صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

his better days,

rature, or there will be no hope of redemption pos-phy of Bulwer's remarks be true, as we believe it sible. Our insufficient aid shall be freely given, to be, neither in the reading nor the reprehension although the dam which we may be able to oppose of his novel can we look for gratification. The to the desolating stream may not for a moment tale is a vast diorama of iniquity-and the tencheck the gathering deluge of infamy. But the dency of the work is as much to be dreaded as the censorship of letters, which we profess to hold, is, depravity of its leading characters. We can deor should be, a sentinel upon the watch-tower to rive no pleasure from wandering through the hortell us of the night, and to give instant notice of rible maze of real or fictitious crime. It is with peril or invasion :-it should espy danger afar off, reluctance that we trace back our footsteps, and and give warning to those within the City. Its again dwell upon the dark details which are emfunctions are of the most sacred and solemn charac- bossed on the still darker canvass. It is with ter—it is the intellectual priesthood of an enlight- shuddering we stand upon the threshold, for the ened age—and when the Courts of Literature are cave of the Cyclops is before us, and we have aldefiled by the offerings of the corrupt or the in- ready penetrated the gloom of its hideous recesses. fected, those who minister, however humbly, at the

Domus, sanie dapibusque cruentis, altar, must be ever ready to sound the alarm, and

Intus opaca, ingens. cry out with the heathen priestess of old, procul,

procul ite profani. We have listened in vain for There is a sympathy which, despite of compasthe more potent voice of those whose seat is in the sion, makes us dread and avoid the miseries we higher places of the Synagogue of Literature: no behold. The consciousness of a common nature, ery has been raised; but it is the duty of the aco- the knowledge that in every heart are implanted lytes to repel pollution, when their superiors are the seeds of the same wickedness and frailties, either negligent of the ministrations of the Temple, should repel us from familiar association with crime, or indisposed to perform them. Let this be our at the same time that it softens the harshness of excuse for recalling at this late day the considera- our judgment of the criminal. But there is anotion of the principles and tendencies of Lucretia. ther species of sympathy which makes us gloss

In alluding to the beautiful passage from Lucre- over iniquity, and draws us into closer approximatias with which we commenced our remarks, Bul- tion with the vicious, so that the sin and the sioner wer exclaims, in language rich with the graces of are confounded together, and the pily which we

feel for the latter operates as an attraction towards

the former. Thus, that tolerance and indulgence “And now, O Poet of the sad belief and elo- are extended to the offence which Christian charity goence, 'like ebony, at once dark and splendid,'commands us to show only to the offender. The how couldst thou, august Lucretius, deem it but distinction between the one and the other species sweet to behold from the steep, the strife of the great sea, or safe from peril, gaze on the wrath of

of sympathy is both nice and difficult it is one the battle, or serene in the temples of the wise, rarely made with due caution, and to which the look afar on the wanderings of human error? Is blind, incautious, and unreflecting spirit of the day it so sweet to survey the ills from which thou art is wholly adverse. It is the latter and pernicious delivered? Shall not the strong law of sympathy form of sympathy which Lucretia is calculated to find thee out and thy heart rebuke thy philosophy excite : and from this cause, coöperating with the Not sweet, indeed, can be man's shelter in self, when he says to the storm, 'I have no bark on the moral confusion of the two, principally arises its seas!' or to the gods of the batile, 'I have no son dangerous tendency. The weak or the imprudent in the slaughter!' when he smiles unmoved upon may easily have been beguiled into too deep an inwoe, and murmurs,' weep on for these eyes know terest in the tale : they may have imbibed the poino tears;' when onappalled he beholdeth the black son without having been aware that they were sipdeeds of crime and cries to his conscience, Thou art calm!' Yet solemn is the sight to him who lives ping the juices of aconite : they may have forgotten in all life ; searches Nature in the storm, and Provi. that the voice of the Syren swelled most melodidence in the battle ; loses self in the woe ; probes ously on the ear when the hidden rocks menaced bis heart in the crime; and owns no philosophy instant shipwreck. While the sunshine laughs that sets him free from the fetters of man! Not in upon the summer sea we dream not of the fury of vain do we scan all the contrasts in the large frame the tempest, or the dangers of the treacherous work of civilized earth, if we note. when the dust growth into hardness and the clods cleave fast to- calm. We yield to the fascination which genius gether.'”

wreathes around immorality, without heeding the

viper which lurks beneath the flowers. The involSi sic omnia—if such were the whole tenor of untary admiration which talent inspires insures our Lucretia, and there was no refluent lide beneath partiality to the work in which its power is disthe surface, we should be silent, or we should ap- played : and the universal sympathies of our complaad. Certainly we should never have taken this mon nature entice us unwillingly into closer comnovel as a text for our denunciation of the impuri- munion with the vicious and the criminal than we ties of our modern Literature. Still, if the philoso-'would coolly or knowingly permit. We must rouse

ourselves from this trance of death and shake off | expected from the author of Eugene Aram, Rithe baneful influence of the growing delusion. We enzi, and Zanoni. At first we were strongly dismust dispel the treacherous mists which hover posed to doubt the authenticity of the book, and we temptingly before our eyes, and awaken to the re- did not admit it without many scruples. The ality. It is thus only that we may avert the dan characteristics of Bulwer's style and tone are in gers of the corrupting literature of the day-thus such excess as almost to constitute a caricature; only that we can discover the deadly contagion while the usual richness of imagination and music that festers beneath the surface of such novels as of expression are seldom exhibited : "the hands are Lucretia. We are willing to concede that this last the hands of Esau, but the voice is the voice of production of Bulwer’s genius has a lofty scope-Jacob.” This exaggeration itself excited doubt, that its professed aim is noble; but unfortunately, which was of course laid aside when we found that the aim and the tendency are altogether at variance. we had no valid foundation for our surmises. The The test of La Bruyère is the only one by which peculiarities which occasioned it may have been the purity as well as the excellence of a work can due solely to the approaches of age, which render be estimated. * The whole difference rests in the natural defects more prominent and obvious, while heart and not in the genius of the writer. Hence they dry up the abundant juices of youth. arises the germ of truth contained in the paradox Lucretia is, as we have intimated, characterized of Quintilian, pectus est ingenium. We do not by all the mannerism of Bulwer. We should not mean to charge upon Bulwer any deliberate inten- return to this were it not that his peculiarities are tion to minister to vice; but we will say that, from closely connected with the morals of his writings. inattention, from want of skill, from the absence of His novels have been invariably characterized by true artistic feeling, or more probably, from the de- a very high degree of metaphysical subtlety, and ficiency of his moral enthusiasm for virtue, for jus- by the display of remarkable acumen in the analytice, and for right, he has not only neglected all the sis of human motives and human character. These precautions that might have neutralized the noxious are his strong points, and the undue cultivation of influences of the tale, but he has woven a wide and these talents has, in a great measure, impaired his dangerous net that will surely entrap the feet of merits as an artist. There is a passage in Pelham, the weak, the erring, or the unwary. It is our which shows how deliberately, from the outset of purpose to detect and explain the perils to be ap- his career, he has been laboring to introduce a metprehended from this and similar works, which are aphysical complexion into the literature of fiction. becoming lamentably numerous and popular—10 Scott had rendered romance at once antiquariaa unravel the tangled threads of error--to untwist and historical, without neglecting the portraiture the reticulated web of sophistry which has beguiled of real life :- he had made it the magic mirror, in equally writers and readers--and in the case of Lu- which the figures and the social condition of past cretia to trace the secret causes which have, pos- ages were recalled from the oblivion of the grave, sibly without the knowledge of the author, con- and exhibited to our astonished vision with all the spired to produce its inimoral tendency, and to hues, and motions, and passions of the every day leaven with contagion his previous works. On world. Bulwer was anxious to render romance former occasions we have given free utterance to psychological also. The various elements had been our great, but not unqualified, admiration of Bul- wonderfully and harmoniously united in the Drawer's previous novels, for until now we have not mas of Shakspeare, and Bulwer was desirous of seen clearly the direction of his course : but, hav- producing a counterpart to Hamlet and King Lear. ing discovered our own delusion and his aberra- Every novel which he has written, with the probtions from the narrow path of moral rectitude, it is lematic exception of Pelham, has been written with our duty to sing our palinodia, and to put others on a conscious metaphysical aim. Yet all his exertheir guard, especially when so glaring a danger tions have been insufficient to create a character calls for immediate warning. With these views, whose metaphysical propriety or profundity could but with little disposition to accuse Bulwer of in- rival the Madge Wildfire or the Black Dwarf of tentional malignity, we will enter upon the exami- the Great Magician of the North. Bulwer has pation of Lucretia.

pushed his attempt too far :-it has become a maaWe have never thought that this novel was cal- nerism and an idiosyncrasy. The knife is erer in culated to add much to Bulwer's reputation. It his hands. He dissects and anatomizes most skilwould certainly have been a very remarkable pro- fully, but he does so continually :-and the scalpel, duction from any other writer; but it is in very which lays bare the mysteries of human organizamany respects inferior to what might have been lion, and separates the delicate nerves which de

termine the action of the human microcosm, dis*Quand une lecture vous élève l'esprit, et qu'elle vous

figures and mutilates at the same time the sobject inspire des sentiments nobles et courageux, ne cherchez pas une autre règle pour juger de l'ouvrage : il est bon, et upon which it is employed, and destroys that hidfait de main d'ouvrier. La Bruyère. Caractères. Des den spark by which the organization is preserved Ouvrages de l'Esprit.

and the nerves put in play. When the scrutiny is

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

ended and the result is to be exhibited, we are at metaphysical evolution of a long series of causes
last presented with the dead and dissevered mem- and effects is intended to engross the attention ra-
bers, instead of the living, breathing, glowing, har- ther than the dramatic progress of the action, and
monious unity of nature and of true art. It is the the succession of events.
skeleton in the dissecting room, with its bones con- To illustrate this in a fuller and more satisfac-
nected by wires, and its limbs jerked about by tory manner, we will transcribe Bulwer's own ex-
springs and mechanical contrivances, which alone position of his designs. His aims, and the feel-
is brought before us. This is the first great defect ings by which he was actuated in the composition
of all Bulwer's writings :—the breath has escaped of Lucretia, are thus stated in the Preface :
from the body, while he has been prying into the

“There had long been a desire in my mind to seat of the disease, or the mysteries of organiza- trace, in some work or other, the strange and setion. The only motion is the result of inanimate cret ways, through which that arch-ruler of civilimechanism or galvanic excitation. We may ad- zation, familiarly called • Money,' insinuates itself mire bis works as profound or ingenious essays in into our thoughts and motives, our hearts and acmetaphysics; but we are compelled to admit that tions : affecting those who undervalue, as those they are not wholly satisfactory as pictures of men the spendthrift no less than engendering vices in

who over-rate iis importance ; ruining virtues in and society :

the miser. But when I half implied my farewell

to the character of a novelist, I had imagined that We start :--for soul is wanting there.

this conception might be best worked out upon

the stage. Sundry unexpected excellencies have indubita- unite some exhibition of what seems to me a prin

With this design I desired to bly sprung up from this psychological tendency; cipal vice in the hot and emulous chase for happibut they sapplant or overlay other excellencies more ness or fame, fortune or knowledge—which is alimperatively required. They render these fictions most synonymous with the cant phrase of the a more intellectual, and perhaps more useful study: March of Intellect,' in that crisis of society to but, at the same time, they render them less pleas which we have arrived. The vice I allude io is ing and effective as representations of life. They not so much to conquer obstacles as to elude them;

Impatience. That eager desire to peep forward, lower the subject from the empyrean region of the that gambling with the solemn destinies of life, imagination to the more terrestrial atmosphere of seeking ever io set success on the chance of a die; the pure reason. They introduce philosophy, but that hastening from the wish conceived to the end they exclude vitality, and clip the wings of art. accomplished ; that thirst after quick returns to inColeridge characterized the experiments of the genious toil, and breathless spurrings along short

cuts to the goal, which we see everywhere around French Sarans upon dead animals in search of the

us; * characterizing the books of our writers, principle of life, as a folly similar to that of "mon- the speeches of our statesmen, no less than the kers, which put their hands behind a looking-glass.” dealings of our speculators, seem, I confess to me, There is something of the same delusion in Bul- to constitute a very diseased and general symptom

of the times." wer's mode of depicting character and passion; he is looking at the reverse side, and analy the It was fortunate for Bulwer that he did not prosamalgam behind, instead of turning to us the mir-ecute his intention of elucidating and developing rør of life, and exhibiting therein " the very body these views upon the stage. The Drama is an imi. and pressure of the times.” Analogous to this was tation of actual life :-the truthfulness and breathibe blander of Euripides ;-and such has ever been ing harmony of life are essential to success; and the first step in the downward progress of litera- in no form of literature is it more dangerous to sub

stitute the analytic for the synthetic—the metaThis method of treating subjects of fiction con- physics for the fact. The stage, too, is in a great stilates the most marked peculiarity of Bulwer, measure out of date : it was useful and popular at and one hitherto almost exclusively characteristic a time when few could read, and fewer obtain anyof himself. In Deverenx, in the Disowned, in Eu- thing to read—when the means of communigene Aram, in Paul Clifford, in Rienzi, in the Last cating with multitudes was in the theatre or on of the Barons-eminently in Zanoni-nay, in all the tribunal: but in our day men read and examhis writings, this is the most prominent feature. In ine, instead of hearing and feeling. Novels have Lacretia he is more metaphysical than ever :-His taken the place of Plays, and they have the advanaim is a metaphysical one ; namely, to show the age over them of offering a wider canvass. The inticence exercised upon the intellect and morals, action of Lucretia might easily have been coinby the auri sacra fames, which is the ruling pas- pressed within the Five Acts of a Tragedy, but $ion of the day. For the attainment of this end, the Philosophy would have been cramped for want he traces the gradual development of evil from the of room, and the Metaphysics would have been bour in which the seed was dropped into the soil, glaringly inappropriate. prepared for it, till it attained its full growih, and The passages quoted from the Preface to Lucrebore its luxuriant harvest of fatal fruit. The scope tia sufficiently indicate the highly metaphysical of the work is thus purely metaphysical : and the scope of the novel, but along with the aims therein

ture and art.

Emollit mores,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

announced, another still more metaphysical and of finity, as we shall hereafter see, with the pernicious no less importance is steadily contemplated. This tendencies of the novel itself than might at first is an attempt to show the cultivation of the intel- be suspected. * lect to be no cause, nor even a necessary concom- It follows from the direction in which Bulwer itant of the amelioration of the moral character. has proceeded, and from the nature of the ground It is an endeavor to prove that vice and learning whence he started, that the novel should be regard. are by no means incompatible; that the developed by him a more serious and elaborate producment of the mental faculties, unattended by the sed- tion than a work of fiction is usually regarded as ulous discipline of the heart, may only produce This point, though closely allied to his metaphysi. Its more subtle refinement in wickedness, and a greater cal aims, is not identical therewith. It rather recapacity for the conception and perpetration of sults of necessity, than is the same thing. But if crime. The old remark is perfectly true, that a work of fiction is made the vehicle of philosophi 15 mental culture, for the most part,

cal speculation, it assumes a much graver character

ter than when it is employed merely as a channel et non sinit esse feros.

of amusement. Here, however, we are not left to But mores does not mean morals here, it only sig- inference, we can quote Bulwer's own language: :**198 nifies manners. The disposition to crime is not eradicated by intellectual pursuits, it is only gloss- Days of Pompeii, “who is thoroughly aware of 25

“ No man,” says he, in the Preface to the Last 12% ed over by a sleek hypocrisy. This truth is abun- what prese fiction has now become-of its dignidantly confirmed by the examples cited by Bulwer ly—of its influence-of the manner in which it has from history-Cæsar Borgia, Nero, Richard III. gradually absorbed all similar departments of litHe might have added Tiberius and Henry VIII. erature of its powers in teaching as well as amu. The prosecution of any of these aims singly with philosophy-with politics—its utter harmony

sing-can so far forget ils connexion with history, would have been amply sufficient to throw a highly with poetry, as to debase its nature to the level of psychological complexion over the present novel. scholastic frivolilies : he raises scholarship to the The prosecution of the three simultaneously not creative, and does not bow the creative to the schoonly trebles the intensity of the dye, but multiplieslastic.” it beyond calculation. They are all to be introdu- We might refer also to the very able Essay pre- dans ced in full play, and yet ever acting and reacting fixed to the Disowned. upon each other. Their reciprocal operation weaves This serious character gives to Bulwer's opinions a mystic web in which we can determine neither and writings greater weight than might otherwise the frequency nor the direction of the several be accorded to the views propounded in a novel. threads. Every result springs from a long series When, therefore, they are either erroneous in themof prior results, each of which is due to the di- selves, or presented in such guise as to threaten versely proportioned influence of three dissimilar pernicious tendencies, they merit graver examinayet associate causes. Hence the metaphysical tion and a more serious refulation than might o:hcharacter of the work is infinitely augmented, and, erwise be accorded to them. They are not the indeed, so far increased, as, in a great measure, to light, reckless impressions of the hasty writer, who defeat its aim. For instead of a clearer and more aims only at throwing off corruscations on his way distinct perception through the instrumentality of to dazzle for a while, heedless whether he sheds analysis, the whole light is obscured and confused forth the erratic blaze of a meteor, or the serene by the various play of crossing and oblique rays. and fixed brilliancy of a star ; but they are the de

We shall shortly have occasion to return to these liberate conclusions of one claiming to be a philosaaims of Bulwer, for the sake of making a few ob- pher, whom we cannot deny to be a profound thinkservations upon the truth and importance of his er as well as a beautiful writer. The glitter is not doctrines in the present crisis of the world. We the reflection of mere tiosel, but of solid metalonly notice them now as furnishing evidence of the whether it be refined gold, or tainted with much metaphysical scope of the novel, which is so strongly characteristic of Bulwer's writings. In this * The close connection of exaggerated metaphysics and respect, Lucretia far outstrips all its predecessors; immorality has been very distinctly apprehended by one of for, though Zanoni is more purely addressed to the the inost acute and ingenious of our modern writers, Isaac contemplative faculty, it is transcendental and al- Taylor, of Ongar. “If there is to be in England," he says

,

"and in the nineteenth century. an abhorrent or repulsive legorical, and appeals chiefly to the imagination, system of religion, it must be abstruse, ratiocinative, stero, whereas Lucretia is eminently practical, though and in some sense philosophical. It must assume the forma metaphysical.

of erudite and metaphysical theology; and will be found We should not have insisted upon this peculiari- no lover of shade, silence and peace—as inoffensive as ima ty at such length, were it not so closely connected becile ; but bold, arrogant, full of defiance, rancor, contra: with the moral obliquity of the work itself. But gressive ; it will be inexorable and factious. Such the

diction ; it will be loud, intoleranı, severe, exclusive, aga this radical defect, or rather this characteristic ex- be the style of anti-social godliness in our times

, and for cess of one special element, has a much closer af,'our country." - Saturday Evening, No. XIIII.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

alloy, can only be discovered by cautious investiga- | hibited in the excess or failure of old characteristion. If we would follow Bulwer's reasoning, or tics, we find another indication of diminished vigor detect its fallacies, we must examine with diligence in his imitation of French extravaganzas. Bulequal to his own the grounds of his propositions or wer, who a few years back disdained the monstrous his plans; and no apology need be offered for the inventions of the French school, and sneered at seriousness with which we prosecute this task. its authors, has fairly enrolled himself in their

It appears almost unnecessary to say that in sol- ranks by the publication of Lucretia. He seeks to emn earnestness Lucretia as far transcends its pre- win admiration and attract regard by outrageous decessors, as it surpasses them in metaphysical sub-conceptions; and deems the dread miracles of vice tlety. The aims contemplated sufficiently evince to be a fit and piquant condiment to tempt the deibis, and the Preface, no less than the general tenor praved palate of the public. It is not merely that of the work, confirms it.

in one place he has borrowed from Dumas--an obIt would also be needless to point to other ex- ligation which is acknowledged--but the whole cesses of the Bulweric strain. They are contin strain of Lucretia is congenial with the recent bal and may be readily detected. The interrup- taste of France--and nine-tenths of its horrible 1jon of the parrative by apostrophic declamation, incidents have been palpably suggested by the Count or didactic speculation—the introduction of the Bil- of Monte Christo, and kindred works. The adlingsgate character from Fishmarket and Mon- mirable and beautiful reflections on the true provmouth Street, and the contrast between the varnish- ince and aims of art, which are scattered through ed hypoerite—the dissembling fiends of more polish- Zanoni, ought to have prevented this unholy allied life-and the optrimmed ruffians, whose nalures ance, and now stand as the record of judgment proare too coarse for disguise-these, and many other nounced by himself on all such perversions of talebaracteristics of Bulwer, might be mentioned as ent as the present : setting aside the obvious plaproroinently displayed in Lucretia.

giarism, which seems strange in a writer of BulBut if many of his peculiarities are exhibited in wer's original power, but is a petty defect, comthis novel in more than their usual success, there pared with the moral aberrations of the novel ;

are two of the ancient elements of his power which his reason or his taste might have warned him of las bare sadly faded since last he filled the stage. The the error of entering the unt allowed circle of the

rich and gorgeous imagination, which by its potent littérature extravagante. The chronicle of naked alchemy transmited all it touched into the sem- and unblushing crime is not a legitimate subject for blance of gold—which made his page bloom with either poet or novelist. If crimes be introduced towers and froits that reminded us of the fairy among the topics on which their genius is expended, scenes of Eastern fable—which shed over the ordi- it should be solely to give occasion for the delinenary phenomena of nature a thousand brilliant rays ation of high virtue struggling against them, in of variant hues which poured over the magic world whose behalf our sympathies may be exerted. But it created the sunlight of its own rich poetry—this to fill the canvass with the gleanings of Newgatevivid imagination now moves with languid and crip- or with criminals whose iniquities are unvisited by pled wing. Icarus has approached too near the the laws-these are not the aims of true genius 801—the wax has melted before the fires of science, and correct taste. It is as much a violation of the and bis pinions are now drooping and draggling. laws of art as it is an offence against the dictates of The melody of his language, too, is sadly chang- healthy morality. The fashionable seductions of ed :-the music of expression which so aptly cloth. the French school are perverting the tone of all ed the glowing metaphors, is now rugged and dis- literature--the public taste is becoming depravedcordant-it no longer falls upon the ear in those the morals of the public are insidiously underminlyrie cadences which formerly bewitched the lis-ed—and the streams of pollution are filling every teder. At times, indeed, a sudden symphony-a vein of the intellectual world, now coursing in burst of infrequent rapture reminds us of his for- full deep channels, now filtering itself through in mer notes—but the plumes of the archangel are almost imperceptible rivulets. Seldom, indeed, is faded, and the voice of celestial melody has forsa- the danger apparent to the incautious, or to those ken him. He has lost them amid the unholy fires who are already fascinated by the Syren voice of and noxious damps of infection where his Muse the deluder; but from this source our Literature bas of late been straying. Possibly, time may have is rapidly becoming tainted, and it is time that the ibus dimmed his imagination and untuned his lyre-world should awaken to a knowledge of the contaor it may be that the neglect of recent years has gion which is stealing over it. There is no influrobbed him of his art—or his soul may have been ence more potent for good or for evil than the litparalyzed by dwelling in an atmosphere of rank erature of the day, and if it flow from poisoned and poisonous dews. But be the cause what it fountains, or through poisonous weeds, the venom may, the witchery of Bulwer's strain is sorely is speedily infused into every vein and artery of weakened.

society. This dismal process of moral death has In addition to these symptoms of decline, as ex. 'already begun to operate amongst us—the springs

« السابقةمتابعة »