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“ In conclusion, the authors would express their hope that this biography may, in its measure, be useful in strengthening the hearts of some against the peculiar form of unbelief most current at the present day. The more faithfully we can represent to ourselves the life, outward and inward, of St. Paul, in all its fulness, the more unreasonable must appear the theory that Christianity had a mythical origin; and the stronger must be our ground for believing his testimony to the divine nature and miraculous history of our Redeemer. No reasonable man can learn to know and love the Apostle of the Gentiles without asking himself the question, What was the principle by which through such a life he was animated? What was the strength in which he labored with such immense results ?' Nor can the most sceptical inquirer doubt for one moment the full sincerity of St. Paul's belief that the life which he lived in the flesh he lived by the faith of the Son of God, who died and gave himself for him. "To believe in Christ crucified and risen, to serve Him on earth, to be with Him hereafter;— these, if we may trust the account of his own motives by any human writer whatever, were the chief, if not the only thoughts which sustained Paul of Tarsus through all the troubles and sorrows of his twenty years' conflict. His sagacity, his cheerfulness, his forethought, his impartial and clear-judging reason, all the natural elements of his strong character are not indeed to be overlooked : but the more highly we exalt these in our estimate of his work, the larger share we attribute to them in the performance of his mission, the more are we compelled to believe that he spoke the words of truth and soberness when he told the Corinthians that “last of all Christ was seen of him also,' that ' by the grace of God he was what he was,' that “whilst he labored more abundantly than all, it was not he, but the grace of God that was in him.'”
Art. IX.-1. The History of Henry Esmond, Esq., Colonel
in the Service of her Majesty, Queen Anne; written by himself. By W. M. THACKERAY, Author of Pendennis, &c.
New York: Harpers. 2. The History of Pendennis, his Fortunes and Misfortunes,
his Friends and his Greatest Enemy. By W. M. THACKERAY. New York: Harpers.
3. The Book of Snobs. By W. M. THACKERAY. New
York: Appletons. 4. The Luck of Barry Lyndon. By W. M. THACKERAY.
New York: Appletons. 2 vols. 16mo.
There are few novelists who combine creative powers and a knowledge of the human heart with the faculty of delineating actual life and manners. The pathos and sublimity of Richardson, wellnigh smothered as they are by pompous sentiment and a cumbrous phraseology, are among the miracles of literature; but for any picture that he has left us of English life in the eighteenth century, he might have been destitute of eyes and ears. Scott was doubtless a keen observer of manners as well as of men ; but poetry and romance-writing spoiled him for depicting the tamer features of modern society; and he was fain to acknowledge that the “bow-wow" style was that which he managed best. Smollet's characters, admirable as they are, are mostly oddities; and his scenes, with all their humor, are the extravagances of nature, not its ordinary displays. The creations of Godwin, like the conceptions of the transcendental philosopher, are all evolved from his own ich ; they are possibilities, deduced by à priori reasoning from the first principles of metaphysics. Miss Burney, on the other hand, gives us clever sketches of society, but she never penetrates below the surface; she makes us familiar with the company at Ranelagh and Vauxhall, but not with the more secret motives of conduct. In short, there are, as it seems to us, but three English novelists, — Fielding, Jane Austen, and Thackeray, — who both reveal the springs of action, and exhibit its outward aspects and local peculiarities; whose characters are types of classes, and in whose works we find reflected various phases of human nature as well as of English life.
We can have no hesitation in putting Fielding at the head of the English novelists. Nor has he inferior claims to the first place among English humorists. Humor, indeed, is the very element in which all his instincts and perceptions act. By it, he distinguishes truth from falsehood, right from wrong. He scents a falsehood by its absurdity; he detects roguery
by the ludicrous figure it makes in the disguise of honesty. He has no stern moral code by which to judge men; he never picks up a stone to throw at a sinner. Like the amiable Parisienne in the “ Paysan Parvenu,” he is heartily in love with virtue, and not at enmity with vice; “ aimant de tout son cæur la vertu sans inimitié pour le vice.” With hypocrisy alone he is at war; for hypocrisy is always the great antagonist of humor. Yet even in this contest he will give no unfair blow; he leaves Humor to fight the battle alone. Virtue and Morality may assist as bottle-holders; but they are not allowed to engage as principals. And when at length the wretched Blifil is driven from the scene, it is not with execrations, but amid shouts of jubilant laughter.
This unity of feeling and conception is the source of Fielding's exquisite art. He has an unwavering faith in his own genius, and in every impulse of his nature. He never mocks himself; he does not show us a gem, and then depreciate it. He delights to deck his Amelia and Sophia with all the beautiful qualities of womanhood, as a lover adorns his mistress with flowers and pearls. He exhilarates himself with draughts from his own imagination; and we can well believe what he tells us, that no one ever laughed or wept so much in reading his books as he himself had done while writing them. His pathos is as natural and as genial as his humor; the one parts from the other, and returns to it by imperceptible gradations, like the showers and the sunshine of April. The story flows gently on through an agreeable succession of incidents and scenes; and the harmonious tone that thus pervades them gives to his works a charm that belongs to no other novels in the language.
In placing Jane Austen in the same rank with Fielding and Thackeray, we do not expect to meet with general assent. In this country, at least, her writings have not acquired popularity. This may, perhaps, be owing to the narrow limits and almost unbroken level of the society which she paints. She has none of those bold conceptions which stamp themselves indelibly on the mind. There is no Parson Adams or Squire Western, no Becky Sharp or Major Pendennis, in any of her novels; no characters whose strongly marked features
stand out in full relief, and whose names have become as familiar in men's mouths as those of celebrated men. If you speak of Sir Thomas Bertram, of Fanny Price, or of Mr. Collins, the allusion will require explanation. But this is owing, not to any deficiency of skill, but to the perfection of her art. She passed her life in the sphere of a respectable, but not high-born English woman — familiar with the better classes of society in country towns; with the beau monde she seems to have been altogether unacquainted. She gives us only such characters and scenes as faithfully represent the manners of the society in which she lived. To have admitted incidents and persons, which, however real in themselves, did not belong to the ordinary features of the life which she portrays, would have destroyed the harmony of the picture. Nothing more commonplace can be imagined than the routine of action which forms the groundwork of each of her tales. But neither is it possible to imagine a more faithful delineation of any phase of society, or a more admirable constructive genius than that with which, from these materials, she forms a work of art. Her plots are so skilfully framed, that, while the interest of the story is always preserved, she never oversteps the bounds of probability. She never has recourse to the clumsy expedients of common novelists, who involve themselves in labyrinths from which they can only escape by a coup-de-main— who win the game by moving their knight diagonally, or making their bishop leap over a pawn. The dénouement of her plots is as simple as the deve. lopment; the difficulty is solved by natural, yet unforeseen methods. Her talent is essentially dramatic. The authoress herself is never visible, never even peeps from behind the curtain. The characters are not described; they exbibit themselves in action and in speech ; and there are no prose works of fiction in which the individuality of all the actors is so well maintained. Miss Austen's humor is rich and suggestive. She is not, however, a humorist, who sees that every object may be viewed in a sportive light. She never satirizes a class. She finds a theme for comedy only in those peculiarities which are laughed at by all the world; but she exposes these traits with a bold, yet delicate touch. “Mansfield Park"
has more variety of incident than any of her other works, and is, on this account perhaps, a more general favorite. “ Pride and Prejudice,” however, is superior in wit and humor; while the plot of " Emma” is equal to that of any of Ben Jonson's comedies. “Sense and Sensibility,” the earliest of her stories, is the least pleasing of them all; yet in none does she exhibit so profound an insight into human nature ; and we have never read the work without astonishment that the most subtle play of motives, and the most delicate traits of character should have been thus faithfully portrayed by a woman at the age of twenty-five.
From Miss Austen to Thackeray is an abrupt transition; for they have no qualities in common, except those, which belong to all writers who give us faithful pictures of life and manners. Between the author of Vanity Fair and the author of Tom Jones, on the other hand, there is a certain similarity, obvious to every reader. The source of this resemblance cannot lie deep; for we gather from the works of these two writers very different impressions of their personal characters; and it is in the character that we must seek for the root of all that flowers in the intellect. An unaffected manliness, a singular freedom from vanity and from all the pretences and disguises in which not merely common natures, but genius itself too often lies en meshed, we should attribute to them both. But the simplicity of Fielding is that of a flowing, vivacious spirit, whose unconstrained movements have a natural charm and grace. One can imagine him everywhere in social life, the centre of a group, delighted with his animation and with a wit that so easily harmonized with the tone of his society. Among women and children, men of culture and boon companions, he must have been equally at home, admired by all, by some — and not the worst of them — beloved. In Thackeray, on the contrary, you would probably find the plain demeanor of a man of sense and experience, who does not fascinate his company, and does not try to do it; whose qualities are not those of the cynosure and the general favorite, and who is far above aiming at a distinction that does not naturally fall to him. With all his admiration of beauty and grace, to which, indeed, he renders on all occasions the genuine