« AnteriorContinua »
sound of carriage-wheels roused her attention, and with no ordinary emotion she saw Sir Thomas and Ernest Heathwood enter the wicketgate and take the path leading to the cottage.
“ I told you, Miss Sunderland,” commenced the old gentleman, with more agitation, but less embarrassment than he had shown at their former interview, “ that I had need of twenty thousand pounds to support my credit, and save my family from distress. I told you, that I wished my son to marry a lady possessed of that sum, and I now come to claim you as his bride."
“ Yes, Madam, I was your father's largest creditor; and though I had no fraud, nothing dishonourable to allege against him, yet I did not, I confess it, like the idea of my son's being united to his daughter. He was always speculative and imaginative, and I feared that you might be the same. The sum you have so nobly repaid me, I looked upon as lost, and you must therefore suffer me to consider it a marriage portion ; it has saved me from ruin, without the sacrifice of my son's happiness."
“ How is this ?” exclaimed Margaret, fearful of trusting the evidence of her own senses,
“ I cannot understand the name “ Our original name was Simmons,” explained Ernest eagerly, “ but knowing all the circumstances—I never told you -I knew how my father would feel at your disinterested conduct; and now that your trials are passed, you will, I trust, no longer doubt me.”
“ Who said I doubted ?" inquired Margaret.
“ Even the pretty Rose, and here she comes to answer for her apostasy."
“ Nay, dearest sister," exclaimed the laughing girl, “ it was only last evening that I saw Ernest, and I have kept out of your way ever since, lest I should discover my own secret. Without my frivolity, and the thoughtlesness of another, who for all that, is dear to us both, Margaret's virtues would never have shone with so dazzling yet steady a light."
" True, Rose, spoken like an angel; I never thought you wise before; it is to be hoped that when your sister changes her name, her mantle may descend
upon you," said Ernest. “ I think she had better share it with you; and I only hope that Margaret—She may want it for herself," she continued, archly; “ who knows but the most bitter trials of Margaret Sunderland may come after marriage ?"
Ernest did not reply to the unjust suspicion, for he had not heard it; his sense, his thought, his heart, were fixed only upon her, who had thrown so bright and cheering a lustre over that truth, usually so dark, even in its grandeur. “ The good things which belong to prosperity are to be wished, but the good things that belong to adversity are to be admired.”
ROMANCE AND REALITY. BY L. E. L. We review this work for two reasons ; first, because it is exceedingly clever; secondly, because being exceedingly clever, it is written by a lady. One among the designs in the ambition entertained by the present conductors of this Magazine, is to support that wise and enlarged social policy which would give to one sex the same mental cultivation as to the other. Of all cant in this most canting country,'' no species is at once more paltry and more dangerous than that which has been made the instrument of decrying female accomplishment. All that execrable twaddle about feminine retirement, and feminine ignorance, which we are doomed so often to hear, has done more towards making women scolds, and Airts, and scandalmongers, than people are well aware of. All minds, whether of males or females, that are ignorant and empty, can only find delight and occupation in a small circle. “ Exactly!" cries our canter, “in the household circle! What larger orbit would you have a woman busy herself in? Is not that her proper sphere?" Fiddledee! Does housekeeping the suckling of fools and the chronicling of small-beer -take up all the lady's time? Is she never visiting her neighbours, and pulling her friends' characters to pieces? How can she do otherwise than talk scandal ? What else can she talk of if she is ignorant? If she knows nothing about things, she must talk about persons; if she cannot converse, she must gossip. The sole species of talk that cottagers have, for instance, is gossip. The same cause that makes poor women gossip applies to rich women also-ignorance! Then as to feminine delicacy_what softens so much as knowledge ? Does knowledge make men bad husbands ? Why should it make women bad wives ? And the most sad part of the business is, that women themselves should repeat and exult in all this insulting jargon; that they should be the chief persons always to talk of the blessings of not being well educated; of knowing only how to make puddings and tea; of having no talk but backbiting, and feeling no horror like that at a blue-stocking. All this is very pitiable. The soul of a woman is as fine an emanation from the Great Fountain of Spirit as that of a man. Why is she to paper it up as carefully as if it were made of silver lace, and the breath of Heaven would tarnish it? If there were any thing harsh, or unfeeling, or unmatronly, or unfeminine in being well informed, God knows we would not insist upon it. But if there be any truth in the world it is this; that as it was chiefly empty houses that evil spirits were supposed to haunt, so it is chiefly in empty minds that low passions and unworthy sentiments are to be found. Nothing is so tender as true wisdom, or so selfish as folly; and to instruct the mind is the best method wherewith to elevate the heart. The more fit a woman is to be our companion, the more likely she is to be our soother and our friend ; and in proportion as she is worthy of our affection will she be capable herself of feeling the loftier and more lasting order of love.
Thinking, then, that it is so necessary for all who are actuated by the high and pure desire to reform and liberalise our social system, no less than our legislative, to encourage rather than (as hitherto Dec.-VOL. XXXII. NO. CXXXII.
Englishmen have done) dampen and satirise that ambition which directs women to intellectual cultivation and mental eminence, we are disposed, in our capacity of critics, to pay peculiar attention to those works which emanate from the gentler sex. The height of literary distinction may be clombe by all; but to women especially it would seem that the ascent should be rendered smooth and easy. The heart-burnings and jealousies that we feel towards rivals of our own sex, we can scarcely experience towards our emulators in the other. Women can neither jostle us in our political career, nor thwart us in our vainer and more alluring ambition of society. And while it is soothing to our pride, and seems generous in our manhood,
) encourage the timid and shrinking steps of female genius, we cannot but feel, with a more selfish policy, that those steps will not cross our own, and that by such aspirers we may be equalled without rivalry, and surpassed without defeat. We would please ourselves by comparing that literary eminence to which we would encourage our countrywomen, not to the harsh and rugged steep, where for us
“Fame's proud temple shines afar," but rather to the soft and haunted “ Acidale” which Spenser has so beautifully described :
“ It is an hill placed in an open plaine,
That round about is bordered with a wood
And at the foot thereof a gentle food
His silver waves doth softly tumble down,
Nor may wild beasts, nor may the ruder clowne
But nymphs and faeries by the bankes do sit
Keeping all noisome things away from it,
And to the water's fall tuning their accents fit." The Author of these volumes is a lady of remarkable genius. We remember well when she first appeared before the public in the pages of “ The Literary Gazette.” We were at that time more capable than we are now of poetic enthusiasm ; and certainly that enthusiasm we not only felt ourselves, but we shared with we then met. We were young, and at college, lavishing our golden years, not so much on the Greek verse and mystic character to which we ought, perhaps, to have been rigidly devoted, as
“Our heart in passion and our head in rhymes." At that time, poetry was not yet out of fashion, at least with us of the cloister; and there was always, in the Reading Room of the Union, a rush every Saturday afternoon for “The Literary Gazette," and an impatient anxiety to hasten at once to that corner of the sheet which contained the three magical letters of “ L. E. L.” And all of us praised the verse, and all of us guessed at the author. We soon learned it was a female, and our admiration was doubled, and our conjectures tripled. Was she young? Was she pretty? and—for there were some embryo fortune-hunters among us-was she rich ? We
ourselves, who, now staid critics and sober gentlemen, are about coldly to measure to a prose work the due quantum of laud and censure, then only thought of homage, and in verse only we condescended to yield it. But the other day, in looking over some of our boyish effusions, we found a paper superscribed to “ L. E. L.” and beginning with “ Fair Spirit.” We need scarcely add that we have burnt the weed that we then intended as an offering, and fancied might be mistaken for a flower. These early proofs of the genius of our Poetess are, indeed, singularly beautiful : they have gone far towards producing a new school-a school, in truth, which we do not admire, and in which the proselytes have done their possible to copy the faults, without the merits of the founder. But, despite the beauty of the poems we refer to, Miss Landon has greatly improved in poetical taste of late. Something more vigorous, staid, and thoughtful than belonged to her early poetry, has dignified the grace and sweetness of that last published. And though we think that severe and stern study is yet wanting to complete the full extent of her powers, those powers have given a promise—more especially in her blank verse (“ Erinna,” for instance,) and her smaller pieces—which can only be duly kept by performances, not of the soft and gentle only, but of the noblest and most enduring order. And now we come to the volumes on our table.
“ Romance and Reality” is a novel of great merit. Its beauties and its faults are those of genius. We shall be just to both. The story opens with the description of the heroine, Emily Arundel, at a country mansion. She comes to town, and the following is a sparkling and witty sketch of the lady under whose auspices she commences her first season in London :
“ Few women think, but most feel ; now Lady Alicia did neither: nature had made her weak and indolent, and she had never been placed in circumstances either to create or call forth character. As an infant she had the richest of worked robes, and the finest of lace caps; the nurse was in due time succeeded by the nursery governess, whose situation was soon filled by the most accomplished person the united efforts of fourteen countesses could discover. Pianos, harps, colour-boxes, collars, French, Italian, &c. &c. duly filled the school-room : but for music Lady Alicia had no ear, for dancing no liking, for drawing vo taste ; and French and Italian were, it must be owned, somewhat unnecessary to one who considered her own language an unnecessary fatigue. At eighteen she came out; beautiful she certainly was ; highly accomplishedfor Lady F., her mother's intimate friend, had several times confidentially mentioned the names of her masters ; while Lady C. had expressed her approbation of the reserved dignity which led the daughter of one of our oldest families to shun that display which might gratify her vanity, but wounded her pride.
“ All were prepared for a ducal coronet at least; when the very day after her presentation, her father went out of town, and the ministry together; and three long useless years were wasted in the stately seclusion of Etheringhame Castle, where the mornings in summer were spent at a small table by the window, and in winter by the fire, putting in practice the only accomplishment that remained-like a ghost of the past-cutting out figures and landscapes in white
paper, whose cold, colourless regularity were too much in sympathy with herself for her not to excel in the art. The middle of the day was devoted to a drive, if fair—if wet, to wondering whether it would clear. Dressing came next-a mere mechanical adjustment of certain rich silks and handsome jewels, where vanity was as much out of the question, as if its own peculiar domain had not been a looking-glass : with no one to attract, and, still dearer hope, no
one to surpass, cui bono? for, after all, vanity is like those chemical essences whose only existence is when called into being by the action of some opposite influence.
“During dinner the Earl lamented the inevitable ruin to which the country was hastening; and, after grace had been said, the Countess agreed with him, moreover observing, that dress alone was destroying the distinction of ranks, and that at church silks were commoner than stuffs. Here the conversation ceased, and they returned to the drawing-room; the Countess to sleep-Lady Alicia to cut out more paper landscapes.
“ Twice a-year there was a great dinner, to which she was regularly handed down by the old Marquis of Snowdon, who duly impressed upon her mind how very cold it was; and, in truth, he looked like an embodied shiver.
• At one-and-twenty an important change took place. Lady Alicia was summoned from a little paper poodle, on whose white curls she had been bestowing peculiar pains, by the drawing-room doors being thrown open with even more than their usual solemnity, and she was informed, by his own man, that his lordship requested her presence in the library: the surprise was sufficiently great to make her cut off her little dog's tail.
“ The ex-minister was too important a person to be kept waiting, at least in his own family; what he now wanted in quantity of authority, he made up in quality. She descended into the large Gothic room dedicated to the learning of past ages, and the dignity of the present; a large round table stood in the middle, covered with political pamphlets, cut open, at least, most carefully, and a newspaper lying on a folio (?) volume of Bolingbroke's. In a large arm-chair, with the Peerage in one hand, and an open letter in the other, whose seal, though broken, still shewed the crimson glory of the coat of arms, sat Lord Etheringhame; and on the other side, in a chair equally erect, and in her person still more so, was the lady mother. What circumstance could have occasioned such a change in the castle's domestic economy-a matrimonial tête-à-tête at such unusual hours, and in such an unusual place? What but a circumstance that has authorised many extraordinary proceedings—an offer of marriage ? Lady Alicia took the seat assigned her by a wave of his lordship’s hand.
“ The consequence of our family,' said her father.
« «The solitude to which my philosophical and literary pursuits—' here the retired statesman paused.
“Well aware of the excellent principles instilled into your mind,' exclaimed mamma.
«« Connected with some of the first people in the kingdom,' ejaculated papa.
“ Fastidious as my daughter must be,' and Lady Etheringhame drew up à la giraffe.
« « So desirable a political connexion,' and his lordship looked at his daughter and his pamphlets.
« • I shall be freed from the weight of so much maternal anxiety;' but her ladyship was stopped in her parental display by the
positive declaration of “And now, Alicia, shall I write an answer as affirmative as suits the dignity of our house?
“ Alicia said nothing, and looked less.
“ Lady Alicia was as much bewildered as it was in her nature to be ; but she made up her mind to ask her mother what they wanted with her in the library, and seated herself to cut out another little poodle. “ The dinner-bell rang, and Lady Etheringhame entered.
Alicia, my love, wear your turquoise set to-day: of course, I should wish you to appear to advantage on Mr. Delawarr's first visit.'”
Our heroine sees the great world, and learns a heroine's first