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The duel between Reginald and Chisney, is no great shakes, and duels are dull affairs in modern novels. No duel should be fought, except with lance and sword, on horseback. The scenes in the prison—the Castle of Oxford—are very so so. Nobody could suppose for a moment, that Reginald was to be hanged;—the passion is out of place and exaggerated, and the whole thing a failure. There can be no doubt of that—it is what our ingenious Hogg would call an "Ipse dixit."
In the fourth place, the author feels apparently the highest pleasure, and often puts out his highest powers, in describing characters, which to us are by no means agreeable to look upon or converse with—their absence would be good company. Such is that interminable and everlasting bore, pest, and plague, Ralpho Macdonald, W. S. Confound that old scoundrel! Sir Charles Catline, too, is a painful personage—and even Chisney is too often brought on the stage—for he is a disagreeable chap, and although gentlemanly enough in some things, on the whole a heartless and wickedscamp, and a little of such people goes a long way either in real or imaginary life.
Finally, although this author generally writes with most extraordinary power, and also with extreme elegance, he not seldom falls into ugly and vulgar expressions, in a way to us unaccountable. We have been told the book is full of Scotticisms, but we know nothing about Scotticisms, and have no doubt that they are most excellent things. We allude to lowish—or slang-whanging phrases—or hard-favoured or mean-gaited words intruding themselves; or, what is worse, seemingly being introduced on purpose into the company of all that is graceful and accomplished.
But there is no end of this—we have just filled our tumbler, and could begin to praise and abuse this book, just as if we had not written a single syllable about it. So, instead of doing either the one or the other, we lay down our pen, and shall now read it over again,—at least tillold Christopher arrives. Come—here is the Godstowscene between Reginald and Helen Hesketh !—what need the author of that care for criticism? That is indeed a strain that might " create a soul be neath the ribs of death."
Let Us finish off this article with a spirited note. The book which has been now so ably reviewed is one of those which the editor of the Edinburgh, in the plenitude of his perspicacity, slumps together in a heap about three feet high from the ground, as imitations of the novels of the author of Waverley. Really that worthy old gentleman has been indulging himself somewhat too freely of late years in the privileges of dotage. There cannot be a stronger proof of the dulling and deadening influence of time upon his discriminating faculties, than the unsuspecting assurance with which he looks upon objects as similar, which are essentially distinguished to all other eyes by the most prominent characteristics. The author of Waverley, &c. has written a number of the most admirable of all possible works on the character of Scotchmen, and the scenery of Scotland; therefore, all other men who write about Scotchmen and Scotland, are imitators of the author of Waverley. This is his logic. Now, it so happens, that the various writers whose various works he thus drivelled about with so vacant a countenance, are all distinguished, both in matter and in manner, from one another, and all most unlike, in almost every respect, from their alleged prototype. We believe that it would not be possible, in the whole range of British literature, to point out any fictitious narratives so separate from the Waverley novels, as the very ones which " this moping Owl does to the moon complain" of on the score of their similitude. If he would only take the trouble to scratch his head for a few moments, and think, the Snail Known himself would
Vol. XV. Q
»ee tlii* and acknowledge his stupidity. There have been several very clever imitations of the incomparable works alluded to; and because they were clever imitations, few persons cared about them a fortnight after their publication. But Valerius, Adam Blair, and Reginald Dalton, are creations, purely and entirely, of the mind of their author,—whoever he may be,—original in their conception, as powerful in their execution. Indeed, our little bat-eyed critic knocks himself against the truth, before he has flitted down half a page. For Valerius he altogether excepts from this imputed imitation, and voucheth, that, "such as it is, it is undoubtedly original." Reginald Dalton he nods to in his usual pert and familiar manner ; but, beginning to suspect that he does not comprehend the Oxonian, he Tery prudently avoids any conversation with him, and hops into Mi Constable's shop. Adam Blair then, after all, is the only shadow of some worthy or other in the Waverley Novels; and do now,
food Mr Jeffrey, just inform the public who it is you mean. Is it Dandie Hnmont, or Dominie Sampson, or Quentin Durward, or Balfour of Burley, or King Jamie, or George Heriot, or Meg Merrilies, or Mary Stuart Queen of Scots, or John Knox, or Flibbertigibbet, or Meg Dods? Why, my good fellow, you have just been letting little driblets of ink detach themselves from the point of your pen, without at all considering what you were about, and we only wonder that you have not long ere now set your house on fire ; for what can be more dangerous than, to fall asleep in this manner by candle-light?
Valerius, " such as it is," you are pleased to say, is undoubtedly original; and in proof of this, you immediately add, that the author has borrowed from the Travels of Anacharsis, the ancient romance of Heliodorus and Chariclea, and the later effusions of M. Chateaubriand. This is really distressing. You write, " it would be more plausible to say so," that is, you hint that if yourself, or any other critic, were anxious to utter a detracting falsehood of Valerius, some such insinuation as this would be " plausible." How manly! But do you absolutely opine, that the Travels of Anacharsis are like the effusions of Chateaubriand? or either the one or the other like the Greek romance? Some wizard has thrown the glamour owre you—your optics are disordered—and if you go on at this rate, you will be incapable of distinguishing colours, and go to a funeral in a pea-green surtout.
Valerius, "such as it is!" ay—ay—Mr Francis Jeffrey, Valerius, Such as it is, is a work as far above your powers, as your article Beauty, in the Supplement, is above Macvey's article Bacon in the Transactions, and that is about a mile of perpendicular altitude. Valerius is the work of a consummate scholar, as familiar with the language of ancient Rome, as you are with the jargon of the Outer-House; as much master of the Roman spirit as ever you were master of any synod case before the General Assembly. Were you to be shut up in a tower, commanding a good view of the Frith and the coast of Fife, for six calendar months, and fed on the most exhilarating diet, on condition of producing, at the close of your confinement, a written composition on any subject equal to the worst chapter in the " Roman Story," or of being turned off over the battlements, a la Thurtell, then would the vertebrae of your neck be to be pitied, for dislocation would be inevitable. Now do you, can you in your heart, think this pert prating of yours to be clever ? Are such sneaking insultsto men so immeasurably your superiors, sincere or affected? Do you think that you add two or three inches to your stature, by thus raising yourself up on your toes, in order that you may be able to look pertly into the faces of gentlemen of more commanding stature?
As to « Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life," and the "Trials of Margaret Lyndsay," Jeffrey speaks of them like a boarding-school Miss, rather than like an experienced person approaching threescore. The first of these volumes has become universally popular, on account of the beautiful union which it everywhere exhibits of a rich and fine poetical spirit, with a spirit of the homeliest and most human truth. The whole structure of the language, the whole character of the thought and feeling, the whole composition of incident and story, the whole conception of character and situation, are all essentially different from everything written by the Great Unknown, whatever the Small Known may mutter; nor is there an expression, or an image, or a description, that could lead any reader to suppose that the author of " Lights and Shadows," had even so much as seen a page of any one of the works of that Immortal. As to the Trials of Margaret Lyndsay—that is a humble tale of humble faith, and fortitude, and piety, written in a more subdued, and, as it appears to us, better style than the Lights and Shadows, but remote indeed from any resemblance to the said Novels; and we will add, a tale unsurpassed in our moral literature, possessing manifold and exquisite beauties, and, without a moment's pause of ennui or lassitude, carrying the whole spirit along with the fortunes of one single innocent girl, in a way decisive of a genius possessing prodigious mastery over the human heart. Indeed, almost all this is admitted by Mr Jeffrey, of a tale which, nevertheless, he characterizes in the same breath as an imitation of other writings, of a higher order certainly, but of an order wholly separate and distinct.
But Mr Jeffrey has a theory of his own on this subject. He seriously believes, and declares his belief, after he has reached his grand climacteric, that a certain number of gentlemen—in this case it would appear three—meet together within the four corners of a room, and " in the arduous task of imitating the great Novelist, they have apparently found it necessary to resort to the great principle of division of labour." What a Stot-like idea! It is fixed among them that one takes that arable field—another takes that meadow-ground ; and a third that hill-side; and each is to raise his crop, and bring it to the best market he can. This is very fanciful, indeed, in our critical friend—quite ingenious; and he talks as if he had been present with these gentlemen, and had seen them falling to composition, each on his allotted sheet and subject. We cannot help getting somewhat melancholy when we think on such drivelling nonsense as this; and not having seen this political economist lately, we fear that all is not as it should be. If so, we beg leave to unsay all we have now written, as nothing could be farther from our intention now, or at any time, than to hurt the feelings of any creeping thing; and as we have always thought and said that he is a worthy little fellow, occasionally not without the appearance of considerable talent, and now and then, which, after such exhibitions of himself as these, puzzles us till we are provoked, by no means small beer in satire, and no contemptible expounder of the meanings of wiser men.
Of the Annals of the Parish, Ayrshire Legatees, and all the other works of the same distinguished and excellent writer, we need say little. For our opinion of them, see the review of the Entail, and our answer to Philomag. That he is no imitator of the Great Unknown, one fact will prove—that the Annals of the Parish was written before Waverley. That he may have tried to break a lance with the visored knight, is very probably true ; and that there may be, latterly, also unconscious and unintentional fallings-in of the train of his thoughts with those of the Great Unknown, is most probable. Why not? But be that as it may, no critic of any true discernment or liberality, could ever have thought to deprive thi» gentleman of his undoubted claims to perfect originality in his own walk, or have overlooked or under-valued that originality, as displayed in those works most characteristic of his peculiar genius, that he might insidiously describe him generally as an imitator. Indeed, here too, as before, the critic seems to be accompanied with an under belief of the utter silliness of all he is saying, and really characterizes some of the productions of, this gentleman very fairly indeed, very liberally indeed; but, unluckily, every word he jots down refutes his own sage theory; and it is at once melancholy and ludicrous, to see him cutting his own throat with the neb of his pen, and jagging his tongue for uttering opinions opposite to his paper. Finally, what more absurd abstract idea can the most facetious mind figure to itself, than that of a forty-page article in a Quarterly Review upon a number of works, on whose merits all the world has made up its mind for days, weeks, months, or years? Sometimes, in private life, one hears a dull dog, at the close of a clever evening, begin prosing out piece-meal all the good things that have been said since the turkey. But here an attempt is made to throw light on subjects that are already glaring ; and, after fourteen millions of people have given their opinions on these books, what can be more bairnly, than to pop up your nose as if from the bottom of a coal-pit, where you had been settled, since the revival of letters, to chatter away for an hour and three-quarters, with much vehemence and pertinacity, 'on questions long since set at rest, and to give certificates of character to men of genius, who had all long enjoyed the benefit of good air and reputation, while you, insensible to the sounds of the upper world, were snoring at the bottom of the shaft." C. N.
Co the Criu ffltn of the
Hark ! hark! the sharp voice of Old Christopher North
He greets you, because the dear bond of our love
Hi* heart sings with joy, while all round him he »ee*
He is proud to see Monarchs bend low, cap in hand,
Laugh, fiddle, and song, ring out gay in the town,
He rejoices to see every engine at work,
From the steamer immense, to the sweet knife and fork;
The weaver at loom, and the smith at his forge;
And all loyal and steady, and true to King George.
Whigs, therefore, avaunt! there's no chance now for ye—
We forget they exist in the general glee;
He begs you won't let them diminish your cheer,
So he wishes you, darlings, a Happy New-Year.
There's the King, bless his heart, long is likely to live,
And the Duke at the head of the army to thrive;
There's Wellington extant, who badger'd the Gaul,
And Eldon still sitting in Westminster-Hall.
There's Scott writing prose—and there's—who writing verse?
Why, no one; but, nang it, think never the worse.
Sure, there's Christopher North writes your Magazine here,
And wishes you, darlings, a Happy New-Year.
In the midst of this wealth, of this national pride—