Imatges de pÓgina
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ful, and in another of his prefaces hints that necessity made him take to romance-writing. It is certain, his strength lay in that branch of literature, and in all probability his inclination also; yet he would not have pled necessity for betaking himself to it, without cause. What we have to regret is, that his merit was tardily appreciated, and that he was cut off just as he was gaining that notoriety and distinction which was so deservedly his due.

Montorio, or The Fatal Revenge, was his first attempt in romance-writing, and, though composed at an early age, evinces great strength of fancy and feeling, and shows how decidedly his mind was at this time bent to the course which it afterwards followed. Not only are the incidents and situations striking and romantic, but they are supported and executed with a force and talent equal tỏ their conception. The Milesian Chief and The Wild Irish Boy succeeded Montorio—the former a romance, laid in Ireland, of powerful interest, and from which, we conjecture, the hint of The Bride of Lammermoor has been taken the latter rather a novel than romance, displaying considerable knowledge of fashionable life both in Dublin and London. Then followed his tragedy of Bertram ; and in 1818, his Women, or Pour et Contre, a novel with many faults of style and story, but with numberless beauties to overbalance them.' Next succeeded his Melmoth, by far the best, in our opinion, of all his romances,—that can yield to no similar work in the interest and sensations it creates :- and last of all came his Albigenses, his only attempt at historical romance, and by no means a failure.

Our specimen of Maturin must be from Melmoth. The extract which follows is a story which a wretched parricide tells a noble Spaniard, as they lie in a subterraneous passage, waiting the fall of evening, on purpose to make their escape

from

a monastery. The parricide, after the commission of his dreadful crime, had found shelter in this monas

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tery, and by the most depraved cruelty endeavoured to numb the stings of conscience, and to glut his fiendish passions by making others as miserable as himself. This is a relation from his own mouth of one of his deeds, while a servant in the monastery.

STORY OF A PARRICIDE.

was

• I was desired to attach myself to a young monk of distinguished family, who had lately taken the vows, and who performed his duties with that heartless punctuality that intimated to the community that his heart was elsewhere. I

soon put in possession of the business; from their ordering me to attach myself to him, I instantly conceived I was bound to the most deadly hostility against him. The friendship of convents is always a treacherous leaguewe watch, suspect, and torment each other, for the love of God. This young monk's only crime was, that he was 'suspected of cherishing an earthly passion. He was, in fact, the son of a distinguished family, who (from the fear of his contracting what is called a degrading marriage, i. e. of marrying a woman of inferior rank whom he loved, and who would have made him happy, as fools, that is, half mankind, estimate happiness) forced him to take the vows. He appeared at times broken-hearted, but at times there was a light of hope in his eye, that looked somewhat ominous in the eyes of the community. It is certain, that hope not being an indigenous plant in the parterre of a convent, must excite suspicion with regard both to its origin and its growth.

• Some time after, a young novice entered the convent. From the moment he did so, a change the most striking took place in the young monk. He and the novice became inseparable companions—there was something suspicious in that. My eyes were on the watch in a moment. Eyes are particularly sharpened in discovering misery when they can hope to aggravate it. The attachment between the young

monk and the novice went on. They were for ever in the garden together—they inhaled the odours of the flowers—they cultivated the same cluster of carnationsthey entwined themselves as they walked together--when

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they were in the choir, their voices were like mixed incense. Friendship is often carried to excess in conventual life, but this friendship was too like love.. For instance, the psalms sung in the choir sometimes breathe a certain language ; at these words, the young monk and the novice would direct their voices to each other in sounds that could not be misunderstood. If the least correction was inflicted, one would intreat to undergo it for the other. If a day of relaxation was allowed, whatever presents were sent to the cell of one, were sure to be found in the cell of the other. This was enough for me. I saw that secret of mysterious happiness, which is the greatest misery to those who never can share it. My vigilance was redoubled, and it was rewarded by the discovery of a secret-a secret that I had to communicate and raise my consequence by. You cannot guess the importance attached to the discovery of a secret in a convent, (particularly when the remission of our own offences depends on the discovery of those of others).

One evening as the young monk and his darling novice were in the garden, the former plucked a peach which he I immediately offered to his favourite; the latter accepted it

with a movement I thought rather awkward—it seemed like

what I imagined would be the reverence of a female. The | young monk divided the peach with a knife; in doing so,

the knife grazed the finger of the novice, and the monk, in I agitation inexpressible, tore his habit to bind up the wound.

I saw it all—my mind was made up on the business—I went to the Superior that very night. The result may be conceived. They were watched, but cautiously at first. They were probably on their guard ; for, for some time, it defied even my vigilance to make the slightest discovery. It is a situation incomparably tantalizing, when suspicion is satisfied of her own suggestions, as of the truth of the gospel, but still wants the little fact to make them credible to others. One night that I had, by direction of the Superior, taken my station in the gallery, (where I was contented to remain hour after hour, and night after night, amid solitude, darkness, and cold, for the chance of the power of retaliating on others the misery inflicted on myself) —One night I thought I heard a step in the gallery-I have told you that I was in the dark-a light step passed me.

I could hear the broken and palpitating respiration of the person.

A few moments after, I heard a door open, and knew it to be the

door of the young monk.' I knew it; for by long watching in the dark, and accustoming myself to number the cells, by the groan from one, the prayer from another, the faint shriek of restless dreams from a third, my ear had become so finely graduated, that I could instantly distinguish the opening of that door from which (to my sorrow) no sound had ever before issued. I was provided with a small chain, by which I fastened the handle of the door to a contiguous one, in such a manner, that it was impossible to open either of them from the inside. I then hastened to the Superior, with a pride of which none but the successful tracer of a guilty secret in convents can have any conception. I believe the Superior was himself agitated by the luxury of the same feelings, for he was awake and up in his apartment, attended by four monks. I communicated my intelligence with a voluble eagerness, not only unsuited to the respect I owed these persons, but which must have rendered me almost unintelligible, yet they were good enough not only to overlook this violation of decorum, which would in any other case have been severely punished, but even to supply certain pauses in my narrative, with a condescension and facility truly miraculous. I felt what it was to acquire importance in the eyes of a Superior, and gloried in all the dignified depravity of an informer. We set out without losing a moment, we arrived at the door of the cell, and I pointed out with triumph the chain unremoved, though a slight vibration, perceptible at our approach, showed the wretches within were already apprized of their danger. I unfastened the door,-how they must have shuddered! The Superior and his satellites burst into the cell, and I held the light. You tremble,-why? I was guilty, and I wished to witness guilt that palliated mine, at least in the opinion of the convent. I had only violated the laws of nature, but they had outraged the decorum of a convent, and, of course, in the creed of a convent, there was no proportion between our offences. Besides, I was anxious to witness misery that might perhaps equal or exceed my own, and this is a curiosity not easily satisfied. It is actually possible to become amateurs in suffering. I have heard of men who have travelled into countries where horrible executions were to be daily witnessed, for the sake of that excitement which the sight of suffering never fails to give, from the spectacle of a tragedy, or an auto da fe, down to the writhings of the meanest reptile on whom you can inflict torture, and feel

that torture is the result of your own power. It is a species of feeling of which we never can divest ourselves, triumph over those whose sufferings have placed them below us--and no wonder: suffering is always an indication of weakness,-we glory in our impenetrability. I did, as we burst into the cell. The wretched husband and wife were locked in each others arms. You may imagine the scene that followed. Here I must do the Superior reluctant justice. He was a man (of course from his conventual feel. ings) who had no more idea of the intercourse between the sexes, than between two beings of a different species. The scene that he beheld could not have revolted him inore, than if he had seen the horrible loves of the baboons and the Hottentot women, at the Cape of Good Hope ; or those still more loathsome unions between the serpents of South America and their human victims, when they can catch them, and twine round them in folds of unnatural and ineffable union. He really stood as much astonished and appalled, to see two human beings of different sexes, who dared to love each other in spite of monastic ties, as if he had witnessed the horrible conjunctions I have alluded to. Had he seen vipers engendering in that frightful knot which seems the pledge of mortal hostility, instead of love, he could not have testified more horror,—and I do him the justice to believe he felt all he testified. Whatever affectation he might employ on points of conventual austerity, there was none here. Love was a thing he always believed connected with sin, even though consecrated by the name of a sacrament, and called marriage, as it is in our church. But, love in a convent !-Oh, there is no conceiving his rage; still less is it possible to conceive the majestic and overwhelming extent of that rage, when strengthened by principle, and sanctified by religion. I enjoyed the scene beyond all power of description. I saw those wretches, who had triumphed over me, reduced to my level in a moment, -their passions all displayed, and the display placing me a hero triumphant above all. I had crawled to the shelter of their walls, a wretched degraded outcast, and what was my crime? Well,—you shudder: I have done with that. I only say want drove me to it.

And here were beings whom, a few months before, I would have knelt to‘as to the images round the shrine,-to whom, in the moments of my desperate penitence, I would have clung as to the horns of the altar,' all brought as low, and lower than myself.

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