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THE BOROUGH.

LETTER XX.

ELLEN ORFORD. (')

OBSERVE yon tenement, apart and small,
Where the wet pebbles shine upon the wall;
Where the low benches lean beside the door,
And the red paling bounds the space before;
Where thrift, and lavender, and lad's-love (2)
bloom,

That humble dwelling is the widow's home;
There live a pair, for various fortunes known,
But the blind Ellen will relate her own;-

-

(1) The Life of Ellen Orford, though sufficiently burdened with error and misfortune, has in it little besides, which resembles those of the unhappy men in the preceding Letters, and is still more unlike that of Grimes, in a subsequent one. There is in this character cheerfulness and resignation, a more uniform piety, and an immovable trust in the aid of religion. This, with the light texture of the introductory part, will, I hope, take off from that idea of sameness, which the repetition of crimes and distresses is likely to create.

(2) The lad's or boy's love, of some counties, is the plant southern-wood, the Artemisia Abrotanum of botanists.

Yet ere we hear the story she can tell,
On prouder sorrows let us briefly dwell.

I've often marvel'd, when, by night, by day,
I've mark'd the manners moving in my way,
And heard the language and beheld the lives
Of lass and lover, goddesses and wives,
That books, which promise much of life to give,
Should show so little how we truly live. (1)

To me it seems, their females and their men
Are but the creatures of the author's pen;
Nay, creatures borrow'd and again convey'd
From book to book-the shadows of a shade:
Life, if they'd search, would show them many a
change;

The ruin sudden, and the misery strange !

With more of grievous, base, and dreadful things,
Than novelists relate or poet sings : (2)

But they, who ought to look the world around,
Spy out a single spot in fairy-ground;
Where all, in turn, ideal forms behold,
And plots are laid and histories are told.

(1) ["That 'le vrai n'est pas toujours vraisemblable,' we do not deny ; but we are prepared to insist that, while le vrai' is the highest recommendation of the historian of real life, the vraisemblable' is the only legitimate province of the novelist who aims at improving the understanding or touching the heart."— GIFFORD.]

(2) [

"Truth is always strange

Stranger than fiction. If it could be told,

How much would Novels gain by the exchange?" &c. — BYRON. See antè, vol. ii. p. 60.]

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Time have I lent-I would their debt were less-
To flow'ry pages of sublime distress ;
And to the heroine's soul-distracting fears
I early gave my sixpences and tears:

Oft have I travell'd in these tender tales,
To Darnley-Cottages (1) and Maple- Vales, (2)
And watch'd the fair-one from the first-born sigh,
When Henry pass'd and gazed in passing by;
Till I beheld them pacing in the park,
Close by a coppice where 't was cold and dark;
When such affection with such fate appear'd,
Want and a father to be shunn'd and fear'd,
Without employment, prospect, cot, or cash;
That I have judged th' heroic souls were rash.

Now shifts the scene, the fair in tower confined, In all things suffers but in change of mind; Now woo'd by greatness to a bed of state, Now deeply threaten'd with a dungeon's grate; Till, suffering much, and being tried enough, She shines, triumphant maid!-temptation-proof.

Then was I led to vengeful monks, who mix With nymphs and swains, and play unpriestly tricks; Then view'd banditti who in forest wide, And cavern vast, indignant virgins hide; Who, hemm'd with bands of sturdiest rogues about, Find some strange succour, and come virgins out.

(1) The title of a novel, in three volumes, written by Mrs. Elizabeth Bonhote, the author also of Bungay Castle, Ellen Woodley, &c.]

(2) [Maple Vale, or the History of Miss Sydney, was published anonymously in 1790.]

I've watch'd a wint'ry night on castle-walls, I've stalk'd by moonlight through deserted halls, And when the weary world was sunk to rest, I've had such sights as-may not be express'd. (1)

Lo! that château, the western tower decay'd, The peasants shun it,-they are all afraid; For there was done a deed!-could walls reveal, Or timbers tell it, how the heart would feel! Most horrid was it :-for, behold, the floor Has stain of blood, and will be clean no more: Hark to the winds! which through the wide saloon And the long passage send a dismal tune, Music that ghosts delight in ;—and now heed Yon beauteous nymph, who must unmask the deed;

(1) ["This species of composition cannot be traced higher than the Castle of Otranto, by Horace Walpole. The following curious account of the origin and composition of this romance is given by the author himself, in a letter to a friend :- Shall I confess to you what was the origin of this romance? I waked one morning, in the beginning of last June, from a dream, of which all I could recover was, that I had thought myself in an ancient castle (a very natural dream for a head filled, like mine, with Gothic story), and that on the uppermost banister of a great staircase, I saw a gigantic hand, in armour. In the evening, I sat down and began to write, without knowing in the least what I intended to say or relate. The work grew on my hands, and I grew fond of it. Add, that I was very glad to think of any thing rather than politics. In short, I was so impressed with my tale, which I completed in less than two months, that one evening I wrote from the time I had drunk tea, about six o'clock, till half an hour after one in the morning, when my hand and fingers were so weary, that I could not hold the pen to finish the sentence, but left Matilda and Isabella talking, in the middle of a paragraph.' — The work is declared by Mr. Walpole to be an attempt to blend the ancient romance and modern novel; but if by the ancient romance be meant the tales of chivalry, the extravagance of the Castle of Otranto has no resemblance to their machinery. What analogy have skulls or skeletons, sliding panels, damp vaults, trap doors, and dismal apartments, to the tented field of chivalry and its airy enchantments?" - DUNLOP.]

See! with majestic sweep she swims alone,
Through rooms, all dreary, guided by a groan:
Though windows rattle, and though tap'stries shake,
And the feet falter every step they take,
'Mid moans and gibing sprights she silent goes,
To find a something, which will soon expose
The villanies and wiles of her determined foes:
And, having thus adventured, thus endured,
Fame, wealth, and lover, are for life secured. (1)
Much have I fear'd, but am no more afraid,
When some chaste beauty, by some wretch betray'd,
Is drawn away with such distracted speed,
That she anticipates a dreadful deed:

(1) ["There is a certain class of novelists in whose drama nothing is real: their scenes are fancy, and their actors mere essences. The hero and heroine are generally paragons of courage, beauty, and virtue; they reside in such castles as never were built, in the midst of such forests as never grew, infested by such hordes of robbers and murderers as were never collected together. In the small number of those novels which have any plan or meaning, all is modelled on a certain principle, and every event predisposed to conduce to a certain object. Virtue is to be always persecuted, never overpowered, and, at the close, invariably rewarded; while vice, on the other hand, triumphant through all the previous scenes, is sure to be immolated, in the last, by the sword of retribution. This kind of novel is useless: the lessons it teaches are mere enthusiasm and romance: for the every-day occurrences of life, there is inculcated a magnanimous contempt; and the mind, taught to neglect or despise the common duties of society, is either wound up to a pitch of heroism which never can be tried, or fixed in erroneous principles of morality and duty from which it is not easily reclaimed." - GIFford.

"On the contrary, in Sidney Biddulph, by Mrs. Sheridan, every affliction is accumulated on the innocent heroine, in order to show that neither prudence nor foresight, nor the best disposition of the human heart, are sufficient to defend from the evils of life. This work, we are told, was written in opposition to the moral system, then fashionable, that virtue and happiness are constant concomitants, or, as expressed by Congreve, in the conclusion of the Mourning Bride, —

'That blessings ever wait on virtuous deeds,
And, though a late, a sure reward succeeds.'"-

DUNLOP.]

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