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jétchnikoff, with a zest wholly foreign to our ordinary habit in this day of flat, stale and unprofitable books. And we have been singularly fortunate in being introduced to our first acquaintance with the literature of Northern Europe, through so agreeable a portal. The Heretic is an animated and deeply interesting romance: and there are very few of the recent works of fiction, which would not suffer materially from any comparison with it. The subject is admirably selected,--the era is one peculiarly favorable for the exhibition of novel scenes and actors,—the incidents are happily conceived, and, for the most part, well arranged, the characters are ably chosen and skilfully delineated,—the plot is naturally developed, and the several parts are both harmonious among themselves, and serve to illustrate the particular country and period described, while, at the same time, they are effective in advancing the movement of the piece.
As, however, the outlandish name of the author may deter many from reading this novel, we must be a little more precise in our exposition of its merits. Moreover, the Reviewer, who is fatigued with the monotonous examination of hackneyed themes, is not unwilling to dally a little by the way, now and then, when he stumbles upon such a novelty as a rich vein of native and virgin ore.
The plot of the work is exceedingly simple: resembling, in this respect, and in the short duration of the action, the novels of Sir Walter Scott, of which it is a palpable and very successful imitation. A proud and pompous German baron, whose only trade was war, as his only amusements were in the tilting-ground or the festal bower, mingled, along with other distinguished foreigners, in the grand procession at the laying of the foundation stone of St. Peter's. A dwarfish and contemptible figure had insinuated itself into the midst of this brilliant cortège. His appearance, his profession, and his supposed creed, excited the jeers of the multitude, who recognized him as a leech, and shrewdly suspected him of being a Jew. The young baron, indignant at what he deemed an unauthorized intrusion, thoroughly contemning the stranger for his size, bis shape, his occupation, and his creed, and, moreover, stung by the constant mockery of the mob, seized the innocent cause of the uproar, and, with a powerful arm, Alung him far beyond the line of the procession. The baron was Ehrenstein,—the dwarf the
celebrated Paduan doctor, Antonio Fioraventi. The German passed on, and forgot the adventure: the Italian rose from the pavement wounded in body, but more keenly wounded in spirit. He returned home in a delirious fever, brought on by his sense of the bitter indignity he had experienced, and the burning thirst for revenge. He was long sick: at length he recovered, but only to devise and mature plans for a fearful vengeance. He spent years in travelling, in the hope of thereby meeting his adversary once more. He adhered to his purpose with the tenacity of the Italian character, but his wanderings were fruitless, during this long period. He arrived at Augsburg, at a time when his expectations had all died away. Here his services as a physician were suddenly requested, as affording an almost hopeless possibility of saving the life of the lady of Ehrenstein, who was dying in the pains of child-birth. At the eleventh hour chance had thrown into his hands the opportunity which he had so long and so ardently desired. He met his insulter. His former schemes of vengeance were instantly changed. He discovered a mode of inflicting keener anguish than he had yet contemplated. He undertook to save the life of the baroness, but only on the condition that the child, if a son, should be delivered to him, when one year old, to be by him brought up in his own profession: if a daughter, that she should be betrothed to himself. A bitter struggle took place in the baron's bosom, before he would yield his consent to these humiliating conditions :—they stung him in that point in which he was nost sensitive :-the eldest born of an ancient and noble house to be given up to a leech, whose person he had insulted, and whose profession he loathed 1-But the agonies and the heart-rending cries of a beloved and expiring wife, drew from him the fatal oath demanded by the leech Fioraventi.
In process of time, the young Antonio, the child born under these ominous circumstances, to be a thorn in his father's side, and not his boast, was duly given up to the Paduan doctor. His substituted father was kind and affectionate to him; he educated him in all the accomplishments of the noble, and imparted to him his own skill and science in the profession of physic. But the relations of the son to his real father were completely deranged. Naturally of a weak and capricious disposition, the Baron Von Ehrenstein had no sooner recovered from the first stunning shock which he had
experienced in the loss of his child, than his thoughts and feelings flowed in a totally different channel. There were no parental yearnings for his first-born,-no tender interest manifested for his fate,-no anxious anticipation of a future reunion with him,-no hope of at some time being able to acknowledge him as his heir. Another son had been born to him; he had already reported that Anthony had died while on a journey; and the baron's object was now to prevent the possibility of his existence being made known to the world. The father now armed himself against the son, and plotted against his eldest born. To prevent Antony from making any inquiry after him, (for he was not aware that Fioraventi had carefully concealed from his pupil the secret of his birth,) he used threats to intimidate the doctor, and, further, commanded the lady of Ehrenstein to assure her child of his father's death. But it was not only towards Antony, that the baron manifested this unnatural antipathy. The fires of his early love had burnt out,—there was no warmth left in the embers; and the wife, once so much beloved, was now regarded with loathing, and treated with studied indignity, or unfeeling coldness. She was suffered by her husband, at length, to retire to a small Bohemian castle, where she escaped his cruel persecutions, and was permitted to receive an occasional visit from her son, Antony, on condition of studiously concealing from him the secret of his birth, and his origin.
When Antony had attained the age of twenty-five, his kind preceptor, Fioraventi, received a letter from a distinguished brother, settled at Moscow, Rudolph Alberti, surnamed Aristotle, chief architect to the great prince, Ivan III. In this letter, the artist requested his brother to send a physician to the court of the Czar, where “honours, wealth and fame awaited him."
The younger Antonio was inflamed by the prospect thus opened to his imagination: the natural love of adventure incident to his youth, the romantic ardour of his mind, which anticipated pleasure from the novel scenes to which he would be introduced,—the love of his profession, and the zealous desire of carrying its benefits where they were as yet unknown,-induced him to request that he might be sent to the capital of Muscovy. More sober reasons secured the assent of the preceptor. Fioraventi had witnessed with alarm the suspicious and jealous disposition of Ehrenstein;
he feared that the intimidations held out might one day be carried into effect; and he gladly availed himself of the opportunity of removing his favorite beyond the reach of an unnatural parent. The necessary consent was accordingly given; and in a short time we find Antony a resident at Moscow, under the more immediate protection of the architect Aristotle. His abode was in the palace of the Voevóda Vassílii Féodorovitch Símskoi, surnamed Obrazétz, who had been ordered by the great prince to receive the stranger as his guest. Antony was, however, admitted under his roof by Obrazétz, with undisguised reluctance. The foreigner was a leech,--a profession which the nobleman contemned: he was suspected of being an adept in the black arts—a crime which the Christian abhorred: he was a Roman Catholic,-a lleretic,—and his touch was, consequently, contamination to the superstitious Muscovite: lastly, he was a German, and by the hands of the Germans the eldest son of the Voevóda had fallen in battle, while yet in the early spring-tide of life. The aversion produced by these multiplied causes, was not concealed from its object: this would have been wholly foreign to the open, candid, warm and impulsive character of his entertainer. Obrazétz positively refused to see or to speak to Antony. A part of the great stone palace of the Voevóda was assigned to the leech, but a wall was built up between the portion so occupied and the rest of the mansion, so as to preclude any communication with the main body of the building. The rooms of the German were regarded as an infected region: the servant furnished to him was only a semi-convert from heathenism, lest any of the faithful might be delivered over to the Evil One, through the heresy and witchcraft of the master.
But the Voevoda had a daughter—the fairest and loveliest of the beauties of Russia—the soft and tender-hearted Anastasia. The little sliding window of her chamber opened upon the entrance to the German's apartments, and the chamber itself was immediately over his. She had been gazing from her lattice, when Antony arrived, with the curiosity natural to her age and innocence. How was she surprised to behold a young man, handsome and of gallant bearing, instead of the hideous monster with horns and the other fanciful appendages invented by ignorance and superstition, which he had been represented to her ! Love is spontaneous, sudden, and inexplicable. Some undiscovered attraction tempt
ed Anastasia constantly to her sliding window: she would hastily withdraw, if she fancied herself perceived, and her blushes might have revealed to others the tale which as yet they had not told to herself. Antony drunk in love in draughts of equal power, but it was more through his ears than through his eyes. He had, indeed, occasionally seen Anastasia at her window, but the fuel which principally fed his flame, was supplied by the youthful Andrionsha, the son of Aristotle, and her especial protégé. The one was never fatigued with speaking of the goodness, the tenderness, and the loveliness of Anastasia: the other never weary of listening. Both endeavored, though feebly, to resist the mastery of the sudden flame, but the unsuccessful struggle only caused it to burn with greater violence in their bosoms. Anastasia believed that she had been enchanted by the magic and unholy arts of the German ; a strange feeling of mingled love and fear possessed her, but love predominated. Antony thought himself the victim of his folly; he accused himself of a diseased fancy, of rashness, of insanity, but self-accusation could not quench love. While their feelings were in this excited state, their struggles were determined by a singular event, altogether in harmony with the superstitions of the time. Goaded almost to desperation by the conviction of her enchantment, Anastasia visited the apartments of the leech to entreat him to remove the spell, which had acquired such dominion over her. When she left bim the charm was more firmly riveted than ever, and she had pledged herself to be the bride of Antony. The leech was rapidly rising in the favour of the great prince; he yielded to the entreaties of his beloved, and the representations of his friends, and prepared to adopt the Russian faith, which was but a slight change from his own. The scruples of Obrazétz were removed, and he consented to receive him as a son-in-law, from the Christian motive of converting a heretic, and saving his soul from the pains of hell. Ivan smiled upon their projected union, and all went merry as a marriage bell."
In the meantime, the knight Nicholas Poppel, the adopted son of the unnatural baron of Ehrenstein, arrived at the court of the Czar, on an embassy from the Emperor, and with special instructions to effect, by all means, the disgrace, the ruin, and the dismissal of Antony. His efforts were long ineffectual; he was frustrated in every attempt. But, in an