Слике страница

usually of three stories, with great varieties of ornamental sculpture. One of the largest, a mausoleum of seventy or eighty feet high, with porticos, appears to have been afterwards converted into a church ; an inscription within it, in red paint, records the date of the consecration; and this is the only vestige of Christianity which has yet been found among these ruins. Only two or three sepulchres have been found with inscriptions; the letters of one of which Mr. Bankes found to be exactly similar to those found in the peninsula of Mount Sinai.

But although so many of these excavations were doubtless sepulchres, yet we cannot well admit that all were so. Indeed the inhabitants of all this region of country were known as Troglodytes, or dwellers in caverns, as we have seen above; and the supposition would be hardly admissible, that in Petra alone, with its countless excavated chambers, none of them were employed as dwellings for the living. Captains Irby and Mangles remark, and we may probably regard them as speaking in accordance with the opinion of Mr. Bankes,) " that there are here grottos in great numbers, which were certainly not sepulchral, especially near the palace; there is one in particular, which presents a front of four windows, with a large and lofty door-way in the centre. This, which seems the best of all the excavated residences, has no ornament whatever in the exterior. The access to it is by a shelf gained out of the side of the mountain; other inferior habitations open upon it, and more particularly an oven, and some cisterns. These antique dwellings are close to an angle of the mountain, where the stream, after having traversed the city, passes again into a narrow defile, along whose steep sides a sort of excavated suburb is continued, of very small and mean chambers, set one above another without much regularity, like so many pigeon-holes in the rock, with flights of steps or narrow inclined planes leading up to them. The main wall

. and ceiling only of some were in the solid rock; the fronts and partitions being built of very indifferent masonry with cement. But we must stop.

What a city, and what a people! Whence came so much wealth, and such magnificence, when the country had already lost its independence, and its me

[ocr errors]


* Irby and Mangles, p. 426 seq.

tropolis bad sunk to be merely a provincial city, far remote from the great seats of taste and art ? A volume would not suffice to recount the external wonders of Petra ; and still less to bring out to view the striking illustrations of the writings of the Hebrew prophets, afforded by the present state of the land of Edom. 'We had intended to conclude this article with some remarks upon the latter topic, and the abuse of it by literal interpreters; but we have already exceeded our limits.

Vr. Phillips

ART. V. - The Duchess de la Vallière. A Play. In Five

Acts. By the Author of "Eugene Aram,” &c. New York ;
Saunders & Otley. 12mo. pp. 131.

OBJECTS seen through a prism have a gorgeous, fantastical, unnatural appearance, quite striking at first, but wearisome in the repetition. So it is with life and manners, as seen in Mr. Bulwer's novels. They show us virtues caricatured, vices seductively garnished, generous qualities degraded by paltry motives, petty objects magnified, vulgarities glossed by fashion, and manners tinged with affectation. Whatever is veritable, honest, useful, and truly noble, finds little place in this bizarre, fictitious world. Such is the character of these works in general ; but we will analyze them more in detail.

The author does every ibing by rule, as mechanically, and with as little inspiration, as the cook makes a ragout from one of his thousand recipes. In the introduction to a recent edition of “ The Disowned,” he gives us his modus operandi, showing at the same time how he has achieved his works, and by what rules they should be judged of. In the same spirit, he gives us occasional comments and explanations in his notes, to elucidate the incidents and the language of his dramatis personæ. This is virtually admitting the mediocrity of his work ; for it is easy to imagine how out of place and trivial such analyses, keys, and running commentaries by the author himself, would be in the chef-d'æurres of literature. Imagine Milton to have given a key to his Sampson Agonistes, or his Comus, or Shakspeare to his Falstaff or Hamlet, Addison to his Sir Roger, or Sir Walter Scott to his Baillie Jarvie. Genius does not


descend from its “highest heaven of invention” to justify its flight by metaphysical or historical disquisitions, by an affidavit or a rule of Quintilian. But Mr. Bulwer's is not a muse of fire”; it is only a rhetorical muse, of a good high-school education, that is never “enraged, possessed, till madness rules the hour." He is in no danger of being carried away with his characters ; like his “consummate puppy,” as he rightly makes his “gentleman,” Mr. Henry Pelham, denominate himself, he always knows what he is about, and not only so, he is very obligingly ready, by a side whisper, to let his readers into his secret.

It is in entire accordance with this industrious, mediocre, mechanical mode of proceeding, that he very often introduces his personages with an inventory of their features and dress, height of the person and of the forehead, color of the hair, teeth, and the model of the nose, whether Grecian, bottle, or eagle-beaked, and so on to the end of the catalogue, with the regularity of an anatomical lecture or a gazette of the fashions. But after all, it is only an aggregation of materials. The being, the creature, does not appear and make himself present to the reader. Forins are not to be conjured up in this way from the vasty deep of imagination. All the epithets of beautiful, lovely, cruel, fierce, odious, and so on, serve, it is true, to let us into the writer's design, but the qualities do not become embodied; they are still but so many abstractions. The ideal figures, if any, floating in the author's fancy, do not, in the end, breathe from the canvass. The reader does not imagine them to have ever been alive. His landscapes are wrought after the same method, and with like success. When Milton speaks of trim meadows pied with daisies, shallow brooks, and wide rivers, mountains on whose barren breasts rest laboring clouds, and towers and battlenients bosomed high in tufted trees, the few expressions used, by that enchantment which belongs to the power of genius, open before you a vivid scene, more distinctly than can be done by exhausting the whole vocabulary of architecture and landscape gardening.

Another characteristic of these productions, as we have already hinted, is the utter selfishness and profligacy of sentiments that pervade the characters. Flattery is represented as one of the great instruments of success, and this, not by way of indirect satire upon a class in society, but as a just delineation of practical human nature. Thus Clarence Linden is


made, at the first encounter, to salute with a kiss Dame Bingo, the gipsey hag. Upon the same principle the same personage proceeds with the tradesmen among the electors; and by the same process Pelham makes his brilliant career, as the author considers it, in the Parisian circles of fashion. To redeem this fault, of which the writer seems to be sensible, he gives us Mordaunt, accompanied with a dissertation upon his purity and exaltation of principle. But it is a sickly sort of energy, and a shy, unsocial sensitiveness, and dreamy philosophy, which constitute the elevation of this character ; quite admirable, it is true, for misses far gone in the novel mania and boarding-school lore, but of quite secondary interest with sensible men and women who distinguish true beauty and excellence. To such these novels are not adapted; they are more congenial to the selfish, the heartless, the hypocritical, and those whose highest conceptions and aims do not rise above cleverness and cunning address ; who, feeling nothing of generous nobility and sincere enthusiasm, deem all mankind to be of the same stamp with themselves. These are the “fit audience" and not « few" of the author of Pelham, &c., their fit oracle.

We would not be understood to insist that the fabricators of airy nothings, with names and local habitations, for the amusement of idle persons, should limit themselves to the production of insipid pattern characters. Quicquid agunt homines, est farrago libelli; the world is their stage, and they may well introduce such heroes of vice and folly, no less than of virtue and wisdom, as it supplies. Bul selfishness and egotism, with the vices and bad passions, have not blighted the whole surface; there is something of moral beauty and majesty still extant, and the false pictures which virtually represent them as extinct, are libels upon human nature in general, however faithful they may be as likenesses of the artists who make them. The new school in imaginative literature, of which Byron is a leader, and Mr. Bulwer one of the followers, delights in confounding moral distinctions, and making the unsocial passions the predominant motives of action in the least depraved characters, and the vices in others. Pirates, highway robbers, thieves, and murderers are the heroes, and kept mistresses the heroines. They may say that they represent these personages as warnings rather than as models; but what signify professions of this sort, when the fortunes of a ragga

muffin with a dirk in his bosom and pistols in his belt, or of a reprobate in a fashionable coat, are followed with a grave solicitude through a long series of extravagant adventures and surprising achievements in his line, to which all other events and interests are merely collateral and subordinate. It is in vain to allege a moral which is contradicted by the whole tone of the narrative. It is the spirit and principle of the work to extol what is diabolical, and elevate what is contemptible, and accordingly to degrade what is worthy and estimable.

In one of those passages in “ The Disowned,” where the author speaks aside to the reader, he says, “ The manners of the times, the characters which from peculiar constitutions of society derive peculiarities of distinction, become the natural, though, I confess, not the noblest, province of the novelist. The noblest sphere of his art is to add to exterior circumstances, which vary with every age, a painting of that internal world which in every age is the same; and, besides describing the fashion and the vestment, to stamp upon its portraits something of the character of the soul. This classification is sufficiently obscure ; as well as we can make it out, it seems to be, that the best novelists represent character with manners ; the second-rate, manners and modes of thinking without character; in which second class the author modestly ranks himself. It is hardly conceivable how a writer can invent and produce a character, without having in view the motives and principles of action and inmost sentiments. If he thus conceives and displays his characters, then he undertakes to “paint that internal world which in every age is the same " ; if he does not so conceive and display them, the conception is crude, and the execution wavering, indistinct, and perhaps inconsistent. These are the very faults we have objected to in Mr. Bulwer's delineations. His notion, that his execution in this respect is the result of his system, or belongs to his province of novel-writing, is, we apprehend, an entire mistake ; it is, we think, a matter of sheer necessity. His specimens are not merely in a subordinate line; they are incomplete ; they do not come up to the mark aimed at. They consist too much of superficies; they have not soul enough, good or bad. As a part of the brain suffices for thinking, and a part of the lungs for breathing, so a fragment of a soul serves to animate these personages. And this is owing to a secondary style of VOL. XLIV. — NO. 95.



« ПретходнаНастави »