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spiritual stores of his own heart. It is, indeed, only the last which gives value to the first in his writings. It is easy to endow men with millions on paper, and to make them willing to scatter them among the wretched; but it is the corresponding bounty and exuberance of the author's soul, which here makes the money sterling, and the charity divine. The hero of this romance always appears to our imagination like a radiant vision epcircled with celestial glories. The stories introduced in it are delightful exceptions to the usual rule by which such incidental tales are properly regarded as impertinent intrusions. That of David Doubtful is of the most romantic interest, and at the same time steeped in feeling the most profound. But that of Clement and his wife is perhaps the finest. The scene in which they are discovered, having placidly lain down to die of hunger together, in gentle submission to Heaven, depicts a quiescence the most sublime, yet the most affecting. Nothing can be more delightful than the sweetening ingredients in their cup of sorrow. The heroic act of the lady to free herself from her ravisher's grasp, her trial and her triumphant acquittal, have a grandeur above that of tragedy. The genial spirit of the author's faith leads him to exult especially in the repentance of the wicked. No human writer seems ever to have hailed the contrite with so cordial a welcome. His scenes appear overspread with a rich atmosphere of tenderness, which softens and consecrates all things. We would not pass over, without a tribute
of gratitude, Mrs. Radcliffe's wild and wondrous tales. When we read them, the world seems shut out, and we breathe only in an enchanted region, where lover's lutes tremble over placid waters, mouldering castles rise conscious of deeds of blood, and the sad voices of the past echo through deep vaults and lonely galleries. There is always majesty in her terrors. She produces more effect by whispers and slender hints than ever was attained by the most vivid display of horrors. Her conclusions are tame and impotent almost without example. But while her spells actually operate, her power is truly magical. Who can ever forget the scene in the Romance of the Forest, where the marquis, who has long sought to make the heroine the victim of licentious love, after working on her protector, over whom he has a mysterious influence, to steal at night into her chamber, and when his trembling listener expects only a requisition for delivering her into his hands, replies to the question of “then—to-night, my Lord!” “Adelaide dies”—or the allusions to the dark veil in the Mysteries of Udolpho—or the stupendous scenes in Spalatro's cottage? Of all romance writers Mrs. Radcliffe is the most romantic. The present age has produced a singular number of authors of delightful prose fiction, on whom we intend to give a series of criticisms. We shall begin with MacKenzie, whom we shall endeavour to compare with Sterne, and for this reason we have passed over the works of the latter in our present cursory view of the novelists of other days.
[New MonTHLY MAGAZINE.]
Although our veneration for Mackenzie has induced us to commence this series of articles with an attempt to express our sense of his genius, we scarcely know how to criticise its exquisite creations. The feelings which they have awakened within us are too old and too sacred almost for expression. We scarcely dare to scrutinize with a critic's ear, the blending notes of that sad and soft music of humanity which they breathe. We feel as if there were a kind of privacy in our sympathies with them—as though they were a part of ourselves, which strangers knew not—and as if in publicly expressing them, we were violating the sanctities of our own souls. We must recollect, however, that our readers know them as well as we do, and then to dwell with them tenderly on their merits will seem like discoursing of the long-cherished memories of friends we had in common, and of sorrows participated in childhood.
The purely sentimental style in which the tales of Mackenzie are written, though deeply felt by the people, has seldom met with due
appreciation from the critics. It has its own genuine and peculiar beauties, which we love the more the longer we feel them. Its consecrations are altogether drawn from the soul. The gentle tinges which it casts on human life are shed, not from the imagination or the fancy, but from the affections. It represents, indeed, humanity as more tender, its sorrows as more gentle, its joys as more abundant than they appear to common observers. But this is not effected by those influences of the imagination which consecrate whatever they touch, which detect the secret analogies of beauty, and bring kindred graces from all parts of nature to heighten the images which they reveal. It affects us rather by casting off from the soul those impurities and littlenesses which it contracts in the world, than by foreign aids. It appeals to those simple emotions which are not the high prerogatives of genius, but which are common to all who are “made of one blood,” and partake in one primal sympathy. The holiest feelings, after all, are those which would be the most common if gross selfish ness and low ambition froze not “the genial current of the soul.” The meanest and most ungifted have their gentle remembrances of early days. Love has tinged the life of the artisan and the cottager with something of the romantic. The course of none has been along so beaten a road that they remember not fondly some resting-places in their journeys; some turns of their path in which lovely prospects broke in upon them; some soft plats of green refreshing to their weary feet. Confiding love, generous friendship, disinterested humanity, require no recondite learning, no high imagination, to enable an honest heart to appreciate and feel them. Too often, indeed, are the simplicities of nature and the native tendernesses of the soul nipped and chilled by those anxieties which lie on them “like an untimely frost.” “The world is too much with us.” We become lawyers, politicians, merchants, and forget that we are men, and sink in our transitory vocations that character which is to last for ever. A tale of sentiment—such as those of that honoured veteran whose works we would now particularly remember—awakens all these pulses of sympathy with our kind, of whose beatings we had become almost unconscious. It does honour to humanity by stripping off its artificial disguises. Its magic is not like that by which Arabian enchanters raised up glittering spires, domes, and palaces by a few cabalistic words; but resembles their power to disclose veins of precious ore where all seemed sterile and blasted. It gently puts aside the brambles which overcast the stream of life, and lays it open to the reflections of those delicate clouds which lie above it in the heavens. It shows to us the soft undercourses of feeling, which neither time nor circumstances can wholly stop; and the depth of affection in the soul, which nothing but sentiment itself can fathom. It disposes us to pensive thought— expands the sympathies—and makes all the half-forgotten delights of youth “come back upon our hearts again,” to soften, and to cheer us. Too often has the sentiment of which we have spoken been confounded with sickly af. fectations in a common censure. But no things can be more opposite than the paradoxes of the inferior order of German sentimentalists and the works of a writer like Mackenzie. Real sentiment is the truest, the most genuine, and the most lasting thing on earth. It is more ancient as well as more certain in its operations than the reasoning faculties. We know and feel before we think; we perceive before we compare; we enjoy before we believe. As the evidence of sense is stronger than that of testimony, so the light of our inward eye more truly shows to us the secrets of the heart than the most elaborate process of reason. Riches, honours, power, are transitory—the things which appear, pass away—the shadows of life alone are stable and unchanging. Of the recollections of infancy nothing can deprive us. Love endures, even if its object perishes, and nurtures the soul of the mourner. Sentiment has a kind of divine alchymy, rendering grief itself the source of tenderest thoughts and farreaching desires, which the sufferer cherishes
as sacred treasures. The sorrows over which it sheds its influence are “ill-bartered for the garishness of joy;” for they win us softly from life, and fit us to die smiling. It endures, not only while fortune changes, but while opinions vary, which the young enthusiast fondly hoped would never forsake him. It remains when the unsubstantial pageants of goodliest hope vanish. It binds the veteran to the child by ties which no fluctuations even of belief can alter. It preserves the only identity, save that of consciousness, which man with certainty retains—connecting our past with our present being by delicate ties, so subtle that they vibrate to every breeze of feeling; yet so strong that the tempests of life have not power to break them. It assures us that what we have been we shall be, and that our human hearts shall vibrate with their first sympathies while the species shall endure. We think that, on the whole, Mackenzie is the first master of this delicious style. Sterne, doubtless, has deeper touches of humanity in some of his works. But there is no sustained feeling—no continuity of emotion—no extended range of thought, over which the mind can brood in his ingenious and fantastical writings. His spirit is far too mercurial and airy to suffer him tenderly to linger over those images of sweet humanity which he discloses. His cleverness breaks the charm which his feeling spreads, as by magic, around us. His exquisite sensibility is ever counteracted by his perceptions of the ludicrous, and his ambition after the strange. No harmonious feeling breathes from any of his pieces. He sweeps “that curious instrument, the human heart,” with hurried fingers, calling forth in rapid succession its deepest and its liveliest tones, and making only marvellous discord. His pathos is, indeed, most genuine while it lasts; but the soul is not suffered to cherish the feeling which it awakens. He does not shed, like Mackenzie, one mild light on the path of life; but scatters on it wild coruscations of evershifting brightness, which, while they sometimes disclose spots of inimitable beauty, often do but fantastically play over objects dreary and revolting. All in Mackenzie is calm, gentle, harmonious. No play of mistimed wit, no flourish of rhetoric, no train of philosophical speculation, for a moment diverts our sympathy. Each of his best works is like one deep thought, and the impression which it leaves, soft, sweet, and undivided as the summer evening's holiest and latest sigh. The only exception which we can make to this character, is the Man of the World. Here the attempt to obtain intricacy of plot disturbs the emotion which, in the other works of the author, is so harmoniously excited. A tale of sentiment should be most simple. Its whole effect depends on its keeping the tenor of its predominant feeling unbroken. Another defect in this story is, the length of time over which it spreads its narrative. Sindall, alone, connects the two generations which it embraces, and he is too mean and uninteresting thus to appear both as the hero and the chorus. When a story is thus continued from a mother to a daughter, it seems to have no legitimate boundary. The painful remembrances of the former interferes with our interest for the latter, and the present difficulties of the last deprive us of those emotions of fond retrospection, which the fate of the first would otherwise awaken. Still there are in this tale scenes of pathos delicious as any which even the author himself has drawn. The tender pleasure which the Man of Feeling excites is wholly without alloy. Its hero is the most beautiful personification of gentleness, patience, and meek sufferings, which the heart can conceive. Julia de Roubigné, however, is, on the whole, the most delightful of the author's works. There is, in this tale, enough of plot to keep alive curiosity, and sharpen the interest which the sentiment awakens, without any of those strange turns and perplexing incidents which break the current of sympathy. The diction is in perfect harmony with the subject—“most musical, most melancholy”—with “golden cadences” responsive to the thoughts. There is a plaintive charm in the image presented to us of the heroine, too fair almost to dwell on. How exquisite is the description given of her by her maid, in a letter to her friend, relating to her fatal marriage:—“She was dressed in a white muslin night-gown, with striped lilac and white ribands; her hair was kept in the loose way you used to make me dress it for her at Belville, with two waving curls down one side of her neck, and a braid of little pearls. And to be sure, with her dark, brown locks resting upon it, her bosom looked as pure white as the driven snow. And then her eyes, when she gave her hand to the count! they were cast down, and you might see her eyelashes, like strokes of a pencil, over the white of her skin—the modest gentleness, with a sort of sadness too, as it were, and a gentle heave of her bosom at the same time.” And yet, such is the feeling communicated to us by the whole work, that we are ready to believe even this artless picture an inadequate representation of that beauty which we never cease to feel. How natural and tear-moving is the letter of Savillon to his friend, describing the scenes of his early love, and recalling, with intense vividness, all the little circumstances which aided its progress! What an idea, in a single expression, does Julia give of the depth and the tenderness of her affection, when describing herself as taking lessons in drawing from her lover, sne says that she felt something from the touch of his hand “not the less delightful from carrying a sort of fear along with that delight: it was like a pulse in the soul!" The last scenes of this novel are
matchless in their kind. Never was so much of the terrific alleviated by so much of the pitiful. The incidents are most tragic; yet over them is diffused a breath of sweetness, which softens away half their anguish, and reconciles us to that which remains. Our minds are prepared, long before, for the early nipping of that delicate blossom, for which this world was too bleak. Julia's last interview with Savillon mitigates her doom, partly by the joy her heart has tasted, and which nothing afterwards in life could equal, and partly by the certainty that she must either become guilty or continue wretched. Nothing can be at once sweeter and more affecting than her ecstatic dream after she has taken the fatal mixture, her seraphical playing on the organ, to which the waiting angels seem to listen, and her tranquil recalling the scenes of peaceful happiness with her friend, as she imagines her arms about her neck, and fancies that her Maria's tears are falling on her bosom. Then comes Montaubon's description of her as she drank the poison:—“She took it from me smiling, and her look seemed to lose its confusion. She drank my health ! She was dressed in her white silk bed-gown, ornamented with pale, pink ribands. Her cheek was gently flushed from their reflection; her blue eyes were turned upwards as she drank, and a dark-brown ringlet lay on her shoulder.” We do not think even the fate of “the gentle lady married to the Moor” calls forth tears so sweet as those which fall for the Julia of Mackenzie
We rejoice to know and feel that these delicious tales cannot perish. Since they were written, indeed, the national imagination has been, in a great degree, perverted by strong excitements, and “fed on poisons till they have become a kind of nutriment.” But the quiet and unpresuming beauties of these works depend not on the fashion of the world. They cannot be out of date till the dreams of young imagination shall vanish, and the deepest sympathies of love and hope shall be chilled for ever. While other works are extolled, admired, and reviewed, these will be loved and wept over. Their author, in the evening of his days, may truly feel that he has not lived in vain. Gentle hearts shall ever blend their thought of him among their remembrances of the benefactors of their youth. And when the fever of the world “shall hang upon the beatings of their hearts,” how often will their spirits turn to him, who, as he cast a soft seriousness over the morning of life, shall assist in tranquillizing its noon tide sorrows
“THE AUTHOR OF WAWERLEY.”
Here are we in a bright and breathing world—Wordsworth.
[New Monthly MAGAZINE.]
We esteem the productions which the great novelist of Scotland has poured forth with startling speed from his rich treasury, not only as multiplying the sources of delight to thousands, but as shedding the most genial influences on the taste and feeling of the peole. These, with their fresh spirit of health, ave counteracted the workings of that blasting spell by which the genius of Lord Byron once threatened strangely to fascinate and debase the vast multitude of English readers. Men, seduced by their noble poet, had begun to pay homage to mere energy, to regard virtue as low and mean compared with lofty crime, and to think that high passion carried in itself a justification for its most fearful excesses. He inspired them with a feeling of diseased curiosity to know the secrets of dark bosoms, while he opened his own perturbed spirit to their gaze. His works, and those imported from Germany, tended to give to our imagination an introspective cast, to perplex it with metaphysical subtleties, and to render our poetry “sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought.” The genius of our country was thus in danger of being perverted from its purest uses to become the minister of vain philosophy, and the anatomist of polluted natures. “The author of Waverley” (as he delights to be styled) has weaned it from its idols, and restored to it its warm, youthful blood, and human affections. Nothing can be more opposed to the gloom, the inward revolvings, and morbid speculations, which the world once seemed inclined to esteem as the sole prerogatives of the bard, than his exquisite creations. His persons are no shadowy abstractions—no personifications of a dogma— no portraits of the author varied in costume, but similar in features. With all their rich varieties of character, whether their heroical spirit touches on the godlike, or their wild eccentricities border on the farcical, they are men fashioned of human earth, and warm with human sympathies. He does not seek for the sublime in the mere intensity of burning passion, or for sources of enjoyment in those feverish gratifications which some would teach us to believe the only felicities worthy of high and impassioned souls. He writes
the spirit of gladness. There is little of a meditative or retrospective cast in his works. Whatever age he chooses for his story, lives before us: we become contemporaries of all his persons, and sharers in all their fortunes. Of all men who have ever written, excepting Shakspeare, he has perhaps the least of exclusiveness, the least of those feelings which keep men apart from their kind. He has his own predilections—and we love him the better for them, even when they are not ours—but they never prevent him from grasping with cordial spirit all that is human. His tolerance is the most complete, for it extends to adverse bigotries; his love of enjoyment does not exclude the ascetic from his respect, nor does his fondness for hereditary rights and timehonoured institutions prevent his admiration of the fiery zeal of a sectary. His genius shines with an equal light on all—illuminating the vast hills of purple heath, the calm breast of the quiet water, and the rich masses of the grove—now gleaming with a sacred light on the distant towers of some old monastery, now softening the green-wood shade, now piercing the gloom of the rude cave where the old Covenanter lies—free and universal, and bounteous as the sun–and pouring its radiance with a like impartiality “upon a living and rejoicing world.” We shall not attempt, in this slight sketch, to follow our author regularly through all his rich and varied creations; but shall rather consider his powers in general of natural description—of skill in the delineation of character—and of exciting high and poetical interest, by the gleams of his fancy, the tragic elevation of his scenes, and the fearful touches which he delights to borrow from the world of spirits. In the vivid description of natural scenery our author is wholly without a rival, unless Sir Walter Scott will dispute the pre-eminence with him; and, even then, we think the novel ist would be found to surpass the bard. The free grace of nature has, of late, contributed little to the charm of our highest poetry. Lord Byron has always, in his reference to the majestic scenery of the universe, dealt rather in grand generalities than minute pictures, has used the turbulence of the elements as symbols of inward tempests, and sought the vast solitudes and deep tranquillity of nature, but to assuage the fevers of the soul. Wordsworth —who, amidst the contempt of the ignorant and of the worldly wise, has been gradually and silently moulding all the leading spirits of the age—has sought communion with nature, for other purposes than to describe her external forms. He has shed on all creation a sweet and consecrating radiance, far other than “the light of common day.” In his poetry the hills and streams appear, not as they are seen by vulgar eyes, but as the poet himself, in the holiness of his imagination, has arrayed them. They are peopled not with the shapes of old superstition, but with the shadows of the poet's thought, the dreams of a glory that shall be. They are resonant—not with the voice of birds, or the soft whisperings of the breeze, but with echoes from beyond the tomb. Their lowliest objects—a dwarf bush, an old stone, a daisy, or a small celandine—affect us with thoughts as deep, and inspire meditations as profound, as the loveliest scene of reposing beauty, or the wildest region of the mountains—because the heart of the poet is all in all—and the visible objects of his love are not dear to us for their own colours or forms, but for the sentiment which he has linked to them, and which they bring back upon our souls. We would not have this otherwise for all the romances in the world. But it gladdens us to see the intrinsic claims of nature on our hearts asserted, and to feel that she is, for her own sake, worthy of deep love. It is not as the richest index of divine philosophy alone that she has a right to our affections; and, therefore, we rejoice that in our author she has found a votary to whom her works are in themselves “an appetite, a feeling, and a love,” and who finds, in their contemplation, “no need of a remoter charm, by thought supplied, or any interest unborrowed from the eye.” Every gentle swelling of the ground—every gleam of the water—every curve and rock of the shore—all varieties of the earth, from the vastest crag to the soft grass of the woodland walk, and all changes of the heaven from “morn to noon, from noon to latest eve,”—are placed before us, in his works, with a distinctness beyond that which the painter's art can attain, while we seem to breathe the mountain air, or drink in the freshness of the valleys. We perceive the change in the landscape at every step of the delightful journey through which he guides us. Our recollection never confounds any one scene with another, although so many are laid in the same region, and are alike in general character. The lake among the hills, on which the cave of Donald Bean bordered—that near which the clan of the M-Gregors combated, and which closed in blue calmness over the body of Maurice—and that which encircled the castle of Julian Avenel—are distinct from each other in the imagination, as the loveliest scenes which we have corporally visited. What in softest beauty can exceed the description of the ruins of St. Ruth; in the lovelily romantic, the approach to the pass of Aberfoil; in varied lustre, the winding shores of Ellangowan bay; in rude and dreary majesty, the Highland scenes, where Ronald of the Mist lay hidden; and in terrific sublimity, the rising of the sea on Fairport Sands, and the perils of Sir Arthur Wardour and his daughter? Our author's scenes of comparative barrenness are enchanting by the vividness of his details, and
the fond delight with which he dwells on their redeeming features. We seem to know every little plot of green, everythicket of copse-wood, and every turn and cascade of the stream in the vale of Glendearg, and to remember each low bush in the barren scene of her skirmish between the Covenanters and Claverhouse, as though we had been familiar with it in childhood. The descriptions of this author are manifestly rendered more vivid by the intense love which he bears to his country—not only to her luxuriant and sublime scenery, but “her bare earth, and mountains bare, and grass in the green field.” He will scarcely leave a brook, a mountain ash, or a lichen on the rocks of her shore, without due honour. He may fitly be regarded as the genius of Scotland, who has given her a poetical interest, a vast place in the imagination, which may almost compensate for the loss of that political independence, the last struggling love for which he so nobly celebrates. “The author of Waverley” is, however, chief. ly distinguished by the number, the spirit, and the individuality of his characters. We know not, indeed, where to begin or to end with the vast crowd of their genial and noble shapes which come thronging on our memory. His ludicrous characters are dear to us, because they are seldom merely quaint or strange, the dry oddities of fancy, but have as genuine a kindred with humanity as the most gifted and enthusiastic of their fellows. The laughter which they excite is full of social sympathy, and we love them and our nature the better while we indulge it. Whose heart does not claim kindred with Baillie Nichol Jarvie, while the Glasgow weaver, without losing one of his nice peculiarities, kindles into honest warmth with his ledger in hand, and in spite of broad-cloth grows almost romantic? In whom does a perception of the ludicrous for a moment injure the veneration which the brave, stout-hearted and chivalrous Baron of Bradwardine inspires 1 Who shares not in the fond enthusiasm of Oldbuck for black letter, in his eager and tremulous joy at grasping rare books at low prices, and in his discoveries of Roman camps and monuments which we can hardly forgive Edie Ochiltree for disproving? Compared with these genial persons, the portraits of mere singularity—however inimitably finished—are harsh and cold; of these, indeed, the works of our author afford scarcely more than one signal example—Captain Dalgetty— who is a mere piece of ingenious mechanism, like the automaton chess-player, and with all his cleverness, gives us little pleasure, for he excites as little sympathy. Almost all the persons of these novels, diversified as they are, are really endowed with some deep and elevating enthu siasm, which, whether breaking through eccentricities of manner, perverted by error, or mingled with crime, ever asserts the majesty of our nature, its deep affections, and undying powers. This is true, not only of the divine enthusiasm of Flora Mac Ivor—of the sweet heroism of Jeannie Deans—of the angelic tenderness and fortitude of Rebecca, but of the puritanic severities and awful zeal of Balfour of Burley, and the yet more frightful energy of Macbriar, equally ready to sacrifice a blame