Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

If any change, then, is to be made in Southern institutions, it must be brought about exclusively by the people of the States immediately interested in this tremendous question. We have no right, certainly, to quarrel with our neighbours about their own domestic arrangements, however dangerous to us the example of some of them may be. If the people of Maryland or Virginia, of Kentucky or Tennessee, deem it their interest to abolish this fundamental law, we shall, certainly, not declare a war quia timet upon them. But we are sufficiently interested in the subject to conjure them to reflect seriously upon what they are doing—to go about such a portentous revolution with the humility which characterizes true wisdom, in matters so far beyond its utmost compass to control-not with the reckless and profligate audacity of self-conceited quacks administering their poisonous nostrums to a charity patient whom they care not if they kill or cure. We would remind them that in politics, more than in any other department of human thought and knowledge, the results of an experiment are wrapt up in darkness and doubt. Man begins a revolution, but its issnes are with God alone. The maxim of the true statesman is festinu lente. The situation in which we find ourselves was not of our own choosing. When we came to the inheritance, it was subject to this mighty incumbrance, and it would be criminal in us to ruin or waste the estate in order to get rid of the burthen at once. That inheritance we are bound to transmit, as far as possible, unimpaired to those who shall owe us their being. We ought never to despair of the republic as it stands so long as a ray of hope is left us. The counsels of a sage patriotism always take it for granted that the state can be saved without throwing into the sea whatever makes it worth preserving. The task of a Southern politician is full of difficulty. The other parts of this country, with a good judicial system to regulate the transactions of individuals, could get along for some time to come almost without any adıninistrative government. But we must be vigilant, and wary, and provident. We must ask our watchmen continually “what of the night. We must look at the seeds of future events, and the causes which have not yet begun to operate. Time, which is the wisest of all things, and the greatest of innovators, may possibly convince us at a future day, that some changes ought to be made. And we are satisfied that if we do not spoil his work by our presumptuous and precipitate interference, all will yet go well. His changes are slow, and gradual, and fitcontraries are insensibly softened down and blended into one another, not without harmony and beauty-and when it is done, those who only look upon the extent of the mutation, wonder how it could have stolen upon their unconscious predecessors, with such an inaudible and noiseless foot. But the voluntary revolutions of man have almost always been abrupt, violent, and for the worse ; so that the wisdom of antiquity* laid it down as a maxim, that every fundamental change in a state must needs be bloody and deadly. We do not mean to say that this truth should make us afraid of doing what freemen sometimes owe to their dignity and rights; but we do affirm that even in extreme cases, it ought to inspire us with a deep and awful sense of responsibility.

Before we dismiss this subject entirely, we think it right to correct an egregious mistake of Captain Hall's about the mortality of slaves on rice plantations. We do not dispute bis data, but only the inference. In one or two instances, from local or temporary causes, this result may have taken place, but it certainly is not a general one. Some of the most remarkable examples that can be cited of increase by mere propagation, have occurred within our own knowledge upon such estates. We are not aware that any induction, sufficiently comprehensive to support a general theory upon this subject, has been made by our statists. There are many other minute errors, but we have neither space nor inclination to correct them. Some of them have been done away with, we trust, by our general remarks.

Upon the whole, we shut this book with a very high respect for Captain Hall's talents, although as we began by saying, he is an ultra-tory and full of the prejudices of his party. Considered as a mere literary performance, the work is liable to many objections. It is very clumsily put together, and full of longueurs. There is an odd mixture of prosing philosophical dissertation and gossipping and garrulous egotism ever and anon breaking out, that becomes in the end quite oppressive. Add to this an offensive air of arrogance and self-conceit, and a style of reasoning, though sometimes Socratic enough, (for he is a perfect inquisitor at interrogation) certainly anything but Academical. We do not believe that his Majesty has a more dutiful, devoted and dogmatical subject. We were at first inclined to like his style, which is very free and idiomatic. But although we prefer decidedly that colloquial ease and simplicity, to what is miscalled elegance by more fastidious critics, we must own he carries it to excess, and deals not only in vulgarisms, but in a disagreeable Tom and Jerry slang. His jokes are not unfrequently very serious things. We do not much wonder that our good people did not "take" as readily as our facetious friend could have wished. We admit (and are very glad of it for reasons that need not be mentioned) that we Americans are a very grave people—but the merriest wag of us would be constrained to say of the Captain, what Boileau does of another wit of the same stamp

* Είσι μεν δηπου πάσαι μεταβολαι πολιτειων θανατηφοροι.

Chapelain est aussi un auteur très plaisant
Et je ne sçais pas pourqui je baille en le lisant.

Note.-In further illustration of our remarks at p. 354, et seq. about the effects of democracy in the long run, we beg to refer our classical readers to the admirable reflections in Cic. de Legib. lib. iii. c. 9, et seq.

ART. IV.-Devereux. A Tale. By the Author of “ Pelham,”

and the “ Disowned.” Reprinted at New-York. J. & J. Harper, 1829.

THERE is no circumstance, perhaps, which more remarkably distinguishes the literature of our language, than the variety and copiousness of its works of fiction. They run through the whole gamut of the passions, (if we may so speak) “ from grave to gay, from lively to severe," and in each, exhibit an almost unparalleled excellence. John Bull no where puts forth his graphic powers so successfully, as in these imaginative representations of life ; which, at least, from the reign of George I, down to the present time, present the very “ form and pressure of the times," in a vast variety of lights, the joint result of all that philosophy has been able to analyze in the secret mechanism of the passions, and poetry to body forth in the beautiful forms of her fanciful creation. When we consider how prolific English genius has been in prose fiction for the last century, and especially within the last ten or fifteen years, it is a subject of surprise, that this talent of the British muse, should so long have reinained buried or inert, after other departments of her literature had attained to maturity, and yielded the richest and most various fruits. The era, which gave to the world, what it never had before, and will probably never have again, the dramatic genius of Sbakspeare, was utterly destitute of even a tolerable Novel, and this sterility was equally hopeless during the period, when Milton was pouring fourth that epic strain, which is destined to be as immortal as his mighty theme “ of God's providence to man.”-Nor does, what has been absurdly called, the “Augustan Age' of British Letters, afford any exception to the fact adverted to, for admirable as the wits of Queen Anne unquestionably were, they never turned their genius into this channel of invention, or attempted in any sustained effort, to paint from human nature, the passions and actions of man. The truth of this remark, is in no degree impaired by Gulliver and the Tale of a Tub, which are rather contemporary and local satires, than novels, and if they yet live, it is not for the value of the insects embalmed in them, but for the amber in which they are preserved. Swift was incapable of writing a legitimate novel, he could take but one view of human nature, and that was on the side on which she presented what was dark and ludicrous, and on this he dwelt with the keenness and sagacity of a fiend. He loved some men, but he did not love the species. Destitute of comprehensive benevolence and true sensibility, he was in fiction only able to libel human nature, not to paint her-at least, not to depict those glimpses of light and revelations of divinity, which tell us that man was born for something else, than to wallow in the filth and baseness of his passions.

In the reign of Charles II. the miserable fictions of Calprenede and Scudéri, through the rage for French literature which characterized that age, were very generally in vogue, and it was long before the public taste was brought to reject this trash, which may well be described, as a wretched half-way point between the extravagance of the old chronicles of chivalry, and the modern Novel. Although the opinion may be new, (we, at least, have never seen it broached,) we, nevertheless, venture to advance it, that the legitimate, national English Novel owes its origin to the numbers of the Spectator. It was not until this fascinating miscellany was given to the world, that the real power of prose fiction in England was developed. The brief but exquisite tales which are scattered throughout this work, distinguished by such discriminating views of human nature, such ease and beauty of style, and such touches of humour and pathos, were the germs of those more elaborate efforts of fiction, which were very shortly to add fresh lustre to the literary renowo of England. She had seen, until the appearance of this periodical, no such portraits, called up from her own fire-sides, as Sir Roger D'Coverly, Sir Andrew Freeport, Captain Sentry, and Will Honeycomb. Without questioning his originality, one cannot but think, that it was by a touch from the wand of the luckless and honest Sir Richard Steele, that the genius of Fielding was awakened and excited to exhibit human nature in all its endless variety of interests and of passions.

What the English Novel really is, is a subject of difficult solution, from the variety of its genera and species.

We must begin, by saying, that we consider, with all his faults, (and by a sad destiny, his faults were the result of his misfortunes,) Henry Fielding, as the father of the English Novel. If England has a national Novel, Fielding is its author. Although he is the novelist of human nature, it is through the racy originals which the customs, manners and modes of thinking in England produced, that he has developed his deep and various knowledge of the human heart. Although he thought in a universal language, that of human nature itself, be spoke through the forms of a particular one, and hence, he is so emphatically English, that he scarcely ever crosses the Tweed or the Channel, to draw upon the resources which the rich peculiarities of the sister kingdoms furnished to his gifted successor, the poet of Leven Water. This inveterate and inviolable adherence to English manners and opinions, has secured to Fielding's works, the distinction of being placed at the head of what may be called the National Novels of Great-Britain.

In the present article, we propose to consider the Novels of Great-Britain, under four distinct heails. J. National. 2. Gothic, or Chivalrous. 3. Historical. 4. Miscellaneous Novels.

I. National Novels. It is the distinguishing excellence of Fielding, that he belongs to the first class, and is the first in that class. He selected English manners, as the medium by which he was to tell the secrets of the human heart, and reveal both the playfulness and energy of the passions. Placed by his misfortunes, in contact with the lowest associations of life, and sometimes, we fear, detained there by his tastes, he was able to add much to his knowledge of human nature. The bright and sunny parts he had been enabled to survey by the advantage of a highly respectable extraction, and wit and accomplishments made him an acceptable companion among the fortunate and the great. Nothing is more probable than what has so often been asserted, that his finest portraits had their living originals. His first novel, the History of Joseph Andrews, commenced as a satire on Richardson's Pamela, (which had just been published and attracted great popularity) assumed in its progress, under the plastic hand of its author, a more important form, and became a work of infinitely greater wit and power, than that which it was designed to satirise. Although one of the most strictly national tales in the world, the most

« ZurückWeiter »