Imatges de pàgina


The Achievements of the Genius of Scott. the pulpit, and every Christian church demonstrates its odiousness by the example of every other; but these exposures do not effect half so much good as exemplification from the hand of a philosophical observer, and disinterested peace-maker. Men may go on for centuries bandying reproaches of priestcraft and superstition on the one hand, and irreligion on the other ;-men may go on long pointing out to those who will not see, the examples of all which may be seen at every turn,-of priestcraft nourishing superstition, and superstition inducing irreligion; and less will be done by recrimination towards finding a remedy, than by the illustrations of a master-hand, choosing a bygone age for the chronology, orders long overthrown for the instruments, and institutions that have passed away, for the subjects of his satire. Many who take fire at any imputation against their own church, have become aware of its besetting sins by pictures of a former church, and will easily learn to make the application where it may be serviceable. Many who look too little to the spirit through the forms of religion, are duly disgusted with the foibles of the puritans; and, perceiving how much the vices of the cavaliers were owing to the opposite vices of the contrary party, acquire a wholesome horror of spiritual pride and asceticism in the abstract, and become clear-sighted to the existence of both, in quarters where they had not before been recognised. Sir Walter says, in one of his prefaces, “ I am, I own, no great believer in the moral utility to be derived from fictitious compositions ;” but, in saying this, he either meant that sermons are not commonly found to produce so good an effect when introduced into a novel as when offered from the pulpit, or he was thinking at the moment of his own fictitious compositions, which, he was singularly apt to imagine, could have little influence to any good purpose. If he had looked at his own writings as those of any other man, he would have thought, as others think, that his vivid pictures of the effects of a false religion are as powerful recommendations of that which is true, to those who will not read divinity, (and they are many,) as works of divinity to those who will not read Scott's novels, (and they are few.) When to such a picture as that of his Louis XI. is added such a commentary as is found in the preface, we have a fine exposition of an important point of morals, and a satire upon every species of profession which rests in forms.

The cruelties, the perjuries, the suspicions of this prince, were ren. dered more detestable, rather than amended, by the gross and debasing superstition which he constantly practised. The devotion to the heavenly saints, of which he made such a parade, was upon the miserable principle of some petty deputy in office, who endeavours to hide or atone for the malversations of which he is conscious, by liberal gifts to those whose duty it is to observe his conduct, and endeavours to support a system of fraud, by an attempt to corrupt the incorruptible. In no other light can we regard his creating the Virgin Mary a countess, and colonel of his Guards, or the cunning that admitted to one or two peculiar forms of oath the force of a binding obligation, which he denied to all others ; strictly preserving the secret, which mode of swearing he really accounted obligatory, as one of the most valuable of state myste. ries. It was not the least singular circumstance of this course of superstition, that bodily health and terrestrial felicity seemed to be his only objects. Making any mention of his sins when his bodily health was in gestion, was strictly prohibited ; and when, at his command, a priest cited a prayer to St. Eutropius, in which he recommended the king's welfare, both in body and soul, Louis caused the two last words to be omitted, saying, it was not prudent to importune the blessed saint by too many requests at once. Perhaps he thought, by being silent on his erimes, he might suffer them to pass out of the recollection of the ce.. lestial patrons whose aid he invoked for the body."

It may be said, that all this may be found in history. True ; but how many have been impressed with this and all other instances, from the rise of popery to the decline of puritanism, in comparison with the numbers who have received, and will receive, a much stronger impression to the same effect from Scott's novels ?

Another important moral service, which belongs almost exclusively to fiction, is that of satirizing eccentricities and follies, commonly thought too insignificant to be preached against, and gravely written about ; but which exert an important influence on the happiness of human life. The oddities of women he has left almost untouched ; but we have a brave assemblage of men who are safe from pulpit censure ; (unless another Henry Warden should rise up to preach against the sixteen follies of a Roland Græme under sixteen heads ;) but who may be profited by seeing their own picture, or whose picture may prevent others becoming like them. Is it not wholesome to have a Malagrowther before us on whom to exhaust our impatience, instead of venting it on the real Malagrowthers of society? Shall we not have fewer and less extravagant Saddletrees, and Shaftons, and Halcroes, and Yellowleys, for these novels ? and will not such bores be regarded with more good humour? Will not some excellent Jonathan Oldbuck now and then think of the Antiquary, and check his hobby?—and many a book-worm take a lesson from Dominie Sampson? Whether such a direct effect be, or be not produced, such exhibitions are as effectual as con dy ought to be on the stage, and mirthful raillery in real life, in enforcing some of the obligations, and improving the amenities of society. The rich variety of Scott's assemblage of oddities, and the exquisite mirth and good-humour with which they are shown off, are among the most remarkable particulars of his achievements. There is not only a strong cast of individuality (as there ought to be) about all his best characters; but his best characters are none of them representatives of a class. As soon as he attempted to make his personages such representatives, he failed. His ostensible heroes, his statesmen and leaders, his magistrates, his adventurers, his womankind, whether mistresses or maids, leave little impression of individuality ; while his sovereigns, real heroes, and oddi.. ties, are inimitable. The reasons of this failure of success may be found under our next head. The result is, that Walter Scott is not only one of the most amiable, but one of the most effective satirists that ever helped to sweep the path of life clear of the strewn follies under which many a thorn is hidden.

In ascending the scale of social services, for which gratitude is due to the illustrious departed, we next arrive at one which is so great that we cannot but mourn that it was not yet greater. There can be no need to enlarge upon the beauty and excellence of the spirit of kindli. ness which breathes through the whole of Scott's compositions ; a spirit which not only shames the Malagrowthers of society, just spoken of, but charms the restless to repose, exhilarates the melancholy, rouses the apathetic, and establishes a good understanding among all who contemplate one another in these books. It is as impossible for any one to remain cynical, or moody, or desponding, over these books, as for an infant to look dismally in the face of a smiling nurse. As face answers to face, so does heart to heart ; and as Walter Scott's overflowed with love and cheerfulness, the hearts of his readers catch its brimmings. If any are shut against him, they are not of his readers; and we envy them not. They may find elsewhere all imaginable proofs and illustrations of the goodliness of a kindly spirit; but why not add to these as perfect an exemplification as ever was offered ? It may be very well to take one abroad in the grey dawn, and tell him that the hills have a capacity of appearing green, the waters golden, and the clouds rose-coloured, and that larks sometimes sing soaring in the air, instead of crouching in a grassy nest ; but why not let him remain to witness the effusion of light from behind the mountain, the burst of harmony from field and copse? Why not let him feel, as well as know, what a morn of sunshine is ? Why not let him view its effects from every accessible point, and pour out his joy in snatches of song responsive to those which he hears around him, as well as his thankfulness in a matin hymn? If it be true, as no readers of Scott will deny, that it exhilarates the spirits, and animates the affections to follow the leadings of this great Enchanter, it is certain that he has achieved a great moral work of incite. ment and amelioration. The test of his merits here is, that his works are for the innocent and kindly-hearted to enjoy ; and if any others enjoy them, it is by becoming innocent and kindly for the time, in like manner as it is for the waking flocks and choirs to welcome the sunrise: if the fox and the bat choose to remain abroad, the one must abstain from its prey, and the other hush its hootings.

This kindliness of spirit being of so bright a quality, makes us lament all the more, as we have said that it had not the other excellence of being universally diffused. We know how unreasonable it is to expect every thing from one man, and are far from saying or believing that Walter Scott looked otherwise than benignantly on all classes and all individuals that came under his observation. What we lament is, that there were extensive classes of men, and they the most important to society, that were secluded from the light of his embellishing genius. His sunshine gilded whatever it fell upon, but it did not fall from a sufficient height to illuminate the nooks and vallies which he found and left curtained in mists. What is there of humble life in his narratives? What did he know of those who live and move in that region ? Nothing. There is not a character from humble life in all his library of voluines ; nor had he any conception that character is to be found there. By humble life we do not mean Edie Ochiltree's lot of privileged men. dicity, nor Dirk Hatteraick's smuggling adventures, nor the Saxon slavery of Gurth, nor the feudal adherence of Dougal, and Caleb Balderstone, and Adam Woodcock, nor the privileged dependence of Caxon and Fairservice. None of these had anything to do with humble life ; each and all formed part of the aristocratic system in which Walter Scott's affections were bound up. Jeanie Deans herself, besides being no original conception of Sir Walter's, derives none of her character or interest from her station in life, any farther than as it was the occasion of the peculiarity of her pilgrimage. We never think of Jeanie as poor, or low in station. Her simplicity is that which might pertain to a secluded young woman of any rank; and it is difficult to bear in mind—it is like an extraneous circumstance, that her sister was at service, the only attempt made throughout at realizing the social po sition of the parties. We do not mention this as any drawback upon the performance, but merely as saving the only apparent exception to our remarks, that Sir Walter rendered no service to humble life in the way of delineating its society. Faithful butlers and barbers, tricky ladies' maids, eccentric falconers and gamekeepers, are not those among whom we should look for the strength of character, the sternness of passion, the practical heroism, the inexhaustible patience, the unassuming self-denial, the unconscious beneficence-in a word, the true-heartedness which is to be found in its perfection in humble life. Of all this Walter Scott knew nothing. While discriminating, with the nicest acumen, the shades of character, the modifications of passion, among those whom he did understand, he was wholly unaware that he bounded himself within a small circle, beyond which lay a larger, and a larger ; that which he represented being found in each, in a more distinct outline, in more vivid colouring, and in striking and various combinations, with other characteristics of humanity which had never presented themselves to him. He knew not that the strength of soul, which he represents as growing up in his heroes amidst the struggles of the crusade, is of the same kind with that which is nourished in our neighbours of the next alley, by conflicts of a less romantic, but not less heroic cast. He knew not that the passion of ambition, which he has made to contend with love so fearfully in Leicester's bosom, is the same passion, similarly softened and aggravated, with that which consumes the high-spirited working man, chosen by his associates to represent and guide their interests, while his heart is torn by opposite appeals to his domestic affections. He knew not that, however reckless the vice of some of his courtly personages, greater recklessness is to be found in the presence of poverty ; that the same poverty exposes love to further trials than he has described, and exercises it into greater refinement; and puts loyalty more severely to the test, and inspires a nobler intrepidity, and nourishes a deeper hatred, and a wilder superstition, and a more inveterate avarice, and a more disinterested generosity, and a more imper. turbable fortitude, than even he has set before us. In short, he knew not that all passions, and all natural movements of society, that he has found in the higher, exist in the humbler ranks; and all magnified and deepened in proportion as reality prevails over convention, as there is less mixture of the adventitious with the true. The effect of this partial knowledge is not only the obliteration to himself and to his readers, as far as connected with him, of more than half the facts and interests of humanity, but that his benevolence was stinted in its play. We find no philanthropists among his characters; because he had not the means of forming the conception of philanthropy in its largest sense. He loved men, all men whom he knew ; but that love was not based on knowledge as extensive as his observation was penetrating; and it did not therefore deserve the high title of philanthropy. We have no sins of commission to charge him with, no breaches of charity, not a thought or expression which is tinged with bitterness against man, collectively or individually ; but we charge him with omission of which he was unconscious, and which he would, perhaps, scarcely have wished to repair, as it must have been done at the expense of his Toryism, to which the omission and unconsciousness were owing. How should a man be a philanthropist who knows not what freedom is ?—not the mere freedom from foreign domination, but the exemption from misrule at home, the liberty of watching over and renovating institutions, that the progression of man and of states may proceed together. Of this kind of free

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dom Sir Walter had no conception, and neither, therefore, are there any patriots in his dramatis persona. There are abundance of soldiers to light up beacons and fly to arms at the first notice of invasion; many to drink the healths and fight the battles of their chiefs, to testify their fidelity to their persons, and peril life and liberty in their cause ; plenty to vindicate the honour of England abroad, and to exult in her glory at home. But this is not patriotism, any more than kindliness is philanthropy. We have no long-sighted views respecting the permanent improvement of society,—no extensive regards to the interests of an entire nation; and therefore, no simple self-sacrifice, no stedfastness of devotion to country and people. The noble class of virtues, which go to make up patriotism, are not even touched upon by Scott. The sufferings of his heroes are represented to arise from wounded pride, and from the laceration of personal, or domestic, or feudal feelings and prepossessions; and in no single instance from sympathy with the race, or any large body of them. The courage of his heroes is, in like manner, compounded of instincts and of conventional stimuli; and in no one case derived from principles of philanthropy, or of patriotism, which is one direction of philanthropy. Their fortitude, howsoever stedfast, when arising from self-devotion at all, arises only from that unreasoning acquiescence in established forms, which is as inferior to the self-sacrifice of philanthropy as the implicit obedience of a child is inferior to the concurrence of the reasoning man. None of Scott's personages act and suffer as members and servants of society. Each is for his own; whether it be his family, his chief, his king, or his country, in a warlike sense. The weal or woe of many, or of all, is the only consideration which does not occur to them—the only motive to enterprise and endurance, which is not so much as alluded to. There is no talk of freedom, as respects any thing but brute force,—no suspicion that one class is in a state of privilege, and another in a state of subju. gation, and that these things ought not to be. Gurth, indeed, is relieved from Saxon bondage, and Adam Woodcock is as imperious and meddling as he pleases, and the ladies' maids have abundant liberty to play pranks; but this sort of freedom has nothing to do with the right of manhood, and with what ought to be, and will be, the right of womanhoodit is the privilege of slavery, won by encroachment, and preserved by favour. Gurth got rid of his collar, but in our days he would be called a slave; and Adam Woodcock and Mistress Lilias lived by the breath of their lady's nostrils, in the same manner as the courtiers of Cour de Lion gained an unusual length of tether from their lord's knightly courtesy, and those of the second Charles from his careless clemency. There is no freedom in all this. Slave is written on the knightly crest of the master, and on the liveried garb of the servitor, as plainly as even on the branded shoulder of the negro. But it must be so, it is urged, when times, and scenes of slavery, are chosen as the groundwork of the fiction. We answer, Nay: the spirit of freedom may breathe through the delineation of slavery. However far back we may revert to the usages of the feudal system, there may be,—there must be, if they exist in the mind of the author,--aspirations after a state of society more worthy of humanity. In displaying all the pomp of chivalry, the heart ought to mourn the woes of inequality it inflicted, while the imagination revels in its splendours. But this could not be the case with Scott, who knew about as much of the real condition and character of the humbler classes of each age as of the Japanese; perhaps less, as he was a reader

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