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"THE AUTHOR OF WAVERLEY."
Here are we in a bright and breathing world.- Wordsworth.
[NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE.]
WE esteem the productions which the great novelist of Scotland has poured forth with startling speed from his rich treasury, not only as multiplying the sources of delight to thousands, but as shedding the most genial influences on the taste and feeling of the people. These, with their fresh spirit of health, have counteracted the workings of that blasting spell by which the genius of Lord Byron once threatened strangely to fascinate and debase the vast multitude of English readers. Men, seduced by their noble poet, had begun to pay homage to mere energy, to regard virtue as low and mean compared with lofty crime, and to think that high passion carried in itself a justification for its most fearful excesses. He inspired them with a feeling of diseased curiosity to know the secrets of dark bosoms, while he opened his own perturbed spirit to their gaze. His works, and those imported from Germany, tended to give to our imagination an introspective cast, to perplex it with metaphysical subtleties, and to render our poetry "sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought." The genius of our country was thus in danger of being perverted from its purest uses to become the minister of vain philosophy, and the anatomist of polluted
"The author of Waverley" (as he delights to be styled) has weaned it from its idols, and restored to it its warm, youthful blood, and human affections. Nothing can be more opposed to the gloom, the inward revolvings, and morbid speculations, which the world once seemed inclined to esteem as the sole prerogatives of the bard, than his exquisite creations. His persons are no shadowy ab-, stractions no personifications of a dogmano portraits of the author varied in costume, but similar in features. With all their rich varieties of character, whether their heroical spirit touches on the godlike, or their wild eccentricities border on the farcical, they are men fashioned of human earth, and warm with human sympathies. He does not seek for the sublime in the mere intensity of burning passion, or for sources of enjoyment in those feverish gratifications which some would teach us to believe the only felicities worthy of high and impassioned souls. He writes everywhere with a keen and healthful relish for all the good things of life-constantly refreshes us where we least expected it, with a sense of that pleasure which is spread through the earth to be caught in stray gifts by whoever will find," and brightens all things with
the spirit of gladness. There is little of a meditative or retrospective cast in his works. Whatever age he chooses for his story, lives before us: we become contemporaries of all his persons, and sharers in all their fortunes. Of all men who have ever written, excepting Shakspeare, he has perhaps the least of exclusiveness, the least of those feelings which keep men apart from their kind. He has his own predilections—and we love him the better for them, even when they are not ours-but they never prevent him from grasping with cordial spirit all that is human. His tolerance is the most complete, for it extends to adverse bigotries; his love of enjoyment does not exclude the ascetic from his respect, nor does his fondness for hereditary rights and timehonoured institutions prevent his admiration of the fiery zeal of a sectary. His genius shines with an equal light on all—illuminating the vast hills of purple heath, the calm breast of the quiet water, and the rich masses of the grove-now gleaming with a sacred light on the distant towers of some old monastery, now softening the green-wood shade, now piercing the gloom of the rude cave where the old Covenanter lies-free and universal, and bounteous as the sun-and pouring itsradiance with a like impartiality "upon a liv ing and rejoicing world."
We shall not attempt, in this slight sketch, to follow our author regularly through all his rich and varied creations; but shall rather consider his powers in general of natural description-of skill in the delineation of cha racter-and of exciting high and poetical in-terest, by the gleams of his fancy, the tragic elevation of his scenes, and the fearful touches which he delights to borrow from the world of spirits.
In the vivid description of natural scenery our author is wholly without a rival, unless Sir Walter Scott will dispute the pre-eminence with him; and, even then, we think the novelist would be found to surpass the bard. The free grace of nature has, of late, contributed little to the charm of our highest poetry. Lord Byron has always, in his reference to the majestic scenery of the universe, dealt rather in grand generalities than minute pictures, has used the turbulence of the elements as symbols of inward tempests, and sought the vast solitudes and deep tranquillity of nature, but to assuage the fevers of the soul. Wordsworth
who, amidst the contempt of the ignorant and of the worldly wise, has been gradually and silently moulding all the leading spirit
of the age-has sought communion with na- | the fond delight with which he dwells on their redeeming features. We seem to know every little plot of green, every thicket of copse-wood, and every turn and cascade of the stream in the vale of Glendearg, and to remember each low bush in the barren scene of her skirmish between the Covenanters and Claverhouse, as though we had been familiar with it in childhood. The descriptions of this author are manifestly rendered more vivid by the intense love which he bears to his country-not only to her luxuriant and sublime scenery, but "her bare earth, and mountains bare, and grass in the green field." He will scarcely leave a brook, a mountain ash, or a lichen on the rocks of her shore, without due honour. He may fitly be regarded as the genius of Scotland, who has given her a poetical interest, a vast place in the imagination, which may almost compensate for the loss of that political independence, the last struggling love for which he so nobly celebrates.
ture, for other purposes than to describe her external forms. He has shed on all creation a sweet and consecrating radiance, far other than "the light of common day." In his poetry the hills and streams appear, not as they are seen by vulgar eyes, but as the poet himself, in the holiness of his imagination, has arrayed them. They are peopled not with the shapes of old superstition, but with the shadows of the poet's thought, the dreams of a glory that shall be. They are resonant-not with the voice of birds, or the soft whisperings of the breeze, but with echoes from beyond the tomb. Their lowliest objects-a dwarf bush, an old stone, a daisy, or a small celandine-affect us with thoughts as deep, and inspire meditations as profound, as the loveliest scene of reposing beauty, or the wildest region of the mountains-because the heart of the poet is all in all-and the visible objects of his love are not dear to us for their own colours or forms, but for the sentiment which he has linked to them, and which they bring back upon our souls. We would not have this otherwise for all the romances in the world. But it gladdens us to see the intrinsic claims of nature on our hearts asserted, and to feel that she is, for her own sake, worthy of deep love. It is not as the richest index of divine philosophy alone that she has a right to our affections; and, therefore, we rejoice that in our author she has found a votary to whom her works are in themselves "an appetite, a feeling, and a love," and who finds, in their contemplation, "no need of a remoter charm, by thought supplied, or any interest unborrowed from the eye." Every gentle swelling of the ground-every gleam of the water-every curve and rock of the shore-all varieties of the earth, from the vastest crag to the soft grass of the woodland walk, and all changes of the heaven from "morn to noon, from noon to latest eve,"- -are placed before us, in his works, with a distinctness beyond that which the painter's art can attain, while we seem to breathe the mountain air, or drink in the freshness of the valleys. We perceive the change in the landscape at every step of the delightful journey through which he guides us. Our recollection never confounds any one scene with another, although so many are laid in the same region, and are alike in general character. The lake among the hills, on which the cave of Donald Bean bordered-that near which the clan of the M'Gregors combated, and which closed in blue calmness over the body of Maurice-and that which encircled the castle of Julian Avenel-are distinct from each other in the imagination, as the loveliest scenes which we have corporally visited. What in softest beauty can exceed the description of the ruins of St. Ruth; in the lovelily romantic, the approach to the pass of Aberfoil; in varied lustre, the winding shores of Ellangowan bay; in rude and dreary majesty, the Highland scenes, where Ronald of the Mist lay hidden; and in terrific sublimity, the rising of the sea on Fairport Sands, and the perils of Sir Arthur Wardour and his daughter? Our author's scenes of comparative barrenness are enchanting by the vividness of his details, and
"The author of Waverley" is, however, chiefly distinguished by the number, the spirit, and the individuality of his characters. We know not, indeed, where to begin or to end with the vast crowd of their genial and noble shapes which come thronging on our memory. His ludicrous characters are dear to us, because they are seldom merely quaint or strange, the dry oddities of fancy, but have as genuine a kindred with humanity as the most gifted and enthusiastic of their fellows. The laughter which they excite is full of social sympathy, and we love them and our nature the better while we indulge it. Whose heart does not claim kindred with Baillie Nichol Jarvie, while the Glasgow weaver, without losing one of his nice peculiarities, kindles into honest warmth with his ledger in hand, and in spite of broad-cloth grows almost romantic? In whom does a perception of the ludicrous for a moment injure the veneration which the brave, stout-hearted and chivalrous Baron of Bradwardine inspires? Who shares not in the fond enthusiasm of Oldbuck for black letter, in his eager and tremulous joy at grasping rare books at low prices, and in his discoveries of Roman camps and monuments which we can hardly forgive Edie Ochiltree for disproving? Compared with these genial persons, the portraits of mere singularity-however inimitably finished-are harsh and cold; of these, indeed, the works of our author afford scarcely more than one signal example-Captain Dalgettywho is a mere piece of ingenious mechanism, like the automaton chess-player, and with all his cleverness, gives us little pleasure, for he excites as little sympathy. Almost all the persons of these novels, diversified as they are, are really endowed with some deep and elevating enthusiasm, which, whether breaking through eccentricities of manner, perverted by error, or mingled with crime, ever asserts the majesty of our nature, its deep affections, and undying powers. This is true, not only of the divine enthusiasm of Flora Mac Ivor of the sweet heroism of Jeannie Deans-of the angelic tenderness and fortitude of Rebecca, but of the puritanic severities and awful zeal of Balfour of Burley, and the yet more frightful energy of Macbriar, equally ready to sacrifice a blame
so impressive a use of the solemnities of life and death-of the awfulness which rests over the dying, and renders all their words and actions sacred-or of the fond retrospection, and the intense present enjoyment, snatched fearfully as if to secure it from fate, which are the peculiar blessings of a short and uncertain existence.
less youth, and to bear without shrinking the the most part, of a far deeper cast;-flowing keenest of mortal agonies. In the fierce and from his intense consciousness of the mysteries hunted child of the mist-in the daring and of our nature, and constantly impressing on reckless libertine Staunton-in the fearful our minds the high sanctities and the mortal Elspeth in the vengeful wife of M'Gregor-destiny of our being. No one has ever made are traits of wild and irregular greatness, fragments of might and grandeur, which show how noble and sacred a thing the heart of man is, in spite of its strangest debasements and perversions. How does the inimitable portrait of Claverhouse at first excite our hatred for that carelessness of human misery, that contempt for the life of his fellows, that cold hauteur and finished indifference which are so vividly depicted;—and yet how does his mere soldierly enthusiasm redeem him at last, and almost persuade us that the honour and fame of such a man were cheaply purchased by a thousand lives! We can scarcely class Rob Roy among these mingled characters. He has nothing but the name and the fortune of an outlaw and a robber. He is, in truth, one of the noblest of heroes-a Prince of the hether and the rock-whose very thirst for vengeance is tempered and harmonized by his fondness for the wild and lovely scenes of his home. Indeed the influences of majestic scenery are to be perceived tinging the rudest minds which the author has made to expatiate amidst its solitudes. The passions even of Burley and of Macbriar borrow a grace from the steep crags, the deep masses of shade, and the silent caves, among which they were nurtured, as the most rapid and perturbed stream which rushes through a wild and romantic region bears some reflection of noble imagery on its impetuous surface. To some of his less stern but unlettered personages, nature seems to have been a kindly instructor, nurturing high thoughts within them, and well supplying to them all the lack of written wisdom. The wild sublimity of Meg Merrilies is derived from her long converse with the glories of creation; the floating clouds have lent to her something of their grace; she has contemplated the rocks till her soul is firm as they, and gazed intently on the face of nature until she has become half acquainted with its mysteries. The old king's beadman has not journeyed for years in vain among the hills and woods; their beauty has sunk into his soul; and his days seem bound each to each by “natural piety," which he has learned among them.
Was ever the robustness of life—the mantling of the strong current of joyous blood the high animation of health, spirits, and a stout heart, more vividly brought before the mind than in the description of Frank Kennedy's demeanour as he rides lustily forth, never to return?—or the fearful change from this hearty enjoyment of life to the chillness of mortality, more deeply impressed on the imagination than in all the minute examinations of the scene of his murder, the traces of the deadly contest, the last marks of the struggling footsteps, and the description of the corpse at the foot of the crag? Can a scene of mortality be conceived more fearful than that where Bertram, in the glen of Dernclugh, witnesses the last agonies of one over whom Meg Merrilies is chanting her wild ditties to soothe the passage of the spirit? What a stupendous scene is that of the young fisher's funeral-the wretched father writhing in the contortions of agony-the mother silent in tender sorrow-the motley crowd assembled to partake of strange festivity—and the old grandmother fearfully linking the living to the dead, now turning her wheel in apathy and unconsciousness, now drinking with frightful mirth to many "such merry meetings," now, to the astonishment of the beholders, rising to comfort her son, and intimating with horrid solemnity that there was more reason to mourn for her than for the departed! Equal in terrific power, is the view given us of the last confession and death of that "awful woman"-her intense perception of her long past guilt, with her deadness to all else her yet quenchless hate to the object of her youthful vengeance, animating her frame with unearthly fire-her dying fancies that she is about to follow her mistress, and the broken images of old grandeur which flit before her as she perishes. These things are conceived in the highest spirit of tragedy, which makes life and death meet together, which exhibits humanity stripped of its accidents in all its depth and height, which impresses us at once with the victory of death, and of the eternity of those energies which it appears to subdue. There are also in these works, situations of human interest as strong as ever were invented-attended too with all that high apparel of the imagination, which renders the images of fear and anguish majestical. Such is that scene in the lone house after the defeat of the Covenanters,
That we think there is much of true poetical genius-much of that which softens, refines, and elevates humanity in the works of this author-may be inferred from our remarks on his power of imbodying human character. The gleams of a soft and delicate fancy are tenderly cast over many of their scenes heightening that which is already lovely, relieving the gloomy, and making even the thin blades of barren regions shine refreshingly on the eyes. We occasionally meet with a pure and pensive beauty, as in Pattieson's description of his sensations in his evening walks after the feverish drudgery of his school-where Morton finds himself in the midst of a with wild yet graceful fantasies, as in the songs of Davie Gellatly-or with visionary and aërial shapes, like the spirit of the House of Avenel. But the poetry of this author is, for
band of zealots, who regard him as given by God into their hands as a victim-where he is placed before the clock to gaze on the advances of the hand to the hour when he is to be slain,
amidst the horrible devotion of his foes. The whole scene is, we think, without an equal in the conceptions which dramatic power has been able to imbody. Its startling unexpectedness, yet its perfect probability to the imagination-the high tone and wild enthusiasm of character in the murderers-the sacrificial cast of their intended deed in their own raised and perverted thoughts—the fearful view given to the bodily senses of their prisoner of his remaining moments by the segment of the circle yet to be traversed by the finger of the clock before him, enable us to participate in the workings of his own dizzy soul, as he stands "awaiting till the sword destined to slay him crept out of its scabbard gradually, and, as it were by straw-breadths," and condemned to drink the bitterness of death "drop by drop," while his destined executioners seem "to alter their forms and features like the spectres in a feverish dream; their features become larger and their faces more disturbed;" until the beings around him appear actually demons, the walls seem to drop with blood, and "the light tick of the clock thrills on his ear with such loud, painful distinctness, as if each sound were the prick of a bodkin inflicted on the naked nerve of the organ." The effect is even retrospectively heightened by the heroic deaths of the Covenanters immediately succeeding, which give a dignity and a consecration to their late terrific design. The trial and execution of Fergus Mac Ivor are also, in the most exalted sense of the term, tragical. They are not only of breathless interest from the external circumstances, nor of moral grandeur from the heroism of Fergus and his follower, but of poetic dignity from that power of imagination which renders for a time the rules of law sublime as well as fearful, and gives to all the formalities of a trial more than a judicial majesty. It is seldom, indeed, that the terrors of our author offend or shock us, because they are accompanied by that reconciling power which softens without breaking the current of our sympathies. But there are some few instances of unrelieved horror-or of anguish, which overmasters fantasy-as the strangling of Glossin by Dirk Haiteraich, the administering of the torture to Macbriar, and the bloody bridal of Lammermuir. If we compare these with the terrors of Burley in his cave-where with his naked sword in one hand and his Bible in the other, he wrestles with his own remorse, believing it, in the spirit of his faith, a fiend of Satan-and with the sinking of Ravenswood in the sands; we shall feel how the grandeur of religious thought in the first instance, and the stately scenery of ature and the air of the supernatural in the st, ennoble agony, and render horrors gratefal to the soul.
We must not pass over, without due acknowledgment, the power of our author in the description of battles, as exhibited in his pictures of the engagement at Preston Pans, of the first skirmish with the Covenanters, in which they overcome Claverhouse, and of the battle in which they were, in turn, defeated. The art by which he contrives at once to give the mortal contest in all its breadth and vast
ness-to present it to us in the noblest masses; yet to make us spectators of each individual circumstance of interest in the field, may excite the envy of a painter. We know of nothing resembling those delineations in history or romance, except the descriptions given by Thucydides of the blockade of Platea, of the Corcyræan massacres, of the attempt to retake Epipolæ in the night, of the great naval action before Syracuse, of all the romantic events of the Sicilian war, and the varied miseries of the Athenian army in their retreat under Nicias. In the life and spirit, and minuteness of the details-in the intermingling of allusions to the scenery of the contests-and in the general fervour breathed over the whole, there is a remarkable resemblance between these passages of the Greek historian, and the narratives of Scottish contests by the author of Waverley. There is, too, the same patriotic zeal in both; though the feeling in the former is of a more awful and melancholy cast, and that of the latter more light and cheerful. The Scottish novelist may, like the noblest historians, boast that he has given to his country "Kтus "—a possession for ever!
It remains that we should say a word on the use made of the supernatural in these romances. There is, in the mode of its employment, more of gusto more that approaches to an actual belief in its wonders, than in the works of any other author of these incredulous times. Even Shakspeare himself, in his remote age, does not appear to have drank in so deeply the spirit of superstition as our novelist of the nineteenth century. He treats, indeed, all the fantasies of his countrymen with that spirit of allowance and fond regard with which he always touches on human emotions. But he does not seem to have heartily partaken in them as awful realities. His witches have power to excite wonder, but little to chill men's bloods. Ariel, the visions of Prospero's enchanted isle, the "quaint fairies and the dapper elves" of the Midsummer Night's Dream glitter on the fancy, in a thousand shapes of dainty loveliness, but never affect us otherwise than as creations of the poet's brain. Even the ghost in Hamlet does not appal us half so fearfully as many a homely tale which has nothing to recommend it but the earnest belief of its tremulous reciter. There is little magic in the web of life, notwithstanding all the variety of its shades, as Shakspeare has drawn it. Not so is it with our author; his spells have manifest hold on himself, and, therefore, they are very potent with the spirits of his readers. No prophetic intimation in his works is ever suffered to fail. The spirit which appears to Fergus-the astronomical predictions of Guy Mannering-the eloquent curses, and more eloquent blessings, of Meg Merrilies-the dying denunciation of Mucklewrath-the old pro phecy in the Bride of Lammermuir—all ́are fulfilled to the very letter. The high and joyous spirits of Kennedy are observed by one of the bystanders as intimations of his speedy fate. We are far from disapproving of these touches of the super-human, for they are made to blend harmoniously with the freshest
We shall avoid the fruitless task of dwelling on the defects of this author, or the general insipidity of his lovers, on the want of skill in the development of his plots, on the clumsiness of his prefatory introductions, or the impotence of many of his conclusions. He has done his country and his nature no
hues of life, and without destroying its native colouring, give to it a more solemn tinge. But we cannot extend our indulgence to the seer in the Legend of Montrose, or the Lady of Avenel, in the Monastery; where the spirits of another world do not cast their shadowings on this, but stalk forth in open light, and "in form as palpable" as any of the mortal cha-ordinary service. He has brought romance racters. In works of passion, fairies and ghosts can scarcely be "simple products of the common day," without destroying all harmony in our perceptions, and bringing the whole into discredit with the imagination as well as the feelings. Fairy tales are among the most exquisite things in the world, and so are delineations of humanity like those of our author; but they can never be blended without debasing the former into chill substances, or refining the latter into airy nothings.
almost into our own times, and made the nobleness of humanity familiar to our daily thoughts. He has enriched history to us by opening such varied and delicious vistas to our gaze, beneath the range of its loftier events and more public characters. May his intellectual treasury prove exhaustless as the purse of Fortunatus, and may he dip into it unsparingly for the delight and the benefit of his species!
[NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE.]
MR. GODWIN is the most original-not only | of living novelists-but of living writers in prose. There are, indeed very few authors of any age who are so clearly entitled to the praise of having produced works, the first perusal of which is a signal event in man's internal history. His genius is by far the most extraordinary, which the great shaking of nations and of principles-the French revolution-impelled and directed in its progress. English literature, at the period of that marvellous change, had become sterile; the rich luxuriance which once overspread its surface, had gradually declined into thin and scattered productions of feeble growth and transient duration. The fearful convulsion which agitated the world of politics and of morals, tore up this shallow and exhausted surfacedisclosed vast treasures which had been concealed for centuries-burst open the secret springs of imagination and of thought-and left, instead of the smooth and weary plain, a region of deep valleys and of shapeless hills, of new cataracts and of awful abysses, of spots blasted into everlasting barrenness, and regions of deepest and richest soil. Our author partook in the first enthusiasms of the spirit-stirring season-in "its pleasant exercise of hope and joy"-in much of its speculative extravagance, but in none of its practical excesses. He was roused not into action but into thought; and the high and undying energies of his soul, unwasted on vain efforts for the actual regeneration of man, gathered strength in those pure fields of meditation to which they were limited. The power which might have ruled the disturbed nations with the wildest, directed only to the creation of high theories and of marvellous tales, imparted to its works a stern reality, and a
moveless grandeur which never could spring from mere fantasy. His works are not like those which a man, who is endued with a deep sense of beauty, or a rare faculty of observation, or a sportive wit, or a breathing eloquence, may fabricate as the idle business" of his life, as the means of profit or of fame. They have more in them of acts than of writings. They are the living and the immortal deeds of a man who must have been a great political adventurer had he not been an author. There is in "Caleb Williams" alone the material-the real burning energy-which might have animated a hundred schemes for the weal or wo of the species.
No writer of fictions has ever succeeded so strikingly as Mr. Godwin, with so little adventitious aid. His works are neither gay creatures of the element, nor pictures of external life-they derive not their charm from the delusions of fancy, or the familiarities of daily habitude-and are as destitute of the fascinations of light satire and felicitous delineation of society, as they are of the magic of the Arabian Tales. His style has "no figures and no fantasies," but is simple and austere. Yet his novels have a power which so enthralls us, that we half doubt, when we read them in youth, whether all our experience is not a dream, and these the only realities. He lays bare to us the innate might and majesty of man. He takes the simplest and most ordinary emotions of our nature, and makes us feel the springs of delight or of agony which they contain, the stupendous force which lies hid within them, and the sublime mysteries with which they are connected. He exhibits the naked wrestle of the passions in a vast solitude, where no object of material beauty disturbs our attention from the august