« AnteriorContinuar »
JANE EYRE, AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY.* The late hour at which this novel came to hand, precludes such a detailed notice of the work as its merits most unquestionably entitle it to. An autobiography, evidently in part founded on truth and experience, however much afterwards complicated, and coloured up by the editor, it is one of the most powerfully written novels that have lately issued from the
press. Jane Eyre is an orphan, committed to the tender mercies of a hard, unfeeling aunt, and of selfish cousins, who at once neglect and maltreat her. The little girl turns against her oppressors, and resistance strengthens the hatred, and stimulates the cruelty of the vindictive aunt. Jane is, in consequence, condemned to sojourn in a cheap saintly prison school, where she has to undergo wretchedness, hard fare, and ill-treatment. Here, however, she forms a friendship with an angelic creature, Helen Burns, the very incarnation of Christian charity and forbearance, and from her she learns to practise these cardinal virtues. Jane becomes a self-sustained young woman, with principle to control passion, and wisdom enough to know that patience is greater than resistance. She issues at length, from the Lowood institution to become a governess to a pretty, coquettish, sprightly little French girl, Adèle, who, the frail daughter of an opera danseuse, passes as the ward of Mr. Rochester, the master of Thornfield Hall.
The crochetty old libertine--libertine of circumstances rather than of a corrupt heart, if such a distinction may be allowed-with rather rude manners and not very attractive exterior, after having his curiosity awakened by the young governess, begins to take an interest in her, which soon warms to a deeper feeling. The love so gradually lighted up, rapidly assumes the character of a fierce, consuming passion. The maiden returns the affection of the strange, strong-minded man, and it is arranged that they shall be united. But Thornfield Hall is an old country-house in a far away place, and it has its mysteries, like its strange master. A Mr. Mason arrives from distant lands, and is wounded in the house, no one knows why, This also occurs on the third story, which was always kept locked, and to which gloomy haunt one Grace Poole, who used to drink porter and smoke pipes, alone had access. Then there was also a Miss Ingram, whom it was supposed that Mr. Rochester was about to marry. The trials and difficulties, in fact, that beset Jane before her entrance into Thornfield, rather increase than diminish with her new position.
At length, when at the foot of the altar, she discovers that Mr. Rochester has a wife living, a lunatic, who is the mysterious person confined in Thornfield Hall. It is in vain that the unhappy man explains, a long separation ensues, and a new connexion with an enthusiastic missionary follows ; till at last, the lunatic perishing in the flames which she has herself kindled, Jane is united to the object of her long-tried affections, even though he is suffering from temporary blindness. Relief comes, at last, but it comes even then in a melancholy and almost disastrous guise. “Jane Eyre” is, indeed, rather a tale of passion than of action. The action is oftentimes improbable, but the passion is always true to life.
* Jane Eyre, an Autobiography. Edited by Currer Bell. 3 vols. Smith, Elder, & Co.
THE BACHELOR OF THE ALBANY." THE “ Falcon Family” met with so mnch success, that it was but natural that it should be soon followed up by another work of the same class. Like the “ Falcon Family,” the “Bachelor of the Albany” occupies a kind of indefinite position between the novel and the sketch, or essay. There is little or no plot, incidents are as rare as the current coins of the realm : there is actually no hero, strictly so speaking ; the individual intended to represent such is unamiable and unprepossessing from beginning to end ; there is a mysterious little maiden, but no great interest is made to invest either her beauty or her sufferings and trials, and still less is attached to her pedantic lover, Philip-a fair specimen of a legitimate scion of the Diffusion of Knowledge Society. But if the success of the work is not made to depend upon plot or incident, and the characters are not of that class with which the interest of fiction is generally interwoven-either amiable or villanous in excess –
ss-still there is a vigour of delineation, and a dashing, racy style that would impart a spell to almost any mediocrity, and the characters are far more real and positive pictures of society than the usual conventionalisms of the novel which has been legitimated by bad habits and still worse taste.
The Bachelor of the Albany is one of those morose, selfish persons who live for themselves only, and what is worse, are professedly rude and unamiable to all they come in contact with. It was Mr. Barker's glory that he had neither wife, nor child, neither a house, an office, or a vote; that it was impossible to be more unattached than he was, or to be better secured against the freaks of fortune by repudiating all the responsibilities of life. This it is naturally to be understood is not in this bustling world of ours to be done upon nothing—Mr. Barker was a cynic with some twelve or fifteen hundred a year. The gist of this sketch of so eccentric a character (to use an accepted, but not at all an appropriate expression) is to place him in such situations,
that all his acquired habits and assumed philosophy shall be at fault. The bachelor is dragged into society, and forced to listen to music, which he detests (and very pleasant society that of the Spreads must have been) is accidentally visited by a lady when in bed ; is haunted by the vision of a nephew ; is forced to dine with a miser; is taken to task by a masculine belle ; is elected member of parliament; is tumbled into the Thames, and becomes an invalid; repents of his past life, discovers in the pretty heroine of the story his niece ; and finally becomes himself, at the same time with other parties, a happy Benedict, and a responsible member of society.
There are many other clever and amusing social pictures associated with this the leading character of the book. The miserly Narrowsmiths are depicted at length, and painted to life. The Rev. Mr. Owlet, who is bent upon reviving the mystery plays and moralities of the middle ages ; Mrs. Martin, the didactic governess"; Doctor Bedford, the luxurious pluralist ; the twin Smylys ; the four novelists (a rather dangerous episode for one of the same craft); and Mrs. Harry Farquhar, the masculine beauty, are all sketched off with the same happy talent and facility, in which a critical reader will, however, find a deal of repetition ; for example, we read three different versions of the fact that Mrs. Narrowsmith's presence affected the thermometer, or actually cooled the surrounding atmosphere, but still the general effect is that of a clever, facile writer ; one who would be successful in genteel comedy, but is by no means possessed of either remarkable faculties of invention, or any great power of poetical conception.
* The Bachelor of the Albany. By the author of the “ Falcon Family.”
A WARNING TO WIVES.*
THE authorship of seven three-volumed novels-almost a library in itself—ought to beget facility, if not perfection. And so it is with “A Warning to Wives." With little of the calm, easy strength, and conscious mastery which belongs to the first-rate novel, there is still a sufficient variety of characters, scenes, situations, and adventures, depicted in a flowing, if not forcible, language, for the purposes of a mediocre
The subject matter is, however, in reality better adapted for comedy than for a three-volumed novel. The wife is a pretty, lively, sparkling, good, and innocent thing of nineteen, with a cherub boy that she doats upon. The husband, Sir Noah Fathom, is sixty years of age, with silvery red hair, weak eyes and goggles, and a hobbling gait. The contrast is too great even for the purposes of fiction.
In such an illassorted match, the wonder is that the wife should have remained true, instead of, that she should have been exposed to temptations. But Sir Noah is throughout caricatured to an absurd extent. He is so enthusiastic a geologist, that he never speaks of any thing else but fossils. If his young wife presents her child, he speaks of a beautiful ichthyosaurus (or, ichsyothaurus, as it is here spelt); if Lady Ada pleads for her milliner's bill, he asks if it is the bill of a plesiosaurus ; no matter how grave or important the subject of conversation, he is ever with his folios and his antediluvian remains, till he becomes a greater bore, on paper, than ever existed in a world plentifully supplied with positive and existing bores of all kinds and descriptions.
Lady Ada has a cousin, a Captain Fitzopal,- Semi-Opal it ought to have been,-one of the ever-to-be-calumniated tenth, and one of Mrs. Gore's “ Modern Chivalry,” exclusive, vain, selfish, sensual, and extravagant. Captain Fitzopal had also a friend, Major Smiley, with iron grey eyes, one of the greatest villains ever begot of a diseased imagina, tion. Both these gentlemen love the Lady Ada ardently. But while Fitzopal contents himself with being the platonic lover of his wedded cousin, the major has recourse to the lowest and vilest manæuvres to effect his dishonourable purposes. To take advantage of a mother's agony on a child's death-bed to achieve these objects, is a thing so repugnant to manhood, as to deprive the reader of all patience. Such conduct only wanted a climax, and the reader is not allowed to want it long, for the actual abduction of the child follows, in combination with a nearly mortal wound inflicted upon Wildair Revel, the brother of Lady Ada, and the real hero of the story, and for which acts of cowardly violence the “gallant" major is never afterwards brought to account.
We said Wildair Revel is the actual hero of the story, and thus it is. At the same time that Sir Noah and Lady Fathom inhabited a mansion in Belgrave-square, two middle-aged ladies-literary oddities and maiden eccentricities-kept a literary boarding house in the less fashionable regions of Gower-street, and in this house a young and beautiful heiress, Clementina Castleton, had taken up her residence, under the assumed name of Inez M‘Alpine. The reason of this disguise was, that her
* A Warning to Wives ; or, The Platonic Lover. A Novel, in 3 vols. T. C. Newby.
father had, in his will, confined the young lady's choice to three suitors -an old Yorkshire squire, called Grumbleby, as expressive of his character the precious specimen of a modern exclusive, Captain Fitzopal; and young Wildair Revel. Now Wildair, although a very young man, had, by the treachery of a friend, got into so many scrapes at college, as to incur his father's serious displeasure ; and, being of a high spirit, he had preferred toiling under the name of Luckless, as a literary hack, to being upholden to any of his friends or relatives, and he dwelt in an attic of the literary boarding-house, kept by the said Misses Evergreen, in Gowerstreet.
At the same boarding-house lived, also, Mr. Spight, the editor of the “Hornet;" a character painted in so truly a despicable light, that if meant for any thing personal (and we hope not) we pity the unfortunate reality. Also Mr. Peevish and Mr. Plagiar, literary characters, so very insignificant, that their names will suffice for their portraitures. In pursuance of her plan to wed only the man who should love her for herself, Clementina Castleton assumed the character of a poor protected niece, while the eldest Miss Evergreen-the poetical Melpomene of the boarding-house-is made to represent the rich Indian heiress. Mr. Spight, who entertained a strong dislike both to Captain Fitzopal and to Mr. Grumbleby, apparently upon the most ordinary principle that they were both better than him, makes the plot a little more complicated, by representing the red-haired younger sister, Thalia Evergreen, to Mr. Grumbleby as the heiress. Luckless and Inez M'Alpine-the name adopted by the supposed poor niece—all this time carrying on a most serious Airtation, each in their assumed characters, and both unknown to one another. The dénouement is that of legitimate comedy. It takes place at a soirée in Gower-street. Captain Fitzopal returns from Gretnagreen, with his supposed heiress of forty ; Mr. Grumbleby also arrives from the altar with his fair Thalia, a bride of thirty. Clementina, at the same time, first appears in her true character; while, to her own astonishment and her lover's, the Lady Ada introduces, in the humble Luckless, her brother, Wildair Revel. Poetic justice is thus done to all parties. Fitzopal is punished for his selfishness; Grumbleby for his avarice ; the two literary spinsters get husbands for better or worse and Clementina wins one of her destined suitors, for her own, and not her money's sake.
The trials undergone by the Lady Ada, although the lady passes triumphantly through the ordeal, are not of so agreeable a cast. There is also a history involved in the main story, of one of Major Smiley's victims, Janet, a poor Scotch girl, whose much-loved child is burnt to death, while she herself seeks a watery grave. There is a brother, too, whom the same villain has wronged in the most perfidious and unnatural manner. There are crimes, indeed, which make the reader shudder, while he wonders how it is possible that writers of imaginative fiction should deem such pictures necessary to arouse a human interest. A fitting punishment, however, awaits the culprit. He is not mad—that would be a blessing—but is confined in a lunatic asylum, and left, without a resource, to the most painful of all tortures his own unavailing remorse.
MISCELLANEOUS NOTICES. The name of the author of the work entitled De l'Influence des Capitaux Anglais sur l'Industrie Européenne depuis la Revolution de 1688, jusqu'en 1846. Par Ch. Wilson, Chevalier de l'ordre du Lion Néerlandais, is decidedly English. But any thing more extravagantly, Gallic than the opening sentence has not come under our notice since we read the last volume of Thiers' impartial history.
“The great power of our age," says the knight of the Lion of Netherlands, “cannot be mistaken-it is capital. In the struggle which characterised the end of the last century and the beginning of this, Napoleon and France represented glory and liberty, the ancient Roman element ; England represented capital and slavery, the ancient Carthaginian element. Nothing was wanting, neither the essentially maritime power nor the punic faith peculiar to a merchant people. At the end of the struggle Carthage conquered Rome ; victory remained to capital, to money."
We have heard of the “ Napoleon of peace,” but the association of the greatest subjector of nations the world ever saw with liberty, and the discovery that liberty was the “ Roman element,” is something so very new that we feel certain that those who will carefully study Mr. Wilson's views of the influence of English capital upon European industry, will
be enlightened by other such luminous and remarkable dis
The second volume of Captain Marryat's Children of the New Forest surpasses its predecessor in interest. It is universally acknowledged that the gallant captain never writes more heartily or more successfully than when he is writing for young persons.
The test of success is to put the work into the hands of a young person, not one out of ten will rise from its perusal till it is terminated. Mr.W.J. Brock’s volume of incidental poetry, published under the title of Wayside Verses, will, we fear, meet with but
So many are now led from “the warmth that glows within them,” as they apologetically express it, to overrate the sympathy that exists for mediocre poetry without, and to venture into the most perilous field of authorship, that it is really a duty to warn individuals against so great an error of judgment. The same observation applies itself to Mr. Robert Ferguson's Shadow of the Pyramid, a collection of sonnets on Egyptian subjects, although these are removed from mediocrity by a practical acquaintance with the subject on the
part of the author, added to a certain amount of taste and skill in versification. Madeline, a tragedy in five acts, by Richard Bedingfield, is more melodramatic than tragic. Had we space we would have given a proof of this that would have startled our readers ; and yet Mr. R. , Bedingfield is a lamb in rhapsody compared with the author of Athanase, a dramatic Poem, written by a Mr. Edwin F. Roberts, author of “Mephistopheles,” &c. Mr. Roberts is evidently a genuine enthusiast ; he speaks of “ that sublime stirring of the soul when the heart and brains of a man are singing in the deeps,” of “intellection stricken and veiling itself before the great eyes of the soul;” “of impotence full of keen pain,” and of other strange things, which make a menagerie of that which should be a flower-garden. We are happy to see that Ignez de Castro has reached a second edition. We spoke favourably of it on its first appearance. Fulcher's Ladies' Memorandum Book and Poetical Miscellany for 1848, is the first in the race, and by no means the least chaste, elegant, and appropriate of the host. It is an old, and we are happy to see a continuous favourite. The notices of The Slave Captain and Rowland Bradshaw are unavoidably postponed.