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CHARACTER OF AUTHOR'S GENIUS.

any part of his writings. His love of ridicule is little else than a love of mirth; and savours throughout of the joyous temperament in which it appears to have its origin; while the buoyancy of a raised and poetical imagination lifts him continually above the region of mere jollity and good humour, to which a taste, by no means nice or fastidious, might otherwise be in danger of sinking him. He is evidently a person of a very sociable and liberal spirit-with great habits of observation-who has ranged pretty extensively through the varieties of human life and character, and mingled with them all, not only with intelligent familiarity, but with a free and natural sympathy for all the diversities of their tastes, pleasures, and pursuits-one who has kept his heart as well as his eyes open to all that has offered itself to engage them; and learned indulgence for human faults and follies, not only from finding kindred faults in their most intolerant censors, but also for the sake of the virtues by which they are often redeemed, and the sufferings by which they have still oftener been chastised. The temper of his writings, in short, is precisely the reverse of those of our Laureates and Lakers, who, being themselves the most whimsical of mortals, make it a conscience to loathe and abhor all with whom they happen to disagree; and labour to promote mutual animosity and all manner of uncharitableness among mankind; by referring every supposed error of taste, or peculiarity of opinion, to some hateful corruption of the heart and understanding.

With all the indulgence, however, which we so justly ascribe to him, we are far from complaining of the writer before us for being too neutral and undecided on the great subjects which are most apt to engender excessive zeal and intolerance-and we are almost as far from agreeing with him as to most of those subjects. In politics it is sufficiently manifest, that he is a decided Tory — and, we are afraid, something of a latitudinarian both in morals and religion. He is very apt at least to make a mock of all enthusiasm for liberty or faith-and not only gives a decided preference to the social over the austerer

HIS POLITICAL INCLINING –

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AND FAIRNESS.

virtues but seldom expresses any warm or hearty admiration, except for those graceful and gentleman-like principles, which can generally be acted upon with a gay countenance and do not imply any great effort of selfdenial, or any deep sense of the rights of others, or the helplessness and humility of our common nature. Unless we misconstrue very grossly the indications in these volumes, the author thinks no times so happy as those in which an indulgent monarch awards a reasonable portion of liberty to grateful subjects, who do not call in question his right either to give or to withhold it in which a dignified and decent hierarchy receives the homage of their submissive and uninquiring flocks-and a gallant nobility redeems the venial immoralities of their gayer hours, by brave and honourable conduct towards each other, and spontaneous kindness to vassals, in whom they recognise no independent rights, and not many features of a common nature.

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It is very remarkable, however, that, with propensities thus decidedly aristocratical, the ingenious author has succeeded by far the best in the representation of rustic and homely characters; and not in the ludicrous or contemptuous representation of them-but by making them at once more natural and more interesting than they had ever been made before in any work of fiction; by showing them, not as clowns to be laughed at-or wretches to be pitied and despised-but as human creatures, with as many pleasures and fewer cares than their superiors — with affections not only as strong, but often as delicate as those whose language is smoother-and with a vein of humour, a force of sagacity, and very frequently an elevation of fancy, as high and as natural as can be met with among more cultivated beings. The great merit of all these delineations, is their admirable truth and fidelity- the whole manner and cast of the characters being accurately moulded on their condition and the finer attributes that are ascribed to them so blended and harmonized with the native rudeness and simplicity of their life and occupations, that they are made interesting and even noble beings, without the least particle of

VOL. III.

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50 WAVERLEY NOVELS-THEIR GENERAL CHARACTER

foppery or exaggeration, and delight and amuse us, without trespassing at all on the province of pastoral or

romance.

Next to these, we think, he has found his happiest subjects, or at least displayed his greatest powers, in the delineation of the grand and gloomy aspects of nature, and of the dark and fierce passions of the heart. The natural gaiety of his temper does not indeed allow him to dwell long on such themes; but the sketches he occasionally introduces, are executed with admirable force and spirit,—and give a strong impression both of the vigour of his imagination, and the variety of his talent. It is only in the third rank that we would place his pictures of chivalry and chivalrous characterhis traits of gallantry, nobleness, and honour,—and that bewitching combination of gay and gentle manners, with generosity, candour, and courage, which has long been familiar enough to readers and writers of novels, but has never before been represented with such an air of truth, and so much ease and happiness of execution.

Among his faults and failures, we must give the first place to his descriptions of virtuous young ladies - and his representations of the ordinary business of courtship and conversation in polished life. We admit that those things, as they are commonly conducted in real life, are apt to be a little insipid to a mere critical spectator; and that while they consequently require more heightening than strange adventures or grotesque persons, they admit less of exaggeration or ambitious ornament: Yet we cannot think it necessary that they should be altogether so tame and mawkish as we generally find them in the hands of this spirited writer, whose powers really seem to require some stronger stimulus to bring them into action, than can be supplied by the flat realities of a peaceful and ordinary existence. His love of the ludicrous, it must also be observed, often betrays him into forced and vulgar exaggerations, and into the repetition of common and paltry stories, though it is but fair to add, that he does not detain us long with them, and makes amends by the copiousness of his as

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sortment for the indifferent quality of some of the specimens. It is another consequence of this extreme abundance in which he revels and riots, and of the fertility of the imagination from which it is supplied, that he is at all times a little apt to overdo even those things which he does best. His most striking and highly coloured characters appear rather too often, and go on rather too long. It is astonishing, indeed, with what spirit they are supported, and how fresh and animated they are to the very last; but still there is something too much of them, and they would be more waited for and welcomed, if they were not quite so lavish of their presence. It was reserved for Shakespeare alone, to leave all his characters as new and unworn as he found them, and to carry Falstaff through the business of three several plays, and leave us as greedy of his sayings as at the moment of his first introduction. It is no light praise to the author before us, that he has sometimes reminded us of this, as well as other inimitable excellences in that most gifted of all inventors.

AND OCCASIONAL DEFECTS.

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To complete this hasty and unpremeditated sketch of his general characteristics, we must add, that he is above all things national and Scottish, and never seems to feel the powers of a Giant, except when he touches his native soil. His countrymen alone, therefore, can have a full sense of his merits, or a perfect relish of his excellences; and those only, indeed, of them, who have mingled, as he has done, pretty freely with the lower orders, and made themselves familiar not only with their language, but with the habits and traits of character, of which it then only becomes expressive. It is one thing to understand the meaning of words, as they are explained by other words in a glossary, and another to know their value, as expressive of certain feelings and humours in the speakers to whom they are native, and as signs both of temper and condition among those who are familiar with their import.

We must content ourselves, we fear, with this hasty and superficial sketch of the general character of this author's performances, in the place of a more detailed

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examination of those which he has given to the public since we first announced him as the author of Waverley. The time for noticing his two intermediate works has been permitted to go by so far, that it would probably be difficult to recal the public attention to them with any effect; and, at all events, impossible to affect, by any observations of ours, the judgment which has been passed upon them, with very little assistance, we must say, from professed critics, by the mass of their intelligent readers, by whom, indeed, we have do doubt that they are, by this time, as well known, and as correctly estimated, as if they had been indebted to us for their first impressions on the subject. For our own parts we must confess, that Waverley still has to us all the fascination of a first love! and that we cannot help thinking, that the greatness of the public transactions in which that story was involved, as well as the wildness and picturesque graces of its Highland scenery and characters, have invested it with a charm, to which the more familiar attractions of the other pieces have not quite come up. In this, perhaps, our opinion differs from that of better judges; - but we cannot help suspecting, that the latter publications are most admired by many, at least in the southern part of the island, only because they are more easily and perfectly understood, in consequence of the training which had been gone through in the perusal of the former. But, however that be, we are far enough from denying that the two succeeding works are performances of extraordinary merit, — and are willing even to admit, that they show quite as much power and genius in the author though, to our taste at least, the subjects are less happily selected.

Dandie Dinmont is, beyond all question, we think, the best rustic portrait that has ever yet been exhibited to the public -the most honourable to rustics, and the most creditable to the heart, as well as the genius of the artist the truest to nature-the most interesting and the most complete in all its lineaments. Meg Merrilies belongs more to the department of poetry. She is most akin to the witches of Macbeth, with some traits of the

GUY MANNERING.

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