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sands yet to be written will be only varied imitations of these. Two very good reasons induce our novelists to make the passion of love their great staple element—its almost absolute universality as matter of experience, and its very great influence over the after life of its subjects. “Through love, as a portal," writes our author, “man and woman both pass, at one point or another, ere they are free of the corporation of the human race, acquainted with its laws and constitution, and partakers of its privileges.” Still it may be doubted whether this universally interesting theme has not been rather overworked; whether, seeing there are other human interests, widely recognized and appreciated, these might not advantageously occupy a larger space relatively in prose fictions. The ablest writers in the departments of imaginative literature, Cervantes, Shakspeare, and Scott, though all have duly honored the "white-handed Aphrodite,” have relatively elevated other pursuits and passions, and drawn from them the principal interests of their several productions. “That so many of our inferior novels now should be love-and-marriage novels and nothing more,” to adopt again our author's language, “arises perhaps from the fact that the novel-reading age in the one sex falls generally between the eighteenth and the twenty-fifth year, and that, with the other sex, in the present state of our social arrangeinents, the white-hand' remains, directly or indirectly, the permanent human interest during the whole of life.”
We are not altogether prepared, therefore, to believe that the narrow limits to which novelists have so generally confined themselves comprise the whole that is accessible to them, or that there is any real necessity that they should so uniformly follow each other in the same beaten track, in which there remains to be gathered scarcely a flower or green shrub. Other passions illustrated with the requisite delicacy and power would afford all the necessary interest and excitement, and especially might their delineation be made to answer the highest didactic purposes of fiction.
Of the religious novel, proper, or rather the novel as an instrument of religious culture, we can write but very briefly. That most religious novels, so called, have been but sorry failures, may be readily granted; but their unsuccess may have been for manifest faults in their style and structure. There is, however, an apparent unsuitableness in the design of the novel as intended for amusement to the solemn earnestness that befits all things pertaining to the soul's great interests. Novelists write to please; but the stern lessons of religion are seldom sought for as a means of pleasure, or by those who are seeking for amusements. It would therefore seem that the novel never could be made a medium of direct and undis
guised religious instruction and culture. But after this concession has been made, very much may be claimed for its possible influence in behalf of the deepest and most spiritual forms of religious life and experience. The manifold and varying forms of unbelief may tax the highest powers of genius to detect and describe them, includ. ing a deep and broad philosophy and a clear and strong imagination, quickened by experience into a lively sympathy with its subject. The tangled perplexity, so necessary to the interest of the story, may be afforded in all requisite fullness by the deeply interesting questions which alarm the awakened conscience and demand a solution; and the trembling uncertainties which hang over pending decisions upon which depend the great things of both time and eternity, invest the whole subject with the deepest interest; and the happy denouement of the conflict, in the calm peace of Christian assurance, brings the required favorable conclusion of the whole. To conduct this form of fiction successfully would require the highest grade of artistic ability, while an unsuccessful attempt would be much worse than merely a failure. “That a writer may be fitted to frame imag
• inary histories,” (we again adopt and slightly modify our author's words,) “illustrating the deepest problems of human education, and to be a sound casuist in the most difficult questions of human experience, it is necessary that he should bring to his task not only an average acquaintance with the body of good current doctrine, but also an original speculative faculty. To accomplish all that seems needful in this case, either our novelists must become learned practical and theoretical theologians, or else our divines must become novelists.” Perhaps both classes might be benefited by the process, as well as the public, by their productions.
With the enthusiasm that is characteristic of real genius, Mr. Masson demands the highest perfection as the only just ideal of his speciality, of the realization of which he appears to be not altogether without hope. He would carry the prose fiction into the domains of poetry, and make it more than the rival of the metrical epic. And especially he demands for it a high and pure spirituality, which, passing beyond a merely concrete realism, shall deal with the great elementary truths among which our spirits dwell, and in which are hidden the highest interests of the individuals and the aggregate of our humanity.
ART. II.- RESULTS OF WEST INDIA EMANCIPATION.
It is not difficult to account for the misapprehensions which prevail concerning the British West Indies, and the working of emancipation in those colonies. To some extent they have been created by the promptings of a grasping cupidity, anxious to make out a case that may possibly justify to the British government the policy of reviving the slave-trade from Africa, disguised under the specious designation of “free-labor immigration.” Such, doubtless, was the origin of certain unscrupulous communications addressed to, and published in the London Times newspaper a few months ago, which were pervaded throughout by the grossest misrepresentations concerning the West India colonies. It was a very significant coincidence that those communications appeared about the time when the Jamaica legislature was engaged in preparing the details of a measure which was intended to legalize a descent upon the coast of Africa for the purpose of carrying off more of her children, nominally as free laborers, but really and truly to consign them to bondage and misery, and, in multitudes of instances, to an early grave in the West Indies. Here deceit and falsehood were appropriately employed to pave the way for the adoption of a new system of legalized robbery and murder, similar to that which has already, in Jamaica and elsewhere, robbed tens of thousands of wretched coolies of hope and life. Happily, however, the British government has shielded the nation from this additional guilt and dishonor by promptly disallowing the Jamaica bill.
In some cases the publication of misleading statements, and the utterance of opinions quite at variance with facts, may be accounted for without attributing intentional misrepresentation to their authors. These do not proceed from parties resident in the colonies; for, after a protracted residence there, we are not acquainted with one individual that would pronounce emancipation to be a failure; they are generally from transient visitors, who have neither time nor opportunity, nor perhaps the disposition to institute, upon the spot a fair and impartial investigation of the subject concerning which they give their lucubrations to the world. A person on his way to California, Central America, or elsewhere, is a passenger in a steamer or other vessel that touches at a West India port, it may be Kingston, in Jamaica, where he spends a few hours, or possibly two or three days. He observes about the wharves, and the streets adjacent thereto, as may be seen in any considerable shipping port, a number of loose and profligate persons of both sexes, whose appearance, manners, and conversation, all alike repulsive, indicate that they belong to the very dregs and outcasts of society. Their dark complexion shows that they are of the class emancipated from slavery a few years ago; and taking these as samples of the population, and seeing nothing of the industrious, well-ordered peasantry in the interior, he writes to his friends, or to the newspapers, that the emancipated colored people of the West Indies have “degenerated into a community of vagrants, paupers, and thieves.” Being informed also that in that particular island the export of staple productions is less than it formerly was, without taking any trouble to ascertain if other causes have contributed to such a result, or whether it is the same in all the colonies, he jumps to the conclusion, and gives it a world-wide circulation, that under emancipation, and as the result of it, the West India colonies are becoming rapidly overspread with desolation, and sinking into poverty and ruin. It is thus that, to a great extent, misapprehension has gone abroad, and the public mind has been abused; while a certain portion of the press has eagerly availed itself of these mistakes and misrepresentations, for purposes easy to be understood, and described the great act of justice and humanity on the part of Great Britain in emancipating her slaves, the greatest and noblest act of modern times, as a mistake and a failure.
It would not be difficult, after a similar method of reasoning, to make out that Great Britain and the United States are both inhabited by a community of idlers and thieves; taking the loungers and bad characters who frequent the banks of the Thames below London Bridge, or the immediate vicinity of the East River in New York, as samples of the population of the two countries. It is not peculiar to the West Indies that the most worthless and abandoned of the population crowd into the largest towns and cities, and abound in the neighborhood of wharves and shipping places; and to estimate the character and condition of a whole people from such specimens is alike unjust and absurd. It is in this way, according to Mr. Bowen, whose lectures on Africa have been recently attracting some attention, that the whole civilized world has been deceived with regard to the character and habits of the people in the interior of Western Africa. He says: “We had judged all the Africans by the few fishermen and slavedealers on the coast. We thought them an exceedingly lazy people. So the coast men were. But in the interior they were industrious enough.” So in the West Indies.
Let these transient visitors travel into the interior of the islands, and look upon the agricultural population in their own neat and quiet homes, and become acquainted from observation with their daily habits; they will find themselves surrounded by an industrious, respectful, orderly, and law-obeying people, very different from the sottish and disorderly rabble which first arrested their attention on the wharf at which they landed. And let them take the trouble to investigate the subject fully, and they will discover that although great commercial depression has prevailed in all the islands, yet the falling off in staple products is limited to a few of them, being more than made up in others; and that where cultivation has been abridged, it may, as shown in a preceding article, be ascribed to the operation of causes entirely distinct from the abolition of slavery.
The greatest depression which the agricultural and commercial interests of tlfe West Indies ever experienced, occurred during the five or six years immediately following the adoption of the free-trade policy of Sir Robert Peel's government, and the measure for equalizing the duties on British and foreign sugars. Then it was that a large number of proprietors were brought to a stand, for want of capital to continue the culture of their estates, and some hundreds of properties of different kinds were thrown out of cultivation altogether. The mortgagees, up to this time, had continued to make advances sparingly to their insolvent constituents, which they were able to do from the compensation money for the slaves which they had received, and which, taking Jamaica as an example, would, on a plantation possessing four hundred slaves, amount to between eighty and ninety thousand dollars. But when the act to which we have referred passed, in 1846, the price of sugar went down in the British market at least 50 per cent.; property in the West Indies became fearfully depressed in value; the merchants and capitalists shrunk, as a matter of course, from making investments or continuing advances while such a gloom rested upon the colonies; and, as the natural and unavoidable result, many of the planters, who were entirely dependent upon such advances, were necessitated to discontinue the cultivation of their estates, just as many .persons, during the late monetary crisis in England and the United States, were compelled, from causes very similar, to give up the business in which they were engaged.
The darkest period, therefore, in the financial history of the West Indies dates from 1946 to 1853, when the crisis was passed. Then sugar rose again to a price sufficient to remunerate the grower, and gleams of prosperity, almost unhoped for, shone athwart the gloom, proving to be the harbingers of a brighter day to the disheartened planters. If we take the last year of slavery in the colonies, 1833–4,