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a deep interest is excited at the first-events move regularly on, and the shadows of fate gradually extend more darkly over them-and the whole is conducted to a terrible yet majestic catastrophe, in which the prophecies of old are fulfilled. And assuredly, in the course of this noble tale, there is no want of high individual excellences; for, passing over the stern and towering Ravenswood; the resolution of Lucy, springing out of seeming weakness, and overpowering the reason of a delicate nature; the sweet love-scenes at the haunted well; and the ludicrous invention of the faithful Caleb-there are those fearful hags whose horribly disinterested love of matters appertaining to the charnel-house and the grave places them almost on an equality with the weird sisters of Shakspeare!
"The Fortunes of Nigel" is, we are afraid, one of the most unequal of its author's productions. Its brightest passages are among the very best which he has written; but they are far between, and the intervals are singularly dreary. There is no principle of unityno central point of interest-not an individual whose fortunes we desire to follow. It seems poured out of a great novelist's common-placebook, and put together by a very unskilful hand. His nominal heroes are generally vapid; but then he usually introduces some other character whose changes we delight to observe, or affords us rich glimpses of historic story. Here, however, is neither of these sources of enjoyment: the author confesses that he has no story to tell; and although many of his persons are well worthy of observation, none of them are calculated to awaken very cordial sympathy. Lord Nigel Olifaunt, the aristocratic hero, is an individual for whom no one can feel; who has no romantic virtues or vices to endear him to us; but whose fault is, that he is a careful, prudent, and successful gamester, and who obtains his means of sharing in the luxuries of the metropolis by winning small sums of inexperienced players. There is something peculiarly revolting to the imagination, too, in the punishment of mutilation which hangs over him, and his liability to suffer which, connects unpleasant associations with every step he takes to avoid it. As if this were not enough, he is the victim of an accumulation of petty misunderstandings, perpetually placed in ambiguous situations which produce vexatious mistakes-like the Cecilias, Camillas, and Evelinas, of Miss Burney. Lord Dalgarno's deep-laid scheme for his ruin, and the means which he employs, are very painfully conceived, and inartificially conducted. The whole scheme of Margaret, for his release is quite a puzzle, the solution of which we give up in despair; and the episode of Lady Hermione is as drearily incredible as any Spanish tale in the circulating library. The marriage of the peer with the watchmaker's daughter is perhaps rather too jacobinical an event for a romance; but we concede our author's right to introduce and to consecrate as many innovations in the etiquette of fiction as he pleases.
Notwithstanding these deficiencies, and others which it would only be tedious to mention, this work contains passages which are far beyond the power of any contemporary novelist. Here, by what conjuration and mighty magic we know not, the very image of the time of James the First is set palpably before us. "Life in London" as it was at the beginning of the seventeenth century, is revived, " in form as pal
pable" as that which Mr. Egan now draws. We seem to remember Fleet-street as it then was, as well as we know it in its present aspect: the houses, the persons, the humours of the scene are here; and so strong a hold has the picture taken on our imagination, that we have once or twice looked with disappointment on its gay variety of shops, and wondered that the stalls were not there, and that the voices of the apprentices were not heard. Every thing is not only accurately depicted, but endowed with present life: we do not look on a museum of stuffed anatomies, but on a crowd of animated beings in whom we take a present interest; we feel the past in the instant, and live in the very bosom of the age to which the great magician transports us. He does not call from the "vasty deep" spirits which never were, but men who have been-not shadowy abstractions, but creatures of flesh and blood, just as they were and might be. We only wish he had done as much justice to the Temple as to its neighbouring street; that he had not entirely joined the faction of the apprentices against the Templars; but had seen something like fair play between them.
What a delicious glimpse he might have given us of high revels in chambers; how might he have set before us the gay suppers in which the players and poets of the age condescended to mingle with the young gownsmen; what frolics might he have kept up at the Devil Tavern, what words have made us listen to, spoken at the Mermaid!" All this is reserved, we dare say, for another novel; wisely, as far as concerns the author's account with his publishers, but not as affecting his great reckoning with posterity. This part of the work, too, admirable as it is in itself, leads to nothing. It would answer just as well for the beginning of any other tale. The two 'prentices who are there introduced to us with such note of preparation, make no figure afterwards, but utterly disappoint all our reasonable hopes. "Jin Vin," indeed, seems just fitted for his place, and promises either to fill the state coach or the Tyburn cart, as fortune may please ;--but Tunstall, "the gentle Tunstall," seemed created with a more sentimental destiny. Pale, patient, thoughtful, he deserved at least to fall in love, and to be jilted, as Sir Walter's delicate heroes regularly are by their sturdier rivals. We took Mr. Puff's advice, and made sure he was not really a watchmaker; but we looked in vain for his change. We have our suspicions that full justice has not been done him, and that he was originally designed for a better lot than it afterwards pleased his careless manufacturer to grant him.
There is perhaps nearly equal power exerted in the painting of the low debaucheries and wretchedness of the inhabitants of Whitefriars, famed under the name of Alsatia; there is a prodigious number of varied figures crowded into the scenes, and a picturesque arrangement of all the accompaniments of the melancholy orgies which Crabbe might envy. But the general effect is merely painful, for want of some true piece of human kindness to sweeten the mass of hardened profligacy and wretchedness; some touch of Nature, as there ever is in Hogarth's pictures, to reconcile us to our species; some redeeming trait which makes us feel that "there is a soul of goodness in things evil," and that fragments of nobleness will ever survive in man, however degraded his condition. If, however, the revels of the Duke of Hildebrod, prodigious as he is in his way, sicken us, we are soon, even
in the midst of his shocking haunts, to be excited, appalled, and melted by the deepest tragic passion. The whole scene of the murder of the old usurer, who has been prowling about to obtain the piece of money on Nigel's table-his soul fixed intensely on that one object, which he grasps in death-is fearfully grand. The deep desolation of the antique house standing in the midst of that den of wretches; the frightful intensity with which the victim is brought before us in the previous scenes,-heighten inconceivably the terrors of the situation, which is itself most vividly depicted. Even this is inferior to the masterly, we had almost said sublime, developement of the character of Martha Trabois, the usurer's daughter; who has tended her miserable father in this place of infamy till all affection seems dried up within her, and she appears a living anatomy; and who is aroused in this moment of extremity to filial agony and to towering revenge. It is as noble a vindication of the unalienable rights of nature as is to be found even in the writings of our author; and as a great picture imbued with the august solemnities of death and life, it may be ranked with the description of Meg Merrilies watching the last agonies of the smuggler, the young fisherman's funeral in the Antiquary, and the closing chapters of Waverley.
Of all the characters introduced in this work, the most complete, in point of finishing, is unquestionably King James. It seems done to very life. The utter childishness of his taste, the singular littleness of his personal vanity, his selfish goodnature, his almost incredible meanness, his silly love of practical jests and low victories, his pedantry, his shuddering terror of naked steel-all his degrading foibles and fop. perics are brought before us with a reality which is almost startling. Some may be inclined to wonder how a man of our author's political opinion could voluntarily make such an exhibition of any thing whose brows were "circled with a kingly diadem." But, whatever may be a poet's creed, his genius will be essentially liberal. He is too conversant with the essences of things to be slavishly devoted to their outward shows. He is so accustomed to contemplate man as man, to trace back to their mysterious sources those passions which are common to the species, to depict those sufferings and joys of which all men are partakers, that he cannot habitually prostrate his own spirit before despotic power. He is familiar with the true majesties of the heart. If he pays fitting homage to time honoured institutions and usages, he feels that they derive their peculiar colouring from our human affections. If he dwells fondly on the decayed relics of tyrannic grandeur, he feels at the same time the mightier antiquity of the universe. A wit, a satirist, may give the full benefit of his powers to the cause of absolute monarchy; a court is his proper atmosphere, and its creatures the fit subjects of his pen; but true imagination can never be servile. Its possessor may condescend to a birthday ode; but whenever he fairly exercises his faculties on worthy themes, the old instinct will revive, and humanity assert its true immunities in his works. A man's interest is nothing when put in competition with his passions and his powers, especially in the case of a great poet, who must necessarily have the most intense consciousness of both. He may honestly change his opinions, and he may give up honour and conscience for gain; but he will not, he cannot resign, for his life, one essential principle of his poetry.
There is no great merit in the delineation of the remaining male characters. Lord Huntinglen, indeed, is "a stout pillar of the olden time," and the usurer is the most intense of his class; but George Heriot does not stand out very prominently from the canvass. Richie Moniplies is tedious, and Sir Mungo Malagrowther a mere nuisance. But the author perhaps never succeeded so well in the delineation of females who are very women-not marked with peculiar characteristics as individuals, except so far as they are pre-eminently feminineas he has done in his pictures of Mistress Margaret, and Dame Nelly, the frail wife of Nigel's host. Nothing can be more charmingly natural than the behaviour of the little beauty in the interview with Dame Ursula, her delicate waywardness, her pretty impatiences, the sweet self-will of a spoiled child, as she buries her dimpled face in her small hand. How delightful, too, are her terrors, and her tears, when sent to the Tower in her page's dress, which so well belie that strange attire! What a sentiment of shape is there in the allusion which Heriot makes to her little foot in the midst of his displeasure! The slippery virtue of honest John Christie's wife well prepares us for the caprices and the relentings of Lord Dalgarmo's mistress. She seems moulded to yield and to repent, to cry and laugh in the same breath; and is the very perfection of female weakness, which has no principle to sustain it. How pleasant is her inquiry whether they shall not reach Scotland that day; her happiness to be with my Lord, and her tears for honest John; her transient sense of her own degradation, so easily changed into pride; her entire abandonment to the emotion of the moment, and want of purpose! The instant death of her seducer in the midst of this trifling comes like a blow upon the heart. The whole annals of fiction scarcely contain another transition so awful.
The more we dwell on the excellencies of this work, the more we regret that it is not better. He who can write its best passages should not write for the booksellers. Unfortunately, he is infected with the spirit of our literature, which can brook no delay, but requires the stimulus of immediate applause. Every popular writer of the day has grown as periodical as the Editor of a Magazine. We earnestly wish that the greatest of authors would learn a due respect for their genius; would dare to build for the future; and choose not merely to be read and praised for a month, but to produce works which shall shed their sweetness on future ages.
SONG. BY T. CAMPBELL.
DRINK ye to her that each loves best,
Enough, while memory tranced and glad
That each should dream of joys he's had,
Yet far, far hence be jest or boast
VOL. V. NO. XIX.
THE MIRACULOUS CANDLE.*
AT Amiens famed for treaty-making
Meant to be kept by neither party,
Moral, nay pious, for he went to mass,
Of folks that sold themselves for gold and brass,
(Thinking he'd have, at least, good company)
Assumed a monkey's shape to tempt the man,
Told him that when the term expired a plan
Now thirty years of life and riches sounded
To Christopher a time that ne'er could end:
Like rich men lived, to eat, and sleep, and spend,
This course for fifteen years he ran-just half
The term that Satan granted, when one day
Cook'd in Beauvilliers' famed and savory way,
That a stout man below would be his guest ;-
Seated himself-his tail that coil'd up lay
Curl'd round the chair, or switch'd like cat's at play;
In Vol. I. Lett. 32, of the Jewish Spy, there is an account of an everlasting candle at Amiens which never wasted or burnt out, and by which the church obtained large sums from devotees. It was unfortunately extinguished at the French revolution! From this, perhaps, it is said that the Amiennois light their candles at both ends-" Ils brûlent leurs chandelles par les deux bouts."