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elapsed before Dumont showed him in his true colours ? How few have even now read Dumont ? How fewer still are those who have reasoned upon his report of him, as Winter reasons in the following pages, in order to clear a warm young mind from an inveterate prejudice ?
Should the subject, therefore, be thought not out of its place, by being engrafted on a work of imagination, it may be hoped that a comment on even so old a theme may not be without its use. Old subjects indeed, may, be made new, by the consequences deduced from them : witness the thousand able commentaries of modern times, upon questions thought to be worn out.
That I may not, however, be guilty of a sort of literary suicide, by thus before its time letting the reader into what may be thought insuperable faults, , let me hope that the heavy weight of an old political discussion is not to be feared throughout the story, but that there may be parts in it which, although they may not by many be thought to repay the labour of digesting such arguments, may both engage the fancy and touch the heart.
Much (though not quite so much) of what has been thought likely to be objected to ‘Rheindorf' may, perhaps, be applicable to · Penruddock. The political discussions, however, as well as the political feelings come home to English bosoms. The aristocrats, as well as democrats, described in the first part, are English, the manners English, and the prejudices all English. The author has drawn largely from Shakspeare in pourtraying the times : but that, too, is supremely English. The discussions are lighter, and it is to be hoped, therefore, not so formidably ethical as in the German tale. But, in addition to this, in the second part the author (strangely for him) deviates into downright romance, in a manner which may be thought not unworthy the circulating libraries themselves; and he is not even sure, after all, that the character of a novelist (such as he is) may not be fairly fastened Indeed, he may be suspected of as much, when, in the midst of politics, he comes to the Penruddock Narrative, as it is called. But of the romance of this, perhaps, he may not be thought absolutely guilty, when he informs the reader, that the main fact, the discovery of the lost heir, is a piece of true family history.
Here, therefore, he must be acquitted of being guilty of any thing like Imagination, and remain still what he may have been thought, a would-be philosopher, but a philosopher in disguise.
There is, as usual, a great deal of dialogue in the elucidation of particular subjects. This mode of conveying opinions has been objected to by many, who prefer a regular treatise, and yet (surely inconsistently) complain of the author for his taste for the didactic.
Of course opinions differ; for my part, even without the authority of Cicero, Hume, Hurd, Leland, Berkeley, and many others, I should prefer this mode of treating a subject, not merely as more dramatic, and, therefore, a more interesting inethod, but as more convenient, and less burthensome to the attention.
In this respect I agree with a quaint old author, near two centuries ago, who, in his preface, addresses himself thus :
“ To the knowing reader, touching the method of this discourse. 6 There are various ways
for the conveyance of knowledge to the understanding, and to distil it by degrees into the cells of the brain.
“ It may be done, either by a downright narrative and instructive discourse :
“Or by Allegories, Emblems, and Parables :
“ Or by way of Dialogue, Interlocutives, and Conference.
“ The first is the easiest, and most usual way.
“ The second is the most ingenuous (ingenious) and difficult.
“ The last is the most familiar and satisfactory, when one doth not only inform, but remove and answer all objections and quæries that may intervene all along in the pursuit of the matter.