Imatges de pÓgina

reached the spot about three years since. The Gemmi, over which lies the once-dreaded passage to the Baths of Lonesch, affords now the common road. And as to the Grinsel, it is child's play to climb it. Fair hands, wielding poles, are to be seen perched on every cliff. Even the most remote and inaccessible Alp, the Finster Aar-horn, is threatened with a coup de main, the success of which the unfavourable summer has, perhaps, alone prevented. There exists in the country a tradition, that a practicable path once lay across this glacier into the Vallais. To survey the country now, or its map, you would suppose that this spot of all others afforded the most difficult, and, indeed, unattemptable passage. But the mountaineers are positive as to the tradition, that, in the time of the Romans, as they call the olden time, a path existed. It certainly must be the shortest. And from the accounts of Chamois hunters and mineral-seekers, success is expected. This said tradition is passing strange. It would be singular, if proved, that the clime of France, for instance, should have been improved, as it undoubtedly has, from the frigid to the more than temperate, whilst the region of the higher Alps, so near to it, has experienced an increase of rigour and of snow.

But a hundred pens have traced these paths, and my purpose was only to record what is new ; and this certainly we met at Amsteg in the valley of the Reuss. We had followed this beautiful stream, which runs through the loveliest succession of scenes from the foot of the St. Gothard to the Lake of Lucerne. The road, lately finished by the Canton of Uri, for the sake of the communication betwixt Germany and Italy, is as fine as any of Napoleon's achievements in this kind. At a sudden turn in this valley stood the little village of Amsteg. We looked out for it and its comfortable inn ; but lo! on arriving at the spot, whence it ought to have been visible, no Amsteg appeared. An immense wreck of earth and stones covered its site: farther down the stream were seen the wrecks of the houses. Bridges were to be seen nowhere, the river everywhere, and the population, fortunately scanty, were to be seen wandering amongst the ruins, bivouacking or begging, or digging for their property.

It was on the 9th of August last, that the catastrophe took place; the swollen water of the Maderanen stream having loosened its banks, brought down with them such a mass of earth, that the river was forced from its bed, the little towns inundated, more than half of its houses carried away, and the rest completely ruined. One English family were surprised at Amsteg by the inundation. The innkeeper saved their horses and equipage, and unfortunately lost his own, all his offices being carried away. When the question was asked, would not the Government of the Cantons come to the aid of the sufferers? It was answered, that the Government had more than exhausted its funds in the St. Gothard road; that, however, at any other period, an appeal to the other Cantons and to the Diet, would have certainly not proved ineffectual, but that at present when revolution was abroad, and every thing in turmoil, each Canton and individual looked to itself, and that aught like charity or sympathy was not to be hoped for. This put me in mind of an old and not untrue maxim, viz. :—that philanthropy in the gross, and philanthropy in the little, were not made for each other's company.



OF THE YEAR. We do live in a terrible hurry, that is a fact no one can deny-rather an extraordinary destiny for a fact now-a-days. We fly over the land some breathless ten miles an hour, thanks to mail-coaches and Macadam ; we fly over the water, thanks to water itself. Fashions, books, opinions, men, and measures, follow each other with such rapidity of change, that whether there be those periods of time called the past and present really admits of a doubt; Young Rapid of the farce seems the Brahma of the times, the incarnation of the spirit of the world, and “ keep moving ” the great doctrine of the hour. Now, as Abernethy most justly observes, being hurried is the worst thing in the world for the digestion; and to that we will add, hurry is as bad for the mind as it is for the body. We really beg leave to take a little breath ; also, by way of a novelty, to look back. Janus, in our times, has certainly lost one of his faces, the one turned to the receding months; nevertheless, we intend looking in that direction. Do not be alarmed, gentle reader, we are going to recal none of your difficulties, whether political or pecuniary; we are going no farther than the circulating library. If you have read the works, whose merits we are about to investigate, you will be obliged to us for recalling some pleasant half hours,—we dare not venture on supposing you have spent more,-and if you have not, you ought to be grateful to us for making you aware how much industry and how much talent has been given to the mere amusement of your idleness. We select the works mentioned at the head of this page from philanthropy; we have selected an illused branch of “ the written troubles of the brain."

Addison's elegant allegory of Truth calling in the assistance of Fiction, can never be more applicable than it is to novels; sometimes, we must confess, Fiction, like a false ally, has gone over to the other side, and the talents which should have redeemed, have sometimes profaned the fascinations of literature; but generally the principles given, and the example embodied, have dealt rather in the exaggeration of excellence. The majority of writers have been most given to making their examples “ too excellently good,” and letting vice be punished and virtue rewarded, has become almost a necessary termination to a romance. To support our proposition, let us take a brief survey of the history of English fiction, as developed in the form of a novel, which will amply bear us out in our assertion, that their tendency has been decidedly to the side of moral excellence. The first romance which our language possesses is the “ Arcadia ;" what are the lessons inculcated in its pages? the most generous courage, the purest love, and the highest sense of honour. No one can deny that prose fictions began well; it is singular that a work so popular, and so fashionable, (for Court favour then was what fashion is now,) invested with so much extraneous interest, both from the fine qualities and the early death of its author, should not have produced imitators, or at least, some farther incursions into the realms of prose. It did not, however, and a long interregnum occurs, broken only by some short and licentious tales in Charles's time, taken from French models; and French taste has always exercised a most deteriorating effect on our imaginative literature. To this however there were two striking exceptions, two of the most original, and two of the most popular works in any language, we allude to the “ Pilgrim's Progress” of John Bunyan, and the “ Robinson Crusoe" of Defoe. But for these from the “ Arcadia" we step at once to the days of Fielding and Smollett : now, while we admit the grossness of these productions, we deny their immorality: they observed, in their end, the old rule of poetical justice, and distributed their rewards and punishments according as they judged of good and of evil. As to their license of language and delineation, it was the fault of their age; take the private letters, still preserved, of females of the highest rank, and the most irreproachable conduct, and we meet with expressions which scarcely the lowest, or the most degraded, would use in the present day. Take Richardson, the most moral writer of his time, whose works were frequently recommended from the pulpit,” to use the language of a contemporary, and how much is there that would now meet with universal reprobation? A writer, who at present should dare use their language must necessarily be vicious, be

cause he does not take the tone of society such as it now is, but wilfully sins against the decorum he finds established, in the worst possible taste. The elder writers might say, “ We paint as we find, we repeat what we hear ;” they outraged no admitted boundary; and it is from thus viewing the question that we cannot admit that their grossness constitutes immorality. The next two names we find on the list of novel writers are as unexceptionable as they are admirable. The moral investigation, the profound thought, the magnificent style of Rasselas, make the Happy Valley one of the high places of our literature. As much its opposite as its equal, the “ Vicar of Wakefield" appeared about the same time: as if fiction were resolved on an antithesis, and pourtrayed philosophy, first in the persons of the Abyssinian Prince and Sage, weighing the destinies of all “ things earthly;" and next in the country clergyman, thinking and acting in all the beautiful humility and benevolence of the Christianity of which he was the minister. The soil of fiction, once broken up, innumerable were the labourers in the field. To particularise within our limits is impossible; but we need only refer to the ideal perfection with which hero and heroine were invested, till the expression has become quite proverbial--and the judgments always awarded in the last chapter, to support our assertion. We must say, though, that the intention was better than the execution, for one short but expressive word will designate the whole horde-trash. Making a solitary exception in favour of Dr. Moore's striking and original “ Zeluco," as an evidence of masculine, and another in favour of feminine talent, Miss Edgeworth; we should not lose much on the road by stepping at once to Sir Walter Scott, or, as he has been happily termed, the “ Luther of literature.” Since then

“ Star after star has risen from the deep,

Shedding their glory o'er the face of night." Never was the standard of taste, in fictitious writing, raised to so high a level as it is in the present day—there is scarce a species of talent that has not been employed on the novel. Take the most popular among our authors, those whose names are the most familiar to the memory, and whose works are the most frequently mentioned in conversation; and we shall find them among those whose talents have been devoted to fictitious narratives.

This is a writing age; formerly it was a personal distinction to have written a book, now it is almost a distinction not to have written one. This crowd of competitors, mediocre as are their powers, makes of course distinction a greater difficulty: where a few years ago a book would have been universally talked of and read, the chances now,are, that it is lost in the crowd ; and many a reputation, that some years ago was held as a triumph, now only excites wonder that ever it obtained even an ovation. But genius is like water, it makes its own way, whether with a silent and gradual course, or the sweep of a mountain-torrent. Still the average of entertainment is not afforded by first-rate talent; there is a great mass of pleasant and intelligent reading laid open to the many; and it is the general proportion, rather than the brilliant exception, which we now propose to analyse. Only that it were bad taste to begin by following a worn out fashion, we should commence our analysis by a compliment to ourselves on our independence; but verily independence, nerves, and fine feelings, have been of late hacked to death. True, the article we have written is for the pages of Messrs. Colburn and Bentley's Magazine; true also that Messrs. Colburn and Bentley publish the greater proportion of novels; but to use an old homely English phrase, “ the proof of the pudding is in the eating;” and the proof of our impartiality will be found in the fact, that we must condemn (as we have heretofore and often condemned) works of Messrs. Colburn and Bentley, while we cordially praise (as we have heretofore and often praised) works published by other booksellers. Some silly personages have thought proper, occasionally, to infer that an Editor cannot be an honest critic, because his publishers happen to publish and sell books; and have thought proper to speak or to write accordingly. We may take advantage of the present opportunity to inform all such ignorant or evil-disposed persons that it is not fitting to try others by the standard of their own small minds. We repeat what we have before asserted, that the Publishers of the New Monthly Magazine exercise as little influence or control over the criticisms


appear in that Journal, as they do over the weather or the tides. We have hitherto discharged our duty honestly and fearlessly, and trust to our reader's candour to suppose that as we have begun so shall we continue.

We have always considered novels as a kind of younger brothers, a race of beings in literature, as in life, looked upon as something superfluous, to say nothing worse of them. One younger brother after another may“achieve greatness ;" but whatever he may do for himself, he does nothing for his kind, they are still considered the useless and the detrimental : one novel-writer may force his way into public favour (i. e. it may be said, what a pity such a clever man should write only novels); but his will be the exception, not the rule, and the stigma will still remain on the species. Like the Bohemians, the novel trenches on every region, but is allowed to be a denizen of none. The poet, guarding the world of imagination, affects disdain at the novelist's aerial flight; the historian feels his dignity intruded upon, when the events of past days are called into requisition ; the philosopher protests against his moral theories being put into action; nay, the very traveller assumes superiority, on the ground that his pages contain such useful information. The critic who abuses them, does it as if he were performing a bounden duty; and the critic who praises takes an apologetic tone, as if he were defending his first love, his domestic submission, or any other instance of human weakness. A prejudice is an opinion whose grounds of formation have passed away, and which yet remains an opinion still; and novels, like people who inherit such appellations as Smith, Thomson, Perkins, &c. have still to answer for the sins of their grandfathers and grandmothers. But we are not going now to take shelter under the great names which have adorned this branch of composition; we will leave first-rate genius quite out of the question, and will merely take the run of the tomes, which give us much amusement and more information than we are quite willing to allow; and in a passing analysis of the late works of fiction, remind our readers for how much interesting and lively talent they have to be grateful. It so happens that none of our great

and established writers have published any work during this season, and the field has therefore been taken, either by writers yet in the youth of their reputation, or who have yet reputations to make. The following is the list of the novels of the

“Mothers and Daughters;”. “ The Temple of Melekartha ;" “ The Incognita ;" “The Turf;" “ Crochet Castle;" “ The Thuileries ;” “ The Premier;" “ Destiny ;” “ The Young. Duke;" “ Haverhill;"" Atherton;" “ Philip Augustus ;'

'Paris and London;" “ Pin-money;" “ The Staff Officer;" “ The Dutchman's Fire-side;" “ The Soldier Boy;" “ Allan Mac Allistor;" “Gerald Fitzgerald;" The Smugglers.”

Certainly in this list there is sufficient variety of entertainment for any reader, and, we must add, sufficient variety of merit for any critic. As it is impossible, within our limits, to analyze each, we propose classing them after their kind-a literary Linnean system-give a brief, general view, and then an individual specimen: and now, like children, to the beginning—the beginning meaning the easiest. “ The Soldier Boy;" “ Allan MAC ALLISTOR;" “ GERALD FITZGERALD.”

It seems almost disrespectful to our grandmothers to express our opinion of these productions, for to a former age do they entirely belong. Turning over their pages seems to us something like turning over a wardrobe of antiquated finery; there's the high-heeled and sharp-pointed shoe; the stiff silk; the wadded petticoat ; the powder, and the fly-cap, with wings extended like the Spread Eagle in Piccadilly: the ancient proprietress assures us that these, in her day, were the panoply of irresistible attraction ; but we find it impossible to believe in their becomingness. A few fixed principles will explain the whole process of a novel of the old school. A handsome hero; a beautiful heroine; elopements, and abductions ad libitum, titles ad infinitum. M. de Villele, when in want of a majority, was not more profuse of his peerages; and wealth-your ancient novelist was the veritable alchemist after all. But our conscience reproaches us, we are speaking of the dead.

“ The day of their destiny 's over,

The star of their fate has declined."



From ancient to modern “ Fashionable Novels” is indeed a wide step, so rapid has been the progress of civilization. Let any reader just compare Surr's “ Winter in London," or any of the various “ Winters” passed at Bath, Brighton, &c. or “ Six Weeks at Long's," with any or each of the above-mentioned tomes, and he cannot but admit the exterior of London has not been more improved than these views into its interior. A graceful and flowing style, lively sketches of actual life, and a display of much and various information—these merits alone might place them immeasurably above their predecessors, whose language was as inelegant, as the stories so narrated were far-fetched and absurd. No

young lady, now-a-days, would be deluded by the novel into a romantic fancy that every man she sees is, or may be, a lover and a nobleman in disguise; certainly, in affairs of sentiment especially, they give the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; which truth may be divided into two parts, convenience and ambition. Another advantage of the more actual scenes now exhibited, is, that the troubles, anxieties, and ridicules thus pointed out in the lot of the very highest classes, act as so many correctives to the judgment; we are too apt to for

get, when

"Gaily shines the fairy-land,

That all is glittering show,
Like the idle gleam that December's beam

Can fling o'er ice and snow.” Now, merely sentimental miseries are so very interesting, that no one hardly would object to suffer from them; but it is very different with the small annoyance which provokes, and the petty mortification which degrades, which we see those whose lot seems so sparkling writhing in reality, under these and similar inflictions; if the view does not amount to absolute satisfaction, it does much towards mitigating our discontent. By the by, this desire of equality in suffering, if not the most amiable, is one of the most universal feelings in human nature. But to leave this general parallel between the past and present, and to be“ particular in our attentions,” we will commence with “Mothers and Daughters," the first, and, in our opinion, the best novel of the season. A contemporary, who is usually not very scrupulous in first assuming a fact, and then reasoning, or, we should rather say, railing from it, asserts that “ Mothers and Daughters” is from the pen of the author of “ Pin-money,” from internal evidence: the accuracy of which judgment we beg leave to dispute. Internal evidence of an author must be in similarity of style and of thought, or in a tone of mind and feeling resembling some other production. This likeness we beg to deny. Mrs. Charles Gore's style is lively and pleasant, but it has not the severe grammatical correctness of “ Mothers and Daughters," the language of which is singularly polished. The general tone, too, of morality is higher, and that of feeling deeper, while the portion of knowledge displayed is greater : there is also a finer sense of natural beauty, and more extensive reading, evinced in “ Mothers and Daughters;" perhaps we can sum up our judgment by saying it impressed us as a masculine production. We are also confirmed in our belief that this novel is written by a man, from the certainty that no woman could have been hard-hearted enough to leave two of her heroines unmarried at the end, and no one but a man would have thought Sir Comyn Wallace, who is described as “lank and lean," and as having "acquired a languid-blase, smoke-dried look,” and also as fretted with the consciousness of a wasted and idle life, as a fitting husband for the “dove-eyed Lucy Barrinhurst.” These arguments are with us conclusive. All we can say is, that if Mrs. Charles Gore is the author, she is cleverer than we even thought (though our estimate of her talents is only saved from being compliment by its truth); for we hold that there is no task so difficult to authors as that of disguising themselves. Giving, as it does, the most accurate picture of society-for marriage is the pivot round which our actions revolve, whether in its influence as a hope or as a certainty—the novel before us is just a panorama of the West. The narrative turns on the hopes and efforts of a worldly-minded woman, first to secure her own establishment, and then her daughters'. It is quite impossible for us to trace the many delineations of character,

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