Page images
PDF
EPUB

(Iune, 182 2.) The Fortunes of Nigel. By the Author of "Waverley," " Kenilworth,” &c. In 3 vols.

12mo. pp. 950. Edinburgh : Constable & Co. 1822. It was a happy thought in us to review this merely notice one or two things that still live author's works in groups, rather than in single in our remembrance. pieces; for we should never otherwise have We do not think the White Lady, and the been able to keep up both with him and with other supernatural agencies, the worst blemish our other business. Even as it is, we find we of “The Monastery.” On the contrary, the have let him run so far ahead, that we have first apparition of the spirit by her lonely now rather more of him on hand than we can fountain (though borrowed from Lord Byron's well get through at a sitting; and are in dan- Witch of the Alps in Manfred), as well as the ger of forgetting the early part of the long effect of the interview on the mind of the series of stories to which we are thus obliged young aspirant lo whom she reveals herself, to look back, or of finding it forgotten by the have always appeared to us to be very beaupublic—or at least of having the vast assem- tifully imagined : But we must confess, that blage of events and characters that now lie their subsequent descent into an alabaster before us something jumbled and confounded, i cavern, and the seizure of a stolen Bible from both in our own recollections, and that of our an altar blazing with cold flames, is a fiction admiring readers.

of a more ignoble stock; and looks very like Our last particular notice, we think, was of an unlucky combination of a French fairy tale Ivanhoe, in the end of 1819; and in the two and a dull German romance. The Euphuist years that have since elapsed, we have had too, Sir Piercie Shafton, is a mere nuisance the Monastery, the Abbot, Kenilworth, the throughout. Nor can we remember any inPirates, and Nigel,-one, two, three, four, five cident in an unsuccessful farce more utterly --large original works from the same fertile absurd and pitiable, than the remembrance and inexhaustible pen. It is a strange manu- of tailorship that is supposed to be conjured facture! and, though depending entirely on up in the mind of this chivalrous person, by invention and original fancy, really seems to the presentment of the fairy's bodkin to his proceed with all the steadiness and regularity eyes. There is something ineffably poor at of a thing that was kept in operation by in- once, and extravagant, in the idea of a solid dustry and application alone. Our whole silver implement being taken from the hair of fraternity, for example, with all the works of a spiritual and shadowy being, for the sage all other writers to supply them with mate- purpose of making an earthly coxcomb angry rials, are not half so sure of bringing out their to no end ;-while our delight at this happy two volumes in the year, as this one author, imagination is not a little heightened by rewith nothing but his own genius to depend flecting that it is all the time utterly unintellion, is of bringing out his six or seven. There gible, how the mere exhibition of a lady's is no instance of any such experiment being bodkin should remind any man of a tailor in so long continued with success; and, accord his pedigree—or be thought to import such a ing to all appearances, it is just as far from a disclosure to the spectators. termination now, as it was at the beginning. But, notwithstanding these gross faults, and If it were only for the singularity of the thing, the general flatness of the monkish partsit would be worth while to chronicle the ac- including that of the Sub-prior, which is a tual course and progress of this extraordinary failure in spite of considerable labour -- it adventure.

would be absurd to rank this with common Of the two first works we have mentioned, novels, or even to exclude it from the file of the Monastery and the Abbot, we have the the author's characteristic productions. It has least to say; and we believe the public have both humour, and fancy and pathos enough, the least curiosity to know our opinion. They to maintain its title to such a distinction.--are certainly the least meritorious of the whole The aspiring temper of Halbert Glendinning, series, either subsequent or preceding; and the rustic establishment of Glendearg, the while they are decidedly worse than the other picture of Christie of Clinthill, and, above all, works of the same author, we are not sure the scenes at the castle of Avenel, are all that we can say, as we have done of some of touched with the hand of a master. Julian's his other failures, that they are better than dialogue, or soliloquy rather, to his hawk, in those of any other recent writer of fiction.- presence of his paramour, with its accompaniSo conspicuous, indeed, was their inferiority, ments and sequel, is as powerful as any thing that we at one time apprehended that we the author has produced; and the tragic and should have been called upon to interfere historical scenes that lead to the conclusion before our time, and to admonish the author are also, for the most part, excellent. It is a of the hazard to which he was exposing his work, in short, which pleases more upon a fame. But as he has since redeemed that second reading than at first—as we not only slip, we shall now pass it over lightly, and pass over the Euphuism and other Jull pasrages, but, being aware of its defects, no sparing fulness, but with the most brilliant longer feel the disappointment and provoca- and seducing effect. Leicester is less happy; lion which are apt, on their first excitement, and we have certainly a great deal too much 10 make us unjust to its real merits.

both of the blackguardism of Michael LamIn point of real merit, “ The Abbot" is not bourne, the atrocious villany of Varney and inuch better, we think, than the Monastery-- Foster, and the magical dealings of Alasco but it is fuller of historical painting, and, in and Wayland Smith. Indeed, almost all the the higher scenes, has perhaps a deeper and lower agents in the performance have a sort more exalted interest. The Popish zealots, of Demoniacal character; and the deep and whether in the shape of prophetic crones or disgusting guilt by which most of the main heroic monks, are very tiresome personages. incidents are developed, make a splendid pasCatherine Seyton is a wilful deterioration of sage of English history read like the Newgate Dava Vernon, and is far too pert and con- Calendar, and give a certain horror to the fident; while her paramour Roland Græme is, story, which is neither agreeable to historical for a good part of the work, little better than iruth, nor attractive in a work of imagination. a blackguard boy, who should have had his The great charm and glory of the piece, head broken twice a day, and been put nightly however, consists in the magnificence and in the stocks, for his impertinence. Some of vivacity of the descriptions with which it the scenes at Lochleven are of a different abounds; and which set before our eyes, with pitch ;-though the formal and measured sar- a freshness and force of colouring which can casms which the Queen and Lady Douglas scarcely ever be gained except by actual obinterchange with such solemn verbosity, have servation, all the pomp and stateliness, the a very heavy and unnatural effect. These glitter and solemnity, of that heroic reign. faults, however, are amply redeemed by the The moving picture of Elizabeth's night entry beauties with which they are mingled. There to Kenilworth is given with such spirit, rich. are some grand passages, of enthusiasm and ness, and copiousness of detail, that we seem devoted courage, in Catherine Seyton. The actually transported to the middle of the escape from Lochleven is given with great scene. We feel the press, and hear the music effect and spirit—and the subsequent muster- and the din—and descry, amidst the fading ing of the Queen's adherents, and their march lights of a summer eve, the majestical pacings to Langside, as well as the battle itself, are and waving banners that surround the march full of life and colouring. The noble bearing of the heroic Queen; while the mixture of and sad and devoted love of George Douglas ludicrous incidents, and the ennui that steals --the brawl on the streets of Edinburgh, and on the lengthened parade and fatiguing prepathe scenes at Holyrood, both serious and ration, give a sense of truth and reality to the comic, as well as many of the minor charac- sketch that seems to belong rather to recent ters, such as the Ex-abbot of St. Mary's me- recollection than mere ideal conception. We tamorphosed into the humble gardener of believe, in short, that we have at this moment Lochleven, are all in the genuine manner of as lively and distinct an impression of the the author, and could not have proceeded from whole scene, as we shall have in a few weeks any other hand. On the whole, however, the of a similar Joyous Entry, for which preparawork is unsatisfactory, and too deficient in tions are now making * in this our loyal medesign and unity. We do not know why it tropolis,-and of which we hope, before that should have been called “The Abbot," as time, to be spectators. The account of Lei. that personage has scarcely any thing to do cester's princely hospitality, and of the royal with it. As an historical sketch, it has nei- divertisements that ensued,--the feastings ther beginning nor end ;-nor does the time and huntings, the flatteries and dissemblings which it embraces possess any peculiar inter- the pride, the jealousy, the ambition, the reest :-and for a history of Roland Græme, venge,-are all portrayed with the same aniwhich is the only denomination that can give mating pencil, and leave every thing behind, it coherence, the narrative is not only far too but some rival works of the same unrivalled slight and insignificant in itself, but is too artist. The most surprising piece of mere much broken in upon by higher persons and description, however, that we have ever seen, weightier affairs, to retain any of the interest is that of Amy's magnificent apartments at which it might otherwise have possessed. Cumnor Place, and of the dress and beauty

“Kenilworth," however, is a flight of an- of the lovely creature for whom they were other wing-and rises almost, if not alto- adorned. We had no idea before that up. gether, to the level of Ivanhoe ;-displaying, holstery and millinery could be made so enperhaps, as much power in assembling to-gaging; and though we are aware that it is gether, and distributing in striking groups, the living Beauty that gives its enchantment the copious historical materials of that ro- to the scene, and breathes over the whole an mantic age, as the other does in eking out air of voluptuousness, innocence, and pity, it their scantiness by the riches of the author's is impossible not to feel that the vivid and imagination., Elizabeth leiseli, surrounded clear presentment of the visible objects by as she is with lively and imposing recollec- which she is surrounded, and the antique tions, was a difficult personage to bring promi- splendour in which she is enshrined, not only nently forward in a work of fiction : But the strengthen our impressions of the reality, but lask, we think, is here not only fearlessly, but admirably performed; and the character

* The visit of George IV. 10 Edinburgh in July, brought out, not merely with the most un- | 1822.

actually fascinate and delight us in them- | friend in the favour of the honest Udal!ər. selves, -just as the draperies and still-life in The charm of the book is in the picture of a grand historical picture often divide our ad- his family. Nothing can be more beautiful miration with the pathetic effect of the story than the description of the two sisters, and told by the principal figures. The catastro- the gentle and innocent affection that conphe of the unfortunate Amy herself is too tinues to unite them, even after love has come sickening and full of pity to be endured; and to divide their interests and wishes. The visit we shrink from the recollection of it, as we paid them by Norna, and the tale she tells would from that of a recent calamity of our them at midnight, lead to a fine display of own. The part of Tressilian is unfortunate on the perfect purity of their young hearts, and the whole, though it contains touches of in- the native gentleness and dignity of their terest and beauty. The sketch of young Ra- character. There is, perhaps, still more geleigh is splendid, and in excellent keeping nius in the development and full exhibition of with every thing beside it. More, we think, their father's character; who is first introduced might have been made of the desolate age to us as little else than a jovial, thoughtless, and broken-hearted anguish of Sir Hugh Rob- hospitable housekeeper, but gradually dissart; though there are one or two little traits closes the most captivating trails, not only of of his paternal love and crushed affection, kindness and courage, but of substantial genethat are inimitably sweet and pathetic, and rosity and delicacy of feeling, without ever which might have lost their effect, perhaps, departing, for an instant, from the frank homeif the scene had been extended. We do not liness of his habitual demeanour. Norna is a care much about the goblin dwarf

, nor the host, new incarnation of Meg Merrilees, and palpanor the mercer,-nor any of the other charac- bly the same in the spirit. Less degraded in ters. They are all too fantastical and affected. her habits and associates, and less lofty and They seem copied rather from the quaintness pathetic in her denunciations, she reconciles of old plays, than the reality of past and pres- fewer contradictions, and is, on the whole, ent nature; and serve better to show what inferior perhaps to her prototype; but is far manner of personages were to be met with in above the rank of a mere imitated or borrowed the Masks and Pageants of the age, than what character. The Udaller's visit to her dwellwere actually to be found in the living popu- ing on the Fitful-head is admirably managed, lation of the land.

and highly characteristic of both parties. Of “The Pirates” is a bold attempt to furnish the humorous characters, Yellowlees is the out a long and eventful story, from a very nar- best. Few things, indeed, are better than row circle of society, and a scene so circum- the description of his equestrian progression scribed as scarcely to admit of any great scope to the feast of the Udaller. Claud Halero is or variety of action; and its failure, in so far too fantastical; and peculiarly out of place, as it may be thought to have failed, should, we should think, in such a region. A man in fairness, be ascribed chiefly to this scanti- who talks in quotations from common plays, ness and defect of the materials. The author, and proses eternally about glorious John Dryaccordingly, has been obliged to borrow pretty den, luckily is not often to be met with any. largely from other regions. The character where, but least of all in the Orkney Islands. and story of Mertoun (which is at once com- Bunce is liable to the same objection,—though mon-place and extravagant),--that of the there are parts of his character, as well as Pirate himself,--and that of Halcro the poet, that of Fletcher and the rest of the crew, have no connection with the localities of Shet- given with infinite spirit and effect. The deland, or the peculiarities of an insular life. nouement of the story is strained and imMr. Yellowlees, though he gives occasion to probable, and the conclusion rather unsatissome strong contrasts, is in the same situa- factory: But the work, on the whole, opens tion. The great blemish, however, of the up a new world to our curiosity, and affords work, is the inconsistency in Cleveland's another proof of the extraordinary pliability, character, or rather the way in which he dis- as well as vigour, of the author's genius. appoints us, by turning out so much better We come now to the work which has afthan we had expected-and yet substantially forded us a pretext for this long retrospection, so ill. So great, indeed, is this disappoint- and which we have approached, as befitteth ment, and so strong the grounds of it, that we a royal presence, through this long vista of cannot help suspecting that the author him- preparatory splendour. Considering that it self must have altered his design in the course has now been three months in the hands of of the work; and, finding himself at a loss the public—and must be about as well known how to make either a demon or a hero of the to most of our readers as the older works to personage whom he had introduced with a which we have just alluded—we do not very view to one or other of these characters, be- well see why we should not deal with it as took himself to the expedient of leaving him summarily as we have done with them; and, in that neutral or mixed state, which, after sparing our dutiful readers the fatigue of toil. all, suits the least with his conduct and situa- ing through a detail with which they are altion, or with the effects which he is supposed ready familiar, content ourselves with marking to produce. All that we see of him is a dar- our opinion of it in the same general and ing, underbred, forward, heartless fellow- comprehensive manner that we have ventured very unlikely, we should suppose, to capti- to adopt as to those earlier productions. This vate the affections of the high-minded, 'ro- accordingly is the course which, in the main, mantic Minna, or even to supplant an old we propose to follow; though, for the sake of 69

2 v 2

may

our distant readers, as well as to give more rests. A propos of this retirement, we have force and direct application to our general re- a very striking and animated picture of the marks, we must somewhat enlarge the scale bullies and bankrupts, and swindlers and petty of our critical notice.

felons by whom this city of refuge was chiefly This work, though dealing abundantly in inhabited—and among whom the young Lord invention, is, in substance, like Old Mortality has the good luck to witness a murder, comand Kenilworth, of an historical character, mitted on the person of his miserly host. He and may be correctly represented as an at- then bethinks himself of repairing to Greentempt to describe and illustrate, by examples, wich, where the court was, throwing himself the manners of the court, and generally speak- upon the clemency of the King, and insisting ing, of the age, of James I. of England. And on being confronted with his accusers; but this, on the whole, is the most favourable as happening unfortunately to meet with his pect under which it can be considered ; for, Majesty in a retired part of the Park to which while it certainly presents us with a very he had pursued the stag, ahead of all his atbrilliant, and, we believe, a very faithful sketch tendants, his sudden appearance so startles of the manners and habits of the time, we and alarms that pacific monarch, that he accannot say that it either embodies them in a cuses him of a treasonable design on his life, very interesting story, or supplies us with any and has him committed to the Tower, under rich variety of particular characters. Except that weighty accusation. In the mean time, King James himself, and Richie Moniplies, however, a certain Margaret Ramsey, a daugh. there is but little individuality in the person- ter of the celebrated watchmaker of that name, ages represented. We should perhaps add who had privately fallen in love with him at Master George Heriot; except that he is too the table of George Heriot her god-father, and staid and prudent a person to engage very had, ever since, kept watch over his proceedmuch of our interest. The story is of a very ings, and aided' him in his difficulties by va. simple structure, and may soon be told. rious stratagems and suggestions, had repaired

Lord Glenvarloch, a young Scottish noble- to Greenwich in male attire, with the roman. man, whose fortunes had been ruined by his tic design of interesting and undeceiving the father's profusion, and chiefly by large loans King with regard to him. By a lucky accito the Crown, comes to London about the mid- dent, she does obtain an opportunity of making dle of James' reign, to try what part of this her statement to James; who, in order to put debt be recovered from the justice of his her veracity to the test, sends her, disguised now opulent sovereign. From want of patron- as she was, to Glenvarloch’s prison in the age and experience, he is unsuccessful in his Tower, and also looses upon him in the same first application; and is about to withdraw in place, first his faithful Heriot, and afterwards despair, when his serving man, Richard Moni-a sarcastic courtier, while he himself plays plies, falling accidentally in the way of George the eavesdropper to their conversation, from an Heriot, the favourite jeweller and occasional adjoining apartment constructed for that purbanker of the King, that benevolent person (to pose. The result of this Dionysian experiwhom, it may not be known to our Southern ment is, to satisfy the sagacious monarch both readers, Edinburgh is indebted for the most of the innocence of his young countryman, flourishing and best conducted of her founded and the malignity of his accusers; who are schools or charities) is pleased to take an in- speedily brought to shame by his acquittal terest in his affairs, and not only represents and admittance to favour. his case in a favourable way to the Sovereign, There is an underplot of a more extravagant but is the means of introducing him to another and less happy structure, about a sad and nobleman, with whose son, Lord Dalgarno, he mysterious lady who inhabits an inaccessible speedily forms a rather inauspicious intimacy. apartment in Heriot's house, and turns out to By this youth he is initiated into all the gaie- be the deserted wife of Lord Dalgarno, and a ties of the town; of which, as well of the near relation of Lord Glenvarloch. The former manners and bearing of the men of fashion of is compelled to acknowledge her by the King; the time, a very lively picture is drawn. very much against his will; though he is conAmong other things, he is encouraged to try siderably comforted when he finds that, by his fortune at play; but, being poor and pru- this alliance, he acquires right to an ancient dent, he plays but for small sums, and, rather mortgage over the lands of the latter, which unhandsomely we must owil, makes it a prac- nothing but immediate payment of a large tice to come away after a moderate winning. sum can prevent him from loreclosing. This On this account he is slighted by Lord Dal. is accomplished by the new-raised credit and garno and his more adventurous associates; consequential agency of Richie Moniplies, and, having learned that they talked con- though not without a scene of pettifogging temptuously of him, and that Lord D. had difficulties. The conclusion is something traprejudiced the King and the Prince against gical and sudden. Lord Dalgarno, travelling him, he challenges him for his perfidy in the to Scotland with the redemption-money in a Park, and actually draws on him, in the pre- portmanteau, challenges Glenvarloch to meet cincts of the royal abode. This was, in those and fight him, one stage from town; and, days, a very serious offence; and, to avoid its while he is waiting on the common, is himimmediate consequences, he is advised to take self shot dead by one of the Alsatian bullies, refuge in Whitefriars, then known by the cant who had heard of the precious cargo with name of Alsatia, and understood to possess the which he was making the journey.

His an. privileges of a sanctuary against ordinary ar- | tagonist comes up soon enough to revenge him ; and, soon after, is married to Miss Ram- wits as think the commentators on Shakesey, for whom the King finds a suitable pedi- speare the greatest men in the world, and here gree, and at whose marriage-dinner he conde- find their little archæological persons made scends to preside; while Richard Moniplies something less inconceivable than usual, they marries the heroic daughter of the Alsatian cannot fail to offend and disappoint all those miser, and is knighted in a very characteristic who hold that nature alone must be the source manner by the good-natured monarch. of all natural interest.

The best things in the book, as we have Finally, we object to this work, as comalready intimated, are the pictures of King pared with those to which we have alluded, James and of Richard Moniplies—though my that the interest is more that of situation, and Lord Dalgarno is very lively and witty, and less of character or action, than in any of the well represents the gallantry and profligacy former. The hero is not so much an actor or of the time; while the worthy Earl, his father, a sufferer, in most of the events represented, is very successfully brought forward as the as a spectator. With comparatively little to type of the ruder and more uncorrupted age do in the business of the scene, he is merely that preceded. We are sorely tempted to pro- placed in the front of it, to look on with the duce a sample of Jin Vin the smart apprentice, reader as it passes. He has an ordinary and and of the mixed childishness and heroism of slow-moving suit at court--and, a propos of Margaret Ramsay, and the native loftiness this—all the humours and oddities of the and austere candour of Martha Trapbois, and sovereign are exhibited in rich and splendid the humour of Dame Suddlechops, and divers detail. He is obliged to take refuge for a day other inferior persons. But the rule we have in Whitefriars—and all the horrors and atrolaid down to ourselves, of abstaining from cities of the Sanctuary are spread out before citations from well-known books, must not be us through the greater part of a volume. Two farther broken, in the very hour of its enact- or three murders are committed, in which he ment;,and we shall therefore conclude, with has no interest, and no other part than that of a few such general remarks on the work be- being accidentally present. His own scanty fore us as we have already bestowed on some part, in short, is performed in the vicinity of other performances, probably no longer so a number of other separate transactions; and familiar to most of our readers.

this mere juxtaposition is made an apology We do not think, then, that it is a work for stringing them all up together into one hiseither of so much genius or so much interest torical romance,

We should not care very as Kenilworth or Ivanhoe, or the earlier his much if this only destroyed the unity of the torical novels of the same author—and yet piece—but it also sensibly weakens its interest there be readers who will in all likelihood --and reduces it from the rank of a compreprefer it to those books, and that for the very hensive and engaging narrative, in which reasons which induce us to place it beneath every event gives and receives importance them. These reasons are, - First, that the from its connection with the rest, to that of a scene is all in London—and that the piece is mere collection of sketches, relating to the consequently deprived of the interest and same period and state of society. variety derived from the beautiful descriptions The character of the hero, we also think, of natural scenery, and the still more beautiful is more than usually a failure. He is not only combination of its features and expression, a reasonable and discreet person, for whose with the feelings of the living agents, which prosperity we need feel no great apprehenabound in those other works; and next, that sion, but he is gratuitously debased by certain the characters are more entirely borrowed infirmities of a mean and somewhat sordid from the written memorials of the age to description, which suit remarkably ill with which they refer, and less from that eternal the heroic character. His prudent deportand universal nature which is of all ages, ment at the gaming table, and his repeated than in any of his former works. The plays borrowings of money, have been already of that great dramatic era, and the letters and hinted at; and we may add, that when inmemoirs which have been preserved in such terrogated by Heriot about the disguised damabundance, have made all diligent readers sal who is found with him in the Tower, he familiar with the peculiarities by which it was makes up a false story for the occasion, with marked. But unluckily the taste of the writers a cool promptitude of invention, which re. of that age was quaint and fantastical; and minds us more of Joseph Surface and his though their representations necessarily give French milliner, than of the high-minded son us a true enough picture of its fashions and of a stern puritanical Baron of Scotland. follies, it is obviously a distorted and exagge- These are the chief faults of the work, and rated picture-and their characters plainly they are not slight ones.

Its merits do not both speak and act as no living men ever require to be specified. They embrace all «lid speak or act. Now, this style of carica- to which we have not specially objected. The ture is too palpably copied in the work before general brilliancy and force of the colouring, us-and, though somewhat softened and re- the ease and spirit of the design, and the laxed by the good sense of the author, is still strong touches of character, are all such as so prevalent, that most of his characters strike we have have long admired in the best works ns rather as whimsical humourists or affected of the author. Besides the King and Richie maskers, than as faithful copies of the actual Moniplies, at whose merits we have already society of

any historical period; and though hinted, it would be unjust to pass over the they may afford great delight to such slender prodigious strength of writing that distin

« PreviousContinue »