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ON BRITISH NOVELS AND ROMANCES, INTRODUCTORY TO A SERIES OF CRITICISMS ON THE LIVING NOVELISTS.
[NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE.]
WE regard the authors of the best novels fair and glistening eyes in moments snatched and romances as among the truest benefactors from repose, and beneath counters and shopof their species. Their works have often con- boards minister delights "secret, sweet, and veyed, in the most attractive form, lessons of precious." It is possible that, in particular the most genial wisdom. But we do not prize instances, their effects may be baneful; but, on them so much in reference to their immediate the whole, we are persuaded they are good. aim, or any individual traits of nobleness with The world is not in danger of becoming too which they may inform the thoughts, as for romantic. The golden threads of poesy are not their general tendency to break up that cold too thickly or too closely interwoven with the and debasing selfishness with which the souls ordinary web of existence. Sympathy is the of so large a portion of mankind are encrusted. first great lesson which man should learn. It They give to a vast class, who by no means will be ill for him if he proceeds no farther; if would be carried beyond the most contracted his emotions are but excited to roll back on his range of emotion, an interest in things out of heart, and to be fostered in luxurious quiet. themselves, and a perception of grandeur and But unless he learns to feel for things in which of beauty, of which otherwise they might ever he has no personal interest, he can achieve have lived unconscious. Pity for fictitious suf- nothing generous or noble. This lesson is in ferings is, indeed, very inferior to that sympa- reality the universal moral of all excellent rothy with the universal heart of man which mances. How mistaken are those miserable inspires real self-sacrifice; but it is better even reasoners who object to them as giving "false to be moved by its tenderness, than wholly to be pictures of life-of purity too glossy and etheignorant of the joy of natural tears. How real-of friendship too deep and confiding-of many are there for whom poesy has no charm, love which does not shrink at the approach of and who have derived only from romances ill, but looks on tempests and is never shaken," those glimpses of disinterested heroism and because with these the world too rarely blosideal beauty, which alone “make them less for- soms! Were these things visionary and unlorn," in their busy career! The good house- real, who would break the spell, and bid the dewife, who is employed all her life in the seve-licious enchantment vanish? The soul will rest drudgery, has yet some glimmerings of a state and dignity above her station and age, and some dim vision of meek, angelic suffering, when she thinks of the well-thumbed volume of Clarissa Harlowe, which she found, when a girl, in some old recess, and read, with breathless eagerness, at stolen times and moments of hasty joy. The careworn lawyer or politician, encircled with all kinds of petty anxieties, thinks of the Arabian Nights Entertainments, which he devoured in his joyful school-days, and is once more young, and innocent, and happy. If the sternest puritan were acquainted with Parson Adams, or with Dr. Primrose, he could not hate the clergy. If novels are not the deepest teachers of humanity, they have, at least, the widest range. They lend to genius "lighter wings to fly." They are read where Milton and Shakspeare are only talked of, and where even their names are never heard. They nestle gently beneath the covers of unconscious sofas, are read by
not be the worse for thinking too well of its