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invests him, and its rendering him a terror even to his own desperate banditti,-is all well conceived, and executed in a grand and magnificent strain of poetry; and, in the perusal, supposing the reader were carrying his mind back to the period when such intercourse between mortals and demons was considered as matter of indisputable truth, the story acquires probability and consistency, even from that which is in itself not only improbable but impossible. The interview with the incarnate fiend of the forest, would, in these days, be supposed to have the same effect upon the mind of Bertram, as the metaphysical aid” of the witches produces upon that of Macbeth, awakening and stimulating that appetite for crime, which slumbered in the bosom of both, till called forth by supernatural suggestion. At the same time, while we are happy to preserve a passage of such singular beauty and power, we approve of the taste which retrenched it in action. The suadente diabolo is now no longer a phrase even in our indictments; and we fear his Satanic Majesty, were he to appear on the stage in modern times, would certainly incur the appropriate fate of damnation.
[“ I take some credit to myself,” says Lord Byron, “ for having done my best to bring out Bertram. Walter Scott was the first who mentioned Maturin, which he did to me with great recommendation in 1815. Maturin sent his Bertram, and a letter without his address, so that at first I could give him no answer. When I at last hit upon his residence, I sent him a favourable answer, and something more substantial.” Bertram was successful. But Mr Maturin's second dramatic attempt proved a failure. Lord Byron terms Manuel “ the absurd work of a
To return to the present work.-We observe, with pleasure, that Mr Maturin has put his genius under better regulation than in his former publications, and retrenched that luxuriance of language, and too copious use of ornament, which distinguishes the authors and orators of Ireland, whose exuberance of imagination sometimes places them in the predicament of their honest countryman, who complained of being run away with by his legs. This excessive indulgence of the imagination is proper to a country where there is more genius than taste, and more copiousness than refinement of ideas. But it is an error to suffer the weeds to rush up with the grain, though their appearance may prove the richness of the soil. There is a time when an author should refrain, like Job, “even from good words—though it should be pain to him."— And although we think Mr Maturin has reformed that error indifferently well, in his present work, we do pray him, in his future compositions, to reform it altogether. For the rest, we dismiss him with our best wishes, and not without hopes that we may again meet him in the maze of fiction, since, although he has threatened, like Prospero, to break his wand, we have done our poor endeavour to save his book from being burned.
[authi Mansfield 1 VOL. X
clever man,” and, “ with the exception of a few capers, as heavy a nightmare as ever bestrode indigestion.”]
MISS AUSTEN'S NOVELS.
[Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion. By Miss Austen.'
4 vols. Quarterly Review, January, 1821.]
THE times seem to be past when an apology was requisite from reviewers for condescending to notice a novel; when they felt themselves bound in dignity to deprecate the suspicion of paying much regard to trifles, and pleaded the necessity of occasionally stooping to humour the taste of their fair readers. The delights of fiction, if not more keenly or more generally relished, are at least more readily acknowledged by men of sense and taste ; and we have lived to hear the merits of the best of this class of writings earnestly discussed by some of the ablest scholars and soundest reasoners of the present day.
We are inclined to attribute this change, not so much to an alteration in the public taste, as in the character of the productions in question. Novels may not, perhaps, display more genius now than formerly, but they contain more solid sense ; they
? [Author of Sense and Sensibility; Pride and Prejudice ; Mansfield Park; and Emma. ]
may not afford higher gratification, but it is of a nature which men are less disposed to be ashamed of avowing. We remarked, in a former Number, in reviewing a work of the author now before us, that “ a new style of novel has arisen, within the last fifteen or twenty years, differing from the former in the points upon which the interest hinges ; neither alarming our credulity nor amusing our imagination by wild variety of incident, or by those pictures of romantic affection and sensibility, which were formerly as certain attributes of fictitious characters as they are of rare occurrence among those who actually live and die. The substitute for these excitements, which had lost much of their poignancy by the repeated and injudicious use of them, was the art of copying from nature as she really exists in the common walks of life, and presenting to the reader, instead of the splendid scenes of an imaginary world, a correct and striking representation of that which is daily taking place around him.”
Now, though the origin of this new school of fiction may probably be traced, as we there suggested, to the exhaustion of the mines from which materials for entertainment had been hitherto extracted, and the necessity of gratifying the natural craving of the reader for variety, by striking into an untrodden path; the consequences resulting from this change have been far greater than the mere supply of this demand. When this Flemish painting, as it were, is introduced—this accurate and unexaggerated delineation of events and characters--it necessarily follows, that a novel, which makes good its pretensions, of giving a perfectly correct picture of common life, becomes a far more instructive work than one of equal or superior merit of the other class ; it guides the judgment, and supplies a kind of artificial experience. It is a remark of the great father of criticism, that poetry (i.e. narrative, and dramatic poetry) is of a more philosophical character than history; inasmuch as the latter details what has actually happened, of which many parts may chance to be exceptions to the general rules of probability, and consequently illustrate no general principles; whereas the former shows us what must naturally, or would probably, happen under given circumstances ; and thus displays to us a comprehensive view of human nature, and furnishes general rules of practical wisdom. It is evident that this will apply only to such fictions as are quite perfect in respect of the probability of their story; and that he, therefore, who resorts to the fabulist rather than the historian, for instruction in human character and conduct, must throw himself entirely on the judgment and skill of his teacher, and give him credit for talents much more rare than the accuracy and veracity which are the chief requisites in history. We fear, therefore, that the exultation which we can conceive some of our gentle readers to feel, at having Aristotle's warrant for (what probably they had never dreamed of) the philosophical character of their studies, must, in practice. be somewhat qualified, by those sundry little vio