صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

that De Courcy's hastily formed engagement with Eva will not and cannot come to a good issue. The fiendish hag from whosė power De Courcy had delivered ber, appears upon the scene, again and again crossing the stage like an evil-presaging apparition. One of the most frightful of these appearances takes place during a great fire in Dublin, to the progress of which Zaira and De Courcy are witnesses. The scene is described with much terrible grandeur.

All was life, though it was the hour of repose; and all was light, terrible light, though the sky was as dark as December midnight. They attempted to ascend Cork-hill; that was rendered impossible by the crowd ; and winding another way through lanes, of which the reader may be spared the names, they got into Fisbamble Street. Many fearful intimations of the danger struck them there.—The holJow rolling of the fire-engines, so distinct in their sound ;-the cries of “ clear the way," from the crowd, who opened their dense tumul- . tuous mass for the passage, and instantly closed again ;- the trampling of the cavalry on the wet pavement, threatening, backing, facing among the crowd ;-the terrible hollow knocking on the pavement, to break open the pipes for water, which was but imperfectly supplied ; -the bells of all the neighbouring churches, St John's, St Werburgh's, St Bride's, and the deep tremendous toll of Christ-church, mingled with, but heard above all, as if it summoned the sufferers to prepare, not for life but for death, and poured a kind of defiance on the very efforts it was rung to invite them to. All this came at once on them, as they entered Fishamble Street, from a wretched lane through which they had been feeling their way. They emerged from it; and when they did, the horrors of the confiagration burst on them at once.

The fire, confined in the sphere of its action, amidst warehouses thickly enclosed, burst in terrible volumes above the tops of the houses, and seemed like a volcano, of which no one could see the crater. .

« On the steps of St John's Church, a number were collected. They had snatched the furniture from their miserable lodgings; piled it up in the street, where the guard were watching it, and now sat patiently in the open air to see their habitations reduced to ashes, unknowing where they were to rest their heads that night. 1

All the buildings in the neighbourhood were strongly illuminated by the fire, and still more strongly (though partially from time to time) by lights beld out by the inhabitants from their windows, from the shops to the attics, six stories high; and the groupes below flashing out in the light, and disappearing in the darkness, their upturned faces, marked with the shifting traces of fear, horror, defiance, and despair, presented a subject for Salvator. No banditti, in the darkest woods of the Appennines, illuminated only by lightning, ever showed more fearful wildness of expression, or more picturesque distortion of attitude. Just then the flames sunk for a moment, but, rising again, instantly poured forthi a volume of light, that set the whole horizon

>

in a blaze. There was a shriek from the crowd, that seemed rather like the cry of triumph than despair. It is certain, that a people like the Irish, whose imagination is stronger than any other of their intellectual faculties, can utter cries of delight at the sight of a splendid conflagration that is consuming their dwellings.

The last burst of fames produced a singular effect. - The buildings in Castle Street (below the range of the illumination) lay in complete darkness-darkness more intense from the surrounding light, and the tower and spire of St Werburgh's, (it had then a fantastically, elegant spire), by their height in the horizon, caught the whole effect of the fire, and appeared like a fairy palace of flame, blazing and built among the clouds.' II. p. 101–105.

Amidst this scene of horror and sublimity, rushes forth the Beggar maniac, bursting through the crowd with irresistible force, and planting herself opposite to Zaira.

,. She was, as usual, in rags, and as the strong light gleamed on her hoary streaming hair, her wild features, and her wilder attire, she seemed fit to act the prompting and exulting fury who stood by Nero when he surveyed from his tower Rome in flames, which his own orders had kindled, and which his own orders (it is said) forbid to be extinguished. She began her usual wild dance, regardless of the crowd, and of the terrible cause of their assembling, and mingled, from time to time, exclamations in a voice between recitative and singing, that seemed modulated to the music of invisible and infernal spirits. It was very singular of this woman, that though her accent was perfectly Irish, her expressions were not so; her indivi. dual feeling seemed to swallow up and overwhelm her nationality. Wherever she was, she seemed perfectly alone-alone alike amid the mountains of Wicklow or the multitudes of Dublin ; all times, circumstances, and persons seemed to yield to the single, mysterious, undefinable feeling that always governed and inspired her; and while it made her an object of supreme terror to all others, made all others objects of supreme contempt to her.' II. p. 107, 108.

As she attempted to seize upon Zaira, of whose individuality she retained some imperfect recollection, she was forced back by De Courcy..

r“ Have you no touch of nature in ye ? " said the woman, suddenly and fearfully altering her tone, and clinging close and closer to Zaira. “Do you know who (whom) it is you drive away ? - Have ye no touch of nature in' ye ?-Oh, these hands are withered, but how often they have clasped you round that white neck !-Oh, these hairs are gray, but how often have you played with them when they were as black and as bright as your own ! Sorrow for you has turned them white. Oh, look upon me, look upon 'me on my knees. I don't know your name now, but you should never have forgot mine. Oh, have ye no nature in you, and I kneeling on the cold stones before my own !",' II. 112, 113.

her having died

where her child hurry her, was

These ominous curses were prophetic. The departure of Zaira for the Continent brought De Courcy's apostasy to a crisis. Her father having died suddenly, deprived her of every clue, as she thought, to discover where her child existed; and the discovery of how far her affections were like to hurry her, was another motive for her departure. She saw De Courcy once more, however, and the result of their interview was, his obtaining permission to attend her to the Continent on the footing of a companion, who, at the expiry of a twelvemonth, might claim possession of her hand. There is a letter of the deserted and heart-broken Eva to her faithless lover, which abounds with touches of beautiful and natural feeling. She thanked him for the wholesome cruelty which had restored to heaven a heart which, for his sake, had begun to love the world. She forgave him, and concluded with this pathetic prophecy.

" " You will return in spring ; in spring, you will be back with your triumphant beautiful bride: perhaps you will visit this room from some lingering feeling ; you will see the flowers, the books, the music you once loved, all in their place, where you formerly wished to see them; and perhaps you will ask, where am 1.-" I came,” says the eastern tale you told me,“ to the tombs of my friends, and asked where are they ? and echo answered, Where ?? "? II. 276.

In the hope of rendering her juvenile lover all that was worthy, as she already accounted him all that was amiable, Zaira had yielded to the culpable weakness of becoming accessory to his breach of promise. She had not doubted that she could attach him to her by the double charms of beauty and talent, added to those of superior intellect. But Paris—that Paris in which even the lover of the Princess of Babylon became disloyal-was doomed to prove the vanity of her expectations.

The fidelity of a man is like the virtue of a female when it has succumbed in one temptation,- the sense of fine feeling is lost, and it seldom resists another. Yet, we are far from thinking the second defection of Charles de Courcy, amiable and generous as he is painted, as half so probably motived as his first offence against the code of constancy. His desertion of the simple and narrow-minded Eva for a woman of such brilliant talent and powers as Zaira, while it was highly blameworthy, is but too probable an occurrence. But that, unsated by possession, and witnessing the prodigious effects produced by Zaira's talents on all that was brave and illustrious in Europe, and which was then in 1814) assembled in Paris, he should have wantonly deserted the sacred object of his affections, and preferred to her, for ever so short a space, a certain Eulalie de Terranges, so inferior to her in all respects, exceeds every extended limit of indulgence which we can allow to a susceptible and fickle disposition, fixes upon Mr Maturin's hero the odious character of a male coquette, and makes us almost identify a character so effeminate with that ascribed by the satirist to a countryman of De Courcy's

A motley figure of the Fribble tribe,
Which heart can scarce conceive or pen describe,
Nor male nor female neither, and yet both
Of neuter gender, though of Irish growth,
A six foot suckling, mincing in its gait,

Affected, peevish, prim and delicate. Lest we should appear, however, to have judged too harshly of De Courcy, we will briefly recapitulate the various motives alleged for his a second time breaking the most solemn ties that a man can form, and deserting Zaira in Paris, as he had deserted Eva in Dublin. The blaze of Zaira's mental superiority seems to have become too scorching for De Courcy to bear, when he was no longer screened by the opportunity of retiring to contrast its brilliancy with the more calm moonlight character of Eva. She had pretensions, besides, to guide and to instruct him; and no man cares to be guided and instructed by a woman. Moreover, in the opinion of an experienced Frenchman, Zaira was trop exigeante, too determined to dazzle and to delight, and to inspire every moment with rapture of one description or another. Pleasure itself, so protracted,' says this connoisseur, so exaggerated, must become pain. It is like the punishment of Regulus, cutting off the eyelids to turn the light of the sun into torture.'. Besides, there was the dissipation of Parisian society, and the shame of being seen one of the train of an actress-he a gentleman of fortune and birth; and there was the discovery, that Zaira had been a wife and a mother, which she had imprudently left him to receive from others; and there was a letter of expostulation from his kind guardian, conjuring him to avoid a disgraceful alliance, and not to suffer himself to be trailed over the Continent, the overgrown pupil of a female pedagogue. Lastly, there was a natural love of change, and some regret after the discarded Eva. If all these reasons cannot palliate De Courcy's second apostasy to the reader, we must abandon him to their severest condemnation for deserting Zaira, and announce his speedy return to Ireland. It was in vain that sbe degraded herself by following him even in the streets-it was impossible to recal his affections. The arrival of Montgomery, with intelligence that Eva was in a deep decline, brought his resolution to a crisis, and he quitted Paris. From this period there is little more occasion for narrative. The author traces the various steps by which Eva approaches to the harbour where there is

rest from cach earthly storm--the affectionate services of her adopted mother--the selfish speculations of Wentworth, and the more basely selfish brutalities of the vile Tartuffe Macowen. With the history of Eva's graduated decline, is contrasted the despairing state of Zaira; her conferences and controversies with Cardonneau, a French sceptical philosopher; her escape from his snares; her resolution to become a devotee, and her horror at finding herself unable to entertain that warmth of enthusiastic zeal necessary to give effect to the Catholic' nostrum of penance; her resolution to put herself to death, with all the preparations which she solemnly adopted; and her abandoning her purpose, startled by an impressive dream or vision, which impelled her to follow her versatile lover to Ireland. All these moods of a despairing mind are well described, but too much protracted. The mind becomes weary of accumulated horrors, having all reference to the same person and set of events, and belonging to a catastrophe which is inevitable, and full in view. The skill of the author, his knowledge of the human mind, his talent at expressing sorrow, in all the varieties of her melancholy language, proves unequal to the task---during the first perusal at least-of securing unwearied attention. His labours seem as if they were employed to diversify or adorn a long strait avenue of yews and cypresses, terminating in the full view of a sepulchre.

At length, however, the various persons of the narrative, pursuers and pursued, are reassembled in Dublin. De Courcy his own health destroyed by remorse and the conflict of contending passions, dares to solicit an interview with Eva-dares to confide his repentance to Mrs Wentworth, with whose character, naturally warm and even passionate, though now subjected to the control of religion, the reader has been already made acquainted. We have no hesitation in placing the meeting betwixt this lady and the penitent who had wounded her peace so bitterly, by the side of the pathetic scenes of the same sort in Richardson. But we have been already too liberal in quotations ; and the conclusion of the tale must be briefly summed up. In her wanderings through Dublin, Zaira finds her maniac mother on her deathbed; and learns from her the fact, that she had been the unconscious rival of her own daughter, and the means of her descending to an untimely grare. After this communication, made with the same wild and impressive dignity with which Mr Maturin has all along invested this person, the unhappy woman expires; and the yet more unhappy Zaira hastens to Wentworth Street, where she finds Eva just dead. De Courcy also slept, to awake no more; and the author thus closes his melancholy narrative.

« السابقةمتابعة »