« AnteriorContinuar »
every extended limit of indulgence which we can allow to a susceptible and fickle disposition, fixes upon Mr Maturin's hero the odious character of a male coquette, and makes us almost identify a character so effeminate with that ascribed by the satirist to a countryman of De Courcy's,
A motley figure of the Fribble tribe,
Affected, peevish, prim and delicate. Lest we should appear, however, to have judged too harshly of De Courcy, we will briefly recapitulate the various motives alleged for his a second time breaking the most solemn ties that a man can form, and deserting Zaira in Paris, as he had deserted Eva in Dublin. The blaze of Zaira's mental superiority seems to have become too' scorching for De Courcy to bear, when he was no longer screened by the opportunity of retiring to contrast its brilliancy with the more calm moonlight character of Eva. She had pretensions, besides, to guide and to instruct him; and no man cares to be guided and instructed by a
Moreover, in the opinion of an experienced Frenchman, Zaira was trop exigeante, too determined to dazzle and to delight, and to inspire every moment with rapture of one description or another. • Pleasure itself, so protracted,' says this connoisseur, ' so exaggerated, must become pain. It is like the punishment of Regulus, cutting off the eyelids to turn the light of the sun into torture.' Besides, there was the dissipation of Parisian society, and the shame of being seen one of the train of an actress-he a gentleman of fortune and birth; and there was the discovery, that Zaira had been a wife and a mother, which she had imprudently left him to receive from others; and there was a letter of expostulation from his kind guardian, conjuring him to avoid a disgraceful alliance, and not to suffer himself to be trailed over the Continent, the overgrown pupil of a female pedagogue. Lastly, there was a natural love of change, and some regret after the discarded Eva. If all these reasons cannot palliate De Courcy's second apostasy to the reader, we must abandon him to their severest condemnation for deserting Zaira, and announce his speedy return to Ireland. It was in vain that she degraded herself by following him even in the streets—it was impossible to recal his affections. The arrival of Montgomery, with intelligence that Eva was in a deep decline, brought his resolution to a crisis, and he quitted Paris. From this period there is little more occasion for narrative. The author traces the various steps by which Eva approaches to the harbour where there is
‘rest from each earthlin
storm-the affectionate services of her adopted mother-the selfish speculations of Wentworth, and the more basely selfish brutalities of the vile Tartuffe Macowen. With the history of Eva's graduated decline, is contrasted the despairing state of Zaira; her conferences and controversies with Cardonneau, a French sceptical philosopher; her escape from his snares; her resolution to become a devotee, and her horror at finding herself unable to entertain that warmth of enthusiastic zeal necessary to give effect to the Catholic nostrum of penance; her resolution to put herself to death, with all the preparations which she solemnly adopted; and her abandoning her purpose, startled by an impressive dream or vision, which impelled her to follow her versatile lover to Ireland. All these moods of a despairing mind are well described, but too much protracted. The mind becomes weary of accumulated horrors, having all reference to the same person and set of events, and belonging to a catastrophe which is inevitable, and full in view. The skill of the author, his knowledge of the human mind, his talent at expressing sorrow, in all the varieties of her melancholy language, proves unequal to the task-during the first perusal at least-of securing unwearied attention. His labours seem as if they were employed to diversify or adorn a long strait avenue of yews and cypresses, terminating in the full view of a sepulchre.
At length, however, the various persons of the narrative, purshers and pursued, are reassembled in Dublin. De Courcy-his own health destroyed by remorse and the conflict of contending passions, dares to solicit an interview with Eva-dares to confide his repentance to Mrs Wentworth, with whose character, naturally warm and even passionate, though now subjected to the control of religion, the reader has been already made acquainted. We have no hesitation in placing the meeting betwixt this lady and the penitent who had wounded her peace so bitterly, by the side of the pathetic scenes of the same sort in Richardson. But we have been already too liberal in quotations; and the conclusion of the tale must be briefly summed up. In her wanderings through Dublin, Zaira finds her maniac mother on her deathbed; and learns from her the fact that she had been the unconscious rival of her own daughter, and the means of her descending to an untimely grave. After this communication, made with the same wild and impressive dignity with which Mr. Maturin has all along invested this person, the unhappy woman expires; and the yet more unhappy Zaira hastens to Wentworth Street, where she finds Eva just dead. De Courcy also slept, to awake no more; and the author thus closes his.melancholy narrative.
The following spring, the Miss Longwoods, gay and happy, were escorted by youthful, titled bridegrooms into that very church. They entered it futtering in bridal finery; and as they quitted it, their steps trod lightly on the graves of De Courcy and Eva.---Such is the condition of life.
......... Zaira still lives, and lives in Ireland. A spell seems to bind her to the death-place of her daughter and lover. Her talents are gone, at least they are no longer exerted: The oracles may still be there, but it is only the tempest of grief that now scatters their leaves. Like Carathis in the vaults of Eblis, her hand is constantly pressed on her heart, in token of the fire that is burning there for ever ; and those who are near her, constantly hear her repeat, “ My child—I have murdered
child!” When great talents are combined with calamity, their union forms the tenth wave of hu. man suffering ;-grief becomes inexhaustible from the unhappy fertility of genius,--and the serpents that devour us, are generated out of our own vitals. ' III. 407, 403.
The length of our analysis, and of our quotations, are the best proof of the pleasure with which we have read this moral and interesting tale,-and may stand in place of eulogy. We have also hinted at some of the author's errors; and we must now, in all candour and respect, mention one of considerable importance, which the reader has perhaps anticipated. It respects the resen blance betwixt the character and fate of Zaira and Corinne,--a coincidence so near, as certainly to deprive Mr Maturin of all claim to originality, so far as this brilliant 'and well painted character is concerned. In her accomplishments, in her beauty, in her talents, in her falling a victim to the passion of a fickle lover, Zaira closely resembles her distinguisheel prototype. Still, however, she is Corinne in Ireland, contrasted with other personages, and sustaining a different tone of feeling and conversation and argument; so that we pardon the want of originality of conception, in consideration of the new lights thrown upon this interesting female, who, in the full career of successful talent, and invested with all the glow of genius, sacrifices the world of taste and of science for an unhappily-placed affection. On the other hand, the full praise, both of invention and execution, must be allowed to Mr Maturin's sketch of Eva-so soft, so gentle, so self-devoted—such a mixture of the purity of heaven with the simplicity of earth, concealing the most acute feelings under the appearance of devout abstraction, and unable to express her passion otherwise than by dying for it. The various impressions received by good and by bad dispositions froin the profession of methodistical or evangelical tenets, form a curious chapter in the history of our modern manners. Mr Maturin has used the scalpel, not we think unfairly, but with professional rigour and dexterity, in anatomizing the effects of a system which is making way amongst us with increasing strength, and will one day have its influence on the fate perhaps of nations. But we resume our criticisms. The character of De Courcy we will not resume;—it is provokingly inconsistent; and we wish the ancient fashion of the Devil flying off with false-hearted lovers, as in the ballad of the Wandering Prince of Troy, had sustained no change in his favour.
Indeed, such a catastrophe would not have been alien to the genius of Mr Maturin, who, in the present as well as in former publications, has shown some desire to wield the wand of the enchanter, and to call in the aid of supernatural horrors. While De Courcy was in the act of transferring his allegiance from Eva to Zaira, the phantom of the latter-her wraith as we call in Scotland the apparition of a living person-glides past him, arrayed in white, with eyes closed, and face pale and colourless, and is presently afterwards seen lying beneath his feet as he assists Zaira into the carriage. Eva has a dream, corresponding to the apparition in all its circumstances. This incident resembles one which we have read in our youth in Aubrey, Baxter, or some such savoury and sapient collector of ghoststories; but we chiefly mention it, to introduce a remarkable alteration in the tragedy of Bertram, adopted by the author, we believe, with considerable regret. It consists in the retrenchment of a passage or two of great poetical beauty, in which Bertram is represented as spurred to the commission of his great crimes, by the direct agency of a supernatural and malevolent being. We have been favoured with a copy of the lines by a particular friend and admirer of the author, to whom he presented the manuscript copy of his play, in which alone they exist. The Prior, in his dialogue with Bertram, mentions
the dark knight of the forest,
Bertram. I'll ring a summons on his barred portal
Prior. Thou’rt mad to take the quest.-Within my memory
Bertram. What fate befel him there?
Bertram. That man shall be my mate-Contend not with me Horrors to me are kindred and society.
Or man, or fiend, he hath won the soul of Bertram. Bertram is afterwards discovered alone, wandering near the fatal tower, and describes the effect of the awful interview which he had courted.
Bertram. Was it a man or fiend ?-Whate'er it was
indeed were there
heart's abortive core,
Enter two of his band observing him.
Second Robber. And hast thou of a truth seen the dark knight?
fear-Well ! shivering craven,