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us much misery and consequent crime beneath this seemingly gay surface.
If we may trust statistical returns, (which are often, in fact, only works of fiction written in numerals,) the proportion of convictions for crime to the number of inhabitants is much larger in Sweden than in England or even Ireland ; and Stockholm shows a darker catalogue in this regard than London. Indeed, the amount of vice in the Swedish capital is almost incredible, even to those conversant with the morals of seaport towns. In the country, the state of things is hardly better, and the wander-jähre, prescribed by law to all trades, which have been made poetical by Goethe, and which we were wont to consider as the beautiful relic of a more romantic age, are considered by a highly intelligent and observing traveller, Mr. Laing, as very injurious to the morals of the artisan classes, and destructive of those habits of thrift and industry so essential to their comfort and wellbeing in all countries. That vice and unthrift are universal is by no means to be taken for granted from this statement.* Indeed, this would be impossible in any country to which the divine teachings of Christ had been communicated, and where a large body of clergy, generally faithful and zealous, and, in many cases, eminent for piety and learning, kept the memory of the spirit alive among those whose callings and employments would be likely to make them forget that spirit was not only as real a fact as matter, but also a much more important one. The parishes are too large, perhaps, to admit of much personal intercourse between the clergy and their people. In some of them, those who live upon the borders ride seventy miles to the church, generally coming only upon every third sabbath, and, before service, transact
Perhaps the greate-t obstacle in the way of the improvement of the Swedish people is the almost universal vice of drunkenness. A friend who has travelled in Sweden informs us, that this evil was so widely spread and so little regarded, that clergy men were not infrequently seen staggering about in their canonicals ! This is, no doubt, partly owing to the fact, thai, the church being an Established one, the clergy are wholly independent of popular opinion. But a better state of things has already begun. Reform has already set its heel upon the head of the serpent of the distillery. We take pride in stating the fact, that it is to America that Sweden will owe her regeneration in this matter. Mr. Baird, the agent of the American Temperance Union, first opened the eyes of the Swedes to this national vice, and it was in consequence of his exertions, that the first Temperance Society was tablish in Sweden. bave won immortality for far less worthy deeds than this.
ing any little business they may have with their neighbours, if they may be so called. But the good which results from this public acknowledgment of the presence of God in the world, and the weekly gathering together of the people, though it may be sneered at as a mere form by those who take a wholly superficial view of the matter, can be better understood by a student of human nature, than proved by tables of statistics.
The rather ambiguous praise of being “ the French of the North "
won by the Swedes only at the expense nearly all that was manliest and noblest in the national char
After all, the imitation was but a clumsy one. It was the pirouetting of a bear. It was Orson in a powdered toupée and laced coat. The elegance, the savoir faire, the taste and science of debauchery, were confined to the privileged class; but the lower orders were infected, and imitated, as far as their means would allow, the vices of the nobles. The disease thus engendered has been transmitted from generation to generation, and there is still a scrofulous taint in the constitution of the people. But the constitution is a sound one, and will, in time, throw off all its impurities. The great want at present in Sweden is that of a powerful middle class, whose intelligence and independence would prevent their catching the vices and follies of those above them, and, at the same time, would serve as a conductor of their education and refinement to the great mass of the people. Though such a class is growing up in Sweden, the ridiculous system of titles and its influences, stands in the way of their usefulness, by teaching them to depend for respect and power rather on the shadow than the substance. And the restrictions on all branches of industry are an insuperable bar to the rapid increase of such a class. The policy of Sweden with regard to all branches of industry is the same as that of England was before the reign of James the First. The very virtues of the Wasa race of kings, who, in general, aimed to be the fathers of their people, and who protected the lower orders from the predacious instincts of the higher, in truth prevented the growth of the middle class. The best institutions of a people grow out of its necessities. The inability, or neglect, of the sovereign to check the tyranny of the nobles, sharpened the instincts and foresight of the oppressed, and built up the republics of Italy and the free cities of Germany, and give birth to the power of the Commons. But thanks to the strong sense of one of their kings, who made the ability to read a necessary qualification for a legal marriage, the Swedish people have already in themselves the seeds of moral regeneration, which, though now too deeply buried for germination, need only a breaking of the soil to shoot up and reproduce the long extinct flower of the true national character. The far happier social state of Norway is to be attributed only to her more popular form of government. With a language uniting the simple construction of the English with the richness, melody, and facility of forming compounds of the German, with a climate which creates that hardiness of frame the necessary foundation for hardiness of spirit, with a mass of traditionary lore more wild, beautiful, sublime, and, at the same time, more familiar to the general mind, than that of any other nation, Sweden will yet produce a literature of the highest order. Sagas are the natural growth of those solemn pine forests. T'here, in those vast silences, every event deepens into a legend or a poem. Already have some of the descendants of those old Vikings begun to assert the purity of their lineage by the same courage, the same adventurousness, the same trumpet-voice, which pervades the offspring of their Muse, -- the fierce blood of Odin tempered and beautifully softened by intermixture with the womanly gentleness of graceful Balldur.
If we needed any further proof, that a popular aristocracy, if we may give such a name to the middle class, is almost wholly wanting in Sweden, we might find it in the works of the author under review. Had Miss Bremer been born in England, we doubt not that her nature would have led her to choose her characters chiefly from this class, who, by their industry, energy, and strong sense, have there raised the Saxon race again to a level with its Norman conquerors, if they have not given it even a preponderating weight. As it is, the sympathies of education and refinement have forced her to select from the highest order of her countrymen. Even where the manners are essentially those of the middle ranks of life, we must remember that the characters are nearly all chosen from the upper classes. Where the whole population is divided so strictly into two classes, where the dividing line is so absolute and well defined, and the mass of the people are in a state scarcely better than degraded, since it is one from which there is but a bare possibility of rising, it is not to be wondered at, that we look in vain through Miss Bremer's works for delineations of the nobility of humble life.
The novel of society must necessarily be confined within a conventional horizon, the boundaries of which are modified by the state of things in the country where it is produced, and, in judging it, the jury should be empanelled from the country where the venue is laid. That only necessity has stinted Miss Bremer in the choice of her characters is plain enough from the fact, that the interest always springs from the character itself, and not from any accidents of birth or station. Unless Bruno and St. Orme may be taken as exceptions, she gives us no gentlemen who possess a tragic interest merely from the fact that they have deep, dark eyes and noble foreheads, surmounted by curls of glossy blackness, and who have a purulent loquacity on the subject of destiny and kindred matters. We have no maidens whom some knavish guardian has dispossessed of immense fortunes, to show us how much better off they are without them, but which they nevertheless miraculously recover. There is no smell of burnt cork and rouge, no melodramatic suggestion of buskined tyrants, oppressed maidens with unmanageable trains of white satin, and impregnable castles an inch thick, which excited ideas of the horrible and the marvellous in our childish imaginations. Hers are all tales of the present day. The purple, hazy distance of antiquity is not needed to give her characters their proper keeping in the mind's eye of the reader. Her novels show the healthier tone which is beginning to pervade the light literature of the day. The stories of feudal times, which made so many unhappy boys above their business, and in which all the male personages, except the king and the court fool, were made knights of, and, in virtue of their rank, could only begin a sentence with “ By my halidome !” and end it by glancing fiercely at some rival Sir Gaston or Sir Everard, and touching significantly the hilts of their swords, are now at their last gasp. From heroes such as these, the transition was easy and natural to pirates, knights of the post, painted savages, pickpockets, and other gentlemen of the same class, whose romantic lives stayed for awhile the appetite of those who supped on horrors at the cheap ordinary of the circulating library. Thence they have degenerated into the hardly respectable purlieus of
what is called “ Cheap Literature,” where the chivalric ro
- the novel of costume still wields a tottering sceptre over the taproom and the eating cellar. Its farthing candle has wellnigh gone out.
Whether any potent spirit will arise, with “ that Promethean touch which can its light relume,” we take not upon ourselves to say. Froni what lower deep of inanity or ruffianism a hero may be fished up to supply this hiatus in the “ Knowledge for the People," it were hard to imagine. The day of this kind of chivalry is over, and we are right glad of it. That our youth should grow up with the idea, that romance dwelt only in castles and courts, was a pitiful reflection. The unheroic taste of modern times rewards deeds, which would erst have claimed the golden spurs, with the penitentiary or the gallows. Even in Fielding's time, Jonathan Wild reduced himself to an ignominious death solely, if we may credit his admiring bi. ographer, by his habit of contemplating objects in too classical and heroic a light. Chivalry is morally defunct. All civilized nations have done with it, and only the flashing of bowie-knives and pistols in certain portions of our territory gives token of its existence anywhere.
The tendency of the later school of novelists shows a vast change in the spirit and manners of literature. The novel has become an essay on morals, on political economy, on the condition of women, on the vices and defects of social life. Sentimentalism has gone very much out of fashion. Its tears began to savor too much of that vegetable which the Egyptians, perhaps with some mystic allusion to its pathetic properties, reverenced as divine. The piteous ravings of natures too noble to be understood, against the unfeeling common sense of the world, the natural and proper admiration of young ladies for rocks, and moonlight, and ruined abbeys, — all these have sought sanctuary in the parlours and chambers of the boarding-school. The revolution has been a healthy, and, let us hope, a thorough one. The sentimental era naturally resulted from the prevalence of the benumbing, cheerless, soup-maigre, French philosophy in the latter half of the eighteenth century. The recoil was wild and fearful. It was the convulsive struggle of the spirit to get rid of the French strait-jacket. Once free, it danced, it sang, it wept, it raved. No extravagance was too wild for it to prove its new-found freedom by. From