Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

of this general good. Their fyftems disdain all the vulgar virtues, in. tent upon fome beau ideal of perfection or perfectibility. They set common sense and common honesty at defiance. No matter their doctrine, so convenient to the paffions and soporific to the conscience, can never want partisans ; especially by weak and enthusiastic women it is adopted and propagated with eagerness : then they become perfonages of importance, and zeálots in support of their sublime opi. nions : - and they can read ; and they can write ; and they can talk ; and they can effect a revolution in public opinion! I am afraid, indeed, that they can : for of late years we have heard more of sentiment than of principles; more of the rights of woman than of her duties. Vol. I. P. 21-23

In another place, the same sagacious person, in making somë remarks on one of the sentimental lady's epistles, observes,

• She begins with a bold exclamation on o the misfortune of being born a woman !--the fave or the outcast of society, condemned to incessant hypocrisy !Does the mean modesty ? Her manly soul feels it “ the most degrading punishment that omnipotent cruelty could devise, to te imprifoned in a female form.From such a masculine fpirit fome fortitude and magnanimity might be expected ; but presently she begs to be pi. tied, for a broken spirit, and more than female tenderness of heart." I have observed that the ladies, who wish to be men, are usually those who have not fufficient strength of mind to be women.

• It is the common trick of unprincipled women to affect to despise those who conduct themselves with propriety. Prudence they term coldness ; fortitude, infenfbility; and regard to the rights of others, prejudice. By this perverfion of terms they would laugh or fneer virtue out of countenance ; and, by robing her of all praise, they would deprive her of all immediate motive. Conscious of their own degradation, they would lower every thing, and every body, to their own standard : they would make you believe, that those who have not yielded to their para fions, are deftitute of sensibility ; that the love, which is not blazoned forth in glaring colours, is not entitled to our fympathy. The facrifice of the strongest feelings of the human heart to a sense of duty, is to be called mean or absurd ; but the shameless phrenzy of passion, ex: posing itself to public gaze, is to be an object of admiration. There heroines talk of strength of mind; but they forget that Itrength of mind is to be shewn in resitting their passions, not in yielding to them.' I. p. 38-40.

Besides, what confidence can you repose in them? If you should happen to be an obstacle in the way of any of their fancies, do you think that they will respect you or your interests, when they have not fcrupled to facrifice their own to the gratification of their passions ? Do you think that the goffamer of sentiment will restrain those whom the frong chains of prudence could not hold?' I. p. 46.

The following is equally just and equally forcible.
TOL. VIll. NO. 15.

o Why Why should you, my dear - expect such superlative excellence from

your

Olivia ? Do you think that a woman, by losing one virtue, increases the strength of those that remain, as it is said that the loss of one of our senses renders all the others more acute ? Do you think that a lady, by yielding to love, and by proving that she has not fufficient resolution or forbearance to preserve the honour of her sex, gives the best possible demonstration of her having fufficient strength of character to rise fuperior to all the other weaknesses incident to human, and more especially to female nature-envy and jealoufy for instance ? ' II. p. 189. 190.

This we think is all very good; but it is not very entertaining ; and the readers of novels insist upon being entertained in the first place, and merely submit to as much instruction as can be insinuated into their minds, without putting them to any trouble. There are many gayer things in the book ; but we choose to conclude our extracts with the following letter of Leonora to her mother, written immediately after the conviction of her husband's alienation had begun to force itself upon her mind. It is more natural, we think, than Miss Edgeworth's gaieties, and more likely to please those whom she should be most solicitous about pleasing.

You know that I am not naturally or habitually of a jealous tem. per, but I am conscious of having lately felt a disposition to jealousy. I have been spoiled by the excessive attention which my husband paid to me in the first year of our marriage.

• You warned me not to fancy that he could continue always a lover. I did not, at least I tried not to expect such an impossibility. I was prepared for the change, at least I thought I was: yet now the time, the inevitable time is come, and I have not the fortitude to bear it as I ought. If I had never known what it was to possess his love, I might perhaps be content with his friendship. If I could feel only friendihip for him, I should now possibly be happy. I know that I have the first place in his etteem ; I do believe - I should be miserable indeed if I did not believe that I have the first place in his affection. But this affection is certainly different from what it once was. I wish I could forget the difference. No : I retract that wish ; however painful the comparison, the recollection of times that are paft is delightful to my heart.

dear mother, if such times are never to return, it would be better for me to forget that they have ever been. It would be wiser not to let my imagination recur to the past, which could then tend on ly to render me discontented with the present and with the future. The FUTURE! how mclancholy that word sounds to me! what a dreary length of prospect it brings to my view! How young I am, how many years may I have to live, and how little motive have I left in life! Those which used to act moft forcibly upon me, have now scarcely power to move my mind. The sense of duty, it is true, raises me to some degree of exertion : I hope that I do not neglect the edu

cation

Yet, my

cation of the two children whom my poor fister bequeathed to my care, When

my mind was at ease, they were my delight; but now I feel that I am rather interrupted than interested by their childish gaiety and a musements.

• I am afraid that I am growing selfish, and I am sure that I have become shamefully indolent. I go on with certain occupations every day from habit, not from choice ; my mind is not in them. I used to fiatter myself that I did many things from a sense of duty and of general benevolence, which I am now convinced were done merely from a particular wish to please, and to make myself more and more beloved by the object of my fondest affection. Disappointed in this hope, I fink into indolence, from which the desire to entertain my friends is not fufficient to rouse me. Helen has been summoned away ; but I believe I told you that Mr and Mrs F**, whose company is peculiarly agree. able to my taste, and Lady M***** and her amiable daughters, and your witty friend *****

are with us. In such society I am a. shamed of being stupid ; yet I cannot contribute to the amusement of the company, and I feel surprised at their animation and sprightliness. It seems as if I was looking on at dancers without hearing any music. Sometimes I fear that my silence should be observed, and then I begin to talk without well knowing what I am saying. I confine myself to the most common-place subjects, and hesitate from the dread of saying something quite foreign to the purpose. What muft Mr L think of my stupidity? But he does not, I believe, perceive it ; he is so much occupied with—with other objects.--I am glad that he does not see all that paffes in my mind, for he might despise me if he knew that I am so miserable. I did not mean to use so strong an expression ; but now it is written, I will not blot it out, left you should fancy something worse than the reality. I am not, however, yet so weak as to be feriously miserable, when I have no real cause to be so. The truth is

Now you know this phrase is a tacit confeffion, that all that has been said before is falfę. The real truth is

Ву my prefacing so long, you may be sure that I have reason to be asham. ed of this real truth's coming out The real truth is, that I have been so long accustomed to be the firit and only object of my husband's thoughts, that I cannot bear to see him think of any thing else. Yes ; things I can bear, but not perfonsfemale persons.--And there is one person here who is so much more agreeable and entertaining than 1 am, that the engrosses very naturally almost all his attention.' I. p. 170176.

Upon the whole, though we think this work inferior, in point of brilliancy and variety, to some of Miss Edgeworth's former productions, we admit it, without hesitation, to be an ingenious and meritorious performance. We are partial, indeed, we will confess, to Miss Edgeworth; for we think the public very greatly indebted to her; and conceive that she has come nearer the true tone of moral instruction than any other writer we are acquainted with. O2

Against

Against the greater vices we may declaim from the pulpit or the press; or we may let it alone, exactly as we like best; for no man practises them ignorantly ; nor can we tell him more about their consequences than he knows already, and has determined to hazard. But the smaller vices—those which make up the profligacy of an individual and the corruption of a people, are committed by thousands from mere carelessness and vanity, or from example and mistaken opinions; and it is to the correction of these, or of such classes of them as have become epidemic in a society, that a moral writer may apply his exertions with some hopes of success. The first great point is, not to magnify their enormity, and not to be more angry than is permitted to be in real life :The next is, to appear perfectly well acquainted with the world, in which those things are transacted, and to view with perfect good humour all the indulgences and palliations that they meet with from those who witness and perform them, and then to attack them with ridicule instead of reprobation; to shew how well they may

be separated from all that is liberal and easy, and even from all that is brilliant and fantastic; and how much they detract from real comfort, and interfere with every scheme of happiness. It is a rash, and for the most part a vain attempt, to think of appealing to a man's conscience against practices which are sanctioned by all around him, and in which he indulges without any distinct feeling of depravity. He will treat all such attempts as stupid preachments, proceeding from despicable ignorance of the world, or ascetic cant and hypocrisy. The only chance is, to attack him on the score of prudence or of pride ; to shew that the practices we mean to condemn are foolish and despicable ; that they indicate want of talents or of spirit; and that they are objects of derision and contempt to the more illustrious persons in society. To do this with success, we must neither be too rigorous nor too refined. If we talk either like scrupulous purists, or sentimental innocents, we shall be laughed at and neglected. We must assume a certain familiar and seculat tone, and rather endeavour to shew that we are more knowing, than that we are more virtuous than those we address. It is only in this way that we have a chance of being listened to ; and if that great point can once be gained, it does appear to us, that by mixing our reasons and our ridicule in just proportion, by making our instances rapid and amusing, and concentrating our proofs into striking and interesting groups, we may produce a considerable effect upon the minds of all who are worth Teforming, or give impressions, at least, which after experience may develop into salutary conviction.

Now, it is by assuming this tone, and applying herself to this method of jinstruction, that we think Miss Edgeworth has deserv,

ed

ed well of the community. We do not know any books that are more likely to be useful than most of those she has published; and while we willingly do all we can to promote their notoriety, we earnestly exhort her to multiply their number. We rather wish she would write more moral tales; for though it requires some resolution to dissuade the author of Belinda from delineating the character of fashionable life, we are satisfied that she will do most good by continuing the former publication. By works like Belinda or Leonora, she can only hope to correct the vices, or abate the follies of three or four persons of fashion: by improving the plan of the Moral Tales, she may promote the happiness and the respectability of many thousands in all ranks of society.

ART. XVII. Rhymes on Art; or, the Remorstrance of a Painter.

In Two Parts. With Notes, and a Preface; Including Strictures on the State of the Arts, Criticism, Patronzige, and Public Taste. By Martin Archer Shee, R. A. The Second Edition, with an Additional Preface and Notes. Murray, London. 1805.

THE "HE poetical part of this work would have justified a more am

bitious title than that which the author has bestowed upon it. To us, indeed, its humility appears in some measure affected, and not

very

consistent with the contempt expressed at the commencement of the preface, for those who cry out for quarter' on first coming into the field.

The explanation which Mr Shec offers, may perhaps in some degree secure him from the imputation ; but certain it is, that merit may be sometimes undervalued, by its conscious possessor, from a latent expectation, that what he himself subtracts, the good nature of others will add to the amount of his praise. Amongst the motives which induced the author to give his work to the public, he informs us (note, p. 53. of the preface) that a slight seasoning of literary ambition had its share. But we cannot see that the object of this ambition was likely to be accomplished by any production corresponding to the title by which he has ushered this effort of his Muse into the world.

Besides the poetical part of this volume, we have two prefaces and notes, neither of which in point of magnitude, bear a very ordinary proportion to the poem which they accompany. The prose composition, however, we have found not the least interesting part of the work, and with the exception of some passages in which there is an unnecessary repetition of the same thoughts and arguments which the author had previously discussed, we were 03

ngt

« PředchozíPokračovat »