Слике страница
PDF
ePub

far as we know) have made any signal exertion to distinguish himself among the 'tuneful quire.' – This twofold mystery is simply and consistently explained by supposing that the bard has transmigrated into the writer of novels; and that the talent so unaccountably withdrawn from the department of lyrical composition, is now pouring out its exuberance in another region of literature, as the fountain Arethusa sank under the earth in Greece and re-appeared in Sicily.

LETTER II.

Ede quid illum
Esse putes ? quemvis hominem secum attulit ad nos,
Grammaticus, rhetor, geometres, pictor, aliptes,
Augur, schænobates, medicus, magus.

Ad summam, non Maurus erat, neque Sarmata, nec Thrax.

Juv. Sat. Ill. 74, &c.

The internal evidence, Sir, which I have thought deserving of your notice, may be arranged in two classes. I will first solicit your attention to those parts of the anonymous works which afford glimpses of the personal character, the habits, studies, and occupations of their author, and shall invite you to remark with me how singularly they correspond with those of our great romantic poet, as illustrated by his avowed publications. I will then point out in the writings of these two authors, such resemblances in sentiment, language, incident, conception of character, and general dramatic arrangement, as in my opinion most satisfactorily prove the fraternal relation of Marmion and his compeers to that mysterious unacknowledged family, which, in their present circumstances, may be denominated - The Children of the Mist.'

With respect to the unknown author, I suppose

it would be superfluous to insist that he is a native of Scotland. He has himself informed us in the postscript, or l'envoy, to Waverley) that he was not born a Highlander, and I think it may be gathered from his novels that, whatever spot may boast of having given him birth, a great part of his life has been passed in the city or neighbourhood of Edinburgh. The familiarity with which he speaks of that metropolis and its environs, and of manners and customs formerly prevailing among its inhabitants, but now obsolete, fully justifies the conjecture; and his description of the walk under Salisbury Crags, which (as he says, speaking in the person of Peter Pattieson,) used to be his favourite

evening and morning resort, and a scene of de• licious musing, when life was young, and pro

mised to be happy*,' can hardly have been written by any other than the truant boy,' who sought • the nest' on Blackford Hill, and has expatiated so feelingly and beautifully on the prospect of Edinburgh † from that side, in the fourth canto of Marmion.

It has been already observed, that the author of Waverley possesses, in a high degree, the qualifications of a poet. His mind, in fact, seems to be habitually, as well as naturally, given to the Muse of Song. I do not now speak of detached thoughts,

6

* Heart of Mid-Lothian, vol. i. ch. 7. • Mine own romantic town!'

See Marmion, Canto IV. St. 23, 24. 30.

single expressions, or insulated passages; the very conception and main structure of his stories is in some instances purely poetical. Take as an example the Bride of Lammermoor. Through the whole progress of that deeply affecting tale, from the gloomy and agitating scene of Lord Ravenswood's funeral to the final agony and appalling death of his ill-fated heir, we experience that fervour and exaltation of mind, that keen susceptibility of emotion, and that towering and perturbed state of the imagination, which poetry alone can produce. Thus, while the events are comparatively few, and the whole plan and conduct of the tale unusually simple, our passions are fully exercised and our expectation even painfully excited, by occurrences in themselves unimportant, conversations without any material result, and descriptions which retard the main action. The principal character is strikingly poetical, and its effect skilfully heightened by the manner in which the subordinate figures, even those of a grotesque outline, are grouped around it.

Of those interesting and highly fanciful incidents, which, although rather appendages than essential parts of the principal narrative, in fact constitute its chief beauty as a work of imagination, I need, only mention, as particular examples, the ominous slaughter of the raven *, the fiendish conferences between Ailsie Gourlay and her companions t, and the legend

+ Vol. ii. c. 9. jii. 7, 8.

* Vol. ii. c. 7.

of Lord Ravenswood and the Naiad, which contains in itself all the elements of a beautiful and affecting poem. I treat these as appendages, because the story might be told without them; but every one must feel that without them the story would not be worth telling.

It may be suggested, that the characteristic features which I have pointed out in the Bride of Lammermoor, belong rather to the species of fiction than to the individual fable, and that all romantic tales must hear the same resemblance to poetic narrative, which appears, perhaps, a little more decidedly than usual in the instance now adduced. But the observation would not hold true, even if confined to the novels of the present author. In Waverley and Guy Mannering, for example, there are flights of imagination and strokes of passion beyond the scope of a mere prose writer ; but the poetical character does not predominate either in the general design, or in the majority of incidents, or in the agency by which those incidents are brought about. Both Waverley and Guy Mannering might possibly, with some loss of effect, be thrown into verse, but neither of them is, like the Bride of Lammermoor, a tale which no man but a poet could tell.

I have dwelt long upon this work, as it appeared to furnish the most striking and complete

* Vol. i. c. 4.

« ПретходнаНастави »