Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

made to excite attention to the recent literature of that country, utterly vicious, and moreover frightfully dangerous, as the prevailing spirit of much of that literature unquestionably is, and (what is still worse) little as the present attempt is of a nature to convey any, much less an adequate impression of the writers of whom it offers us criticisms and examples. What shall we say, for instance, of the critic who devotes twenty pages to exalt into the seventh heaven of hyperbole, the inane extravagancies of Victor Hugo, and dismisses the really great De Berenger-great we mean as a lyric poet-the only man deserving the epithet, that France has ever had—by telling us that his grandfather was a tailor, his mother a public-house keeper, and himself “the poet of the French people.” Nevertheless, again we say, this book is welcome to us; but it is so for the simple reason, that it will be welcome to the French people, as a testimony that we are at least beginning to perceive they have a literature which dates more recently than their first revolution. We shall only add, that some of the prose specimens are fairly translated, and one of them even well. We allude to the touching and exquisite story (by Jules Janin), of the girl whose misery, after having stripped her of every thing external but the poor rags that would fetch nothing, tempted her to sell successively every part of her beautiful body-her hair to the coiffure, her teeth to the dentist, her foot and neck to the statuary—her very sleep to the Mesmerist, and her veins to the medical student; every thing-save that which so many of her sex sell the first under such temptation--her innocence and her honour.

THE FORESTERS.*

The production of a regular historical romance is a bold undertaking for any writer; and for a young, and a female one, it may seem almost a rash one. Yet the pleasing and meritorious work before us proves that the task may be performed, even by a literary aspirant of the latter description, not only without the commission of those anomalies and absurdities which might naturally be looked for under the circumstances, but with a result that calls for unmingled, however limited, commendation. The “Foresters” takes its date, and its historical events, from the period immediately preceding and following the great revolution and change of dynasty of 1688; and it busies itself to some extent with certain of the leading historical characters of that period, -including James the Second and his queen, Marlborough, &c. But the chief interest, of course, is derived from the fictitious portion of the narrative; including the loves, perils, disappointments, and ultimate happiness of a certain Lord Walter Fleming and his affianced mistress, Mary Saville, an attendant on the person of the queen. The story runs through the whole of the stirring political events which rendered the period in question so important in the annals of England, and it blends itself with them in a way which gives rise to a large ac

* The Foresters : a Tale of 1688. By Miss Louisa Boyle. 3 vols.

cession of interest and of incident, at the same time that it affords scope for scenes which convey to the reader a very characteristic picture of the moral and social tone of sentiments, the manners, and the habits of life of the time, in a wide range of classes and degrees. The story itself, with some defects, is constructed with a very fair share of artistical skill; many of the scenes are so conducted as to evince a knowledge of human nature that would do credit to a more experienced writer; the style is easy, unaffected, and sometimes forcible and spirited ; and the object and tendency of the work are pure and praiseworthy. Upon the whole, this romance promises much for the future literary career of the writer, while at the same time it furnishes a very amusing and creditable addition to this class of our current literature.

TRAVELS IN AFRICA.*

The past season has been very fertile in books of travel, and especially in those relating to unfrequented portions of the globe; but the error of most of the works of this nature—the error, however, of publishers we suspect, quite as much as of authors—is that we are told too much. Travellers, like every body else in the world, are not content to say what they have to say, or what they judge to be worth saying : they insist upon uttering all that can be said on the topic of which they are discoursing. And in the case of book-enditing travellers, this usually results in a work occupying two large volumes, instead of one small one. The two publications which we now introduce to notice in some degree avoid this error, and we recommend them to public attention accordingly. The volume of Mr. Macbrair is, as might naturally be expected, tinged throughout with the prevailing tone of feelirg which must necessarily belong to a mind that does not scruple to sacrifice all the comforts and benefits of home and country, to the at best doubtful enterprise-so far we mean as regards results-of offering the blessings of religion and civilization to the denizens of a comparatively savage state. But we cannot help feeling that this peculiarity must in every case confer at least as much extraneous interest upon the work to which it appertains, as it can by possibility take from it. At all events the volume of Mr. Macbrair does not obtrude its religious feelings upon the reader; and it derives an additional interest from the extremne simplicity of its style and tone. On the other hand it must not be consulted as a work likely to convey much new information, as regards the localities to which it refers. It is, in fact, a personal narrative, such as the writer may be supposed to have given to his family or his associates, and in presenting the advantages it also combines the deficiencies of this class of production. The narrative relates to two separate journeys,-one performed through Egypt, Syria, &c., and the other through Western Africa.

* 1. Sketches of a Missionary's Travels, &c. By R. Maxwell Macbrair. 1 vol.2. Wild Sports of South Africa, &c. By Captain W. C. Harris. 1 vol.

Captain Harris's volume is of a very different description, and may look for a much larger share of general favour and popularity. It is a stirring and spirited narrative of a sporting expedition into Southern Africa—a wild crusade against lions, tigers, elephants, buffaloes, hippopotami, &c., and of bushmen, more dangerous and more savage than either—a crusade pursued under the most exciting and perilous cireumstances, and presenting a perpetual succession of hairbreadth escapes, unlooked for incidents, and curious traits of savage life and character. This volume is embellished by several illustrative plates, and contains much curious and some novel information connected with the natural history of the unfrequented districts to which it relates.

Limited as our space is, we must give one specimen, taken almost at random, of the spirit-stirring nature of the Wild Sports of South Africa."

“At length we arrived amongst extensive groups of grassy hillocks, covered with loose stones, interspersed with streams, and occasional paiches of forest, in which the recent ravages of elepha were surprising. flere, io our inexpressible gratification, we descried a large herd of those long-sought animals, lazily browsing at the head of a distant valley, our attention having been first directed to it, by the strong and not to be mistaken effluvia with which ihe wind was impregnated. Never having before seen the noble elephant in his native jungles, we gazed on the sight before us with intense and indescribable interest. Our feelings on the occasion even extended to our followers. As for Andries, he became so agitated that he could scarcely articulate. With open eyes and quivering lips he at length stuttered forth Dur stund de olifant.” Mohanycom and 'Lingap were immediately despatched to drive the herd back into the valley, up which we rode slowly and without noise, against the wind ; and arriving within one hundred and fifty yards unperceived, we made our horses fast, and took up a commanding position in an old stone kraal. The shouting of the savages, who now appeared on the height ratiling their shields, caused the huge animals to move unsuspiciously towards us, and even within ten yards of our ambush. The group consisted of nine, all females with large tusks. We selected the finest, and with perfect deliberation fired a volley of five balls into her. She stumbled, but recovering herself, uttered a shrill note of lamentation, when the whole party threw their trunks above their heads, and instantly clambered up the adjacent hill with incredible celerity, their huge fan-like ears Happing in the ratio of their speed. We instantly mounted our horses, and the sharp loose stones not suiting the feet of the wounded lady, soon closed with her. Streaming with blood, and infuriated with rage, she turned upon us with uplifted trunk, and it was not until after repeated discharges, that a ball 100k effect in her brain, and threw her lifeless on the earth, which resounded with the fall.

“Turning our attention from the exciting scene I have described, we found that a second valley had opened upon us, surrounded by bare stony hills, and traversed by a thinly-wooded ravine. · Here a grand and magnificent panorama was before us, which beggars all description. The whole face of the landscape was actually covered with wild elephants. There could not have been fewer than three hundred within the scope of our vision. Every height and green knoll was dotted over with groups of them, whilst the boriom of the glen exhibited a dense and sable living inass-their colossal forms being at one moment partially concealed by the trees which they were disfiguring with giant strength; and at others seen majestically emerging into the open glades, bearing in their trunks the branches of trees with which they indolently protected themselves from the fies. The back-ground was filled by a limited peep of the blue mountainous, range, which here assumed a remarkably precipitous character, and completed a picture at once soul-stirring and sublime !" pp. 201—203.

PHYSIC AND PHYSICIANS.*

Tuis is a pleasant and readable book, of the gossiping and nonprofessional class, and one from which much amusing anecdote may be collected ; but it has little intrinsic and permanent value beyond the amount of amusement it will afford. The work is avowedly written on a hint of Johnson, thrown out in his Life of Akenside, that " a curious book might be written on the fortune of physicians.” The writer of “Physic and Physicians," if he has not on this hint written a “curious" book, bas unquestionably written an entertaining one, and this chiefly by dint of confining it exclusively to the second half of his title_“ Physicians," and leaving the “ Physic" to their patients.

The nature of the matter, too, is much more various than the subject might seem to promise, as the titles of a few of the chapters will indicate: “Eccentric Medical Men”—“Early struggles of Eminent Medical Men"

“ Celebrated Medical Poets"_" Illustrations of Medical Quackery" -“Mad Doctors and Madhouses,” &c. By these titles it will be gathered that the book is almost entirely personal. Nor would it be the worse for this, if its details were confined to persons who have passed away from the scene. But a considerable portion of the second volume is devoted to biographical sketches of living physicians. This, though falling in well enough with the gossiping character of the book, is exceptionable in more than one point of view, for reasons which will immediately suggest themselves to our readers. Not that the sketches in question are, in themselves, unfairly done, either in the way of praise or censure; on the contrary, they are impartial, and so far as they extend, tolerably just and discriminative. But while their necessary brevity renders them little beyond a mere summary of dates, names, and dry personal details, which are of little or no value and interest to any but the parties immediately concerned, it also gives an excuse for entirely passing over a large number of individuals who will deem themselves (many of them justly) quite as well entitled to the distinction (whatever it may be) of such a record as many of those who have obtained it.

We are not among those who strongly object to that system of bookmaking which has prevailed so extensively during the last thirty years, and which has unquestionably been the occasion, during that period, of a large number of works, of high and permanent value, which would not otherwise have seen the light. Accordingly we do not like these entertaining volumes the less for belonging to the class in question. But we do object to the portion of them which relates to living men; because we deem it one of the evil results of that system, which has derived much of the odium that attaches to it, from its having made too frequent appeals of this nature, to the mere idle and empty curiosity regarding personal details of living people, which is the prevailing appetite of the day.

İn all other respects but the one just alluded to, these volumes may be read with interest and amusement.

* Physic and Physicians : a Medical Sketch-book, &c. ? vols.

ARGENTINE.*

term

We scarcely know in what point of view to look at this workwhether as one of fiction or of truth-whether we are to regard the

autobiography,” which the author has attached to it, as a mere pre-indication of its form, or as an intimation that we are presented with the real history of a real life, the names, localities, &c., being so changed as to avoid direct personal application. And in the absence of any certainty on this point we are somewhat at a loss how to estimate the merit, and even the personal interest, of the work. If the result of pure invention, the story has a certain degree of narrative interest, which is, however, greatly impaired by the way in which the main relation is blended with collateral matters, which neither help it forward, nor add to the ultimate force or interest of the dénouement, and which in the mean time are felt at every step to be in themselves insignificant. In fact, as a mere narrative, the work has little or nothing to remove it from that class of productions which appeal to the curiosity merely, and which are now, as a class, become deservedly obsolete. If, on the other hand, “ Argentine" is to be looked upon as the real “ Story of a Life," and its character in this particular (mutatis mutandis) can be depended on, it possesses an interest of an entirely different nature, and one which would justify details and reflections much less pregnant with novelty and originality than those here set down. What is certain is, that in any case the work is gracefully and carefully written ; that the sentiments and opinions it inculcates are those of a cultivated and a healthy mind ; that its tendency is unexceptionable; and that as a whole the work is quite as worthy of favour, and as fully fraught with amusement, as a large proportion of the fictitious narratives which make up so considerable an item in the current literature of the day.

FLORESTON; OR, THE NEW LORD OF THE MANOR.F This story has a purely didactic and moral object, and that object is an excellent one—the making known the true condition of the English peasantry, and educing from that condition the means of their amelioration, and consequent elevation in the scale of human virtue and happiness. But we are not able to say that the writer's success has been correspondent with his endeavour and his desires ; nor is his knowledge of the subject deep enough or wide enough for the due fulfilment of the task he has undertaken. Moreover, with regard to his plans of improvement, we will not call them visionary, but they are at least not practical. The writer is an amiable and benevolent theorist: and such a man, though he may do great and unquestionable good under peculiar local circumstances, and on a limited scale, cannot be trusted to act, or even advise, for a great community. A people is not

* Argentine : an Autobiography. 1 vol. + Floreston : or, the new Lord of the Manor,

« PředchozíPokračovat »