Page images
PDF
EPUB

*

tice. A fever is the consequence, which terminates fatally; and the mental sufferings which his father has long been enduring from his rash step, are brought by this event to a crisis. The sallen remorse which has long been rankling in bis mind, gives way to a deep penitence: his constitution suddenly breaks, and he dies in the unavailing attempt to make some provision for his destitute grand-children and daughter-in-law. He is soon followed to the grave by the daughter of Walter, a sickly child ; and her father, whose imbecility has become more and more obvious for some time, is with his mother's consent, “cognosed,” or set aside under a statute of lunacy, and his brother George succeeds to the family property, salving his conscience by the settlement of an annuity on Mrs. C. Walkingslaw, and hier children. A certain space of time is allowed to pass without much notice in the narrative, during

which the latter grow to years of discretion; and poor Walter ends his days under the care of his mother, while George becomes rich and prosperous. The latter, whose family consists of only one daughter, and who is aware (here we suspect a legal blunder,) that her right to the landed property might, at his death, be successfully contested by his nephew, James Walkinshaw, is naturally desirous of marrying the young people to each other. Both, however, are otherwise attached ; James to Miss Ellen Fraser, the relative and adopted daughter of his mother's intimate friend Mrs. Eadie; and Robina to her cousin. Walkinshaw Milrookit; and old Leddy Grippy, disappointed in the attempt to reconcile her favourite grandchild to Robina and her fortune, is tempted by her inordinate love of match-making, to promote the clandestine marriage of the latter with young Milrookit. Some of the most richly comic scenes in the book are worked up out of her disclosure of the wedding to her indignant son, and her repentance when saddled with the maintenance of the young couple, who take refuge under her roof.

“ In short, nobody, Jamie, has been more imposed upon than I hae been I'm the only sufferer. De'il-be-lickit has it cost Dirdumwhamle, but an auld Muscovy duck, that he got sent him frae ane o' your uncle's Jamaica skippers two year ago, and it was then past laying—we smoor't it wi' ingons the day afore yesterds.y, but ye might as soon hae tried to mak a dinner oa hesp o' seven heere yarn, for it was as teugh as the grannie of the cock that craw't to Peter.” Vol. III. p. 96.

A reconciliation between George and his son-in-law is effected through the mediation of James, and announced by

[ocr errors]

him just at the moment when the old Leddy is in the act of giving the slip to her guests, and in motion “ to catch the Greenock flying coach at the Black Bull.”

“ His grandmother took hold of him by the arm, and giving it an indescribable squeeze of exultation, said, I'll tell you, it's just a sport. They would need long spoons that sup parridge withe de’il, or the like o' me, ye maun ken. I was just like to be devour't into beggary by them. Ae frien' after another calling, glasses o' wine ne'er devauling; the corks playing clunk in the kitchen frae morning to night, as if they had been in a changehouse on a fair-day. I could stand it no longer. So yesterday, when that nabal, Dirdumwhamle, sent us a pair o' his hunger't hens, I told baith Beenie and Walky, that they were obligated to go and thank their parents, and to pay them a marriage vi sit fora day or twa, although we're a' in black for your aunty, her mother ; and so this morning I got them off, Lord be praised ; and I am noo on my way to pay a visit to Miss Jenny Purdie, my cousin at Greenock.'

« • Goodness! and is this to throw poor Beenie and Walky adrift?' exclaimed Walkinshaw.

Charity, Jamie, my bairn, begins at hame, and they hae a nearer claim on Dirdumwhamle, who is Walky's lawful father, than on me; so e’en let them live upon him till I invite them back again.'

“ • Walkinshaw, though really shocked, he could not tell why, was yet so tickled by the

Leddy's adroitness, that he laughed most immoderately, and was unable for some time in consequence to commuicate the message, of which he was the joyous bearer.” Vol. Ill. p. 125.

The death of Mr. George Walkinshaw having been accelerated by vexation at her daughter's marriage, her husband secretly and unaccountably conceives a desire to rival his nephew in the affections of Ellen Frazer ; but before any person except the author is aware of his intentions, his schemes of male heirs are cut short by shipwreck while on a party of pleasure. Walkinshaw Milrookit, on succeeding to his father-in-law's property, learns and keeps secret the nature of the Kittlestonheugh Entail ; but the notable old Leddy, his grandmother, provoked at his illiberal conduct to Mr. C. Walkinshaw, and his ingratitude to herself, contrives to ferret out the flaw in his succession, and to establish the claim of James Walkinshaw, (who has entered the army under the auspices of the Frazers) to the landed estate of his ancestors, now augmented and improved in value. His marriage with Ellen Frazer follows of course, and the story concludes with the information that he begat nine sons, served as many or more campaigns with eclat, and, like Dolph Heyleger and Bappo, was nearly feasted to death by his admiring townsmen.

Such is the outline of a novel which we have perused with deeper interest in some parts, and more hearty laughter in others, than any of the former productions of Mr. Galt, to whom the world seems to agree in attributing it. The plot, though it may be fairly defined to consist of a farce tacked on to a tragedy, is well digested and developed, and three at feast of the characters might, we think, have figured in the Waverley novels without any detriment to their well established fame.

Of these the first which naturally attracts our attention, is that of Claud, the moving master spirit of the whole, and moulded of “ ambition's sternest stuff.” To appreciate the merits of this bold and powerful conception, we must consider the difficulty which the author has imposed upon himself, of imparting an absorbing and commanding interest, and even a degree of dignity to a character, coarse, illiterate, hard-hearted, selfish, and ungrateful at the most suspectible age of youth to his earliest benefactors. These traits could not be endured without abhorrence in any ordinary character. There is, however, a certain masculine grace in the powers of active exertion and passive endurance, when combined in an extraordinary degree, which if it fail to render their possessor amiable or even respectable, rivet the attention upon his minutest action. The Satan of Milton, the Prometheus of Æschylus, and the Napoleon of real life, are characters which must remain impressed on the mind's eye in a commanding form ; and we think it hardly exaggeration to pronounce Claud Walkenshaw, in spite of his -humble education and employment, a being compounded of the same striking materials. His powers of intense deliberation, his firmness of purpose maintained against his better affections, his contempt for his chosen heir, the calm moody self-possession with which he struggles against remorse, conscience, and disappointment, are all in admirable keeping; his avarice and selfishness, abominable as they are in themselves, are of no valgar nature, but exist merely as subservient to an end in itself meritorious; and the remark of the author that he is a character of a higher stamp than his more educated son George, is just and discriminating. The manner in which the strong texture of his mental and bodily frame is shattered to pieces by the death of Charles, the

VOL, XIX. APRIL, 1823.

deep humiliation which ensues, and the softening effect which it produces on his character, may remind us in some 're. spects of our larmented Kemble's memorable performance of Wolsey's closing scene, in which the work of ten years appeared done in a few minutes; and his visit to his son's orphan children, atones in a great degree for his past conduct. We will quote both the passages in question, which are perhaps the two most striking in the book.

The lawyer, for about the term of a minute, made no reply, but looked at him steadily in the face, and then added solemnly,

16. He's no more!'

At first the news seemed to produce scarcely any effect; the iron countenance of the old man underwent no immediate change he only remained immoveable in the position in which he had received the shock; but presently Mr. Keelevin saw that he did not fetch his breath, and that his lips began to contract asunder, and to expose his yellow teeth with the grin almost of a skull.

Heavens preserve us, Mr. Walkinshaw !' cried Mr. Keelevin, rising to his assistance; but, in the same moment, the old man uttered a groan so deep and dreadful, so strange and superhuman, that Walter snatched up his child, and rushed in terror out of the room. After this earthquake-struggle, he in some degree recovered himself, and the lawyer returned to his chair, where he remained some time silent.

“ • I had a fear o't, but I was na prepar't, Mr. Keelevin, for this,' said the miserable father; and noo I'll kick against the pricks nae langer. Wonderful God! I bend my aged grey head at thy footstool. Slay not thy hand heavier upon me than I am able to bear. Mr. Keelevin, ye ance said the entail cou'd be broken if I were to die insolvent-mak me sae in the name of the God I have dared so long to fight against An Charlie's dead-murdered by my devices ! Weel do I mind, when he was a playing bairn, that I first kent the blessing of what it is to hae something to be kind to; -aften and aften did his glad and bright young face thaw the frost that had bound up my heart, but ay something new o' the world's pride and trash cam in between, and hardent it mair and mair.But a's done noo, Mr. Keelevin-the fight's done and the battle won, and the avenging God of righteousness and judgment is victorious." Vol. II. p. 59.

“ The old man, without seeming to notice their innocent reverence, walked to a chair near the window, and sat down. His demeanour was as calm, and his features as sedate, as usual, but his eyes glittered with a slight sprinkling of tears, and twice or thrice he pressed his elbows into his sides, as if to restrain some inordinate agitation of the heart. In the course of a few minutes he became quite master of himself, and, looking for a short time compassionately at the children, he invited them to come to him. Mary, the girl, who was the youngest, obeyed at once the summons ; but James, the boy, still kept back.

" What for wilt t'ou no come to me?' said Claud.

• I'll come, if ye'll no hurt me,' replied the child. ,' Hurt thee! what for, poor thing, should I hurt theeinquired his grandfather, somewhat disturbed by the proposed condition.

“I dinna ken,' said the boy, still retreating, but I am feart, for ye hurt

papa for naething, and mamma used to greet for't.' - Claud shuddered, and in the spasmodic effort which he made to suppress his emotion, he unconsciously squeezed the little hand of the girl so hardly, as he held her between his knees, that she shrieked with the pain, and flew towards her brother, who, equally terrified, ran to shelter himself behind a chair.

“ For some time the old man was so much affected, that he felt himself incapable of speaking to them. But he said to himself,

" . It is fit that I should endure this. I sowed tares, and mau. na expek wheat.'” Vol. II.

Vol. II. p. 79. By the death of Cland, tlre plot, on the nature of which we have already remarked, very much diminishes in interest, resembling somewhat a game at chess tolerably well conducted by inferior pieces after the capture of the queen. To keep up our metaphor, the Leddy, whose latent powers had been cowed and overawed by ber stern husband, assumes the part of a busy little knight, and is the cause of much perplexity to some of the pieces, much benefit to others, and much sport to ourselves, by her whimsical frisks and evolutions in a confined space. In fact, though her character is well kept up from the first scene, where she administers such frank and homely consolation to ber galled lovers, yet we were not prepared for her taking the decided lead which she assumes both in the business and the comic interest of the latter half of the book. Her fussy notable delight in the mystery of match-making, the uncouth naivetê of her repartees, and the unconscious fluency with which she blurts ont a profusion of whimsical and pertinent bon-mots, would provoke the muscles of a Stoic, and render her indeed an important treasure to the author and reader. Having already quoted more than one passage illustrative of the peculiar turn of humour of this busy matron, we shall content ourselves with referring the reader to the wedding dinner of Robina, and to chapters 28, 29, and 34, in the second volume, as consummate in their way.

Her grand triumph however is reserved for the con. clusion of the book, where the claims of her grandson James, are established by her exertions. Here we are overwhelmed by a flood of hereditary legal knowledge, equal to her pro

« PreviousContinue »