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NOVELS AND ROMANCES.
. One of the most obvious distinctions of the works of romance is, an utter violation of all the relations between ends and means. Sometimes such ends are proposed as seem quite dissevered from means, inasnuch as there are scarcely any supposable means on earth to accomplish them: but no matter; if we cannot ride we must swim, if we cannot swim we must fly: the object is effected by a mere poetical omnipotence that wills it. And very often practicable objects are attained by means the most fantastic, improbable, or inadequate ; so that there is scarcely any resemblance between the method in which they are accomplished by the dexterity of fiction, and that in which The same things must be attempted in the actual economy of the world. Now, when you see this absurdity of imagination prevailing in the calculations of real Jife, you may justly apply the epithet romantic.
Indeed a strong and habitually indulged imagination may be so absorbed in the end, if it is not a concern of absolute immediate urgency, as for a while quite to forget the process of attainment. It has incantations to dissolve the rigid laws of time and distance, and place a man in something so like the presence of his object, that he seems half to possess it; and it is hard while occupying the verge of paradise, to be flung far back in order to find or make a path to it, with the slow and toilsome steps of reality. In the luxury of promising himself that what he wishes will by some means take place at some time, he forgets that he is advancing no nearer to it-except on the wise and patient calculation that he must, by the simple movement of growing older, be coming somewhat nearer to every event that is yet to happen to him. He is like a traveller, who, amidst his indolent musings in some soft bower, where he sat down to be shaded a little while from the rays of the noon, falls asleep, and dreams he is in the midst of all the endearments of home, insensible that there are many hills and dales yet for him to traverse. But the traveller will awake; so too will the gian of fancy, and if he has the smallest capacity of just reflection, he will regret to have wasted in reveries the time which ought to have been devoted to practical exertions.
But even though reminded of the necessity of intervening means, the man of imagination will often be tempted to violate their relation with ends, by permitting himself to dwell on those happy casualties which the prolific sorcery of his mind will promptly figure to him as the very things, if they would but occur, to accomplish his wishes at once, without the toil of a sober process. If they would occur--and . things as strange might happen: he reads in the newspapers that an estate of twenty thousand pound perannum was lately adjudged to a man who was working on the road. He has even heard of people dreaming that in such a place something valuable was con: cealed ; and that, on searching or digging that place, they found an old earthern pot, full of gold and silver pieces of the times of good king Charles the Mar. tyr. Mr.
B w as travelling by the mail-coach, in which he met with a most interesting young lady, whom he had never seen before; they were mutually delighted, and were married in a few weeks. Mr.
a man of great merit in obscurity, was walking across a field when Lord D in chase of a fox, leaped over a hedge, and fell off his horse into a ditch. Mr. C with the utmost alacrity and kind solicitude helped his lordship out of the ditch, and recovered for him his escaped horse. The conse
quence was inevitable ; his lordship superior to the pride of being mortified to have been seen in a condition so unlucky for giving the impression of nobil. ity, commenced a friendship with Mr.
C a nd introduced him into honourable society and the road to fortune. A very ancient maiden lady of large for. tune happening to be embarrassed in a crowd, a young clergyman offered her his arm, and politely attended her home; his attention so captivated her, that she bequeathed to him, soon after, the whole of her estate, though she had many poor relations..
That class of fictitious works called novels, though much more like real life than the romances that preceded them, (and which are now, with some alterations partly come into vogue again,) are yet full of these lucky incidents and adventures, which are introduced as the chief means towards the ultimate 'success. A young man without fortune, for instance, is precluded from making his addresses to a young female in a superior situation, whom he believes not indifferent to him, until he can approach her with such worldly advantages, as it might not be imprudent or degrading for her to accept. Now how is this to be accomplished? Why, I suppose by the exertion of his talents in some fair and practicable department; and perhaps the lady besides will generously abdicate for his sake some of the trappings and luxuries of rank. You really suppose this is the plan ? I am sorry you have so much less genius than a novel-writer. This young man has an uncle, who has been absent a long time, nobody knows where, except the young man's lucky stars. During his absence, the old uncle has gained a large fortune, with which he returns to his native land, at a time most opportune for every one, but a highwayman, who attacks him in a road through a wood, but is frightened away by the young hero, who happens to come there at the instant, to rescue and recognize his uncle, and to be in return recognized and made the heir to as many thousands as the lady or her family could wish. Must not the reader think it very likely that he too has some old uncle, or acquaintance at least, returning with a ship loaded with wealth from the East-Indies ; and very desirable that the highwayman should make one such attempt more ; and very certain that in that case he should be there in time to catch all that fortune sends ? One's indignation is excited at the immoral tendency of such lessons to young readers, who are thus taught to regard all sober regular plans for compassing an object with disgust or despondency, and to muse on improbabilities till they become foolish enough to expect them, and to be melancholy when they find they may expect them in vain. It is unpardonable that these pretended instructors by example should thus explode the calculations and exertions of manly resolution, destroy the connection between ends and means, and make the rewards of virtue so depend on chance, that if the reader does not either regard the whole fable: with contempt, or promise himself he shall receive no favours of fortune in some similar way, he must close the book with the conviction that he may hang or drown himself as soon as he pleases ; that is to say, unless he has learnt from some other source a better morality and religion than these books ever: will teach him.
· Section II.
Perhaps there is not any word in the English: language less understood than HONOUR; and but few that might not have been equally mistaken, without producing equal mischief. Honour is both a motive and an end. As “a principle of action,” it differs from Virtue only in degree, and therefore necessari. ly includes it, as Generosity includes Justice ; and as “ a reward,” it can be deserved only by those aço
tions which no other principle can produce. To say of another « That he is a man of Honour," is at once to attribute the principle, and to confer the reward : but in the common acceptation of the word, HONOUR, as a principle, does not include virtue ; and therefore, as a reward, is frequently bestowed upon vice. Hence, (such is the blindness and vassalage of human reason) men are discouraged from virtue for fear of shame, and incited to vice by the hope of honour. Honour, indeed, is always claimed in spacious terms ; but the facts upon which the claim is founded are often flagitiously wicked.
Honour, as a principle, is the refinement of virtue ; as the end, it is the splendour of reputation, the reward of such virtue : and the true man of honour is he, who, from the native excellence and real dignity of justice, goodness, and truth, is led to act at all times consistently with them ; ever reverencing his conscience and his character, and solicitous to fill up the great, the worthy part, far above the narrow restraint and coercion of the laws, or the infallible testiinony of mere human judgment. And can it be supposed that a principle like this can ever allow, can ever justify the hazarding our own, or taking away the life of a brother, for a slight, nay for the greatest affront imaginable? Can it be supposed that a principle like this can ever give rise to duels, or attain its great end and reward, a splendid reputation, in consequence of them ?
Men instigated by the meanest passions, with revenge and guilt boiling in their hearts, preparing by the pistol or the sword to finish each other's short and precarious existence; and to plunge, the one with all his vices blossoming upon him, into awful eternity ; the other, to drag the miserable remains of life, haunted with the distracting consciousness of his brother's, his friend's, perhaps his once dearest friend's murder upon his soul. Perhaps he lives the sole hope and stay of some ancient and venerable house; and after all the labour and anxiety of youthful education