« ZurückWeiter »
Alas! the taint that sunburnt brow bespeaks
We do not profess to be in Juno's confidence, but, unless she is greatly belied, she is not in the habit of examining closely the complexion of a millionnaire.
Wealth produces a marvellous change in Morvale, at least. He now travels, converses much with books and men, drinks life at once to the dregs (the favorite beverage of heroes), and becomes one of those profoundly learned men of the world, more familiar to the patrons of circulating libraries than to any other class in society. These singular beings are the antitheses of ordinary natures. They are incarnate contradictions. Fire and gunpowder in them meet on amicable terms. A liberal course of dissipation fulfils more than the functions of a university. In the society of opera-girls, they learn to be fastidious in women ; in that of roués, they exhaust the arts and sciences. We do not say that Morvale is precisely one of these, but we have hints, every here and there, of something like it. We would only warn him from ground sacred to Madame Tussaud and the melodrama.
Morvale, having run round the elevated circle of the passions, subsides to a less heroic, but much more respectable, stratum of existence. His feelings as a son and brother revive. He accordingly, we are told," searched his mother,” a perilous infringement of orthoëpy, or of the rights of the subject, if done without a justice's warrant. He does not find her, however, she being probably one of those highly artificial characters who never carry themselves about with them. She avoids him
“Till Death approached, and Conscience, that sad star,
Of the Eternal Gate, laid bare the crime." She leaves her daughter Calantha to his fraternal care. The brother and sister go to housekeeping together in the magnificent isolation of London. But though there is enough affection, there is little confidence, between them. A secret melancholy, the origin of which Morvale tries in vain to dis
cover, preys upon the spirits of Calantha, --- the old “worm i' the bud." Morvale, in one of his walks, encounters an orpban, Lucy, whom he brings home with him, and makes an inmate of his house, where, in good time, a passion springs up between them.
One of Morvale's friends — and it is a little singular, that notwithstanding the barrier of his Hindoo blood, he moves in the most fashionable society — is Lord Arden, a blasé like himself, who one day, while they are riding together, relates his own history. Whatever fault we may find with our author's plot, we cannot but approve his method of unfolding it. He tells his stories admirably, and interests us in spite of ourselves. But we must be careful that this does not interfere with our judgment of him as a poet. An author may be a very good story-teller, and a very bad poet. The character of Arden is well conceived. Indeed, it is by far the best in the book. The story had been truer to nature, if he, who had been through life brought into contact with the hollownesses of society, had become the Timon instead of Morvale. A man of the world, and selfish (if we may say so) rather on æsthetic grounds than by nature, he falls in love, while yet quite young, with Mary, the daughter of a poor country
Arden is one of the presumptive heirs to an earldorn, the present earl being his uncle, and a cunning Scot has barnacled himself to the prosperous ship of his fortunes. Through him, Arden contrives an elopement and clandestine marriage. The Scot, however, knowing that Arden's uncle, the earl, looked upon a wife as merely one round in the ladder of preferment, and would infallibly withdraw his patronage, if he discovered such a mark of unthrift in his nephew as disinterested love, has the ceremony performed by a mock priest. Mary's father, finding the marriage to be a sham, dies broken-hearted, and Mary herself, compelled to believe herself betrayed, leaves her home and wanders no one knows whither. Arden, meanwhile, ignorant of all this, has gone on a foreign embassy. On his return, he becomes aware of the deceit practised upon him in regard to the marriage, but seeks Mary in vain. After the lapse of some years, he meets a lady in Italy, to whom he becomes betrothed. The day for the wedding is already fixed, when he receives letters from England, giving a hope that Mary's hiding-place may be found. Leaving his betrothed with a hasty and unintelligible explanation, he hastens home, where his search is again unsuccessful. So far Arden is his own biographer.
After a time, Morvale, by means of a miniature worn by Lucy, discovers that she is the daughter of Arden and Mary. He is about to send for Arden to inform him of this fact, when he makes the additional discovery, that Calantha is the nameless lady to whom his friend had been betrothed in Italy, and that his desertion of her was the occasion of that profound melancholy which was gradually killing her. He sends for Arden, and receives him by the death-bed of Calantha. His Indian nature thirsts for revenge, and, after making known his last discovery to the man whom he now considers his deadliest foe, draws a dagger, but is arrested in the act of striking by the entrance of Lucy, who throws herself between them. The relationship between Lucy and Arden is revealed, and she goes home with her father. Morvale, still struggling with his savage thirst for vengeance, wanders over the country on foot, and at last meets with an old man who converts him to Christianity. A chance occurring, he saves Arden from drowning, but leaves him before he has recovered his consciousness, though not before he has been seen and recognized by Lucy. Arden at length dies. By an informality in his will, Lucy is disinherited, and at this juncture Morvale returns in season to have the story end canonically with a wedding.
Our brief sketch does no kind of justice, of course, to the narrative skill of the author, which is, we are inclined to think, his strong point. But the comparative anatomist will see at a glance, that the skeleton is in many parts inconsistent with itself. Even granting (a large concession), that the hereditary savage in Morvale should have withstood all the refining influences of a high artificial culture, and the Mephistophelic polish acquired by attrition with the world, there is still a ģeographical blunder in the character. It is far less in accordance with what we know of the mild nature of the Hindoo, than with the less tractable idiosyncrasy of our American Indian, which takes the color of the white man's civilization only as a paint through which the Maker's original red shows itself at the first opportunity. But after making this allowance, we feel that the author has not used the character to the best advantage. This fresh, unfettered nature might have been brought into fine contrast with Arden, the artificial product of the club and the saloon. Indeed, this seems to have been the author's original design, but in point of fact there is little substantial difference between the two characters as they are exhibited to us in the narrative, and they might change places without any great shock to the reader's sense of fitness. *
Our author makes up his characters. His mind is not of that creative quality which holds the elements of different characters, as it were, in solution, allowing each to absorb only that which is congenial to itself, by a kind of elective affinity. The only savage propensity of Morvale's nature which is brought to bear upon the story is the sentiment of revenge, and for this the motive is not sufficient. Why should Morvale wish, or how could he expect, that Arden should have committed what would have been at least moral bigamy by marrying Calantha ? If not, what injury was there to avenge? The story, in fact, ends with Arden's discovery of his daughter; the whole of Morvale's conduct after this event seems to be an unnatural excrescence. The author may plead that he intended to convey a moral ; but the moral of a story should always be infused into it, or rather should exhale out of every part of it, like the odor of a flower. It is but an incumbrance, when wafered on. Besides, the means by which he manages the conversion of his hero are ludicrously insufficient to the end. If Horace's rule be true, that a god must not be brought in unless the knot refuses to be unloosed by simpler means, then it follows, a fortiori, that, when brought, the god should be competent to the task in hand. It is absurd that Morvale, after holding out so long against more natural inducements, should be converted at last by a very prosy sermon from an old man whom he meets under a hedge, and whom he would have been much more likely to consider a bore than an apostle. The author should have remembered his master Pope's criticism upon Milton. It would have been much more to the purpose, had Morvale been regenerated by his love for Lucy. As the dénouement is managed, we feel very much as when we first discovered that the red man of our boyish
In his tragedy of “Luria,” Mr. Browning has finely worked out an idea similar in kind, though with tragic, and not satirical, contrast. We are glad to recognize in the last work of this very promising dramatist a more assured touch, and a chastened, though by no means diminished, vigor and originality. VOL. LXIV. - No. 135.
imagination, the one hero of Cooper under a dozen aliases,
“The stoic of the woods, the man without a tear," was powerless to resist the persuasion of a string of glass beads.
We will now proceed to extract some of the passages wbich have struck us most favorably in reading the book, and which give a fair idea of the author's manner and spirit. In the first part of the poem there are a few sketches of well-known public characters, which, as they are complete in themselves, and have no connection with the story, we will quote first. They do not assume to be complete full-lengths, but must be understood as hit off with a pencil on the crown of a hat. We omit that of Sir Robert Peel, who seems to have puzzled our author, and come to the Duke of Wellington.
“ Next, with loose rein and careless canter view
Our man of men, the Prince of Waterloo ;
- pp. 34, 35.
O'Connell next passes across our magic-lantern.