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as one of the fathers of the English Novel. If he had adopted uniformly a different form of narrative, and used what in this age of economists, political and otherwise, is so essential in mechanical philosophy—condensation-his popularity would have sustained as little fluctuation as that of any writer in our language. That he painted with great force and discrimination a society, (although it might not have been the highest) which existed in England in his time, there can be no doubt, and that he mingled with these representations many of the great and instructive truths of human nature, is equally certain; nor can we be insensible to the moral scope and design of his writings,
, which is to make virtue uniformly triumphant in the midst of all the desolation, adversity and distress by which she is so frequently surrounded. In scenes of this description, he has bad no equal; we mean ip what may strictly be called the tragedy of prose fiction. There is a peculiar agony in the distresses of Clarissa and Clementina, the effect of which is infinitely augmented by the pictures of matchless loveliness which he gives us of both, nor is the triumph of Pamela the less affecting because there is cast around her none of the glare of worldly splendour which adorns what we may well call the apotheosis of female virtue--the fate of the celestial victim of Lovelace's villainy and crimes. We will, however, conclude our estimate of this old English novelist, in words that are better than our own: “The character of Lothario seems to have been expanded by Richardson into that of Lovelace; but he has excelled his original in the moral effect of the fiction. Lothario, with gaiety which cannot be hated, and bravery which cannot be despised, retains too much of the spectator's kindness. It was in the power of Richardson alone, to teach us at once esteem and detestation, to make virtuous resentment overpower all the benevolence which wit, and elegance and courage naturally excite, and to lose at last the hero in the villain.”
To the minor romance or English Novel, must Smollet also be technically assigned, although he was the painter of three kingdoms, and searched through the greater part of civilized Europe for the scenes of his fictions. He was emphatically national, and drew largely both on the peculiarities of his own countrymen and the raciness of the Irish character, for the finest and most piquant of his pictures. In 1748 he brought forth his Roderick Random, in which it was supposed be bad de picted the adventures of his own life. This work, with some offensive and revolting features, and among these, the character of the hero himself, displays an extraordinary knowledge of human life and maoners, and at once placed its author by the
side of Fielding, where he has ever since remained, with an unsettled question of relative excellence between them. We have never besitated in assigning the superiority to Fielding, although his fame rests on one chef d'auvre, and that of Smollet on many. Smollet's great excellence is in the portraits which adorn his fictions, and which certainly possess wonderful graphic fidelity and verisimilitude. His narrative is often disconnected and sometimes feeble, and his incidents too frequently made up of a sort of malicious school-boy mischief exhibited in torturing others with ingenious and vindictive combinations, of the petty ills of life. His two heroes are at best but well-dressed blackguards, who, in neglecting many of the essential duties of life, seem to think that in their coarse gibes and jests they furnish an ample atonement for the want of gratitude, sobriety, honour, and sometimes even common honesty. . Nothing can surpass the barbarity of Random in his treatment of poor Strap on several occasions; nor can anything exceed the debasing grossness of that mauvais sujet Peregrine. But in spite of these defects, and many others which we have neither time nor inclination to enumerate, Smollet has displayed the powers of a mighty painter of hunian nature. In the terrific, he is greatly superior to his rival, Fielding, of which we need scarcely cite any other example than the scene of the engagement off Carthagena-whilst in the tender and pathetic, he is very little his inferior. . of his power in the last, the meeting in Paraguay between Random and his father, is an abundant exemplification; and the touching interviews between Roderick and his uncle Bowling, are scarcely less affecting. Notwithstanding the loveliness and accomplishments of Smollet's own wife, he has failed, except in the character of Aurelia Darnel, to give us anything like a picture of intellectual female worth. Narcissa and Emilia are insipid enough except as the objects of a single passion. But in his sea characters, Smollet is without a rival, and Trunnion, Hatchway, Bowling, Pipes and Ratlin, will long remain unapproached and unapproachable chefs d'ouvre. The most beautiful however, and most interesting of Smollet's works, signalized the closing scenes of his life- The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker—which was written at Monte Novo, near Leghorn, whither he had retired in 1771, with an exhausted constitution and broken fortune, under the painful conviction that he should never again see that lake preferred by him for the verdant isles that seem to float upon its surface, to Lago di Garda, Bolsena or Geneva, or the banks of that beautiful stream immortalized in his Arcadian song. Whether the rays of Smollet's setting sun cast a tender and mellowing light upon this last
effort of his muse we know not, but the cynicism which pervades all his other productions, is here softened down into the effervescent but agreeable sub-acid spirit of Matthew Bramble, which characier, take it for all in all, we think the finest picture of racy and original, humour wbich Smollet bas left us. It is a portrait purely and essentially national, in which genius, learning, benevolence, wit and high honour are united with the peculiarities of a sensitive and sarcastic temper. Humphrey Clinker, of whoin it has been amusingly said, that he is merely honest Strap turned Methodist preacher, is very little behind the caustic Welchman in the interest he excites--the whole group of the tourists, from Matthew Bramble down to Winifred Jenkins, forms such a rich variety of character, the peculiarities of each are so accurately sustained throughout, the incidents of their tour are so perfectly natural, and told with such a playful vein of wit and humour, that the reputation of this charming book is forever established as one of the finest national pictures of the manners and society of Great Britain, which has ever been delineated in fictitious composition.
However brief our suminary may be of the national novelists of England, it is impossible to omit the mention of Goldsmith, although he has contributed to this department of literature but a single tale—but this is a pearl of inestimable price. His Vicar of Wakefield is a view of John Bull's fire-side in quiet life, in the aspect where its forms and images borrow most from the loveliness of simplicity and tranquil virtue. This work could have been written no where else but in England, nor can it be fully relished by any but those who are of English origin. It has so happened that most of her einent novelists have been distinguished by painting with peculiar felicity, some one of those characters which distinguish the Anglo-Saxon race. Goldsmith's English Curate is his chef d'æuvre.
In the conception of this character, he is said to have been powerfully assisted by the living example of his own brother, to whom he consecrated more than one enduring testimony of his genius and affection.
The Vicar of Wakefield, is the standard of the legitimate English Novel of rural life. It has produced many beautiful imitations, but not a single rival. We do not know a book which most people read so often, and remember so well, as this simple and affecting tale. If we read it in childhood, we return to it as life advances with a fond and unalienated feeling, not unlike that with which we revisit the scenes of our early innocence and joyous sportiveness, and whether life ebbs or flows, we take up VOL. IV.NO.8.
the Vicar of Wakefield, amidst its business, its pleasures, its calamities, with unabated consolation and deligbt, and hail as an old and valued friend, the eccentric and amiable monogamist, whose trials have taught us fortitude, whose temperance has instructed us in moderation, whose simple enjoyments have told us where the best" affections of the human heart lie, and whose unobtrusive piety has pointed to that road, where the weary wayfaring can alone find rest.
Having thus attempted an analysis and classification of the four standard writers of the legitimate English Novel, it remains for us to say a few words in relation to the other primary classes into which most of her fictions are resolvable.
II. The Gothic or Chivalrous Romance. It is a curious fact, that the son of the least imaginative, and most matter of fact minister, that ever swayed the destinies of Great Britain, is the father of the Gothic Romance, if the first decidedly successful effort in this species of composition gives any just claim to such an appellation. Horace Walpole presented to the world the Castle of Otranto at a period when the public taste obviously rejected with decided aversion the ancient feudal legends, which were so inuch in vogue towards the close of the seventeenth century. No higher proof can be given of his power than, that in an age which had been instructed and delighted by the natural pictures of life, sketched by the pencils of Le Sage and Fielding, he should have been able to bring the public mind back to contemplate, not only with patience but with the deepest interest, those shadowy and undefined scenes of horror, which belong at once to the heroism and superstition of the middle ages. In the Castle of Otranto, (to use his own words) “ he aimed at the art of exciting surprise and horror,” to what extent he succeeded, we need only appeal to the self-examination of each devotee “ of the solemn and marvellous," whose reminiscences can tell with what alternations of intense interest and cold shiverings of secret dread, by the flickering light of the midnight taper, this Romance was first read. One of the strongest peculiarities of the Castle of Otranto is, undoubtedly, the little aid which Walpole derives from a description of external objects. His power is in the force and interest of his narrative and dialogue, and in the pure and idiomatic English, in which his story is told; nor is it less worthy of remark, that the intense interest which he excites, is sustained throughout, notwithsanding the utter improbabilities, not to say unnatural character of his incidents. Of the fretted and august tracery (so to express ourselves) of the pure Gothic, he was a mighty master. His power in this particular, was created by his peculiar tastes and associations;
his profound and minute knowledge of the legends, poetry and architecture of the feudal age-the enthusiasm with which he pored over the relics of this antique form of human societythe fondness with which he wandered amidst the fallen memorials of its greatness; even the dim religious gleams which struggle through the “storied windows richly dight" of lone and deserted cathedrals, nourished with a mysterious aliment, the muse whose province it was to make the dead speak in new accents of horror amid scenes of living interest and suffering.
Walpole (longo intervallo) was followed by Mrs. Radcliffe, a lady whose genius seemed to “pallitself in the dunnest smoke” of horror and mystery. Prolific to excess in the obscure and terrible, it lent new attractions to this species of fiction by adscititious graces and beauties. Not to speak of incidents of the most touching interest and pathos, .we do not know that such exquisite landscapes are any where to be found painted in our literature. Her Sicilian scenes, her rocks, her fountains, and her glades, her alpine moonlight and Italian skies, have all the rich and mellow softness of Claude.
But after all, these ghosts revisiting the glimpses of the moon, to“ make night hideous," all this spectral pomp of “raw beads and bloody bones," were destined to be put to flight, comme de ruison, by the approach of a day of more diffused knowledge and criticism. The Castle of Otranto, and the Mysteries of Udolpho, have now few readers, and it is right, perhaps, that they should have still fewer, for they serve no useful moral purpose, and deal only in fantastic and wild imaginings.
We do not think it worth our while to go through the whole list and inventory of the hobgoblin school, from Monk' Lewis, down to the least inspired of his tribe, it is sufficient for our purpose to say, that whatever may be the merits and defects of this species of fiction, the English romance writers have most successfully and powerfully cultivated it, and have no competitors in the honors and distinctions of this species of composition.
III. The Historical Novel.-In this department of fiction, perhaps the most difficult of all fromthe obvious restraints which truth imposes on the imagination, it was reserved for a living contemporary to stamp his name on the age, in which he lives.
To estimate what Sir Walter Scott has done in this department of invention, it is only necessary to look back and see h w little had been achieved, before the appearance of the Waverly Series, in the historical Novels, not only of his own country, but the rest of Europe. He is certainly the first, and