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ART. VII.-The Life and Remains of Wilmot Warwick. Edited by his friend, Henry Vernon. 8vo. pp. 326. London: Ridgway. 1828. THERE is one respect at least in which the making of books differs from that of chairs and tables, which authors of all sorts would do well to remember. In this particular department of art, an imitation even of the best models may be too close. There may be such a thing perhaps as the abstract excellence of a jointstool, but not of a book. When we think of the latter production, it is always with some reference to the producer. An article of furniture, whether useful or ornamental, pleases or displeases us by its own qualities alone, and generally speaking, might, in respect of its origin or fabrication, have sprung ready fashioned out of the earth, or dropped from the clouds, for any thing that our tastes or affections care about the matter. Not so a book. This, except it be an almanack, or a dictionary, or a volume of Term Reports, is absolutely nothing to us unless when considered in relation to its author. Not that it is necessary that he should in every case be known to us by name, any more than it is that we should have a visiting or bowing acquaintance with him; but he must be at least among the number of the familiars of our imagination. Features and a shape of one description or another he must have in our mind's eye, before we can take any more interest in his book than we should in so many sheets of blank paper. The principal charm of all our best works in particular, is derived from this association of them with their authors. If we had no Homer and Milton to think of in reading the Iliad and Paradise Lost, how comparatively lifeless and unaffecting would be all the poetry of either!
It is on this account, we suppose, that every body feels imitation in literature to be so very unsatisfactory and insipid. It perplexes and confounds our conception of the real author of what we are perusing. The work reminds us, it may be, in every sentence, of a favourite writer, whose production, nevertheless, we know all the while it is not; and thus we are kept hopelessly and provokingly oscillating, like a pendulum, between the fact which we cannot forget, and the imagination which we cannot turn away from. It is exactly the same state of mind into which we are thrown by an exquisite piece of mimicry, with the difference that in this case the titillation is taken in the way of sport, and enjoyed accordingly. When the imitation is meant to be seriously understood, the predicament of the ass between the two bundles of hay, or of a man tossed in a blanket between heaven and earth, continually approaching and yet never reaching either, is a fit type of his feelings who is compelled to endure it.
Among other consequences of this obstinate aversion in human nature to the imitative in book-making, it happens that the performances of the unfortunate practitioners of this art, stand obviously
a very poor chance of having even common justice done to them by the world in general. The work is, in truth, of a sort which nobody cares to have any thing to do with, and is accordingly without ceremony voted a bore by every body. Nay, the better it is done, the worse is it likely to be treated, for it is thereby rendered only the more like to that, the resemblance it bears to which is its crime and its ruin. Better a thousand times for his credit and reception in the world, that a man should write downright nonsense, than. that he should write the soundest sense that may be, just as another would have written it.
There is possibly a sort of instinctive and unconscious justice, after all, in this universal hostility of mankind to the species of composition we are considering. A writer's manner of thinking and expressing himself is his own property, and ought no more to be pilfered from him or encroached upon by another, than the estate of the landholder, or the invention which its discoverer has secured by a patent. Doubtless it is difficult, and indeed hardly possible, for a man to preserve himself in the age to which the world has now arrived, altogether unaffected by the productions of predecessors or contemporaries. The greatest minds and happiest natures are in some respects of all others the most liable to be fascinated and impressed by what they see elsewhere of the excellent and the splendid and in so far to become the veriest slaves and bondsmen of imitation. But such are never imitators merely. Original are so intermixed in their works with borrowed beauties, that even the borrowed too seem to be original. Or rather to them the worshipped model has been in reality not so much a copy, as a fountain of inspiration; not a thing of brightness of which, looking to it from a distance, they laboured to achieve a cold phosphoric representation, but a central sun, whither they repaired, and in their golden urns drew light.' A thorough and genuine imitator, on the contrary, plays much the same part, in our estimation, with the echo from the walls of a room where we have met to hear a great debate, which seems to have nothing more to do than to annoy and disturb both the speakers and the audience.
In another respect, too, it appears to us, even the best mere imitation resembles an echo, as compared with the imitated original. There is always about it a something of incurable imperfection which betrays the counterfeit-a want, if we may so express ourselves, of that firmness and polish of touch which, in every art, the inventor of a style generally gives to his productions. Whether it is that the imitator, not having the same inducement, does not take the requisite pains here, or is, by virtue of his subordinacy as an imitator, incapacitated for rivalling his prototype in this particular part of the operation, or that one man cannot so entirely convert himself into the copy of another, as that some unalterable difference shall not remain to distinguish the two, we know not; but certain it is that a competently tutored taste will, we may say in
almost all cases, very quickly and certainly detect the work of the imitator, by its inferiority in the respect to which we have alluded. It seems to be that it is only that which is thoroughly natural that admits of exquisite and perfect finish. The artificial is hammered out by a process of too much elaboration, and under a feeling of too much constraint, to come forth from the work-shop other than bearing some tokens of its ruder and more anxious fabri
The volume before us affords not a bad exemplification of the truth of these observations. It is written in evident and almost avowed imitation of Mr. Washington Irving; and we shall bestow upon it as much praise as, in these circumstances, the author has any right to expect, when we say that it is throughout a very fair, and, in some passages, a highly successful copy of Mr. Irving's style and manner. It is deficient certainly in that ease and gracefulness which belongs to Mr. Irving's compositions; and this is to be accounted for both from the fact to which we have already adverted, of the unattainable nature of such qualities, in any very perfect degree, by a mere imitator, and from certain radical differences which, obviously enough in the present case, distinguish the mind of our author from that of his model. The writer of the 'Life and Remains of Wilmot Warwick,' is a man of coarser-some, perhaps, would say, of more healthy and vigorous tastes, than the celebrated American essayist, as is manifest from the whole tenor of his volume. The sensibilities of the one are neither so timid and shrinking as those of the other; nor is his wit so refined, or his humour so gentle and airy. He lays on his colours in general with a more lavish and dashing hand, and gives in every way more warmth and less delicacy to his delineations. In other respects, it is but fair to admit that he has copied a good deal of what is best in Mr. Irving, with much tact and felicity. There is in both the same subdued and meditative tenderness; the same imaginative partiality for by-gone times, and the remnants of old and fading manners; the same sympathy with eccentricity of character, and power of exhibiting its grotesqueness in a full and favourable light. Both conceive rather readily and vividly, than either extensively or profoundly, and express themselves with too trim and punctilious a carefulness to write very naturally or powerfully. There is more, finally, to please us in the manner than in the matter of each; and if we are generally pleased with both, we are rarely excited to any deeper emotion by either.
But near as the merits of the one author may thus be thought to approximate to those of the other, their claims upon the admiration of the public both deserve, and are certain to meet with very different measures of attention. An imitator, to rival his original in desert, must, in fact, greatly surpass him in essential excellence. Only to come near to him, is utterly to fail. And such, we apprehend, will be the verdict passed upon the present writer-in spite,
even, of not a few passages in his work which may be thought to merit a better fate.
The 'Remains of Wilmot Warwick' are rather clumsily introduced by a preliminary paper, which represents the author as leaving them on his death-bed in charge of the friend who professes to be their editor, after a life, the story of which is neither more probable nor more interesting than such prologues usually are. Warwick and Vernon had set out in the world as fellow-runaways from a public school, but this was nearly the only part of their sublunary career which they performed in company. The father of the former dying insolvent, and that of the latter leaving his son a handsome patrimony, the more fortunate youth passed through life in the enjoyment of the ease and independence to which he had been born; while the other, after a short experience of its buffetings, in the office of an attorney, falls in love, gets jilted, shoots his rival in a duel, and eventually takes to the occupation of an itinerant ballad-singer, in which condition he is at last discovered by his old school-fellow, but only in time to permit them to recognize each other before he expires. From this rencontre, however, as we have stated, the present volume takes its origin, the collection of sketches of which it consists being the contents of a packet, which occupied,' says our autobiographer, many a spare hour during the last two years of my apprenticeship.'
These sketches are of various degrees of merit, and exemplify also a good many different modes of composition. The Old Gentleman' who is introduced in the first, and occasionally reappears throughout the remainder of the series, is, as well as the antiquated spinster with whom he is contrasted, a vigorously, though perhaps somewhat coarsely drawn character. It is in the delineation of peculiarities of human character, indeed, that the author, we think, is most successful. We do not much admire either his sketches of manners or his mere tales. 'The Haunted Mill,' The Dead Arm,' "The Wig,' 'St. Valentine's Day,' &c., have one and all of them hardly any higher pretensions than the ghost stories and pictures of society of which our magazines were wont to be made up some thirty or forty years ago. Of the remaining papers, one of the very best is that entitled 'Henry Halworth, of which we shall now proceed, therefore, to lay a few extracts before our readers. It commences in the following fashion :
""I'LL be a bachelor for the remainder of my life," said Harry, as he sat at his wine one afternoon: " yes, as Benedick says, I will die a bachelor."
"And I," said his sister Kate, "(to use the language of Beatrice) am of your humour for that-I will die a maid."
"Well," said the mother, " (to quote from the same author)-as time shall try in time the savage bull doth bear the yoke."
'The old lady, however, disapproving all rash resolutions, hoped in time to see them both well mated. "As your vows," said she, were put up in the language of Benedick and Beatrice, I trust they were also formed in the same spirit; that like Benedick and Beatrice, you may be hereafter justified in breaking them."
Harry is a fine open-hearted fellow, with the frame of a Hercules, and the spirit of an eagle. Though brought up chiefly amid scenes of rural activity, and accustomed from his youth to the hazards of the chase, his education has been by no means neglected, and he is equally an adept in solving the difficulties of Euclid, and mastering. the fury of a young horse. He does not exactly possess that capability for small talk which renders a man agreeable as a drawing-room companion; but his society is still extremely enviable, and his friendship such as every one must be proud to possess. His chief employment now consists in farming an estate left him by his father; this, and the sports of the field, form his out-door occupations; otherwise, he is a domestic character, fond of his family, his books, and his fireside.
“He has likewise a special contempt for pretty fellows" (as they are termed,) and their petty gallantries; "being," as he used to say, fully assured, that universal benevolence is inconsistent with matters of heart between the unmarried of the sexes,-that such affection, if not concentrated, is nothing worth; and that he who is attentive to all women cares for none." He had no objection to the conversation of a sensible woman, and would be always happy to take a ramble with any lady who might feel inclined to honour him with her company; "but," said he, "if ever you see me 'bandying compliments' with a giggling girl, who expects me to feed her vanity with flattery, and to pocket her pert repartees with patience-' write me down an ass.' —pp. 237-240.
A not uncommon revolution of sentiment, however, upon the subject of the sex, is at last brought about in the mind of our hero by an event, the commencement and conclusion of which are thus pleasantly narrated :—
'His mother and sister would occasionally joke him about some pretty girl or other; but he always denied the charge, and at one time was even rash enough to defy the little god in all his power. He said that he had stood the test of beauty and of time-for he was now thirty years oldand intended for the future to pay his court to the married women, and not " meddle with the young girls" till an additional twenty years should authorise the freedom.
'Vain was the determination!
'It certainly was a most extraordinary circumstance, that, of all the women in the neighbourhood, he should fix upon the only one who might be said to realise his opinion of female demerit: yet such was Miss Amelia Musgrave-the prettiest girl in the place, and the vainest. sooner had she attracted attention by her beauty, than it was superseded by disgust for her affectation; and Harry Halworth-as if to prove the impotence of the stoutest heart that ever boasted invulnerability -became enamoured of her!
'The first symptom of my hero's apostacy appeared in his dress, which