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Morgan. Her subjects, style, and tone, are masculine. She enters the arena properly reserved for the contests of men, and challenges the opposition of the most active combatants. She abandons, to a very great extent, that delicate reserve which belongs to other writers of her sex, and scarcely ever presents herself in a character which can properly be denominated feminine. In the book before us, for example, she appears as a violent party politician. One of its leading objects is to vilify the high tory party of Britain, and it must be confessed that she succeeds in making them appear almost as heartless and umprincipled as-herself. One thing in her present attempt we are ready to commend—she has not thought proper to call her book, on the title page, a novel. It certainly is no novel. It may be termed a guide book to the city of Brussels—or a series of dialogues on politics —or a series of portraits of living characters in Brussels—or a history of the revolution in Belgium—or a happy mixture of all these in an ill compacted frame-work of fiction—but neither in structure nor character has it any claims sufficient to entitle it to a place among works of pure fiction, or even among historical novels. The fictitious characters of the work, taken collectively, are distinguished from those of any other story we at present recollect, by one remarkable feature which they possess in common, and this is utter heartlessness and want of virtue. There is scarcely a character in the whole set that is not grossly immoral—and the only variety among them consists in their different manners. All the subjects discussed in their conversations are treated with nearly the same degree of trifling heartlessness; and the only warmth or enthusiasm which appears in the work has its origin in party feeling, and breaks forth in the discussion of political and historical topics; if we except an occasional rapture on some Flemish picture or painter, which forcibly reminds one of what Fuseli characterizes as “the frigid ecstacies of German criticism.” Even the Princess, the pet character, the standard of excellence to which one is ready to believe the author would gladly aspire, is represented as a heartless coquette, who in all sorts of disguises pursues a marriedman wherever he goes; seeks every opportunity for interesting his feelings; and when he is finally liberated from his wife, refuses to marry him. There is a sufficient variety of manners in the dif. ferent personages, from Laurence Fegan, the porter's locum temens, to Sir Frederick Mottram, the privy counsellor and patron of arts; but in a moral point of view they all come under the same category. Lady Morgan praises the Belgians for their nationality—by which it may be presumed she means a desire to elevate and glorify their own country. What shall we say of her nationality, when we observe that every Irish character described in her book is vicious and contemptible. While she pursues such a course, whatever she may accomplish for the cause of radicalism in England, she will do little to raise the respectability of Ireland. How different has been the course of Miss Edgeworth! How much has that excellent writer done for her country! What an immense amount of favour and sympathy for the Irish has been secured by her happy and just delineations of the virtuous and noble traits which belong to their character; as well as by her clear exposition of the circumstances by which their virtues and energies are rendered so lamentably unavailable ! We must be excused from examining this work of Lady Morgan in detail. Its moral deficiencies are such as to render the most cursory examination of the story an unpleasant and unprofitable task—although it must be acknowledged that this is a feature which it possesses in common with most of the English novels of high life. They are mere novels of manners—of manners too the most frigid and arti
ficial that can be conceived—and therefore unworthy the pen of a delineator of human character.
For the rest—the book is a fair specimen of the author's powers; being marked with her usual faults and merits. The style is vigorous and masculine, replete with wit and reflection—but too often disfigured with frivolous quotations, ambitious flights, and epigrammatic conceits. The information about Belgium, its people, scenery, institutions, historical characters, and revolutions, is copious, and to one who is curious in such matters, interesting—and the political doctrines are very good, quite unexceptionable for her own party—though the abuse which she thinks proper to heap upon the English aristocracy is to be received with a very liberal allowance for her own feelings of envy and animosity.
Lady Morgan is no common writer. She possesses talents of a high order; with habits of opinion and composition which render them worse than useless, But she has been so often told in vain of her faults, that there is little hope of her amendment at this time of life. She might have been a philosophical teacher and moral benefactress of her race; but she “gave to party what was meant for mankind,” and she will probably be a politician, a pedant, and a mannerist, to the end of the chapter.
Trials and Triumphs; comprising the Convict’s Daughter and the Convert’s Daughter. 12mo, Philadelphia: 1834.
It is pleasant to read a well constructed story—one in which the parts are happily adjusted, the plot regularly developed, and the characters justly drawn and consistently supported. It is more especially pleasant at the present period when all sorts of pedantry, affectation, extravagance and vice are daily inflicted on a patient public in the shape of fiction—when tales of high life give us merely the conversations and intrigues of valets and milliners, under the titles of dukes and ladyships; and the drunken orgies of pickpockets and highwaymen are impudently displayed to the readers of polite literature, with no other apology than that they are pictures drawn from mature. Nature I Are the worst features of deformity impressed upon the human character by long continued and atrocious crimes, to be dignified with the name of natural traits? Shall the results of human vice and infirmity be confounded with the original and universal principles of the human constitution ? Portraits of manners founded on the conventions of society or the refinements or arts of vice, can no more be called drawings from nature than those pictures can be so denominated which present us with the dresses and distortions of the human shape, which owe their existence solely to the caprice of fashion. Our recent novels, of very high and very low life, are equally destitute of truth and virtue; and they have nothing to do with nature but to vilify, disfigure, and caricature her fair creations.
The volume referred to at the head of this article is of a different character. It is written with a proper regard to the principles of morality as well as those of art; and its scope and tendency with regard to the best and dearest interests of mankind, are as little liable to objection as its literary execution.
It would seem by the dedication that the author, Mr. Richardson, has not appeared before the world, at least in this particular department of literature, until the present occasion. But these tales afford abundant evidence that he is a practised as well as an able writer. The stories are told with a simplicity, directness, and singeness of purpose, which some of our rambling writers of fiction would do well to imitate; and the author's disregard of embellishment, and sparing use of his abundant materials, evince that he had a higher object in view than the mere display of
his powers as a fine writer. Indeed, he seems rather to aim at the distinction of a
“A more homest, simple, unambitious man that Matthias Hillier never lived. He was as steady as time, as regular as clock-work, as faithful as a shadow, as firm as a rock;-he knew nothing, he thought of nothing, he cared for nothing but the right performance of his duty; he was so intensely and heartily satisfied with the lot in which providence had placed him, that he had no more ambition to rise in the world than a sheep has to fly in the air; he knew his place, to which he adapted himself, as completely as a Hindoo confines himself to his caste; as for casting any covetous eye on wealth, or endeavoring to enrich himself at the expense of his employer, that was as far from his thoughts as the first of August is from the foot of Westminster bridge—a distance, by the way, which has never yet been ascertained; a large fortune would have been of no more use to him than a pair of spectacles to an oyster; had he inherited the Thellusson property, he might have had a large establishment, but he himself would have filled no other situation in it than that of butler; he felt himself predestined to be a butler; and he was one who meddled not with them that are given to change; he would very willingly have broken his heart when his master died—but when he saw that his mistress neither wept, nor raved, nor tore her hair, he also adopted the same placidity, though not perhaps the same depth of grief; his person and his manners were conformable to his mental and intellectual habits; he was of that happy medium of stature which neither envies the tall nor despises the short; his look was one of quietness—a mild eye—a gentle mouth—and an expression as calm as that with which the silent moon looks down upon the sleeping world; his cheeks were unused to tears, and his eyes were not habituated to smiles; he did not know what there was in the world to laugh at or to cry for—all such emotions he regarded as digressions from the right line of life; and yet he was not without expression—for all that was in his heart was in his face, though that was not much;-he had no use for simulation or for dissimulation; he had nothing to conceal, and nothing to gain by pretence. He was at this time about fifty years of
age, and looked as if he had been fifty years old when he was born, and as if he could never be more than fifty, if he should live a century longer; his very dress had a look of the antique—you might have imagined that he was born in it, and that it would cleave to him through life as close as feathers to a bird.” We remark, by way of stricture, that the voluntary relinquishment of her property by Miss Henderson, and the refusal of the admiral's daughters to make any the least provision for their sister, are both highly improbable, though by no means unprecedented in real life. It might also be objected to the second story that the conclusion is too abrupt; and that the author has prodigally wasted materials for a whole volume of precisely the sort which he is best qualified to elaborate in the happiest manner. We might find other defects; but we are so well pleased with the general style and execution of the work, that we are by no means disposed to dwell upon its very inconsiderable faults. We would rather commend it to the notice of all who prefer nature, simplicity, and truth, to the extravagance and false taste in style, sentiment, and character, which abound in most of the recent English novels.
THE little volume which is here given to the world, though the work of an amiable and accomplished author, will doubtless meet at many hands a cold reception, because it is the production of a missionary. At least we may infer this, from the frequency with which, even at this day, a strong disapprobation of foreign missions is expressed. Not a few among ourselves, professing a lively interest in the welfare of our race, will point to the ignorant and miserable portion of our own countrymen, to the rapid growth of our population, and to the many objects of compassion, less far beyond our boundaries, and insist on the inference that the support of distant missions is a misapplication of the means of benevolence. Such objectors are not easily convinced, though you point them, in turn, to the origin and nature of true religion, and to the example of those inspired men who were the first and chosen ministers of the gospel. It is not conclusive, with them, that religion is a heaven-descended blessing, whose tenure is—“freely ye have received, freely give.” It is not enough for them, that religion, as diffused by foreign missions, interferes with no citizenship, annuls mo allegiance, is unchanged by time or space, and superior to all human authority. They are not satisfied that primitive Christianity recognised no exclusive claim of common country; that its field was the world; that its messengers pressed on from one centre of population to another great point of concourse, in utter disregard of political lines and geographical conversions. Those unerring missionarics, while they enforced every social relation and mutual duty, acted in this respect, on one command, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature”—after one example—“I am among you as one that serveth.” Paul, feeling himself a debtor to all men, yet left thousands unconverted at Ephesus and Corinth, and pushed on to Rome. It may be harsh to say that these modern objectors to foreign missions, are entirely unfriendly to the extension of Christianity. This may be the case with many. Others, we may suppose, are led to a conclusion adverse to such missions, by impressions of prior religious duty to countrymen and neighbours, by vague ideas of the nearer claims of citizenship and propinquity. We do not hesitate to call this conclusion erroneous, because it is not content that these claims should be regarded as valid and paramount—it would make them exclusive also. One moment's reflection, however, should be enough, in our circumstances, to restore every doubting, and yet candid mind, to a juster judgment on this subject. We are the citizens of a state, in which no differences of religious belief are a bar to preferment; no test acts obstruct the way to honour and office. With us there is no connexion between politics and worship; church and state are entirely separated; religion is not recognised as an aid to government. It is formally absolved from all allegiance to such incompetent authority, and sent back to take instructions from its author, and to render sole obedience to the same great object. And is it to be supposed, that religion must respect, and that exclusively, the only relation in which it is formally disregarded? That in the only case where its obligations bind no one, it must itself be bound? Is not this idea as foreign to the spirit of our government, as it is far from the genius of Christianity, to carry distinctions of nativity among those born of the spirit, and differences of country, where there is neither Jew nor Gentile, bond nor free. This is not a theoretical, but rather a practical view of the subject. We call it a noble generosity to send aid to the Greek patriot, or to welcome the Polish exile. And is religion then, after being prohibited to commend a fellow citizen, to be forbidden next to speak compassion to a stranger? We recognise no bar, in citizenship, to general benevolence. We assign, to one needy stranger, a portion in our public domain; and is there any reason in conscience, why we should refuse to another still more necessitous, a portion in heaven? Perhaps it would have more effect on these objectors, if we were further to show them an analogy, in the principle and operation of foreign missions, to the common laws and practices of nature and men around us. Let us borrow one illustration from the Scriptures. There is a river whose streams make glad the Christian land in which we have our home. How shall its surplus waters be made to irrigate a wider surface;—what shall be the law of its overflow? Will it rise in one erect volume above its banks, on either side, and rolling back in an unbroken wave, cover every thing before it in a rectilinear course? Or will its waters, as they swell, penetrate every crevice in the river-side, flow up every ravine, wind along every vale, and cover wide and distant plains, while many eminences along its borders remain unmoistened by its tide? Is there no analogy here? Are not commerce, and other forms of intercourse, so many channels leading easily to very distant points; and do not the objectors to foreign missions, on account of their remoteness, disregard or deny all inequalities in the surface of the moral world, and reject the natural laws, which govern, as the flow of waters, the diffusion of the means of grace? Again, we may compare the messenger of Christian benevolence to distant regions of the world, with the enterprising emigrant to our remote valleys in the west. Both seek alike the spots that promise the richest return to expenditure and effort, be they mear or distant. The one chooses the soil which has the greatest natural fertility, and is nearest to a market. The other selects the seats of the most numerous and most accessible population. The labour of the one is rewarded, when he gathers in an abundant harvest. The other's increase is in bringing back immortal and erring minds to the knowledge of their Creator. Nor can we doubt about the comparative excellence of their employments, until we question whether the fruits of the earth, the cattle on a thousand hills, or his intelligent and imperishable creatures, are dearest to their Maker. What then should we think of the wisdom of the order, were the emigrant required to cultivate every barren ridge and hollow valley of the Alleghanies, before he should be permitted to descend the stream of the Ohio, and to plant himself along the rich alluyions of the Wabash, the Green river, or the Illinois? Yet what else