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Ernest Maltravers. By the Author of “ Pelham." New York: Harper & Brothers. 1837. 2 vols. 12mo. — We have heard this last work of Mr. Bulwer's spoken of in disparaging terms, and represented as the least interesting of the numerous productions of its author. For ourselves, we must say that we have seldom risen from the perusal of a novel which has delighted us more, and never from the perusal of one of Mr. Bulwer's, that has delighted us so much.
The two volumes which are published constitute only the first part of the whole work, but, if the remaining volumes, which we are informed are to be forth-coming, answer at all to the expectations raised by these, we risk nothing in saying that Ernest Maltravers will be the most enduring monument the author has yet erected to his fame. It may be less exciting as a story than some of his other novels, it may be less interesting to those who read but to while away the time, to minister to morbid feelings, or merely to forget what they read; but it is a work that betokens a riper intellect, a more thorough insight into the human heart, and which breathes a truer and deeper pathos, than anything else he has produced. The author seems to us to be describing what he has felt, and to be setting down in his pages, what he has lived. He does not play with passion ; he does not sport with our sensibilities; he writes in earnest, and appears to be giving utterance to the fulness of his own heart.
Mr. Bulwer has designed this work as a survey of the Philosophy of Human Life. He has not written it for the purpose of producing a work of fiction, which may be in vogue for a day, and then be forgotten. He has written it with a high aim and a solemn intent. It may not deserve high praise as a philosophical work; but it bears full proof that its author is an acute and accurate observer of man and of men, and that he is able to represent them very much as they are. His pictures are from the life. His creations are not merely life-like, but living.
As it is our intention, when we receive the remaining volumes, to return to this work, and to attempt something of an estimate of Mr. Bulwer's merits and defects, as a writer and as a novelist, we shall enter into no minute criticism at this time. We can say of Ernest Maltravers, that it is a book from the perusal of which a reader may rise a soberer and a wiser man. Íts tone is serious, but not melancholy, and by no means misanthropic. It paints life with its shades as well as its lights, and these are often dark, but upon the whole not too dark. "Beneath the vainest, the worldliest, and the most selfish exterior, we are shown a human heart, small, it may be, and seldom brought into play, but nevertheless a human heart, through which course sometimes the streams of genuine human feeling. Men are never clean gone in iniquity. Wicked they may be, and often VOL. I. NO. I.
are, but they always retain something which may be loved, and on which the ardent philanthropist may build his hopes. Women may be vain, and carried away in the vortex of a fashionable life, and yet not lose entirely their nobler nature; they may be frail, and yet one false step not plunge them into the abyss of moral pollution. There may be virtue in both men and women who transgress in thought and in deed, the arbitrary rules of an artificial society
We owe our thanks to Mr. Bulwer, for representing to us the English Aristocracy in a light less revolting than most novelists have done of late. We believe his account of that Aristocracy is worthy of altogether more credit, than those accounts which represent them as utterly heartless and selfish, as wholy sunk in sensuality and vice. There must necessarily be much vice and depravity, glossed over with external refinement and politeness, in every aristocracy based on the privileges of birth, or wealth ; but we ought never to believe any numerous body of our brethren can become wholly corrupt. The Divine Image, in which man was originally created, cannot be obliterated entirely, even in an hereditary aristocracy. The Diviner elements of human nature will even there sometimes manifest themselves, and that in no slight degree. To be virtuous in the midst of an aristocracy, like the English, we regard as no easy matter. It is hard for him who is born a member of it, to rise to the true dignity of manhood, and fulfil the great purposes for which man was made, and for which God gives him intellect and affections; nevertheless some can succeed, and do succeed in doing it. The difficulties which a noble soul, richly endowed, born to great wealth, and in possession of all society has to give, must necessarily encounter, are well exhibited in the volumes before us, both as it concerns man, and as it concerns woman.
We cannot conceive more unfavorable circumstances in which one can be born, than those amidst which he is born, who has no prize before him, apparently no object of a true and noble ambition. Obliged to make no effort, to struggle for neither wealth nor honors, able at once to take his stand on as high a round in the social ladder, as he can ever hope to attain, what shall quicken his spirit, waken his heart, call forth the power that is in him to be great and to do good ? There is a work for him, but he is not likely to see it, or to feel its influence. In a society where great inequality prevails, we believe, from our heart, they who are in the lowest rank are cursed less than they who are in the highest. If any doubt the justness of our belief, let them read Ernest Maltravers.
A great struggle between the aristocratic and democratic elements of society has commenced in England and in this country. It is raging, and with more fierceness every day. The result cannot be doubtful. The democratic element will prevail the world over. But it is a fearful struggle. Strongly as we sympathize with the democracy, and unshaken as is our confidence in the fact, and the right, of its ultimate success, we do
not survey this struggle with a perfectly quiet pulse. We would moderate its fierceness, and lessen the bitterness of one party towards the other. In order to do this, we would labor to bring out the virtues of each party. The aristocrat must be made to see that the great unprivileged many are his own “kith and kin,” that they have minds and hearts as great and as richly endowed as his own; and that in this struggle they are right, and must, if there be justice in heaven, obtain the victory. On the other hand, the democrat must bear in mind that the aristocracy are his brethren, made with a nature like his own, that they have their sufferings, their trials and temptations, and also their lofty aspirations, and their love of Humanity. Let him not war against them in wrath ; let him love them as his brothers, and hold their interests, as men, though not as a class, as dear as his own. We would that the system of privilege could be done away, and that of equal rights adopted, established in all countries, without a war of the two elements. But in England, we do not believe the thing is possible. In this country, for aught we can see, it is possible. We may proceed here, if we will keep down all unholy passions, peaceably, and harmoniously. The aristocracy here has little external support. It is in the main a reminiscence of England, and may easily be overcome, so far as it needs to be overcome, by the silent but allpowerful working of public opinion. We have but to speak out, proclaim the true dignity of man, and what true greatness is ; we have but to weave into our literature the true doctrine of Christ, and instil it into the hearts of our children, in order to effect all the triumph for democracy that can be wished.
Review Française. — The first number of a new Review with this name was published in Paris, in June last, several copies of which we have recently received. It is intended, in some respects, to take the place of the old Review Française, which was brought to a close just before the Revolution of July, 1830. It professes to be devoted to no party, but pleged to an independent course in politics, philosophy, religion, and literature. Among the principal contributors, we notice the names of Rossi, Villemain, Jouffroy, Ballanche, Michelet, Buchon, with several others who are less known in this country. The introductory article, which, we presume, is from the pen of M. Rossi, presents a judicious and well-written view of the actual state of opinion in France, on the principal points of human inquiry. Its tone is encouraging, in the highest degree, to the belivers in the progress of man.
The following allusion to the literature of America may be interesting to our readers. It is taken from a short article referring to the interest manifested in this country, in the literature of Foreign nations.
« Of all known countries, North America is the one whose future condition may be previously announced, with the greatest confidence. A country, still new, young, without history, it presents to the observer a creation, which is not only the result of the social instincts of man and of an unforeseen combination of events, but the deliberate work of the human will, a social and political system applied on a virgin soil, by men who knew what they were about, and who meant to do precisely what they have done. The elements of this system are known, its principles determined, its premises distinctly laid down; hence, the consequences which it contains within its bosom must necessarily be displayed, with a sort of mathematical exactness. The errors of men, their passions, and external events may undoubtedly derange the regular progress of the country, may retard and modify the logical development of the American system ; but these causes of perturbation are themselves less difficult to be forseen and calculated in a country, which does not present the varieties, the complicated interests, the contrasts, that make the solution of political and social problems an affair of such difficulty in our aged Europe. By reason of their geographical situation and of the principles of their government, the United States are at the same time less exposed than any other civilized State to the influence of foreign politics : the future prospects of the Union depend entirely on itself, on the elements of its own political and social condition.
“ Thus it was easy to forsee that the Americans, occupied at first with their establishment, their material organization, and their fortune, and without many individuals who had secured a social position, and obtained the enjoyment of leisure, would not for a considerable time apply their talents and energy to the department of science and literature.
“This first period now seems to be drawing to a close ; new wants cannot fail to make themselves felt; the material world no longer ex• clusively occupies the strength of America. But the transition to an intellectual life, original, national, and vigorous, is never made at one bound. Besides America is the offspring of Europe; the languages which she speaks are European; American literature must needs have its starting-point on the old continent. In this second period, America must study, imitate, and comment upon the literary and scientific productions of Europe. It is almost in the same condition in which the old Continent was placed in relation to antiquity, at the epoch of the Revival of Letters.
“ The third period will open whenever the social condition of America shall have experienced the ulterior modifications which are already foreseen by every attentive observer.”
The fact stated in the closing paragraph of the above extract is generally admitted, and begins to be generally complained of. Our dependence on foreign literature is made our reproach. We are accused of following servilely in the track that is marked out by the writers of the old world. For ourselves, however, we are persuaded that the charge would be more just if it were directed against our exclusive tastes, our narrow prejudices with regard to the literature of other nations. We follow the thinkers of England, with too little respect either for our own thoughts, or for those of the mightier intellects of the Continent. A more thorough, wise, and discriminating acquaintance with the great writers in the literature of the Continent, would tend to redeem us from the undue influence of the English mind, and quicken the germs of a vigorous life within our own bosoms. On all questions relating to social progress, political rights, and human culture, the modern literature of France and Germany is far richer than that of aristocratic England. Our young republicans are fully aware of this, and we shall yet see the fruits of their conviction.
The United States' Magazine and Democratic Review. Vol. I. No. I. Washington, D.C. : Langtree & O'Sullivan. 8vo. pp. 142. — We have read with much interest the first number of this Magazine which is to be published monthly at the seat of our National Government. It is full of promise, and can hardly fail to be creditable to our rising Literature. It is to be devoted to the interests of the Democratic party, and will explain and defend its doctrines and measures. But it also proposes to itself a higher, and, in our judgment, a far more praiseworthy aim. It avows its design to give, as far as it may be able, a democratic tone and character to American literature. It is in relation to this design, that we greet its appearance with a cordial welcome. If it faithfully pursue this design, enlisting, as it will, the best writers in our country, it must necessarily do great good. With this design we have full sympathy:
A literature cannot be a national one, unless it be the exponent of the national life, informed with the national soul.It must be based on the great Idea of the nation, and be cemented together by the national instincts. Otherwise it will, whatever its merits in other respects, remain foreign to the people for whom it is intended ; and whatever talents, beauty, taste, refinement, it may display, be counted powerless, tame, and servile. The national soul of America is democracy, the equal rights and worth of every man, as man. This is the American Idea. That writer who neglects or rejects it, however amiable, learned, and talented he may be, must relinquish all hopes of being counted an American writer. This Idea is the only element of life that American literature can possess. Our literary men, if they wish to be living men, and aid in the production of a living literature of our country, must acccept it, and make it the soul of their soul. Ours must be a democratic literature.
The Magazine before us is intended to aid in calling forth a democratic literature. Its exclusive party character, by restraining its freedom, will be a great drawback on its influence ; but nevertheless it will do much, and prove no mean blessing to the country. The first number is cheering. It appears, as in fact it was, to have been prepared in haste; but it breathes a good spirit and betokens ability. The Introduction, though somewhat vague and unfinished as an exposition of democracy, we have read with much pleasure. It proves that the democracy of its editors, in its doctrinal character, is of the right sort. It embraces the genuine sentiment of Humanity, and the idea of progress. It recognises, and we rejoice that it does, the identity of the great democratic movements of modern times, with the movement commenced by the Great Reformer of Nazareth. The identity of the true democratic spirit with the Christian