Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

:

[ocr errors]

ART. X.-1. Paul Clifford. By the author of “ Pelham," “ Devereux,"

&c. In three volumes, 8vo. London : Colburn and Bentley. 1830. 2. The King's Own. By the author of the “ Naval Officer.” In

three volumes, 8vo. London: Colburn and Bentley. 1830. 3. The Mussulman. By R. R. Madden, Esq. Author of « Travels

in Turkey, Egypt, Nubia, and Palestine.” In three volumes, 8vo.

London: Colburn and Bentley. 1830. 4. The Armenians, a Tale of Constantinople. By Charles Mac Farlane,

Esq. Author of Constantinople in 1828. În three volumes, 8vo.

London : Saunders and Otley. 1830. 5. Traits of Scottish Life, and Pictures of Scenes and Character.

In three volumes, 8vo. London: Whittaker, Treacher, and Co.

1830. 6. The Game of Life. By Leitch Ritchie. In two volumes, 8vo.

Loudon : Bull. 1830. 7. The Barony. By Miss Anna Maria Porter. In three volumes, 8vo.

London : Longman and Co. 1830. 8. Fitz of Fitz-ford ; a Legend of Devon, By Mrs. Bray. Author

of "De Foix," &c. In three volumes, 8vo. London: Smith,

Elder, & Co. 1830. 9. The Fugitives; or, A Trip to Canada. In interesting tale, chiefly

founded on facts, interspersed with observations on the Manners, Customs, &c., of the Colonists and Indians. By Edward Lane, formerly a resident in Lower Canada, 8vo. pp. 496. London:

Effingham Wilson. 1830. As no one of the novels above enumerated is of sufficient merit to claim an article for itself, we have ranged them all together, for the purpose of noting our opinions upon them. From several of the authors we have received polite notes, reminding us of the existence of the literary children to which their brains have lately given birth ; some hope for our praise, some expect our censure, but all agree that they would rather have their offspring cut up, or down, or any way, sooner than that they should be totally passed over. without notice. The ladies, too, many of whom we pride ourselves on having amongst our readers, have been crying out that we do not tell them often enough what novels they are to send for to the circulating libraries, and what they are to leave undisturbed. Behold, therefore, a goodly string of works, all of recent origin, and each, with two exceptions, differing from the other. Difficult indeed must it be to accommodate that taste, which will not find amongst so many productions something that can shorten a wearisome hour—something to amuse, astonish, or instruct, or even to accelerate the approach of sleep. For if a sound sleep be blessing, as no doubt it is, the book which tends to produce or encourage it is not without its value. To anxious or excited minds, a stupid novel is a capital substitute for opium.

Mr. Bulwer has previously appeared before the public four several times, as the author of " Falkland,” “ Pelham,"

[ocr errors]

a

a

66 The

[graphic]

a

Disowned,” and “ Devereux.” To this catalogue is now added “ Paul Clifford.” Each of these productions is distinct in aim and execution, and displays a different and original species of excellence. Indeed we have almost wished, on perusing them, that such high talent should be dedicated to some more durable work, and have lamented the apparent prodigality, which, like the tongues of rare singing birds served at the table of Lucullus, has bestowed on a fleeting gratification what might otherwise have given more permanent enjoyment. Such objections, however, Mr. Bulwer combats in the neat essay on novel-writing prefixed under the name of Dedicatory Epistle, by remarking, that, although works of fiction are of a Meeting nature, yet that an equally transient fate awaits, at the present day, the more laboured productions of study and research. In this opinion we can only partially coincide, and we sincerely hope to see Mr. Bulwer himself, at no distant period, not depriving us of the pleasure we receive from his lighter productions, but attempting some subject, which, although of a more arduous, shall be of a less decaying, nature.

A great portion of Paul Clifford' is a dashing satire on the faults and follies of the present most excellent generation, on police regulations, prison discipline, the manners of the day, literary charlatanism, and the cabinet ministers. Mr. Bulwer has thought proper, on the suggestion, he tells us, of a friend, to caricature ihose high in power by their similitudes in vulgar life; a curious idea, our readers will allow ; but it is so neatly executed, and the caricatures drawn with such easy wit, and, at the same time, with such perfect good humour and freedom from malice, that the dislike which we generally entertain to personality is lost on the present occasion in the tact with which it is managed.

We must, however, quarrel with our author for introducing into a novel, destined to meet the eyes of females, a coarse and almost unintelligible jargon of the vilest slang, which he is frequently obliged to interpret by notes, and which we were often unable to comprehend when not so assisted. He defends his practice by appealing to the popularity obtained by similar introductions of the Scotch and Irish dialects; but the comparison is inapplicable, inasmuch as the two latter are national, and in both we admire the sense and humour in despite of the idiom, which is disagreeable when presented alone. We admit that there is a degree of raciness and originality in some of the slang of the lower orders; but we no more wish to be gratified with such occasional relishes at the expense of the disgust which environs them, than we would wish to initiate ourselves in the amusements of a deceased nobleman who sought the company of sympathetic coal-heavers. Horace Walpole, in his “Castle of Otranto," originated the practice of giving appropriate dialogue to inferior personages, and of ceasing to make chambermaids declaim in the language of tragedy-queens; and Mr. Bulwer claims a similar privilege of giving gross exprés

[ocr errors]

a

a

sions to gross characters; but such characters should either not be introduced into a novel at all, or, if indispensable to the plot, should be kept in subordination, and not be intrusively prominent. Our author cannot fail to injure himself by such introductions ; we have already heard some ladies, who had read and admired Mr. Bulwer's former works, declare unanimously against his present performance; and though the passages we refer to are rather of a repulsive than of a vicious tendency, and, for the most part, confined to an inconsiderable portion of the first volume, yet we think that the display of public opinion on this branch of his work will effectually prevent the repetition of the error.

The plot of the novel is as romantic and improbable as may be ; the hero being a highwayman, and the heroine one of the sweetest models of female innocence that love could picture. However, as the reader invariably knows from the beginning, this does not prevent their becoming mutually enamoured, and, at last, in the good old way, they are married, and live very happy ever afterwards ! This is very well managed by Mr. Bulwer, who, as in his former tales, frequently makes the plot little more than a lay-figure on which he hangs the exquisite drapery of his fancy. The interest is very well sustained; the hero, when all seems lost, is saved ; and a father and uncle dying very conveniently, the young people are left to settle their affairs themselves, and the usual consequences

[ocr errors]

ensue.

We give a short extract, which, however, it is difficult to select, as the best passages are detached sentences rather than long paragraphs, -Mr. Bulwer having, as he tells us, determined to abaudon the didascular, and to lay greater stress on the narrative, than in his former productions.

Perhaps the trial scene is the most powerful in the work. We should premise that Clifford, the hero, whose mother had died before he could recollect, and whose father was unknown to him, was brought up in the lowest sinks of vice; that having been committed to prison for an offence of which he was not guilty, he effected his escape, and was induced, by the companions among whom he had taken refuge, to become a highwayman. After nearly seven years' trial of this mode of life, he accidentally meets the heroine; a new æra commences in his existence, and he determines to enlist in foreign service and assume a reformed character. On the eve of his putting this plan into execution, his haunt is betrayed, and his two companions made prisoners, while he, by his great courage and agility, manages to escape. He resolves, however, to attempt their rescue, which he effects, but is himself shot and made prisoner in the encounter. His father, in the mean time, had been trying every measure to gain a clue to his stolen son's identity, which he was doubly anxious to ascertain on account of a prospect of elevation from his station of judge to that of a peer. In his former capacity, Sir William Brandon has to sit, at the assizes at

in

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

a

judgment upon Clifford ; and, after he had summed up the evidence, and the jury had retired to deliberate, a note is put into his hand, by which be discovers that the prisoner is his long-lost son. This scene is excellently managed by Mr. Bulwer. After a long absence the jury returned

• The verdict was, as all had foreseen, -"Guilty;" but it was coupled with a strong recommendation to mercy.

• The prisoner was then asked, in the usual form, whether he had to say any thing why sentence of death should not be passed upon him.

* As these dread words struck upon his ear, slowly the prisoner rose. He directed first towards the jury a brief and keen glance, and his eyes

then rested full with a stern significance on the face of his judge.

My lord,” he began, “ I have but one reason to advance against the sentence of the law. If you have interest to prevent or mitigate it, that reason will, I think, suffice to enlist you on my behalf. I said that the first cause of those offences against the law which bring me to this bar, was the committing me to prison on a charge of which I was wholly innocent! My lord judge, you were the man who accused me of that charge, and subjected me to that imprisonment ! Look at me well, my lord, and you may trace in the countenance of the hardened felon you are about to adjudge to death, the features of a boy whom, some seven years ago, you accused before a London magistrate of the theft of your watch. On the oath of a man who has one step on the threshold of death, the accusation was unjust. And, fit minister of the laws you represent! you who will now pass my doom- You were the cause of my crimes! My lord, I have done. I am ready to add another to the long and dark list of victims, who are first polluted, and then sacrificed, by the blindness and injustice of human codes."

While Clifford spoke, every eye turned from him to the judge, and every one was appalled by the ghastly and fearful change which had fallen over Brandon's face. Men said afterwards, that they saw written there, in terrible distinctness, the characters of death ; and there certainly seemed something awful and preternatural in the bloodless and haggard calmness of his proud features. Yet his eye did not quail, nor the muscles of his lip quiver. And with even more than his wonted loftiness, he met the regard of the prisoner. But as alone conspicuous throughout the motionless and breathless crowd, the judge and criminal gazed upon each other; and as the eyes of the spectators wandered on each, a thrilling and electric impression of a powerful likeness between the doomed and the doomer, for the first time in the trial, struck upon the audience, and increased, though they scarcely knew why, the sensation of pain and dread which the prisoner's last words excited. "Perhaps it might have chiefly arisen from a common expression of fierce emotion, conquered by an iron and stern character of mind, or, perhaps, now that the ashy paleness of exhaustion had succeeded the excited flush on the prisoner's face, the similarity of complexion thus attained, made the likeness more obvious than before; or, perhaps, the spectators had not hitherto fixed so searching, or, if we may so speak, so alternating a gaze between the two. Though Clifford ceased, he did not resume his seat, but stood in the same attitude as that in which he had reversed the order of things, and merged the petitioner in the accuser. And Brandon himself, without speaking or

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[graphic]

moving, 'continued still to survey him. So with erect fronts and marble countenances, in which what was defying and resolute did not altogether quell a mortal leaven of pain and dread, they looked, as might have looked the two men in the Eastern story, who had the power of gazing each other unto death.

What, at that moment, was raging in Brandon's heart, it is in vain to guess. He doubted not for a moment that he beheld before him his long lost, his anxiously demanded son! Every fibre, every corner of his complex and gloomy soul, that certainty reached, and blasted with a hideous and irresistible glare! The earliest, perhaps the strongest, though often the least acknowledged principle of his mind, was the desire to rebuild the fallen honours of his house; its last scion he now beheld before him, covered with the darkest ignominies of the law! He had coveted worldly honours; he beheld their legitimate possessor in a convicted felon ! He had garnered the few affections he had spared from the objects of pride and ambition, in his son. That son he was about to adjudge to the gibbet and the hangman! Of late he had increased the hopes of regaining his lost treasure, even to an exultant certainty. Lo! the hopes were accomplished. How? With these thoughts warring, in what manner we dare not even by an epithet express, within him, we may cast one hasty glance on the horror of aggravation they endured, when he heard the prisoner accuse him as the cause of his present doom, and felt himself at once the murderer and judge of his son !

Overcoming his emotion, however, Brandon pronounced the sentence of the law, but immediately forwarded a strong recommendation for mercy, which was attended to, and the doom commuted to transportation for life. Brandon, after the trial, entered his carriage, with the intention of dining with Lord Mauleverer, but was found dead in his seat. The heroine, Lucy, then determined to accompany her cousin and lover in his banishment, but on Clifford's remonstrances and entreaties she consented to await him in England. He effects his escape, is united to her, and they retire to America, where he employs his remaining life in a manner that might atone for the errors of his youth.

We do not much approve of the word, but we can find no better phrase for shortly describing the . King's Own' than by saying that it is the most “harum-scarum" sort of a novel we have ever encountered. It is the very picture of a naval officer's mind and memory, through which all sorts of strange scenes, stories, superstitions, and adventures, have passed like shadows, leaving behind them confused impressions, which sometimes are converted into the food of the imagination, sometimes start up in their original form and assume the appearance of reality. The author (Captain Marriott) seems to have commenced his work without any kind of plan. The hero, who is named Seymour, is a son of one of the famous mutineers of the Nore. He is called the King's Own' because, after he became an orphan, he was adopted by a naval officer for the public service, and was marked with the arrow. The three volumes, however, are composed of sketches of a sea life in different climates,

[merged small][ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »