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ments of such works, that we should be inclined to lean more towards the extreme, for an extreme it would certainly be, of total prohibition than of unlimited indulgence.
In order to make the necessary distinctions which belong to the subject, and to lay our ideas before our readers in some degree of order, we shall venture to classify works of imagination under three heads :
First, Those which are written with an obviously bad intention.
Secondly, Those which are written with no definite intention at all, except fame or profit to the author, and amusement to the reader.
Thirdly, Those which are written with a positively good intention.
Of those which come fairly under the first of these classes we shall say very little; since it cannot be necessary, we should hope, to warn any person who can read so grave a page as ours, that such works are wholly and peremptorily inadmissible. They will not bear a question : they are clearly contraband; they ought not to be written ; they ought not to be sold ; they ought not to be read. Of this class are some of the productions, especially among the later ones, of Lord Byron. The most unbounded Christian charity cannot give the authors of such works as those to which we allude, credit for a single right feeling or good motive in obtruding them on the world. The publications themselves may evince more or less of genius in their composition; they may be patrician or plebian; they may be poetical or prosaic; they may be concocted in the regions of Castalia and Hippocrene, or in the purlieus of Grub-street or the Fleet-ditch; they may issue from the loyal press of Mr. Murray, or the radical press of Mr. Hone; they may be “got up" for rose-wood tables and velvet sofas, or for tap-rooms and ale-house benches; but, whatever their extrinsic circumstances, their mischievous character is so palpable that they cannot for a moment be tolerated by any man who is worthy of the name of a Christian, and therefore surely need not form the subject of discussion or animadversion in the pages of the Christian Observer.
The second class, and that which will engross the greater part of our intended remarks, consists of works of imagination, (chiefly works of fictitious narrative,) written without any positive intention of mischics, and with as little serious intention of doing good; and of which the object is to assist the purse or the literary reputation of the author, and to amuse and interest the reader. In this class we place the Waverly Novels. We cheerfully acquit the writer of any bad intention; we even acknowledge, with pleasure, that he has on many occasions done willing homage to virtue; and, if we except the offensive oaths and profane exclamations which are sometimes found in the mouths of the
personages whom he has created, his pages are generally characterized by a decorum which forms a pleasing contrast to the licentious and inflammatory representations of too many of his brother novelists, Richardson himself not excepted. To admit his gigantic powers would be superfluous; we take these for granted; it is of moral qualities only that we are now speaking. And as we have frankly allowed that the author has no serious wish to do mischief, we think he cannot refuse to admit, in return, that he has as little decided aim to affect
moral good. He evidently loves writing; he seems not averse to fame; and probably has no objection to pecuniary remuneration : and all these three points appear to be united in his present scheme of authorship. He doubtless further wishes his works to stand well with the respectable part of the public; and as a moral man himself, he could have no desire to supplant good morals in others. Still, we should judge that positive utility is quite a secondary object with him : where it falls in with the agreeable, so far all is well; but farther than this probably does not appear to him necessary. Something of this kind we can conceive to be the fair balance between the author and his conscience; and we are willing to argue the case on this temperate and not unreasonable supposition.
We shall not scruple, then, to say, that it is with feelings of very considerable regret that we witness the prodigal expenditure of time, and genius, and “talents,” (we use the word in its theological as well as literary acceptation, which occurs in the volumes of the author of Waverly. We cannot but think that such splendid powers of imagination and intellect were bestowed by Providence for far higher purposes than novel writing: we connot but fear that thirty-nine volumes of mere tales, wilhout any good or useful object in view, will form a sorry item in the final account of a human being thus gifted, and responsible for the application of his time, his faculties, and his opportunities of glorifying God, and benefiting mankind. Perhaps, indeed, this sort of language may furnish a good subject for the playful ridicule with which the author is accustomed to visit the Puritanical and Presbyterian offences of former days. We believe, however, that not only the public, but the author himself, would be little disposed to treat with levity, and as mere cant, şuch terms and ideas as “moral responsibility;" a "state of probation;" and “ rendering an account to God at the day of judgment, for every idle word as well as vicious deed ;” and we will not deny that thoughts of this nature involuntarily force themselves on our minds as often as we witness men of extraordinary powers wasting their energies year after year in worthless pursuits," which cannot profit, for they are vain.” We would not willingly be fastidious or uncharitable; we would not dry up the fountains of elegant literature, or lay a rude embargo on the lighter producVOL. II. NO. 3
tions of taste and imagination ; we would not make religion to consist in an austere renunciation of innocent recreations, or restrict either authors or their readers to the graver departments of divinity and philosophy; but we must ever contend for that great Christian principle, “Whether ye eat or drink, or what. ever ye do, do all to the glory of God." Rigid as this principle may at first sight appear, it is not so in reality ; for the glory of God may be as certainly, though not as directly or obviously, consulted in a due indulgence in any proper recreation, useful for the refection of the mind, as in the gravest pursuits of business or charity. But in all these things there is a line of boundary and demarcation not easy to be formally defined, but which a conscientious Christian will readily ascertain in his own case in practice, and which he will be anxious not to transgress, or even to approach. It is not for us to judge between any individual and his conscience; or between his conscience and his Maker ; but we may be permitted to lament, that the vast powers expended on the voluminous productions which have called forth these remarks, were not devoted to some object of less dubious benefit to the world, and which, on a death-bed, might .perhaps have given greater satisfaction in the retrospect to the the unknown author himself.
But it is not with the writer, but with his works, and their effects on the public, that we are chiefly concerned. Our object in the following pages is to show the tendency of the taste, at present so prevalent, for trifling reading, particularly in the article of fictitious narrative. We have not chosen the tales of the author of Waverly as our immediate subject, on account of their being among the worst species of novels, but precisely because of mere novels they are among the best : they are less inflammatory, less morbid, and far more manly and intellectual than most of their fellow-culprits. Indeed, by many thorough novel-readers, they are considered somewhat tame; the very complaint is made against them which the French have so long urged against Miss Edgeworth, that her works want “sentiment ;” in short, that they are destitute of the voluptuousness which most readers look for in a novel. All this is so much in their favour, that in selecting them as our“ point d'appui,” we are giving every advantage to the panegyrist of novel-reading, and taking the ground least fa. vourable to our own argument. We think, however, we shall be able to show, that the general tendency of a habit of novel-reading, even were no individual novel more exceptionable than one of the Waverly Tales, is to a high degree inexpedient and injurious.-We select " The Pirate," not because it is the best or the worst, either in a moral or a literary point of view, of the works of this celebrated author, but because it happens to be the last. As a work of genius, it stands much lower than many of the former productions from his pen, though still sufficiently high to chal
lenge no mean intellectual suffrage : in its moral aspect, it may be about on a par with them; though in one respect, it is above several of them, as it exhibits a much smaller, though unhappily still ample portion of irreverence for the words and sentiments of the sacred Scriptures.
[Here follows an outline of the tale, for which we have already refered our readers to the preceding volume of the Port Folio. In our next we shall present the general reflections on the subject, which are subjoined in the Christian Observer, to this analyssis. ]
ART. VII.-The Favourite of Nature: a Tale. We are, of course not swayed by the opinion, now gone by, that a work of genius is unworthy critical notice, because there is no other name for it than that of a tale or novel. To say nothing of the important fact, that productions in this walk of literature have the greatest number of readers, and that, therefore, a more jealous critical surveillance of them is called for, there are no works in which more talent or eloquence may be displayed, more knowledge of man and mankind unfolded, or more practical and striking lessons of honour and feeling, and even wisdom and virtue, inculcated. We think the work before us cannot be read without deeply touching the feelings and mending the heart; and therefore our omission of it would have been an act of injustice to the public as well as to the author. We should certainly not have noticed it, if it had only told a beautiful tale, if it did not, moreover, work out a moral of the deepest concernment and most extensive application.
Notwithstanding the important, and seemingly essential part assigned, in this novel, to the passion of love, in its most engrossing aspect-nay, notwithstanding the fact that a person of each sex dies of unrequited love,,we should not style it a mere love novel ; in other words, a tale where the progress and fate of a love-affair, as it is called, forms the main object, and is not the medium for the conveyance of more dignified and edifying lessons. In the character under its dominion, love is one only of several violent passions, all operating at once; which passions, rather than love, bring on the catastrophe, and raise its warning monument. Although the reader, therefore, on opening this work, may meet with many of the worn-out features of very ordinary novels ; may be startled by many pressings to the heart, and strainings to the bosom; may take alarm at the hackneyed, and therefore ill-chosen, names of Mortimer, Rivers, and Waldegrave,--names, we do think, the most prominent in circulating-library nomenclature,---may read the first two thirds of the story with but faint glimpses of the author's object, and in the belief that he is reading a common-place story, be tempted
to throw it aside ; we advise him to persevere, and we can assure him that, in the last third part of the tale, which has the farther effect of increasing the value of the whole, by showing the bearing of the parts which preceeded it, he will find a good sense, spirit, beauty and pathos, an unity of plan, developement of virtuous purpose,and consummation of moral effect, which would induce us to place the work in a very respectable rank among those fictitious compositions which are at once interesting and useful.
The author's main object is to trace a miserable and most tragical catastrophe, the impetuous course of several violent passions, which are unbridled by prudence, and uninfluenced by any steady principle of action ; and to read this lesson to the young, that, even to the most attractive favourites of nature, if wrapped up in self, and rendered insensible to, because habitually unconscious of, the feelings of their fellow creatures, our sympathies cannot be accorded—nay, our compassion will be almost denied to the acutest agonies of their self-inflicted misery. The lesson is strengthened, in the tale, by the contrast of an opposite character, endowed with warm affections, which, though ardent, are controlled by religious principle, generously and cheerfully making sacrifices of the dearest objects of life, when a sense of duty calls for them.
Eliza Rivers is the highly gifted subject of the author's experiment. In person she is all “that youthful poets fancy when they love ;” and has, moreover, every talent and accomplishment which we can imagine extending the power of female charms. She is not without kindly affections, but her whole character is lowered by the violence of her passions. In her, love is quite a disease of the mind, and the means of exciting in her to morbid activity, other passions—not only jealousy, and its attendant hatred, but pride in its most engrossing and selfish form—in so much that all her personal charms fail in producing in the reader's mind a genuine sympathy with her ; and even has commiseration of her final sufferings is diminished by the feeling that, with all the noise and clamour of excessive selfish sensibility, she suffers no more than she herself has occasioned to a much worthier person, who suffered in silence. This externally captivating, though far from amiable maid, having been left an orphan, is the inmate of her guardian, Mr. Henley, rector of Fairfield, about a day's journey from London ; a man of sense, piety, and worth, which eminently fit him for his sacred office. His only daughter, Louisa, is a little older than his ward; and, as little addicted to self as Eliza is engrossed by it, is a pattern of unaffected piety and benevolence.
Mortimer Durand, Mr. Henley's nephew, comes to Fairfield as his uncle's curate, and being much at the rectory, although not under its roof, is irretriveably in love with the beautiful Eliza, much sooner than we should have expected from the sagacity of