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better fitted to call out various and conflicting passions, than this one in which we find poor Reginald. Of these, bitter, and cutting, and gnawing re•morse, is one of the chief; and the unhappy hoy casts back many an agitated thought to his beloved father's study. The calm expression of that bland countenance smites him worse than that of a Gorgon; and he curses his very existence, when he thinks how weakly and how basely he has been betraying the sacred trust reposed in him of a parent's peace. Independently of the utter forgetfulness of all proper academical pursuits, and his participation, now felt to be more shameful than it really could be, in follies for ever bordering on vice, he is day after day getting deeper, and deeper, and deeper into debt, and the strength and virtue of his soul seem dying within him, as he gradually knows himself to be more and more dependent on those tradesmen, whom, at the same time, he must confess to himself he has injured. This feeling, so agonizing and unendurable in its paltry pain to the honourable mind,—and his is an honourable mind,—makes him more and more helpless, hopeless, reckless, disturbed, distracted, and diseased in , spirit. He is enveloped in a net, that has been slowly creeping up from feet to forehead, and whose meshes he cannot break. A condition like this in ordinary hands would have become revolting in description ; but this author has saved his hero from degradation, and preserved our sympathies, by the clear light which he has thrown on the circumstances thathaveinsensibly thus reduced him, so that he appears as if under a fate, while his fervid and generous spirit still exhibits itself in various fine traits that redeem its greatest errors. His principles are still all sound at the core; and we feel that Reginald may be ruined, but will not be dishonoured, and that, happen what may, he will ultimately, by some exertion of his own, liberate himself from such jeopardy, and leave no poor man his creditor, to the value of the tuft on bis cap.
Thus agitated, tempted, and tried, Reginald Dalton loves, with a more desperate passion, the beautiful Helen Hesketh. In her presence, all mean or mighty miseries are laid at rest—comfort and hope breathe from the face of that dutiful and happy girl—and to
possess her, however distant the day, is a thought that brings the brightness of a blessed felicity over the black realities of his most dismal hours. "Who she is he knows not. Over her birth there is a mystery which his delicate mind seeks not to penetrate; and that mystery, which seems always to involve something sad, sorrowful, and disastrous, bestows on the resigned and cheerful creature a more touching beauty, and renders her image the emblem of everything most pure, most submissive, most innocent, and it may perhaps soon be also most deserted and lonely on the earth. That such a passion, of which a youth, in such a situation, should be unrequited, is not in the order of novels or of nature; and, fair reader, learn from what follows how true is their mutual love. The scene of those impassioned vows is Godstowe Abbey.
"He found one of the gates unlocked, and stood within the wide circuit of those grey and mouldering walls, that still marks the limits of the old nunnery. The low moss-covered fruit-trees of the monastic orchard, flung soft and deep shadows upon the unshorn turf below: the ivy hung in dark slumbering masses from every ruinous fragment; the little rivulet, which winds through the guarded precincts, shrunk far within its usual bound, trickled audibly from pebble to pebble. Reginald followed its course to the arch-way, beneath which it gushes into the Isis—but there his steps were arrested.—He heard it distinctly—it was but a single verse, and it wus sung very lowly—but no voice, save that of Ellen Hesketh, could have poured out those soft and trembling tones.
"He listened for a few moments, but the voice was silent. He then advanced again between the thick umbrageous trees, until he had come within sight of the chapel itself, from which, it seemed to him, the sounds had proceeded. Again they were heard—again the same sweet and melancholy strain echoed from within the damp arches, and shook the stillness of the desolate garden. Here, then, she was, and it was to find her he had come thither; yet now a certain strange mysterious feaifulness crept over all his mind, and he durst not, could not, proceed.
"He lay down prostrate among the long grass, which, so deep was the shade above, yet retained the moisture of the last night's dew, and thence, gazing wistfully upon the low door of the dis1824.] Reginald
mantled chapel, he drank the sorrowful melody timidly, breathlessly, in pain, and yet in luxury.
"Again it was silent—a thousand perplexing agonizing thoughts hovered around and above him—he could not toss them away from them—he could not forget them. They were there, and they were stronger than he, and he felt himself to be their slave and their prisoner. But their fetters, though within view, had not yet chained up all his spirit; the gloom overhung, but had not overwhelmed him; the pressure had not squeezed him with all its iron strength. No—the sense of misery, the keenest of all, had communicated its feverish and morbid quickness to that which it could not expel—Love, timorous, hopeless love, had caught a sort of infectious energy, and the long suppressed flame glowed with a stern and desperate stedfastness, amidst the darkness which had deepened around its altars. Next moment, however, that energy was half extinguished in dejection ;—the flame still burnt intensely— but lowly as of old.
"' Alas!' he said to himself, * I shall never hear her again—I am ruined, undone, utterly undone—blasted in the veryopening—withered on the threshold! Humiliation, pain, misery, lie before me, as surely as folly, madness, phrenzy, wickedness, are behind—as surely as shame, burning, intolerable shame, is with me now. Yet one feeling at least is pure—here I have worshipped innocence in innocence. Alas! it is here— here, above all—that 1 am to suffer! Miserable creature that I am! She is feeble, yet I have no arm to protect her; she is friendless, yet the heart that is hers, and hers only, dare not even pour itself at her feet. She is alone in her purity; I alone in sinful, self-created helplessness! Love, phrenzy of phrenzies, dream of dreams! what have I to do with Love? Why do 1 haunt her footsteps? why do 1 pollute the air she breathes?—how dare I to mingle the groans of guilty despair with those tender sighs?—Beautiful, spotless angel!— what have I to do in bringing my remorseful gloom into the home of your virtuous tears, your gentle sorrows!— How shall I dare to watch with you— with you—beside the pillow of a good man's sickness ?—Shame! shame!—let me flee from him, from you—from all but myself and my misery.'
"He had started from his wet lairhe stood with a cheek of scarlet, an eye darkly flashing, and a lip of stedfast whiteness, gazing on the ivied ruin, like
117one who gaze9 his test. At that moment Ellen's sweet voice once more thrilled upon his ear. It seemed as if the melody was coming nearer—another moment, and she had stepped beyond the threshold. She advanced towards a part of the wall which was much decayed, and stood quite near the speechless and motionless youth, looking down upon the calm waters of Isis gliding just below her, and singing all the while the same air he had first heard from her lips. —Alas! if it sounded sorrowfully then, how deep was now the sorrow breathed from that subdued and broken warbling of ■ The Rhine I the Rhine! be blessings on the
Rhine!' She leaned herself over the low green wall, and Reginald heard a sob struggle against the melody. * She grieves,' he said to himself—' she grieves, she weeps!' and with that, losing all mastery of himself, he rushed through the thicket.
"Ellen, hearing the rustling of leaves, and the tramp of a busty foot, turned towards the boy, who stopped short upon reaching the open turf. Her first alarm was gone, when she recognized him; and she said, a faint smile hovering on her lips, 'Mr Dalton, I confess I was half frightened—How and whence have you come?' Ere she bad finished the sentence, however, her soft eye had instinctively retreated from the wild and distracted gaze of Reginald—she shrunk a step backward, and re-echoed her own question in a totally different tone—' Mr Dalton, how are you here?—whence have you come?—You alarm me, Mr Dalton —your looks alarm me. Speak, why do you look so?'
"' Miss Hesketh,' he answered, striving to compose himself, 'there is nothing to alarm you—I have just come from Witham—Mr Keith told me you were here.'
"' You are ill, Mr Dalton—you look exceedingly ill, indeed, sir. You should not have left Oxford to-day.'
"' I am to leave Oxford to-morrow— I could not go without saying farewell.'
"' To-morrow!—But why do you look so solemn, Mr Dalton ?—You are quitting college for your vacation?'
"' Perhaps for ever, Miss Heskctli— and'
"' O Mr Dalton, you have seen my uncle—you think he is very badly, I see you do—you think you shall never see him again, I know you think so!'
"' No, 'tis not so; he has invited me to come back with you now; and besides, Mr Keith will get better—1 hope, I trust, I am sure he will.'
"< Ton would ftiin deceiva me,' said Ellen, ' and 'tis kindly meant.'
"' Nay, indeed, ma'am, I hope Mr Keith has seen the worst of his illness. Y.mi did well to bring him to this fine air, this beautiful place.'
"' A beautiful place it is, Mr Dalton.'
"' It is Paradise, but I shall never see it again. I look for the last time upon it —and almost—almost for the last time— upon you,'
"The young man shook from head to foot as these words were trembling upon his lips. She, too, threw her eyes on the ground, and a deep glow rushed over her face; but that was chased instantly by a fixed and solemn paleness, and her gaze once more met his.
"He advanced close to her, (for hitherto he had not changed his position,) and leaned for a moment over the broken wall. His hasty hand had discomposed some loose stones, and a fragment of considerable size plunged into the dark stream below. Ellen, thinking the whole was giving way, pulled him quickly backwards from the brink. He lost his balance, and involuntarily, and less by his own act than hers, he was Or his knees before her.
"' Rise, up, Mr Dalton—I pray you rise.*
« ' I asked for nothing, Miss Hesketh, I hope for nothing, 1 expect nothing. But since I do kneel, I will not rise till I have said it—I love you, Ellen—I have loved you long—I have loved you from the first hour I saw you. I never loved before, and I shall never love another.'
"' Mr Dalton, you are ill—you are sick—you are mad. This is no language for me to hear, nor for you to speak, llise, rise, I beseech you."
"' Ellen, you are pale, deadly pale—you tremble—I have hurt you, wretch that I am—I have wounded, pained, offended you.'
"' Pained indeed," said Ellen, 'but not offended, You have filled me with sorrow, Mr Dalton—I give you tluu and my gratitude. More you do wrong in asking for; and if it had been otherwise, more I could not have given you.'
"The calmness of her voice and words restored Reginald, in some measure, to his self-possession. He obeyed the last motion of her hand, and sprung at once to his feet. 'You called me mad, Miss Hesketh—'twas but for a moment.'
"Ere he had time to say more, Miss Hesketh moved from the spot;—and Reginald, after pausing for a single instant, followed, and walked across the monastic garden, close by her side—both
of them preserving total rtfence. A deep flush mantled the young man's countenance all over—but ere they had reached the gate, that had concentrated itself into one small burning spot of scarlet upon either cheek. She, with downcast eyes, and pale as monumental marble, walked steadily and rapidly; while he, with long and regular strides, secmad to trample, rather than to tread the dry and echoing turf. He halted within the threshold of the ruined archway, and said, in a whisper of convulsive energy, ' Halt, madam, one word more ere we part. I cannot go with you to Witham—you must say what you will to Mr Keith. I have acted this day like a scoundrel—a villain—you called it madness, but 1 cannot plead that excuse. No, madam, there was the suddenness, the abruptness of phrenzy in the avowal—but the feeling had been nurtured and cherished in calmness, deliberately fostered, presumptuously and sinfully indulged. I had no right to love you; you behold a miserably weak and unworthy creature, who should not have dared to look on you.—But 'tis done, the wound is Acre, and it never can be healed. I had made myself unhappy, but you have driven me to the desperation of agony.—Farewell, madam, I had nothing to offer you but my love, and you did well to reject the unworthy gift—my love! You may well regard it as an insult Forget the moment that I never can forget—Blot, blot from memory the hour when your pure ear drank those poisonous sighs! Do not pity me—I have no right to tot*—and jnty !—no, no— forget me, I pray you—forget me and my misery.—And now, farewell once more —I am alone in the world.—May God bless you—you deserve to be happy.'
"He uttered these words in the same deep whisper by which he had arrested her steps. She gazed on him while he spake, with an anxious eye and a glowing cheek—when he stopped, the crimson fleeted away all in an instant. Pale as death, she opened her white and trembling lips, but not a word could come. The blood rushed again over cheek, brow, and bosom, and tears, an agony of tears, streamed from her fixed and motionless eyes.
"Reginald, clasping his forehead, sobbed out,'Thrice miserable ! wretch! miserable wretch! I have tortured an angel !'—Mr seized her hand, and she sunk upon the grass—he knelt over her, and her tears rained upon his hands. 'O God!' he cried, 'why have I lived for this hour? Speak, Ellen—speak, and speak forgiveness.'
"• Forgiveness !' she said—' O mock me not, Mr Dalton! what have I to forgive?'
"' Forgive the words that were wrung from me in bitterness of soul—Forgive me—forgive the passionate, involuntary cries of my mad anguish.'
"' Oh, sir, you grieve, you wound me! —you know not how you wound me. I am a poor helpless orphan, and I shall soon have no friend to lean to.—How can I listen to such words as you have spoken ?—I am grateful; believe my tears, I am grateful indeed.'
"' Grateful! for the love of mercy, do not speak so—be calm, let me see you calm.'
"' How can I be calm? what can I say? Oh, Mr Dalton, it is your wild looks that have tortured me, for I thought I had been calm!—Oh, sir, I pray you, be yourself—do not go from me thus—I am young and friendless, and I know not what I should do or speak.—You, too, are young, and life is before you—and I hope happiness—indeed I hope so.'
"'Nay,' said Reginald, solemnly,' not happiness—but 1 trust calmness to endure my misery. You may, but I cannot forget;' and with this his tears also flowed, for hitherto not one drop had eased his burning eye-lids.
"Neither for a few moments said anything—at last, Ellen rubbed aside her tears with a hot and rapid hand—and < Hear me,' she said, ' hear me, Mr Dalton. We are both too young—we are both inexperienced—and we have both our sorrows, and we should both think of other tilings. Go, sir, and do your duty in the world; and if it will lighten your heart to know, that you carry with you my warmest wishes for your welfare, do take them with you. Hereafter there may come better days for us both, and then perhaps—but no, no, sir, I know 'tis folly'
"She bowed her head upon her knees —lie drew her hand to his lips, and kissed it, and wept upon it, and whispered as none ever whispered twice, and was answered with a silence more eloquent even than all the whispers in the universe.
"They sat together, their eyes never meeting, blushing, weeping, one in sorrow and one in joy. Thoughts too beautiful for words, thoughts of gentlest sadness, more precious than bliss, filled them both, and gushed over and mingled in their slow calm tears."An hour passed away, and there they were still speechless—the tears indeed bad ceased to flow, and their cheeks had
become as pale as their love was pure— but the fulness of their young hearts was too rich for utterance—and all seemed so like a dream, that neither had dared, even by a whisper, to hazard the dissolving of the dear melancholy charm."
Reginald is now secured in that possession, which, to him, included all worth having in this life. He returns to his father s house, and there makes a confession, not of his love, hut of his misdemeanours, and all his expensive follies. Nothing can be more beautiful and pathetic than the description of his father's entire forgiveness, and of the yearnings of his undiminished, his increased affection towards his beloved Reginald. The feelings of Reginald, too, are all painted as well as may be; and the vicarage is a happier dwelling than it ever was before, in the light of forgiveness, contrition, and reassured confidence and hope. The father and son read together their favourite classics once more; in which Reginald now sees meanings and gleamings of passion that formerly were hidden; for even during these few restless months his intellect had expanded and ripened, and from distress and delight, from perturbation and blessedness, he had learnt to know something of himself, and of that nature to which he belonged. Meanwhile the Vicar had contrived, limited as were his means, to raise a sum sufficient for the payment of his son's debts; and Reginald returns in due time to Oxford, with the certainty of freedom from his former degrading and intolerable bondage.
But, alas! it is not so easy to carry into execution the best formed and severest resolutions of virtue, in spite of all the nameless and inconceivable obstacles and difficulties that former follies had created, and which remain still as stumbling-blocks, or pit-falls, or barriers, to the sorely beset individual who would fain turn from the errors of the way that has too long been trodden. So we have the history of new trials, new failures, and new falls; and Reginald Dalton—aftermany noble efforts to save himself from ruin, and among others a voluntary surrender of his status in the university, and descent from the rank of a commoner to that of a servitor, in order that he might retrieve his ruined fortunes—he unluckily engages in a duel with his old acquaintance Chisney, whom fc ,
120 lieghtakl Ballon.
discovers attempting a brutal assault on Helen Hesketh, wounds his antagonist, is imprisoned, and finally expelled the university. All these incidents, with all their accompanying causes and effects, are narrated with liveliness and vigour, and bring us to the end of the second volume.
Now, whoever wishes to know what the third volume contains, will have the goodness to read it. All we shall say is this, that all Reginald's prospects in life are utterly ruined, and his love for Helen now seems hopeless.— He determines to go to India; and they first swear eternal fidelity in each other's arms. But, after many chapters of accidents, the tragic scene shifts, and hope rises on the horizon. Hidden things are brought to light—histories of old times revived—secrets revealed —and affairs in general undergo many remarkable and important revolutions. There is throughout the greater part of the last volume an uncommon bustle, and running to and fro of all parties concerned. The wily are detected; the crafty confuted; the guilty punished; the good rise up from poverty, or obscurity, or danger; and, when the curtain falls, the head of Helen Hesketh is on the bosom of Reginald Dalton;—and they are spending their honey-moon at GeypherwastHall, of which Helen Hesketh turned out to be heiress; and may Mrs Dalton long flourish, and give birth to at least three daughters, as fair and as good as their delightful mother.
A long analysis of a popular novel in a Magazine or Review, is indeed a dull absurdity ; and we have therefore done no more now, than merely state a few things that it was necessary to state, to bring out before our readers something of the character of this very original production. The extracts will speak for themselves; and it will be seen, from the glimpses of the story which we have given, that it is full of bustle, variety, interest, and passion. We beg therefore to conclude with a few sentences, summing up its general merits and demerits.
In the first place, although neither this novel, nor any other novel we ever read, stands by itself, that is to say, belongs to no class, which we presume is what blockheads desire when they demand something wholly new, Reginald Dalton will be universally acknowledged to be a icorlt of genius. The
conception of it is both poetical and philosophical. It is, on the whole, a fine and a bold illustration of a segment of life's circle. It is a living moving picture—a sort of peristrephic panorama.
In the second place, the main object of the work, namely, a delineation of the youth of a given individual, is attained, and well attained, and Re- ■ginald, with all his faults and transgressions, is a lad of such metal, that the more England contains of them the better—for the bar, the church, the army, and the navy.
In the third place, a great deal of talent is shewn in the sketches of character throughout the three volumes, and for the most part they are true to nature. Of the priest Mr Keith, we may well say with Wordsworth." That poor old man is richer than he seems;" and we have not been half so much in love with anybody since the short peace of 1801, as with Helen Hesketh.
And, lastly, there is throughout, such a power of writing, beautifully, gracefully, vigorously, sarcastically, and wittily, at will, as will puzzle most of our acquaintances to equal, from the great Unknown down to Dominie Small-Text in Tom Campbell. Should any of them not think so, let them try.
Now for the demerits.
In the first place, the deep and vital interest of the history ceases with the conclusion of the second volume. The third, although we are involved in the curious and exciting progress of an uncommon and ingenious denouement, is to us frequently teazing and bothering. Let us, if possible, have no more wills and title-deeds, and cursed parchments of all sorts fluttering and creaking in novels. They are becoming a perfect nuisance.
In the second place, there is not a due proportion preserved between the sad, serious, solemn, pathetic, and impassioned, and the light, airy, frolicsome, and absurd. There is rather too much of the latter. They sometimes seem to be the principal and prevailing character of the work. This is a pity, and obviously happened because the author wrote away without any very regular plan; and when sheets are printed off, pray, Mr Wiseacre, what is to be done?
In the third place, not a few of the incidents are in themselves baddish.