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morality of the present school of fashionable novels. All that is necessary, is, to give them over to the plain good sense and correct feeling of any right-hearted man-of all men, indeed, who believe that any wrong sentiment can be inculcated in books of this kind, and would wish to stop its influence. Let attention be once secured to this subject, and the thorough reformation of all the lighter species of literature will follow. There must always be works as light in their texture, as fitted to catch popular notice, and to amuse, which, after all, is the most easily recognized purpose of fiction; but they will be light in air and manner, without being frivolous, and make the young heart throb quicker without endangering its being heavier when it grows old. English manners have, of late years, tempted the artisans of every species of manufactory to give the greatest possible glitter to their goods: those have been most eagerly purchased which had been most skilfully varnished; but it will not be long, we trust, if rather more value be still attributed to external polish than a philosopher would think right, before the polish will not be valued unless the material which receives it be good.
The publications which stand at the head of this article, are true and proper representatives of the class of novels to which they belong. They have all its faults and merits most strongly and distinctly developed in their several contents, but they are all of them, more or less, superior to the general run of publications proceeding from the same school. The comparative merits of each, as well as their general character, we shall endeavour to point out as we proceed.
We have put Herbert Lacy' first on the list, because it is, in our opinion, the best, and because the author of 'Granby' has already established his character for ability with the public. His present production is not in any wise likely to diminish his reputation; and in classing it with fashionable novels in general, we are led to do so, rather because the characters it describes are persons in the higher walks of life, than because it resembles the other works, in company with which we have enumerated it. The principal personages in the novel are the hero, who gives the name to the work, Agnes Morton, the heroine, and their parents the father of the former being a baronet of ancient descent, that of the latter, the wealthy and highly connected grandson of an iron-founder. The characters next in consequence are a Mr. Sackville, and one Allen a land agent, three or four lords and their respective ladies, and supplementary brothers and sisters to the principal actors. Having thus given the names of the several figures, we must endeavour to set them in motion, under guidance of the author. It would be a remarkably difficult task to find a good starting point for our abstract of this tale, as it appears to us to have no sufficiently strong circumstance in the plot to form its proper and distinct ground-work. Instead, there
fore, of being able to catch at once some end of the silkin skein which would unravel the whole, we are reduced to the painful necessity of beginning with the beginning, and following the narrative with regular though rapid steps. The first, then, which we take, brings us acquainted with Sir William Lacy and Mr. Morton, each living within a few, miles of the other; but, owing to different opinions on the relative value of family honors and family wealth, very far from possessing any neighbourly feeling. It so happens, however, that Miss Morton, while staying at Huntley Park, the seat of Lord Appleby, meets among the visitors the son of her father's neighbour. Both had no small share of family prejudice, and neither was prepared to accord to the other the smiles which it seems were deserved. But whatever disinclination was at first felt by the young representatives of the rival families to form any intimacy was very speedily removed, and a few weeks of every-day intercourse gave birth to a mutual attachment. Many circumstances, however, prevented the open declaration of love, the principal of which was the known distance of feeling in their families. The first object, therefore, with Herbert Lacy, was to remove the objections of his father, and as he was soon after called home respecting the purchase of an estate in the neighbourhood, an opportunity almost immediately occurred of commencing his designs. His father not being willing to purchase the estate in question, till it had been offered to the Earl of Radborough, sent Herbert to consult with his Lordship upon the business. While in conversation with the Earl, Mr. Morton is ushered into the apartment. An introduction takes place, and the lover returns highly delighted with the prospect of bringing about a reconciliation between Mr. Morton and his father. He succeeds, and to his joy, he visits, in company with his family, the house of his mistress. All things thus go on well. His attachment is made known to Sir William, and his full consent obtained. He can harbour no doubt of the disposition of Agnes to love him, and nothing remains but the formal declaration and acceptance of his attachment.
But while the stream is thus running smoothly on, a storm is brewing in the sky, which is to blight at once every hope of the lovers. Mr. Morton, though the descendant of a tradesman, has the pride, and something of the dignity of a nobleman. leads him into extravagance. The alliance of his daughter with the son of the Earl of Radborough, was not calculated to diminish it, and he becomes by degrees involved in inextricable difficulties. His daughter Agnes had a fortune left her by an aunt, but it was so tied up, that she could not touch it till four and twenty, and if she married before then, without consent of the trustees, the whole sum, eighty thousand pounds, with the exception of ten thousand for herself, was to be forfeited to her brothers and sisters. One of the trustees was Mr. Sackville, a man of great intelligence and talent, but of more wit than integrity. He had,
almost from her childhood, determined on obtaining Agnes and her fortune for himself, and the time now appeared to be arrived for bringing his projects to bear. In league with Allen, the land agent, a most cunning and cautious villain, he had taken into his own hands the various bonds which had been given by Mr. Morton at different times to his creditors. One day, after dinner, to the astonishment of that gentleman, Sackville declared himself to be a ruined man. An explanation taking place, the latter mentioned his having bought up Mr. Morton's debts to save him from an arrest, and it seems that both are on the verge of instant ruin, unless means be taken to satisfy Sackville's creditors, the principal one of whom is said to be Allen. After some deliberation, the skilful plotter declares his love for Agnes, points out his marriage with her as a sure means of delivery from their troubles, and induces the distracted father to give a written promise of marrying his daughter to him, that the ruin of his house may be averted a little longer. The meeting between Mr. Morton and his daughter was a trying one. The former had every reason to suspect the attachment of Agnes for Herbert Lacy, and it was despair only which enabled him to induce her, almost brokenhearted, to make herself a sacrifice to his prayers. An alteration after this was immediately visible in her conduct towards Herbert, who on discovering the cause, was filled with astonishment at the strange occurrence. One event after another tended again to separate the families of the lovers, and first a duel, and then a contested election, in both of which Mr. Morton and Herbert were antagonists, destroyed every hope of any real reconciliation. It was during the election just mentioned, that the consummation of Mr. Morton's distresses took place. An execution was served upon the house, and the family driven to take refuge in an obscure part of London. While here, Agnes endeavoured to obtain the consent of Sackville, and the other trustee, to relieve her father's distresses out of the proceeds of her fortune. This, however, was strenuously resisted by the former, and unluckily for him, he in this overreached himself. Agnes determined upon personally intreating the other trustee, and for that purpose set out to visit him at his house in the country. On her way she was to stop a night at Sackville's house, the master being still in London, and here an incident occurred, before mentioning which, it will be requisite for us to go back to some circumstances we could not introduce in the outline. It has been said, that Sackville's confederate was Allen. This man had by cunning and dishonesty acquired considerable wealth, but he was held in a perfect and terrible slavery by Sackville. The power which the latter possessed over him was obtained by the possession of a draft which Allen had some time before forged on the aunt of Agnes, and which had fallen into Sackville's hand, as the executor. An injunetion had been left by the lady to burn it, but it was too good an
instrument of authority in the hands of a practised rogue to be lost, and it was ever after the scourge which was applied whenever Allen shrunk from his infamous work. Perhaps the most striking chapter in the novel before us, is the description of an attempt made by him to obtain possession of the draft by force, and we shall therefore give it. The scene of the dialogue was the study in Sackville's country house. After some little restiveness on the part of Allen, and of threatening on that of Sackville, the former continued
""I do not wish to disobey you, sir," said he, "and I will give you a proof of it. Here, sir, at this moment, I am ready to promise to do what you ask, upon condition that you will first grant me one little favour."
"I cannot listen to conditions; I asked for compliance, without
Nay, but the favour is so trifling." "Well, then, name it."
"" Then, sir, I ask you to let me first see that paper." 'Sackville regarded him with surprise and suspicion.
"You have made a strange request, said he, "what profit or pleasure can you find in looking at your own forgery."
'Allen returned no answer.
"This is mere trifling, Allen. If you have a sufficient reason, tell it; but dont suppose that I can go out of my way to gratify an idle whim."
"I am sorry to hear it, sir, because, in this of my way to do as you desired me.”
neither can I
"Good God! but consider the consequences." "Yes, sir, I do consider the consequences, and I shall leave them to follow as they may. I am very sorry to seem to thwart you, but I really cannot comply unless you grant me this favour."
'I understand it, thought Sackville. The rascal has taken it into his head, that I have not the power I assume; that the paper is defective, or not in my possession. Perhaps it is better to undeceive him. A refusal would only confirm his suspicions. "Allen," said he, sternly, " I cannot commend the reasonableness of your request; but nevertheless, it shall be granted ;" and so saying, he quitted the room, leaving Allen alone to all the gloomy retrospect of guilt, and the fearful hopes which he had then before him. His motives were partly such as Sackville had conjectured; but in addition to these, he had also proposed to himself the bold measure of forcibly seizing and destroying the forged paper. In a set struggle with Sackville, who was a strong and well-made man, he could have little chance of succeeding; and he could therefore depend only upon craft, and the unexpectedness and rapidity of his movements. While he was arranging his plan of attack, and nerving his courage for the encounter, Sackville re-entered the room.
"The first thing he did was to lock the door. Allen's anxious eyes were instantly turned towards him in expectation of the paper; but he saw no such object in Sackville's hand; he saw only the startling spectacle of a pistol, a powder horn, and a bullet. Sackville neither spoke nor
looked at him, but walked to the other end of the room, and deliberately began to load his pistol. Allen's heart shrunk within him.
"Mr. Sackville! the paper?" said he, inquiringly. Sackville neither looked up, nor answered him a word.
"Mr. Sackville-I trust-I don't understand-I hope you will oblige
'Still no answer.
"Mr. Sackville, for God's sake-pray explain?" said Allen, advancing.
"Stand back," interrupted Sackville, sternly.
"I am not alarmed, sir," continued Allen; "I am still prepared to ask the same; it will do you little credit, sir, to attack a defenceless man. Pray consider"Peace! peace!" cried Sackville, with a look of scorn. "Do you think if I wished to shorten your miserable life, it would not be the easier way to let the gallows do its office! I shall not take the trouble to hurt you" and then having loaded his pistol, he rose and went to a large bureau which occupied a recess in the room. This he opened, and drew forth the ominous paper which contained Allen's forgery. He then turned towards that person, and approached him, holding in one hand the paper, and in the other, the loaded pistol.
Allen," said he, with a milder air," you must excuse my precautions. Documents like this, which hold the power of life and death, are not to be shown lightly, especially to those who are interested in destroying them., I will not suppose that you thought so meanly of my discretion, as to imagine that I should put this into your hands as I would a newspaper. No----first look here," and so saying, he presented the pistol, levelled it at Allen's breast, and cocked it. Allen started, and shrunk backward in alarm. "Compose yourself," continued Sackville, coolly," and listen to what I am going to say. You are aware, that with one slight motion of this fore finger, I could put an end to your existence; yes, I see you are aware of it-good-and now I am going to gratify you. Here is the paper you wished to see. You shall not only see it, sir, but you shall hold it in your own hands. You may read, scrutinize, spell every syllable, count the letters if you choose; but, if you make the slightest attempt to destroy it-move but one finger with such an intention, and that minute will be your last. There, receive your forgery."
'So saying, he placed in Allen's hand the paper on which hung his life. A death-like silence ensued. Allen stood motionless, holding before his eyes the fatal document, with the muzzle of Sackville's pistol about a yard from his breast. The situation of Allen was inconceivably tremendous, and thoughts of the most terrible nature were conflicting in his mind, while his eyes were wandering over the writing, of which he distinguished not a line. Even at that moment, and in spite of Sackville's awful threat, he was meditating the destruction of the paper; and once he looked up to try if he could discern any symptoms of mercy or irresolution in the aspect of his opponent; but he was met by a glance of deadly determination from Sackville's eye, which indicated at once that he had not threatened one tittle that he would not execute.
⚫ Allen's countenance fell; his resolution seemed to be blasted by that glance, and he felt his flesh creep with terror. All the awfulness of his