Imatges de pÓgina

In whatever shape presented, John Bunyan's parable must be dear to many, as to us, from the recollection that in youth they were endued with permission to peruse it at times when all studies of a nature merely entertaining were prohibited. We remember with interest the passages where, in our childhood, we stumbled betwixt the literal story and metaphorical explanation, and can even recall to mind a more simple and early period, when Grim and Slaygood, and even he

“ Whose castle's Doubting, and whose name's Despair," were to us as literal Anakim as those destroyed by Giant-killing Jack. Those who can recollect the early developement of their own ideas on such subjects, will many of them at the same time remember the reading of this work as the first task which gave exercise to the mind, before taste, grown too fastidious for enjoyment, taught them to be more disgusted with a single error than delighted with a hundred beauties.



[Fleetwood : or the New Man of Feeling. By William

Godwin. Edinburgh Review, 1805.]

WHOEVER has read Caleb Williams, and there are probably few, even amongst those addicted to graver studies, who have not perused that celebrated work, must necessarily be eager to see another romance from the hand of the same author. Of this anxiety we acknowledge we partook to a considerable degree ; not, indeed, that we had any great pleasure in recollecting the conduct and nature of the story; for murders, and chains, and dungeons, and indictments, trial and execution, have no particular charms for us, either in fiction or in reality. Neither is it on account of the moral proposed by the author, which, in direct opposition to that of the worthy chaplain of Newgate, seems to be, not that a man guilty of theft or murder is in some danger of being hanged, but that, by a strange concurrence of circumstances, he



regularly conducted to the gallows for theft or murder which he has never committed. There is nothing instructive or consolatory in this proposition when taken by itself; and if intended as a reproach upon the laws of this country, it is equally applicable to all human judicatures, whose judges can only decide according to evidence, since the Supreme Being has reserved to himself the prerogative of searching the heart and of trying the reins. But, although the story of Caleb Williams be unpleasing, and the moral sufficiently mischievous, we acknowledge we have met with few novels which excited a more powerful interest. Several scenes are painted with the savage force of Salvator Rosa ; and, while the author pauses to reason upon the feelings and motives of the actors, our sense of the fallacy of his arguments, of the improbability of his facts, and of the frequent inconsistency of his characters, is lost in the solemnity and suspense

with which we expect the evolution of the tale of mystery. After Caleb Williams it would be injustice to Mr Godwin to mention St Leon, where the marvellous is employed too frequently to excite wonder, and the terrible is introduced till we have become familiar with terror. The description of Bethlem Gabor, however, recalled to our mind the author of Caleb Williams; nor, upon the whole, was the romance such as could have been written by quite an ordinary pen. These preliminary remarks are not entirely misplaced, as will appear from the following quotation from the preface to Fleetwood.

“ One caution I have particularly sought to exercise : not to repeat myself.' Caleb Williams was a story of very surprising and uncommon events, but which were supposed to be entirely within the laws and established course of nature, as she operates in the planet we inhabit. The story of St Leon is of the mira. culous class; and its design, to mix human feelings and passions with incredible situations, and thus render them impressive and interesting.'

“ Some of those fastidious readers -- they may be classed among the best friends an author has, if their admonitions are judiciously considered—who are willing to discover those faults which do not offer themselves to every eye, have remarked, that both these tales are in a vicious style of writing ; that Horace has long ago decided, that the story we cannot believe, we are, by all the laws of criticism, called upon to hate; and that even the adventures of the honest secretary, who was first heard of ten years ago, are so much out of the usual road, that not one reader in a million can ever fear they will happen to himself.”_Vol. i. Pref.

Moved by these considerations, Mr Godwin has chosen a tale of domestic life, consisting of such incidents as usually occur in the present state of society, diversified only by ingenuity of selection, and novelty of detail. How far he has been successful, will best appear from a sketch of the story.

Fleetwood, the only son of a gentleman who has retired from mercantile concerns to the enjoyment of a liberal fortune, is born and educated among the mountains of Wales. He has no companions saving his father, an infirm though very respectable old gentleman, and his tutor, who was not a clergyman ; notwithstanding which, he studied Plato without understanding him, and indemnified himself by writing sonnets which could be understood by nobody. Fleetwood being of course a passionate admirer of the beauties of nature, preferred scram

bling over the heights of Cader Idris, adoring the rising, and admiring the setting sun, to perusing the

pages of Plato, and the poetry of his tutor. In one of these rambles, somewhat to the reader's relief, whose patience is rather tired by an unfruitful description of precipices, cascades, and the immeasurable ocean in the background, he at length meets with an adventure. A lamb, a favourite lamb, falls into a lake; the shepherd plunges in after the lamb; an aged peasant, his father, is about to plunge in after the shepherd, when Fleetwood, as might have been expected, anticipates his affectionate intentions. After remaining a reasonable time in the water, the shepherd holding the lamb, and Fleetwood supporting the shepherd, they are all three fished up by an interesting young damsel who approaches in a boat, and proves to be (according to good old usage) the mistress of William the shepherd, and the proprietor of the half-drowned favourite. This adventure leads to nothing, except that, in the conclusion of the work, the interesting young woman unexpectedly pops back upon us in the very useful, though not very romantic character of an old sick-nurse ; deserving no less, in her advanced age, the praises of the Institution for Relief of the Destitute Sick, than in her youth she had merited a premium from the Humane Society. The worthy tutor, in like manner, vanishes entirely from our view, retiring to an obscure lodging in a narrow street, to finish his book of sonnets, and his commentary on Plato. His pupil is now introduced to the knowledge of mankind at the Univer

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