« AnteriorContinua »
the story, and saves the author the trouble of tagging his characters with descriptions, always somewhat awkward, of person and disposition. In some respects it answers the purpose which Texier was wont to achieve in another way. Those who remember, like ourselves, that distinguished reader of the French comedians (and such treats are not easily forgotten), cannot but recollect, that on first reading over the list of characters, with the author's short description annexed, M. Texier assumed in each the voice and manner in which he intended to read the part; and so wonderful was his discrimination, that the most obtuse hearer had never afterwards the least difficulty in ascertaining who was speaking. A happy selection of names has somewhat the same effect in placing the characters who bear them before us in their original concoction.
It is no doubt true, that this may be coarsely and inartificially attempted, so as at once to destroy the reality of the tale. When the thrice noble, illustrious, and excellent princess, as the titlepage calls her, the Duchess of Newcastle, produces on the stage such personages as Sir Mercury Poet, the Lady Fancy, Sir William Sage, Lady Virtue, and Mimic—the jest is as flat and dull as that of Snug, the joiner, when he acts the lion bare-faced. On the other hand, some authors produce names, either real or approaching to reality, which nevertheless possess that resemblance to the character which has all the effect of wit, and, by its happy coincidence with the narrative, greatly enhances the pleasure of the reader. Thus, in the excellent novel of Marriage, an elderly dowager, who deals in telling her neighbours disagreeable truths, which she calls “ speaking her mind,” is very happily Mrs Downe Wright. Anstey, also, whose genius in this line was particular, gives us a list of company, of each of whom we form a distinct and individual idea from the name alone:
" With old Lady Towzer,
And Marshal Carouser, Came the great Hanoverian Baron Panmouzer." We might also mention the Widow Quicklackit, with little Bob Jerome, old Chrysostom's son, or the parties in the country-dance, where the contrasts of stature, complexion, and age, are conveyed by little more than the names :
“ Miss Curd had a partner as black as Omiah ; Kitty Tit shook ber heels with old Doctor Goliah ; While little John Trot, like a pony just nicked, With long Dolly Louderhead scampered and kicked." Other, and those very distinguished authors, have not ventured to push this resemblance between the names and characters of their personages so far. An ominous and unpleasing epithet, a jarring and boding collocation of consonants, form the names of their villains; as, for instance, who could expect any thing good from a Blifil? The heroes and heroines, on the contrary, rejoice in the softest, and, at the same time, the most aristocratic names, -such as aspirants to the actual stage select for a first
appearance. Without permitting our remarks on this head to lead us further astray from the subject, we shall VOL. XVIII.
only observe, that Bunyan was indifferent to other points so his names were expressive. Mr Pennywise-pound-foolish is not a happy name, and still less Mr Wise-in-the-hundred-and-fool-in-the-shire, but they serve to keep the allegory before the reader's mind. On the other hand, Mrs Bat's-eyes, Mr Ready-to-halt, and Much-afraid, his daughter, Fair-speech, By-ends, and the rest, without being very improbable, have the same advantage of maintaining the reader's attention to the author's meaning. As an apology for the length and singular composition of such names as Valiant-for-the-truth, Dare-not-lie, and the like, the reader must remember, that it was the custom of that puritanical age to impose texts and religious sentences, for examples of which we may refer to the rolls of PraiseGod-Barebones' parliament.
In these observations we have never touched upon Bunyan's poetry—an omission for which the good man, had he been alive, would scarce have thanked us, for he had a considerable notion of his gift that way, though his present editor is of opinion that John modelled his verses upon those of Robert Wisdom, a degree more prosaic than the effusions of Sternhold and Hopkins. His mechanical education prevented his access to better models : and of verse he knew nothing but the necessity of tagging syllables of a certain amount with very slovenly rhymes. Mr Southey has revived some specimens
? That worthy's own brother may perhaps furnish not the worst specimen. He wrote himself, “ If-the-Lord-help-me-not I-amdamned ;" but, for shortness, was commonly called “ Damned Barebones."
of verses written by Bunyan (with great self-approbation, doubtless) upon the leaves of Fox's Book of Martyrs. These “ Tincker's tetrastics,” as Southey calls them, may rank, in idea and expression, with the basest doggrel. But his later poetry excels this humble model; he had learned to soar beyond Robert Wisdom, when he was able to express himself thus in recommendation of the Pilgrim's Progress.
“ Wouldst thou divert thyself from melancholy?
And lay my book, thy head, and heart together.”—P. 9.
In these lines, though carelessly and roughly forned, there are both ideas and
of expression. Another little sonnet, taken in connexion with the scene of repose, in the prose narrative, has a simplicity which approaches elegance. It occurs on the entrance of the Pilgrim into the valley of Humiliation.
'Now, as they were going along and talking, they espied a boy feeding his father's sheep. The boy was in very mean clothes, but of a fresh and well-favoured countenance, and as he sat by bimself, he sung. · Hark,' said Mr Great-heart, “to what the shepherd's boy saith!' So they harkened, and he said,
• He that is down needs fear no fall;
He that is low no pride ;
Have God to be his guide.
Little be it or much!
Because thou savest such.
That go on pilgrimage ;
Is best from age to age.' “ Then said their guide, • Do you hear him ? I will dare to say, this boy lives a merrier life, and wears more of that herb called heart's-ease in his bosom, than he that is clad in silk and velvet.'”—Pp. 311, 312.
We must not omit to mention, that this edition of the Pilgrim's Progress is adorned with a great variety of woodcuts, designed and executed with singular felicity, and with some highly finished engravings, after the rich and imaginative pencil of John Martin. Thus decorated, and recommended by the taste and criticism of Mr Southey, it might seem certain that the established favourite of the common people should be well received
the upper classes ; as, however, it contains many passages eminently faulty in point of taste (as, indeed, from the origin and situation of the author, was naturally to be expected), we should not be surprised if it were more coldly accepted than its merits deserve. A dead fly can corrupt a precious elixiran obvious fault against taste, especially if it be of a kind which lies open to lively ridicule, may be enough, in a critical age like the present, to cancel the merit of wit, beauty, and sublimity.