Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

attend Fleetwood through the rest of the book, and are the causes of the good and bad fortune which befall him. Gifford contrives to insinuate into the mind of his patron a suspicion of the virtue of Mary, which is strengthened by her being in reality the confidante of Kenrick, to whom he artfully represents her as unlawfully attached. This plot, in itself rather threadbare, is not, in the present instance, managed with uncommon felicity, The circumstances which excite the suspicions, and finally the furious rage of Fleetwood, are such as usually occur in such cases; but when he drives his pregnant spouse out of his house, he carries his jealous resentment to a most disgusting excess. We can pardon the vehemence of Othello, who kills his wife outright; but, in exposing a destitute orphan to all the miseries of poverty and beggary, we humbly think Fleetwood merits any title better than that of a man of feeling. At the same time that he has been guilty of this outrage, he continues distractedly fond of his wife, as will plainly appear from the following scene enacted upon the Continent, whither he had retired from the scene of his supposed disgrace and actual misery. He ordered wax models to be made, so as to represent his wife and her supposed seducer, with a barrel-organ modulated to the tunes which they used to play and sing together. These were to be produced on the anniversary of his wedding-night.

“ When at length the 15th of July came, I caused a supper of cold meats to be prepared, and spread in an apartment of my hotel. All the materials which I had procured with so much care and expense, were shut up in the closets of this apartment.

I no

I locked myself in, and drew them forth one after another. At. each interval of the ceremony, I seated myself in a chair, my arms folded, my eyes fixed, and gazed on the object before me in all the luxury of despair. When the whole was arranged, I returned to my seat, and continued there a long time. I then had recourse to my organ, and played the different tunes it was formed to repeat. Never had madness in any age or country so voluptuous a banquet.

“ I have a very imperfect recollection of the conclusion of this scene.

For a long time I was slow and deliberate in my operations. Suddenly my temper changed. While I was playing on my organ one of the tunes of Kenrick and Mary -it was a duet of love: the mistress, in a languishing and tender style, charged her lover with indifference; the lover threw himself at her feet, and poured out his soul in terms of adoration. My mind underwent a strange revolution. longer distinctly knew where I was, or could distinguish fiction from reality. I looked wildly and with glassy eyes all round the room; I gazed at the figure of Mary; I thought it was, and it was not, Mary. With mad and idle action I put some provisions on her plate ; I bowed to her in mockery, and invited her to eat. Then again I grew serious and vehement; I addressed her with inward and convulsive accents in the language of reproach; I declaimed with uncommon flow of words upon her abandoned and infernal deceit; all the tropes that imagination ever supplied to the tongue of man seemed to be at my coinmand. I know not whether this speech was to be considered as earnest, or as the Sardonic and bitter jest of a maniac. But, while I was still speaking, I saw her move-if I live, I saw it. She turned her eyes this way and that; she grinned and chattered at me. I looked from her to the other figure; that grinned and chattered too. Instantly a full and proper madness seized me; I grinned and chattered in turn to the figures before me. It was not words that I heard or uttered; it was murmurs and hissings, and lowings and howls. I became furious. I dashed the organ into a thousand fragments. I rent the child-bed linen, and tore it with my teeth. I dragged the clothes which Mary had worn, from off the figure that represented her, and rent them into long strips and shreds. I struck the figures vehemently with the chairs and other furniture of the room, till they were broken to pieces. I threw at them, in despite, the plates and other brittle implements of the supper-table. I raved and

ence.

roared with all the power of my voice. I must have made a noise like hell broke loose ; but I had given my valet a charge that I should not be intruded upon; and he, who was one of the tallest and strongest of men, and who ever executed his orders literally, obstinately defended the door of my chamber against all inquisitiveness. At the time, this behaviour of his I regarded as fidelity ; it will be accounted for hereafter. He was the tool of Gifford; he had orders that I should not be disturbed ; it was hoped that this scene would be the conclusion of my exist

I am firmly persuaded that, in the last hour or two, I suffered tortures not inferior to those which the North American savages inflict on their victims ; and, like those victims, when the apparatus of torture was suspended, I sunk into immediate insensibility. In this state I was found, with all the lights of the apartment extinguished, when, at last, the seemingly stupid exactness of my valet gave way to the impatience of others, and they broke open the door."-Vol. iii. p. 248-253.

The rest of the story may be comprised in a few words. Gifford, whom Fleetwood had constituted his heir, becomes impatient to enter upon possession; and, finding his patron's constitution proof against mental distress, he attempts, with the assistance of two ruffians, to murder him in the forest of Fontainbleau. As all Fleetwood's servants. were in Gifford's pay, they saw this transaction take place without interference a circumstance which struck their master so forcibly, at, while the ruffians were dragging him into the wood, he was considering whether it be one of the effects of wealth, that with it we engage persons in our service to murder us. The solution of this problem, as well as the consummation of Gifford's crime, is interrupted by the arrival of some horsemen, who rescue Fleetwood, and make the assailants pri

That Kenrick was his preserver will be readily anticipated by all who are acquainted with the good old beaten track of novels on these occasions; and to do Mr. Godwin justice, he has seldom taken a by-path from one end of this performance to the other. Gifford is consigned to the gallows, which he had merited; the clouds of jealousy, which had obscured the mind of Fleetwood, are gradually dispelled; every suspicious circumstance is accounted for; and after some hesitation (very natural, we think) on the part of Mary, she is again united to the Man of Feeling.

soners.

Having occupied so much room in detailing the story, we have but little left for animadversion. The incidents during the two first volumes are chiefly those of the common life of a man of fashion; and all that is remarkable in the tale is the laboured extravagance of sentiment which is attached to these ordinary occurrences.

There is no attempt to describe the minuter and finer shades of feeling; none of that high finishing of description, by which the most ordinary incidents are rendered interesting: on the contrary, the effect is always sought to be brought out by the application of the inflated language of high passion. It is no doubt true, that a man of sensibility will be deeply affected by what appears trifling to the rest of mankind; a scene of distress or of pleasure will make a deeper impression upon him than upon another; and it is precisely in this respect that he differs from the rest of mankind. But a man who is transported with rage, with despair, with anger, and all the furious impulses of passion, upon the most common occurrences of life, is not a man of sentiment, but a madman ; and, far from sympathizing with his feelings, we are only surprised at his having the liberty of indulging them beyond the precincts of Bedlam.

In the third volume, something of a regular story commences, and the attention of the reader becomes fixed by the narrative. But the unnatural atrocity of Gifford, and the inadequate means by which he is so nearly successful, render this part of the tale rather improbable. The credulity of Fleetwood is unnecessarily excessive, and might have been avoided by a more artful management of incident.

But we have another and a more heavy objection to him, considered as a man of feeling. We have been accustomed to associate with our ideas of this character the amiable virtues of a Harley, feeling deeply the distresses of others, and patient, though not insensible of his own. But Fleetwood, through the whole three volumes which bear his name, feels absolutely and exclusively for one individual, and that individual is Fleetwood himself. Indeed he is at great pains, in various places, to tell us that he had been uncontrolled in his youth, was little accustomed to contradiction, and could not brook any thing which interfered either with his established habits, or the dispositions of the moment. Accordingly his despair for the loss of his two French mistresses, is the despair of a man who loses something which he thinks necessary to his happiness and in a way not very soothing to his feelings; but as we understand him, he can no more be pro

« AnteriorContinua »