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abide betwixt us, to be aiding to us at this conjuncture, and to repair to Abbotsford with your lady, either upon Thursday or Friday, as may best suit your convenience and pleasure, looking for no denial at your hands. Which loving countenance we will, with all thankfulness, return to you at your mansion of Gala. The hour of appearance being five o'clock, we request you to be then and there present, as you love the honour of the name; and so advance banners in the name of God and St. Andrew.
" WALTER SCOTT. “Given at Edinburgh, 20th May, 1820.”
We have thus followed up, to the end of the sources that have yet reached us, the personal career of this wonderful man. The relation that our extracts hold to the interest of the work from which they are taken, is something like that which “a classic brickbat from the tower of Babel" would bear to that ancient sky-cleaving structure itself. Scott, indeed, - stood like a pyramid above the dead level of his day and country;" he bore up manfully under afflictions; perseverance indomitable, and goodness almost ineffable, were his distinctions. A rich inheritance has descended to his children-not merely of his mighty reputation, but of profit from his immortal productions. His silent dust can be provoked no more to pleasure, by the voice of applause which still rings through Christendom; and the treasures of affluence which his works will produce to his kindred, he needs not where he lies, in an honoured grave
“For there neither wealth nor adornment's allow'd,
Save the long winding-sheet, and the fringe of the shroud."
ART. XI.- MISCELLANEOUS NOTICES.
Crichton. By W. HARRISON AINSWORTH. 2 vols. 12mo.
New York: Harper & Brothers, 1837.
This novel possesses throughout a quality which is essential to the success of every book of its class—we mean interest ; and it is one which often makes us overlook many and great defects. Without it, the best arranged and most regularly protracted story drags heavily on; and, with it, even loosely constructed and unfinished narratives absorb the attention. The latter is the case with Crichton. It violates many of the rules of critical propriety and accuracy; and the fate of the most interesting personage in the book is wholly involved in obscurity. We
merely know that she is brutally injured and degraded, without being informed whether the only relief, in her case desirabledeath-came to her succour. The outrage offered to her was by no means essential to the story, and is, besides, of a most revolting character; and its introduction, therefore, bespeaks but little consideration for the taste of Mr. Ainsworth ; while the conclusion of the tale, without the exhibition or even intimation of any punishment upon her destroyer, is a heavy accusation against its moral.
Indeed, a charge of this description would be sustained by numerous proofs, aside from this merely negative testimony. The scene of the romance is laid in an epoch and at a court infamous for its licentiousness; and the hero revels in all its fulness, is guilty, indeed, of one of the deepest crimes, without incurring, in the estimate of the author, the slightest reproach or criminality. It may be said that such was the custom of the age—the tone of society; and, pehaps, early education and the influences of fashion might, in individual cases, have lessened the enormity of their transgression; but the vices of no era, and of no class of persons, should be held up as pictures to the youthful mind, in our day, without a decided and unqualified reprobation at the hand of the author.
There is something in the stirring incidents of the story—the descriptions of a magnificent and licentious court—the development of state intrigues, and the motley crowd of priests, warriors, students, women, jesters, and rabble—which reminds the reader of the better days of Scott; but that great writer never laid himself open to the imputation against which our author has not been sufficiently careful to guard ; for, while he delighted the fancy, he was ever cautious not to weaken or to warp the moral sense.
Mr. Ainsworth was happy in his choice of a subject. There was enough generally known of Crichton to render any production, of which he was the hero, sure to excite curiosity. There was enough, and more than enough, in his extraordinary and romantic career to gratify the most eager craving. That our author has failed to satisfy expectation, we are fain to assert. Had he taken up the life of his hero from infancy, and brought it down to his early death--for his career, though replete with matter for admiration, filled but a span-and devoted the powers of description and of imagination which he undoubtedly possesses, to the exhibition of the character and performances of this wonder of his age, we are confident that his work would have been more likely than it now is to survive the brief period which is usually allotted as the term of its existence to the last Romance."
Attila. By G. P. R. JAMES. 2 vols. 12mo.
Harper & Brothers, 1937.
We regard the present production of Mr. James as the finest specimen of the historical romance since the last of the best in the Waverley series. It is a chaste, pure, classic work, illustrative of history, manners, and individual character, with neither scenes nor sentiments calculated to do the least detriment to the cause of morals. This last is, indeed, one of the chief characteristics of this author's writings, and at all times commends him to the favourable consideration of his critics.
Attila is constructed according to the most correct principles of literary criticism. It is in fact, though without the addition of the verse, a noble epic poem. The tale moves regularly and impressively onwards. The interest gradually increases — the incidents becoming more and more stirring--as the events of that remarkable era are successively developed. The transition from the luxury and incipient decay of the greatest empire the world has yet seen, to the barbaric simplicity, and the young, though giant, strength of the future masters of Europe, is captivating and imposing, and the contrast one of the finest in the wide region of romance, fictitious or real.
The wild enthusiasm and the ascetic devotion which, under the name of Christianity, engrossed the feelings of the pious in those days, stand in striking relief from the background of the heathen idolatry of polished Rome; and contrast as well with the equally heathen, though more simple, rites of the barbarians. These three developments of the religious principle in the breast of man—the best proof of the necessity of a revelation, and of the constant presence of the Divine Spirit, to prevent a relapse into idolatry and superstition-afford a theme for contemplation and speculation which but few novels accord to us.
The taste of Mr. James has heretofore led him to fix his tales in epochs later than the date of Attila, and approaching nearly to each other. They have, therefore, generally illustrated the same section of history, and have sketched the manners and customs of the same age. They were laid during the times when the spirit of chivalry gave a tone to society, and left its traces upon arts, arms, and literature. Upon this extraordinary institution no one has thrown more light, nor made more use of it in the web of his stories, than our author ; and no theme, notwithstanding the volumes which have been penned upon it, and the innumerable disquisitions to which it has given rise, continues to be more generally attractive. On the present occasion, however, Mr. James has ascended to an earlier period in the history of Europe, and locating his personages in the domains of “the Empire” fast tumbling into ruins, yet still imposing
from its venerable age and extreme magnificence, directs the attention of the reader to the sound of the distant thunder of those tribes who were finally, by their countless hordes and invincible valour, to sweep that mighty fabric of human greatness into utter annihilation. Mr. James is the first novelist who has conducted his readers into the depths of Scandinavian forests, or brought them in view of the awful conflicts between the legions of once sovereign Rome and the wild followers of their Scythian lords.
In this he has done wisely. No more interesting topic could have been presented. Rome, with all the associations of her early bravery, magnanimity, and sobriety, and her later supremacy in literature and the fine arts, clings to the affections with a tenacity which makes the story of her decay mournfully interesting. We gladden at the temporary check which the Eastern empire gave to the dissolution and destruction of the Roman power, and almost wish, against our better reason and judgment, that the disciplined legions of the successors of Cæsar had finally repulsed to their native forests their ferocious assailants. On the other hand, the rude yet substantial virtues of these very barbarians, their reckless valour, their primitive simplicity, and the pure fountain of liberty which watered their political and social institutions, and made them look doubly green and fresh by the side of the decrepit despotism of the power they assailed—the feeling th it is our ancestors who were fighting for the soil which they were in process of time to regenerate and to revivify--all this renders the cause of the savage Northmen equally dear with the other, and divides the interest and the affections of the reader.
Mr. James has taken the first step into this new province so propitious for the efforts of the novelist. We sincerely hope that he, and others like himself, if there be such now, will continue their labours in the same department. We regard the historic novel as the least exceptionable, and the most apt to be useful, of any of that class of writings. The taste of the age runs so decidedly in favour of such compositions, that the only feasible mode of converting them to any beneficial purpose is to endeavour to turn it in that direction, and to regulate it by strict rules of criticism, literary and moral. Fortunately the mind of our author is so well trained as to require but little control in either branch of a reviewer's duty.
We could indicate many scenes and passages from this novel which have excited our unqualified admiration ; but presuming the book to be familiar to the generality of our readers, we abstain from a consumption of the space which would be requisite. We but instance one example—the death of Attila. This is surpassingly fine. The taste of Mr. James induced him to leave the actual infliction of the death-blow to the imagination of the reader. No language could have equalled the picture which the fancy of every one instantly calls up. The deathlike silence which followed the knocking at the chamber doorthe slow, dark, copious stream of blood which finds its way along that chamber's floor—the sight of the mute, statuelike minister of the instrument of Divine vengeance—the little poniard in her white, slender fingers-all tell how the deed was done, far, far better than any representation of the awful event itself. There is a moral sublimity in the circumstances of the death of the “Scourge of God” which may well challenge a comparison with any on the pages of romance.
The subsequent conduct of the heroine and the conclusion of the tale are in admirable keeping with the tone of the whole book, and with the spirit of the Christians of that era. Having acted as the chosen agent of the Almighty in the infliction of punishment upon the slayer of thousands of his fellow-creatures, she regarded herself as consecrated to his service. She was too pure for mere earthly concerns; and, besides, deemed the shedding of blood with her own hand an insuperable bar to her giving it to him whom she loved so much. The cloister was her only refuge from the troubles of life, and the worship of her God her only service. The touching visit of Theodore to her tomb completes the mournful beauty of the picture.
In the delineation of female character, a point in which so many of our novelists fail so wofully, Mr. James excels. Besides the heroine, we have a delightful sketch in the character of Neva. These two females stand forth in beautiful contrast. The delineation of either would be sufficient for the fame of any romance writer ; Mr. James has thrown the full force of his fine powers into the production of the two for the same book. We should find fault with his prodigality, were we not satisfied with his capacity to produce many such. We have merely to say to him, proceed in the same path.
Live and Let Live. By Miss SEDGWICK. New York: Har
per & Brothers, 1837.
Miss Sedgwick pursues her design of instructing and entertaining the humbler classes of our citizens, and her aim and execution are both to be commended. In our last number we expressed our views in regard to the eminent merit of her works, particularly her later productions addressed to the understanding and feelings of the labouring poor. Nor to them alone is the benefit to be derived from their perusal, confined.