Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

ought to be to make him put it down, when its gifted authoress, we certainly do find a half read, from a feeling that his new mood narrowness of religious sympathy, and many was one incompatible with that desire for of what opponents regard as the moral and light interest and amusement with which he intellectual defects of the high Anglican took up the work.

school of writers; but, on the other hand, Further, while love, adventure, and the she displays very remarkable power of destruggles by which success in life is attained, lineating that kind of life with which she naturally fall within the domain of fancy, the sympathizes. There is a true adherence to sobriety and truthfulness of religion appear nature and great dramatic skill displayed in to us to demand a strict adherence to real- the exhibition of character: whether we like ity. The interest of novel-reading arises her personages or not, we feel that we from our tendency to put ourselves into thoroughly know them, and that they are no imaginary situations. We become for the conventional reproductions, but like the men time the hero of the adventures which we and women we may meet any day in ordiare reading. It seems to us neither natural nary life. If they hold a standard of renor healthy to pass, even for a few hours, ligious duty, which we do not altogether through imaginary religious experiences. It accept--if we are thus prevented from likis undoubtedly most interesting and useful ing and appreciating them as the author to enter into the religious life of others; but would have us do, yet we feel that they are the benfit we derive from such insight de- not mere impersonations of such opinions, pends on our conviction, that what is pre- but living beings, with the passions, cares and sented to us is true and real. To attempt pursuits, that are common to all. She does to idealize religion seems to us to palter not give us a controversial treatise, under with the majesty of its truth, and the reality the form of a novel, nor does she present us of its interests. The actual records of the with a mere record of religious experience, lives of good men will satisfy the desire we but she brings before us the ordinary purfeel to understand the spiritual condition of suits, and interests, and characters of perothers. We feel, moreover, that the ordi- sons, conforming their lives according to a dinary devices by which the novelist keeps certain religious standard, and submitting us under his spell, are out of keeping with themselves to a recognised religious authorinterests so real and paramount. This class ity. We do not accept the author's view of works is for the most part wearisome to of life, and duty, and truth; yet we acknowthe ordinary novel-reader, who finds himself ledge her skill as a creative artist, and only cheated of the interest which he seeks. The deduct from that acknowledgment, that the more serious class of rcaders will find that materials out of which she creates would be the element of fiction greatly diminishes the more valuable, if her sympathies were value of the religious experience, thought, wider. We should wish to see the same and feeling, which are presented to them. creative power, and the same earnestness

Having stated our general objections to and purity of feeling, dedicated to some of the didactic and controversial novel, as well the broader interests of humanity, and not as to that which presents imaginary religious limited to the exhibition of characters, formexperiences, we propose to examine shortly ing their aspirations, controlling their cona few of the most remarkable of those works duct, and building their hopes, according which come under the class we are consider-to a type of doctrine that narrows and isoing. Looking at the matter simply as latesthe sympathies, and restrains all freedom novel-readers, without regard either to the of thought and action. There is little or no logical ability displayed, or to our agree- satirical representation of those holding opment or disagreement with the religious posite views; they are are simply ignored. views of the writer, we should have no hesi- We can make no charge against the author tation in assigning the highest place in this of injustice or misrepresentation. There is questionable class to the author of the “Heir nothing that can give positive offence to of Redclyffe." We are far from denying those entertaining different views. We can the ability, the fine and truthful delineation only say, that with her power of truthful and of character, the thoroughly gentle and natural representation, and with her fine obamiable tone of feeling, displayed by the servation and thoughtful insight, she still author of " Margaret Percival;" but a writer wants a wider sympathy with the varieties who finds little in life valuable or interesting of human character, and with the manifold except a devotion to the narrowest type of interests of life, to enable her to rank with Anglicanism, can scarcely look for ardent the foremost of our female novelists. admirers beyond the class whose sympathies Of the religious novels that are specially are confined within the same circle. In the controversial, the two most remarkable that "Heir of Redelyffe," and the other works of have appeared for the last few years are

“ Loss and Gain” and “Perversion.” Of|ity are moral deterioration, and the loss of the former, which first appeared some years happiness and peace.” ago, we need not say much at present. Its Had the author originally constructed his ability is undeniable; the conversations are story from his interest in observing human throughout conducted both with great logical life, and the imaginative impulse to form acuteness, and with much dramatic skill; the into a new creation the results of his obsergradual development of thought and feeling, vation (which we take to be the mental that leads the principal character of the process necessary for all successful art) the story to his change of faith, is most skilfully moral enunciated in his preface might have brought out; the satire is in general fine been fairly deducible from the work, if it and subtle ; there are occasional passages faithfully embodied his experience of life, in the book of remarkable eloquence and and might have forced itself most strongly poetic beauty; as a striking picture of one on the mind of a reflective reader. Still, if phase of university life, during a most crit- it were true to nature, it must have suggestical period in the English Church, the book ed other lessons too, since no human life can possesses a value which may preserve it from be thoroughly understood merely from one oblivion. On the other hand, the faults of point of view. In the conception of the the book are so obvious, that we do not scheme of enforcing the lesson enunciated wonder that it had on some the effect of dis- in the preface, there appeared to us to be solving for ever that wonderful spell of per- a departure from the truth of life and of sonal influence which its reputed author human nature, from which we were preonce exercised by the power and genius and pared to expect partial and inadequate repfervour of his preaching. It is not only resentation of events and character. The that the argument of which so much of the actual result has gone far beyond our antibook consists is perfectly powerless except cipations. We find that nearly all the obagainst the few, who, admitting the writer's jections which we have brought against the premises, shrunk from following him to satirical, the controversial, and the specially their necessary conclusions; it is not that religious novel, apply with unusual force to it addresses itself to only those weak con- this work. sciences that cannot bear the burden of their Our objections are almost equally strong liberty; nor is it merely the intellectual in- on literary and on moral grounds. We congruity between the logical power dis- shall first briefly state what appear to us played in following premises into their con- to be the merits of the author. He is evisequences and the weakness in forming dently a man of intellectual vigour and schothese premises; but it is above all the moral larlike education; he is gifted with considincongruity between the devotional enthusi- erable powers of sarcasm ; he appears to asm and rapture on the one hand, and the be animated by strong religious zeal, as cold mockery and even flippant levity on well as by less worthy motives; though the other, which pervade the book. The the average writing of the book is not strongest argument to many against adopt- much above the tone of the circulating liing the writer's conclusions, would arise brary, yet there are in it passages of strong from contemplating the tone of almost inhu. impressive writing, (though frequently mar. man scorn, which one who can feel so ear- red by coarseness and bad taste,) and others nestly and tenderly, adopts towards the which are written with considerable freshpursuits and struggles of his fellow-men. ness of feeling.

The novel of "Perversion" requires a We think the author has entirely mislonger notice, not, certainly, from its great- taken his vocation in attempting to write a er ability, but from its bearing on questions novel. Whatever literary ability he posboth of much more general and of much sesses (and we have even in this book indi. more recent interest. It is written, the au- cations that it is considerable), he appears thor tells us, to illustrate the causes and to us entirely devoid of the faculty of draconsequences of infidelity. The causes he matic representation. We never feel that represents as being “in the deliberately we are in contact with real persons, but wicked a depraved will, eager to cast off either with impersonations of abstract qual. moral restraints. In better natures it is oc- ities, or with mere lay figures, or puppets. casioned sometimes by the inconsistency, His ability is purely that of a theorist, of a extravagance, or hypocrisy of those who talker, of a man who has “ views" about call themselves Christians; sometimes by things, who is fond of discussion, and who the doubts of a sceptical understanding, or can present the worst and the weakest side the difficulties inherent in the substance or of an opponent's opinion, but he shows no the documents of the Christian Revelation. faculty whatever for creating and animatThe consequences which result from infidel- ling the personages of his story. He intro

duces them to us with a long or generally or the ill-natured application which he gives
not very complimentary analysis of their to them. We should be surprised to hear
characters, but we never become better that any good-hearted man had really
acquainted with them after the first intro- laughed at anything in the book.
duction. They act in a particular way, be We object further on moral grounds to
cause it conforms with the author's theory the utterly debased view of human nature
of the tendency of their opinions, that they which this author sets before us; to the
should do so; or because he has got up evident satisfaction with which he riots in
some information, which he wishes to intro- his attempts to delineate sordid fillany,
duce, or because it gives him an opportuni- selfishness, baseness, hypocrisy, and folly ;
ty of introducing some one of his foolish to the absence from his pages of every trait
anecdotes, or of making use of some of the of human kindliness; to his utter want of
topics lately brought before the public by sympathy or sorrow for the errors he de-
the newspapers. They talk and write to scribes; to his misrepresentation both of
one another, to enable the author to bring the opinions and of the motives and con-
in his good things or his ill-natured things, duct of other men; to the spirit of reli-
or to give the most ridiculous aspect to the gious bigotry which he displays, divorced
opinions which he opposes. The whole pow- from religious charity and humility. He
er of the book consists in saying strong seems to recognise only one type of reli-
sarcastic things, and in showing up, by gious duty and of human nobleness. We
means of broad caricatures, the very nume-

, are willing along with him to pay all honrous kinds of character and varieties of sen- our to this type, but not at the expense of timent that are distasteful to the author. thinking so unworthily or so miserably of

As a satirist or painter of the superficial nearly all the world. follies and vanities of men, he fails ; not The following is the outline of the story: from want of knowledge of evil in others, -Charles Bampton, the hero, is sent to a but from his total want of creative genius, private school, from which, after undergofrom his inability to conceive a character as ing all kinds of persecution and tyranny, a whole, and from his extreme tendency especially at the hands of an older boy of to caricature. Often, when we should be the name of Armstrong, he runs away, and inclined to join him in denouncing and ex- after much suffering is brought home to his posing certain modes of vanity, pretence, family in Cornwall. He stays at home for or hypocrisy, and when we applaud his de- two years under the care of a weak mother tective talent, our sympathies are for the and a German tutor. The chief charm of time turned in favour of the offenders, by his sojourn at home arises from the affectionthe vehemence and savageness of his at- ate intimacy that exists between him and tack. Whether it arises from real violence his younger sister Clara, who had hitherto, of animosity, or, as we think more likely, owing to weak health, being educated by from the author's inability to create natural an aunt at Bath. From home he goes first characters, and from the absence in him of to Eaton and thence to Oxford, where he all tact and fineness of touch, every one of meets his old persecutor, who was so much his satirical representations are libels on the changed in appearance, that his old schoolmost extravagant forms of human folly and fellow did not recognise him. Armstrong, weakness. Even if they were all founded after being expelled from school, had enteron fact, we should still hold that the con- ed the army, eloped with his Colonel's miscentration of so much that was weak and tress, intending to deceive her by a false bad, without any redeeming points of good- marriage, but had unwittingly been really ness or common sense, on so many person- married to her. After fighting a duel with ages introduced into these volumes, was ut- his Colonel, and consequently being obliged terly untrue to nature and consequently un- to leave the army, he goes to America interesting

along with his wife, becomes connected with While admitting the author's powers of the Mormonites, and finally disposes of his sarcasm, we cannot say much for his gene- wife to one of their leading elders, who ral humour. He has the power of making carries her off to the distant settlement of his personages ridiculous, but he fails en- Utah. Armstrong, in the mean time, suctirely in making them amusing. He ceeds to a small property, changes his name abounds in anecdotes, some of which he to Archer, and enters the University of Oxmust know were widely diffused before ford, preparatory to making a fresh start in they appeared in his pages; but even the a new profession. Here he devotes himgood things that he has taken from the com- self to study, well-regulated dissipation, mon stock of anecdotes, are spoiled by the and the corruption of under-graduates. pointless way in which he introduces them, Entertaining a vindictive feeling towards

[ocr errors]

Bampton, as the cause of his expulsion sort do undoubtedly for a time weary and from school, he forces himself on his inti- harass their friends by disburthening them. macy, undermines his religious belief, and selves of their doubts and difficulties; and ' finally marries his favourite sister Clara, the coarser sort have a pleasure in shocking whose religious opinions had been much and offending what they consider the preshaken by sharing her brother's confidence, judices of the orthodox. Those who doubt, and by witnessing very unfavourable speci- and feel the pain of doubting, bear their mens of the most opposite schools of reli- own secret in silence; the indifferent purgious opinion. Archer's former wife makes sue their pleasure and their business, withher escape from Utah—he is convicted of out taking unnecessary trouble to alienate bigamy and perjury. Clara commits sui- the respect and sympathy of their fellowcide by taking chloroform. Bampton, men. We cannot help, in spite of the after much wretchedness, is converted again teaching of our author, believing that the to Christianity, and dies at Scutari. pure love of corrupting others seldom acts

On this thread of incident are strung the as a motive even on the most immoral inauthor's views of social life, and a number fidel. of descriptions of various classes of reli- It may be proper to refer briefly to some gionists and infidels. He introduces a great of the sketches of manners and characters, variety of personages; or rather imperson- to which we are introduced in the course of ations of the abstract qualities of vulgarity, this work, with a view to show that our reselfishness, worldliness, and hypocrisy presentation of its character is well founded. The villain of the piece is not a living cha- The first chapter brings before us a picture racter, but a mere caricature of wickedness of school life, in which we find cruelty and and the mouthpiece of offensive opinions. The brutality represented as the general characwork of his perversion” is very easily teristics of the boys, and cant, incapacity, accomplished. With some slight hints and injustice of the master, who, having from the Socinian friends of one of his bro- written some anti-tractarian pamphlets, and ther officers, and after reading their organ published a volume of sermons, had bethe “ Progressive Review," and the writings come“ a favourite in prophetic circles," and of their favourite author, Mr. Neulicht, he consequently secured for his school a high passes at once into the most advanced reputation. stages of atheism-and calmly puts before The next attractive heading of one of his himself the idea of getting rid of his wife chapters is “The German Teacher.” He is in the following simple and natural lan- called “Gottlieb Shrecklich," and is a memguage.

ber of the Stiletto Club, that philanthropic " Death !” he said to himself: “yes, association founded by the fugitive Italian death may part us, after all. And why patriots." The author gives us his opinion should I shrink from the idea ? I have no of the German nation. He wonders that superstitious objection to avail myself of any “ a people so helpless in all matters of pracnatural laws which may carry out my will : tical life, and so easily bewildered in the I do not tremble at adopting the proper misty labyrinth of metaphysics, should yet, means for arresting the circulation of the by the dogged determination of their intelanimal fluids. What is it, after all, more lectual will, conquer difficulties that no than the performance of any other experi- other nation can overcome, and be the teachment in animal chemistry 2**

ers of accurate knowledge to the world.” Pretty strong sentiments these, as the fruit This phenomenon he explains by the fact of the first year of the perversion! We are that the German literati" almost entirely surprised to find a young man, with ideas so abstain from society, and from all indulmatured, satisfying himself two or three gence in the amenities of life." Shreckyears afterwards with the petty excitement lich is represented as a sound scholar, and of playing vulgar and boyish tricks on col- a well-informed man, but certainly not fitted lege tutors and freshmen, and using all the for the amenities of life. His only accomsubtlety of his intellect to shake the reli- plishment is carving, which he had acquired, gious faith and moral principles of the while serving as a waiter, between the time weakest under-graduates. Does the expe- of his quitting the gymnasium and entering rience of our readers coincide with what the university. What a truly noble and is put forward by the author, viz., that Christian sneer, and how worthy of an edusceptics and infidels become at once filled cated English' gentleman! The tutor is with a burning desire of proselytizing, and further represented as “ awkward and unleading other people astray? The weaker couth in manners, shabby in dress, dirty

in face and hands, with chin and throat bu* Vol. i p. 228.

ried in a mane of rusty red.” Of course

he is a pantheist, eats peas with his knife, is either disagreeably flippant, as in the elaborates “mists of cloudbuilt speculation chapter headed “ Academic belles," or else out of the fumes of his matutinal meer- bordering on indelicacy. schaum,” wears a greasy stock and no shirt, The second College tutor is described as and finally forms a sentimental attachment a fussy little personage, with great ideas of to one of the sisters of his pupil. We his own importance, combined with singuperceive that the author reserves the right lar credulity. Owing to the weakness of of translating his work, to allow, we pre- his character, he is made the victim of all sume, the despised foreigner to obtain a kinds of practical jokes, from which a reader, truthful picture of English life. If he car- unacquainted with Oxford life, must form ries out his enlightened intention, we can singular notions of the ordinary relations fancy the Germans contemplating this sketch subsisting between under-graduates and the of one of themselves, with the same re-authorities who superintend their education. spectful admiration which Englishmen feel Archer, our old acquaintance, finds leisure, on seeing themselves portrayed in some of in the midst of prosecuting his own schemes the minor French plays or novels. for advancement, promoting the cause of

Shortly afterwards we come upon a Mormonism in England, and corrupting the sketch of "Life in Barracks," for which the moral and religious principles of his friends author has prepared himself by studying and enemies, to refresh himself with the the accounts of some of the military scandals cheerful and manly pastime of calling under that came before the public two or three his windows, “ Lewby is a drunkard.” years ago. We find only the worst features Bampton is too much of a gentleman to of barrack life presented to us, and these indulge in such coarse practical jokes,” but evidently not ascertained by personal observ- he is not saved by his gentlemanly prejuation, but simply adapted from the reports of dices from writing an anonymous letter, inthe newspapers.

forming the credulous Lewby that he has After giving an account of Mormonism at been promoted to a vacant bishopric. This New Orleans, we are introduced to life at affords the author an opportunity of repreOxford, which, from certain expressions and senting a silly man as making a fool of himother indications, we feel confident was not self,--one of the pleasures that he frequently sketched from personal familiarity with it. allows himself, after the severer labour of The author introduces a foolish story of an lashing the vices of the age. under-graduate being asked in his divinity Having shewn us the practical energies of examination at his Little-go, whether he the youth of Oxford, unfolding themselves had ever been baptized, and answering that in drunken supper parties, and in such dighe believed he had been vaccinated. If an nified relations with their tutors, he gives us examiner could have been so silly and im- another chapter, professing to be a picture pertinent as to put such a question, he could of "Free thought at Oxford." We are innot have done so at the "Little-go,” as di- troduced to a literary debating society, callvinity does not form a part of that examin- ing itself " Licht-freunden.” The friends of ation. Again, Oxford men never use the light meet in each other's rooms, read expression of sitting for a fellowship." essays, and discuss speculative questions. The lifeless and coarse caricature of Univer- We enjoy the pleasure of attending one of sity life in these volumes, appears in very these meetings, and listening to great part unfavourable contrast with the subtle satire of an essay on “ The injurious effect of and vivid painting in “ Loss and Gain.” Christian Asceticism on the Morality of

We have first a chapter headed, "Tutors Youth.” The subject is not a very delicate and Under-graduates." Two specimens of one for general readers, and we cannot say College tutors are brought before us: the that the essayist has triumphed over the diffifirst described as a learned and good-hearted culties of this kind, inherent in his subject. man, but awkward, shy, and utterly unfitted of the logic and rhetoric of the essay, for practical life. He is the laughing-stock (which we are to believe is applauded and of his pupils, chiefly in consequence of two approved by the most intellectual of the love affairs : the first with Miss Stumper, Oxford youth, and which corrupts Bampdaughter of the warden, (who, of course, is ton's principles,) we can only say that we narrow-minded, pompous, and egotistical,) do not like to insult the common sense of and secondly with his scout's daughter, boys by applying to them the epithet of whom he educates to occupy the vacant puerile. place in his affections. We may here re We must pass over the various types of mark, that the passion of love does not re- clerical character to which we are introduced. ceive much indulgence at the hands of so We have specimens of Evangelicals, Pusey; stern a moralist. On this subject his tone ites, a wordly-minded parson of the old

« PoprzedniaDalej »