Imatges de pÓgina

commending that conduct which may lead to a haven of rest when the turmoil of life is over, his audience is carried along by illustrations, original and apposite, so judiciously alternating with grave detail, that applanse extorted by the Poet is renewed by the display of metaphysical skill. The simple affections or humble occupations of lowly life, with all the variety of mountain and meadow, of sunshine and storm, by which the Scottish peasant is surrounded, are frequently selected for this purpose: and few of his hearers, on revisiting the haunts of infancy, can fail to experience the new interest with which many a scene and many a well-known fashion have become invested, through the magic influence of eloquent description. Akin to this must be the effect produced by his Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life,' when first met with in a foreign land : in the one case, objects, present to the eye, are gazed upon with that feeling of novelty excited by the notice their likes', may have attracted in the halls of learning ; in the other, the heart, ' untravelled,' re. verts to scenes present only in imagination. The home of his early years--the image of a tender mother, of an indulgent father--the affection of a beloved brother, of an amiable sister--the cherished form of one around whom all the bright hopes of future bliss are entwined—the rippling brook by whose margin she may have pledged her willing faith-the trees whose bark may bear record of their love -all, by some individual tale, nay, some individual phrase, will, in a single moment, be recalled with an intensity of emotion, causing him

Whom fortune leads to traverse realms alone,

for a time to forget that he is still on Indian plains, separated by half the globe from scenes presented to the eye of fancy.

Bordering, if we mistake not, on a Fifth Edition, this work may be safely said to have acquired a popularity that

would justify the highest panegyric;-a fact, however, which of itself precludes all necessity for further remark in this way: and the only fault we can find is, that the author' regards humanity with so favourable an eye as to overlook those shadows which, too oft, obscure the brighter parts of Scottish life.

The applause of every feeling heart,—the gratitude of thousands whom it has soothed in adversity-pining under disease or withering under the world's dread laugh,'—bear us out in pronouncing the TRIALS OF MARGARET LYNDSAY to be more nearly

-One pure and perfect chrysolite,

than any similar performance we could name. This opinion, we confess, was not the immediate result of a first perusal. The part of Margaret's history connected with a villain whose name we are glad to have forgot-a radical, or 'friend of the people, however,-is most painful to the feelings; but what has been said of the composition of Madame Cottin

may, with much justice, be applied to our author : viz, that he seldom loves to excite attention by a display of the ignoble or unholy passions. Unfortunately, these must, in a measure, enter every picture of life and manners'; but it is only when they must enter that they are here admitted. They are shown, but not so prominently as to enter with those gentler and more agreeable images that fill the sight.

- They come, as flying clouds to throw a shadow over the current, not as a miry infusion to sully its clearness. This work would be a treasure to the psychologist, were it only for the touching fidelity with which it portrays the feelings of

those who

-find no dawn;
So thick a drop serene hath quench'd their orbs,
Or dim suffusion veil'd.

There is, too, a pathos in those passages where blind Esther

It, at any

or poor Marion is spoken of, which must call a tear into the most unwonted eye. But, of all the praises which have been bestowed upon · Margaret Lyndsay,' few can be more grateful to its author than the following disinterested eulogium from the pen of Sir Egerton Brydges :

“ I have for some time, nearly, I believe, for two years, lost the habit or power of reading; but on Saturday I accidentally took up a book lying on the table, which had been obtained from one of the Libraries at Geneva, entitled "The Trials of Margaret Lyndsay.' I have read it about half through ; and though the grand test is yet to come in the manner of conducting the other half—so far I have been very much affected and enchanted by it. It is written I presume by a Scottish Poet of some celebrity. rate, could not be written by any one but a true poet; for all its descriptions are genuine poetry of a high cast. It is one of those few happy productions which has left a thrill upon one's frame, that seems to change one's nature, and give new lights to the face of things around one." It has a decided originality; perhaps it has more elegance and "gentle tenderness than force; and I am afraid that it now and then a little approaches to affectation in a few of its sentiments, and a sort of overlabour of pious reflections; but what touches me is the exquisite and tender delicacy of the descriptions, which are at the same time rich and brilliant'; and a sweetness and moral pathos in many passages, which does not o'erstep nature, but enchains the reader by its deep simplicity. The delight of the suburban walks to those emerging from crowded streets, so beautifully touched by Milton, in the passage beginning

• As one who, long in populous city pent,' is dwelt upon by the present author with a brilliance of inventive fidelity which is at once new and perfect. The visit to the native cottages of Braehead from the narrow lane and gloomy court will continue to be read by readers of sensibility and taste while the language lasts."

Though chiefly distinguished for skill in pathetic descrip. tion, it will be seen from the first extract that our author is not unsuccessful, when pleased to indulge in a humorous strain.


The second extract is more illustrative of his peculiar

It is from The Foresters,' the last published of the author's works, and equal in merit to the others, although resembling them even to a painful degree.


MARGARET LYNDSAY was now in the twenty-first year of her age; and if, as a girl, she had always been noticed even by the careless eye of the stranger as a creature rarely beautiful among her humble companions, by the way-side at Braehead, or standing at her mother's door in that lane of the city, she was now even more so than according to the promise of her rising youth. The pure air of the country had given colour to her pale cheeks; and her walks to the houses of the parents of her scholars, with her friend Lucy Oswald, over the hills of bonny Clydesdale and its solitary vales, each carrying down its sparkling rivulet to swell the falls of Bonniton, Cora-Linn, and Stonebyres, had nerved her frame to a fuller loveliness, and given livelier elasticity to her steps. Now, too, despondency and fear had fled far off from the Orphan; she had not only enough of this world's means to keep want henceforth from her own door, but what was dear to her as the sunshine of Sabbath, to relieve the distresses of her fellow-creatures. Nature demanded no long deep grief from her grateful heart for the death of her uncle. He had died full of days, and life was now before her to enjoy it in contentment and innocence.

She was beautiful, and she knew it; at least she knew that every one looked upon her with kind eyes ; and, no doubt, she frequently heard, without thinking much or at all about it, praise of her beauty in compliment, courtesy, or affection. Her disposition was by nature gay and lively; and now that all clouds seemed blown away from the limited horizon of her settled life, her spirits re-awoke to their former hilarity, and the countenance that had so long expressed chiefly pity, sorrow, or fortitude, now shone with smiles that told what enjoyment lay spread for her over all the scenes and occurrences of this life. She made no violent changes about Nether-Place, for she respected the memory of her old kind uncle ; and she swept not away any of

the antique objects that had been familiar to his eyes, however rude or homely. But still there appeared all around the difference between young and old fancies; a spirit of brighter expression encompassed the avenue, garden, house, and adjacent fields; and, while every thing in itself permanent was not only allowed to remain, but was carefully protected, such as the Willow-Arbour, the root-seats, the high beech hedges, and the little shed, in whose niches the tufted bee-hives stood secure from every wind that blewmany little additions were made, and many little clearings away,

that let in the beauty of Nature more tenderly or more boldly upon Nether-place, till the neighbours, who knew it best, declared that, though they could not tell why, it was far bonnier than before, and certainly not to be matched any where in all the Upper Ward.

Margaret was placed in a rank of society neither high nor low, and it was precisely that most congenial with her humble and unambitious disposition. Far higher, indeed, it was than what she could ever have dreamed of a very few years ago, when there were rarely more shillings in the house than could purchase provisions to the week's end. But still it was low enough to keep her chiefly among the peasantry, and to make their houses the chief scenes of the festal familiarities of her heart. Her extreme beauty-her perfectly blameless manners

and her occupation--so great a blessing to the little parish, made her an object of no common interest to the few resident gentry all the way

down the country as far as Cora-Linn; and as few important events, even in the private history of any family, altogether escape the partial knowledge of persons no way concerned, there was a memoir, various as the minds of those who heard it, of the real cause of her departure from the house of Mrs Wedderburne. There was something of romance,

therefore, about the circumstances of her life to curious minds, with whom novelty or strangeness has such strong charms; and now that she was a lady, even of landed property, the very haughtiest member of old rural races, distinguished by their fixed and immoveable obscurity for many respect, able generations, began to hear something extremely genteel in the words - Margaret Lyndsay,' and perhaps would have reconciled themselves to the misfortune of her becoming the wife of some one of the younger unendowed Clydesdale cadets

. But Margaret had seen the perfect elegance of cultivated life in the family of the Wedderburnes, and had there repaid the

« AnteriorContinua »