Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

to make her his mistress! She now rejects him, and gives her hand to the estimable Howard, for whom she felt the most tender friendship, who had wished to make her his wife, and the sharer of his fortune, when she was unfriended and un known !

The work finishes by doing practical justice to the various characters that are introduced to exemplify the world as it is, who may have excited an interest in the bosom of the readers.

It concludes with a moral drawn from the events of the story, that cannot be too often inculcated, that in the moments of our most severe inflictions, we should NEVER DESPAIR!

ART. VIII. The False Friend: a Domestic Story. By Mary

Robinson, Author of Walsingham, &c. &c. in four Vols. About 330 pages each. Price 16s. Longman. London. 1799.

WE

E have already delivered our opinion concerning the

literary talents of this writer, and also on the direction which she has frequently chosen to give to her abilities. We find nothing in this performance that tends to change our judgement.

We observed, in our review of Walsingham, that while The confined herself to an exhibition of the surface of life the was not without success; but that when the attempted to dive into moral and political causes, she went far beyond her depth. We also remarked, that the excelled much more in describing feeling than intellect. The novel before us has confirmed us in the notion that we formed, that from Mrs. Robinson we may expect pathetic descriptions much more confidently than either virtuous inculcation, humorous painting, found reasoning, or just reflection. Her favourite characters are the creatures of sentimental refinement; and that sensibility not being fortified by moral principle, and enlightened by a clear and discriminating understanding, leads them frequently to the most unwarrantable actions. The author delights in presenting situations, in which pallion, especially the passion of love, triumphs over virtue and reason. Though far from denying that such circumstances frequently occur in real life, we cannot see that to hold them frequently up to public view can answer any good purpose. Neither do we think that those are, by any means, the characters most worthy of imitation which allow exceflive scope to sensibility. Sensibility is a quality of doubtful advantage to the pofTefTor ; it may be instrumental to benevolence and to happiness, but leads to vice and misery as soon as it becomes the master

instead

D4

instead of being the servant of reason and conscience. That which Mrs. Robinson presents may be called a morbid sensibility ; a constitution, or state of mind, rarely to be found among the virtuous and wise. If we once open a door to feeling as the excuse of every action which it may produce, we may bid farewell to morality, to order, and to every thing valuable in society.

Mary Wollstonecraft could plead her feelings in justification of her concubinage and her attempted suicide. Most females who began their career in the same way, and who may have afterwards arrived at a more advanced stage of profligacy, might plead their feelings as a justification of their conduet. We doubt not, that even Newgate has considerable supplies from the victims of sensibility; or, in other words, from those who are propelled by present impulse instead of being guided by duty. Perfectly coinciding with Mrs. Robinson, that sentiment, to a certain degree, is necessary to virtue and to happiness, we cannoi help thinking that she, very probably without intending it, inculates fenfibility much further than is beneficial, and so far as would be hurtful to its votaries. We allow that the represents goodness in a jult and amiable light; but her writings tend to soften and enervate the mind. These strictures apply to the tendency of Mrs. Robinson's writings; those that ihall follow respect her invention.

In all her fables the author shews herself to pofless a lively imagination, but by no means habitually subjected to the controul of judgement. She delights in the marvellous, and is very deficient in the probable. Marvellous writing, indeed, is much eafier than imitation of nature ; confequently is com, monly resorted to by those who wish to represent men and manners, without the power or opportunity of previous examination. Paradoxes in pretended philosophy, and extravagancies in fiction, arise most frequently from the want of knowledge and of genius. The giants of Amadis of Gaul, the ghosts of modern manufacturers of novels and plays, require infinitely less ability than Gil Blas and Toin Jones; than Sophia and Cecilia. We critics, therefore, think ourselves not uncandid when we ascribe unnatural and improbable fictions to the want of power to produce the natural and the probable.

The following is the story of the False Friend : Gertrude St. Leger fas been educated in Ireland as the orphan ward of Lord Lenngre ; at seventeen, brought over to the house of her guardian, a married man. The fine feelings of the young Jady are so much affected by the kindness, and also the countenance and figure of my Lord, that the falls desperately in

my Lord

love with him; an effufion of sentiment by no means relished by my lady, especially as the finds her husband very much attached to this sentimental Miss. My lady, to balance accounts, allows her feelings to operate in favour of a handsome parfon ; she elopes. A third lady, it seems, has the same fort of feelings, but is divided in her affections; one half of which belongs to my Lord, and the other half to the parson. Thus Miss Cecil is, 'at once, the rival of the sentimental Miss as the lover of his Lordlhip, and the rival of her Ladyship as the lover of his reverence. She persuades Gertrude to elope ; why, we do not clearly perceive : Miss, however, foon returns, and finds Lady Denmore dead, and

gone to the country to give directions for her interment: when, strange to tell ! Gertrude entering into the roem in which the corpse lay, drops the candle ; in her confufion breaks the string of a harp, which makes such a crush as to rouze the dead Lady, who is restored to life, and elopes a second time with the Reverend Mr. Treville, when The dies in good earnest. Miss Gertrude is (unjustly) believed an acceffary to her death ; and, though conscious of her innocence, disappears, to avoid a prosecution, and the supposed anger of Lord Denmore. After many hair-breadth escapes and perplexities, the detail and reasons of which we could not always comprehend, she is again brought back to Lord Denmore's house and favourable opinion. It now comes to light, that Gertrude, a supposed poor dependent, is heiress of a cuntless fortune. Sir William St. Leger returns from India, ?" di knowledges her to be his daughter, born, after his departure, at Denmore Castle, her mother having been confised to the care of his Lorchip. Sir William, underlanding from Gertrude, that there is a mutual affection between bus and my Lord, intends to make all parties happy; blii, ons discussing the subject with Denmore, finds that Denmore's love to Gertrude was that of one who could not be her hu.fund; for that he (Denmore) had been A FALSE FRIEND to Sir William, feduced the affections of his wife, and was actually Gertrudc's father! Sir William and he fight, Denmore is killed, Gertrude dies of grief. While these matters were going on among the principal personages, the inferior characters were not idle. The clergyman first-named, Treville, afterwards (for an eftate) Somerton, having caused the death of one unmarried lady, and one married lady, elopes with a second married lady, is, with his fair friend, drowned in sailing from Yarmouth (perhaps the writer meant Falmouth,) to Lisbon. There are five elopements, various rencounters, duels, and suicides ; seven are killed (including

those

those drowned ;) but the number of wounded and prisoners is not proportionably great, the former being only three, the latter five.

The catastrophe, as the reader will perceive, is very tragical, more so, indeed, than that of any performance that we have read since our perusal of the melancholy History of Tom Thumb, when the father, lover, mistress, and friends : HUNCAMUNCA, KING Arthur, Doodle Foodle, and TOM THUMB HIMSELF, are all subdued by relentless death.

Amidst her tragedy the author does not forget her politics, A very worthless Peer (Lord Arcot) is introduced as a fpecimen of the peerage in general ; as the very worthlefs clergyman, Somerton, is represented as a sample of the Clergy. Though we cannot coincide in the reasoning, that because there are wicked Lords, or Clergymen, the majority of those orders are bad, yet we think it not unnatural for the author to have concluded them so, as, perhaps, those Peers, or Churchmen, whoin the might have an opportunity of intimately knowing, were not the best and most exemplary of mankind.

As novel reading is so very general, we wish that species of writing were much more frequently undertaken by persons DISPOSED and ABLE to render it the vehicle of sense, knowledge, and just principles of politics and morality.

POETRY

ART. IX. The Epiphany. A Seatonian Prize Poem. By Wm.

Bolland, M. A. of Trinity College, Cambridge. Deighton, Cambridge; Rivingtons and Hatchard, London. 1799.

TH

"HIS is one of those rare effusions of the modern muse, in which

the power of poetry is fuccefsfully employed in the service of religion. The composition is rich, animated, and nervous, and appears highly deserving of the academic honours and distinction to which the public is indebted for its perusal. The sentiments and the language reflect equal credit on the author, and we could, with plea. sure, present our readers with various and very favourable specimens of both, but we think it would be a species of injustice to Mr. Bolland to make many or large extracts from a work which extends 10 fo few pages. We shall, therefore, content ourselves with the selection of a fingle patrage, persuaded that it will induce those to have immediate recourse to the original, who prefer the classic purity, the dignified devotion, and the charte fublimity, of Milton, to the

meretricious

meretricious ornaments, quaint personifications, and wanton puerili. ties of Darwin.

We have made cloice of the following lines, not because they are superior to many others in the poem, but because the author has ingeniously contrived to introduce in them a merited compliment to our gallant countrymen, to which we are proud to give this additional currency :--

"1 "Tis not the tinsell’d robe of gay parade,
Nor the lowl plaudits of a thousand tongues ;
'Tis not to shine in Courts, or to command
The attentive ears of listening Senators;
'Tis not the laurel in the tented field,
Pluckt amid wounds and death, nor that renown,
Transcendent tho' its value, which awaits
Those gallant chiefs, to thy maternal arms,
Britannia, justly dear, who o'er the waves,
With dauntless courage, have to victory led
Thy floating bulwarks, and to hostile Thores
Thundering defiance, whispered peace to thine ;
'Tis not these mark'd distinctions can alone
Ennobie man and fit him for the skies;
No, 'tis that inward worth, which passing shew
Directs to good ; that moleft purity,
That breathes its hallow'd influence o'er the heart,
And wakes it to devotion; that, amid
The scoffs and censures of an idle world
Strengthens the juft resolve, which bids us e'en
(If heav'n demands fo large a sacrifice)
Our fortune, friends, and country, to forego,
And, like the sages, whom the mufe has sung,

Brave every danger in the cause of God.” There are two or three typographical errors, but they are scarcely worth noticing

POLITICS.

Art. IX. The Speech of Lord Minto, in the House of Peers,

April 11, 1799, on a Motion for an Address to His Majesty, to
communicate the Resolutions of the two Houses of Parliament,
respecting an Union between Great Britain and Ireland. 8vo.
Pp. 153. Price 25. 6d. Stockdale, London. 1799.
'HIS is a printed speech of Lord Minto, made April 11, 1799,

upon the question of the Union with Ireland, where that im. portant measure is treated in a manner suitable to his Lordship’s

known

[ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsett »