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out of the footsteps of some of our precursors; and the antients, it is well known, have stolen all our bright thoughts-and not only visibly beset all the patent approaches to glory--but swarm in such ambushed multitudes behinds that when we think we have gone fairly beyond their plagiarisms, and honestly worked out an original excellence of our own, up starts some deep-read antiquary, and makes it out, much to his own satisfaction, that heaven knows how many of these busy bodies have been beforehand with us, both in the genus and the species of our invention.
The author before us is certainly in less danger from such detections, than any other we have ever met with ; but, even in him, the traces of imitation are obvious and abundant; and it is impossible, therefore, to give him the same credit for absolute originality as those earlier writers, who, having no successful author to imitate, were obliged to copy directly from nature. In naming him along with Shakespeare, we meant still less to say that he was to be put on a level with him as to the richness and sweetness of his fancy, or that living vein of pure and lofty poetry which flows with such abundance through every part of his composition. On that level no other writer has ever stood, or will ever stand--though we do think that there is fancy and poetry enough in these contemporary pages, if not to justify the comparison we have ventured to suggest, at least to save it, for the first time for two hundred
from being altogether ridiculous. In saying even this, however, we wish to observe, that we have in view the prodigious variety and facility of the modern writer-at least as much as the quality of his several productions. The variety stands out on the face of each of them; and the facility is attested, as in the case of Shakespeare himself, both by the inimitable freedom and happy carelessness of the style in which they are executed, and by the matehless rapidity with which they have been lavished on the public.
Such an author would really require a review to himselfand one too of swifter than quarterly recurrence; and accordingly, we have long since acknowledged our inability to keep up with him, and fairly renounced the task of keeping a regular account of his successive publications; contenting ourselves with greeting him now and then in the pauses of his brilliant career, and casting, when we do meet, a hurried glance over the wide field he has traversed since we met before. We
gave it formerly, we think, as our reason for thus passing over, without special notice, some of the most remarkable productions of the age, that they were in fact too remarkable to need any notice of ours-that they were as soon, and as extensively read, as we could hope our account of them to be and that in reality all the world thought just what we were inclined to say of them. Those reasons certainly remain in full force; and we may now venture to mention another, which bud in secret, perhaps, as much weight with us as all the rest put together. We mean simply, that when we began with one of those works, we were conscious that we never knew how to leave off; but, finding the author's words so much more agreeable than our own, went on in the most unreasonable manner with description after description, and dialogue after dialogue, till we were abused, not altogether without reason, for selling our readers in small letter what they had already in large,and for the abominable nationality of filling up our pages with praises of a Scottish author, and specimens of Scottish pleasantry and pathos. While we contritely admit the justice of these imputations, we humbly trust that our Southern readers will now be of opinion that the offence has been in some degree expiated, both by our late forbearance and our present proceeding : For while we have done violence to our strongest propensities, in passing over in silence two very tempting publications of this author, on Scottish subjects and in the Scottish dialect, we have at last recurred to him for the purpose of noticing the only work he has produced on a subject entirely English ; and one which is nowhere graced either with a trait of our national character, or a sample of our national speech. *. Before entering upon this task, however, we must be permitted, just for the sake of keeping our chronology in order, to say a word or two on those neglected works of which we constrained - Qurselves to say nothing, at the time when they formed the subject of all other disceptation.
• The Heart of Mid-Lothian' is remarkable for containing fewer characters, and less variety of incident, than any of the author's former productions :--and it is accordingly, in some places, comparatively languid. The Porteous mob is rather heavily described; and the whole part of George Robertson, or Stanton, is extravagant and unpleasing. The final catastrophe, too, is needlessly improbable and startling; and both Saddletrees and Davie Deans become at last rather tedious and unreasonable; while we miss, throughout, the character of the generous and kindhearted rustic, which, in one form or another, gives such spirit and interest to most of the other stories. But with all these defects, the work has both beauty and power enough to vindicate its title to a legitimate descent from its mighty father-and even to a place in the valued file' of his productions. The trial and condemnation of Effie Deans are pathetic and beautiful in the very highest degree; and the scenes with the Duke of Argyle are equally full of spirit; and
strangeis compounded of perfect knowledge of life and of strong and deep feeling. But the great boast of the piece, and the great exploit of the author-perhaps the greatest of all his exploitsmis the character and history of Jeanie Deans, from the time she first reproves her sister's flirtations at St Leonard's, till she settles in the manse in Argyleshire. The singular talent with which he has engrafted on the humble and somewhat coarse stock of a quiet anassuming peasant girl, the heroic affection, the strong sense, and lofty purposes, which distinguish this heroine—or rather the art with which he has so tempered and modified those great qualities, as to make them appear noways unsuitable to the station or ordinary bearing of such a person, and so ordered and disposed the incidents by which they are called out, that they seem throughout adapted and native as it were to her condition,-is superior to any thing we can recollect in the history of invention; and must appear, to any one who attentively considers it, as a remarkable triumph over the greatest of all difficulties in the conduct of a fictitious narrative. Jeanie Deans, in the course of her adventurous undertaking, excites our admiration and sympathy a great deal more powerfully than most heroines, and is in the highest degree both pathetic and sublime ;and yet she never says or does any thing that the daughter of a Scotch cowfeeder might not be supposed to say--and scarcely any thing indeed that is not characteristic of her rank and habitual occupations. She is never sentimental, nor refined, nor elegant; and though acting always, and in very difficult situations, with the greatest judgment and propriety, never seems to exert more than that downright and obvious, good sense which is so often found to rule the conduct of persons of her condition. This is the great ornament and charm of the work. Dumbiedykes, however, is an admirable sketch in the grotesque way ; and the Captain of Knockdunder is a very spirited, and, though our Saxon readers will scarcely believe it, a very aceurate representation of a Celtic deputy. There is less description of scenery, and less sympathy with external nature, in this, than in
of the other tales. • The Bride of Lammermoor is more sketchy and romantic than the usual vein of the author-and loses, perhaps, in the exaggeration that is incident to that style, some of the deep and heartfelt interest that belongs to more familiar situations. The humours of Caleb Balderstone are to our taste the least success. fal of this author's attempts at pleasantry—and belong rather to the school of French or Italian buffoonery, than to that of English hunour ;-and yet, to give scope to these farcical exhibitions, the poverty of the Master of Ravenswood is exaggerated beyond all credibility, and to the injury even of his per
sonal dignity.—Sir W. Ashton is tedious; and Bucklaw and his Captain, though excellently drawn, take up rather too much room for subordinate agents. There are splendid things, however, in this work also. —The picture of old Ailie is exquisite and beyond the reach of any other living writer.—The bags that convene in the churchyard, have all the terror and sublimity, and more than the nature of Macbeth's witches; and the courtship at the Mermaiden's well, as well as some of the immediately preceding, scenes, are full of dignity and beauty.– The catastrophe of the Bride, though it may be founded on fact, is too horrible for fiction. But that of Ravenswood is magni
ficent-and, taken along with the prediction which it was doomed to fulfil, and the mourning and death of Balderstone, is one of the finest combinations of superstition and sadness which the gloomy genius of our fiction has ever put together.
« The Legend of Montrose’ is also of the nature of a sketch or fragment, and is still more vigorous than its companion.—There is too much, perhaps, of Dalgetty—or, rather, he engrosses too great a proportion of the work, -for, in himself, we think he is uniformly entertaining ;-and the author has nowhere shown more affinity to that inatchless spirit who could bring out his Falstaffs and his Pistols, in act after act, and play after play, and exercise them every time with scenes of unbounded loquacity, without either exhausting their humour, or varying a note from its characteristic tone, than in his large and reiterated specimens of the eloquence of the redoubted Rittmaster. The general idea of the character is familiar to our comic dramatists after the Restoration-and
be said in some measure to be compounded of Captain Fluellen and Bobadil;- but the ludicrous combination of the soldado with the Divinity student of Marischal College, is entirely original; and the mixture of talent, selfishness, courage, coarseness and conceit, was never so happily exemplified. Numerous as his speeches are, there is not one that is not characteristic-and, to our taste, divertingly ludicrous. Annot Lyle, and the Children of die Mist, are in a very different manner--and are full of genius and poetry. The whole scenes at Argyle's Castle, and in the escape from it—though trespassing too far beyond the bounds of probability—are given with great spirit and effect; and the mixture of romantic incident and situation, with the tone of actual business and the real transactions of a camp, give a life and interest to the warlike part of the story, which belong to the fictions of no other hand. There is but little made of Montrose himself; and the wager about the Candlesticks--though said to be founded in fact, and borrowed from a very well known and
entertaining book, is one of the few things in the writings of this author, to which we are constrained to apply the epithets of stupid and silly.
Having thus hastily set our mark on those productions of which we have been prevented from speaking in detail, we proceed, without further preface, to give an account of the work before us.
The story, as we have already stated, is entirely English; and consequently no longer possesses the charm of that sweet Doric dialect, of which even strangers have been made of late to feel the force and the beauty. But our Southern neighbours will be no great gainers, after all, in point of familiarity with the personages, by this transference of the scene of action :- For the time is laid as far back as the reign of Richard I.—and we suspect that the Saxons and Normans of that age are rather less known to them than the Highlanders and Cameronians of the present. This was the great difficulty the author had to contend with, and the great disadvantage of the subject with which he had to deal. Nobody now alive can have a very clear or complete conception of the actual way of life and maniere d'être of our ancestors in the year 1194. Some of the more prominent outlines of their chivalry, their priesthood, and their villenage, may be known to antiquaries, or even to general readers; but all the filling up, and details, which alone could give body and life to the picture, have been long since effaced by time, We have scarcely any notion, in short, of the private life and conversation of any class of persons in that remote period; and, in fact, know less how the men and women occupied or amused themselves—what they talked about how they looked-or what they habitually thought or felt, at that time in England, than we know of what they did or thought at Rome in the time of Augustus, or at Athens in the time of Pericles. The memorials and relics of those earlier ages and remoter nations are greatly more abundant and more familiar to us, than of our ancestors at the distance of seven centuries. Besides ample histories and copious orations, we have plays, poems, and familiar letters of the former period; while of the latter we have only some vague chronicles, some superstitious legends, and a few fragments of foreign romance. We scarcely know indeed what language was then either spoken or written. Yet, with all these helps, how cold and conjectural a thing would a novel be, of which the scene was laid in antient Rome! The author might talk with perfect propriety of the business of the Forum, and the amusements of the Circus of the baths and the suppers, and lhe canvas for office and the sacrifices and musters and assem