網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版
[blocks in formation]

Bulwer What Thomas Fuller said of History, is equally true of Biography and Fiction; "it gives to youth the experience of age, without its wrinkles and scars.” The importance of History and Biography is everywhere acknowledged, but neither possess the same power in informing the mind, or influencing the actions, as Fiction. Biography gives us generally a bare recital of facts, a history of actions, without reference to influences, motives, promptings, or inducements; actions which appear to have been determined without any pressure from without, or suggestings from within ; and often as we close the memoirs of men,-good, bad, and indifferent, we are led to exclaim with Burns,

“One point must still be greatly dark,

The moving why they do it.Fiction has a higher aim:—the narration and illustration of that ever-continuous struggle within the breast of man--that contention between warring passions and diverse principles, which regulates the actions, decides the conduct, and forms the characters of us all. In a word, we not only have the actions given us, but the “moving why they do it." Without any possibility of offending the living by spare eulogy of the dead, as in Biography; without any inducement to favouritism or one-sidedness, as in History; without any reason to yield to the cant, which finds utterance in “doing justice to the memory of the departed;" we have in true Fiction man portrayed with sincerity and truth. The author of “Festus” says,

“True fiction hath in it a higher end,
Than fact; it is the positive compared
With what is merely possible; and gives
To the conceptive soul an inner world,
A higher, ampler heaven than that wherein

The nations sun themselves." A good novelist must be true to nature and to life. Indulging in no extravagancies, knowing no whims, possessing no hobbies, his one grand characteristic must be truth. Actions are always connected with motives and principles; this connection must be

Virtue claims respect, and deserves ultimate good; this must be acknowledged. “Truth ever comes uppermost;" this must be illustrated. And all are urged to duty, stimulated to labour and to love, by the successes, failures, and vicissitudes of every character, in a good and practical novel.

seen.

Taking, then, as our standard of a novelist, one possessing a deep knowledge of human nature, thoroughly acquainted with the philosophy of actions, character, and life; united to an aptitude of conveying lessons to men through the medium of incident, conversation, and plot, we propose to offer a few remarks on Bulwer as a novelist.

We suppose the true test of a book is the influence it exerts upon the reader's mind; does it leave him a better, a truer, a nobler, and a wiser man. How is it with the works of Bulwer? Others may possess a greater charm, more vivid powers of description, more dramatic power, but none a greater appreciation of the beautiful in nature and art; none a juster conception of the sublimities of the soul of man, its capabilities and powers; and none a profounder faith in the possibilities and destinies of human life, than Bulwer Lytton. Bulwer enters deep into our souls, exerting an almost sacred influence over our mind and actions—an influence always for good.

His fascinating style, his soul-enthrilling rhapsodies, the classic completeness of his characters, the perfection of his plots, the never-flagging interest of his incidents, and the pleasing result of the whole, is so elevating, so ennobling, so true, that we are compelled to consider Bulwer as the first of living novelists. With others, when the plot is consummated, the spell is broken, and we listlessly throw the book aside; but with Bulwer we are compelled to read to the close, and we relish the last chapter as the first.

A strong vein of philosophy is ever present in all Bulwer's novels. The moralist everywhere appearing, the teacher and the poet everywhere seen, and we often find the novelist retiring, the stern moralist occupying his place.

It has been remarked, that Bulwer has failed in no branch of literature, and that every possible subject in the world of fiction has yielded to his magic touch. This is true. We have the fortunes and misfortunes of Harold; the eventful career of Eugene Aram; the Last of the Barons; and, Rienzi, the Last of the Tribunes; the romantic narratives of Paul Clifford and Godolphin; and a series of “more sober, more English" works, which are designated - The Caxton Series."

We think “The Caxtons” is his "chef d'auvre." It is unrivalled for variety of character, force of description, power and aptness of illustration : teaching the most important lessons with a success unequalled.

[ocr errors]

us.

Let us glance at some of the principal characters in “The Caxtons. The reader who is familiar with it will easily follow

Firstly, we have described the elder Caxton, who in early life was disappointed in love and ambition. He does not, however, merge into the misanthrope, but the student of Greek literature, and from an acquaintance with the “great authors of ancient Greece,” finds a solid enjoyment begetting a calm repose, which enables him to forgive freely his successful rivals. In the

course of time,” his old tutor dies, leaving his daughter in the charge of Caxton, who afterwards marries her, and spends the remainder of his life in discovering and studying the fine traits and true beauties of an English wife and mother.

Then we have a brother, every inch a soldier of the last century. The stern character, the chivalrous virtues, the high notions of honour, of which the French have always given us such fine specimens, we find here. And who has read without tearful eyes the touching struggle of those two contending principles: a father's love for a reprobate son, and his own and family's honour?

We have next the free and easy, chatty and careless, goodnatured and unpractical speculator, who is always on the look-out for discoveries to benefit the human race; having at the same time, a most decided predilection for joint-stock companies.

Then we have the hero, at whose birth it was asked, “What is a boy?” Brought up under the the benign and sacred influence of an English home, and an English education; carefully tended by a kind father, watched over by a loving mother, passes with credit through the public schools, meets with an eminent statesman, who eventually proves to be the successful rival of his father. He is kind to our hero, makes him his private secretary, who is soon thrown into the society of his patron's daughter, friendship ensues, which gives way (as is oft-times the case) to warmer feelings, and before they hardly know it-they love. They awake to a

. sense of their position; passion, forceful and powerful, urges them in one direction; stern duty points to another: gratitude to his patron and his own conscience;-a mother's love and a father's dignity, all plead for duty, which at length triumphs and prevails. He removes from the scene of temptation with a saddened heart, yet from out that sadness there upsprings feelings that soon are uppermost, the pleasure wbich arises from a sense of a duty performed, which is always in proportion as the trial is severe. This consciousness overwhelms every other consideration, fresh springs in his soul are opened, which give joys and bliss unknown before.

a

a

His hopes blighted in one direction, he directs his attention to another. Australia invites the industrious and determined ; he goes, builds his fortune, not by a single stroke, not by any extraordinary means whatever, but by persevering courage, physical united to mental efforts; he returns home, hand and heart all right, he marries his cousin, and surrounded by old friends, devotes his time and talents to literature, and gives to the world, “My Novel.”

We also have his cousin, left in early life to the care of a halfSpanish, half-gipsy mother, who intensely loves him. He grows up without education or restraint. While a youth he is brought, to Paris, and there surrounded by so many temptations, no wonder that, without any moral principle, he became a reckless gambler and profligate.

Such is the contrast and variety of character, drawn with a master hand in “The Caxtons.”

We are strongly tempted to speak of his female characters, but we forbear. Perhaps there are none so fully developed, none drawn with such power and fine effect, or possessing such interest, as Alice, in “Night and Morning.”

In conclusion, let us notice one or two of the lessons Sir E. Bulwer Lytton ever seeks to inculcate throughout all his works. He seeks to direct, not to destroy ambition; urging us forward, not for the love of power, but for the increased facilities for doing good, which a higher station will give us. That duty, not passion, is the guide to true happiness. That increased power brings increased responsibilities; the higher we rise, the more numerous, the more arduous our duties; and better is it to remain lowly and perform our part well, than to rise to a position we are either unable or unwilling to fill.

Sir E. Bulwer Lytton gives us a better idea of the political arena of our own country than we can gather with equal ease and pleasure elsewhere. He does not give us so much information or knowledge, he rather tells us where it may be found, how it may be attained, how enjoyed, and how it may be used and abused. We read Bulwer, and we are better, wiser, and happier men; and we are happy in knowing that four separate editions of his complete works are now being issued from the press, confident that their tendency is healthy, and their moral—good.

S. K.

« 上一頁繼續 »