Obrázky na stránke

perhaps no author of fictitious nar- which Clarissa Harlow holds forth rative ever took such pains to intro- be applicable or useful! Mankind duce his readers so intimately to in general are not creatures of pas. the acquaintance of his persc nages : sion; their most common as well you see them not merely when their as their chief pleasures or pains do presence is necessary to the progress not spring from high-wrought feelof the story, but at all times : the ings, or overwhelming emotion ; most trifling and ordinary occopa- their most common good or bad tions of their lives are exposed to qualities,—those that touch most your view; and detailed in such a closely, most frequently, and most manner, with such liveliness and exquisitely on themselves or those minuteness of description, that you with whom they associate,-have soon begin to consider yourself as a different origin. To most, thereone of the family. This appears to fore, who read the novels of Rius to be the device by means of chardson, they can be of little use, which Richardson has contrived though to all they must yield most to raise such powerful interest in exquisite delight. The sources of his readers, even before there are the mere interest which we take in any circumstances in his story that, his personages have already been of themselves, are calculated to ex- pointed out : the sources of the cite such an interest. The per- deligbt derived from the finest passonages of his narratives, especially sages in his novels, are not difficult in his two best novels, bave become, to be laid bare and explained. as it were, our intimate friends, by Richardson possessed a clear and our having dwelt so long in their deep insight into the nature and houses, and been admitted to view workings of the human heart, and all their domestic concerns, and to most wonderful powers in depicting hear all their thoughts, plans, and what he knew; and yet, if we concauses of joy or sorrow: these, sider his own character, and the though triling, yet by frequent re- manner in which his life was spent, petition, mix themselves up with we shall be at a loss to account for our thoughts and sympathies; and this knowledge, and these powers. hence, having prepared the way He could not draw his knowledge by creating this intimacy, he is from what passed in his own breast; enabled to give a much greater ef- for he seems to have been a cautious, fect than he otherwise could have cold, and unsympathizing man : done to the highly-wrought parts and his observation and experience of his novels.

could lend him little or no assistWe have already given it as ance in gaining that insight into our opinion, that ihere is much the human heart, which is so adreal poetry in Clarissa Harlowe and mirably displayed in many parts of Sir Charles Grandison; and it is his Clarissa Harlow and Sir Charles this circumstance, that, while it Grandison. exalts the genius of the author, Perhaps his powers are displayed we apprehend, weakens, by con- to the greatest advantage, and with fining the instruction that might the highest effect, in the character otherwise be derived from them. of Lovelace, and in pourtraying For, to how few, in their passage scenes of deep distress. The chathrough life, , the lessons racter of Lovelace is perfect in all




its parts : every thing he says or with the exception, perhaps, of does serves to unfold that character, some parts of the Sir Launcelot and is necessary to constitute its Greaves of the former, there is no completeness. If it had been imá- poetry in them; but as works of gined and attempted by a nian of invention, they are admirable. ordinary powers, it would have been Characters such as are formed by rendered a confused and indigested peculiarities of temper, or by pemass ; for there are features in it, culiar circumstances and situations

; at first sight so ill sorted and in- of life, or by these combined, congruous, that they could be and which are brought into full dismoulded into symmetry, and ar- play by well-managed and highlyranged so as to form an expresssive wrought incidents, --constitute the and consistent whole, only by such chief merits of the novels of Smol. powers as Richardson possessed. let and Fielding. If we were to Perhaps no greater proof of these attempt to draw the line of distincpowers could be given than the tion between these authors, who at circumstance, that an interest, al. first sight appear to be exactly of most amounting to a sympathy, is the same class and powers, we taken for Lovelace, during the pro- should say, that the characters of gress of those schemes which the Smollet are rather such as reader knows originate in consum- formed by temper, and peculiarities mate villany, and must terminate of disposition and conduct, arising in the ruin of Clarissa.

either from natural constitution, or The finishing given to the cha- early education; and the charac. racter of Lovelace, we should be ters of Fielding result more from disposed to quote as a proof of the the circumstances of after-life than very high inventive powers of Ri- from what is innate, or of very chardson, unconnected with his early growth: and we certainly imaginative or poetical powers: the think, that the characters of Smollet solemn and overwhelming hold display more knowledge of the huwhich he possesses over the mind man heart than those of Fielding ; and heart of his readers, in depict- –Fielding's,

more knowledge of bu. ing scenes of distress, we should man habits: Smollet's act more from quote as a proof that he was a great the impulses of temper and feeling; poet. Perhaps there are no where - Fielding's more from habit, or reelse such scenes depicted ; and yet, fection on consequences. Yet each if we attend to the materials which author often passes into the peculiar he employs in drawing them, and domains of the other : and after the manner in which he uses those all, the difference between them is materials, we shall be at first sur- much more clearly felt during the prized at the effect they produce: perusal, than it can be expressed. they are simple, few, and seemingly Perhaps the characters of Mat. trifling ; but a great poet, like Na- thew Bramble and Parson Adams ture, works to the grandest and are the masterpieces of these aumost astonishing effects, by the thors; both are most highly and fewest and simplest means. admirably finished: we see into

The novels of Smollet and Field- their very souls. But there is uning are of a very different descrip- doubtedly a great distinction betion from those of Richardson : tween them : we mean betweea



the class of characters to which they picture that it draws of unsuspecting respectively belong, and the powers honesty and goodness of beart, and which must have drawn them. domestic affection, and of the comThe character of Matthew Bramble forts, the hopes, the pleasures, the is in a great measure constitutional; anxieties, the fears, and the evils, -it is a character of a warm heart, which surround those whose hearts peculiar temper, and strong mind, are full of this affection. The story modified and acted upon by circum- of the Vicar of Wakefield is not so stances; and to make him speak well told as the stories of most of and act, at all times, conformably Fielding's and Smollet's novels ; to this character, required a most but it exhibits a more touching picconsummate and intimate know. ture of human nature, and especiledge of the materials of which ally a more accurate picture of buit was composed, and the combi- man nature as it exists in the homes nations into which they might be of meo of old and genuine English cast. Parson Adams is nearly a ne- character. gative character : he is absent, and It is not our intention to stop for utterly ignorant of the world, with a moment at the innumerable crowd a good rather than a warm heart. of novels with wbich the press has Now, none of these features require swarmed for nearly half a century; much talent in their display : they nor even to notice any but those of are to be brought out, chiefly by very superior merit, and such as keeping down the ordinary features have carried this species of writing of human character ; and there is to the highest pitch of perfection. little danger in their not combining Fictitious varratives, as we have so as not to give one uniform and already observed, may be divided consistent expression, as must have into such as ale written to instruct occurred in the character of Mat- mankind, and such as are written thew Bramble, if it had not been merely or principally to interest drawn by the hand of a master. them. Of the former class, those

Goldsmith is the author of only of Miss Edgeworth are undoubtedly one novel; but it is an exquisite deserving of the very highest comone, and quite worthy of his poetry, mendation : of the latter, Waverley, as well as closely allied to it in its and the fictitious parratives by the nature, and the effects it produces same author. on all readers of pure taste and The fictitious narratives of Miss warm feeling. Perhaps the distinc- Edgeworth, from those which she tion between works of mere inven- bas published for the use of children, tion, and works of imagination, to her most finished performances might be tolerably well drawn by for the use of grown-up people, comparing and contrasting the

contrasting the are all written on the same plan, poems of this author with his Vicar exhibit the same powers, and are of Wakefield; though in justice to admirably calculated to produce the the latter, it ought to be stated, that best effects. They seldom or never there are passages in it that ap- deal with gross and uncommon proach very nearly to, if they do vices, and very exalted and rare not actually fall within the limits of virtues : they are conversant with poetry. The great charm of the those good or bad qualities which Vicar of Wakefield, is the fire-side occur most frequently-which form


[ocr errors]

the character of the majority of for our advantage to become ac-
mankind, and from which the great quainted with before we enter on
mass of benefit or injury to those in the world, either that we may
whom they exist, or to others, pro- guard against or imitate them.
ceeds. The circumstances which In short, Miss Edgeworth's are
give birth to, or confirm a foible, practical novels : they teach better
are developed; the inconvenience, than any works of morality can do,
discomfort, or actual wretchedness the practice of those duties,-the
that it produces, are drawn forth performance of those actions, - the
by the most natural means ; and we display of that disposition and tem-
are either taught and induced to per which, though lying below the
shun it by a strong impression of its high ground on which the moralist
bad consequences; or, if it already takes his station, are, nevertheless,
exists in us, we are enabled to root of the litmost consequence to the
it out, not by formal instructions, comfort, dignity, usefulness, and
but by an example set before us, happiness of life. The Spartans
drawn so much to the life, that made their slaves drunk, in order
what has been done by it we never that their children, by seeing the
for a moment hesitate to believe is folly and crime which drunkenness
applicable to our case, and may be produced, might avoi! it. Miss
done by us.

Edgeworth exercises the same power
But Miss Edgeworth's novels pos- over the personages of her novels,
sess another high excellence ; they and for the same purpose ; and as
teach us to know, not only our- her genius enables her to breathe
selves, and the weakness as well as into them the breath of life, they
strength of the human heart, but cannot fail, in most cases, to fulfil
they place us in the midst of the completely her most wise and be-
world in which we live and must nevolent intention.
act, and thus enable us to gain Historical novels are in general
knowledge and experience with very stupid, and worse than useless
little trouble, and with no risque. performances; since, by blending

; In this respect her novels are infi- truth and fiction, they pollute the nitely superior to those of Richard- one, and render the other uninterest. son, Smollet, Fielding, or Goldsmith; ing. It is no mean praise, therefore,

; or, indeed, of any other author. of the author of Waverley, that in Many of the characters of Richard- this, and several other of his fictitious son, Smollet, Fielding, and Gold- narratives, he has completely steered smith, are worn out; they were clear of this objection. History the characters of a certain age, and does not descend to the display of peculiar circumstances : and even individual character ; and who is those that are the characters of per- there that has not risen from the sonages that must always exist, reading of an interesting portion of have so few prototypes in the world, it, and does not long for a close and that it is not probable we may ever minute exhibition of those permeet with them. Whereas the

sonages that were the principal characters of Miss Edgeworth's no- actors, as well as for an accurate vels surround us; and though of delineation of the manners of the common occurrence, yet she has age. These are supplied in a most selected none whom it must not be masterly way by the author of

Waverley : Waverley: but his genius has led him come, in turn, each of all his nueven beyond this. In these novels merous and various personages. there are a greater number and vari- The same genius is conspicuous in ety of characters than perhaps are to the conception and relation of the be met with in any other fictitious incidents with which these works narratives'; and they are all drawn abound : they either call into full so faithfully, each minute lineament action the thoughts, feelings, pasis so evidently a copy from nature, sions, and all that constitute the that we are transported into a new peculiar characters of the personworld. The dramatic parts are ages; or they serve, by their own perhaps the best : no sentiment or intrinsic and unborrowed excelexpression is uttered by any one lence, to fill the mind of the reader personage that ought to have pro with all the various emotions of ceeded from another; or that is not which it is susceptible, at the comhighly characteristic of him from mand of the author. Such are bis whom it does proceed. The author magical powers, that he can anniseems, at pleasure, to dismiss all hilate the world in which we live, consciousness of himself,—all his-the objects by which we are surown feelings, associations, and forms rounded, -the thoughts that ocof speech ; and having, as it were, cupy our breast, -and replace them shaken off his own identity, to be- by a new creation of his own.

[ocr errors]


« PredošláPokračovať »