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board, advanced, withdrawn,, exposed, protected, at the pleasure of those who play the game over his head. The character of Francis Osbaldistone is not too insipidly immaculate to engage sympathy or awaken curiosity; but it wants that commanding interest which should surround the first personage of a novel; and the reason is, that in almost every part of the story we find him played upon as a dupe, disposed of as a captive, tutored as a novice, and unwittingly exciting indignation as a Marplot. Omitting other instances of the same kind, I will produce one character for the purpose of contrast. The Master of Ravenswood * performs fewer feats of knight-errantry than any of the worthies I have mentioned, except, perhaps, Malcolm Græme; to shoot a bull; to cross swords with Bucklaw; to stare down and buffet Craigengelt; and (a more desperate venture than any) to brave the acrimony of Lady Ashton, forms, I think, the sum of his achievements. Yet no individual in any of the novels or poems more completely maintains his pre-eminence as the hero; for the whole action depends upon, and centres in him: his ruling influence is always felt, whether he be absent or present; and of all the passions, whether hatred, love, admiration, hope, or fear, which vary and animate the successive scenes, he is the grand, ultimate, and paramount object.
It is also the misfortune of many heroes in these works, to be constantly thrown into shade by some more prominent character. This is particularly the case with De Wilton and Græme; with Redmond O'Neale in Rokeby, who shrinks to a mere idle stripling, beside the dignified Mortham, and the awful barbarian Risingham; with Ronald of the Isles, who, throughout the tale which takes its name from
* Bride of Lammermoor-Tales of my Landlord, 3d Series.
him, is evidently a subordinate agent to the real hero, Robert Bruce; with Waverley, with Henry Bertram, with Francis Osbaldistone, who plays a second part to Diana Vernon, to Baillie Jarvie, to Rob Roy, and even to Rashleigh ; with Ivanhoe, whose best gifts dwindle to insignificance before the prowess and magnanimity of Richard, and the sense and fortitude of Rebecca : but such is not the predicament of Ravenswood, who preserves the same majestic ascendency over all the various characters, of whatever quality, humour, or disposition, with whom he is placed in contact.
Another circumstance, which has operated to the prejudice of several very promising heroes, is, their being suffered to remain so long inactive, as entirely to forfeit their importance, and almost to run the risk of being forgotten by slow or forgetful readers. Wilfrid of Ivanhoe, and Lovel in the Antiquary, are placed in this situation ; and Malcolm Græme continues in retirement till we hardly wish for his return.
But there is an error, if possible, still more fatal, which both the novelist and the poet have incautiously committed in more than one instance. It is in vain that the hero is kept almost perpetually in view, that he seeks desperate adventures, and defies danger and hardship; in vain that he moves conspicuous, nay, pre-eminent, in most scenes, and 'in many, engrosses our whole anxiety, if, upon some one important occasion, when the great interests of the story are at stake, and our concern in the action is wound up to its highest pitch, he is permitted to be absent, or, still worses to stand by as an idle spectator. Heroic importance, like political influence, or female ascendency, must be guarded with incessant care, for a moment's rivalry may sometimes be fatal.
In all the works of the novelist, there is no character of the same class more vigorously drawn, or more variously illustrated, than that of Henry Morton : his qualities are such as at once compel our sympathy and command our respect, and many principal events of the story receive their whole impulse and direction from his will. But, during those scenes with the insurgents at Drumclog, those scenes so animated and intensely agitating, that I doubt if they have ever been surpassed by the present or any other fabulous writer, Henry Morton is quietly seated on a hill, awaiting the event, and only contrives at the close of the engagement to incur some danger by interposing in behalf of Lord Evandale. When the resolution is taken to defend the castle of Tillietudlem, that moment, at which, perhaps, 'the interest of the story arrives at its highest point, Henry Morton is hearing sermons in the fanatical camp
When his fellow-rebels appear before the council, and the enthusiast Macbriar is enduring torture with a martyr's constancy, Henry Morton is standing aloof, with his pardon in his hand, though not an unconcerned, yet a passive spectator. When the gallant Evandale falls a victim to his own high spirit, and the baseness of his enemies, Henry Morton, though hastening to his rescue, comes too late to succour, or to assist personally in avenging him. Thus, at several of the most important conjunctures, our whole interest and sympathy are demanded for Claverhouse, for Bothwell, for Cornet Grahame, for Lord Evandale, and for the Covenanters; while for Morton, we have only the observation of Henri IV, to the brave Crillon, “Tu n'y étois pas.'
Malcolm Græme is the brave Crillon' of the Lady of the Lake; Roderick Dhu is vanquished; Malcolm is not there; a battle is fought at Loch Katrine; he is not there; Douglas mixes in the royal sports, offends the king, and is borne off a prisoner, Malcolm is not there ; the fair Ellen makes her way through the soldiery at Stirling Castle, and presses for access to the monarch; Malcolm is not there. The protracted and total inactivity of a hero himself is not so fatal to his credit as the exploits performed by others without his participation. De Wilton is the Crillon of Flodden Field. In the magnificent and energetic description of that battle, our enthusiasm is excited for Surrey, Stanley, Tunstall, Dacre; we hang in suspense on the fates of Marmion, plunge eagerly into the fight with Blount and Fitz-Eustace, and look with sympathy and admiration on the deserted Clare. But when the damsel naturally asks, 'Is Wilton • there?' the poet does not care to give an answer ; and it matters little that after the battle is over, the slain buried, and the funeral oration spoken, we are charged, on pain of being set down as dull elves *,' to believe, that. Turk
Gregory never did such deeds in armst,' as this same De Wilton.
The character of Ivanhoe again suffers more in my opinion, by his quiescence during the storming of Torquilstone, than it gains by his gallant bearing at Ashby, or his truly chivalrous self-devotion in the lists at Templestowe; and Waverley sinks into absolute insignificance, by sustaining only the part of a common spectator in the highly tragic scene of Mac-Ivor's and Evan Dhu's condemnation.
There is, I think, in the minds of most readers, a natural, and not ungenerous prejudice against him, who, by whatever means, escapes from the disaster in which his party or friends are involved, and is seen enjoying security, or even pursuing his way to happiness, while they encounter their fate. Our affections and sympathies- obstinately adhere to
* See canto vi. st. 38.
the falling, more especially if they fall bravely and becomingly; we are disposed, at the same time, to en· tertain something like contempt for the inglorious safety of those who survive the ruin; and to cry out, like the indignant father of the last remaining Horatius, Qu'il 6mourût*!' The contrast of Henry Morton, pardoned by the government, and pursuing his fortune in Holland, with Macbriar tortured and put to death, with Burley, a wanderer in the desert hills, and with so many other associates of their rebellion slain, persecuted, and proscribed, is almost fatal to the romantic interest of his character: and I do not know that I have ever cordially forgiven Waverley for not being hanged with Fergus Mac-Ivor; though the chieftain, it must be owned, had by far the stronger vocation to that destiny.
It would perhaps be too much to pronounce in general, that the dignity of a hero is compromised by his cherishing an unrequited passion. In subordinate personages, as Wilfrid in Rokeby, Lord Evandale in Old Mortality, and Edward Glendinning in the Monastery, disappointment of this kind has an effect by no means ungraceful, nor is it any serious disparagement, even to the principal character, to be once denied, if ultimately successful, like Lovel in The Antiquary. But I think the hero appears in no very flattering light, when, after neglecting a lady who was willing to be won, for the sake of some haughtier beauty, he finds his suit rejected, not for the sake of any earlier lover, but from mere disinclination, and at length, despairing of success, returns for consolation to the once slighted but still compassionate fair one,
* Corneille. Horace, acte iii. sc. 6.