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scription of people, equally precocious, and equally possessed of a lively fancy, and an acute perception of character, with the single advantage of belonging to a later generation, the author of Persuasion and Mansfield Park has produced works of much fresher verdure, much sweeter flavour, and much purer spirit. Without any wish to surprise us into attention, by strangeness of incident, or complication of adventure, with no great ambition of being amazingly facetious, or remarkably brilliant,-laboriously witty, or profoundly sentimental,of dealing out wise saws and deep reflections, or keeping us on the broad grin, and killing us with laughter;-the stream of her Tale flows on in an easy, natural, but spring tide, which carries us out of ourselves, and bears our feelings, affections, and deepest interest, irresistibly along with it. She has not been at the trouble to look out for subjects for her pencil of a peculiar and eccentric cast, nor cared to outstep the modesty of nature, by spicing with a too rich vein of humour, such as fell in her way in the ordinary intercourse of life. The people with whom her works bring us acquainted were, we feel certain, like those among whom she herself shared the good and ill of life, with whom she thought and talked-danced and sung-laughed and wept-joked and reasoned. They are not the productions of an ingenious fancy, but beings instinct with life;-they breathe and move, and think and speak, and act, before our mind's eye, with a distinctness, that rivals the pictures we see in memory of scenes we ourselves have beheld, and upon the recollections of which we love to dwell. They mingle in our remembrances with those, whom we ourselves have known and loved, but whom accident, or coldness, or death, have separated from us before the end of our pilgrimage.
Into those of her characters in particular, who engage our best affections, and with whom we sympathise most deeply, she seems to have transfused the very essence of life. These are, doubtless, the finest of her compositions, and with reason; for she had only, on any supposed interesting occurrence of life, to set her own kind and amiable feelings in motion, and the tide sprang up from the heart to the pen, and flowed in a rich stream of nature and truth over the page. Into one particular character, indeed, she has breathed her whole soul and being; and in this we please ourselves with thinking, we 'see and know herself.
And what is this character?-A mind beautifully framed, graceful, imaginative, and feminine, but penetrating, sagacious, and profound.-A soul harmonious, gentle, and most sweetly attuned,-susceptible of all that is beautiful in nature, pure in morals, sublime in religion;-a soul-on which, if, by any accidental contact with the vulgar, or the vicious, the slightest
shade of impurity was ever thrown, it vanished instantaneously, like man's breath from the polished mirror; and, retreating, left it in undiminished lustre.-A heart large and expansive, the seat of deep, kind, honest, and benevolent feelings.-A bosom capacious of universal love, but through which there flowed a deeper stream of domestic and holy affections, -as a river through the lake's broad expanse, whose basin it supplies with its overflowing waters, and through which its course is marked only by a stronger current.-A temper even, cheerful, gladdening, and serene as the mild evening of summer's loveliest day, in which the very insect that lives but an hour, doth desport and enjoy existence.-Feelings generous and candid,—quick, but not irritable,-sensitive to the slightest degree of coolness in friend or lover, but not easily damped ;-or, if overwhelmed by any heart-rending affliction, rallying, collecting, settling into repose again, like some still and deep waters disturbed by the fall of an impending rock.-Modest in hope, sober in joy, gay in innocence,-sweet soother of others' affliction,-most resigned and patient bearer of her own. With a sunny eye to reflect the glad smiles of happy friends,-dim and cloudy at the sight of others' grief; but not revealing the deep seated woes of the remote chambers of her own breast, by aught but that wild, pensive, regardful, profound expression, which tells nothing to a stranger or acquaintance, but, if a parent or friend, might break your heart but to look upon.-The beloved confidante of the young and infantine-at once playmate and preceptress ;the patient nurser of their little fretful ailments;-the more patient bearer of their rude and noisy mirth, in her own moments of illness or dejection ;-exchanging smiles, that would arrest an angel on his winged way, for obstreperous laughs; and sweet low accents, for shrill treble screams. The friend of the humble, lowly, and indigent; respecting in them, as much as in those of highest degree and lordliest bearing, the image of their common Maker. Easy, pleasant, amusing, playful, and kind in the intercourse of equals—an attentive hearer, considerate, patient, cheerfully sedate, and affectionate in that of elders. In scenes of distress or difficulty, self-dependent, collected, deliberate, and provident, the one to whom all instinctively turned for counsel, sympathy, and consolation. Strong in innocence as a tower, with a face of serenity, and a collectedness of demeanour, from which danger and misery-the very tawny lion in his rage-might flee discomfited, a fragile, delicate, feeble, and most feminine woman!
Whether, in this enumeration of female excellencies, one of those deeply attached friends, of whom she was sure to have had many, might recognize some, or most of the admirable
qualities of JANE AUSTEN, we cannot say ;-but sure we are, if our memory have not failed us, or our fancy deceived us, or our hearts betrayed us, such, or nearly such, are those, of which she has herself compounded one of the most beautiful female characters ever drawn ;-we mean, the heroine of Persuasion.
But we have digressed farther than we intended.-Indeed, so fast and thick do recollections of what is beautiful and good in the works of this admirable woman, throng into our mind, that we are borne away involuntarily and irresistibly. They stole into the world without noise,-they circulated in quiet,they were far from being much extolled,--and very seldom noticed in the journals of the day,-they came into our hands, as nothing different from ordinary novels, and they have enshrined themselves in the heart, and live for ever in the thoughts,-along with the recollections of all that is best and purest in our own experience of life. Their author we, ourselves, had not the happiness of knowing,-a scanty and insufficient memoir, prefixed to her posthumous work, not written in the best taste, is all the history of her life, that we or the world have before us; but, perhaps, that history is not wanted, -her own works furnish that history. Those imaginary people, to whom she gave their most beautiful ideal existence, survive to speak for her, now that she herself is gone.
The mention of her works happened to fall in our way as the noblest illustration we could give of that improvement in this department of literature, which we are fond to believe in; but we frankly confess, we would, at any time, have travelled far out of it to pay our humble tribute of respect to the memory of Jane Austen. Nor is it so foreign to our regular speculations, as the reader may be apt to imagine. Our conversation, as one of our own number has well observed, is among the tombs; and there dwells all that once enshrined in a form of beauty a soul of exceeding and surpassing brightness.-O lost too soon to us!-but our loss has been thy immortal gain.
Writers, and the generation for which they write, act upon one another with mutual wholesome or pernicious influence. The taste of the age first inspires or corrupts the author, and then the author returns the benefit or injury, by inspiring or corrupting the age. Works, like those we have been considering, are calculated to recommend and widely diffuse the principles on which they are written. But the work of regeneration had previously began, and prepared the world for their reception; and it is to this general improvement in taste that the novelist owes the exaltation of his character; for, in endeavouring to win the public favour, he has ceased to be a writer of romance, and become the faithful historian of life and man
ners. He supplies that information, so essential to a complete knowledge of our species, which is wanted in history; but which history, occupied with great and national events, cannot descend to give. He, who in after times shall apply himself to the study of the present period, will not have to infer our private habits from dry notices, and insulated facts in our public annals, but will have before him a full and fair picture of the domestic life and manners of his ancestors. A species of writing so long held in dubious estimation has thus obtained a high rank in the literature of our age; and, having absorbed the dramatic talent of the nation, vies, in interest and dignity, with the noblest productions of our most illustrious bards. Nothing, indeed, but the flagrant abuse of this kind of composition could ever have occasioned it to be viewed in any other light, but to deny that the novel, as now written, is the pride and ornament of our literature, is mere ignorance and dotage. Had such note-takers, for example, existed in the times of Pericles and Aspasia, we should not have been left to glean scanty notices and form wrong conceptions of the Athenian character, from the pages of the great political satirist and libeller of his countrymen. What would we give for a fire-side view of those old Romans who conquered the world;to see, in the security, repose, and self-indulgence of domestic life, those whom we only know amidst the factions of state, and the toils, dangers, and excitation of war. They loved, doubtless, and hated,-they sang, and danced, and wept,-they had their intrigues, their fashions, their follies, their scandals;—the lives of ninety-nine out of a hundred were thus wasted;-they were as frail in all respects, as indulgent, as pleasant, as facetious, as humourous, as sentimental, as loving, and beloved as ourselves; but what do we see of all this? To us they are stern, haughty, and vindictive warriors, intriguing politicians,-factious statesmen,-abusive demagogues, and oppressive rulers. The English have been all this, more or less;-yet how far would he, who, from the perusal of their annals, had made this wonderful discovery, have travelled to a right view of their character? And even suppose him, by eking out his historical information, by the study of such political satires as time might have spared him, to have gained a notion, more or less just, of their national character, what conception would he be able to form of the individual Englishman?-one, perhaps, as just, as we, at this day, are instructed to entertain of the Athenian democrat, or Roman citizen.
It is by considerations of this sort, that we are made sensible of the value and importance of a description of writing, which is to transmit to posterity a full and fair view of the English character, and to prevent it from sustaining such egre
gious wrong at their hands, as the Ancients, and more particularÏy the Athenians, have suffered from some of our contemporaries. To us, at the present day, it may be only an amusement to see our own physiognomy reflected in a glass; but in some thirtieth or fortieth century of the Christian æra, when the English character and manners shall be studied as those of the Greeks and Romans are now, the learned Zealander of the southern hemisphere, or the polite native of New Holland, may be thankful to those who have handed down a faithful picture of times, as remote to him as those of the first Roman adventurers in Britain, and of our painted and skin-clad ancestors, are to us.
One who chose to carry his speculations, beyond mere matters of taste and feeling, might imagine that he beheld, in this sensible progress of the politer arts, an indication of the great moral improvement of his countrymen. And, in truth, however little the principles of taste may have to do with the policy of state, and the morals of a people, yet it is not impossible that the light, by which they have discovered truth in the one, may also serve to show them how to proceed in amending the other. That the improvement, in point of taste, is national, that is, that it extends through the whole of the liberal and enlightened part of society, we think ourselves authorized to assume; and, instead of looking for its causes in the writings of those great and illustrious authors, in whom that improvement is most clearly evinced, we rather take them to be the necessary consequences, and at the same time clearest, indications, of its general existence. The reformers of taste, as well as those of religion and government, are but the men of greatest genius and strongest minds of the age, who first chip the shell, and burst the ligatures, by which the understanding of man has been confined. The tide of reason and truth rises highest in those, no doubt, whom nature and education have best prepared for its reception; yet it flows not in those particular channels only, but works its irresistible way, with more or less rapidity, through the whole mass of society. But it is not only in the liberal arts that the progress of human improvement is evinced the very table on which we write--the furniture of the apartment in which we sit-every object that meets the eye, in which we trace the finger of man, when contrasted with the same as wrought by the artists of former days, forces upon us the conviction of the great progress which has been made, and, in these latter days, with even an accelerated rapidity, towards perfection in mechanism. In architecture, in dress, in equipage, and in every thing which the taste of the last age loaded with cumbrous and unmeaning decoration, we have begun to consider that shape or form to be the most elegant and perfect, which is best adapted to answer the intended purpose of the