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of bonhommie,'* his · Annals of the Parish,' appeared in 1821 ; but as the titles of his later performances, neither · few' nor · far between,' must be familiar to all, it were needless to introduce them here, farther than by remarking of our present humble vocation, that, like the profession of Puff in the Critic, it was never scientifically treated, nor reduced to rule' before the appearance of · The Bachelor's Wife.'
Besides that arising from diversity of subject, there is another circumstance which renders it difficult to speak briefly of Mr Galt's general manner; namely, the rapidity with which he passes
from grave to gay, From lively to severe.
indeed, it be true, that, after correcting a proof-sheet, he can seat himself amid the bustle of a crowded printingoffice and there compose his succeeding chapter, (which receives neither addition nor revision till presented to his eye in all the distinctness which Pica can impart,)—it is not surprising that his transitions should occasionally be abrupt, and his story but indifferently connected. In alluding to this, however, we are reminded of a quality by which his style is often distinguished—its adaptation to the immediate subject, how different soever it may be from that which went before. Hence he is equally successful in describing the regal splendour of the Field of the Cloth of Gold, as in bringing before us the domestic economy of a Scottish parsonage;t-in painting the raging of a troubled ocean, as in soothing us by the prospect of an unruffled lake. He surrounds us with the savage jollity of Glenfruin's hall, and we are more familiar with its inmates than they who have
* Westminster Review, Vol. 1. p. 275 : -considering the political principles of its conductors, this work is not likely to be charged with too much partiality for an avowed contributor to Blackwood's Magazine.
+ Annals of the Parish. # Provost. § Spaewife.
quaffed his ' horns of horn :'* he transports us to a teaparty in the Kirkgate of Irvine,t and we are as much at home as any of the invited. The peculiarities of George III. are as happily recorded, I as those of his loyal subject, M-Sweeties of the Saltmarket,g and poor Anniple the Ta’en. away speaks in language not less appropriate than the Queen of James I.* The humours' of a London Smack|| are as suitably commemorated as the formalities of his Majesty's visit to Edinburgh:9 while the communings of ancient Barons* are represented with a fidelity equalled only by that which reveals to us the doings of a modern Town Council ; and the joke passed in Rothelan' on his admiring neighbours, the men of Musselburgh, encourages a hope that Mr Galt is not now self-exiled without an intention of introducing us to American manners, in some future page.
Yet, though well-adapted for individual scenes, his style, when examined as to general excellence, will be found to have considerable defects. This does not so much apply to his earlier novels illustrative of Scottish life, as to those more lately published. In his Annals' and Provost, the only two of his works which seem to have been written for posterity, simplicity is a predominating feature : in his late productions, he is seduced, partly by his subject as well as a wish to sound a bolder strain, into a more laboured and ambitious style, employed with sufficient success on some occasions, but seldom harmonizing with that dry humour and gossiping familiarity which run through the whole of his fictitious writings, and, in some measure, pervade even those professedly historical. The dates of his successive publications may, indeed, explain, but cannot apologize for, their numerous imperfections both in style and manage
† Ayrshire Legatees. # Sir Andrew Wylie. | Ayrshire Legatees, or Sir Andrew Wylie.
Gathering of the West.
ment. We could have wished that · Ringan Gilhaize' had been a solitary proof of the justness of our remarks—but in • The Spaewife' it is still more strikingly exemplified. There is not a chapter which fails to disappoint, by dispelling the high anticipation formed of what has been ambitiously commenced; and the visible straining after effect prevents that pleasing illusion which constitutes the highest charm in works of imagination. These charges may, with tenfold force, be extended to · ROTHELAN.' Never was expectation more highly or artfully excited by a novelist; but, after being prepared for some mighty result, every hope gradual. ly evaporates, and we finish the perusal with a feeling ofutter disappointment. The reader is disposed to throw it aside in disgust; but • Tales of the Lazaretto,' appended to fill up the fashionable number of volumes, will speedily restore his equanimity. From one of these—The Physiognomistwe have made some extracts, as a specimen of what Mr Galt can accomplish when pleased to exert himself. The story is given as if published for the first time, but we have a vague impression of its being an old acquaintance. Its didactic elegance and well supported interest seem, at least, to favour our opinion that it has been the work of younger days before success had induced carelessness, or applause encouraged its author to discontinue his sacrifices to the Graces.„Of the doctrine implied in it we leave the reader to judge for himself, after requesting him to consider whether there may not be some reason for believing with Godwin, that, in the same manner as, in the world of human creatures, there exist certain mysterious sympathies and analogies, drawing and attracting each to each, and fitting them to be respectively sources of human happiness, so there are antipathies, and properties interchangeably irreconcileable and destructive to each other, that fit one human being to be the source of another's misery.' Before treating our readers, however, with The Physiog
nomist, we shall give them a small morsel from The PROvost, called The Town Drummer, as a specimen of the composition in which Mr Galt more particularly excels.
THE TOWN DRUMMER.
FOR many a year, one Robin Boss had been town drummer :he was a relic of some American-war fencibles, and was, to say the God's truth of him, á divor bodie, with no manner of conduct, saving a very earnest endeavour to fill himself fou as often as he could get the means; the consequence of which was, that his face was as plooky as a curran bun, and his nose as red as a partan's tae.
One afternoon there was a need to send out a proclamation to abolish a practice that was growing a custom, in some of the bye parts of the town, of keeping swine at large-ordering them to be confined in proper styes, and other suitable places.--As on all occasions when the matter to be proclaimed was from the magistrates, Robin, on this, was attended by the town officers in their Sunday garbs, and with their halberts in their hand ; but the abominable and ir. reverent creature was so drunk, that he wamblet to and fro over the drum, as if there had not been a bane in his body. He was seemingly as soople and as senseless as a bolster. --Still, as this was no new thing with him, it might have passed ; for James Hound, the senior officer, was in the practice, when Robin was in that state, of reading the proclamation himself. On this occasion, however, James happened to be absent on some hue and cry quest, and another of the officers (I forget which) was appointed to perform for him. Robin, accustomed to James, no sooner heard the other man begin to read, than he began to curse and swear at him as an incapable nincompoop-an impertinent term that he was much addicted to. The grammar school was at the time skayling, and the boys seeing the stramash, gathered round the officer, and yelling and shouting, encouraged Robin more and more into rebellion, till at last they worked up his corruption to such a pitch, that he took the drum from about his neck, and made it fly like a bombshell at the officer's head.
The officers behaved very well, for they dragged Robin
, tos manner inselle
Tre h by the lug and the horn to the tolbooth, and then came with of the their complaint to me. Seeing how the authorities had
been set at nought, and the necessity there was of making els.
an example, I forthwith ordered Robin to be cashiered from the service of the town, and, as so important a concern as a proclamation ought not to be delayed, I likewise, upon the spot, ordered the officers to take a lad that had been also a drummer in a marching regiment, and go with him to make the proclamation.
Nothing could be done in a more earnest and zealous public spirit than this was done by me. But habit had begot in the town a partiality for the drunken neer-do-weel
Robin, and this just act of mine was immediately condemned ze of we
as a daring stretch of arbitrary power ; and the consequence was, that when the council' met next day, some sharp words few
among us, as to my usurping an undue authority, and the thank I got for my pains was the mortification to see the worthless body restored to full power and dignity, with no other reward than an admonition to behave better for the future. Now, I leave it to the unbiassed judgment of posterity to determine if any public man could be more ungraciously treated by his colleagues than I was on this occasion.
Soon after the expiration of my engagement with Don Lopez, Count Waltzerstein, a German nobleman, came from Cagliari to Sassari for the purpose of taking his passage to Leghorn. Don Lopez was his banker, and I saw him, in consequence, often. From the moment he had delivered his letters of credit, I had formed wish to go with him to the continent; and, with this view, I endeavoured to conciliate his good opinion. He was not, however, one of those kind of persons with whom it is easy to excite any interest. His mind was tardy and indecisive, and there was a morbid irritability about him, the consequence of physical infirmity, that frequently frustrated the best attempts to please him.