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Art. IX.-1. Atar Gull (Atar Gul), par Eugène Sue. 2. La Coucaratcha, Roman maritime, (The Cockroach, a Naval
Romance,) par Eugène Sue. 3. La Salamandre, Roman maritime, (The Salamander, a Naval
Romance,) 2 tom., par Eugène Sue. It is singular that maritime novels should be of foreign origin, when the sea itself had been so long the favourite and boasted possession of Great Britain, and the members of the naval profession were so closely interwoven with our political existence and habits of thought as the great bulwark of national defence. To Englishmen, the service was a kind of embodied idealism, rough in its outline and peculiar failings perhaps, but exempted generally from the usual besetting sins of landsmen, that is, of the larger portion of the human race: to say nothing of the lustre cast upon it by the universal sentiment of respect and admiration entertained for those who brave unwonted dangers. All these, and many more considerations, had united to produce among us so high an appreciation of maritime life, that it is not a little singular, we must repeat, that English literature, when the failing voice of fiction was infused with fresh energy by Scott, should have entirely overlooked, even amidst the very eagerness of search for novel phases of life, the ample scope afforded by the boundless wastes of ocean. There, too, all the machinery of natural terrors, displayed constantly to the eye and physical apprehension, is heightened by the corresponding weight of superstition, and nourished by all that most forcibly appeals to imagination: and this little checked, or even modified, by that actuality which, however potent on land, but feebly opposes the hourly spells that seen to reign in supremacy over the world of waters.
It was with a wonder, therefore, scarcely inferior to that which attended the mortifying intelligence of our first defeats on our favourite element, that the British public found our transatlantic brethren equally prompt and successful in their rivalry of our favourite branch of literature also: the Hornet, the Constitution, &c. were not, in their way, more productive of astounding disclosures of rival strength, than were, in another form, the Spy, the Pilot, and the Last of the Mohicans: and in both cases the national vanity, like that of Mrs. Primrose in the Vicar of Wakefield, at her daughter's dancing, comforted itself by whispering, with at least as much of jealousy as approbation, " that though the little chit did it so cleverly, all the steps were stolen from herself."
The allegation, probably true in either case, did not, however, , lessen the merit of the thief; but the emulation awakened by
these successes over ourselves, roused the national energy
every point of view; and to the portion of this development that regards our literary pursuits, we shall refer in its place, after a few preliminary observations.
In this question the name of Smollett has been naturally brought forward as the real originator of the seafaring novel; and Mr. Cooper has been considered as only treading, to a certain degree, in his footsteps. We cannot hold with this opinion in the least.
The subject of Smollett was, strictly speaking, less the seafaring life than sea-faring individuals. It was the manners of the man rather than the occupations of the class; it spoke of the sailor, not of the sea. The whims and eccentricities of nautical thought and language, as called forth incidentally and by collision; the steering of a chaise, the lee-shore of a road-post, the menage of a cock-pit, or the brutality and ignorance of a commander; all that could bring us close into intimacy with this amphibious variety of the genus homo, was traced by the pen of genius before our eyes, and mingled with our subsequent recollections by inimitable powers of comic extravagance and frolicsone humour. Humour too that at times led of necessity to pathos, for humour itself is but the irony of affection. That this result, of pathos, occurs more seldom in Smollett than might have been imagined from the depth and richness of his humorous vein, is no argument against the consequence we have drawn; and may be easily accounted for by the circumstances of his life and habits, and the thence induced cynicism of his character. But his power in such scenes is unquestionable: and, as an instance of this, we refer to the passage immediately following that where the whimsical propensities and prejudices of the old commodore have closed with his life and the especial direction for his epitaph: namely, that it must be, not in your outlandish Latin lingo, but in good plain English, in order that the angel who is to pipe all hands from under hatches may be able to read it. The scene begins thus: “Every thing being duly arranged, all the rest had left the room: Pipes stood over the body of his old commander.
Well fare thy soul,' he said,) old Hawser Trunnion! Fifty years have I sailed with ye, man and boy, and a better seaman never broke a biscuit,'”' &c. &c.
But if individual incident and portrait were thus sketched or worked out with singular power, the phenomena of nature, the dangers of the deep, and the triumphs of human skill and resolution,-all that form the real staple of the seaman's existence, were totally beyond the province of Smollett. Still less was he calculated for attempting to depict those yearnings of the heart that arise in the loneliness of dignity that invests the state-cabin and
VOL, XXI. NO. XLII.
the quarter-deck; in the solitude and isolation of the night-watch, and in that stronger solitude of the heart itself, which feels in the long intervals of forced repose that those around, though united for a time in the same vessel, have no one point or capacity of sympathy with its private ties; and that it cannot, like the landsman's, seek out these when most desirable.
The very bustle and motion of the crowd that constantly surrounds the seaman, while it keeps up an incessant but moderate degree of excitement in his mental system, prevents him from the general leisure of a landsman's spirit, that can indulge the mood and give it vent. Checked and chilled on the contrary with the sailor, it sinks into the mind successively, if we may venture on a similitude, like the reiterated trace of frosts into the bosom of earth-unseen but ineffaceable; - and keeps like that, its deep, indelible register to mark, more strongly than externals can be expected to retain it, the impressions and effects of past states and feelings. But there are times when these feelings rise in concentrated strength; such as when called from society or the messroom in all the flush of mirth and enjoyment to keep the midnight or morning watch, to see the gallant vessel hold her own and in due trim; to mark the changes of the wind and the strength or slumber of the waters; to see the sun sink or rise, to gaze on the moveless track of the moon, and commune in loneliness with the stars that so often have lighted far other hours;-while the necessity of a vigilant but restrained attention, and the dignity of command, give a slight though certain elevation to the spirit. It is then that the light voice of the breeze, the murmuring sound of the waves, the motion, the serenity, the dreamy softness of night, all combine to fill the breast with unuttered emotion: all this the sailor feels, but the voice of his feeling is dumb.
Such a state might, and must necessarily have given a power of positive poetry to the seaman, but for the counteracting influence of those ruder and more stirring energies that every moment of change and vicissitude calls into play: these hourly calls of action fling emotion into the shade; and on glancing back he finds that he has outsailed them, like the ocean weed that a moment before was floating over the bow, drifting now with the current far behind the stern. The sailor thus, if he is prevented by the circumstances of his life from becoming actively imaginative, is always in proportion more susceptible of that power: sensitive beyond other men to the influence of the finer pulses, though less able, or less willing, at least, to attempt to sway them.
Who can wonder then that, imbued with the living energies of nature and the ocean; constantly in contact with powers whose recollection is the very poetry of existence, the navy were among
the foremost to hail the genius that gave these their first tangible form, in the verse of the first of energetic poets. If the voice of passion had been restrained on land, that of the seaman had never existed at all, till Byron felt the stirring might of the waters and imagined the exciting inspiration of scenes and characters denied to his actual experience. With what delight seamen dwelt upon his nautical descriptions and partialities the foregoing suggestions may aid us to imagine, and what pleasure too they derived from those effective delineations, which some writers absurdly characterize as picturesque not poetical; as though the mighty lord of the lyre had not been competent to detect that the picturesque was only the poetry of the eye. We need not refer more particularly to the gorgeous panorama of the archipelago in Childe Harold, or in the Letter to Bowles, but instance the following passage:
“ The sails were fill’d, and fair the light winds blew,
As glad to waft him from his native home;
Fades o'er the waters blue;
And sbrieks the wild seamew.
We follow in his Aight;
My native Land-Good Night!
To give the Morrow birth;
But not my mother Earth.”-Ibid.
Has view'd at times, I ween, a full fair sight;
The dullest sailer wearing bravely now,
Hark to the Boatswain's call, the cheering cry!
Strains his shrill pipe as good or ill betides,
Where on the watch the staid Lieutenant walks:
Conquest and Fame: but Britons rarely swerve From law, however stern, which tends their strength to nerve. “Blow! swiftly blow, thou keel-compelling gale!
Till the broad sun withdraws his lessening ray;
Thus loitering pensive on the willing seas,
Long streanis of light o'er dancing waves expand;
Or to some well-known measures featly move,
Ibid. Canto 2. “Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean-roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan, Without a grave, unknell’d, uncoffin'd, and unknown." “Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty's form
Glasses itself in tempests; in all time,