Imatges de pàgina

fomc views, but they do not prevent our being enlightened and cheered with his splendor and warmth.

If there is any one trait by which Dr. Johnson's mind can be discriminated, it is a gigantic vigour. In information and in talte he was excelled; but what he seriously attempted he executed with that masterly original boldness, which leaves us to regret his indolence, that he exerted himself only in the moment when his powers were wanting, and relapsed again into his literary idleness. Yet, with all his faults, he has perhaps never been equalled; with all his irregularities and blemishes, he will probably never be excelled.

Vancenza; or, the Dangers of Credulity. By Mrs. Robinson.

2 I'cls. Small 8vo. 55. Bell. 1792. MRS.

RS. Robinson's eager, partial, and injudicious friends,

have misicd and injured her; nor are we wholly free from the inconveniencies which they have occafioned. The merits of Vancenza have so often met our eyes; it has been so often styled excellent, admirable; the world has been fo frequently called on to confirm this suffrage with their plaudits, that we dare not hint a fault, or hesitate dillike

What we disapprove, we must speak of plainly, and, if our gallantry is called in question, the blame will fall on those who have compelled us to be explicit. After this introduction we need not say that we think this novel unworthy of the high reputation of its author, a reputation the source of which it is not our present business to examine.

In estimating the merits of Vancenza, it is not neceflary, with all the formality of an Aristarchus, to lay down rules for the conduct of an epopeia of the familiar kind. It is enough that the plot be artfully involved and naturally unravelled, while each part co-operates to produce the event. reality, nothing extraneous should be introduced, and each trifling episode should be remotely connected with the catastrophe. This, however, is a rule which must occasionally be dispensed with. Ornaments are often required in such works, and they cannot always be parts of one whole; nor should we have objected that the pilgrim's story, in the second volume of the novel before us, was an isolated appendage, if the flighteft contrivance had not been sufficient to have connected it with the principal event, and to have explained the only part in which the denouement seems too artificial;-we mean the removal of the pictures to discover the fatal pannel. These are supposed to have hung there for many years, nor was it within the circle of expected contingencies, that they should be removed in the life-time of Elvira: so that the whole of the history might be lost for ever, the prince Almanza might have married his fifter, and their innocent progeny never known the crimes to which they owed their birth. In other respects the story is conducted with skill.

To the adventitious ornaments our censure must be chiefly directed. The language is in general highly and poetically laboured. It is refined into obscurity; and perspicuity of defeription is often facrificed to a flowing period. There are many instances where, but from the future pages, it is difficult to discover the events in the blaze of description : a particular one now lies before us in the affassination of the count of Vancenza. The old obfervation may be well applied to Mrs. Robinson : if you intended the language to be prose, it is too poetical; if to be poetry, it is very faulty. But to the proof.

• After paling an hour in reflefs rumination, the broad beams of light, penetrating through his curtains, roused him from his lebargy of thought : he started from his pillow feverith and dejected, and, scarcely knowing whither he bent his way, passed through the long gallery which opened to the terrace facing the lake. The fun diffufed its moft fplendid glories over the grateful bosom of the humid earth : the wild fowl hovering over the glita tering water, sweeping its lucid surface with their variegated wings; the soft music of the mountain breezes; the hollow sound of falling cascades; the distant precipice still hiding its blue head amidst the severing clouds that floated in fearbery folds before the breath of morning; the locks and herds bounding and frikking along the verdant openings on the side of the valley; the intermingling notes of woodland melody presented a picture fo exquisitely sublime, that Del Vero, falcinated with delight, forgot for a moment even the graces of Elvira.'

We need not point out that some of these epithets are unnecessary, some inconsistent, and some improper. In the next passage that we thall select, we find the earth decorated with gems: this may be; but these gems are also enamelled; nor are they in their usual situations. If we suppose too, that the gems fo enamelled may be flowers, we must not imagine that they grow in the usual way: the enamelled gems at Vancenza are fhook from the wings of summer, the wings are perfumed, and summer blushes: while the flowers are gems, the corn is of gold, the hills llope, and a vineyard is neither yellow nor black, but tawny. The whole, however, is too juxuriant for analysis. • It was in that delighful season of the year, when nature displays her richest foliage, and decorates the earth with a thousand enamelled gems, shook from the perfumed wings of blu!hing fummer ; the birds attuned their throats to the wild melodies of love : and the face of the creation glowed with exulting beauty; the vale was covered with sheaves of golden grain ; and the sides of the hoping hills concealed by the rich mantle of the tawny vineyard : they passed through groves of citron and myrtle, intermingling with thick clusters of pomegranates, forming a perpetual alcove, through which the rays of the sun could scarcely penetrate! As cvening advanced, the grey fhadows of twilight stole over the valley ; while the burning orb, retiring to its wela tern canopy, cast a crimson lustre over the acute summits of the diftant mountains.'


Some of the metaphors are ludicrous or incorrect. 'The muinners of the Spanish beauties, when compared with those of Elvira, sink into contempt as the twinkling of the glowworm fades before the orient day.' Again : 'true merit defies the honeyed tongue of flattery, as the diamond mocks the fire of the consuming crucible. These are not solitary instances ; yet we ought to add, that the metaphors are sometimes animated, sometimes elegant, 'Chastity exposed to the breath of flander is like the waxen model placed in the rays of a meridian sun : by degrees it loses its finest traits, till at length it becomes an insipid mass of useless deformity.' Again : • Here he turned aside to wipe away the involuntary tear wrung from his bursting heart by the hard grasp of unrelenting conscience.

Mrs. Robinson's partiality for the ornamented language of poetry has led her also to employ it improperly, as in the following passage.

• When the hand that writes, and the heart that di&tates these lines, are freezing on the dreary pallet of the grave; when the faint traces of my sorrows Mall fade before the obliterating wing of time ; perchance fome kindred eye may drop the last commi. serating tear, and wash out the remembrance of my woes for ever.'

Polished and figurative language like this is the production of a mind at ease; and the partage we have quoted is written in a moment of the most poignant agony, at a time when the tears flowing, had, in a great degree, defaced the manuscript, and the paffage was, on that account, 'with difficulty decyphered.'

Elvira, at the age of fifteen, is described as in the noon of cultivated youth;' and we find, in these volumes, the true criterion, we have formerly noticed, of a female pen, the indiscriminate use of the epithet 'fine.' No‘milliner's apprentice


scrawls a love-scene without introducing her hero as a man of fine feníc, fins accomplishments, as well as fine eyes. Mrs. Robinson should have avoided it; but she has fine pallions' (a fine sense of honour,' 'fine accomplishments,' &c. The female author is conspicuous in other circumstances. After the death of the heroine, she stays to tell us that prince Almanza was chief mourner ; at the revival of Almanza from his infenfibility, into which he had fallen in consequence of the accident in hunting the wild boar, he addresses Elvira with all the rapture of Aimwell, declaring himself in elysium and the object of his attention an angel: this we suppose the ladies may consider as 'quite in nature ;' but we are too old to join in the opinion.

There are fome other errors perhaps more important, if the young ladies, in their rapid glances over these enchanting volumes, can be for a moment supposed capable of imbibing information. In the beginning of the second volume, we have a description of an almost Lapland winter in Spain, while the more tender plants are placed in the same spot. We know that snow sometimes falls even in this climate; and that, on the mountains, it is permanent. But such violent forms in the vallies which defend the citrons are scarcely ever seen. The Spanish ladies, in general, are represented as courting admiration, instead of the secluded modesty, or more natural reserve, with which travellers have decorated them. Indeed the ladies, if we except the marchioness and Elvira, are of our metropolis; and the heroes differ but in titles from fashionable Englishmen. There is one circumstance which we have profeffed always to treat with indignation - viz. every attempt to glofs over the follies of popery, or to represent its absurdities as sacred. The pilgrim does penance for crimes. He had stolen a young woman from a convent, and, in his ow'n defence, killed her brother. The latter could not be a crime: is it for the former then that ' Conscience wrings the tear from his bursting heart?' The crime is their's who, from motives of avarice or ambition, could counteract the deligns of providence by the seclusion of helpless, relu&tant, females. If our casuistry has any credit, we do not hesitate in declaring, that the rescuing one of these is an action that might atone for many fins : but we forget-we are relapsing into one of the tenets of the religion we have reprobated.

We have hinted at the principal faults which occur to our notice in this work, and they are such as we think confirm the opinion given in the beginning of this article. It is with reluc, tance that we have engaged in this disquisition; but whatever may be the splendor of a name, we have never scrupled offering our opinion. The public will ultimately decide, and to their supreme tribunal we leave the decision, scarcely apprehending that the judgment will be reversed.

75. 6d.

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Vol.

LXXXI. for the Year 1791. Part II. 4to.

Elmfley. 1791. ou

U R former delay we endeavour to compensate, by

quickly noticing this second part of the volume of latt year, which is at lealt more bulky, and in many respects more important than the first.

Art. VIII. On the Rate of Travelling, as performed by Camels; and its Application, as a Scale, to the Purposes of Geography. By J. Rennell, Esq. F. R.S.--If the camel is with propriety called the 'fhip of the desert,' major Rennell's diso quisition may be stylcd an attempt to discover the longitude by land. This patient animal steps, it seems, with remarkable exactness; and, in places where means of measuring time and distances are unknown, it is of consequence to come near the latter by approximations of this kind. Of the internal parts of Africa we know little; but, if the plan we suggested in reviewing the Proceedings of the African Association had been executed, it would have been no very difficult matter to have ascertained, with tolerable accuracy, by means of celestial ob. fervations, the situation of some places, which would have corrected and allifted the mode of mensuration proposed in the article before us. In the Arabian Desert there are three spots whose precise situation has been accurately ascertained, viz. Alcppo, Bagdat, and Bufforah : from these our author calculates with the assistance of different Journals.-We must, as ufual, give the result. The mean rate of a loaded camels travelling appears to be 2.478 British miles an hour; general. ly fpeaking about 2]; and, with the help of a watch and a compass, the distance and bearing, as appears from Mr. Carmichael's experiment, who succeeded very well with only a pocket compassi

, may be traced with considerable accuracy. The mean of the heavy caravan's day's journey was 7 hours 27 mi*nutes; the mean of the light caravan's progress 8 hours 52 minutes. This estimation is taken from the whole time : the optional day's journey seems to be 7' 51", and oh g" respectively; the distance about 20 or 22 miles each day. If the halts be reckoned, about a mile and a half must be deducted, or one halt to 12 travelling days.

The distance, ascertained by the step of the camel, is fomewhat different: the mean number of steps in 20 hours (we take the mean between Mr. Holford's and Mr. Carmichael's experiments) was 2175, which give the number of miles per

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