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“ Alfred the Great."
Sewell Stokes, more ambitious than the parable with Fielding, Richardson, Defoe, rest, is written in the Spenserian stanza Smollett, or Goldsmith: but they were with remarkable purity, and developes a solitary luminaries, shining at distant intertruth of sentiment, and unlaboured felicity vals, and deriving increased depth of lustre of style, that is very rare in these days. from the darkness that surrounded them. But beyond these what is there left? The But unquestionably a greater quantity of names of poems—inscriptions of what has mind, a wider development of modes of been, hanging up like the banners of buried thinking, and a more extensive observation knights over their vacant stalls. We will of society in its various grades, have been give the names of a few of them :
brought to bear upon the department of
Prose Fiction within the last few years “ The Polish Struggle;" by M. G. Kennedy.
than during the most brilliant periods of “ Christianity;" by the late William Burt, Esq. Songs of Granada and the Alhambra ;" by Lydia English literature. It is a poor species of
critical affectation, that denies a fact so Rhymes from Italy.' “An Apology for Lord Byron ;" by Stephen Pren- apparent even upon cursory examination. tis, A.M.
What are the English novels of past times
that have descended to us? Defoe's? Who “ Songs of Twilight;" by G. W.M. Reynolds. “The Sea Nymphs' Wake;" by Robert Hamilton.
has read them? Is there amongst the reading “The Atonement;" by W.S. Oke.
and inquiring section of the public, not to “ Lays of Poland.”
speak of the multitude who take everything Do any of our readers recollect any of upon hearsay and by guess-work, one in these pieces ? or, recollecting them, have every five hundred who has read the harthey carried away a single stanza to be rowing story of Roxalana ? We conjecture treasured up as words of price? There are not. What novel can be named earlier some amongst these poems not wanting in than “ Tom Jones," or 66 The Vicar of prettiness, sprightliness, and dexterity of Wakefield,” with which the public are diction ; but where is the exquisite and familiar, or in the slightest degree acquaintbounding versification, the deep current of ed ? Not one. We know that Horace thought, the rich imagination, the out- Walpole’s“ Castle of Otranto," was the first pouring of the heart, the fertility of in- English Romance.
The date is so recent, vention, the breadth, freedom, and energy that it may almost be said to belong to the of the creating mind? We know it is last generation. Yet it is a current cant in quite as easy to say, in the figurative lan- criticism, to refer the innocent reader, with guage of “ Boxiana," that they are a mysterious air of authority, but with great where,” as to say, as it is often said by the vagueness of reference, to some time or critics, that they are profusely scattered times in our annals when Fiction of this
every where.” But, of a truth, these kind flourished in a degree of perfection productions cannot shuffle off the mortal that shames the degeneracy of our living coil of dulness and imitation so easily as novelists. The two grand errors of superthey can be sentenced to oblivion or im- ficial criticism would appear to consist in mortality by their commentators, according elevating the intellectual labours of our to the motives which prompt the criticism. predecessors to the total prejudice of conWhen the friendly and lenient, but, never- temporary merit, and in blindly extolling, theless, very corrupt arbitrator between the against the very grain of reason and truth, public and the poet pronounces a poem to the productions of our own age above those be of the highest order of excellence, it of any other. It is plain that both systems would put him to his wits' end to be asked of procedure must be wrong to a certain to point out the excellence. You may extent; and that there must be some points “ call spirits from the vasty deep,” but will in which the comparison will tell in favour they come when you call ?
of one side, as there are undeniably other Turning from this almost barren retro- points on which judgment will take the spect, we enter a pleasanter and better contrary direction. English Fiction, such cultivated field-that of Prose Fiction. as it is now before us, teeming with fresh Here contemporary talent has been indus- creations, and reflecting with more or less triously employed, transcending, upon the fidelity the shifting conventions of artificial whole, at least in variety, any former era in life, and the passions of man, is, in fact, of our literature. It is not to be contended modern growth. It requires no comparison that any single writer now existing is com- with the past.
It cannot be employed VOL. X.-NO. 1.--JANUARY 1837.
as a foil to set off the genuine brilliant, phatically designated“ a love story,” by Mr. nor can it be enhanced by any demonstration D'Israeli the younger, is of a different chaof its superiority over our preceding litera- racter. Written with that affectation of ture. . Whatever be its influence for good pomp in which Mr. D'Israeli delights, and or for evil, it belongs to our own times with that mixture of real ability and superhaving no precursor, except, indeed, the cilious pretension which spoil each other in faded tinsel of such writers as Maria Regina all his works, it is distinguished by some Roche, (who, we are happy to say, par pa- traits of unquestionable power, and by just renthèse, has survived her own Children- so much absurdity as is sufficient to make of the Abbey) Charlotte Smith, and Anne the reader mourn over the waste of the of Swansea. The last-mentioned lady, we author's capabilities. The moral of the believe, still lives. Honoured be the blood story is, that “first love" is the only true of the Kembles which courses in her veins! and abiding passion of the heart; and the
We will not venture to speculate upon way in which it is proved affords a very the number of works of fiction that were satisfactory development of the weakness published within the last year; but we of the proposition, since the persons by know we should be under the calculation whom it is tested are by no means as clear if we estimated them at seventy. In that in their consciences, or as upright in their estimate we include no other kind of fiction conduct, as they ought to be; and are the than novels, or works that belong by the most improper description of persons that manner of treatment to that class. Amongst could be selected for the practical illusthe authors of these publications are some tration of so fine a poetical theory. But of our most popular writers; but there are 6 when Sir Oracle speakslet no dog a few who have been drawn out in these bark !” Mr. D’Israeli's researches into fictions for the first time, and who promise human nature sometimes lead him to to contribute with success hereafter to the strange conclusions: and it is not a little difficult department of literature in which remarkable, that nearly about the same they have chosen to appear. One of the time when he was endeavouring to establish most memorable works of the year is Mr. the immutability of first impressions, Lady Washington Irving's “Astoria," which Blessington, who ought to know something could not properly be considered under this about the matter, was publishing a book in head, were it not that the subject is bathed which she seeks to show that the impresin such an atmosphere of romance, that sions of love are as rapidly effaced as they although it is from first to last a narrative are received. In her “ Confessions of an of actual occurrences, it has the air, the Elderly Gentleman,” she describes a very spirit, and the relief of fiction. It contains susceptible individual, who runs the gauntthe history of a commercial enterprise, let through no less than six successive undertaken by a fur merchant, to establish attachments, flying with equal ardour (we a settlement at the mouth of the Columbia beg of our gentle readers to shut their eyes river, on the western coast of North Ame- at this passage) from the spinster to the rica. The settlement was at first called wife, from the wife to the widow, and from Astoria, in honour of the founder, but, the mother to the daughter! This inconhaving since fallen into the hands of the gruous progress of the master-passion is British, it is now known by the name of painted in such a tone of simplicity by her Fort George. The picturesque descriptions Ladyship, that one is really compelled to of scenery, the exciting nature of the adven- suppose that it was actually copied from tures, the perils of the people who engaged the life, or that, at all events, it exhibits in em, and the succession of dramatic different features caught from the experiincidents that supplythe materials of these vo- ences of different individuals, and concenlumes, place them at once amongst the most trated upon a single head. The contradiction interesting publications of the kind we pos- between these theories does not, however,
The peculiar and graceful talents of involve any contradiction in reference to Mr. Washington Irving were never more human nature, which is varied by even a pleasurably employed ; even in the gorgeous greater multitude of contrasts than may be halls of the “ Alhambra,” he is not more supposed to exist in that long interval of attractive, than in the vast prairies, jungles, which Lady Blessington and Mr. D’Israeli and forests of the far west.
form the extremities. But it is curious The novel of “Henrietta Temple," em- that they should both assume the possibility
of dispatching so intricate a problem by Howard, cast in the very mould of Captain such summary processes.
Marryatt's mind; “Ben Brace," an overTwo very agreeable works, “ Wood drawn and coarse specimen of nautical exisLeighton," by Mary Howitt, and “ Löwen- tence, by Captain Chamier; and “ The steir," by Miss Roberts, take us out of the Cruise of the Midge,” imputed, we suspect track of fashionable life: the one intro- erroneously, to Professor Wilson, and reducing us, a little too much after the man- printed from Blackwood's Magazine. ner of Miss Mitford by the way, to a rural Romances are said to be out of fashion : village with its masquerade of characters; but facts are stubborn things. Romances and the other inducting us into a forest set- are published constantly, notwithstanding tlement, where pastoral and simple people the alleged indifference of the reading follow the habits of primitive life, after world towards such inventions. But it having been wearied by the false parade, must be observed, that the romances of our hypocrisy, and selfishness of society. These time are not vehicles of the impossible; that books are feeble, but pretty, picturesque, they do not deal in magic; and that they and well-intentioned. To this division, à neither call up ghosts from the grave, nor part of a work called “ Tales of the Woods invest humanity with supernatural powers. and Fields,” may be added. This publi- They claim to be considered as romances cation is by the author of “ The Two Old merely by the extravagance of the colourMen's Tales" -a memorable and powerful ing, the unexpectedness of the situations, book, which raised expectation so highly, the mystery that hangs like a cloud over that it is hardly surprising the public should the action, and the impassioned and tragical have been disappointed by the stories which tone of the persone who move through followed it, and which are in no single par- them. The historical romances or, in ticular equal to their predecessors. A plainer language, the imitations of Scott's charming collection of tales, called “ The novels—which have latterly appeared, may Gossip's Week,"full of beauty of expression, be fairly embraced in this description ; for matured thought, and deep feeling, ought however they bear a semblance to truth, to outlive half the books of its kind of its and include events that really took place, own or any former day. We cannot say so and people who actually lived, they are much for the stories and sketches collected written in such a vein of exaggeration, that from the Magazines and Annuals in which they cannot escape from the generic title. they were originally published by Mr. The best of these that we have seen is James, and re-issued under the title of “ Edith of Glammis :" it is a reflection, true “ The Desultory Man.” The stories are to the syllable, of Walter Scott, and is so desultory enough, and the man who runs clever, that it might be imposed upon half through them like a thread, is as common- the town as the offspring of our northern place a person as might be selected by a Ariosto. “ Lord Roldan,” by Allan Cunyoung lady to thread her beads. “ A Day ningham, belongs to the same genus, but it in the Woods," by Miller, the poetical is so overrun with that wild-fire of the basket-maker, brought to light (we believe) imagination, unchecked by true taste, which by Mr. Southey, who is a fancier of that is displayed in all his prose fiction, that it class of individuals ridiculously called “ is very unlikely to be recalled from its preeducated poets," is a sorry re-union of scraps sent slumbers. “The Magician,” by Leitch of little value except to the owner. Ritchie, is another, replete with dramatic
Novels of the sea have increased in num- tableaux, bold, picturesque, and exciting. ber, and are rapidly aspiring to a permanent But it is a mere romance after all. place in our literary annals
. In the last Mascarenhas,” an Indian romance, a crowdyear, Captain Marryatt produced the stories ed scene, perplexing from the multitude of of “ The Pirate and Two Cutters,” splen- its characters, and the confusion of its didly illustrated, and given to the world in action: “ Edrick the Saxon,” by Mr. Bird, a shape of marvellous costliness ; “ Japhet a tale of the eleventh century, which puts in search of a Father,” which, although not forward no other pretensions than the bustexactly a naval story, is nevertheless tinged ling character of the times, the remoteness with naval life ; and “ Mr. Midshipman of the events, and the strangeness of the Easy,” certainly one of the cleverest of its costume: Berkeley Castle,” which may author's works. In addition to these, we be placed any where, and may be called a have had “Rattlin the Reefer," by Mr. romance, a novel, or a gallery of family
portraits, with an equal chance of hitting by Lady Charlotte Bury, is perhaps the upon its proper designation : “ The Self- best of her Ladyship's novels, but that Condemned,” by Mr. Gaspy, an Irish ro- is not saying much for it: there are passages mance, missing the national characteristics, in it of quiet morality and truthfulness that but quite as amusing as any of its class : come out like gleams of sunshine, but it and Seymour of Sudley,” by Miss Bur- wants power and originality. “The Three don, a work written with unusual circum- Eras of Woman's Life," by Mrs. Smith, spection, in which an attempt is made to may be described as a novel with a pretreat, upon the plan of the epic, the mate- meditated moral, and this premeditation rials of that mixed mode of story which gives it a tone of formality that reduces the combines the features of the novel and the pleasure which the carefulness of the style romance: complete the enumeration of all would, under more favourable circumthe romances of the year that are worthy of stances, have produced. For a novel of being drawn into our slight record. We spirit, crowded with adventures, and written have not included in this catalogue “ The con amore, we commend “ The Fellow ComRomance of Indian History,” by the Rev. moner.” Home, or the Iron Rule," by Hobart Caunter, because it aims at much Miss Stickney, may be fairly regarded as higher and more responsible objects, and is one of those works which, if truth of dea work of some importance in an historical lineation, admirable keeping and distribupoint of view. It contains a series of tales, tion of character, and a faultless choice of illustrative of Mohammedan India from the subject and of means, can command attententh to the seventeenth century, with in- tion, will be read when the names of the terstitial summaries that connect and carry majority of its contemporaries shall have on the rapid view of the history of that been wholly forgotten. “Mrs. Armytage,” period. The tales display an accurate know- a production of the facile pen of Mrs. Gore, ledge of the country and the people, and, is remarkable, like the majority of that considered as a sort of index to investiga- lady's novels, for fluency, vivacity, and tions of a graver kind, are valuable as well truth in the small details of individual as entertaining.
character. Crichton,” like the “ RookThe race of fashionable novels, that is, wood” of the same author, Mr. Ainsworth, of novels that skim the surface, and are is showy, rhapsodical, and versatile, exfilled with the modes and externals of so- hibiting a very discursive course of reading, ciety, appears to be diminishing. The thrown out with extraordinary carelessness, appetite of the public has been palled by and containing some wild lyrics, very cuthose very slender productions, and seems rious in their construction, and regulated to have turned to more substantial food. only by the fancy of the writer. The volumes that remain to be noted are We do not hold ourselves responsible for not strictly fashionable, but rather of a omissions in this hasty glance at the books hybrid species, and combine in various pro- of the season ; firstly, because if we were to portions scenes from domestic life and the notice all the books published within the idle vanities of those artificial circles that year, it would occupy more space than our do not know what to do with their time, readers would be willing to see devoted to and that commit all sorts of absurdity in the subject ; and secondly, because we the attempt to go through the world as could not do so with any advantage to the unlike other people as possible. 6 Mrs. interests of literature. These rapid outCleveland, and the St. Clairs," reputed to be lines, however, may not be altogether usewritten by Lady St. John, is a work ex- less in shewing the points to which the hibiting no inconsiderable tact, feeling, and intelligence of the country is chiefly didelicacy, wherever it deals with home rected, and in affording a sort of guide to scenes ; but where it developes the inanities the divisions into which it is broken up. of the bon ton, which it does not describe We prohibit statistics in our miscellany, very felicitously, the inward charm evapo- which is dedicated to pleasanter topics, or rates. “ The Bar Sinister,” also written we might derive some inferences from these by a Lady, is based upon a disagreeable, memoranda of much more practical value and indeed improper, subject, treated with than the whole of Dr. Madden's tables on some cleverness, but exhibiting nothing the infirmities of genius. Infirmities of more than a promise of excellence which genius! What infirmities hath genius but remains yet to be fulfilled. “The Devoted,” its tendency to turn the world inside out, and set us all spinning our webs like spiders have a facility in restoring themselves to on the dark concave? If great wits be reason which is certainly denied to lunatics really allied to madness, then the danger of every other description. It would not grows serious, to judge by the increase of be easy to decide how many of the volumes books. The lunacy commission ought to to which we have referred have already be enlarged, and Sir William Ellis, and fallen into that oblivion which acts so Dr. Warburton, and the rest, may look powerfully upon the nervous system of to make speedy fortunes of men of letters writers: but, although new patients may whose brains and nerves are in a state of continue to appear in print day after day, progressive derangement, functional and we fancy that an equal number of the organic, and who, exactly in proportion as former ones will be found to have returned they develope more intellect than the rest to their proper and more appropriate occuof mankind, must be supposed to be deficient pations. Publishers are in the habit of in common sense. But we suspect that an calling their stocks in books “ideal prooversupply in the publishing market, like perty:"—the combination of words is a an oversupply in all other markets, must little contradictory, but we are afraid it ultimately correct itself. Books, like in
must be granted at once that whether books digo, will be sure to find their own level. can be considered as property or not, there is When men relapse into temporary insanity very little doubt that the value of the great in this way, and find that their eccentricity bulk is, unfortunately,
6 ideal” enough. is treated with marked indifference, they
THE THREE SPIRITS.
BY. G. SLOANE, ESQ.
My uncle was a prodigious story-teller- the present occasion, he indulged in a second I don't mean that he indulged in a propen- · pipe, I must honestly own it encroached sity to fibbing—but like the Sultana of the not a little on my patience. But there was “ Arabian Nights,” his brain was a reservoir no help for it; to all our entreaties, not to of tales that seemed perfectly inexhaustible. say grumblings, was a laugh of those little Judging of his forehead by craniological bright eyes, and a “puff! puff !” till he rules, I could not fancy them to be his fairly puffed out pipe the second. invention-and yet how else could he come “And now," said my uncle, “ I am ready by them ?-to the best of my knowledge for you. I'll tell you a true story—as true he never read any thing but “ Carey's Book as if it were in print- and it happened to of Roads,” for he was a prodigious traveller. myself.” But whencesoever the tales came, he was in 66 Tell !-tell !tell !” cried the seven great requisition with us, who formed the younger voices in chorus. younger part of his establishment, particu- “ Will !—will !—will !” responded my larly in the long winter evenings. Like uncle. And thus he began. the Sultana already alluded to, he was sure “ I was travelling to Southampton by to find a Dinarzade at his elbow, to jog his the mail. The ground was covered with memory when it happened to slumber. snow, the wind blew a hurricane, and the
Suppose us all seated round the Christ- night was so intensely cold, that when the mas fire; the wood blazes, the hearth is coach stopped at Alton, where they allowed clean swept, and the servant retires with a few minutes“ space for refreshment, my the tea-things. In a great arm-chair sits limbs were almost frozen. You may easily my aunt, half-dozing over her knitting ; on suppose I was glad to find myself before a the opposite side is my uncle, his little good fire, and a well-spread table. Yet bright eyes twinkling with good humour there was not much to boast of in the room and penetration ; and around is a formidable either; it was a low, old-fashioned place, array of us, his seven nephews and nieces, with a well-sanded floor, and in one corner a handsome legacy, as he used to say, from was that horror of horrors, to my fancy-a his deceased brother.
Dutch clock. I don't know why, but I According to his usual wont at this part never could abide this compound of brass of the evening, the pipe was in my uncle's and wood—and the present fellow was parmouth; this, as it was a custom, I was never ticularly disagreeable to me. Above the disposed to find fault with; but when, as on dial-plate was a little figure of a Saracen,