disearnestness makes it difficult to believe him a quietudes of matrimonial life--we feel that he fabulist. Listen to his hero, as he expatiates has condescended too far. He is no graceful in the first consciousness of his high preroga- trifler ; he cannot work in these frail and low tives :
materials. There is, however, one scene in "I surveyed my limbs, all the joints and ar- this novel most wild and fearful. This is ticulations of my frame, with curiosity and where Fleetwood, who has long brooded in astonishment. What! exclaimed I, these anguish over the idea of his wife's falsehood, limbs, this complicated but brittle frame shall keeps strange festival on his wedding-daylast for ever! No disease shall attack it; no when, having procured a waxen image of her pain shall seize it; death shall withhold from whom he believes perfidious, and dressed a it for ever his abhorred grasp! Perpetual frightful figure in a uniform to represent her vigour, perpetual activity, perpetual youth, imagined paramour, he locks himself in an shall take up their abode with me! Time shall apartment with these horrid counterfeits, a generate in me no decay, shall not add a wrin. supper of cold meats, and a barrel-organ, on kle to my brow, or convert a hair of my head which he plays the tunes often heard from the to gray! This body was formed to die; this pair he believes guilty, till his silent agony edifice to crumble into dust; the principles of gives place to delirium, he gazes around with corruption and mortality are mixed up in every glassy eyes, sees strange sights and dallies atom of my frame. But for me the laws of with frightful mockeries, and at last tears the nature are suspended, the eternal wheels of the dreadful spectacle to atoms, and is seized with universe roll backward; I am destined to be furious madness. We do not remember, even triumphant over Fate and Time! Months, in the works of our old dramatists, any thing years, cycles, centuries ! To me these are but of its kind comparable to this voluptuous fanas indivisible moments. I shall never become tasy of despair. old; I shall always be, as it were, in the porch "Mandeville" has all the power of its auand infancy of existence; no lapse of years thor's earliest writings; but its main subject shall subtract any thing from my future dura- the development of an engrossing and maddention. I was born under Louis the Twelfth; ing hatred is not one which can excite the life of Francis the First now threatens a human sympathy. There is, however, a bright speedy termination; he will be gathered to his relief to the gloom of the picture, in the angelic fathers, and Henry, his son, will succeed him. disposition of Clifford, and the sparkling loveBut what are princes, and kings, and genera- liness of Henrietta, who appears “full of life, tions of men to me! I shall become familiar and splendour, and joy." "All Mr. Godwin's with the rise and fall of empires ; in a little female heroines have a certain airiness and while the very name of France, my country, radiance-a visionary grace, peculiar to them, will perish from off the face of the earth, and which may at first surprise by their contrast men will dispute about the situation of Paris, to the robustness of his masculine creations. as they dispute about the site of ancient Nine- But it will perhaps be found that the more deeply veh, and Babylon, and Troy. Yet I shall still man is conversant with the energies of his own be young. I shall take my most distant poste- heart, the more will he seek for opposite quarity by the hand; I shall accompany them in lities in woman. their career; and, when they are worn out and Of all Mr. Godwin's writings the choicest in exhausted, shall shut up the tomb over them, point of style is a little essay on Sepulchres." and set forward."
Here his philosophic thought, subdued and This is a strange tale, but it tells like a true sweetened by the contemplation of mortality, one! When we first read it, it seemed as is breathed forth in the gentlest tone. His though it had itself the power of alchemy to " Political Justice,” with all the extravagance steal into our veins, and render us capable of of its first edition, or with all the inconsistenresisting death and age. For a short-too cies of its last, is a noble work, replete with short! a space, all time seemed open to our lofty principle and thought, and often leading personal view-we felt no longer as of yes to the most striking results by a process of the terday; but the grandest parts of our know- severest reasoning. Man, indeed, cannot and jedge of the past seemed mightiest recollec ought not to act universally on its leading doctions of a far-off childhood.
trine that we should in all things seek only “The wars we too remembered of King Nine,
the greatest amount of good without favour or And old Assaracus, and Ibycus divine."
affection ; but it is at least better than the low
selfishness of the world. It breathes also a This was the happy extravagance of an mild and cheerful faith in the progressive ad