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blies. He might be quite correct as to the dress, furniture and utensils he had occasion to mention; and might even engross in his work various anecdotes and sayings preserved in contemporary authors. But when he came to represent the details of individual character and feeling, and to delineate the daily conduct, and report the ordinary conversation of his persons, he would find himself either frozen in among naked and barren generalities, or engaged with modern Englishmen in the masquerade habits of antiquity.
In stating these difficulties, however, we really mean less to account for the defects than to enhance the merits of the work before us. For though the author has not worked impossibilities, he has done wonders with his subject; and though we do sometimes miss those fresh and living pictures of the characters which we know, and the nature with which we are familiar—and that high and deep interest which the home scenes of our own times and our own people could alone generate or sustain, it is impossible to deny that he has made marvellous good use of the scanty materials at his disposal—and eked them out both by the greatest skill and dexterity in their arrangement, and by all the resources that original genius could render subservient to such a design. For this purpose he has laid his scene in a period when the rivalry of the victorious Norman, and the conquered Saxon had not been finally composed; and when the courtly petulance, and chivalrous and military pride of the one race might yet be set in splendid opposition to the manly steadiness and honest but homely simplicity of the other · And has at the same time given an air both of dignity and of reality to his story, by bringing in the personal prowess of Cæur de Lion himself, and other personages of historical fame, to assist in its development.-Though reduced in a great measure to the vulgar staple of armed knights and jolly friars or woodsmen, imprisoned damsels, lawless barons, collared serfs, and household fools-he has made such admirable use of his great talents for description, and invested those traditional and theatrical persons with so much of the feelings and humours that are of all ages and all countries, that we frequently cease to regard them—as it is generally right to regard them--as parts of a fantastical pageant; and are often brought to consider the knights who joust in panoply in the lists, and the foresters who shoot deer with arrows, and plunder travellers in the woods, as real individuals, with hearts of flesh and blood beating in their bosoms like our own-actual existences, in short, into whose views we may reasonably enter, and with whose emotions we are bound to sympathize. To all this he has added, out of the prodigality of his high and in
ventive genius, the grace and the interest of some lofty and sweet and superhuman characters--for which, though evidently fictitious, and unnatural in any stage of society, the remoteness of the scene on which they are introduced, may serve as an apology--if they could need any other than what they bring along with them in their own sublimity and beauty.
In comparing this work then with the former productions of the same master-hand, it is impossible not to feel that we are passing in a good degree from the reign of nature and reality, to that of fancy and romance; and exchanging for scenes of wonder and curiosity, those more homefelt sympathies and deeper touches of delight that can only be excited by the people among whom we live, and the objects that are constantly around us. A far greater proportion of the work is accordingly made up of splendid descriptions of arms and dressesmoated and massive castles—tournaments of mailed champions -solemn feasts---formal courtesies, and other matters of external and visible presentment, that are only entitled to such distinction as connected with the older times, and novel by virtue of their antiquity--while the interest of the story is maintained far more by surprising adventures and extraordinary situations, the startling effect of exaggerated sentiments, and the strong contrast of exaggerated characters, than by the sober charms of truth and reality,--the exquisite representation of scenes with which we are familiar, or the skilful development of affections which we have often experienced.
These bright lights and deep shadows--this succession of brilliant pictures, addressed as often to the eye as to the imagination, and oftener to the imagination than the heart, this preference of striking generalities to homely details, all belong more properly to the province of poetry than of prose; and Ivanhoe accordingly seems to us much more akin to the most splendid of modern poems, than the most interesting of modern novels; and savours much more of the author of Marmion or the Lady of the Lake, than of that of Waverley or Old Mortality. For our part we prefer, and we care not who knows it, the prose to the poetrywhether in metre or out of it; and would willingly exchange, if the proud alternative were in our choice, even the great fame of Mr Scott, for that which awaits the mighty unknown who has here raised his standard of rivalry within the ancient limits of his reign. We must now proceed, however, to give some account of his attempt, to the few among our readers to whom it may still be unknown; and to express our opinion-and we dare theirs also- of its merits, to the rest.
The scene, as we have already said, is laid in the time of
Richard the Ist, and in the memorable year of his escape from his long imprisonment, and his brief and triumphant restoration to his English subjects. A great part of its interest, too, depends, as we have also intimated, on the contrast of the Norman and Saxon characters, and the splendid exhibition of what was pecu liar in each: And to understand the slight abstract of the story with which we mean to accompany and connect our extracts, it is only necessary to premise, that Cedric, one of the few Saxon thanes who still retained the ample possessions of his forefathers, and bravely made head against the insolent usurpations of the Norman nobility, had long acted as guardian to the lady Rowena, a descendant of the illustrious Alfred, in whose issue he still nourished a feeble hope that the antient line of the English monarchs might be restored. Though himself of the noblest race, he did not conceive his family entitled to aspire to this lofty alliance; and, while the great object of his patriotic anxiety was to unite the lovely Rowena to the noble Athelstane of Coningsburgh, he had banished his only son from his presence, for having presumed to solicit the favour of the royal beauty. Wilfrid of Ivanhoe, for so was the son called, though conscious of having made an impression on the tender heart of Rowena, had submitted in silence to this exile; and had not abated his father's displeasure by following the fortunes of the Norman Richard in his chivalrous exploits in Palestine, where it was understood he had performed many feats of valour, and endured many wrongs and hardships ; though the imperfect communication that could be maintained with that distant region, had long rendered his fate uncertain.
The story opens, after some historical notices of great vigour and accuracy, with a picture of two of Cedric's domestics tending his herd of swinc in a forest adjoining his domain in the central districts of Yorkshire: one of them is the kecper of the herd, the other is the household jester or fool of the worthy thane. That our readers may have an early taste of the force and liveliness of the descriptions in which the work abounds, we must present them with a few of these introductory sentences.
• The sun was setting upon one of the rich glassy gladles of that forest, which we have mentioned in the beginning of the chapter. Hundreds of broad short-stemmed oaks, which had witnessed perhaps the stately march of the Roman soldiery, flung their broad gnarled arms over a thick carpet of the most delicious green sward ; in some places they were intermingled with beeches, hollies, and copeswood of various descriptions, so closely as totally to intercept the level beams of the sinking sun ; in others they receded from each other, forming those long sweeping vistas, in thč intricacy of which the eye
delights to lose itself, while imagination considers them as the paths to yet wilder scenes of sylvan solitude. Here the red rays of the sun shot a broken and discoloured light, that partially hung upon the shattered boughs and mossy trunks of the trees, and there they illuminated in brilliant patches the portions of turf to which they made their way. A considerable open space, in the midst of this glade, seemed formerly to have been dedicated to the rites of Druidical superstition ; for, on the summit of a hillock, so regular as to seem artificial, there still remained part of a circle of rough anhewn stones, of large dimensions. Seven stood upright; the rest had been dislodged from their places, probably by the zeal of some convert to Christianity, and lay, some prostrate near their former site, and others on the side of the hill. One large stone only had found its way to the bottom; and in stopping the course of a small brook, which glided smoothly round the foot of the eminence, gave, by its opposition, a feeble voice of murmur to the placid and elsewhere silent streamlet.
· The human figures which completed this landscape, were in number two, partaking, in their dress and appearance, of that wild and rustic character which belonged to the woodlands of the West-Riding of Yorkshire at this early period. The eldest of these men had a stern, savage, and wild aspect. His garment was of the simplest form imaginable, being a close jacket with sleeves, composed of the tanned skin of some animal, on which the hair had been originally left, but which had been worn off in so many places, that it would have been difficult to distinguish, from the patches that remained, to what creature the fur had belonged. This primeval vestment reached from the throat to the knees, and served at once all the usual purposes of body-clothing ; there was no wider opening at the col. lar, than was necessary to admit the passage of the head, from which it may be inferred, that it was put on by slipping it over the head and shoulders, in the manner of a modern shirt, or ancient hauberk. Sandals, bound with thongs made of boars' hide, protected the feet; and a sort of roll of thin leather was twined artificially round the legs, and, ascending above the calf, left the knees bare, like those of a Scottish Highlander. To make the jacket sit yet more close to the body, it was gathered at the middle by a broad leathern belt, secured by a brass buckle ; to one side of which was attached a sort of scrip, and to the other a ram's horn, accoutred with a mouth-piece, for the purpose of blowing. In the same belt was stuck one of those long, broad, sharp-pointed, and two-edged knives, with a buck’shorn handle, which were fabricated in the neighbourhood, and bore even at this early period the name of a Sheffield whittle. The man had no covering upon his head, which yas only defended by his own thick hair, matted and twisted together, and scorched by the influence of the sun into a rusty dark red colour, forming a contrast with the overgrown beard upon his cheeks, which was rather of a yellow or amber hue. One part of his dress only remains, but it is too remarkable to be suppressed; it was a brass ring, resembling a dog's collar,
but without any opening, and soldered fast round his neck, so loose as to form no impediment to his breathing, yet so tight as to be incapable of being removed, excepting by the use of the file. On this singular gorget was engraved in Saxon characters, an inscription of the following purport :-"Gurth, the son of Beowulph, is the born thrall of Cedric of Rotherwood. 1. 7-10.
The Fool, whose whole part is copied with considerable boldness and success from the specimens of that character in Shakespeare, and especially, we think, from the kind-hearted one who attended on the wanderings of the unhappy Lear, is described with equal effect; and a considerable and very characteristic dialogue is maintained between him and his companion, about their several occupations, and common sufferings from the Normans, when they are interrupted by the approach of the portly Prior of a neighbouring abbey, accompanied by a fierce and stately cavalier, attended by two Moorish slaves in habits of the gorgeous East. The bearing and equipments of the whole party are described with the greatest spirit; but as such objects have been often described before, we take leave to pass them over, as well as the conversation which passes as they inquire the way to the dwelling of Cedric, on whose hospitality they mean to encroach for that night's lodging, as they travel to an approaching tournament at Ashby-de-la-Zouche. They find a pilgrim in the wood, who guides them to the place of their destination; of which, and its potent proprietor, we have the following admirable description.
· The mansion was a low, irregular building, containing several court-yards or enclosures, extending over a considerable space of ground, and which, though its size argued the inhabitant to be a person of wealth, differed entirely from the tall, turreted, and castellated buildings in which the Norman nobility resided, and which had become the universal style of architecture throughout England. Rotherwood was not, however, without defences; no habitation, in that disturbed period, could have been so, without the risk of being plundered and burnt before the next morning. A deep fosse, or ditch, was drawn round the whole building, and filled with water from a neighbouring stream. A double stockade, or palisade, composed of pointed beams, which the adjacent forest supplied, defended the outer and inner bank of the fosse. There was an entrance from the west through the outer stockade, which communicated by a drawbridge, with a similar opening in the interior defences.
In a hall, the height of which was greatly disproportioned to itą extreme length and width, a long oaken table, formed of planks rough-hewn from the forest, and which had scarcely received any polish, stood ready prepared for the evening meal of Cedric the Saxon. The roof, composed of beams and rafters, had nothing to di vide the apartment from the sky excepting the planking and thatch.