Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

men and women within a circuit of ten miles of his native place. Those who were residing with their sons, and their sons' wives, were to receive by far the largest relief. He appointed as trustees two of the most respectable merchants of the town, to whom he gave authority to see the provisions of his will carried out, in case his son and Mrs. Lawson should decline the duties of executorship which he had bequeathed to them; the trustees were to exercise a surveillance over Mr. and Mrs. Lawson, to see that the will should in every particular be strictly carried into effect. The will was dated, and duly signed in the town in South America where

the old man had for some years resided; a codicil, containing the bequest of the ring, with some further particulars regarding the charities, had been added a few days previous to the old man's death.

Is the disappointing year of 1848that year parturient, as it seemed, and only seemed, of revolutions in Ireland, and at a time when it was most prolific of menace and convulsion, we had the fortune to be present when a singular advice was given to an agitated individual, and (contrary to the usual fate of such non-expensive generosities) was accepted and acted on. The party to whom this counsel was given had suffered much mental disquiet, under a persuasion that the Repeal threatenings meant more mischief than the transitory disorder they excited. Day after day he read of mustering clubs, daring conspiracies, and monster meetings; speeches like streams of burning lava rent their way through his affrighted memory in deluges of fire; literal and bodily forms of pistol, and pike, and dagger, assumed a spectral influence over his tortured imagination; and, incapable of conceiving that the swelling ambitions and the desperate resolutions of Conciliation Hall and the Councils, could possibly die tamely out, as they did, in Ballingarry, he lived in a fever of fear; his dream by night, his thought by day, that impending convulsion of blood and crime, in which, whoever were the victors, the country would become worse than

Mrs. Lawson was carried fainting from the room before the reading of the will was concluded. She was seized with violent fever, and her life was despaired of. She recovered, however, and from the verge of the eternal existence on which she had been, she returned to life with a less worldly and ostentatious nature, and a soul more alive to the impulses of kindness and charity.

A FLIGHT OF LADY-BIRDS.

a howling wilderness. Such was his condition, intellectual and moral, when, looking with bleared and bloodshot eyes into the face of a friend, he told his melancholy tale, and supplicated counsel.

The chamber in which this carnest request was made, rises around us as we write. It was a library, quaintly but highly ornamented in the elabrate decorations of the olden time. Richly carved cases contained treasures of higher price than anything of mere material structure. But there were manifest proofs that that vast treasury of disciplined thought was suffered to rest untouched on shelves, where it was carefully put "out of the way;" and that the slow-ripened wisdom of the days gone by had become superseded by the prolific out-pourings of ready literature, and politics, and partisan, as well as personal, exciteinent, which commend the daily press to its readers. This was manifestly the form in which written thought assimilated most promptly to the mental constitution of our perturbed friend. Folios and octavos reposed undisturbed in their monumental receptacles; chairs and tables, carpet and lounger, were overspread, confusedly and thickly, with piles of newspapers, read

or in

process of perusal. On this department of the patient's studious pursuit, the counsel he solicited took an effect of extermination. "Cast them out-cast them all out," said his friend; "put yourself under a course of the ancients; and, whatever you do, abjure newspapers for a year, or until this tyranny be overpast."

It is unnecessary, and would be wearisome, to continue the history of this consultation through all its fluctuating details. Sufficient it is to say, that a compromise was entered into between adviser and advised. Ancients, and moderns worthy to be their associates in the severer exercises of genius, were suffered to sleep in their place of rest. Newspapers were placed under a temporary interdict, and a new flight of literary visitants descended on the library-table. Our disquieted friend changed the character with the cause or subject of his alarms. Fictitious perplexities and distresses awakened a new kind of interest. Anxiety and alarm, in changing their object, changed their nature. If, when the harpies were chased away from the feasts they persecuted and polluted, the sylvan shades they had infested became populous with singing birds, and the Trojan bands, as they resumed their places at the table, were saluted by the richest harmony the forest boughs could offer the change would not be greater than was that in the life of our friend, when the threatenings of the daily press were denied admission to his study, and a light literature, in which politics had no part, came on to supersede them.

Regarded in this somewhat utilita rian aspect, light literature is, as it were, a salubrious retreat for the great mass of intellectual valetudinarians. The few can appease their mental disquiet, and escape from harrowing care, by exploring the paths of science or learning the wisdom of "divine philosophy;" the many, who cannot "hold their pace on deep experiments," must seek a readier relief their change of air must be to a lighter style of literary occupation.

If readers may thus be influenced for good by the creations of thought, into which they withdraw from disquietudes of condition or circum

[ocr errors]

stances, the contrivers of this imaginary existence incur, it is manifest, a serious responsibility, that there be no unwholesome agencies in those retreats where they offer refreshment to the weary, and health to "the mind diseased." We have known the horror of thick darkness with which a vitiated nervous system has oppressed a sad spirit, dispersed by a chapter of Lever or Dickens; and we have known when a page of imaginary terrors has fearfully prevailed over a mind feebly struggling with ideal calamities, and confirmed its affliction into a state of melancholy madness. "Books, the medicine of the soul," as they have been styled, "must be," it has been well observed, "adapted, as any other medicine, to the disease they are to

cure."

And, assuredly, if in the abundance of counsellors there is always safety, light literature, in this our day of mental enterprise, has one strong claim to be respected. It is omnigenous and abundant. Not only have we seen the rising of two or three lights of most commanding influence, but the "minora sidera" amidst which they shine begem our firmament in vast profusion, and in various instances beam upon us with a very salubrious efficacy. We have now before us a starry host; but why should we hold ourselves trammelled in the meshes of those embarrassing metaphors, and call our octavos and duodecimos by the name of stars. We have on the table before us an assortment of pictures, some well, some little, known; some which trace their being to authors of name-some which are to make a name for their authors; among whom, by the way, the prayer of Ossian's hero is the ordinary language of their ambitions, that they may be known in their posterity, and be, as was Morni the father of Gaul, known as authors of the works in which their intellectual being is reproduced.

We will open our stores :

And first to our hand come "The Ogilvies ;"* a novel in three volumes, the composition, as rumour has it, of a lady, and a young lady. It is a slight story, with little in its plot out of the ordinary track, but having scenes and situations of much interest, and indi

"The Ogilvies:" Chapman and Hall. 1819.

cative of far more than ordinary power. The subject of the story is that which we regard as en regle-" The course of true love never did run smooth." A walking gentleman, while suing for the love of one fair creature, wins the affections of another. Rejected by the object of his love, as usual, he leaves the country; and, at his return, finds the slighted girl grown into majestic womanhood, a wife and a beauty. We regret to read of moral delinquencies in fiction, and wish lady-writers especially would eschew them. But what are our wishes in the judgment of a novelist? The hero of the tale, who had unthinkingly awakened an interest in the heart of the half child, half girl, with whom he entertained himself while wooing her obdurate cousin, avows a passion under the circumstances in which he ought to have thwarted and concealed it; and, instead of flying, as he flew when his prayer was rejected, he remains within the circle of his new, but too tardy affection, long enough to tell his sinful story. An accident of a deplor

able character comes to the rescue of the compromised and perilled wife and "friend." The husband, as if in compliance with the half-formed wishes of his unhappy partner, meets a sudden and violent death. A marriage follows between what may well be called the guilty parties; and as they return from the ceremony by which they were united-even in an hour after the consecrated words are spoken-the inauspicious marriage is dissolved

"Who comes from the bridal chamber?-Azrael, the angel of death."

We cite the passage in which this catastrophe, unprecedented in romance, is recorded. We cite at a disadvantage, because the reader will peruse it without any feeling of suspense; and yet we shall be much disappointed if it do not convey an idea of power and genius, which demands only careful culture to become eminent :

"Katharine finished the letter all but the signature. A few hours more, and she would write as her own that long-beloved name. The thought came upon her with a flood of bewildering joy. She leaned her forehead on the paper in one long, still pause; and then sprang up, pressing her clasped hands in turns to her heaving breast and throbbing temples, in a delirium of rapture that was almost pain.

VOL. XXXVI.-NO. CCXI.

"It is true--it is all true!' she cried'joy has come at last. This day I shall be his wife this day, nay, this hour; and he will be mine-mine only-mine for ever!'

"As she stood, her once drooping form was sublimated into almost superhuman beauty -the beauty which had dawned with the dawning love. It was the same face, radiant with the same shining, which had kindled into passionate hope the young girl who once gazed into the mirror at Summerwood. But ten times more glorious was the loveli. ness born of the hope fulfilled.

"The hope fulfilled! Could it be so, when, excited by this frenzied joy, there darted through her heart that warning pang? She sank on the bed, struck with a cold numbAbove the morning sounds without— the bees humming among the roses, the swallows twittering in the eaves--Katharine heard and felt the death-pulse, which warned her that her hours were numbered.

ness.

"To die, so young still, so full of life aud love to sink from Lynedon's arms to the cold dark grave-to pass from this glad spring sunshine into darkness, and silence, and nothingness! it was a horrible doom! And it might come at any moment-soonsoon-perhaps even before the bridal!

"It shall not come!' shrieked the voice of Katharine's despair, though her palsied lips scarcely gave vent to the sound.

"I will live to be his wife, if only for one week, one day, one hour! Love has conquered life-it shall conquer death! I will not die!'

[blocks in formation]

"But still the loud beating choked her very breath, as she moaned, 'Paul, Paul, come! Save me, clasp me; let your spirit pass into mine and give me life-life!'

"And while she yet called upon his name, Katharine heard from below the voice of her bridegroom. He came bounding over the little gate, and entered the rose-porch, wearing a bridegroom's most radiant mien. She saw him; she heard him asking for her; a scarce perceptible anxiety trembled through his cheerful tone. Could she cast over his happiness the cold horror which froze her own? could she tell him that his bride was doomed? No; she would smile, she would bring him joy, even to the last.

666 Tell him I am coming,' she said, in a calm, cheerful voice, to the nurse who repeated Lynedon's anxious summons. And then Katharine bathed her temples, smoothed her hair, and went to meet her bridegroom."

In this strain the story proceeds

G

through the incidents of the marriage ceremony. It has at length been concluded:

"The whole wide world was nothing to her now. She only held the hand which pressed her own with a tender though somewhat agitated clasp, and said to herself, I am his-he is mine-for ever.' They walked in silence from the church, down the lane, through the roseporch, and into the cottage parlour. Then Katharine felt herself drawn closely, passionately, into his very heart; and she heard the words, once so wildly prayed for, 'My Katharine-my wife!'

"In that embrace-in that one long, nevereuding kiss-she could willingly have passed from life into eternity.

"After a while they both began to talk calınly. Paul made her sit by the open window, while he leaned over her, pulling the roses from outside the casement, and throwing them leaf by leaf into her lap. While he did so, she took courage to tell him of the letter to her mother. He murmured a little at the full confession, but when he read it he only blessed her the more for her tenderness towards himself.

"May I grow worthy of such love, my Katharine!' he said, for the moment deeply touched. But we must not be sad, dearest. Come, sign your name-your new name. Are you content to bear it?' continued he, with a smile.

"Her answer was another, radiant with intense love and perfect joy. Paul looked over her while she laid the paper on the rosestrewed window-sill, and wrote the words 'Katharine Lynedon.'

"She said them over to herself once or twice with a loving intonation, and then turned her face on her bridegroom's arm, weeping.

"Do not chide me, Paul: I am so happy -so happy! Now I begin to hope that the past may be forgiven us-that we may have a future yet.'

"We may! We will,' was Lynedon's answer. While he spoke, through the hush of that glad May-noon came a sound—dull, solemn! Another, and yet another! It was the funeral bell tolling from the near church tower.

"Katharine lifted up her face, white and ghastly. Paul, do you hear that?'-and her voice was shrill with terror-'It is our marriage-peal-we have no other, we ought not to have. I knew it was too late!'

"Earth to earth-ashes to ashes?" It will come true: I know it will, and it is right it should.'

"Nay, my own love,' answered Paul, becoming alarmed at her look. He drew her nearer to him, but she seemed neither to hear his voice nor to feel his clasp.

"The bell sounded again. Hark! hark!' Katharine cried. Paul, do you remember the room where we knelt, you and I; and he joined our hands, and said the words,

"Lynedon took his bride in his arms, and endeavoured to calm her. He half succeeded, for she looked up in his face with a faint smile. Thank you! I know you love me, my own Paul, my

9

66 Suddenly her voice ceased. With a convulsive movement she put her hand to her heart, and her head sank on her husband's breast.

[blocks in formation]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

There is much in this story of sentiment wrought into passion, of which we cannot approve. Such is not the intellectual food on which young minds should be fed; nor is it the species of production in which a young authoress ought to indulge herself. Passion and sentiment, in combination, are too apt to betray. They invent a moral system for themselves; and the rules and laws which are essential to the well-being of society, and which have their origin in a higher source than any notion of human utility, become reft of their authority and eminence, when they rebuke or contend with emotions that have their birth in sin, but can assume the aspect of an angel of light, and never leave it aside until their ruinous ends

are accomplished. Most earnestly would we exhort a writer, whose powers we respect as we do those of the author of "The Ogilvies," to shun in her imaginings, as we are sure she would in her real life, situations perilous to virtue. Into such situations the current of a story, as the current of life, may hurry those who sought it not. When difficulties of this kind present themselves, they must be struggled with and overcome; but it is our wisdom, in fiction and in fact, not to seek them.

We give one extract as a sample of our author's descriptive power. It is her picture of a cathedral town in England:

"There is, in one of the counties between Devon and Northumberland, a certain cathedral city, the name of which I do not intend to reveal. It is, or was until very lately, one of the few remaining strongholds of high-churchism and conservatism, political and moral. In olden days it almost sacrificed its existence as a city for the cause of King Charles the Martyr; and ever since has kept true to its principles, or at least to that modification of them which the exigencies of modern times required. And the loyal and ancient' town-which dignifies itself by the name of city, though a twenty

minutes' walk would bring you from one extremity to the other-is fully alive to the consciousness of its own deservings. It is a very colony of Levites; who, devoted to the temple service, shut out from their precincts any unholy thing. But this unholiness is an epithet of their own affixing, not Heaven's. It means not merely what is irreligious, but what is ungenteel, unaristocratic, unconser vative.

"Yet there is much that is good about the place and its inhabitants. The latter may well be proud of their ancient and beautiful city-beautiful not so much in itself as for its situation. It lies in the midst of a fertile and gracefully undulated region, and consists of a cluster of artistically irregular and deliciously old-fashioned streets, of which the nucleus is the cathedral. This rises aloft with its three airy spires, so light, so delicately traced, that they have been christened the Ladies of the Vale. You may see them for miles and miles looking almost like a fairy building against the sky. The city has an air of repose, an old-world look, which becomes it well. No railway has yet disturbed the sacred peace of its antiquity, and here and there you may see grass growing in its quiet streets, over which you would no more think of thundering in a modern equipage than of driving a coach-and-four across the graves of your ancestors.

"The whole atmosphere of the place is that of sleepiness and antique propriety. The people do everything, as Boniface says, 'soberly.' They have grave dinner-parties, once or twice in the year; a public ball, as solemn as a funeral; a concert now and then, very select and proper;-and so it is that society moves on in a circle of polite regularities. The resident bishop is the sun of the system; around which deans, sub-deans, choral vicars, and clerical functionaries of all sorts revolve in successive orbits with their separate satellites. But one character, one tone of feeling pervades everybody. L- is a city of serene old age. Nobody seems young there-not even the little singing-boys.

"But the sanctum sanctorum, the penetralia of the city is a small region surrounding the cathedral, entitled the Close. Here abide relics of ancient sanctity, widows of departed deans, maiden descendants of officials who probably chanted anthems on the accession of George III., or on the downfall of the last Pretender. Here, too, is the residence of many cathedral functionaries who pass their lives within the precincts of the sanctuary. These dwellings have imbibed the clerical and dignified solemnity due to their neighbourhood. It seems always Sunday in the Close; and the child who should venture to bowl a hoop along its still pavement, or play at marbles on its door-steps, would be more daring than ever was infant within the verge of the city of L"In this spot was Mrs. Breynton's resi

1.

« PredošláPokračovať »