Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

NOT UNFAIR OR UNGENEROUS.

63

dealt in familiar applications of Bible phrases and Old Testament adventures, and who, undoubtedly, very often made absurd and ridiculous applications of them, it would be rather hard, we think, to interdict him entirely from the representation of these absurdities; or to put in force, for him alone, those statutes against profaneness which so many other people have been allowed to transgress, in their hours of gaiety, without censure or punishment.

On the other point, also, we rather lean to the side of the author. He is a Tory, we think, pretty plainly in principle, and scarcely disguises his preference for a Cavalier over a Puritan : But, with these propensities, we think he has dealt pretty fairly with both sides especially when it is considered that, though he lays his scene in a known crisis of his national history, his work is professedly a work of fiction, and cannot well be accused of misleading any one as to matters of fact. He might have made Claverhouse victorious at Drumclog, if he had thought fit—and nobody could have found fault with him. The insurgent Presbyterians of 1666 and the subsequent years, were, beyond all question, a pious, brave, and conscientious race of men— to whom, and to whose efforts and sufferings, their descendants are deeply indebted for the liberty both civil and religious which they still enjoy, as well as for the spirit of resistance to tyranny, which, we trust, they have inherited along with it. Comsidered generally as a party, it is impossible that they should ever be remembered, at least in Scotland, but with gratitude and veneration—that their sufferings should ever be mentioned but with deep resentment and horror-or their heroism, both active and passive, but with pride and exultation. At the same time, it is impossible to deny, that there were among them many absurd and ridiculous persons—and some of a savage and ferocious character-old women, in short, like Mause Headrigg - preachers like Kettledrummle — or desperadoes like Balfour of Burley. That a Tory novelist should bring such characters prominently forward, in a tale of the times, appears to us not only to be

64

NO PALLIATION OF GOVERNMENT CRUELTIES.

quite natural, but really to be less blameable than almost any other way in which party feelings could be shown. But, even he, has not represented the bulk of the party as falling under this description, or as fairly represented by such personages.

He has made his hero — who, of course, possesses all possible virtues — of that persua. sion; and has allowed them, in general, the courage of martyrs, the self-denial of hermits, and the zeal and sincerity of apostles. His representation is almost avowedly that of one who is not of their communion; and yet we think it impossible to peruse it, without feeling the greatest respect and pity for those to whom it is applied. A zealous Presbyterian might, no doubt, have said more in their favour, without violating, or even concealing the truth;— but, while zealous Presbyterians will not write entertaining novels themselves, they cannot expect to be treated in them with exactly the same favour as if that had been the character of their authors.

With regard to the author's picture of their opponents, we must say that, with the exception of Claverhouse himself, whom he has invested gratuitously with many graces and liberalities to which we are persuaded he has no title, and for whom, indeed, he has a foolish fondness, with which it would be absurd to deal seriously

he has shown no signs of a partiality that can be blamed, nor exhibited many traits in them with which their enemies have reason to quarrel. If any person can read his strong and lively pictures of military insolence and oppression, without feeling his blood boil within him, we inust conclude the fault to be in his own apathy, and not in any softenings of the partial author;—nor do we know any Whig writer who has exhibited the baseness and cruelty of that wretched government, in more naked and revolting deformity, than in his scene of the torture at the Privy Council. The military executions of Claverhouse himself are admitted without palliation; and the blood-thirstiness of Dalzell, and the brutality of Lauderdale, are represented in their true colours. In short, if this author has been somewhat severe upon the Covenanters, neither has he spared their

FAULTS ON BOTH SIDES.

65

oppressors ; and the truth probably is, that never dreaming of being made responsible for historical accuracy or fairness in a composition of this description, he has exaggerated a little on both sides, for the sake of effect - and been carried, by the bent of his humour, most frequently to exaggerate on that which afforded the greatest scope for ridicule.

VOL. III.

[blocks in formation]

Rob Roy. By the Author of Waverley, Guy Mannering, and

The Antiquary. 12mo. 3 vols. pp. 930. Edinburgh, 1818.

This is not so good, perhaps, as some others of the family; — but it is better than any thing else; and has a charm and a spirit about it that draws us irresistibly away from our graver works of politi

works of politics and science, to expatiate upon that which every body understands and agrees in; and after setting us diligently to read over again what we had scarce finished reading, leaves us no choice but to tell our readers what they all know already, and to persuade them of that of which they are most intimately convinced.

Such, we are perfectly aware, is the task which we must seem to perform to the greater part of those who may take the trouble of accompanying us through this article. But there may still be some of our readers to whoin the work of which we treat is unknown ;-and we know there are many who are far from being duly sensible of its merits. The public, indeed, is apt now and then to behave rather unhandsomely to its greatest benefactors; and to deserve the malison which Milton has so emphatically bestowed on those impious persons who,

“ with senseless base ingratitude, Cram, and blaspheme their feeder, nothing, we fear, being more common, than to see the bounty of its too lavish providers repaid by increased captiousness at the quality of the banquet, and complaints of imaginary fallings off — which should be imputed entirely to the distempered state of their own pampered appetites. We suspect, indeed, that we were ourselves under the influence of this illaudible feeling

BRIEF ACCOUNT OF THE STORY.

67

when we wrote the first line of this paper: For, except that the subject seems to us somewhat less happily chosen, and the variety of characters rather less than in some of the author's former publications, we do not know what right we had to say that it was in any respect inferior to them. Sure we are, at all events, that it has the same brilliancy and truth of colouring the same gaiety of tone, rising every now and then into feelings both kindly and exalted — the same dramatic vivacity — the same deep and large insight into human nature—and the same charming facility which distinguish all the other works of this great master; and make the time in which he flourished an era never to be forgotten in the literary history of our country.

One novelty in the present work is, that it is thrown into the form of a continued and unbroken narrative, by one of the persons principally concerned in the story – and who is represented in his declining age, as detailing to an intimate friend the most interesting particulars of his early life, and all the recollections with which they were associated. We prefer, upon the whole, the communications of an avowed author; who, of course, has no character to sustain but that of a pleasing writer — and can praise and blame, and wonder and moralise, in all tones and directions, without subjecting himself to any charge of vanity, ingratitude, or inconsistency.The thing, however, is very tolerably managed on the present occasion; and the hero contrives to let us into all his exploits and perplexities, without much violation either of heroic modesty or general probability ;-to which ends, indeed, it conduces not a little, that, like most of the other heroes of this ingenious author, his own character does not rise very notably above the plain level of mediocrity — being like the rest of his brethren, a well-conditioned, reasonable, agreeable young gentleman-not particularly likely to do any thing which it would be very boastful to speak of, and much better fitted to be a spectator and historian of strange doings, than a partaker in them. This discreet hero, then, our readers will probably

« AnteriorContinuar »