Imatges de pàgina
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case as the watch do Harlequin, when they find out his trick of frightening them by mimicking the report of a pistol.

Faquin, maraud, pendard, impudent, téméraire,

Vous osez nous faire peur ! ” In the second place, we are of opinion that the terrors of this class of novel writers are too accumulated and unremitting. The influence of fear —and here we extend our observations as well to those romances which actually ground it upon supernatural prodigy as to those which attempt a subsequent explanation—is indeed a faithful and legitimate key to unlock every source of fancy and of feeling. Mr Murphy's introduction is expressed with the spirit and animation which, though often misdirected, pervade his whole work.

“ I question whether there be a source of emotion in the whole mental frame so powerful or universal as the fear arising from objects of invisible terror. Perhaps there is no other that has been, at some period or other of life, the predominant and indelible sensation of every mind, of every class, and under every circumstance. Love, supposed to be the most general of passions, has certainly been felt in its purity by very few, and by some not at all, even in its most indefinite and simple state.

“ The same might be said, à fortiori, of other passions. But who is there that has never feared ? Who is there that has not involuntarily remembered the gossip's tale in solitude or in dark. ness? Who is there that has not sometimes shivered under an influence he would scarce acknowledge to himself ? I might trace this passion to a high and obvious source.

“ It is enough for my purpose to assert its existence and prevalency, which will scarcely be disputed by those who remember it. It is absurd to depreciate this passion, and deride its influence. It is not the weak and trivial impulse of the nursery, to be forgotten and scorned by manbood. It is the aspiration of a spirit; . it is the passion of immortals,' that dread and desire of their final habitations.”—Pref. pp. 4 & 5.

We grant there is much truth in this proposition taken generally. But the finest and deepest feelings are those which are most easily exhausted. The chord which vibrates and sounds at touch, remains in silent tension under continued pressure. Besides, terror, as Bob Acres says of its counterpart, courage, will come and go; and few people can afford timidity enough for the writer's

purpose who is determined on “horrifying " them through three thick volumes. The vivacity of the emotion also depends greatly upon surprise, and surprise cannot be repeatedly excited during the perusal of the same work. It is said respecting the cruel punishment of breaking alive upon the wheel, the , sufferer's nerves are so much jarred by the first blow, that he feels comparatively little pain from those which follow. There is something of this in moral feeling ; nor do we see a better remedy for it than to recommend the cessation of these experiments upon the public, until their sensibility shall have recovered its original tone. The taste for the marvellous has been indeed compared to the habit of drinking ardent liquors. But it fortunately differs in having its limits : he upon whom one dram does not produce the effect, can attain the desired degree of inebriation by doubling the dose. But when we have ceased to start at one ghost, we are callous to the exhibition of a whole Pandemonium. In short, the sensation is generally as transient as it is powerful, and commonly depends upon some slight circumstances which cannot be repeated.

“ The time has been, our senses would have cool'd
To hear a night-shriek ; and our fell of hair
Would at a dismal treatise rouse, and stir
As life were in't. We have supped full with horrors ;
And direness, now familiar to our thoughts,
Cannot once start us.'

[Macbeth, act v. sc. 5.] These appear to us the greatest disadvantages under which any author must at present struggle, who chooses supernatural terror for his engine of moving the passions. We dare not call them insurmountable, for how shall we dare to limit the efforts of genius, or shut against its possessor any avenue to the human heart or its passions ? Mr Murphy himself, for aught we know, may be destined to show us the prudence of this qualification. He possesses a strong and vigorous fancy, with great command of language. He has indeed regulated his incidents upon those of others, and therefore added to the imperfections which we have pointed out, the want of originality. But his feeling and conception of character are his own, and from these we judge of his powers. In truth, we rose from his strange chaotic novel romance as from a confused and feverish dream, unrefreshed and unamused, yet strongly impressed by many of the ideas which had been so vaguely and wildly presented to our imagination.

Įt remains to notice the pieces of poetry scattered through these volumes, many of which claim our attention ; but we cannot stop to criticise them. There is a wild and desultory elegy, vol. ii. pp. 305-309, which, though not always strictly metrical, has passages of great pathos, as well as fancy. If the author of it be indeed, as he describes himself, young and inexperienced, without literary friend or counsellor, we earnestly exhort him to seek one on whose taste and judgment he can rely. He is now like an untutored colt, wasting his best vigour in irregular efforts, without either grace or object; but there is much in these volumes which promises a career that may at some future time astonish the public.

ARTICLE VII.

WOMEN ; OR. POUR ET CONTRE.

[Women ; or, Pour et Contre : A Tale. By the Author of

Bertram, &c. From the Edinburgh Review, June, 1818.]

The author of a successful tragedy has, in the general decay of the dramatic art which marks our age, a good right to assume that distinction in his titlepage, and claim the attention due to superior and acknowledged talent. The faults of Bertram are those of an ardent and inexperienced author ; but its beauties are undeniably of a high order ; and the dramatist who has been successful in exciting pity and terror in audiences assembled to gape and stare at shows and processions, rather than to weep or tremble at the convulsions of human pas

sion, has a title to the early and respectful attention of the critic.

Mr Maturin, the acknowledged author of Bertram, a tragedy, is a clergyman on the Irish establishment, employed chiefly, if we mistake not, in the honourable task of assisting young persons during their classical studies at Trinity College, Dublin. He has been already a wanderer in the field of fiction, and is the author of the House of Montorio, a romance in the style of Mrs Radcliffe, the Wild Irish Boy, and other tales.' sent work is framed upon a different and more interesting model, pretending to the merit of describing the emotions of the human heart, rather than that of astonishing the reader by the accumulation of imaginary horrors, or the singular combinations of marvellous and perilous adventures. Accordingly, we think we can perceive marks of greater care than Mr Maturin has taken the trouble to bestow upon his former works of fiction; and that which is a favourite with the author himself, is certainly most likely to become :0 with the

The pre

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[The Rev. Charles Robert Maturin, curate of St Peter's, Dublin, an eccentric character, but a man of genius, shared the usual fate of irregular and incoherent genius, in a continued family warfare, with “elegant desires,” poverty, and bailiffs. He died in October, 1824. Besides the present and preceding articles of review, Mr Maturin published tales, called, The Milesian Chief, 4 vols. ; The Wild Irish Biry, 3 vols.; Melmith the Wanderer, 4 vols. ; and The Albigenses, vols. ; two Tragedies— Bertram, and Manuel; The Universe, a Poem; and two volumes of sermons. Among other fantastic humours of this gentleman, it is said that when he wished his family to be aware that the fit was on him, be used to stick a wafer on bis forehead.]

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