Imatges de pÓgina

of Basil Hall. Beyond that which seemed to him the outermost circle, that of the domestics of the great, all was a blank ; gave a few vague outlines of beggar-women with seven small children, and other such groups that have by some chance found their way into works of fiction. His benignity, therefore, alloyed by no bitterness of disposition in himself, was so far restricted by the imperfection of his knowledge of life, as to prevent his conveying the conception of philanthropy in its largest sense. His services to freedom are of a negative, rather than a positive character ; rendered by showing how things work in a state of slavery, rather than how they should work in a condition of rational freedom; and it follows, that his incitements to benevolence are also tendered unconsciously. Through an exhibition of the softening and brightening influence of benignity shed over the early movements of society, he indicates what must be the meridian splendour of philanthropy, penetrating everywhere, irradiating where it penetrates, and fertilizing, as well as embellishing whatever it shines upon.

Much has Walter Scott also done, and done it also unconsciously, for woman. Neither Mary Wollstonecraft, nor Thompson of Cork, nor any other advocate of the rights of woman, has pleaded so eloquently to the thoughtful,—and the thoughtful alone will entertain the subject,-as Walter Scott, by his exhibition of what women are, and by two or three indications of what they might be. He has been found fault with for the poverty of character of the women of his tales; a species of blame against which we have always protested. If he had made as long a list of oddities among his women as his men, he would have exposed himself to the reproach of quitting nature, and deserting classes for extravagant individualities; since there is much less scope for eccentricity among women, in the present state of society, than among men. But, is alleged, he has made so few of his female characters representatives of a class. True; for the plain reason, that there are scarcely any classes to represent. We thank him for the forcible exhibition of this truth : we thank him for the very term womankind; and can well bear its insulting use in the mouth of the scoffer, for the sake of the process it may set to work in the mind of the meditative and the just. There is no saying what the common use of the term canaille may in time be proved to have effected for the lower orders of men ; or in what degree the process of female emancipation may be hastened by the slang use of the term uomankind, by despots and by fools. It


lead some watchful intellects—some feeling hearts--to ponder the reasons of the fact, that the word mankind calls up associations of grandeur and variety,—that of womankind, ideas of littleness and sameness ;-that the one brings after it conceptions of lofty destiny, heroic action, grave counsel, a busy office in society, a dignified repose from its cares, a stedfast pursuit of wisdom, an intrepid achievement of good ;—while the other originates the very opposite conceptions,-vegetation instead of life, folly instead of counsel, frivolity instead of action, restlessness in the place of industry, apathy in that of repose, listless accomplishment of small aims, a passive reception of what others may please to impart; or, at the very best, a halting, intermitting pursuit of dimly.discerned objects. To some it may be suggested to inquire, Why this contrast should exist? why one-half of the rational creation should be so very much less rational ?-and, as

consequence, so much less good, and so much less happy than the other? If they are for a moment led by common custom to doubt whether, because they are less rational, they are less happy

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and less good, the slightest recurrence to Scott's novels is enough to satisfy them, that the common notion of the sufficiency of present female objects to female progression and happiness is unfounded. They will perhaps look abroad from Scott into all other works of fiction into all faithful pictures of life and see what women are ; and they will finally perceive, that the fewer women there are found to plead the cause of their sex, the larger mixture of folly there is in their pleadings ; the more extensive their own unconsciousness of their wrongs, the stronger is their case. The best argument for Negro Emancipation lies in the vices and subservience of slaves : the best argument for female emanci. pation lies in the folly and contentedness of women under the present system,--an argument to which Walter Scott has done the fullest justice; for a set of more passionless, frivolous, uninteresting beings was never assembled at morning auction, or evening tea-table, than he has presented us with in his novels. The few exceptions are made so by the strong workings of instinct, or of superstition, (the offspring of strong instinct and weak reason combined.) save in the two or three instances where the female mind had been exposed to manly discipline. Scott's female characters are easily arranged under these divisions :—Threefourths are womankind merely: pretty, insignificant ladies, with their pert waiting maids. A few are viragoes, in whom instinct is strong, whose souls are to migrate hereafter into the she-eagle or bear,-Helen M'Gregor, Ulrica, Magdalen Græme, and the Highland Mother. A few are superstitious,-Elspeth, Alice, Norna, Mother Nicneven. A few exhibit the same tendencies, modified by some one passion; as Lady Ashton, Lady Derby, and Lady Douglas. Mary and Elizabeth are womankind modified by royalty. There only remain Flora M'Ivor, Die Vernon, Rebecca, and Jeanie Deans. For these four, and their glorious significance, womankind are as much obliged to Walter Scott, as for the insignificance of all the rest ; not because they are what women might be, and therefore ought to be ; but because they afford indications of this, and that these indications are owing to their having escaped from the management of man, and been trained by the discipline of circumstance. If common methods yield no such women as these ; if such women occasionally come forth from the school of experience, what an argument is this against the common methods,—what a plea in favour of a change of system! Woman cannot be too grateful to him who has furnished it. Henceforth, when men fire at the name of Flora M'Ivor, let woman say, “ There will be more Floras when women feel that they have political power and duties." When men worship the image of Die Vernon, let them be reminded, that there will be other Die Vernons when women are impelled to self-reliance. When Jeanie is spoken of with tender esteem, let it be suggested, that strength of motive makes heroism of action; and that as long as motive is confined and weakened, the very activity which should accomplish high aims must degenerate into puerile restlessness. When Rebecca is sighed for, as a lofty presence that has passed away, it should be asked, how she should possibly remain or reappear in a society which alike denies the discipline by which her high powers and sensibilities might be matured, and the objects on which they might be worthily employed ? As a woman, no less than as a Jewess, she is the representative of the wrongs of a degraded and despised class: there is no abiding-place for her among foes to her caste ; she wanders unemployed (as regards her peculiar capabilities) through the world; and when she dies, there has been, not

only a deep injury inflicted, but a waste made of the resources of human greatness and happiness. Yes, women may choose Rebecca as the representative of their capabilities : first despised, then wondered at, and involuntarily admired; tempted, made use of, then persecuted, and finally banished—not by a formal decree, but by being refused honourable occupation, and a safe abiding place. Let women not only take her for their model, but make her speak for them to society, till they have obtained the educational discipline which beseems them; the rights, political and social, which are their due; and that equal regard with the other sex in the eye of man, which it requires the faith of Rebecca to assure them they have in the eye of Heaven. Meantime, while still suffering under injustice, let them lay to heart, for strength and conso. lation, the beautiful commentary which Walter Scott has given on the lot of the representative of their wrongs. If duly treasured, it may prove by its effects, that our author has contributed, in more ways than one, to female emancipation; by supplying a principle of renovation to the enslaved, as well as by exposing their condition ; by pointing out the ends for which freedom and power are desirable, as well as the disastrous effects of withholding them. He says,

“ The character of the fair Jewess found so much favour in the eyes of some fair readers, that the writer was censured, because, when arranging the fates of the characters of the drama, he had not assigned the hand of Wilfred to Rebecca, rather than the less interesting Rowena. But, not to mention that the prejudices of the age rendered such an union almost impossible, the author may, in passing, observe, that he thinks a character of a highly virtuous and lofty stamp, is degraded rather than exalted by an attempt to reward virtue with temporal prosperity. Such is not the recompense which Providence has deemed worthy of suffering merit; and it is a dangerous and fatal doctrine to teach young persons, the most common readers of romance, that rectitude of conduct and of principle are either naturally allied with, or adequately rewarded by, the gratification of our passions, or attainment of our wishes. In a word, if a virtuous and self-denied character is disa missed with temporal wealth, greatness, rank, or the indulgence of such a rashly-formed or ill-assorted passion as that of Rebecca for Ivanhoe, the reader will be apt to say, Verily, virtue had its reward. But a glance on the great picture of life will show, that the duties of self-denial, and the sacrifice of passion to principle, are seldom thus remunerated ; and that the internal consciousness of their high-minded discharge of duty, produces on their own reflections a more adequate re. compense, in the form of that peace which the world cannot give or take away.”

These, then, are the moral services,-many and great - which Scott has rendered, positively and negatively, consciously and unconsciously, to society. He has softened national prejudices; he has encouraged innocent tastes in every region of the world; he has imparted to certain influential classes the conviction that human nature works alike in all; he has exposed priestcraft and fanaticism; he has effectively satirized eccentricities, unamiablenesses, and follies ; he has irren sistibly recommended benignity in the survey of life, and indicated the glory of a higher kind of benevolence; and finally, he has advocated the rights of woman with a force all the greater for his being unaware of the import and tendency of what he was saying.–The one other achievement which we attribute to him, is also not the less magnificent for being overlooked by himself.

By achieving so much within narrow bounds, he has taught how more may be achieved in a wider space. He has taught us the power of fic. tion as an agent of morals and philosophy ; “ and it shall go hard with us but we will better the instruction.” Every agent of these master spirits is wanted in an age like this; and he who has placed a new one at their service, is a benefactor of society. Scott might have written, as he declared he wrote, for the passing of his time, the improvement of his fortunes, and the amusement of his readers : he might have believed, as he declared he believed, that little moral utility arises out of works of fiction: we are not bound to estimate his works as lightly as he did, or to agree in his opinions of their influences. We rather learn from him how much may be impressed by exemplification which would be rejected in the form of reasoning, and how there may be more extensive embodiments of truth in fiction than the world was before thoroughly aware of. It matters not that the truth he exemplified was taken up at random, like that of all his predecessors in the walks of fiction. Others may systematize, having learned from him how extensively they may embody. There is a boundless field open before them; no less than the whole region of moral science, politics, political economy, social rights and duties. All these, and more, are as fit for the process of exemplifi. cation as the varieties of life and character illustrated by Scott. And not only has he left the great mass of material unwrought, but, with all his richness of variety, has made but scanty use of the best instruments of illustration. The grandest manifestations of passion remain to be displayed; the finest elements of the poetry of human emotion are yet uncombined ; the most various dramatic exhibition of events and characters is yet unwrought; for there has yet been no recorder of the poor ; at least, none but those who write as mere observers; who describe, but do not dramatize humble life. The widest interests being thus still un. touched, the richest materials unemployed, what may not prove the ul. timate obligations of society to him who did so much, and pointed the way towards doing infinitely more; and whose vast achievements are, above all, valuable as indications of what remains to be achieved ? That this, his strongest claim to gratitude, has not yet been fully recognised, is evident from the fact, that though he has had many imitators, there have been yet none to take suggestion from him ; to employ his method of procedure upon new doctrine and other materials. There have been many found to construct fiction within his range of morals, character, incident, and scenery; but none to carry the process out of his range. We have yet to wait for the philosophical romance, for th novels which shall relate to other classes than the aristocracy ; we have yet to look for this legitimate offspring of the productions of Scott, though wearied with the intrusions of their spurious brethren.

The progression of the age requires something better than this imitation ;-requires that the above-mentioned suggestion should be used. If an author of equal genius with Scott were to arise to-morrow, he would not meet with an equal reception ; not only because novelty is worn off, but because the serious temper of the times requires a new di. rection of the genius of the age. Under the pressure of difficulty, in the prospect of extensive change, armed with expectation, or filled with determination as the general mind now is, it has not leisure or disposition to receive even its amusements unmixed with what is solid and has a bearing upon its engrossing interests. There may still be the thoughtless and indolent, to whom mere fiction is necessary as a pas. time ; but these are not they who can guarantee an author's influence, or secure his popularity. The bulk of the reading public, whether or not on the scent of utility, cannot be interested without a larger share of philosophy, or a graver purpose in fiction, than formerly ; and the writer who would effect most for himself and others in this department must take his heroes and heroines from a different class than any which has yet been adequately represented. This difference of charac. ter implies, under the hands of a good artist, a difference of scenery and incident ; for the incidents of a fiction are worth nothing unless they arise out of the characters ; and the scenery, both natural and moral, has no charm unless it be harmonious with both. Instead of tales of knightly love and glory, of chivalrous loyalty, of the ambition of ancient courts, and the bygone superstitions of a half-savage state, we must have, in a new novelist, the graver themes-not the less picturesque, perhaps, for their reality-which the present condition of society suggests. We have had enough of ambitious intrigues; why not now take the magnificent subject, the birth of political principle, whose advent has been heralded so long? What can afford finer moral scenery than the transition state in which society now is? Where are nobler heroes to be found than those who sustain society in the struggle ; and what catastrophe so grand as the downfal of bad insti. tutions, and the issues of a process of renovation ? Heroism may now be found, not cased in helm and cuirass, but strengthening itself in the cabinet of the statesman, guiding the movements of the unarmed mul. titude, and patiently bearing up against hardship, in the hope of its peaceful removal. Love may now be truly represented as sanctified by generosity and self-denial in many of the sad majority of cases where its course runs not smooth. All the virtues which have graced fictitious delineations, are still at the service of the novelist; but their exercise and discipline should be represented as different from what they were. The same passions still sway human hearts; but they must be shown to be intensified or repressed by the new impulses which a new state of things affords. Fiction must not be allowed to expire with Scott, or to retain only that languid existence which is manifest merely in imitations of his works : we must hope,—not, alas ! for powers and copiousness like his,—but for an enlightened application of his means of achievement to new aims: the higher quality of which may in some measure compensate for the inferiority of power and richness which it is only reasonable to anticipate.

It appears, then, from the inquiry we have pursued, that the services for which society has to be eternally grateful to Walter Scott are of three distinct kinds. He has vindicated the character of genius by the healthiness of his own. He has achieved marvels in the province of art, and stupendous benefits in that of morals. He has indicated, by his own achievements, the way to larger and higher achievements.What a lot for a man,—to be thus a threefold benefactor to his race ! to unite in himself the functions of moralist, constructor, and disco verer! What a possession for society to have had ! and to retain for purposes of amelioration, incitement and guidance! He can never be lost to us, whatever rival or kindred spirit may be destined to arise, or whether he is to be the last of his class. If the latter supposition should prove true,—which, however, appears to us impossible,-he will stand a fadeless apparition on the structure of his own achievements, distanced, but not impaired by time : if the former, his spirit will mi

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