Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

gress of the story, only to rise, and ter as Sterne ever existed, we must show some new and brilliant change regret : for grossness admits no deof form and scene. To the graver fence in the ability of the offender; reader, they were a welcome relief though in estimating the moral demefrom the perpetual effort of pursuing rit, we may justly take into considerathe wild flights and keen flashes of tion the habits of the time. But this Sterne's imagination. To the critic, palliative of the celebrated writers of they administered the delight that cri- Romance and the Drama, from the ticism is said especially to love, the days of Charles the Second to the discovery that the brilliant author had middle of the last century, can be but his moments of eclipse ; and that, as feebly advanced for Sterne. Public Homer slept, the worship was given to manners had undergone a sudden and a mere man after all.

fortunate change, even within the ten Sterne's course was rapidly run. years before. Above all, his sacred From his first effort to his last was but function should have preserved him eight years.

The ath volume of pure in the most licentious days of liTristram Shandy was published in terature. His cup is poison; and the 1767; the Sentimental Journey ap- crime of ministering it is augmented peared in 1768. The author was then by its being ministered from the altar. upon his death-bed ; and in March of But in the trial of genius, Sterne the same year he died-leaving a has established the most ample claim. name which the world still pronounces The first unanswerable evidence of with unfeigned admiration of his ge- superiority is, to create imitators; the nius, and deep regret at its perver- next is, to extinguish them. A mulsion.

titude of imitations started up on the Sterne has been strongly charged fame of Tristram Shandy; and the with plagiarisma ; and there can be no public were suddenly inundated with question, that where he found materi- the quaintnesses of invalid corporals als to his purpose, he took them with- and captains. But they speedily out reserve. From Rabelais, who sank : for they were fed with no fire seems to have been trebly mad with from within ; the breath of life was monkish legends, monkish impurity, not in their nostrils ; and the figures and monkish humor; and Burton, who of clay mouldered on the spot, from was as palpably mad with learning of which the living man marched away every age, observation of every kind with the vividness and vigor that were of life, and natural eccentricity of eve to bear him through the world. ry faculty of the mind; the author of The long interval of twenty years Tristram Shandy amassed all the or- passed by; and the Novel was pronaments of style or story that he could claimed to be no more. English geseize. But he amassed them, as Pal- nius was habitually mourned over by ladio amassed the broken sculptures the whole tribe of Dilettanti ; and the and columns of the Roman ruins, for Vicar of Wakefield, and Rasselas, his amphitheatre of Vicenza. It was beautiful and brief, were welcomed the activity of genius that found beau- less as the promise of a richer growth, ty, where thousands and tens of thou- than as the chance flowers springing sands had passed by, for year on year, from the grave where Romance was and seen nothing but weedy luxuri- hopelessly buried. But, in England

weather-stained decay. at least, despair of the power and acThe triumph of genius was in the dis- tivity of the human intellect, is scarcecovery and the use—in detecting the ly to be justified by experience. The value of that which, to all other eyes, coldest hour is often but the sign that had been valueless—and in erecting a dawn and sunshine are at hand. And fabric which, with all its sins against while the mourners over our literature art, will stand among the enduring were in the most incurable dismay at evidences of mind. That such a wri- the exhaustion of English genius, an

ance, and

cessors.

extraordinary female arose to put the hibited such deep knowledge of the scorners to shame, and bring a change sources of human fear; from the comof singular loveliness and interest on mon and level alarms of violence and our whole romantic literature. The rapine, down to the ultimate darkness Sicilian Romance—the Romance of where guilt reigns in its native region ; the Forest—and the Mysteries of where to the spirits of evil are almost Udolpho, raised Mrs. Radcliffe to the visibly seen mingle the compounds of summit of popular admiration for the passion and death for the hands of time; threw into the shade all past man; and where the traitor and the excellence, and instantly revived the murderer, moving in the conscious slumbering passion for the wild, the grasp of punishment and the grave, magnificent, and the unearthly. Yet seem to be divested of all powers but there are few instances of this rapid those of enjoying and perpetrating and universal seizure of popularity, crime. which have not been followed by as A long interval again followed, to rapid a remission. The fever of ad- be, like the for the theme of mamiration flies, and the public, once ny a melancholy comparison of the recovered, feel the full weariness of past energy with the existing lassitude, the paroxysm.

Mrs. Radcliffe's and of many a decisive anticipation of course of authorship was brief. The a course of inevitable decay. But the Italian, in 1797, closed the career prophecy was fortunately once more which had begun, in 1789, with the found failing. The Waverley Novels Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne, the showed the hazard of dogmatism, and sated cycle of eight years, which had the public welcomed with willing debeen run by her distinguished prede- light so admirable an evidence that

the old treasures of English ability With the cessation of her pen, her were still inexhaustible. popularity sank; but she had already The true charm is originality ; and achieved the unequivocal proof of ge- the Waverley Novels exhibited originius, in her mastery over the general nality in its most striking forms. They mind, in the utter exclusion of all neither modelled their force of chacompetitorship, and in the new and racter on the strong but hazardous potent spirit which she infused into conceptions of Tom Jones and Rodethe Romance of her country.

rick Random, nor borrowed their inThe errors of her style were many terest and incidents from the school of and palpable. The length and labor Udolpho. They were justly confiof her descriptions first retarded and dent in their own power of discovery, finally repelled curiosity. Her love and they went forth into a new world of the marvellous was not sustained by of their own. sufficient judgment to give it that The Historic Romance is among semblance of reality, without which the oldest inventions of Europe. But the phantom degenerates into the play it had perished : the few attempts that of clowns and children; and her living were made for its revival seemed only characters, her chivalric lovers, and to prove that the effort was without maidens saturated with every charm hope; and even the Castle of Otranto under heaven, perpetually sweet and had scarcely entitled its noble author suffering, innocent and unlucky as a to more than the honors of a writer dove strayed from its cage, and walk- for the nursery. The Waverley Noing with their eyes open into every vels have substantiated all the claim trap of the thousands that all the that can be given by the complete posworld was busied in laying for their session of a ground, that had been angelic feet, fatigued the imagination; abandoned by all footsteps, till the that after all must be fed on truth trace of the human tread was worn out and nature, or it refuses to follow. of the soil,-by covering its barrenBut no author since Shakspeare, ex ness with new and rich fertility; and

by raising, in place of wreck and ru- tation of popular applause has ever ins for which no owners could be led to swerve into pampering popular found, a series of lofty, graceful, and license; and whose labors, from their splendid structures, on which no man first page to their last, exhibit the can look, without feeling that they fine demonstration that the highest rank among the noblest monuments fame demands no sacrifice of moral and trophies of the growing intellect- dignity, no political violence, and no ual prosperity and prowess of his sceptical insult to the Supreme Source country.

of truth, wisdom, and virtue; but Their author lives ; and who that must wish that long may their author has a feeling of the honors due to the live, and enjoy the triumph that he distinguished ability, which no temp- has won!

JEPHTHAH.

.

And it came to pass, at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did
with her according to the vow which he had vowed.-Judges, xi. 34.
Tell me no more of Ammon's fall, That ray'd thy angel face;
But leave me to my woe :

Methought the mansions of the sky
I tell ye, brethren, she was all

Seem'd meetest for thy purity.
Of joy to me below;
The beam that charm'd my lonely hall,

But when that spirit pass'd away,
The flower that graced my festival.

And when that eye grew dim

The light was quench'd of Jephthah's dayAnd art thou gone, my tender one,

What then was life to him? Forever from my side?

Where was the child that was his stay? Forever from thy father gone?

Where, where, my warrior brethren, say ? Ah! would that he had died Ere that dark field of blood was won,

Then leave, oh! leave me to my woe, Ere this last deed of death was done.

And tell me not of fame;

The laurel paius my aching brow, Yet thou, my child, didst ne'er upbraid And turns my thoughts to shame ;The sire who laid thee low;

Childless and desolate I bow
And with thy precious life-blood paid The living victim of my vow.

His beaven-recorded vow :
Or oh ! one look from thee had stay'd

But thou, my country! thou art free!
The lifted hand, the shining blade.

The victor's wreath is thine !

Long may its roses bloom for thee! But when I saw thy dauntless eye,

Their thorns alone be mine; Thy step of lofty grace,

Nor let proud Ammon's children see The spirit-breathing sanctity

How dearly won thy victory.

IT'S VERY ODD !

“ It's very odd !” These words have life did we endure, marvelling somebeen haunting us like a tune. “ It's what that they should have so comvery odd !” Every being, thing, and bined to come together. So we soincident which we meet with, seenis laced ourselves with ejaculating, “ It's to combine to fix them upon our mind. very odd !” and descended to the They rushed upon us this morning, breakfast parlor, where our young when dressing ourselves at the house friend Mr. Robert held full possession, of a worthy friend. Things went and was invigorating himself by whipwrong—the razor was to us like Mrs. ping his top, contrary to the lex loci, Brulgruddery's dear Dennis ; it upon a new Kidderminster carpet. “ brought tears into our eyes”-shirt “ Whip away, my boy,” said we. pin mislaid-sleere-buttons do.; and “ It's very odd !” replied he. divers other joinor miseries of human We thought indeed it was, and felt

It's very

as though the young urchin were mock- _" It's very odd, my dear Robert. ing us ; but, on inquiry, it seemed that there is the long gravel walk, and the he could not comprehend why the top yard, and the barn, and the nursery, should spin when he whipped it; and, which are all much better places for when he ceased flogging, make its es- spinning your top than here, upon a cape, by running off like a live thing, carpet ; yet this is the third morning I into some corner, as it were, for re- have found you—There ! it has tumpose.

bled down again !"_" It is very odd,” Having read Emerson on this thau- said the boy." Not at all, my dear,” matropical proceeding, and, moreover, replied his mamma ; " it becomes enconned some of the modern juvenile tangled in the carpet-it would spin Encyclopædias, which account for very well upon the plain boards." many unaccountable things, we did

Ab! but, mamma, quoth young seriously incline to expound the said Hopeful, “the centrifugallic force mystery unto the youth, who listened operates above the carpet.” At these attentively for at least a minute and a words, the good lady looked in our half, and then evinced strong symp- corner, with a glance of mild reproach, toms of a preference in favor of prac- which seemed to say,—" So, you tice versus theory, and flogged away. have been swimming my poor child We had spoken of a centrifugal power out of his depth again? or impetus, and our oral lecture being odd !”—“ Don't be alarmed, dear suspended, proceeded mentally to madam,” said we, “Robert was too solve unto ourselves, or recall to me- intent upon his play, or the whole mory, the arcana of those wondrous should have been explained to him. laws, by which tops, balls, and the Now, however, he understands that great globe itself, are kept spinning the top is kept spinning, upon the In five minutes, that globe and the same principle, as this world revolves system to which it belongs, were be- upon its axis." hind us, at an immeasurable distance “ Yes !” replied Master Robert, - beyond — beyond - and far away“ and I've been thinking about it, were other systems-it was too much. while you thought I was only playing, “ Reason reeled.” So, selecting a and I've made it all out there's the comet, we began to ponder upon its pole it spins upon that Captain Parry eccentric course. With some degree went to find the end of : but, my of humility be it confessed, that it stars! what a big whip it must be !” hath been unto us a delight occasion- Our worthy host the Rector entered ally to disport ourselves, as a Triton at this moment; and young among the minnows, in the shallows gregis” and his top were removed to of this world ; and we have reaped the their proper gymnastic arena. usual advantages, a fair proportion of “I am convinced,” said the good self-confidence, or modest assurance. man, when our previous conversation So we wrestled manfully awhile with was related to him, “ that it is vain the difficulties to which we had pre- to endeavor to teach a child the nasumptuously elevated ourselves, and ture of those mysteries, which the consequently soon became enveloped intellects we call mature can scarcely in a most especially fuliginous maze comprehend a tithe of.

What we of mystery. We began to apprehend know is absolutely nothing; and we that, in a few years, or mayhap cen content ourselves, and look big when turies, one of the said comets might we have exchanged one word for ancome down, tail on end, with dire in- other.

We then fancy that we have tent, upon this globe, and - just at discovered a secret. It's very oddthis moment the parlor door opened very odd, that we should delight to gently, and the gentle lady of the practise a double deceit, upon ourhouse entered. “ It's very odd,” said selves and the world.” she, after the usual “good morning," What could we say? We had just

" spes

returned from a mental excursion, under the name of “news,” she decompared with which a voyage to the lighteth to hear. “ It is very odd !” moon was as a “hop, step, and jump;" why-why is it, that so many ladies and what had we brought back ? (Heaven bless them! We know their Words, words, words,” Confusion hearts are good and kind) should so worse confounded. But it was evi- greedily devour long and particular dent that something was expected—it accounts of murders, crim cons, and was our turn-so we ventured to re other abominable what nots? And mark, that when man attempted to yet more odd is it, considering the dive into the mysteries of creation, mean and despicable nature of the and to comprehend the wondrous employment, that scarcely a village or works of Him who meteth the waters hamlet in the United Kingdom is in the hollow of his hand, all he could without one of those busy bodies, expect was to catch a glimpse of the whose delight is to convey from house leading principles.

to house, the story of guilt or misfor“Rather say, the leading effects,” tune, and the illiberal or malignant observed the Rector; “ truly, we whisper of “ envy, hatred, and maknow not the cause of anything : yet lice, and all uncharitableness.” we boast of our reason. Nine times “ It is very odd,” that these creaout of ten, instinct, brute instinct, is a tures should meet with encouragemore unerring guide ; for that is ever ment in any family that hath not deupon the alert, while reason sleeps or clared war against the human race. dreams. It's very odd !” And, tru- There indeed, in such a circle, one ly, the Rector said right. It is very might expect that the treason would odd, that those, whose spirits seem be sweet, though the traitor could not compounded of ethereal matter, whose be respected. But that, to so calm a intellects far surpass the excellency fireside as the worthy Rector's, and of the multitude ; that those on whom thine, gentle reader, a warm and reason hath shed her brightest beam, friendly welcome should be given to should yet, notwithstanding, if the one of these scavengers of society, is, reader have a spark of genius, let him in truth, “very odd indeed.” Yet fill up the blank, and mourn over the there came such an one in upon us, frail wanderings of those whose en even at the breakfast hour, the sacred dowments have made them as bea “ meal of friendship.”

Slowly the cons for good or evil.

door opened—there was a rustling of The Rector's wife is a good, quiet, silk and a “hem ;" and then a lean ariable woman,

kind-hearted withal, unblessed figure advanced, making and spareth neither her time, her mouths of apology for such early incookery, her advice, nor her medicine trusion, simpering, sideling, and appachest, when the poor are in need. rently casting her eyes about as if, by Her children she loveth ; and her possibility, something not correct husband she almost worshippeth. But might be discovered even in our sober “it's very odd,” we have, with our party. We wished, for certain reaown proper optics, seen her dark eyes sons as thereunto and then mightily glisten, with an almost wicked delight, moving, that it had been a man : when one of those tales, for which but such reptiles are of no sex—the (we feel especially thankful) the tea creature had been out the day before, party is more notorious than the creeping from its hole, “ Talpa domi, breakfast table, has been poured into argus foris,” foraging for a supply of

Verily do we believe that slander, or " materiel" for its conshe would walk miles, through rain struction. Scarcely was it seated, and dirty lanes, at the risk of spoiling ere a furtive glance, and “ knowing” her best bonnet, could she, by such smile, announced privily to our good an effort, alleviate the distress and hostess that there was “ news.” A anxiety caused by events, of which, look of intelligence was exchanged

[ocr errors]

her ears.

« AnteriorContinuar »