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which was construed into sullenness or disrespect. O mighty and enduring force of early associations, which almost seems, in its unconquerable strength, to partake of an innate prepossession, that binds the son to the mother, who concealed him in her womb, and purchased life for him with the travail of death!-fountain of filial love, which coldness cannot freeze, nor injustice imbitter, nor pride divert into fresh channels, nor time, and the hot suns of our toiling manhood, exhaust — even at this moment, how livingly do you gush upon my heart, and water with your divine waves the memories that yet flourish amidst the sterility of years!" Vol. i. p. 79.
We have thus, without impairing the gratification which such of our readers as have not seen the work, may derive from a perusal of it, afforded some specimens of the ability with which it is executed. Taken as a whole, we are disposed to assign to it fully as high a place as to "Pelham," or the "Disowned." The interest of the plot is more perfect than that of either, whilst the spirit of its dialogue and the vivacity of its delineations, are as brisk and sparkling. It is liable, however, to the objection of being a repetition of the good and bad things in both those novels. Thus, the character and situation of the hero as a lover and a husband, are, with a very little variety, the same as Mordaunt's in the latter work, and all the fashionable and literary conversation smacks of both of them. As to his success in the very delicate and perilous undertaking of painting the society of the wits, both French and English, of that day, we hardly know what to say of it. Some of it appears to us very well done-but upon the whole, we are dissatisfied with this part of the work. As to transfusing the spirit of Parisian manners and conversation, in all their perfection, into English, we take it to be totally out of the question. The very difference of idioms-of the genius of the language to go no further, forbids it. That perfect freedom, chastened by the most exquisite refinement, and, in its turn giving so much piquancy to this refinement-which is the great charm of French conversation-degenerates in such imitations, into a vulgar familiarity, a snappish flippancy, and the buffoonery of a comedy dell' arte. Rousseau's description of this unrivalled style of conversation in the "Nouvelle Heloise," is well known; and both he and Madame de Staël agree that it exists no where else but at Paris, and that none but those who have been familiar with the best company there, can have an adequate idea of it. Placed, for instance, by the side of that painted from the life by Grimm, what shall we say of this picture? We do not know how far contemporary authority may bear him out, but such expressions as sacre bleu and vive la bagatelle, would be quite shocking in decent society now.
We cannot help adding, with respect to the lesson inculcated by the love of the hero for Isora, that it appears to us a very false one. It is, that first love, boyish love as it is called, is the perfection of the passion, and that even this can exist only for a moment, and is "no sooner blown than blasted." The result is, of course, that the death of the dear one in the first extasies of this blissful trance-" in the bloom of young desire and purple light of love" is devoutly to be wished. You must become a widower in the honey-moon, or survive your passion-for the wife, it seems, must cease to be an object of passion. This is a feature in which this picture differs from that of Mordaunt's love, and in which it is, in our judgment, decidedly inferior both in truth and interest. It is a German fantasy, and has, we venture to say, no foundation in nature, whatever it may have in custom, as we shall endeavour to shew more at large hereafter. Artificial, however, and strained as his system in this respect is, he often rises to a most brilliant and poetical strain, when he dwells upon the raptures of the passion.
That, bating this little exception, however, the moral of "Devevereux" is more perfect and better sustained than that of its predecessors, will appear even from some of the extracts which we have furnished, whilst there is no forced arrangement in the destinies of the several dramatis persona to establish, to be sure, a very pleasing, but often an unnatural poetical justice. The story ends with a signal act of retribution, in the punishment of the atrocious villainy of the Jesuit Montrueil-on whose dark and terrific character, so full of profound hypocrisy and unrepented crime, the author has lavished the whole wealth of his imagination; but he leaves his hero with a widowed and desolate heart, supporting the burden of existence, only through the consolations of that religion which are better than man's philosophy.
That the work is disfigured by some of the defects of "Pelham" and the "Disowned," we have already remarked. The fondness of the author to depict the heartless frivolity and absurd dandyism of high life, breaks out with its usual effect of dullness and insipidity; while, on the contrary, scenes of passion are sometimes overdone, and the style and diction are still more frequently overcharged. But in spite of these spots, enough remains to vindicate the claim of the author of "Pelham," to be regarded as one of the most promising writers of the present day. If we could hope that he would hear a monitory, though friendly voice, from this side of the Atlantic, we should conjure him to restrain rather than to encourage that teeming fertility
which has already produced three crops in a short year. Let him be admonished by the fate of the more recent productions of the great Scotch novelist, how great the peril is, not only of over-tasking the most affluent powers of invention with too frequent requisitions, but what is worse, of exhausting the patience of the public by crude and hasty speculations for the bookseller. It scarcely admits of a doubt in our minds, that the cause of sound literature suffers more from the extravagant compensation now paid for the exercise of literary talent, than it did in the time of Milton and Dryden, from the niggardliness of a comparatively unreading age. Fifteen hundred pounds every three months for the copy-right of a novel, written with scarcely a mouth's labour, are a pernicious stimulus to an overproduction quite as injurious in letters as in commerce. At all events, it leads to an utter neglect of that "price of immortality," which it is the selected duty of posterity to pay.
A regard for our own gratification would induce us to refrain from prescribing Horace's rigid maxim of probation to the gifted author of "Devereux," but let him learn a lesson from that material world, whose mysterious motions and eternal beauties he has described with such success. The most abundant harvests are those which are the result of an early vernal seed-time, and a long and careful summer culture. Let him give to his generation an annual offering, and bestow upon one work the labour which he expends on three. His publisher may pay him less, but posterity will pay him more.
Having said so much on the subject of prose fictions, it might very naturally be supposed that we were not inclined to quit this topic, without one word at least in favour of the purposes of amusement and instruction, to which they are subservient. But this word shall be better than our own. In a beautiful speculation on a kindred topic, in one of the papers of the Tatler, the writer says "The most active principle of our mind is the imagination. To it a good poet makes his court perpetually, and by this faculty takes care to gain it first. Our passions and inclinations come over next, and our reason surrenders itself with pleasure in the end. Thus the whole soul is insensibly betrayed into morality, by bribing the fancy with beautiful and agreeable. images of those very things that in the books of the philosophers appear austere, and have at best but a kind of forbidding aspect. In a word, the poets do, as it were, strew the rough paths of virtue so full of flowers, that we are not sensible of the uneasiness of them, and imagine ourselves in the midst of pleasure and the most bewitching allurements, at the time we are making progress in the severest duties of life." These remarks,
eminently just in regard to epic and dramatic poetry, are even more applicable to prose fiction, which, both as a source of instruction and amusement, occupies the next place to history, in compass and variety. We do not admit the objection that those who read novels, will read nothing else; on the contrary, we believe that a taste for reading, (a habit more valuable than the wealth of the Indies) is often created by an early fondness for fictitious narratives. The habit once formed, the mind loves to banquet as well on what is solid and substantial, as upon that which is light and piquant. But after all, we may rest satisfied that those who will read nothing else but novels, if they had not novels to read, would find in real life a much less harmless excitement, than in the most alluring of these dreams of pleasure. But how widely is the case altered, when the imagination summons virtue to her aid, when all that is great, generous and noble in our kind, is represented alone with a scrupulous fidelity to nature, and in the beautiful colouring and the grand lineaments and proportions of the ideal? May we not apply to pictures like these, what Milton says of those vernal seasons of the year, when the air is soft and pleasant? "That it were an injury and sullenness against nature, not to go out and see her riches, and partake in her rejoicings with heaven and earth."
ART. V.-Memoires sur l'Ancienne Chevalerie. Par M. DE LA CURNE DE SAINTE PALAYE. 2 vols. 12mo. Paris.
LONG before the ages of chivalry, the love of poetry distinguished the rude inhabitants of Northern Europe. The kings, leaders, and nobles of Germany had their bards, as the Scandinavian chieftains their scalds, who attended them in peace, and followed them to battle. The common themes of these poets, were the praises of the gods and the valour of contemporary, as well as ancient heroes. They preserved in their songs, some of which have come to posterity by tradition, the legends of former and the history of later ages, and the genealogies of their kings and noble families.
With the introduction of christianity, these poets disappeared from princely courts, because the church condemned all pagan songs. Their joyous airs were soon forgotten, when there were none at festivals to sing them,* and only a few martial airs, of the olden times of paganism, were for a while retained, and sung on the march to battle, to animate the soldier to deeds of glory. But on the other hand, christian heroes gave to other bards new subjects for heroic song, and Charlemagne, and the Paladins, who with Roland fell in the vale of Roncesvalles, long occupied the poets of the empire of Franconia. And when there existed an abundant store of christian songs, not less romantic nor less animating to the brave, the martial lays of the Pagans, which were already antiquated, fell more and more into disuse, and new strains were heard, particularly the air of Roland, which was for a long time the battle song of the Franconians. In the course of time, however, these martial airs, in their turn, lost their popularity, and were exchanged for others still more new, chaunted by poets in commemoration of later events, and a younger race of warriors. Minstrels suc
ceeded to the ancient bards, and like them before battle excited the chiefs to combat, and afterwards, in leisure moments, rehearsed the exploits of their leaders and the glories of their country.
The ages which preceded the establishment of the institutions of chivalry, had, in common with the following centuries, many errors, prejudices, superstitious opinions and habits; the same contempt of peril and death; the same inclination to war and private combat. Their poetry had consequently a common tendency, though not always the same spirit and refinement. Chivalry added to the manners and opinions of former times, gallantry, wild and perilous adventures, a belief in giants and dwarfs, in dragons and hypogriffs, in wizzards and their enchantments, and in the interference of the spiritual world with all the transactions of life. The poetry which was cultivated after the prevalence of chivalry, under the influence of these new creeds, breathed the wild heroism of romance-hence arose in the history of poetry a new epoch.
Another change was taking place. The love of poetry which hitherto had amused and inspired some of the nobility, now seized on all ranks, as the institution of chivalry united in itself
"Yet other national airs very soon succeeded them. The French women sung at processions during the pauses Nugaies Cantilenes; the people in Germany sung pastoral songs, as well as airs on the pleasures of drinking and the griefs of lovers.Even the nuns dared to sing the airs of the old bards. Ottfried composed verses only for the pious purpose of discarding these profane songs.