« PředchozíPokračovat »
LITERATURE OF THE MONTH.
THE ROMANCE OF PRIVATE LIFE.*
The name of Burney is not merely a classical one in our literature of fiction—it stands at the very head of the class it may be said to have created ; and the work which we now commend to public notice will unquestionably lift that name still higher in popular estimation. Not that it resembles the admirable productions of its writer's distinguished relative, in any thing but the force and truth of its delineations, the reality of the sources whence those delineations are drawn, and the deep interest of the general result. It is, however, a capital production in its way, and claims the very first rank in the class to which it belongs. It consists of two tales, one entitled, “ The Renunciation," and the other, “ The Hermitage."
The principle on which the first tale is constructed, and out of which the main interest springs, is what may be called the mechanical principle of writing,—not however using the word in a disparaging sense. The chief merit and interest of the story consist in a skilfully devised plot, worked out by an infinite number of minute mechanical details. By this means an intense and almost undivided interest is kept up from beginning to end, but an interest springing chiefly out of curiosity. This it is, and the fact of this being the principle on which the tale is conducted, that takes it out of the highest class of novel compositionthis, and not any deficiency in the capacities of the writer : for whereever scope is offered for causing the excitement of mere suspense and curiosity to rise into a purer and a higher moral interest, it invariably does so rise. We have, therefore, no hesitation in saying, that the secondary principle of composition has been adopted advisedly by the writer, as a means to an end—that end being a greater degree of mere popularity than could have been hoped for by adopting the higher principle.
The chief feature in which this tale differs from those of the new school of novel-writing, consists in the unity of effect which is obtained by concentrating the whole of the reader's curiosity and interest upon one individual—the heroine of the story. In this respect the tale is conducted (with few and trifling exceptions), with a perfect knowledge of the means necessary to the end in view, and with great skill in the application of those means. The result is as we have said, a capital production of its kind, and one for which we anticipate extensive popularity.
The conception and conduct of the second story, entitled, “ The Hermitage,” are in no degree inferior to those of “ The Renunciation,” and the interest is of a higher and more intense kind. The general tone of the work is also higher ; because the interest is not made to depend nearly so much on minute mechanical details. The characters are equally well discriminated with those of “ The Renunciation,” and the
The Romance of Private Life. By Miss Burney. S vols.
story is altogether executed with equal care and skill, and with an equally shrewd eye to those two great elements of popularity, a strong progressive interest, and a strong, immediate, and momentary excitement. It may, perhaps, be considered by many readers, that the terrible and tragic part of the story is too much mixed up with the commonplaces of ordinary life, especially towards the end.' But we have no doubt this is done advisedly by the writer, with a view to heighten the interest by contrast: and there is no doubt that the general effect is greatly increased by this means.
The story affords admirable materials for a domestic tragedy, and we can scarcely doubt of its being so used, sooner or later.
These two handsome volumes, albeit somewhat too bulky to form the “pocket companion," even of those travellers who go by the magic road of steam, will be found of great preliminary use and interest. Their object is the simple but comprehensive one, of placing before the reader all the information and amusement, in the three several departments of History, Tradition, and Legend, which appertain to that “beauteous and abounding_river,” which has of late years been the chief object of attraction to English travellers, in particular during the summer months—or at least of that most beauteous and abounding” part of it which lies between Cologne and Mainz--what may be called (on the principle of lucus à non lucendo) the “Regent-street” of the Rhine.
We have some doubt as to the correctness of Mr. Snowe's opinion, that the want of such a work as this “has long been felt by the European public.” But admitting that such a want existed, it has now been supplied with great industry and care ; and the result is a work which may be used with profit and pleasure by all classes of readers, and the consultation of which, at least, if not its companionship, may be deemed indispensable to those who are about to visit the fair and wondrous scenes to which it refers.
The object of the work, however, must not be mistaken. It makes no pretensions to the title and office of a guide; it treats not of the various localities as they are, but as they have been in times past; it appeals to the memory and the imagination of the traveller, not to his eye: in short, it will prove a very fitting companion, but a very failing director and guide. To these remarks, however, there is a pleasing exception, in the form of a large number of plates, which place before us the most remarkable objects which adorn the banks of the Rhine at the present moment, and in their present aspect and condition.
This lends considerable additional interest to the volumes, and makes them, upon the whole, the most useful and efficient work that has yet appeared, upon the highly popular and attractive theme to which they are devoted.
The Rbine: Legends, Traditions, and History. By Joun Snowe, Esq. 2 vols. 8vo. IDEES NAPOLEONIENNES.*
There is something singularly indicative of the political changes which have taken place within the last few years, in the fact of a work whose sole object is to advocate and illustrate the views and system of Napoleon, having to seek its literary fortunes, not merely out of France, but in England—that country which, for twenty years, maintained a life-and-death struggle against those views and that system ;-a defence of the Emperor Napoleon and his system, written by his nearest living relative, and who, but for England, would, in all probability, one day have sat upon his throne-yet dated “ Carlton Terrace, July, 1839!” Sic transit gloria mundi !
The volume before us, making allowance as we are bound and willing to do, for the quarter whence it proceeds, is written with good sense and moderation, and will be perused with considerable interest, whatever may be the political views and feelings of the reader who may be attracted to it by its subject and title, and the singular position of its writer. It is, however, of so purely political a nature, that we shall not be expected to do more than describe its contents, which consist, Ist, of some general considerations on the nature of government; 2dly, of some “ Idées generales" on the views of Napoleon, and the standard by which those views should be judged ; 3dly, of those views as they regarded the internal government of France; 4thly, as they regarded the relative position of foreign nations; and lastly, the distinct objects of the Emperor, and the causes of his downfal. We shall only add that the volume can scarcely fail to be read with interest, even by those who are not disposed to admit the force or validity of the i defence" which it offers of the " système Napoléonienne."
LIFE OF SIR THOMAS GRESHAM.T
The name and career of Sir Thomas Gresham must ever excite a marked and peculiar interest in that vast and important body of our countrymen, who are connected with the commerce of Great Britain ; and his name is one which is not without its honours, even among those who devote their thoughts to matters inore exclusively intellectual. A work devoted to the “ Life and Times” of Sir Thomas Gresham, must therefore not be deemed a superfluous addition to the biographical literature of our day; though we fear it can scarcely be expected to excite sufficient popular interest to command an adequate pecuniary return for the large outlay which must have attended its getting up. The history of these portly and handsome volumes is curious, as showing how“ great events from little causes spring.” It appears that Mr. Copeland, a late worthy Lord Mayor of London, blending a taste
* Des Idées Napoléoniennes. Par Le Prince Napoléon Louis Bonaparte. 1 vol.
+ The Life and Times of Sir Thomas Gresham, &c. By John William Burgon. 2 vols.
literary with a taste commercial, offered, during his mayoralty, a prize for the best Essay on the Life and Character of Sir Thomas Gresham, wisely stipulating (doubtless on account of the evidently dry nature of the topic if too discursively pursued), that the sketch should be comprised within such limits as would allow of its being publicly read at the Mansion-house, in the space of half an hour. On this hint Mr. Burgon wrote, and was the successful candidate for the prize. The natural ainbition of achieving the honours of print was, under such circumstances, to be looked for at the writer's hands. But here his brevity stood in his way,
His essay was exactly the right length to read well, but it was too short to be eligible as a literary enterprise. Like the author who could not afford time to write his book in less than two bulky volumes octavo, publishers cannot afford to undertake works that are small enough to be carried away by their customers without the aid of a ticket-porter. But then, how to obtain the needful matériel? In cases of this nature, the State Paper Office seems now the recognised pis aller of distressed authors; and thither accordingly Mr. Burgon proceeded—with what success the bulk and intrinsic value of these volumes sufficiently testify. That the growth of interest has been proportionate to the increase of material and of size, is more than we will assert ; but the work is nevertheless one of real value and merit, and will add a very acceptable item to our stock of biographical literature. A considerable portion of it consists of letters from Sir Thomas Gresham, and many of his contemporaries, which throw a characteristic light upon some of the features of the interesting “times” in which he lived ; others are of a more exclusively personal nature; and the whole form a creditable and useful production of its kind.
We must not neglect to notice the curious and interesting pictorial illustrations of these volumes, and the unusual care and beauty of its typographical character. The portrait of Sir Thomas Gresham, which forms the frontispiece to Vol. I., is not only highly characteristic in design, but is a beautiful work of art; and is now, we believe, first given to the world, from an original picture by Sir A. More.
Like the “ Bubbles from the Brunnens of Nassau,” the face of the newly-discovered Little Pedlington" has, doubtless, by this time reached the uttermost parts of the reading earth; and if, as in the case of the problematical localities just alluded to, the pilgrims who have been induced to search out its heretofore unnoted charms and wonders, have found them to exist only in the creative imagination of their historian, the history itself is not the less acceptable on that account. In short, as the skill and fancy of “ the old man” was able to furnish forth from the almost“ baseless fabric” of the Brunnens a book that has in it more medicine for “a mind diseased," than all the Brunnens, themselves, put
• Little Pedlington, By John Poole, Esq.
together, so has the builder up of “Little Pedlington” constructed a still more entertaining and care-killing history out of no materials at all. Of the illustrious Thumb we are told that
“He made the giants first, and then he killd them ;" but Mr. Poole has done more; he made “Little Pedlington,” first, through the fragile medium of our favoured pages; and now he has made it immortal in two volumes foolscap octavo.
The readers of the New Monthly are the last persons in the world, who need to be told of the inexhaustible fund of fun and facetiæ that is to be found in these pages. We have had nothing so good in their way since the “ Memoirs of P.P., Parish-clerk, &c.," and they were too subtle and recherché in their fun as well as their satire, to merit or command that general acceptance and popularity which these volumes deserve and will assuredly obtain. But as any laudation that we might give of them in these pages would savour of something like “ self-praise (which the proverb says “is no recommendation"), we shall only say further of Little Pedlington"
“Let those read now who never read before ;" and considering that many most amusing additions have been made to the work in its present form)
“Let those who always read now read the more.”
THE MODERN LITERATURE OF FRANCE.*
Thougt we cannot agree with the exaggerated estimates of Mr. Reynolds, as to the literary pretensions of several of the writers whom he here introduces to public notice, and must utterly dissent from his opinion as to the absence of a licentious and dangerous spirit from their works, we are nevertheless not sorry to accept a publication of this nature, having for its end at least, whatever may have been its object, to cultivate an interchange of literary commerce, and to act as a medium of mutual knowledge between two nations whom it behoves, more than any two others on the face of the earth, to know each other thoroughly for what they really are in themselves, and the intellectual position which each respectively holds. It should be expressly known in this country that there are at least as many books published in France which are worthy of reproduction here, as there are in England which are deemed entitled to that honour at the hands of our neighbours. The time has ceased when the literature of France is either a dead letter or a commonplace. They have several extraordinary men among them-men, however, who at present write for France alone—and what is worse, for “ young France;" but who could cease to do so the moment they saw even the prospect of an audience elsewhere. And publications of the nature of that now before us offer them a glimpse, at least of that prospect. We for one, therefore, shall not discourage the attempt that has here been
* The Modern Literature of France. By G. W. M. Reynolds. 2 vols.