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tures of Swiss republicanism, modes of political existence, heretofore unessayed. Such modes, it must be owned, are better calculated for enjoyment than description. In the contented domestic traits and unvarying tenor of such a life, there is but little aliment for the novelist-and they must, consequently, be as distasteful to him, as long periods of national tranquillity, have ever proved to the historian. Sir Walter, we apprehend, is soon aware of the truth of this reflection, for he quickly descends from the inconvenient elevation of the Swiss mountains, to enjoy in the valley of the Rhine, a more congenial atmosphere. He has no sooner surrounded himself with the emblems of monarchy and aristocracy, than he breathes freely, and feels himself again in his element. He is no longer confined to the tame, unvarying expression of Swiss bluntness and honestybut characters worthy of a novelist; rogues of every hue and dye, and villains of the richest turpitude, are immediately at command. Robber nobles, apostate priests, murderous landknechts, start unbidden from every busb--and the only distress of the author seems to be that of selection_his trouble is how to furnish employment to these worthy allies he has called into the field, and who hover about the flanks, until he has safely brought his travellers to the environs of Dijon, where Charles the Bold of Burgundy, then held his camp.
Having introduced this prince to us on a former occasion, in the pride
of power and insolence of prosperity, be here presents him in his decline and death, and here the interest of the work begins to decline. Huddling together in the most summary and unceremonious manner, the few characters of the drama who happen to be left alive, and bestowing scarce a word at parting on the Swiss maiden, who has magnanimously, as we think, lent her name to the book, he abruptly drops the curtain, bringing his tale to what has been aptly termed, “an apoplectic conclusion.” Apparently, in furnishing out his story, he has drawn on the same sources of information which he consulted for Quentin Durward, pursuing trains of thought suggested by his former investigations, and weaving into the present piece, such threads as could not conveniently be wrought into the tissue of the former.
In accompanying the merchants (for they are, in truth, the heroes of the piece) from Geierstein to the camp of the Burgundian Duke, it is impossible not to be struck with the fullness of the author-with the ample stores of knowledge which he has provided for the occasion. Counting for nothing the resources of an exhaustless invention, he arms himself for his task by a severe study of histories, biographies and memoirs—embueing
himself not only with the knowledge of public events and characters, but of all that was peculiar in the interests, feelings and superstitions of the period, and of the people of whom he treats. Like an experienced general, he skilfully reconnoitres the ground, and seizes on every “coin of vantage” that lies in the direction of his march. If the scenery of the Rhine begins to pall, he invokes the powers of his invention, and lo! some errant damsel, with mask on face and hawk on hand, flits opportunely by to relieve the tediousness of the way, or some scoundrel priest, whose charitable intents are robbery and murder, comes howling in your ear his dismal psalmody! Anon, when you have touched the German soil, he draws forth his stores of antiquarian lore, and sketches a most revolting (but we must suppose, not unfaithful) picture of the refinement of German manners, and the hospitalities of a German inn! “And in the lowest deep a lower deep,” as if a German inn were not simply and in itself, a perfect pandemonium, he touches a trap, and initiates you into all the fearful mysteries and appalling rites of the “ Secret Tribunal.” At Strasburg, we are unexpectedly introduced to the unhappy Margaret of Anjou, whose crimes and sorrows have been immortalized by a greater hand—and after her, her father Renè. Renè, the king of fiddlers and troubadours, is seen, in the shifting scenes of this eventful story, following his melancholy daughter, like farce succeeding tragedy.
It is not over-clear what is to be considered as the main action of the piece. If we suppose it to be the defeat and death of Burgundy, and the consequent overthrow of the scheme of Oxford, to build up through his aid, the fallen house of Lancaster, then must we look upon the visit to Provence, and the introduction of the king of the Trobadours, as an episode ; for as the embassy of Arthur entirely failed, as Provence was not surrendered to the Duke of Burgundy, and the aid required from that Prince was never furnished, it is manifest that the whole scene might have been omitted without prejudice to the general design. But we suspect that even a slighter thread of connexion would have been seized on by our author, rather than forego the occasion of exhibiting so rich an original as René, and of contrasting him so gay, insouciant, and bouyant, amidst distresses that would have crushed an ordinary spirit, with the stern, he
self-willed, implacable Margaret of Anjou. It is a realization, as it were, of the fable of the Osier and the Oak: the storms of life sweep harmlessly over the silly but yielding monarch, while the stubborn and inflexible heart of Margaret is rent and overwhelmed by resistance. An octogenarian king,
(a king of shreds and patches !) engaged in the regal task of composing ariettes and ballets, presiding not in the exercises befitting his age and station, but in courts of love and contests of troubadours-a dancer in religious pageants-a composer of the admired air, to the tune of which King Herod was cudgelled in the mystery; but unrivalled and surpassing himself in the festival of asses! What a caricature of a king! The character is too pitiable to be amusing, but to see such a one, entrapping his daughter, under the guise of a religious festival, in a noon-day masquerade in the streets of Aix, capering and flourishing before her, as a grotesque Solomon, come to do homage to the Queen of Sheba-is, on the part of one, who, silly as he was, must have known the sorrowing unjoyous temper of his own child-a stretch of foolery so utterly inconceivable, that we trust the author has derived it from some chronicle of the day; we trust, in short, that it is history, for it seems to us to violate all the verisimilitude, and to shock all the probabilities of fictitious narrative! The scenes in which such opposites in nature have been pourtrayed, are moving and replete with incident ; and the dialogue is free, bold, and highly characteristic-yet, we are mistaken, if the reader can feel an interest in either. The follies of René make him contemptible in spite of the goodness of his heart; and who can sympathize with Margaret, dethrone exiled, widowed, childless as she is, who recalls the image of the implacable tyger-hearted—“she wolf of France,” who is represented (without violation of dramatic probability,) as stabbing young Rutland, and tauntingly offering to dry the tears of the agonized father, with a napkin steeped in the blood of his child?
Like Homer and Milton, our author introduces machinery into his poems : but he is mindful of the precept of Horace, and does not frame it of too costly or unmanageable materials-he introduces neither god, demigod nor archangel; sometimes he ventures on a ghost, but in general he employs a set of inferior, mere human agents-perfect busy-bodies it must be owned, who thrust themselves forward on every need of the author, to extricate his characters or the story. There is often no sufficient motive apparent for their interference, nor does the author always remember to explain it. These agents are sometimes of a very pleasing and loveable description, as every reader of taste will confess, who remember Catharine Seyton: at other times they are less inviting, and we have to take up with some "gaberlunzic body,” or some old spae-wife like Meg Merrilies, who goes about with a bee in her head, acting with an energy and sagacity, beyond the reach of mere unexcited wisdom. In
the work before us, the agent is in the first instance, of a very touching complexion-a Swiss maiden, blooming as a rose, active as a fawn, and bold as a lion, who is endowed with a convenient ubiquity, and appears as the guardian angel of the high spirited Arthur, to protect him from the storm of calamities by which he is beset. She rescues him from his perilous perch among the crags of Geierstein-saves him from the two-handed cleaver of Donnerhugel-extricates him from the dungeon prisons of La Ferette-warns him of the machinations of the false priest, and draws hin into an ambuscade at Arnheim, in order to afford him an opportunity of explanation. Her motives, and the secret of her opportune appearance being concealed from the reader, he is sometimes almost tempted to doubt whether she is not of the race of those elemental beings, with which popular superstition had peopled the mountains of Switzerland as well as those of Scotland. Considering, however, the flesh and blood, the palpable mortality, if we may so speak, which she had shewn in the dance, and at the social board, we think that Arthur suffers the Arnheim legend to take too strong a hold on his imagination. So bewildered and possessed is he by this legend, that in the night watch at the bridge, when he meets his mistress alone and by moonlight, he cannot speak, but gazes on her in momentary expectation of seeing her dissolve into kindred air. We cannot commend the promptitude of our young gallant, on this memorable occasion, and are reminded against our wills, of Master Slender, making his approaches to Mistress Ann Page, and we wish for his sake and the lady's, that he had had some uncle Shallow at bis elbow, to back him, and push him on to exploit! But we grieve to say, that the presence of the fair Swiss maiden, seems almost as embarrassing to the author himself, as it had but just proved to Arthur: for be no has sooner effected an explanation, then he dismisses her unceremoniously in the streets of Strasburg, to the enjoyment of German hospitality, and the courtesy of Ital Schneckenwald! Nor does the reader see her in the sequel, or hear of her, except that the last page, like the chorus of the ancient tragedy, gives a glimpse of her future happiness and prosperity! Our author has no sooner laid his hand on the black priest of St. Paul's, than the Swiss maiden, her agency being no longer needed, is cast aside and forgotten! Priest, count, carmelite, chief of the secret tribunal! What fitter agent could be desired ? He adopts him without scruple, and we behold him regularly installed as scoundrel of all work!
One prominent defect there is in Sir Walter's novels; and it is one which time, we fear, will never mend. It is his insensiVOL. IV.NO. 8.
bility to the nice shades and changeable hues of female character. In this branch of his art, he is inferior to Richardson and Fielding. If his females interest us, it is seldom by traits that are simply and peculiarly feminine,—but rather from historical association, from the dangers to which they are exposed, from the fortitude which they display under calamity, from the virtues in short which they exhibit, and which we must admire, independently of sex! Our fancy may be touched, our admiration kindled, but our hearts are seldom strongly moved ! He presents them to us in state, in their gala dresses, we see little beyond exterior,, we enter not with them in their boudoirs, communę not with them in their hours of secrecy, read not their hidden thoughts, their trembling hopes, their anxious fears, witness not the torments, or the delicious agitations of love, look not, in short, on that tempestuous ocean of passionate and tumultuous feeling, the unveiled female heart. Man has been the study of our author-man in all his phases, of every station and condition from the beggar to the king, and in each creation of his pencil, there is an individuality, a distinct personality, that distinguishes it from every one beside. We think that in spite of his assumed importance, we should detect Gilbert Glossin, by his thievish air; and that we could distinguish Dugald Dalgetty in a croud, as readily as Jack Falstaff. We shall not assert that his characters of men are as true to nature as Shakspeare's, but we do maintain, that they are as true to themselves, as thoroughly consistent. Davus never speaks, what belongs to Pythias or Silenus.
In his talent for dramatizing, he is far beyond every living author his dialogue is fraught with energy, variety and power. He enters (as by metempsychosis) into a thousand bodies, and infuses his own spirit into each, but his license does not extend to the softer sex. Whatever is bold, stern and masculine in the characters of women, he can seize and pourtray, the softer traits elude him ; he might paint Margaret, indeed, as forcibly as Shakspeare, he might body forth the dark ambitious aspirations of Lady Macbeth, but could he paint the gentle-lovelorn Juliet ? Hence it is, that these Waverly Novels, have higher attraction for the student, the statesman, the man of the world, than for those who are the chief patrons and consumers of this species of literature-we mean the ladies. The Novels of Scott, are in truth, historical romances, mere vehicles for illustrating the manners, superstitions, and antiquities of various lands and periods: and not, what the name originally purported—tales of love! For such tales, if we must speak the sober truth-we fear Sir Walter is not peculiarly fitted—we