Page images
PDF
EPUB

large proportion of his work with the letters and opinions of such a hero. We are not, let it be observed, intimating that the author is answerable for sentiments given in the name of one of his characters, but reprobating a novel in which it seemed necessary to introduce such matter so abundantly. Take the following specimen of these letters.

""What a pity, Fred, to make such a woman a wife! What a pity, in such a soul as hers, to make love nothing but the cold performance of a duty! What a mistress has here been spoiled by the absurdity of those human ties which fetter the heart, and would convert the gratification of our most natural feelings into a crime! Did Nature bestow upon us passions, warm as those with which my heart is now beating, and pleasures glowing as those which my imagination is anticipating, only that we should enjoy them, as the dancing bear does the little liberty his keeper allows him-in chains?

'But let us look to the philosophy of the thing-to the moral, the virtue aye, laugh, Fred, laugh if you will; but I mean to say, that morality and virtue are both in favour of my argument. For instance, could there have been such a crime as adultery, if there had been no marriages? Certainly not. It is the law, Fred, that makes the crime, and not the thing itself; that, as we all know, is natural enough: and what is natural must be good; and I again leave the ergo to your own logic.

"

Marriages, says some sage or fool, and sages and fools are very much alike, upon the same principle that two extremes generally meet, are made in heaven. Why the devil then didn't they keep them there? and not come to trouble our earth with them? for my part, I am very willing to wait till I get there, for a taste of matrimony; arn't you, Fred?

"It is astonishing in what different ways different people speak of this same marriage: some describe it as a banquet of never ending enjoyment; some call it a curse, and some a blessing; but I rather think he was in the right who described it as a feast, in which the grace was better than the dinner.

'Marriage appears to me, Fred, in the light of one of those expensive locks which teaches a thief where the treasure lies, by the very care, that is taken to preserve it. It is the lock and not the treasure, that forms the temptation; and every mechanic in that line sets to work to invent a picklock that shall undo it."'-vol. ii. pp. 184-186.

[ocr errors]

We suspect that the least fastidious patrons and patronesses of circulating and subscription libraries, will hardly attempt a justification of novels composed of such matter as this. With regard to the general composition of the Roué, it manifests talent which might have been much better employed, and furnished amusement to the public without making the dangerous experiment in which it has failed. In consequence of his bad choice of subject, the writer has been forced to have recourse to an apologetical style of writing, which by introducing much vapid sentimentality, is the most tiresome thing one could meet with in a novel. The philosophy of writers of this class is very seldom worth a straw, and

VOL. IX.

E

when it is crowded upon us at every page, and made eloquent on every subject, from the putting of a child to school, to the good or evil of matrimony, we are ever ready with the exclamation, hold, enough!

3

Professing, like the Roué, to relate the adventures of a man of fortune, and of the world, Pelham takes the reader through every scene which it may be supposed such a character can witness. But unlike the author of the Roué, the writer of this novel never lets his readers remain for more than a few minutes looking at objects, about the propriety of shewing which there can be any doubt. His sketches are all closely drawn, and full of life and animation, but they follow each other so rapidly, that it is almost the reader's own fault if he picks out any thing offensive. The great merit of this work is in its separate descriptions of social manners and individual character. For this it deserves very high commendation, and the uninterrupted flow of wit and lively observation which fills its pages, renders it really one of the most amusing pieces of light reading which we have as yet been able to find among the productions of modern novelists. We shall select one or two of the passages in which the author has displayed his favourite style to some advantage, merely stating by way of preface, that Henry Pelham, the hero, is the son of Mr. Pelham the younger son of an Earl, and of Lady Francis, the daughter of a Scotch peer. peer. After finishing his studies at Cambridge, Henry goes to Paris, endowed with little learning, a good deal of wit, and something more of conscious and acknowledged self-conceit. His character may be learnt from his behaviour at the first dinner he went to in Paris.

'I was placed, at dinner, next to Miss Paulding, an elderly young lady, of some notoriety at Paris, very clever, very talkative, and very conceited. A young, pale, ill-natured looking man, sat on her left hand; this was Mr. Aberton, one of the attachés.

"Dear me!" said Miss Paulding, "what a pretty chain that is of your's, Mr. Aberton."

"Yes," said the attaché, "I know it must be pretty, for I got it at Brequet's with the watch." (How common people always buy their opinions with their goods, and regulate the height of the former, by the mere price or fashion of the latter).

"Pray, Mr. Pelham," said Miss Paulding, turning to me, "have you got one of Brequet's watches yet?"

""Watch!" said I, " do you think I could ever wear a watch? I know nothing so plebeian; what can any one, but a man of business, who has nine hours for his counting-house, and one for his dinner, ever possibly want to know the time for? an assignation, you will say, true; but (here I played with my best ringlet), if a man is worth having, he is surely worth waiting for!"

'Miss Paulding opened her eyes, and Mr. Aberton his mouth. A pretty lively French woman, opposite (Madame D'Anville), laughed, and immediately joined in our conversation, which on my part, was, during the whole dinner, kept up exactly in the same strain.

"What do you think of our streets?" said the old, yet still animated, Madame de G-s. You will not find them, I fear, so agreeable for walking, as the trottoirs in London."

6.66

Really," I answered, "I have only been once in your streets, at least à pied, since my arrival, and then I was nearly perishing for want of help."

""What do you mean?" said Madame D'Anville.

6.66

Why, I fell into that intersecting stream which you call a kennel, and I a river. Pray, Mr. Aberton, what do you think I did in that dangerous dilemma ?”

6.66

Why, got out again as fast as you could," said the literal attaché. “No such thing, I was too frightened: I stood still and screamed for assistance."

Madame D'Anville was delighted, and Miss Paulding astonished. Mr. Aberton muttered to a fat, foolish Lord Luscombe, "what a damnation puppy," and every one, even to the old Madame de G-5, looked at me six times as attentively as they had done before.'--vol. i., pp. 62, 63.

This is very good, but it is almost excelled by the following description of Henry Pelham's visit to the rooms at Cheltenham. It would be difficult, we believe, for our readers any where to find a better picture of such a scene.

[ocr errors]

Upon entering, I saw several heads rising and sinking, to the tune of "Cherry ripe." A whole row of stiff necks, in cravats of the most unexceptionable length and breadth were just before me. A tall thin young man, with dark wiry hair brushed on one side, was drawing on a pair of white woodstock gloves, and affecting to look round the room with the supreme indifference of bon ton.

"Ah, Ritson," said another young Cheltenham main to him of the woodstock gauntlets, "haven't you been dancing yet?"

"No, Smith, 'pon honour!" answered Mr. Ritson, "it is so overpoweringly hot; no fashionable man dances now ;-It is'n't the thing." Why," replied Mr. Smith, who was a good natured looking person, with a blue coat and brass buttons, a gold pin in his neckloth, and knee breeches, "why, they dance at Almack's don't they."

6.66

"No, 'pon honour," murmured Mr. Ritson, "no, they just walk a quadrille or spin a waltz, as my friend, Lord Bobadob calls it, nothing more-no, hang dancing, 'tis so vulgar."

'A stout, red-faced man, about thirty, with wet auburn hair, a marvellously fine waistcoat, and a badly-washed frill, now joined Messrs. Ritson and Smith.

...“ Ah, Sir Ralph," cried Smith, "how do you do? been hunting all day I suppose?",

"Yes, old cock," replied Sir Ralph, "been after the brush till I am quite done up such a glorious run. By G-, you should have seen my grey mare, Smith. By G-she's a glorious fencer."

"You don't hunt, do you Ritson? interrogated Mr. Smith.

"Yes, I do," replied Mr. Ritson, affectedly playing with his woodstock glove; yes, but I only hunt in Leicestershire with my friend,

66

Lord Bobadob; 'tis not the thing to hunt anywhere else, 'tis so vulgar."

Sir Ralph stared at the speaker with mute contempt, while Mr. Smith, like the ass between the hay, stood balancing betwixt the opposite merits of the Baronet and the beau. Meanwhile a smiling, nodding, affected, female thing, in ringlets and flowers, flirted up to the trio.

"Now, really Mr. Smith, you should dance, a fashionable young man like you. I don't know what the young ladies will say to you," and the fair seducer laughed bewitchingly.

"You are very good, Mrs. Dollimore," replied Mr. Smith, with a blush and a low bow, "but Mr. Ritson tells me, it is not the thing to dance."

6.66

Oh," cried Mrs. Dollimore, "but then he's such a naughty, conceited creature-don't follow his example, Meester Smith," and again the good lady laughed immoderately.

6.66

Nay, Mrs. Dollimore," said Mr. Ritson, passing his hand through his abominable hair," you are too severe; but tell me, Mrs. Dollimore, is the Countess St. A- coming here?"

"Now, reely Mr. Ritson, you who are the pink of fashion, ought to know better than I can; but I hear so."

"Do you know the Countess?" said Mr. Smith, in respectful surprise, to Ritson.

"Oh very well," replied the coryphæus of Cheltenham, swinging his woodstock glove to and fro; "I have often danced with her at Almack's."

"Is she a good deencer?" asked Mrs. Dollimore.

"Oh, capital," responded Mr. Ritson; "she's such a nice genteel little figure."-vol. ii. pp. 13—16.

This is excellent badinage, whatever the good folks of Cheltenham may say of it. There are, however, a few sprinklings of serious passages in this novel, still better than its lighter portions, and we regret our limits will not permit us to quote some. On the whole, Pelham is the very best novel we have seen of the class to which it belongs.

Our readers will have been able to perceive from the observations which have fallen from us during our notice of these works, that we hardly regard them as in any way redeeming the class of publications to which they belong, from the general censure implied in our introductory remarks. Herbert Lacy is unexceptionable in its sentiments throughout, and is written in the true spirit of a gentleman. But there is in this novel a weakness of design, a want of propriety and connection in the several incidents, which considerably weakens its effect, and compels us to regard it as very strongly manifesting the marks of the period to which it belongs—

period in which even authors of talent are as well contented with deceiving the public by a specious appearance, as commanding its respect by true brilliancy. The Roué is a bold attempt at making the public bear any thing that pretends to describe fashionable manners, or which has pinned to fifty pages of insupportably vicious description, ten lines of doggrel morality as a salvo. There

are many gleams of strong good sense in the Memoirs of a Gentleman,' many shrewd observations on men and things dispersed through the work, and it has considerable spirit. But with all this, the adventures related are those of a libertine, the lesson most eloquently inculcated by glowing example, is that of fashionable profligacy, and the reader is very likely to close the work with impressions, that confound the whole truth of actions and sentiment with the doubtful axioms of duchesses at home, and young men on their travels. The truth of it is, the subjects of this school of novels are in most instances badly chosen. The main circumstance of the plot is either outrageously improbable, or insipidly commonplace. If the former be the case, we are disgusted to find ourselves, in the nineteenth century, and among the men and women of our own day, dreaming of Mrs. Radcliffe's marvels; and if we be tormented with a plot that is itself destitute of invention, we are sure of being led through a series of incidents loosely strung together, and in very many instances, only to be imagined novel because they are found in a novel. Let any reader of good sense peruse with attention only the three works we have noticed above, and we are persuaded, that he will not only find our remarks to be true, but leave off reading novels of this kind, till both publishers and authors learn respect for the improved taste of their readers.

ART. V. Seven Years of the King's Theatre. By John Ebers, late Manager of the King's Theatre of the Haymarket. 8vo. pp. 395. London: Ainsworth. 1828.

THIS book may be looked upon as the confession of a tradesman, who, having amassed a little fortune in the pleasant and respectable business of a bookseller, suffered his head to be turned by a taste for Italian music, and by an ambition to figure as the manager of the Opera. Mr. Ebers might have remained snug enough, all his life, in his shop at Bond Street, if he had been content with his original vocation; but choosing to ascend from being the mere vender of box and pit tickets for the King's Theatre, to the superintendence of the whole concern, he has completely sacrificed to his folly, the acquisitions of a life of honest industry, and in consequence has been obliged to seek the usual and pitiable refuge of the Gazette. The imprudence with which a man of staid and thrifty habits, like our author, suffered himself, after his first year's woeful experience, to be tempted onward in a career of ruin from season to season, is one of the most remarkable features of his volume. It would seem, indeed, that he depended in some measure upon the promises of a few noblemen, to give him effectual assistance-promises which, we need hardly say, never went beyond vague general expressions, and were uttered only to

« PreviousContinue »