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wished. We admit (and are very glad of it for reasons that need not be mentioned) that we Americans are a very grave people--but the merriest wag of us would be constrained to say of the Captain, what Boileau does of another wit of the same stamp
Chapelain est aussi un auteur très plaisant
Note.--In further illustration of our remarks at p. 354, et seq. about the effects of democracy in the long run, we beg to refer our classical readers to the admirable reflections in Cic. de Legib. lib. iii. c. I, et seq.
Art. IV.-Devereux. A Tale. By the A&thor of " Pelham,"
and the “ Disowned." Reprinted at New-York. J. & J. Harper, 1829.
THERE is no circumstance, perhaps, which more remarkably distinguishes the literature of our language, than the variety and copiousness of its works of fiction. They run through the whole gamut of the passions, (if we may so speak) “ from grave to gay, from lively io severe," and in each, exhibit an almost unparalleled excellence. John Bull no where puts forth his graphic powers so successfully, as in these imaginative representations of life; which, at least, from the reign of George I, down to the present time, present the very "form and pressure of the times,” in a vast variety of lights, the joint result of all thạt philosophy has been able to analyze in the secret mechanism of the passions, and poetry to body forth in the beautiful forms of her fanciful creation. When we consider how prolific English genius has been in prose fiction for the last century, and especially within the last ten or fifteen years, it is a subject of surprise, that this talent of the British muse, should so long have remained buried or inert, after other departments of her literature had attained to maturity, and yielded the richest and most various fruits. The era, which gave to the world, what it never had before, and will probably never have again, the dramatic genius of Shakspeare, was utterly destitute of even a tolerable Novel, and this sterility was equally hopeless during the period, when Milton was pouring fourth that epic strain, which is destined to be as immortal as his mighty
theme “ of God's providence to man.”-Nor does, what has been absurdly called, the “Augustan Age" of British Letters, afford any exception to the fact adverted to, for admirable as the wits of Queen Anne unquestionably were, they never turned their genius into this channel of invention, or attempted in any sustained effort, to paint from buman nature, the passions and actions of man. The truth of this remark, is in no degree impaired by Gulliver and the Tale of a Tub, which are rather contemporary and local satires, thañ novels, and if they yet live, it is not for the value of the insects embalmed in them, but for the amber in which they are preserved. Swift was incapable of writing a legitimare novel, he could take but one view of human nature, and that was on the side on which she presented what was dark and ludicrous, and on this be dwelt with the keepness and sagacity of a fiend. He loved some nien, but he did not love the species. Destitute of comprehensive benevolence and true sensibility, he was in fiction only able to libel human nature, not to paint her-at least, not to depict those glimpses of light and revelations of divinity, which tell us that man was born for something else, than to wallow in the filth and baseness of his passions.
In the reign of Charles II, the miserable fictions of Calprenede and Scuderi, through the rage for French literature which characterized that age, were very generally in vogue, and it was long before the public taste was brought to reject this trash, which may well be described, as a wretched half-way point between the extravagance of the old chronicles of chivalry, and the modern Novel. Although the opinion may be new, (we, at least, have never seen it broached,) we, nevertheless, venture to advance it, that the legitimate, national English Novel owes its origin to the numbers of the Spectator. It was not until this fascinating miscellany was given to the world, that the real power of prose fiction in England was developed. The brief but exquisite tales which are scattered throughout this work, distinguished by such discriminating views of human nature, such ease and beauty of style, and such touches of humour and pathos, were the germs of those more elaborate efforts of fiction, which were very shortly to add fresh lustre to the literary renown of England. She had seen, until the appearance of this periodical, no such portraits, called up from her own fire-sides, as Sir Roger D Coverly, Sir Andrew Freeport, Captain Sentry, and Will Honeycomb. Without questioning his originality, one cannot but think, that it was by a touch from the wand of the luckless and honest Sir Richard Steele, !!the genius of Fielding was awakened and excited to exhi
bil human nature in all its endless variety of interests and of passions.
What the English Novel really is, is a subject of difficult solution, from the variety of its genera and species..
We must begin, by saying, that we consider, with all his faults, (and by a sad destiny, his faults were the result of his misfortunes,) Henry Fielding, as the father of the English Novel. If England has a national Novel, Fielding is its author. Although he is the novelist of human nature, it is through the racy originals which the customs, manners and modes of thinking in England produced, that he has developed his deep and various knowledge of the human heart. Although he thought in a universal language, that of human nature itself, he spoke through the forms of a particular one, and bence, he is so emphatically English, that he scarcely ever crosses the Tweed or the Channel, to draw upon the resources which the rich peculiarities of the sister kingdoms furnished to his gifted successor, the poet of Leven Water. This inveterate and inviolable adherence to English manners and opinions, has secured to Fielding's works, the distinction of being placed at the head of what may be called the National Novels of Great-Britain.
In the present article, we propose to consider the Novels of Great Britain, under four distinct heads. J. National. 2. Gothic, or Chivalrous. 3. Historical. 4. Miscellaneous Novels.
I. National Novels.-It is the distinguishing excellence of Fielding, that he belongs to the first class, and is the first in that class. He selected English manners, as the medium by wbich he was to tell the secrets of the human heart, and reveal both the playfulness and energy of the passions. Placed by his misfortunes, in contact with the lowest associations of life, and sometimes, we fear, detained there by his tastes, he was able to add much to his knowledge of human nature. The bright and sunny parts he had been enabled to survey by the advantage of a highly respectable extraction, and wit and accomplishments made him an acceptable companion among the fortunate and the great. Nothing is more probable than what has so often been asserted, that his finest portraits bad their living originals. His first novel, the History of Joseph Andrews, commenced as a satire on Richardson's Pamela, (which had just been published and attracted great popularity) assumed in its progress, under the plastic haud of its author, a more important form, and became a work of infinitely greater wit and power, than that which it was designed to satirise. Although one of the most strictly national tales in the world, the most
graphically descriptive of the country in which it was written, and in which the scene is. Jaid, yet the great interest with which it is read, wherever our language is understood, would seem to confute the observation "so often made, that none but an Englishman can fully relish the beauties of Fielding. The great popularity of that work in this country, may be accounted for, perhaps, by our Anglo-Saxon origin; but many of us who have never been in the land of our fathers, in perusing the charming pages of Joseph Andrews, seem insensibly transported to its towns, hamlets, vallies, mountains, and, for the time, feel entirely at home. Its scenery, its characters, the very pebbles along the road side, are all English, and where but in England, in the person of a protestant clergyman, can the original of Parson Adams be found. Where else, amidst poverty and sickness, can be seen at once, the purity and benevolence, the eccentricity, the learning, dogmatism, child-like simplicity, and fearless courage of this kind-hearted curate? This tale has also the charm of being comparatively exempt from that grossness and indelicacy, which has left so strong a taint on the history of a Foundling, certainly a more distinguished effort of Fielding, and equally marked by an adherence in its characters, scenery, incidents, and we might almost say, plot, to the peculiarities of his own country. We would not, if we could, extenuate the indecency and licentiousness of too many passages, both in the incidents and dialogue of Tom Jones, which disfigure this otherwise beautiful, interesting, and we may add, instructive fiction. It is just, however, to Fielding, that the fact should be stated, that if the drama holds the “mirror up to nature, by showing the body and pressure of the times," these violations of decency, had their justification in a prevalent contemporary license in conversation at least, if not in morals, which would be highly revolting to the taste of the age in which we live.
We confess, however, we are not among those who assign any very extraordinary important, to what is called the moral
of a Novel-we believe, that in the most licentious Novel, there is always a redeeming virtue in some of the characters, which
restores the balance, and we have never yet met with a fictitious narrative,' in which the canons of poetical justice were entirely violated, in which villainy and vice are made ultimately triumphant, without a shadow of repentance or restitution. А writer of Novels, on the plan upon which Fielding conceived and executed his fictions, had to take human nature as he found it, because he saw with an unclouded vision, into the deepest recesses of the human heart. He might, it is true, have made Tom Jones a Simon Pure, but after all, “the faultless mon
ster,” would not have been the natural product of that soil, in which the generous Foundling grew in all the luxuriance of his virtues and his vices. The question presented for the test of the judgment, is what sort of character, under the adverse destiny of Jones' birth, exposed to the temptations which beset his early life, is likely to be developed, and whether Fielding has given us a just picture of the consequences of such a destiny, in the traits and fortunes of his hero. We think he has, with a fidelity to nature, that is almost without a parallel. It may be said, and we shall not stop to examine the justice of the opinion, that it would be better, if characters, presenting such variegated lustre, their very vices rendered attractive by the splendour of the virtues that surround them, were never drawn forth, even from real life, to dazzle and fascinate in the seductive forms of fictitious representation—an opinion, however, which if carried out to its ultimate consequences, would forbid the drama to give us any more than half the man, and would render an expurgated edition of the history of the world, necessary to satisfy the scruples of a too fastidious morality. A very slight survey of human life will satisfy us, that the exhibition of vice, is what Aristotle thought it, the best means of purifying us from it; and although the vicious pleasures which form the reproach of Jones' youth, are related with a censurable piquancy by Fielding, yet are they not followed by their natural consequences, disgraceful embarrassment, and complicated distress? And from the whole context and sequel of the tale, does it seem anything more than fair poetical justice, that his charity, benevolence, generosity; and let us add, christian forgiveness of injuries should be rewarded, by happiness—the possession of Sophia Western, and the blessings of Allworthy ? Fielding has, moreover, made the world an ample compensation for the perilous fascination which he has thrown around the vices of his hero, by the odious light in which he has presented those of Blifil, a character (to the shame of human nature, be it spoken) of more probable and frequent occurrence, than that of the Foundling, and one against which the human heart should be not the less fortified. Hypocrisy, avarice, malice, and the most despicable meanness, have never been more instructively delineated, or with a higher moral justice brought to detection, discomfiture, and punishment. But if this contrast is not enough to vindicate the final moral of the “ History of a Foundling," surely it may be seen in the beautiful combination of the benevolent virtues that shine with such mild and steady lustre in the character of Allworthy, VOL. IV.NO. 8.