Page images

our distant readers, as well as to give more rests. A propos of this retirement, we have force and direct application to our general re- a very striking and animated picture of the marks, we must somewhat enlarge the scale bullies and bankrupts, and swindlers and petty of our critical notice.

felons by whom this city of refuge was chiefly This work, though dealing abundantly in inhabited—and among whom the young Lord invention, is, in substance, like Old Mortality has the good luck to witness a murder, comand Kenilworth, of an historical character, miited on the person of his miserly host. He and may be correctly represented as an at- then bethinks himself of repairing to Green. tempt to describe and illustrate, by examples, wich, where the court was, throwing himself the manners of the court, and generally speak- upon the clemency of the King, and insisting ing, of the age, of James I. of England. And on being confronted with his accusers; but this, on the whole, is the most favourable as happening unfortunately to meet with his pect under which it can be considered; for, Majesty in a retired part of the Park to which while it certainly presents us with a very he had pursued the stag, ahead of all his atbrilliant, and, we believe, a very faithful sketch tendants, his sudden appearance so startles of the manners and habits of the time, we and alarins that pacific monarch, that he accannot say that it either embodies them in a cuses him of a treasonable design on his life, very interesting story, or supplies us with any and has him committed to the Tower, under rich variety of particular characters. Except that weighty accusation. In the mean time, King James himself, and Richie Moniplies, however, a certain Margaret Ramsey, a daughthere is but little individuality in the person- ter of the celebrated watchmaker of that name, ages represented. We should perhaps add who had privately fallen in love with him at Master George Heriot; except that he is too the table of George Heriot her god-father, and staid and prudent a person to engage very had, ever since, kept watch over his proceedmuch of our interest. The story is of a very ings, and aided him in his difficulties by va. simple structure, and may soon be told. rious stratagems and suggestions, had repaired

Lord Glenvarloch, a young Scottish noble- to Greenwich in male attire, with the romanman, whose fortunes had been ruined by his tic design of interesting and undeceiving the father's profusion, and chiefly by large loans King with regard to him. By a lucky accito the Crown, comes to London about the mid- dent, she does obtain an opportunity of making dle of James' reign, to try what part of this her statement to James; who, in order to put debt may be recovered from the justice of his her veracity to the test, sends her, disguised now opulent sovereign. From want of patrori- as she was, to Glenvarloch’s prison in the age and experience, he is unsuccessful in his Tower, and also looses upon him in the same first application; and is about to withdraw in place, first his faithful Heriot

, and afterwards despair, when his serving man, Richard Moni-a sarcastic courtier, while he himself plays plies, falling accidentally in the way of George the eavesdropper to their conversation, from an Heriot, the favourite jeweller and occasional adjoining apartment constructed for that pur. banker of the King, that benevolent person (to pose. The result of this Dionysian experiwhom, it may not be known to our Southern ment is, to satisfy the sagacious monarch both readers, Edinburgh is indebted for the most of the innocence of his young countryman, flourishing and best conducted of her founded and the malignity of his accusers; who are schools or charities) is pleased to take an in- speedily brought to shame by his acquittal terest in his affairs, and not only represents and admittance to favour. his case in a favourable way to the Sovereign, There is an underplot of a more extravagant but is the means of introducing him to another and less happy structure, about a sad and nobleman, with whose son, Lord Dalgarno, he mysterious lady who inhabits an inaccessible speedily forms a rather inauspicious intimacy. apartment in Heriot's house, and turns out to By this youth he is initiated into all the gaie- be the deserted wife of Lord Dalgarno, and a ties of the town; of which, as well of the near relation of Lord Glenvarloch. The former manners and bearing of the men of fashion of is compelled to acknowledge her by the King, the time, a very lively picture is drawn. very much against his will; though he is conAmong other things, he is encouraged to try siderably comforted when he finds that, by his fortune at play; but, being poor and pru- this alliance, he acquires right to an ancient dent, he plays but for small sums, and, rather mortgage over the lands of the latter, which unhandsomely we must own, makes it a prac- nothing but immediate payment of a large tice to come away after a moderate winning sum can prevent him from loreclosing. This On this account he is slighted by Lord Dal- is accomplished by the new-raised credit and garno and his more adventurous associates; consequential agency of Richie Moniplies, and, having learned that they talked con- though not without a scene of pettifogging temptuously of him, and that Lord D. had difficulties. The conclusion is something traprejudiced the King and the Prince against gical and sudden. Lord Dalgarno, travelling him, he challenges him for his perfidy in the to Scotland with the redemption-money in a Park, and actually draws on him, in the pre- portmanteau, challenges Glenvarloch to meet cincts of the royal abode. This was, in those and fight him, one stage from town; and, days, a very serious offence; and, to avoid its while he is waiting on the common, is himimmediate consequences, he is advised to take self shot dead by one of the Alsatian bullies refuge in Whitefriars, then known by the cant who had heard of the precious cargo with name of Alsatia, and understood to possess the which he was making the journey. His anprivileges of a sanctuary against ordinary ar- tagonist comes up soon enough to revenge

him; and, soon after, is married to Miss Ram- wits as think the commentators on Shakesey, for whom the King finds a suitable pedi- speare the greatest men in the world, and here gree, and at whose marriage-dinner he conde- find their little archæological persons made scends to preside; while Richard Moniplies something less inconceivable than usual, they marries the heroić daughter of the Alsatian cannot fail to offend and disappoint all those miser, and is knighted in a very characteristic who hold that nature alone must be the source manner by the good-natured monarch. of all natural interest.

The best things in the book, as we have Finally, we object to this work, as comalready intimated, are the pictures of King pared with those to which we have alluded, James and of Richard Moniplies—though my that the interest is more that of situation, and Lord Dalgarno is very lively and witty, and less of character or action, than in any of the well represents the gallantry and profligacy former. The hero is not so much an actor or of the time; while the worthy Earl, his father, a sufferer, in most of the events represented, is very successfully brought forward as the as a spectator. With comparatively little to type of the ruder and more uncorrupted age do in the business of the scene, he is merely that preceded. We are sorely tempted to pro- placed in the front of it, to look on with the duce a sample of Jin Vin the smart apprentice, reader as it passes. He has an ordinary and and of the mixed childishness and heroism of slow-moving suit at court-and, a propos of Margaret Ramsay, and the native loftiness this—all the humours and oddities of the and austere candour of Martha Trapbois, and sovereign are exhibited in rich and splendid the humour of Dame Suddlechops, and divers detail. He is obliged to take resuge for a day other inferior persons. But the rule we have in Whitefriars--and all the horrors and atrolaid down to ourselves, of abstaining from cities of the Sanctuary are spread out before citations from well-know'n books, must not be us through the greater part of a volume. Two farther broken, in the very hour of its enact- or three murders are committed, in which he ment;-and we shall therefore conclude, with has no interest, and no other part than that of a few such general remarks on the work be- being accidentally present. His own scanty fore us as we have already bestowed on some part, in short, is performed in the vicinity of other performances, probably no longer so a number of other separate transactions; and familiar to most of our readers.

this mere juxtaposition is made an apology We do not think, then, that it is a work for stringing them all up together into one hiseither of so much genius or so much interest torical romance. We should not care very as Kenilworth or Ivanhoe, or the earlier his-much if this only destroyed the unity of the torical novels of the same author—and yet piece—but it also sensibly weakens its interest there be readers who will in all likelihood -and reduces it from the rank of a compreprefer it to those books, and that for the very hensive and engaging narrative, in which reasons which induce us to place it beneath every event gives and receives importance them. These reasons are,- First, that the from its connection with the rest, to that of a scere is all in London—and that the piece is mere collection of sketches, relating to the consequently deprived of the interest and same period and state of society. variety derived from the beautiful descriptions The character of the hero, we also think, of natural scenery, and the still more beautiful is more than usually a failure. He is not only combination of its features and expression, a reasonable and discreet person, for whose with the feelings of the living agents, which prosperity we need feel no great apprehenabound in those other works; and next, that sion, but he is gratuitously debased by certain the characters are more entirely borrowed infirmities of a mean and somewhat sordid from the written memorials of the age to description, which suit remarkably ill with which they refer, and less from that eternal the heroic character. His prudent deportand universal nature which is of all ages, ment at the gaming table, and his repeated than in any of his former works. The plays borrowings of money, have been already of that great dramatic era, and the letters and hinted at; and we may add, that when inmemoirs which have been preserved in such terrogated by Heriot about the disguised damabundance, have made all diligent readers sal who is found with him in the Tower, he familiar with the peculiarities by which it was makes up a false story for the occasion, with marked. But unluckily the taste of the writers a cool promptitude of invention, which leof that age was quaint and fantastical; and minds us more of Joseph Surface and his though their representations necessarily give French milliner, than of the high-minded son us a true enough picture of its fashions and of a ster puritanical Baron of Scotland. follies, it is obviously a distorted and exagge- These are the chief faults of the work, and rated picture-and their characters plainly they are not slight ones.

Its merits do not both speak and act as no living men ever require to be specified. They embrace all did speak or act. Now, this style of carica- to which we have not specially objected. The ture is too palpably copied in the work before general brilliancy and force of the colouring, us, -and, though somewhat softened and re- the case and spirit of the design, and the layed by the good sense of the author, is still strong touches of character, are all such as so prevalent, that most of his characters strike we have have long admired in the best works us rather as whimsical humourists or affected of the author. Besides the King and Richie maskers, than as faithful copies of the actual Moniplies, at whose merits we have already society of any historical period; and though hinted, it would be unjust to pass over the they may afford great delight to such slender prodigious strength of writing that disiiniguishes the part of Mrs. Martha Trapbois, and between the vulgar gossipping of Mrs. Quickly the inimitable scenes, though of a coarse and in the merry Wives of Windsor, and the revolting complexion, with Duke Hildebrod atrocities of Mrs. Turner and Lady Suffolk ; and the miser of Alsatia. The Templar and it is rather a contamination of Margaret's Lowestoffe, and Jin Vin, the aspiring appren- purity to have used such counsel. tice, are excellent sketches of their kind. | We have named them all now, or nearlySo are John Christie and his frail dame. Lord and must at length conclude. Indeed, nothing Dalgarno is more questionable. There are but the fascination of this author's pen, and passages of extraordinary spirit and ability in the difficulty of getting away from him. could inis part; but he turns out too atrocious. Sir, have induced us to be so particular in our Mungo Malagrowther wearies us from the notices of a story, the details of which will so beginning, and so does the horologist Ramsay soon be driven out of our heads by other de

- because they are both exaggerated and un- tails as interesting-and as little fated to be renatural characters. We scarcely see enough membered. There are other two books coming, of Margaret Ramsay to forgive her all her ir- we hear, in the course of the winter; and by regularities, and her high fortune ; but a great the time there are four or five, that is, in about deal certainly of what we do see is charm- eighteen months hence, we must hold our ingly executed. Dame Ursula is something selves prepared to give some account of them.

(October, 1823.) 1. Annals of the Parish, or the Chronicle of Dalmailing, during the Ministry of the Rer.

Micah Balwhidder. Written by Himself. 1 vol. 12mo. pp. 400. Blackwood. Edin.: 1819. 2. The Ayrshire Legatees, or the Pringle Family. By the Author of “ Annals of the Parish,"

&c. 1 vol. 12mo. pp. 395. Blackwood. Edinburgh: 1820. 3. The Provost. By the Author of "Annals of the Parish," " Ayrshire Legatees, " &e.

1 vol. 12mo. Blackwood. Edinburgh: 1820. 4. Sir Andrew Wyllie of that Ilk. By the Author of "Annals of the Parish," &c. 3 vols.

12mo. Blackwood. Edin.: 1822. 5. The Steam Boal. By the Author of " Annals of the Parish,” &c. 1 vol. 12mo. Black

wood. Edinburgh: 1822. 6. The Entail, or the Lairds of Grippy. By the Author of " Annals of the Parish," " Sir

Andrew Wyllie," &c. 3 vols. 18mo. Blackwood. Edinburgh : 1823. 7. Ringan Gilhaize, or the Covenanters. By the Author of “Annals of the Parish,” &c.

3 vols. 12mo. Blackwood. Edinburgh: 1823.

8. Valerius, a Roman Story. 3 vols. 12mo. Blackwood. Edinburgh: 1820. 9. Lights and Shadou's of Scottish Life. 1 vol. 8vo. Blackwood. Edinburgh : 1822, 10. Some Passages in the Life of Mr. Adam Blair, Minister of the Gospel at Cross-Meikle.

1 vol. 8vo. Blackwood. Edinburgh: 1822. 11. The Trials of Margaret Lyndsay. By the Author of “Lights and Shadows of Scottish

Life." 1 vol. 8vo. Blackwood. Edinburgh : 1823. 12. Reginald Dalton. By the Author of “Valerius," and “Adam Blair.” 3 vols. 8ro.

Blackwood. Edinburgh : 1823.* We have been sometimes accused, we ob- set of lively and popular works, that have atserve, of partiality to the writers of our own tracted, and very deservedly, a large share of country, and reproached with helping mid- attention in every part of the empire-issuing dling Scotch works into notice, while far more from the press, successively for four or five meritorious publications in England and Ire- years, in this very city, and under our eyes. land have been treated with neglect. We and not hitherto honoured by us with any in. take leave to say, that there could not possi- dication of our being even conscious of iheir bly be a more unjust accusation : and the list existence. The causes of this long neglect it of books which we have prefixed to this arti- can now be of no importance to explain. But cle, affords of itself, we now conceive, the sure we are, that our ingenious countrymen most triumphant refutation of it. Here is a have far greater reason to complain of it, than * I have retained most of the citations in this ration to national partiality.

any aliens can have to impute this tardy repaarticle :-ihe books from which they are taken not being so universally known as those of Sir Walter

The works themselves are evidently 100 Scott--and yet deserving, I think, of being thus numerous to admit of our now giving more recalled to the attention of general readers. The than a very general account of them : - and whole seem to have been originally put out anony. indeed, some of their authors emulate their mously :---But the authorship has been long ago great prototype so successfully in the rapid acknowledged ;--so that it is scarcely necessary for succession of their performances, that, even works of the late Mr. Galt, Valerius and Adam if they had not been so far ahead of us at the Blair of Mr. Lockhart—and the Lighis and Shastarting, we must soon have been reduced to dows, and Margaret Lindsay, of Professor Wilson. (deal with them as we have done with him,

and only to have noticed their productions casm, and a more distinct moral, or unity of when they had grown up into groups and fa- didactic purpose, in most of his writings, ihan milies—as they increased and multiplied in it would be easy to discover in the playful, cathe land. In intimating that we regard them pricious, and fanciful sketches of his great as imitations of the inimitable novels,—which master. we, who never presume to peep under masks, The other two authors have formed themstill hold to be by an author unknown, -- we selves more upon the poetical, reflective, and general character. They are inferior certainly have aimed at emulating such beautiful pic(and what is not?) to their great originals. tures as that of Mr. Peter Pattison, the blind But they are the best copies which have old women in Old Mortality and the Bride of yet been produced of them; and it is not Lammermoor, the courtship at the Mermaida little creditable to the genius of our be- en's Well, and, generally, his innumerable loved country, that, even in those gay and and exquisite descriptions of the soft, simple, airy walks of literature from which she had and sublime scenery of Scotland, as viewed been so long estranged, an opening was no in connection with the character of its better sooner made, by the splendid success of one rustic population. Though far better skilled gifted Scotsman, than many others were found than their associate, in the art of composition, ready to enter upon them, with a spirit of en- and chargeable, perhaps, with less direct imiterprise, and a force of invention, that prom- tation, we cannot but regard them as much ised still farther to extend their boundaries, less original, and as having performed, upon and to make these new adventurers, if not form- the whole, a far easier task. They have no idable rivals, at least not unworthy followers great variety of style, and but little of actual of him by whose example they were roused. invention;-—and are mannerists in the strongest

There are three authors, it seems to the sense of that term. Though unquestionably works now before us;-so at least the title- pathetic in a very powerful degree, they are pages announce; and it is a rule with us, to pathetic, for the most part, by the common give implicit faith to those solemn intimations. recipes, which enable any one almost, to draw We think, indeed, that without the help of tears, who will condescend to employ them. that oracle, we should have been at no loss to They are mighty religious too, - but appaascribe all the works which are now claimed rently on the same principle ; and, while their by the author of the Annals of the Parish, to laboured attacks on our sympathies are felt, at one and the same hand; But we should cer- last, to be somewhat importunate and puerile, tainly have been inclined to suppose, that their devotional orthodoxies seem to tend, there was only one author for all the rest, – every now and then, a little towards cant. with the exception, perhaps, of Valerius, This is perhaps too harshly said ; and is more, which has little resemblance, either in sub- we confess, the result of the second reading stance or manner, to any of those with which than the first; and suggested rather by a comit is now associated.

parison with their great original, than an imIn the arduous task of imitating the great pression of their own independent merits. novelist, they have apparently found it neces- Compared with that high standard, it is imsary to resort to the great principle of division possible not to feel that they are somewhat of labour; and yet they have not, among wanting in manliness, freedom, and liberality; them, been able to equal the work of his single and, while they enlarge, in a sort of pastoral, hand! The author of the Parish Annals seems emphatic, and melodious style, on the virtues to have sought chiefly to rival the humorous of our cottagers, and the apostolical sanctity and less dignified parts of his original; by of our ministers and elders, the delights of large representations of the character and pure affection, and the comforts of the Bible, manners of the middling and lower orders in are lamentably deficient in that bold and free Scotland, intermingled with traits of sly and vein of invention, that thorough knowledge sarcastic sagacity, and occasionally softened of the world, and rectifying spirit of good and relieved by touches of unexpected ten- sense, which redeem all that great author's derness and simple pathos, all harmonised by Mights from the imputation either of extravathe same truth to nature and fine sense of gance or affectation, and give weight, as well national peculiarity. In these delineations as truth, to his most poetical delineations of there is, no doubt, more vulgarity, both of nature and of passion. But, though they canstyle and conception, and less poetical inven- not pretend to this rare merit, which has tion, than in the corresponding passages of scarcely fallen to the share of more than one the works he aspires to imitate; but, on the since the days of Shakespeare, there is 110 other hand, there is more of that peculiar doubt much beautiful writing, much admihumour which depends on the combination of rable description, and much both of tender great naïveté, indolence, and occasional ab- and of lofty feeling, in the volumes of which surdity, with natural good sense, and taste, we are now speaking; and though their infeand kind feelings in the principal characters— rior and borrowed lights are dimmed in the such combinations as Sir Roger de Coverley, broader blaze of the luminary; who now fills the Vicar of Wakefield, and My, Uncle Toby, our Northern sky with his glory, they still hold have made familiar to all English readers, but their course distinctly within the orb of his atof which we have not hitherto had any good traction, and make a visible part of the splenScottish representative. There is also more dour which draws to that quarter of the heasystematic, though very good-humoured, sar- vens the admiration of so many distant eyes. We must now, however, say a word or two preponderate over the tragic and comic genius on the particular works we have enumerated; of the author. That character is, as we have among which, and especially in the first series, already hinted, as happily conceived as it is there is a very great difference of design, as admirably executed-contented, humble, and well as inequality of merit. The first with perfectly innocent and sincere-very orihodox, which we happened to become acquainted, and zealously Presbyterian, without learning and, after all, perhaps the best and most in- or habits of speculation-soft-hearted and tull teresting of the whole, is that entitled “ An- of indulgence and ready sympathy, without nals of the Parish,” comprising in one little any enthusiasm or capacity of devoted attachvolume of about four hundred pages the do- ment-given to old-fashioned prejudices, with mestic chronicle of a worthy minister, on the an instinctive sagacity in practical atlairscoast of Ayrshire, for a period of no less than and unconsciously acute in detecting the charfifty-one years, from 1760 to 1810. The acters of others, and singularly awake to the primitive simplicity of the pastor's character, beauties of nature, without a notion either of tinctured as it is by his professional habits and observation or of poetry-very patient and sequestered situation, form but a part of the primitive in short, indolent and gossiping, and attraction of this work. The brief and natural scarcely ever stirring either in mind or person, notices of the public events which signalised beyond the limits of his parish. The style the long period through which it extends, and of the book is curiously adapied to the charthe slight and transient effects they produced acter of the supposed author-very genuine on the tranquil lives and peaceful occupations homely Scotch in the idiom and many of the of his remote parishioners, have not only a expressions — but tinctured with scriptural natural, we think, but a moral and monitory phrases, and some relics of college learningeflect; and, while they revive in our own and all digested in the grave and methodical breasts the almost forgotten impressions of our order of an old-fashioned sermon. childhood and early youth, as to the same After so much praise, we are rather afraid transactions, make us feel the actual insignifi- to make any extracts—for the truth is, that cance of those successive occurrences which, there is not a great deal of matter in the book, each in its turn, filled the minds of his con- and a good deal of vulgarity—and that it is temporaries, -and the little real concern which only good-natured people, with something of the bulk of mankind have in the public history the annalist's own simplicity, that will be as of their day. This quiet and detailed retro-much pleased with it as we have been. For spect of fifty years, brings the true moment the sake of such persons, however, we will and value of the events it embraces to the venture on a few specimens. Here is the test, as it were, of their actual operation on description of Mrs. Malcolm. particular societies; and helps to dissipate the illusion, by which private persons are so fre

Secondly. I have now to speak of the coming quently led to suppose, that they have a per

of Mrs. Malcolm. She was the widow of a Clyde sonal interest in the wisdom of cabinets, or shipmaster, that was lost at sea with his vessel. She

From the madness of princes. The humble sim- morning to night she sat at her wheel, spinning the plicity of the chronicler's character assists, no finest lint, which suited well with her pale hands. doubi, this sobering effect of his narrative. She never changed her widow's weeds, and she The natural and tranquil manner in which he was aye as if she had just been ta'en out of a bandputs down great things by the side of little- box. The tear was afien in her e'e when the bairns and considers as exactly on the same level, spirit was lighted up with gladness, although, poor

were at the school; but when they came home, her

dam the , commencement of the American troubles-them. They were, however, wonderful well-bred the victory of Admiral Rodney and the dona- things, and cook with thankfulness whatever she tion of 501. to his kirk-session,

-are all equally set before them, for they knew that their father, the edifying and agreeable; and illustrate, in a

breadwinner, was away, and that she had to work very pleasing way, that law of intellectual, as vexation that ever she had from any of them, on

sore for their bit and drap. I dare say, the only well as of physical optics, by which small their own account, was when Charlie, the eldest things at hand uniformly appear greater than laddie, had won fourpence at pitch and toss at the large ones at a distance.

school, which he brought home with a proud heart The great charm of the work, however, is to his mother. I happened to be daunrin' bye at in the traits of character which'it discloses, the tinie, and just looked in at the door to say gude and the commendable brevity with which tear on her cheek, and Charlie greeting as if he had

night. And ihere was she sitting with the silent the whole chronicle is digested. W know done a great fault, and the other four looking on scarcely any instance in which a modern with sorrowful faces. Never, I am sure, did Charlie writer has shown such forbearance and con- Malcolm gamble after that night. sideration for his readers. With very consider

" I often wondered what brought Mrs. Malcolm able powers of humour, the ludricous incidents to our clachan, instead of going to a populous town,

where she might have taken up a hustry-shop, as are never dwelt upon with any tediousness, she was but of a silly constitution, the which would nor pushed to the length of burlesque or caric. have been better for her than spinning from morning ature—and the more seducing touches of to far in the night, as if she was in verity drawing pathos with which the work abounds, are the thread of live. But it was, no doubi, from an intermingled and cut short, with the same honest pride to hide her poveriy; for when her

daughier Eme was ill with the measles-the poor sparing and judicious hand ;--so that the tem- lassie was very ill-nobody thought she could come perate and natural character of the pastor is through; and when she did get the turn, she was ihus, by a rare merit and felicity, made to for many a day a heavy hardlül ;-our session being

« PreviousContinue »