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those voices which, from their phenomenal rarity, create a European sensation and may command fabulous sums. The frank little girl has no suspicion of her brilliant destinies. The daughter of a Bohemian father, she has run unknown risks, but she touches slime without a stain on her purity, and her confidence in humanity makes her comparatively safe. Wilfred, the only son of the wealthy Mr. Pole, falls cautiously in love at first sight—or rather at first hearing of the notes of this nightingale. There is really good comedy in these first interviews. She tells him that Mr. Pericles, a rich and reckless impresario, intends to take her to Italy to be taught.
•“He told me to keep it secret. I have no secrets from my friends." «“Would you not rather let ine take
?" ""Not quite.” She shook her head. “No! because you do not understand music as he does. And are you as rich ? I cost a great deal of money for eating alone. But you will be glad when you hear me when I come back."
She proceeds to tell bim all about her father-a violin at the Opera, and one of the most wonderful men in the 'whole world. And she goes on to relate with charming simplicity an adventure which befell her in the Park, when her father flew into an unaccountable fit of passion with a gentleman who had been making kindly advances pour le mauvais motif. "I was mad with joy,' says the unsophisticated maiden, “and so delighted to have made a friend. 'I had never before had a rich friend. I sang to him in
the Park. His eyes looked beautiful with pleasure. I knew I enchanted him.' As she could not understand how her father, who once surprised them in a téte-à-tête, should have pelted her friend with the potatoes he was carrying home for dinner, so she is annoyed that her little narrative should ruffle and irritate Mr. Wilfred. In the course of the novel Emilia does not progress much in knowledge of the world. When the rich Mr. Pole, who has practically adopted her, suggests that she would do well to marry Mr. Pericles, who, partly from eagerness to become undisputed possessor of the voice, was ready to throw himself and his fortune at her feet, she gravely objects.
* But, oh! if he married me he would kiss me. And Mr. Pole, in conscience, cannot deny the probability. He laughed and blinked. “Well!' he remarked as one gravely cogitating, and, with the native delicacy of a Briton, turned it off with a playful .so shall I now.'
That touch of comedy comes off in a highly dramatic scene, which Mr. Meredith has rendered with an analytical realism worthy of Zola at his best. Mr. Pole has been breaking down under the prolonged strain of pecuniary troubles. Driven inch by inch nearer the verge of ruin, he has taken none of his household into his confidence. Perhaps he is more in sympathy with this simple-minded little maiden than with any of them, and he has taken her to dine at one of his hotel haunts. He guesses rather than knows that a brain attack is stealing upon him, and she passes through successive stages of uneasiness and fright, as ominous signs develope into certainties.
Other troubles are in store for her, besides the illness and probable ruin of her benefactor, and Mr. Meredith, with characteristic ingenuity, piles up the misery which schools as it steels her in the furnace of adversity. The course of true love runs by no means smoothly. Wilfred, to whom she had almost given her heart as she had actually promised her hand, calculates, hesitates, is unfaithful and repents. The family desire to rise inclines him to an aristocratic marriage, and he forges fetters which he finds it difficult to shake off when he has ultimately made up his mind that his happiness is bound up in Emilia. When he tardily repents and returns, he seems to have lost her irretrievably -and yet her influence is still so strong, that it induces him to resign his comunission and to take service with the Austrians. When he bade adieu to Emilia her prospects were even more doubtful and cheerless. The sudden loss of her voice, demonstrated by some heart-breaking experiments, has reduced her and Mr. Pericles to the depths of despair. And Mr. Pericles, who cannot count self-control among his good qualities, has expressed his despair as to her future with uncompromising frankness.
When the curtain rises on · Vittoria’ all is metamorphosed, and the sequel is an absolute antithesis to its predecessor. Vittoria, the illustrious prima donna, the star of the Scala, passing on from triumph to triumph, courted by all the men, flattered and hated by envious women, is no other than our old acquaintance Emilia. She has not only recovered but cultivated her voice, and is successful far beyond her most ambitious dreams. Her trainer, Mr. Pericles, is always in attendance, enclosing thousand-pound cheques in bouquets in testimony of approval, and jealously guarding his treasure against rival dragons on the prowl. But that stage-play and the stage successes are only accessories to a grand international drama. We are no longer concerned with the paltry intrigues of local cliques in Surrey. Italy is throbbing from the Alps to the Adriatic and revolting against the iron rule of the foreigner. Hot brains are at fever-heat and blood is boiling. We are in a whirl of angry passion and a labyrinth of conspiracies and intrigues. Love comes in to complicate matters—there are engagements, marriages, jealousies, jiltings, provocations, and fierce interchanging of challenges; and, as is usual with Mr. Meredith, he utterly confuses us in the crowd of supernumeraries he thrusts forward on the scenes. But still Vittoria and her old admirer Wilfred stand out to the front. Wilfred distinguishes himself by chivalrous and rather absurd self-sacrifice—for the once candid Vittoria too evidently makes a tool of him, takiug shabby advantage of his unselfish devotion. If she had reason to complain of his proceedings in Surrey, assuredly in Italy she has ample revenge. She has married a noble Lombard patriot, and her passionate Italian temperament, which fitfully flushed out in Sandra Belloni,' has finally and fatally asserted itself. She is patriotic like her husband, passionately emotional, subtle, secret, and vindictive. All is condoned for her by devotion to her husband and her country.
Necessarily the subject gives Mr. Meredith great opportunities for strong dramatic presentation and picturesque description. The scenes change from the fair Italian lakes and the fertile plains of Lombardy to the passes of the Italian Tyrol and the pastoral valleys on the Swiss frontier. Now we are smelling the stage lamps, or mixing with a inob in Milan that has risen in mad émeute, and again we are among the rocks and glaciers, or threading the pathless pine woods with gendarmerie and light cavalry following close on our heels. There is a dance at La Scala, where the adored and bewitching cantatrice raises Milan in semi-revolution with a seditious song. That is succeeded by her hasty flight across the frontiers. In fact there is a general sauve qui peut, and among other things we have a melodramatic duel in the mountains between an Italian armed only with a poniard and an Austrian with all the advantages of weapons. There are suspected traitors to the Italian cause, living between the double terror of dagger and gallows; and wounded refugees sheltered from the proscription by sympathisers whose necks are in deadly peril
. Women violently separated from husbands or lovers, or resenting the faithlessness of adorers who seein to have forgotten them, carry us
through the gamut of the emotions. And yet, pervading the whole, is still the invariable vein of comedy. For there is Mr. Pericles, in the thickest of the terror and the fighting, appalled by no danger, arrested by no scruple, abstracted in the absorbing enthusiasm of his vocation, and still keeping his eye on the volatile prima donna, who, like the will o' the wisp, always threatens to elude him. Mr. Meredith has been painting a series of portraits and scenes rather than writing a connected story, and so he brings down the curtain abruptly. The victims of a defeated cause disappear simultaneously in a tragic dénouement, and Vittoria is left lamenting but resigned. There are some eloquent passages in the epilogue. Her soul had crossed the dark
ness of the river of death in that quiet agony preceding the revelation of her Maker's will, and she drew her dead • husband to her bosom and kissed him on the eyes and the forehead, not as one who had gone quite away from her, but as one who lay upon another shore whither she would ' come.'
As for One of our Conquerors,' we may sum up our criticism in three words. If it is not Sturm und Drang, it is spasm and gasp. Here Mr. Meredith has surpassed himself in his peculiar manner, and no more need be said.
Passing on to · Beauchamp's Career,' which, with all its eccentricities, has much more to recommend it, with no vish to be ill-natured we may again quote Mr. Meredith imself as unintentionally indicating his favourite style. fter describing his hero's character he remarks: That was the impression conveyed to a not unsympathetic hearer
his forlorn efforts to make himself understood, which • were like the tappings of the stick of a blind man, mystified • by his sense of touch at wrong corners.
His bewilder‘ment and speechlessness are a comic display, tragic to * him.' Though we modestly admit that the bewilderment may be on our own part, and the 'speechlessness' ought to be translated into elliptic and unintelligible speech. A page or two afterwards is another sentence equally applicable, but more self-Hattering : Since the day of his purchase he • had gone at it [his book] again and again, getting golden nibbles of golden meaning by instalments, as with a solitary pick in a very dark mine, until the illumination of an • idea struck him that there was a great deal more in the • book thau there was in himself. We assent to the truth of the last sentence, but we might be helped to a clearer knowledge did we understand the book's purport. Here,
as often, Mr. Meredith puzzles us. Is · Beauchamp's * Career'a satire upon political faddists or a eulogy of farsighted sturdy independence? Are we to admire the hero for conscientious tenacity of purpose, or ridicule him for perverse pigheadedness? As usual, Beauchamp and his wealthy connexions regard filthy lucre with supreme contempt, so that the risks he runs, and the sacrifices he courts, are more apparent than real. In ordinary life, as in ordinary fiction, the youth who offends the uncle from whom he has great expectations knows exactly what he may expect. When he makes an ineligible marriage, or goes to grief in any other way, he has counted the cost, and is prepared to pay the penalty. But Mr. Meredith's heroes, with a sublime assurance, which is seldom misplaced, show their faith in the nobility of paternal or avuncular nature by following up gross offences by the drawing of heavy cheques. Beauchamp thwarts his uncle's opinions and crotchets in every conceivable way, and then looks to the reactionary aristocrat for the election expenses when he stands as an advanced and subversive democrat. Yet Lord Romfrey did draw the line at a certain point. Beauchamp made use of the • house in London, and he called at Steynham for money that he could have obtained on the one condition, which was no sooner mentioned than fiery words flew in the
room. The condition had nothing to do with politics; and it was only because Beauchamp could not accede to it, that the uncle got irritated over the nephew's radicalism. The election drags out to tedious length, and is described rather metaphysically than dramatically. In point of exciting interest it will bear no comparison with the contests that have been immortalised by Warren, Thackeray, and the first Lord Lytton. But Beauchamp's first love affair is handled with wonderful force and delicacy, when he surprises the heart of a beautiful French girl whose hand has been pledged by a family compact. Her father, and her brother, who is Beauchamp's admiring comrade, have absolute confidence in her. Nor is the confidence misplaced, for duty triumphs over love, although opportunity and the voluptuous associations of romantic Venice nearly betray her into forgetfulness and an elopement. The tie between them is relaxed, but not severed, after she has resigned herself to the fateful mariage de convenance ; for afterwards she summons Beauchamp to France, when urgent private affairs demand his presence in England. It is characteristic of him that, casting prudence and the proprieties to the winds,