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au cens électoral, on peut prévoir qu'il arrivera, dans un délai plus ou moins long, à le faire disparaître complétement. C'est là l'une des règles les plus invariables qui régissent les sociétés. A mesure qu'on recule la limite des droits électoraux, on sent le besoin de reculer davantage; car après chaque concession nouvelle, les forces de la démocratie augmentent, et ses exigences croissent avec son nouveau pouvoir. L'ambition de ceux qu'on laisse au dessous du cens, s'irrite en proportion du grand nombre de ceux qui se trouvent au dessus. L'exception devient enfin la règle ; les concessions se succèdent sans relâche, et on ne s'arrête plus, que quand on est arrivé au suffrage universel.'
Nothing can be more just than this reasoning; and it leads directly to the conclusion, that there is more real danger in such small and partial measures as that I have mentioned (which are mere steps towards democracy) than in a more extensive change in our representation, provided the latter is founded on a deliberate review of our whole system, and is so framed as to correct the faults in opposite directions which are to be found in it. If, therefore, permanent resistance to all change in the state of the representation is (as I believe) impossible, the wise course for those who hold Conservative opinions is to show themselves ready to concur in some fair and reasonable settlement of the question of parliamentary reform. Their doing so would be no less for their interest as a party than for the good of the country ; since in the present state of opinion, so long as the question of parliamentary reform remains unsettled, not only the general question itself, but those particular ones which form part of it,—such as the ballot, the extension of the franchise, and the shortening of parliaments,—will throw difficulties in the way of Conservative candidates in populous places.
To these reasons, in favour of the adoption by the Conservative party of the policy I have described, I would add, that the events of the last few years strongly indicate that, even if there were no wish on the part of the people for organic change of any kind, the time is coming when it will be impossible that things should remain as they
The difficulties in carrying on our system of parliamentary government, to which I have adverted in a former chapter, as having arisen partly from the Reform Acts of 1832, partly from other causes, seem to be growing more and more serious, and threaten virtually to break down the system itself, unless something is done to strengthen the authority of the servants of the Crown in parliament. But it would obviously be impracticable to effect this, unless the changes which may be proposed with that view should form part of a general measure, by which an extension of popular rights should also be granted."
ART. VIII.- THE WAVERLEY NOVELS.
Library Edition. Illustrated by upwards of Two Hundred Engrar
ings on Steel, after Drawings by Turner, Landseer, Wilkie, Stanfield, Roberts, &c., including Portraits of the Historical Personages
described in the Novels. 25 vols, demy 8vo. Abbotsford Edition. With One Hundred and Twenty Engravings
on "Steel, and nearly Two Thousand on Wood. 12 vols. super
royal 8vo. Author's favourite Edition. 48 post foolscap 8vo vols. Cabinet Edition. 25 vols. foolscap 8vo. Railway Edition. Now publishing, and to be completed in 25 port
able volumes, large type. People's Edition. 5 large volumes royal 8vo. It is not commonly on the generation which was contemporary with the production of great works of art that they exercise their most magical influence. Nor is it on the distant people whom we call posterity. Contemporaries bring to new books formed minds and stiffened creeds; posterity, if it regard them at all, looks at them as old subjects, worn-out topics, and hears a disputation on their merits with languid impartiality, like aged judges in a court of appeal. Even standard authors exercise but slender influence on the susceptible minds of a rising generation; they are become “papa's books;" the walls of the library are adorned with their regular volumes; but no hand touches them. Their fame is itself half an obstacle to their popularity; a delicate fancy shrinks from employing so great a celebrity as the companion of an idle hour. The generation which is really most influenced by a work of genius is commonly that which is still young when the first controversy respecting its merits arises; with the eagerness of youth they read and re-read; their vanity is not unwilling to adjudicate: in the process their imagination is formed; the creations of the author range themselves in the memory; they become part of the substance of the very mind. The works of Sir Walter Scott can hardly be said to have gone through this exact process. Their immediate popularity was unbounded. No one-a few most captious critics apart—ever questioned their peculiar power. Still they are subject to a transition, which is in principle the same. At the time of their publication mature contemporaries read them with delight. Superficial the reading of grown men in some sort must ever be; it is only once in a lifetime that we can know the passionate reading of youth; men soon lose its eager learning power. But from peculiarities
in their structure, which we shall try to indicate, the novels of Scott suffered less than almost any book of equal excellence from this inevitable superficiality of perusal. Their plain, and, so to say, cheerful merits, suit the occupied man of genial middle life. Their appreciation was to an unusual degree coincident with their popularity. The next generation, hearing the praises of their fathers in their earliest reading time, seized with avidity on the volumes; and there is much in very many of them which is admirably fitted for the delight of boyhood. A third generation has now risen into at least the commencement of literary life, which is quite removed from the unbounded enthusiasm with which the Scotch novels were originally received, and does not always share the still more eager partiality of those who, in the opening of their minds, first received the tradition of their excellence. New books have arisen to compete with these; new interests distract us from them. The time, therefore, is not perhaps unfavourable for a slight criticism of these celebrated fictions; and their continual republication without any criticism for many years seems almost to demand it.
There are two kinds of fiction which, though in common literature they may run very much into one another, are yet in reality distinguishable and separate. One of these, which we may call the ubiquitous, aims at describing the whole of human life in all its spheres, in all its aspects, with all its varied interests, aims, and objects. It searches through the whole life of man ; his practical pursuits, his speculative attempts, his romantic youth, and his domestic age. It gives an entire feature of all these; or if there be any lineaments which it forbears to depict, they are only such as the inevitable repression of a regulated society excludes from the admitted province of literary art. Of this kind are the novels of Cervantes and Le Sage, and, to a certain extent, of Smollett or Fielding. In our own time, Mr. Dickens is an author whom nature intended to write to a certain extent with this aim. He should have given us not disjointed novels, with a vague attempt at a romantic plot, but sketches of diversified scenes, and the obvious life of varied mankind. The literary fates, however, if such beings there are, allotted otherwise. By a very terrible example of the way in which in this world great interests are postponed to little ones, the genius of authors is habitually sacrificed to the tastes of readers. In this age, the great readers of fiction are young people. The “addiction” of these is to romance; and accordingly a kind of novel has become so familiar to us as almost to engross the name, which deals solely with the passion of love; and if it uses other parts of human life for the occasions of its art, it does so only cursorily and occasionally, and with a view of throwing into a stronger or more delicate
light those sentimental parts of earthly affairs which are the special objects of delineation. All prolonged delineation of other parts of human life is considered“ dry,” stupid, and distracts the mind of the youthful generation from the fantasies” which peculiarly charm it. Mr. Olmsted has a story of some deputation of the Indians, at which the American orator harangued the barbarian audience about the "great spirit,” and “the land of their fathers,” in the style of Mr. Cooper's novels; during a moment's pause in the great stream, an old Indian asked the deputation,“ Why does your chief speak thus to us? we did not wish great instruction or fine words; we desire brandy and tobacco." No critic in a time of competition will speak uncourteously of any reader of either sex ; but it is indisputable that the old kind of novel, full of “great instruction” and varied pictures, does not afford to some young gentlemen and some young ladies either the peculiar stimulus or the peculiar solace which they desire.
The Waverley Novels were published at a time when the causes that thus limit the sphere of fiction were coming into operation, but when they had not yet become so omnipotent as they are now. Accordingly these novels every where bear marks of a state of transition. They are not devoted with any thing like the present exclusiveness to the sentimental part of human life. They describe great events, singular characters, strange accidents, strange states of society; they dwell with a peculiar interest—and as if for their own sake-on antiquarian details relating to a past society. Singular customs, social practices, even political institutions which existed once in Scotland, and even elsewhere, during the middle ages, are explained with a careful minuteness. At the same time the sentimental element assumes a great deal of prominence. The book is in fact, as well as in theory, a narrative of the feelings and fortunes of the hero and heroine. An attempt more or less successful has been made to insert an interesting love-story in each novel. Sir Walter was quite aware that the best delineation of the oddest characters, or the most quaint societies, or the strangest incidents, would not in general satisfy his readers. He has invariably attempted an account of youthful, sometimes of decidedly juvenile, feelings and actions. The difference between Sir Walter's novels and the specially romantic fictions of the present day is, that in the former the love-story is always, or nearly always, connected with some great event, or the fortunes of some great historical character, or the peculiar movements and incidents of some strange state of society; and that the author did not suppose or expect that his readers would be so absorbed in the sentimental aspect of human life as to be unable or unwilling to be interested in, or to attend to, any other. There is always a locus in quo, if
, the expression may be pardoned, in the Waverley Novels. The hero and heroine walk among the trees of the forest according to rule, but we are expected to take an interest in the forest as well as in them.
No novel, therefore, of Sir Walter Scott's can be considered to come exactly within the class which we have called the ubiquitous. None of them in any material degree attempts to deal with human affairs in all their spheres—to delineate as a whole the life of man. The canvas has a large background, in some cases too large either for artistic effect or the common reader's interest; but there are always real boundaries—Sir Walter had no thesis to maintain. Scarcely any writer will set himself to delineate the whole of human life, unless he has a doctrine concerning human life to put forth and inculcate. The effort is doctrinaire. Scott's imagination was strictly conservative. He could understand (with a few exceptions) any considerable movement of human life and action, and could always describe with easy freshness every thing which he did understand; but he was not obliged by stress of fanaticism to maintain a dogma concerning them, or to show their peculiar relation to the general sphere of life. He described vigorously and boldly the peculiar scene and society which in every novel he had selected as the theatre of romantic action. Partly from their fidelity to nature, and partly from a consistency in the artist's mode of representation, these pictures group themselves from the several novels in the imagination, and an habitual reader comes to think of and understand what is meant by “Scott's world;" but the writer had no such distinct object before him. No one novel was designed to be a delineation of the world as Scott viewed it. We have vivid and fragmentary histories; it is for the slow critic of after-times to piece together their teaching.
From this intermediate position of the Waverley Novels, or at any rate in exact accordance with its requirements, is the special characteristic for which they are most remarkable. We may call this in a brief phrase their romantic sense ; and perhaps we cannot better illustrate it than by a quotation from the novel to which the series owes its most usual name. It occurs in the description of the court-ball which Charles Edward is described as giving at Holyrood House the night before his march southward on his strange adventure. The striking interest of the scene before him, and the peculiar position of his own sentimental career, are described as influencing the mind of the hero. “Under the influence of these mixed sensations, and cheered at times by a smile of intelligence and approbation from the Prince as he passed the group, Waverley exerted his powers of fancy,