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with so much of the feelings 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 pa
noply in the lists, and the foresters who shoot
deer with arrows, and plunder travellers in the woods, as real individuals, with hearts 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 sympathise. To all this he has added, out of the prodigality of his high and inventive 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 productions which had already proceeded from the same master-hand, it is impossible not to feel that we are passing in some 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 dresses, moated 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 olden 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 overdrawn 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 eyes 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 mo
dern novels; and savours much more of the au
thor of Marmion, or the Lady of the Lake, than of Waverley or Old Mortality. Without disputing the general verdict, which places the Moxas reny below the rest of our author's works, we shall endeavour to ascertain the grounds on which it may be supposed to be founded. We believe the principal deficiency lies in, what is usually our author's principal excellence, the female characters. In general, his men add to the boldness and animation of the scene, but his women support almost all its interest. Perhaps this must always be the case where both are equally well drawn. We sympathize more readily with simple than with compound feelings; and therefore less easily with those characters, the different ingredients of which have, by mutual subservience, been moulded into one uniform mass, than with those in which they stand unmixed and contrasted. Courage restrained by caution, and liberality by prudence, loyalty, with a view only to the ultimate utility of power, and love, never forgetting itself in its object, are the attributes of men. Their purposes are formed on a general balance of compensating motives, and pursued only while their means appear not totally inadequate. The greater susceptibility, which is always the charm, and sometimes the misfortune, of women, deprives them of the same accurate view of the proportion of different objects. The one upon which they are intent, whether it be a lover, a parent, a husband, a child, a king, a preacher, a ball, or a bonnet, swallows up the rest. Hence the enthusiasm of their loyalty, the devotedness of their affection, the abandonment of self, and the general vehemence of emotion, which, in fiction as well as in reality, operate contagiously on our feelings. But our author has, in the Monastery, neglected the power of representing the female character, which he possesses so eminently, and, in general, uses so liberally. The heroine is milk and water, or any thing still more insipid. Dame Glendinning and Tibbie are the common furniture of a farm-house; and Mysie Happer and poor Catherine, though beautiful, are mere sketches. But the great merit of the Monastery is, that it is a foundation for the Abbot. This not only relieves, in a great measure, the reader from the slow detail, or the perplexing retracings and eclaircissemens which detain or interrupt him in a narrative that is purely fictitious, but is an improvement on some of the peculiar advantages of one that is historical. In the latter, the hard and meagre outline of his previous knowledge seldom contains more than the names and mutual relations of the principal personages, and what they had previously done, with very little of what they had previously felt. But where one fiction is founded on another, we are introduced not merely to persons who are notorious to us, but to old acquaintances and friends. The Knight of Avenel, the Abbot Ambrosius, and the Gardener Blinkhoolie, are the Halbert, and Edward, and Boniface, into whose early associations and secret feelings we had been admitted. We meet them as we meet, in real life, with those whom we have known in long-past times, and in different situations, and are interested in tracing, sometimes the resemblance, and sometimes the contrast, between what has past and what is present; in observing the effect of new circumstances in modifying or confirming their old feelings, or in eliciting others which before lay unperceived. We view with interest the fiery freedom of Halbert's youth ripened into the steady and stern composure of the approved soldier and skilful politician; and when, as Knight of Avenel, he sighs for birth and name, we recognize the feelings that drove him from the obscure security of a church vassal, to seek with his sword the means of ranking with those proud men, who despised his clownish poverty. And when Ambrose acknowledges that, bent as he is by affliction, he has not forgotten the effect of beauty on the heart of youth—that even in the watches of the night, broken by the thoughts of an imprisoned queen, a distracted kingdom, a church laid waste and ruinous, come other thoughts than these suffgest, and other feelings that belong to an earlier and happier course of life; a single allusion sends us back through the whole intervening time, and we see him again in the deep window-recess of Glendearg, and Mary's looks of simple yet earnest anxiety, watching for his assistance in their childish studies. The allusion would have been pretty, but how inferior if Ambrose had been a new character, and we had been forced to account for it by some vague theory as to his former history. The Abbot has, however, far greater advantages over its predecessor than those, great as they are, that arise from their relative situation. We escape from the dull tower of Glendearg, with its narrow valley and homely inmates, to Edinburgh, and Holyrood House, and Lochleven Castle, and the field of Langside, and to high dames and mighty earls, and exchange the obscure squabbling of the hamlet and the convent for events where the passions of individuals decided the fate of kingdoms, and, above all, we exchange unintelligible fairyism for human actors and human feelings. It is true there is a sorceress on the stage, but one endued with powers far greater for evil or for good than the White Lady. History has never
described, or fiction invented, a character more truly tragic than Queen Mary. The most fruitful imagination could not have adorned her with more accomplishments, or exposed her to greater extremes of fortune, or alternated them with greater rapidity. And the mystery which, after all the exertions of her friends and enemies, still rests on her conduct, and which our author has most skilfully left as dark as he found it, prevents our being either shocked or unmoved by her fimal calamities. The former would have been the case, if her innocence could have been established. We could not have borne to see such a being plunged, by a false accusation, from such happiness into such misery. The latter would have followed, if she could havé been proved to be guilty. Her sufferings, bitter as they were, were less unmixed than those of Bothwell. He too endured a long imprisonment, but it was in a desolate climate, without the alleviations which even Elizabeth allowed to her rival, without the hope of escape, or the sympathy of devoted attendants: such was his misery, that his reason sunk under it. And though his sufferings were greater than those of his accomplice, if such she were, his crime was less. He had not to break the same restraints of intimate connexion and of sex. But nobody could read a tragedy of which his misfortunes formed the substance; because we are sure of his guilt, they will excite no interest. While we continue to doubt hers, Mary's will be intensely affecting. Though KENilworth ranks high among our author's works, we think it inferior, as a whole, to his other tragedies, the Bride of Lammermoor, the historical part of Waverley, and the Abbot, both in materials and in execution. Amy Robsart and Elizabeth occupy nearly the same space upon the canvas as Catherine Seyton and Mary. But almost all the points of interest, which are divided between Amy and Elizabeth, historical recollections, beauty, talents, attractive virtues and unhappy errors, exalted rank and deep misfortune, are accumulated in Mary; and we want altogether that union of the lofty and the elegant, of enthusiasm and playfulness, which enchanted us in Catherine. Amy is a beautiful specimen of that class which long ago furnished Desdemona: the basis of whose character is conjugal love, whose charm consists in its purity and its devotedness, whose fault springs from its undue prevalence over filial duty, and whose sufferings are occasioned by the perverted passions of him who is the object of it. I lizabeth owes almost all her interest to our early associations, and to her marvellous combination of the male and female dispositions, in those points in which they seem most incompatible. The re
presentation of such a character loses much of its interest in history, and would be intolerable in pure fiction. In the former, its peculiarities are softened down by the distance, and Elizabeth appears a fine, but not an uncommon object—a great, unamiable sovereign; and the same peculiarities, shown up by the microscopic exaggeration of fiction, would, if judged only by the rules of fiction, offend as unnatural; but supported by the authority of history, would be most striking. A portrait might be drawn of Elizabeth, uniting the magnanimous courage, the persevering but governable anger, the power of weighing distant against immediate advantages, and the brilliant against the useful, and of subjecting all surrounding minds, even the most manly, to her influence, with the most craving vanity, the most irritable jealousy, the meanest duplicity, and the most capricious and unrelenting spite, that ever degraded the silliest and most hateful of her sex.
Sir Walter has not, we think, made the most of his opportunities. He has complied with the laws of poetical consistency, without recollecting that, in this instance, the notoriety of Elizabeth's history warranted their violation. Instead of pushing to the utmost the opposing qualities that formed her character, he has softened even the incidents that he has directly borrowed. When Leicester knelt before her at Kenilworth, ere she raised him she passed her hand over his head, so near as almost to touch his long curled and perfumed hair, and with a movement of fondness that seemed to intimate she would, if she dared, have made the motion a slight caress. Listen to Sir James Melvil's account of the occurrence.
• I was required to stay till he was made Earl of Leicester, which was done at Westminster, the queen herself helping to put on his ceremonial, he sitting upon his knees (kneeling) before her with great gravity; but she could not refrain from putting her hands into his neck, smilingly tickling him, the French ambassador and I standing by. Then she turned, asking me how I liked him?” Again, when she discovers Leicester's conduct, in which every cause of personal irritation is most skilfully accumulated, she punishes him only by a quarter of an hour's restraint under the custody of the earl-marshal.
When, at a later period, and under circumstances of much less aggravation, she detected his marriage with Lady Essex, she actually imprisoned him. Our author has not ventured on the full vehemence of her affection or her rage. But, after all, his picture of the lion-hearted queen, though it might perhaps have been improved by the admission of stronger contrasts, is so vivid, and so magnificent, that we can hardly wish it other than it is.
The Pinate is a bold attempt to "make out a long and eventful story, from a very narrow circle of society, and a scene so circumscribed as scarcely to admit of any great scope or variety of action; and its failure, in a certain degree, must in fairness be ascribed chiefly to this scantiness and defect of the materials. The Fortunes of Nigel is of an historical character, and an attempt to describe and illustrate by examples the manners of the court, and, generally speaking, of the age of James I. of England. without asserting the high excellence of SAINT RoNAN's Well, we may venture to affirm that it does not deserve the contempt with which it has been treated by some critics. The story, indeed, is not very probable, and there are various inconsistencies in the plot; the characters, though apparently intended to be completely modern, are in some instances more suitable to the last generation; the hero's portrait is feebly drawn: the moral tone of the work is less correct and legitimate than that which pervades our author's preceding productions, and the impulses of feeling and humanity are less natural and forcible; but it is still a work which bears the marks of a master's hand, the interest is well sustained, the incidents are related with spirit, many of the dialogues are lively and pleasant, and not only the characters of the heroine, but also those of the landlady of Touchwood, are drawn with a discriminating and powerful pencil. In the historical novels of Redgau Ntlet, Qur'NTiN Duaward, and Woodsrock, the author displays a truly graphic power in the delineation of characters, which he sketches with an ease, and colours with a brilliancy, and scatters about with a profusion, which but few writers, in any age, have been able to accomplish. With spells of magic potency, and with the creations of a rich and varied fancy, so skilfully has he stolen us from ourselves, with such exquisite cunning has he extracted a kind of poetry from the common incidents of life, with such an extent of legendary knowledge, he has displayed so wonderful an aptitude in drawing from historic research those minute traits of manners and modifications in social life, which, by reason of the wide range which it traverses, and the rapidity with which it moves along, are in history too general and indistinct; that it would be worse than affectation to stand aloof from the general feeling, and to refuse our humble proportion of those a golden opinions he has bought from all sorts of men," and which have fixed him in so high a rank in the literature of his country. The Tales of the Causadens have not been received with that enthusiasm of delight which greeted some of our author's former productions: yet they undoubtedly possess considerable merit, and, amidst much that is feelble, uninteresting, and absurd, bear evident marks of sense and talent. To sum up our observations on the waverley Novels, in a few words, we think their author has succeeded by far the best in the representation of rustic and homely characters, and not in the ludicrous or contemptuous representation of them —but by making them at once more matural and more interesting than they had ever been made before in any work of fiction; by showing them, not as clowns to be laughed at, or wretches to be pitied and despised,—but as human creatures, with as many pleasures, and fewer cares, than their superiors — with affections not only as strong, but often as delicate, as those whose language is smoother—and with a vein of humour, a force of sagacity, and very frequently an elevation of fancy, as high and as natural as can be met with among more cultivated beings. The great merit of all these delineations is their admirable truth and fidelity, the whole manner and cast of the characters being accurately moulded to their condition; and the finer attributes, so blended and harmonized with the mative rudeness and simplicity of their life and occupations, that they are made interesting and even noble beings, without the least particle of foppery or exaggeration, and delight and amuse us, without trespassing at all on the province of pastoral or romance. Next to these, we think, he has found his happiest subjects, or at least displayed his greatest powers, in the delineation of the grand and gloomy aspects of nature, and of the dark and fierce passions of the heart. The natural gaiety of his temper does not indeed allow him to dwell long on such themes; but the sketches he occasionally introduces are executed with admirable force and spirit, and give a strong impression both of the vigour of his imagination and the variety of his talent. It is only in the third rank that we would place his pictures of chivalry and chivalrous character, his traits of gallantry, nobleness, and honour, and that bewitching assemblage of gay and gentle manners, with generosity, candour, and courage, which has long been familiar enough to readers and writers of novels, but has never before been represented with such an air of truth, and so much ease and happiness of execution. Among his faults and failures, we must give the first place to his descriptions of virtuous young ladies, and his representations of the ordinary business of courtship and conversation in polished life. We admit that those things, as
they are commonly conducted, are apt to be a little insipid to a mere critical spectator, and that while they consequently require more heightening than strange adventures or grotesque persons, they admit less of exaggeration or ambitious ornament : yet we cannot think it mecessary that they should be altogether so lame and mawkish as we generally find them in the hands of this spirited writer, whose powers really seem to require some stronger stimulus to bring them into action, than can be supplied by the flat realities of a peaceful and ordinary existence. His love of the ludicrous, it must also be observed, often betrays him into forced and vulgar exaggerations, and into the repetition of common and paltry stories; though it is but fair to add, that he does not detain us long with them, and makes amends, by the copiousness of his assortment, for the indifferent quality of some of the specimens. It is another consequence of this extreme abundance in which he revels and riots, and of the fertility of the imagination from which it is supplied, that he is at all times a little apt to overdo even those things which he does best. His most striking and highly-coloured characters appear rather too often, and go on rather too long. It is astonishing, indeed, with what spirit they are supported, and how fresh and animated they are to the yery last; but still there is something too much of them, and they would be more waited for and welcomed, if they were not quite so lavish of their presence. It was reserved for Shakspeare alone to leave all his characters as new and unworn as he found them, and to carry Falstaff through the business of three several plays, and leave us as greedy of his sayings as at the moment of his first introduction. It is no light praise to the author before us, that he has sometimes reminded us of this, and, as we have before observed, of other inimitable excellencies in that most gifted of all inventors. He is above all things national and Scottish, and never seems to feel the powers of a giant except when he touches his native soil. His countrymen alone, therefore, can have a full sense of his merits, or a perfect relish of his excellencies; and those only, indeed, of thein, who have mingled, as he has done, pretty freely with the lower orders, and made themselves familiar not only with their language, but with the habits and traits of character of which it then only becomes expressive. It is one thing to understand the meaning of words, as they are explained by other words in a glossary or dictionary, and another to know their value, as expressive of certain feelings and humours in the speakers to whom they are native, and as signs both of temper and | condition among those who are familiar with their import. We shall make no apology to our readers for introducing here, the following animated delineation of the author of Waverley, from the pen of an acute critic. • Sir Walter," says this writer, a has found out that facts are better than fiction; that there is no romance like the romance of real life; and that can we but arrive at what men feel, do, and say, in striking and singular situations, the result will be more lively, audible, and full of vent, than the fine-spun cobwebs of the brain. Our author has conjured up the actual people he has to deal with, or as much as he could get of them, in ‘their habits as they lived. He has ransacked old chronicles, and poured the contents upon his
, are apt to be a
| spectator, and y require more entures or groof exaggeration or Innot think it netogether so lame find them in the ote powers really stimulus to bring e supplied by the rolinary existence. st also be obseryd and vulgar exition of common but fair to add, with them, and ss of his assorty of some of the sequence of this revels and riots, magination from at all times a lik gs which he does highly-coloured sten, and go on g, indeed, with and how fresh y last; but still them, and they lcomed, if they ir presence. It he to leave all rn as he found gh the business is as greedy of is first introduc e author lefore uded us of this of other inim” sisted of all in
i page; he has squeezed out musty records; he has
consulted way-faring pilgrims, bed-rid sibyls; he has invoked the spirits of the air; he has conversed with the living and the dead, and let them tell their story their own way; and by borrowing of others, has enriched his own genius with everlasting variety, truth, and freedom. He has taken his materials from the original, authentic sources, in large concrete masses, and has not tampered
with, or too much frittered them away. He is
the only amanuensis of truth and history. It is impossible to say how fine his writings in consequence are, unless we could describe how fine nature is. All that portion of the history of his country that he has touched upon (wide as the scope is), the manners, the personages, the events, the scenery, lives over again in his volumes. Nothing is wanting—the illusion is complete. There is a hurtling in the air, a trampling of feet upon the ground, as these perfect representations of human character, or fanciful belief, come thronging back upon the imagination. We will merely recal a few of the subjects of his pencil to the reader's recollection, for nothing we could add by way of nôte or commendation, could make the impression more vivid. • There is (first and foremost, because the earliest of our acquaintance), the Baron of Bradwardine, stately, kind-hearted, whimsical, and pedantic; and Flora Mac-Ivor (whom even we forgive for her jacobitism), the fierce Vich Ian Vohr, and Evan Dhu, constant in death, and Davie Gellatley, roasting his eggs, or turning his rhymes with restless volubility, and the two stag-hounds that met Waverley, as fine as ever Titian painted, or Paul Veronese:–then there is old Balfour of Burley, brandishing his sword and his Bible with fire-eyed fury, trying a fall with the insolent, gigantic Bothwell, at the 'change-house, and vanquishing him at the noble battle of Loudon-hill; there is Bothwell, himself, drawn to the life,
proud, cruel, selfish, profligate—but with the love-letters of the gentle Alice (written thirty years before), and his verses to her memory, found in his pocket after his death; in the same volume of Old Mortality, is that lone figure, like one in Scripture, of the woman sitting on the stone, at the turning to the mountain, to warn Burley that there is a lion in his path; and the fawning Claverhouse, beautiful as a panther, smooth-looking, blood-spotted : and the famatics, Macbriar and Mucklewrath, crazed with zeal and sufferings; and the inflexible Morton, and the faithful Edith, who refused to “give her hand to another, while her heart was with her lover in the deep and dead sea. In The Heart of Mid-Lothian, we have Effie Deans (that sweet faded flower), and Jeanie, her more than sister, and old David Deans, the patriarch of St Leonard's Crags, and Butler, and
Dunbiedikes, eloquent in his silence, and Mr Bartoline Saddletree, and his prudent helpmate, and Porteous, swinging in the wind, and Madge
Wildfire, full of finery and madness, and her ghastly mother. Again, there is Meg Merrilies, standing on her rock, stretched on her bier, with “her head to the east, and Dirk Hatteraick, (equal to Shakspeare's Master Barnardine), and Glossin, the soul of an attorney, and Dandie Dinmont, with his terrier-pack and his pony Dumple, and the fiery Colonel Mannering, and the modish old counsellor Pleydell, and Dominie Sampson : and Rob Roy (like the eagle in his eyrie), and Baillie
Nicol Jarvie, and the inimitable Major Galbraith, Rashleigh Osbaldistone, and Die Vernon, the best
of secret-keepers; and in the Antiquary, the inge
mious.Mr Oldbuck, and the old bedesman, Edie
Ochiltree, and that preternatural figure of old Elspeth, a living shadow, in whom the lamp of life had been long extinguished, had it not been fed by remorse and ‘thick-coming' recollections; and that striking picture of feudal
tyranny and fiendish pride, the unhappy Earl of
Glenallan; and the Black Dwarf, and his friend, Hobbie of the Heughfoot (the cheerful hunter), and his cousin Grace Armstrong, fresh and laughing like the morning; and the Children of the Mist, and the baying of the blood-hound, that tracks their steps at a distance (the hollow echoes are in our ears now), and Amy and her hapless love, and the villain Varney, and the deep voice of George of Douglas—and the immoveable Balafré, and Master Oliver, the barber, in Quentin Durward—and the quaint humour of the Fortunes of Nigel, and the comic spirit of Peveril of the Peak—and the fine old English romance of Ivanhoe. What a list of names! What a host of associations! what a thing is human life! what a power is that of genius! what a world of thought and feeling is thus rescued from oblivion! How