Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

influence they respectively exercised on its which, in the present day, give scope for direct results, naturally render them objects most novelty and adventure, and which genof earnest and improving investigation and erally call out for the time, if not permadiscussion to foreign politicians, who are nently, whatever is most passionate and enstill practically suffering from, or contending thusiastic in character. We find, also, that with, the more remote consequences of that the novelist, like the dramatist or any other terrible and momentous epoch. We need artist, limits his materials, selects those hardly add, therefore, that Horace Walpole, which are most suited to his purpose, and Junius, Burke, and Fox, are each made the intensifies their action somewhat beyond the occasion for some thoughtful and suggestive actual results of experience. This seems to chapters by M. de Remusat. But want of us to be required by the necessary distincspace compels us to rest satisfied with re- tion between art on the one hand, and life commending the second volume as little, if and nature on the other. The artist must at all, less valuable and interesting than be more or less of an idealist. Still if mod. the first. The distinctive qualities of both ern life is to be represented in an ideal are judgment and good taste. The entire form, the novel must approach the character book is emphatically the composition of a of a fictitious biography, and it is in this statesman, an accomplished man of letters, respect mainly that it differs from the drama, and a gentleman; and the author will be The drama presupposes the characters alallowed on all hands not to have excited ready formed, and depends for its interest groundless expectations, when he led his on one great action, to which all its personreaders to look for something which should ages contribute. The novel represents a speak of experience in state affairs, genuine course of life, or one phase of life spread admiration for tempered liberty, and hope over a considerable time, and many exhibiful if patient patriotism.

tions of character are introduced into it, which do not immediately influence the main event. The novelist often interests us : by making us intimate with his characters, independently of the importance of the ac

tions which they perform, or of the incidents Art. VI.—1. Perversion; or, the Causes and which happen to them. We hold then that

Consequences of Infidelity. A Tale for the purpose of a novel is not to imitate life the Times. Smith, Elder, and Co. Lon- exactly, but to present, in an artistic shape, don, 1856.

and yet in one which is felt in the main to 2. The Daisy Chain, or Aspirations. By be true to nature and experience, those as

the Author of the “Heir of Redclyffe.” j. pects of life and phases of character that lay

W. Parker and Son, London, 1856. hold on the general sympathies of men. 3. Loss and Gain; or, the Story of a Con This function of the novelist is often though vert. Third Edition. Dublin, 1853. not necessarily combined with those of the

humourist and satirist. He may thus stand An original and able writer on “the rela- in the same relation to his age as the comic tion of novels to life," has defined a novel dramatists, the poetical satirists, and the as a fictitious biography. He complains prose essayists of former times. The novels that novels do not fulfil the conditions of of the day will be referred to by future hisbiography, as they dwell so exclusively on torians, as throwing the fullest light on the certain phases of life--as, for instance, on manners and lighter pursuits and occupations the passion of love, and omit most of the of the present time. In our own language, other objects of interest that occupy men. the best novelists are also great as humourHe also makes it a ground of censure, that ists. The greatest of our names in modern the characters in novels are thrown much fiction are undoubtedly those of Sir Walter more together, and have much more influ- Scott, Mr. Dickens, and Mr. Thackeray ; ence on each others' fate, than they would these writers interest our higher feelings by have had in real life. These objections their power of representing the romance or would hold good, if a novel were intended the pathos of life; but it is to their genius, to be an exact imitation of ordinary life in as humourists, that we award our most unall its aspects; but it seems to us to be the qualified admiration. We should consider critic's part to determine what the definition that the difference between a pure humourist of a novel should be from actual specimens and a satirist consists in the moral feelof what it is, not from d priori ideas of what ings that each awakens. A humourist exit ought to be. If we look at the great ma- cites some feeling of kindliness and sympajority of novels, we find that they aim at thy for the character or the object he delinrepresenting certain critical phases of life, eates. The satirist appeals to our love of

ridicule, and our feelings of contempt and tical ends, without falling under that class . scorn. "Meanness, pretension, and affecta- of novels which we should call didactic or tion; petty hypocrisy, selfishness, and base-controversial. An author, who has felt ness; many kinds of vulgarity, and even of keen sympathy with the sufferings of any dulness, when associated with moral defects; class, who has observed their habits closely, anything offensive in social life,--are proper and is personally acquainted with their virobjects for the wit and irony of a satirist. tues and vices, may represent the manners Abstract analysis is, however, more suited and occupations of that class in a work of for pure satire than concrete representation. fiction, and may thus excite interest in their Vices and follies may be denounced in behalf. Gifted women, with their keen pointed lines, or may be analysed in an es- sympathies, quick observation, and dramatic say, but a purely satirical representation of power of representation, may in this way individuals is apt to degenerate into person initiate measures of social amelioration, ifications of abstract vices and follies. No while in general they are unfitted for close, great novelist would represent his leading considerate, and systematic reasoning on characters, those which he professes to depict such questions, for the labour of investigain their most real colours, in a purely sati- ting facts, collecting details, weighing evirical spirit; if he treats them satirically at dence, balancing opposite statements, and all, he will redeem them by some traits of hu- the like; processes all necessary as preman-heartedness, or cast around them some- liminary measures to any practical reform. thing of a tragic interest, or he will some- Such novels, beginning with actual sympatimes regard them with the more genial eye thy and observation, and aiming at truly of a humourist, and so gain for them some representing a particular kind of life, need share of his readers' sympathy. Pure con- not necessarily be didactic or controversial tempt may be justly entertained for certain - though it must be confessed that they are follies and for certain acts and aspects of in general tinged with the spirit of partisancharacter, but cannot consistently with a ship, and in danger of merging their purpose right or happy feeling be maintained perma- of dramatic representation in the advocacy nently towards persons whom we know in of a theory. Still the creative genius of a real life; and hence we think that a novelist writer may preserve him from sacrificing errs both in art and in good feeling, who, in the truth of life, and the natural forms of the representation of his leading characters, his imagination, to the exigences of a logical aims at exciting solely our ridicule and con- view and practical end. The purely didactempt. Could we believe a creature, so ab- tic novel, on the other hand, starts with solutely unredeemed from baseness as the some theory about life; propounds a view hero of “Ten Thousand a Year," possible, of the causes of certain social or moral conve yet could not conceive either the use or ditions, of the tendency for good or evil of the pleasure of delineating him, or of reading certain general principles, advances schemes the delineation. We should expect that the of improvement, and find characters, plot, satire of a novelist should either be limited conversation, and circumstances to fit in to representing superficial qualities, or occa- with these schemes and theories. The resional acts and aspects of individuals; or presentation of life is an end quite secondary that it should verge into a humorous and to the advocacy of a particular view. The not unkindly representation,

author writes a novel in preference to a The true object of the novel then seems philosophical disquisition, either because he to be to "hold the mirror up to life;" to believes that the public will be interested in present varieties of character, serious, hu- the one and neglect the other, or because he morous, wise, and foolish ; acting, speaking, wants to relieve his mind with what seems and unfolding themselves in the world; to the lighter work of making a story, instead show their destinies, as influenced by one of the close and continuous labour of reasonanother and by circumstances, in accordance ing out a theory; or, perhaps, because he with the natural course of events, as pre- believes that the truth of his principles can sented to us by experience. Many works be better brought out by being applied to an of fiction in the present day are written with individual case, than by being stated generdidactic or controversial objects, to enforce ally. He may further wish to excite consome theory or doctrine, social, political, or tempt and indignation against the opponents religious; and in attempting this, they seem of his own views, by representing them as to us to pass out of their proper province. men whose general character and conduct A novel may, however, call attention to social deserve to excite such feelings; or he may questions; may bring to light realities of wish to give vent to those personal jealousuffering and oppression not generally sies and animosities, which the courtesy of known; and may thus promote useful prac- modern life will not allow to be relieved VOL. XXVI.

D-8

in any other way. We confess to a strong nation against the opinions he opposes, by conviction, founded on internal evidence, this representation of a fictitious opponent. that some of our earnest religious novels By embodying the opinions in an imaginary owe their birth quite as much to this im- personality, he excites a stronger feeling pulse as to zeal in behalf of truth. It is a against them than by stating them abstractfavourite device of controversial novelists to ly; and he may thus insinuate some further invent mean and ridiculous names for the flaw in them than he can prove by the orcharacters towards whom, as their opponents, dinary mode of conducting controversy. It they desire to excite as much contempt as may, we think, be rightly urged, as an obpossible. This device, the logical weight ofjection against the use of the dialogue in which is not easily appreciated by ordinary controversy, that it makes unfair use of the minds, is used with great effect in " Ten personal argument; and if this personality Thousand a Year” to establish the moral loses some of its offensiveness by being and intellectual superiority of the Tory directed against a man of straw, it at the party. The didactic novelist is, in short, same time loses much of its weight, whatever almost invariably a partisan and a very one that may be. But, in the dialogue, the sided one — he is not unfrequently a character and intellect of the imaginary opsatirist, an inventor of nicknames, and a very ponent appear only in connexion with the broad caricaturist.

opinions he holds; in the controversial The objections against this mode of advo- novel his whole conduct and destiny are in cating any theory, seem to us to be pretty a very arbitrary way made to depend upon obvious. Whatever dangers to truth may the views of which he is the representative. arise from indulging in personalities, and Far more real feeling is excited towards a arguing from the supposed consequences of person whose actions we follow through holding certain opinions, is, in this way, in- three volumes, than can be towards the tensified to the highest pitch. There may shadowy Mr. B. of the dialogue. If the be force in showing that the maintenance of dialogue makes an unfair use of the personal a certain class of doctrines actually has led argument, it does not make any use of the to particular results on character and con- argument from practical consequences, on duct, and that the holders of such doctrines the arbitrary use of which rests the main are men who, in other points, are not en-strength of the controversial novel. titled to authority and respect; but the Further, a novel, written with a controwhole force of such an argument surely de- versial purpose, fails for the most part in pends on the actual result, and the proved giving a truthful and interesting picture of connexion between the opinions held and this life. By aiming at two incompatible obresult. Where both the results and the jects, the author does not succeed in attaincharacters are purely imaginary, an unfair ing either. The tendency to discussion, to advantage may be taken by working on the logical and consecutive thinking, is not often sympathies of the reader, ridicule may be found combined with the creative faculty, excited against a fictitious opponent, his and with skill in exhibiting concrete repreopinions may be caricatured and expressed sentations of life. The two kinds of faculty in a form which no real person holding such are both originally very distinct from one views would adopt, a chain of circumstances another, and are föstered by widely different may be invented, connecting the maintenance circumstances and modes of education. The of these opinions with consequences fatal to creative faculty is fostered by entering the person holding them; and it may re- keenly, joyously, and sympathetically into quire considerable reflection on the part of life; by feeling its manifold interests and the reader (if the novel be skilfully con- influences, without exclusive devotion to any structed) to perceive how uncandid and un- one class of them; the faculty of abstract true all' this is, and how easily the same thinking is fostered by a long course of device might be adopted to raise ridicule study or continuous devotion to some parand indignation against the writer's own ticular calling, which, except in a few gifted opinions, and to exalt those to which he is with unusual freshness of feeling, is apt to opposed. Perhaps the same objections chill and wither the sympathies with the apply to some extent to the mode of con- natural and ordinary manifestations of life. ducting controversy in the form of dialogue, The great creators have, in general, been, viz., that the opponent of the views upheld like Sir W. Scott, men deficient in reflective is almost invariably represented as sup- power; or where, like Shakspeare or porting his opinions in a manner more weak, Goethe, they have been also among the or inconsistent, or audacious, or arrogant, greatest thinkers, they have not shown than a real opponent would do; and the themselves devoted to, or advocates of controversialist thus raises ridicule or indig- definite or systematic views on the great

questions of human destiny. If we may use to which he is opposed are associated with the terms here, while the inductive faculty intellectual weakness, religious hypocrisy, or by which we form general reflections on social vulgarity. life, is frequently manifested in great power Many earnest and serious people object by the novelist, as, for instance, by Fielding entirely to the application of ridicule to and Mr. Thackeray - there is no scope in religious differences. Religious writers, his calling for the exercise of the deductive preachers, and teachers, they think, while faculty, which traces the logical connection amenable to logical criticism, deserve, from between different ideas, and follows a the earnestness of their aims and the nature thought into all its consequences. A writer, of their subject, to be spared from that warwho attempts to form a tale of life to illus- fare of ridicule, to which politicians and trate some general principle, is apt to for- other public men are fairly exposed. We get that his principle is abstracted from many do not altogether agree with this view. individual cases of living beings, each acted Unfortunately the religious world, or we on by manifold other influences, so that in should say, those who come prominently any one case the action of the principle he before the public in a religious capacity, are means to illustrate may be scarcely per- no more than politicians, exempt from arroceptible on the whole tenor of the life. gant assumption, weak and inconsequent Thus, for instance, it may possibly be true reasoning, bad taste, illiberality, insincerity, (we are very far from thinking so) that a and other vices and defects of intellect and belief in certain doctrines of political character, which are the fair objects of sateconomy may have a hardening effect on irical criticism. Religious pretenders to some of the relations between rich and poor; learning, eloquence, fervid feeling, or moral yet, to represent, as a didactic novelist severity, enjoy among some classes an unmight do, this belief as the mainspring of a deserved respect and admiration; if ridicule whole life, involving the destinies of many serves any just and useful purpose, it may individuals, would undoubtedly imply an be exercised in reducing such men to their oblivion of the truth that no man or society natural level, and depriving them of their can be gauged by the application of any sin- ill-earned and ill-used influence. But in all gle principle. Thousands of people hold, subjects ridicule requires to be guarded and would practically act upon, some such and tempered by the spirit of wisdom, of doctrine; yet how little of their conduct candour, and of charity, from the claims of through life would be influenced by it solely, which religious controversialists are least of and what manifold influences of feeling and all exempted. To expose, without exaggercharacter, all prompting to act, would still ation, what has actually been done and said remain to check and modify its action ! by an opponent is legitimate, and may be a The novelist, who starts with a theory, duty. Deliberately to create a character, seems to us almost invariably to give an im- to invent a set of circumstances, to furnish personation of abstractions, not of life. an imaginary opponent with feeble arguWhere, on the other hand, we find a really ments, to put forward an extreme statement good and interesting novel, drawing attention of his views in an offensive form, possibly to social questions, we see that it originated to publish under the forms of fiction unaunot in a theory, but in living sympathy; thenticated gossip about private persons, do and where it becomes theoretical, and at not appear to us candid or charitable in tempts to find the causes of the evils with religious or any other kind of controversy. which it deals, or to suggest a remedy for The form of the controversial novel, where them, it falls into feeble argument, and un- circumstances, characters, and arguments are truthful and uninteresting representation. purely the creation of the author, and yet

The “Religious Novel" appears to us to profess to imitate a state of things actually be liable to these objections, as well as to existing, is peculiarly adapted for misreothers, which do not apply to the Novel presenting an opponent's opinions, and for that advocates a social or political theory. venting all the bitterness of sectarian animosReligious novels are sometimes controverities. If, as not unfrequently happens, such sial and satirical, sometimes almost entirely misrepresentation and ridicule are found earnest and serious in tone. Not unfre- side by side with idealized types of charac quently we find in them a mixture of these ter, representing the opinions and religious different styles; the religious life and doc- life which the author approves, the effect, trines favoured' by the author, are exalted intended by him, is likely to be marred by and associated with whatever in intellect, the sense of unfairness and also of the incharacter, and social station, is attractive to congruity between the two kinds of spirit the sympathies, and productive of respect actuating him, which is forced upon the on the part of the reader; while the views reader. We doubt whether, in any case, those themes, which naturally inspire awe, the highest aspirations, the strange way in reverence, and humility, are in harmony which circumstances and the influence of with the natural accompaniments of a mod- other people mould a man's religious life ern novel; many people surely are shocked and convictions, could not fail, when thus when they find them in combination with exhibited, to be at once beneficial and interthe levity, the flippancy, and bitterness of a esting. But the same argument would apcontroversial satire.

ply to dramatic representations. People do Our principal objection, then, to one com- not go to theatres merely to be amused; mon class of religious novels is the unfair- they see there subjects of the deepest and ness and bitterness of its satirical represent- most tragic interest presented to them, and ation. The natural tendency to satire and the effect of such presentation must be to caricature on the part of the writer is whet- make many feel with more reality and ponted by the stimulus of controversy ; the der with more depth, than they are wont to form of the novel gives scope, and presents do, the great interests of human life. The the temptation to a misrepresentation of an ancient drama was essentially religious ; opponent's views, such as could not be at- the two greatest masters of Greek tragedy tempted in a discussion, founded on facts, exhibit in all their dramas a relation beand addressed to the understanding. Fur-tween the visible and invisible worlds; they ther, we urge that the intellect, gifted with aim at shewing the action of divine law powers of cogent argument, and trained to upon mortal destiny. The feelings of all the study and mastering of great speculative Christians however would be shocked at questions, is not often, either by nature or seeing a religious subject treated on the circumstances, fitted for presenting interest- stage; however tragic and awful the intering and truthful pictures of living beings. est may be, it is felt that its temporal side We believe, too, that those who have most can alone be presented; what further is earnestly studied disputed questions of doc- involved in it, must be left to the silent trine and philosophy, who have felt the thoughts of the spectator. There are many serious duty of rightly and honestly using reasons, which would account for this feeltheir reason in the pursuit of truth, who ing, some of which, we think, apply with have learned to despise sophistry and rhet- nearly equal strength to the exhibition of oric on moral as well as intellectual grounds, religious experience in a novel. While it would not, even had they the power, conde- is an undoubted truth that the only true scend either to trifle in this way with their religion is that which moulds the whole life, deepest convictions, or to take advantage of tempers the slightest act, and controls the the idle hours and weaker susceptibilities of most trivial conversation, it seems equally their readers.

true that good taste, which in this case is The object of a religious novel need not but another name for true reverence, will however be directly controversial, and there confine the expression and outward mani. are works of this kind, which cannot festations of religion to certain times and be charged with bitterness and ill-nature. places. We condemn the impropriety of They may aim at exhibiting under a fictitious feeling, if we do not altogether doubt the form the struggles and changes of feeling sincerity of those, who mix up religious and thought, the sacrifices and temptations, expressions and appeals with their business which an individual undergoes in his search and amusement. Novel-reading, where it after religious conviction, and his endeavour is not a mere idle waste of time, is a refreshto lead an earnest and consistent life. Such ment and a recreation ; the mind of the novels originate in real experience and ob- reader is unbent, he puts aside for a time servation, not in abstract theory; they are his own cares, the thoughts and business of thus more likely to be truthful and interest- the actual world, and shares in the joys and iug, than the other class to which we have sorrows, the fears and hopes of an unreal alluded. If the proper object of a modern world. There is nothing wrong in such a novel be to exhibit, under a fictitious form, mood of mind, any more than in the temper those passages in the life of individuals, that that seeks innocent amusement after work, call out the greatest passion and enthusiasm or in the strong interest that must necesof character,--such incidents and experiences sarily be felt

in following any business or as break through the routine and monotony profession. But this mood of relaxed enerof ordinary existence, and reveal what lies gy, and this state of temporary separation beneath the surface, --such phases of life, as from real life, are not surely fitting for the appeal to the hearts and sympathies of read- reception of the deepest questions and our ers, it might seem at first sight that the highest interests. If a religious novel proconflict between faith and doubt, the struggle duced in a reader the feelings that an imbetween the temptations of the world and pressive sermon might awaken, its effect

« PoprzedniaDalej »