« AnteriorContinua »
pense, perceives not these defects till all mystery has been cleared away. The character of Falkland is one of the finest ever drawn by a novelist, and so original that few have succeeded in copying his inventor. Actuated as he had ever been by the most chivalrous motives, it may be difficult to conceive how he could so suddenly have become a midnight assassin ; but, to the reader, this improbability is fully compensated by the fearful and engrossing conflict which it produces in his bosom. In St Leon there is a · falling off" so glaring that, but for the character of Bethlehem Gabor, one not previously informed would have some difficulty in tracing it to the author of Caleb Willians. The peculiarities of the Radcliffe school are here carried to their utmost extent. Terror predominates to such a degree, that, before concluding, the reader determines to wonder no longer at that which is intended to be marvellous. In the earlier part, however, we meet with some redeeming traits. The description of St Leon's visits to the grave of his nobleminded parent, of his feelings on commencing his career in arms at the siege of Pavia--of his domestic bliss when united to the saint-like Marquesite—and his despair when ruined at the gambling table, will long be impressed on the most careless readers. The whole of a passage describing the terrific thunder-storm which threatened desolation and ruin to his little property, is scarcely 'excelled by the most sublime descriptions in any of our poets; and the landscape as it appeared on the approach of day, with that which greets him on escaping from a Spanish prison, will as frequently recur to the reader's imagination as any scene to be met with in fiction.--Fleetwood might have been more favourably received were it not designated by the most inapplicable alias ever introduced into a title-page. In it we become acquainted with one who is indeed a new Man of Feeling ; for he who has been accustomed to associate with his ideas of such a character, the amiable virtues and
- disinterested benevolence of a Harley, will soon be convinced that Fleetwood is in every thing his opposite. Harley, while not insensible of his own distresses, feels acutely for those of others; but his intended prototype lives only to gratify his own wants, reckless of the misery he
оссаsion to those whose happiness should be dear to him. Bent on self-gratification, he does not once endeavour to advance the general welfare of mankind, or to promote the enjoyment of individuals with whom he is more intimately connected. Dissatisfied under misfortunes which a man of principle would overlook, and fretful under trivial disappointments, the reader, instead of sympathizing in his mighty grievances, views them rather as fit objects for ridicule or contempt; while the laboured extravagance of language and sentiment soon becomes monotonous, and furnishes but an indifferent substitute for that delicacy of description which, in other writers, brings before us the most minute and evanescent shades of feeling. When we characterize Mandeville as portraying, with admirable fidelity, the feelings and crimes, the injuries and vanities, of one who is neither altogether rational nór decidedly insane, and add that we prize it more than any other of Mr Godwin's fictitious writings, it
may be necessary to give some reason for holding an opinion so different from that entertained by high authorities. In elegance and purity of style it far excels every similar work, and may, indeed, be regarded as one of the finest specimens of English undefiled' that has lately appeared. It abounds with reflections which would not be misplaced in the gravest philosophical treatise, expressed, too, in language so comprehensive and harmonious that they are retained long after we may be unable to trace them to their original. The minute account of an Irish massacre and the detail of certain religious opinions, perhaps the most tiresome parts of the book, throw much light on the malady of the unhappy being who relates them, and are amply
redeemed by the interesting episode of Audley Mandeville, an estimate of the personal and literary character of the celebrated Earl of Shaftesbury, and an eloquent eulogium on Poetry put into the mouth of a school-boy. Though strictly of a private nature, the tale is so closely interwoven with the history of Cromwell's time as to give to the whole an air of reality. Its express purpose is to show how the concurrence of a variety of causes operates in forming a character; and though Mandeville, depraved in understanding and wayward in temper, would form no enviable companion in real life, whoever can submit to such a course of morbid anatomy will find his thoughts, his hopes, and his fears, portrayed with a skill which supersedes the necessity of searching for his representative in society. The author is so familiar with the darkest passions of the human heart, that he seems to take a pleasure in sporting with the being of his own creating, as if to astonish us by the depth of self-caused wretchedness to which he can reduce him. Al. though the gloomy style, characteristic of the works already, mentioned, is here employed to an extent which must make it a sealed book to' many, yet we 'meet with occasional descriptions of scenery so beautiful that we pause on them for a time, and glimpses of beings so attractive that we can, not but deplore an aberration of intellect which disqualified Mandeville for enjoying the society of such a sister as Harriet and of such friends as the Montagues. But wealth, influence, high-birth-all, in short, that the world regards as ensuring happiness—are, by some unhappy alchemy, perverted into the very sources of his discomfort. His fate appears so intimately allied to that of the accomplished and winning Clifford, that he conceives felicity to await him only when he shall have removed the involuntary cause of his misery. By a strange fatality, appearances sometimes favour an erroneous impression that Clifford is actuated by a desire of thwarting the projects and humbling the pretensions of
his self-constituted rival. Thus, after Mandeville had laboured to obtain that envied appointment, Clifford is nominated Secretary to Sir Joseph Wagstaff; and, while thus employed, acts a part in the following adventure related in his own words.
ESCAPE OF A ROYALIST GENERAL.
Tue unfortunate issue of the gallant undertaking of Sir Joseph Wagstaff and Colonel Penruddock is sufficiently known. It began under the happiest auspices; but unfortunate differences that arose between the leaders speedily led to the most disastrous reverse.
After our retreat from Salisbury, we halted for a short time at Blandford, and, there caused king Charles, to be proclaimed in the market-place. This was, however, the last show of prosperity that attended us. We had the good wishes of many ; but insurgents that appear to be on the retreat, are not likely to be recruited in their numbers. The characters of Penruddock and Sir Joseph were strongly con. trasted with each other : the former had every quality that could do honour to a gentleman, but he was not thoroughly penetrated, as Sir Joseph was, who had learned the rudiments of his art in the wars of Germany, with the principles of the military profession. At Salisbury our principal commander had conceived a plan of proceeding of the most decisive sort, the only one that could have led to a successful termination ; and in this he had been counteracted by the humane scruples of Penruddock. As Sir Joseph knew how to take advantage of the tide, when it was at the highest, so the same perspicacity of judgment led him instantly to perceive when the chance of benefit was gone. On our leaving Blandford, and even before, he was thoroughly aware that cur case was desperate. He called together the officers, and told them this, earnestly pressing them not to throw themselves away upon a vain point of honour, but to do, as became men engaged in the service of their king, to save their lives from the vengeance of the tyrant, and reserve their zeal and their talents for some occasion, where they might be of substantial advantage. Penruddock, on the contrary, being once engaged, could not endure to throw up the undertaking, and urged that, by going farther westward, we should try
what yet could be done with the gentlemen of Devonshire and Cornwall. Here then the leaders of the expedition di. vided ; Sir Joseph, and the most distinguished military characters, withdrew, and sought their safety in dispersion. The country-gentlemen and their followers kept together, reached South Molton to the number of about two hundred, and met the reward of their perseverance on the scaffold.
I continued with Sir Joseph, to whose person I was by virtue of my appointment attached. I will not trouble you with any of our adventures, till we came to the house of a Mr Laudseer, near the coast of Devonshire, whose wife was a distant relation of my mother. Laudseer was himself an adherent of the existing government; his wife was strongly attached to the exiled family. It happened that Laudeeer had been absent for some years, on a commission which the republicans had given him to one of the northern courts, but was expected on his return in a few weeks. The fugitives from Salisbury were now chased almost from house to house they were disappointed of a vessel, which they had expected to have found at Lymouth, ready to carry them off ; Captain Unton Croke in particular, a man wholly destitute of honour and humanity, was most assiduous in hunting them out from their hiding-places. It happened in one instance, that Şir Joseph, having already nearly exhausted the protection of the loyal houses in the neighbourhood, seemed to be driven in a manner to the last extremity. In this conjuncture it occurred to me to think of Mrs Laudseer, whose house would be less exposed to the jealousy of the military, on account of her husband's being in the employment of the present rulers. On my representation I was commissioned to repair to this lady, and, confident in her loyalty, to propose, without any disguise, that she should receive Sir Joseph Wagstaff into her house, till one of the vessels should be discovered, which were known to be hovering on the coast for the purpose of carrying off the fugitives to France. Mrs Laudseer readily entered into my proposal, and observed, that the most effectual way in which she could serve this gentleman, was to receive him as if he had been her husband. She added, that none of the servants in her house knew Laudseer's person, he having taken with him in his embassy two or three of those that had been longest established in the family. Her house was too small to afford her any means of concealment; but if she received Sir Joseph in this open manner, it would be impossible for any