« ZurückWeiter »
tionate and obedient servant.”—The reverse of all this is, however, the case. The quantity of reading in history, geography, chronology, antiquities, and even in arts and sciences, necessary to give consistency, probability, and colouring to a work of imagination, requires, with the most industrious, the labour of months, before a pen is put to paper the immediate purpose of composition.*
For the “getting up," as the stage-manager would call it, of Quentin Darward, for instance, besides a diligent search through the historians, through Commines, Brantome, Jean de Troyes, and the rest of the memoir-writers, an immense quantity of Scottish lore must have been collected in order to trick out the Scotch guard in all the verisimilitudes of names, families, manners, and domestic anecdote. The trifling scene of the false herald alone, could not be detailed without a
more intimate acquaintance with the pseudo-science of blazonry than ! usually falls to the lot of any man, save a German Baron, or a thoroughpaced and inveterate antiquarian.
Those who profess the faith, or the heresy, that Sir Walter Scott is the author of these works, relate that he “ writes" them during his hours of attendance in the courts : but, besides the ingenuity he must practise to hide his operations from the notice of the public, by which he is at those times surrounded, he must possess
more wonderful pro-, perty of knowing by intuition facts, of which others obtain the knowledge by the most intense application. Sir Walter Scott is not only represented as a man of official occupation, as a politician actively participating in the wrangling polemics of the Edinburgh parties, but as a very convivial and social member of a remarkably social community,
as a bustling farmer, and a constant improver of his favourite dei mesne at Abbotsford. That, amidst all these associations, he should
be the sole “ Author of Waverley” and of its successors, seems next to a physical impossibility. The mere mechanical task of putting together the materials of a three-volume novel, after they have been collected,-supposing the book to be written currente calamo, without reconsideration or recopying,-would occupy months of exclusive and laborious application ; and this is a necessity which no genius can avert, a labour no talent can abbreviate. In this respect, some little advantage of habit apart, Sir W. Scott and the writers of the Leadenhall press are on a perfect equality. If this gentleman, therefore, is the " Brazen mask” of the literary pantomime of hide and seek, it amounts almost to demonstration that he is powerfully assisted by a knot of subaltern drudges; and that he does little more than select the story, dispose the plan, write particular scenes, and give that sort of finish to the whole, which preserves to the book the unity of its colouring.t It has indeed been asserted respecting the “ Pirate, we know not with what truth,—that it is the exclusive production of a certain member of
It has been the custom of our popular novelist to commence by drawing up a map of the scene of action, in the same way that a general would trace a geographical sketch of his intended campaign.
# The Editor of the New Monthly Magazine sanctions the publication of this theory for the amusement of his readers, but begs not to be made responsible for believing it.
Sir Walter's family; and that it received only the revision and the adoption of the “ Author of Waverley."
Some probability perhaps is added to this hypothetical notion by a marked difference observable at the first glance over the different novels in the single particular of character. In the earlier, and more appropriately called * Scotch Novels,” there is often displayed an intense degree of moral interest, in which the majority of the later productions are comparatively deficient. The death of the heroic Jacobites in Waverley, the strongly conceived, and finely shaded contrasts of the Serjeant and Burley, the whole description of the fanatic march, and the scene of torturing the preacher in " Old Mortality," possess an unspeakable grasp on our sympathy; for they abound with traits of humanity, in its striking and important modifications. Rob Roy is a master's sketch of a fine, bold, generous disposition, worked upon and demoralized by the force of events; and even the Baillie's eccentricities are set off with such touches of nature and feeling as often remind us—what more can we say?-_of Shakspeare himself., Of this excellence a smaller degree exists in the more recent productions ; in which the characters differ from each other, chiefly in the shades of that weakness, or of that wickedness, which are common to them all.
In Quentin Durward, partly perhaps from the selection of the age and scene, the defect of character is singularly discoverable. Throughout all the novels, indeed, the author has shewn a stronger disposition to pourtray external nature, than to study and develope the workings of internal moral feeling and truth. Even when he enters deepest into pathos and intellectual cbaracter, his effort is always connected with a view rather to please us with the picturesque, than to sublimate our ethical principles. But in his later productions, he seems to sacrifice more than ever to picturesque effect, and he even exercises his ingenuity in giving relief to the most degraded characters which history exhibits, and in shedding the lights of an innocent and humorous peculiarity over the deepest and darkest shades of vice and crime. That the author of these novels, whoever he may be, is a devoted tory, will be no matter of new information to any of his readers ; and on the ground of simple and abstracted opinion, it would be illiberal to quarrel with him. That he should even have glossed over the political offences of a Charles and a James, in order to paint those heroes of legitimacy under the traits of an amiable and gossiping privacy, may not be thought to exceed that measure of misrepresentation which the temper of our times, heated by incessant conflict and mutual injustice, appears to tolerate; but when he selects as a fit object for pencilling and adornment the infamous Louis XI., and when he dwells with a minute and complacent satisfaction on Tristrem l'Hermite, and the two canting and jesting buffoons, bis subaltern executioners, we cannot help objecting to a taste and moral tact, apparently at variance with the mind which conceived and delineated a Jenny Deans.
With all the fascination which the author's vividness of genius throws over the characters of this story, there is still something in them all that is repulsive to a mind of moral and contemplative sensibility, Quentin himself, though he has energy and decision, is an adventurer and a mercenary, who offers his courage and his sinews to the furtherance of the most atrocious and perfidious tyranny that the barbarism
of modern Europe has produced, with an indifference which, however natural in the feudal aristocrat of the Scotland of those days, ought to disqualify him for the attachment of a heart of civilized times. The band of Scottish archers, which he sought to join from so vast a distance, in addition to the characteristics of cruelty and licentiousness common to all mercenaries, was marked for avoidance by its recent treachery in quitting the service of Charles VII. and joining the party of his rebellious and unnatural son, for a round sum of money. This circumstance should have made a deep impression on the mind of an ingenuous boy of gentle culture, whose love for his own parents must have been exalted by their bloody and unrevenged death; and the little coquetting squeamishness introduced to palliate the hero's conduct, serves only to place his moral obtuseness in a stronger light. Even Charles the Bold, whose chivalrous and unsuspecting frankness might have afforded some bright lights to the picture, is by a felicitous exercise of the author's colouring, shaded down below the tone of his ferocious rival, whose gloomy criminality shews like philosophy, as it is set off by the mere animal impulses which are made to actuate the conduct of the Duke of Burgundy.
Much of this moral defect, it is true, inay perhaps follow unconsciously from the author's obstinate determination to defend indefensible points of history, to diminish the keen sensibility of the public to political truth, and to generate that indifference to public interests which is favourable to the propagation of the Tory creed. The romantic and picturesque points of feudality brought forward on the canvass may serve to beget a distaste for the colder and sterner aspects of a civilized and philosophical æra; and state criminals, portrayed with dramatic effect, and ornamented with the mock jewelry of candlelight virtues, may be made to engender a pernicious tolerance for political offenders; but, to produce this effect, the reader must be hurried forward, as over a quaking marsh, which affords no permanent footing for his steps; events must be presented with something of the vagueness of a dream; visions must succeed to visions, with a rapidity that leaves no pause for reflection; the imagination must alone be kept alert, and judgment be drugged into a diseased and unnatural slumber. Still, however, the later publications of the Author of Waverley are more surcharged with this defect, which we feel ourselves thus called upon to censure, than is necessary for the object that seems in a great degree to influence his writings; and a shade of probability arises, that the excess may be the work of coarser and clumsier spirits, which, in imitating their original and following the plan he has chalked out for them, have caricatured his system, and introduced faults which the master's hand has been unable to correct.
But, whatever inference may be drawn from the author's increased appetite for painting mankind under their worst aspects, it is a circumstance that becomes more striking at each succeeding publication. The system of decorating despotism is persevered in with unabated rigour, and each new novel is a special pleading in favour of passive obedience. We are not without apprehension that these observations may appear to some persons to be harsh and excessive. But let it be recollected against what evil we protest-against the misfortune of the greatest genius of the age conveying false impressions to the public
of riper years
of the great political concerns of man-of his blunting the sympathies of youth with the cause of human civilization, and begetting a precocious indifference to public interests. The licentiousness of the old novels was open to view ; but the mischief of which we complain is more dangerous because it is more concealed. A certain public functionary is said to have written a History of England for children, in which the Revolution is purposely omitted. This act of bad faith is comparatively trifling to that of distorting facts, misrepresenting.cha. racters, and accustoming the mind to the contemplation of political vice unaccompanied by censure, or rather dressed out in the garb of amiability and goodness.
This is no imaginary offence. Its reality was well illustrated the other day in a member of our own family. A young female, of con: siderable liveliness, and talent beyond her years, who had just finished the perusal of Quentin Durward, being asked which of the characters she liked best, replied without hesitation, “ Louis XI; he is such a pleasant gentleman.” That this was a legitimate deduction in a child from the pages she had been reading, will not be disputed; and what can be more deplorable than the total confusion of right and wrong thus produced ? Nor is it enough to say these works are not intended for youth ; for youth will read them; and not only so, but even those
will find it difficult to resist their influence, unless their moral principles are the result of a stronger character, and a deeper thought, than are often to be found among the general mass of novelreading mankind.
We have dwelt on these generalities at some length, because we consider them important; and because the popularity of our author exempts us from the necessity of analytical criticism. Quentin Durward every body has read, or every body will read ; and it is as useless to anticipate the pleasure of perusal by a bald abstract, as it is superfluous to fatigue our readers by an idle repetition. encouragement of those who have not yet commenced the perusal, we may say that it is altogether superior to its immediate predecessors, the scenes are more connected, the events more naturally conducted, the denouement better. The author has broken new ground, and seems invigorated by the freshness of his subject. For the rest, this novel possesses all the merits and defects of its brethren. It is formed on the same cadre, has the same tendencies, the same sort of adventure, the same vigour of picture-writing. One circumstance is peculiar; - the palpable, and perhaps careless, departure from the truth of history. The transactions which occasioned the imprisonment of Louis at Peronne were many years antecedent to the murder of the Bishop of Liege, by William de la Machet. In the insurrection which caused Louis's arrest, W. de la Mache's name is not mentioned; and his introduction as an agent in the story, scems only for the purpose of an additional gibe at popular revolutions. Again, when he did murder the Bishop, it was his son and not himself he named as the successor. The bearer of Charles the Bold's defiance to Louis in the castle of Plessis was the “ Sire de
Chimay, and not the Sire de Cordés, an historical personage." (See Anquetil.) Inbercourt, who is represented as first hearing of the siege of Tongres from Durward, was present at it himself, and was taken prisoner with the Bishop. Cardinal Baluc's confinement in his own iron cage, at Loches, was posterior to the King's captivity in Peronne. The false herald sent to England by Louis, and alluded to in the conference, is also an anachronism. These deviations from historic truth are material blemishes in the story. The author of an historic novel may omit facts, or add to them inventions which are in keeping with what is known. But he is not at liberty to distort the truth by a transfer of events and personages, by which, under the disguise of amusement, he gives false impressions, unsettles men's notions, and renders in a great degree nugatory, one of the most laborious and useful of human studies.
THE PARISIAN CARNIVAL.
We have been told from high authority that there is a step between the sublime and the ridiculous. It is, however, a barefaced falsehood --there is no such thing. Subhime and ridiculous are one and the same-co-existent qualities, of different complexions, perhaps, as looked
at in different lights, but blending and blooming together, like the | green and pink shades in a shot poplin.
Be it known, then, to all whom it may concern, subscribers, correspondents, and contributors, that I, Thomas Tryatall, Esquire, long time a man about town, once of a fair independence and always of fair fame, an observateur des modes from fancy, and a recorder of my remarks for the love of fun, an amateur of fashion and a dabbler in literature, finding from the pressure of the times that my purse was squeezed into symptoms of a delicate decline, that my estate was quite out at elbows, and my best coat shewing marks of sympathy therewith-seeing, in short, (to quit a threadbare subject) that a visit to France would be very refreshing to my constitution, and being anxious to get into good habits, accepted the very liberal offers of my friends the proprietors of this miscellany, that I should quit my lodgings in Piccadilly, take a trip to Paris for my own pleasure and our common profit, and establish myself as a kind of periodical lecturer on the fashions, follies, and fooleries~nice distinctions, markye-ot this celebrated metropolis.
My first business, after 1 had shaken off the dust of the Diligence, was to look out for a tailor, knowing the importance of appearances, as well as old Quarles himself, who tells us in his “Enchiridion" that " the body is the shell of the soul; apparell is the huske of that shell ; the huske often tells you what the kernel is." Now should this quotation seem to insinuate that all the secret of my character lies in a nutshell, I shall only observe, par parenthese, that many people might find it deuced hard in the cracking; and to make it still more so to Parisian penetration, I was resolved to disguise myself in French costume. Decked out, then, at a day's notice in a Polish frock, black Felvet vest, with a white, a pink, and a blue one, respectively of silk,