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ARTICLE VI.

1. Jack Sheppard. A Romance. By W. HARRISON AINS

WORTH, Esq. 3 vols. Bentley 2. Michael Armstrong, or the Factory Boy. By FRANCES

TroLLOPE. Nos. 1. to 10. Colburn. THERE are signs in the present literary times, which, we think, claim importunately the strict attention of the public. They do not reveal themselves only to the keen searcher of nooks and corners, neither to catch their interpretation is a fine ear required; but they stand plainly evident in the highways; and the sound which accompanies them forces itself upon the notice through all that Babel of mingled discord and harmony, which (to speak fancifully) makes up the voice of life in England. The sign to be treated on the present occasion, is the condition of our lighter popular literature; a subject of serious importance, when viewed in conjunction with that grave and complex question, now occupying so prominent a place in our discussions--the education of the people.

As text to the considerations which follow, we avail ourselves of Mr. Ainsworth's last romance, which has gained him so bad a notoriety; and of Mrs. Trollope's attempt to rival Mr. Dickens, which, fortunately, has failed to increase a bad notoriety already gained. But, in the outset, we must observe, that, considering “ Jack Sheppard” and “ The Factory Boy" merely as the legitimate children of a long line of ancestorsas the cousins-german of many other works approved, for their tendency, by the feeling and philanthropic,--the protest here offered against them is no echo of that cry of astonished Innocence suddenly awakened in the midst of a dream of human perfectibility, which has been raised by some; still less, a chorus to that Anathema which a compulsory advertence to decorum has extorted from others, and those the very persons whose plaudits and sympathy have fostered their production, Well is it, that the press should raise its voice, and declare that this attempt to reproduce in the novel the jail-bird and the house-breaker, is vicious and offensive ;

tres crowded with the waifs and strays of the London streets to applaud agonizing scenes which had been spiced with their last groans and convulsions under the superintendence of Mr. Ainsworth himself,—to admire vivid tableaux arranged by his coadjutor, Mr. Cruickshank; the latter, alas ! how sadly sunk from the high moral position he might have occupied as Hogarth's far-off successor! Well is it, that every police-case of crime and misdemeanour springing from this Jack-Sheppard mania, circulating among the idle and untaught myriads of St. Giles's and St. George's fields, should be brought forward and illustrated in severe italics. But better would it be if that same press could acquit itself of having begotten the monster now found so noxious-of having sharpened, if not created, that unwholesome appetite, which could not fail, at last, to condescend to garbage-of having hastened that movement, the final direction of which was the mire and the foul odours of the kennel !

In examining how far the press has or has not done this, and in illustrating our inquiry with facts and testimonies not easily to be put aside, the somewhat unusual course presents itself, of dwelling for awhile upon a detail previous to approaching the general features of the subject,—that detail being the career and position of Mr. Ainsworth as an author. To describe this will be neither a long nor a difficult task. Mr. Ainsworth possesses the merit of being neither hasty nor frequent in his intercourse with the public. His early tale “Sir John Chiverton” is known to very few, and only to be regarded as an evidence of promise. If intermediate works there be, betwixt its appearance and that of "Rookwood,” they have slipped out of sight :-for it is upon that romance and “ Crichton,” its successor, that the renown was based, which has now spread from boundary to boundary of the empire of the New Police, and too far, we fear, within the jurisdiction of many a county magistracy.

It is needless to recapitulate the incidents of the plot of “ Rookwood.” The author's manner of working is more to the purpose. As it is now (and the sign is worth noting) required of almost every writer of a certain popularity, to account for his dealings with the public by the profession of strange mixture of slang, sportsmanship and sorcery, would probably say, that his tale was elaborated in illustration of the same solemn word as that to which the morbid splendours of Victor Hugo's "Notre Dame de Paris' owe their accumulation. Destiny would probably bear the blame of the scenes in the church-vault and the doings of the fiend-like sextonDestiny would be brought to apologize for the monstrous wickedness of lady Rookwood in her husband's sick chamber --Destiny would be alleged to be the mover of the atrocities of the gipsies' haunt,-scenes, one and all elaborated with the utmost pains,—in their turgid distortion caricaturing the wildest extravagances of Maturin, but unredeemed by any glimpses of that poetical spirit, which, with all his tawdriness, Maturin possessed. Of this we hold Mr. Ainsworth to be devoid ; celebrated though he be among his admirers, as successful in that sweetest exercise of poetry, song-writing. He can select the thoughts and images which arrange themselves effectively in a lyrical form, and make up a burden certain to catch, if not to keep, the ear; he is familiar with the quips and contrivances of versification; but of that melody of the heart, with which every lyric of Shakspeare and Ben Jonson overflows, and which our modern song-writers, Burns, Beranger and Moore, in a less measure possess, he has nothing. Not one of his songs has struck root. And it is the deficiency of this true poetical spirit which makes his prose descriptions labour as they proceed. Not one single touch or colour in them has of itself any significance. Effort is laid to effort, word piled upon word, allusion tacked to allusion, with as florid a liberality as that of the Irish streetballad maker, who intending to extol the charms of his mistress, compares her to "the famous duchess of Bavaria and Dido the African Queen.” With much care, there is no force of dialogue; with much parade of wit and passion, never an exclamation or a repartee which either Tragedy or Comedy would consent to own.

Of the assertions we have just made, it may not be amiss to offer proof, by citing a passage from each of Mr Ainsworth's novels, chosen rather with regard to brevity, than as offering the fullest illustration of the positions we have laid down which could be found. The first, taken from “ Rook

tres crowded with the waifs and strays of the London streets to applaud agonizing scenes which had been spiced with their last groans and convulsions under the superintendence of Mr. Ainsworth himself,—to admire vivid tableaux arranged by his coadjutor, Mr. Cruickshank; the latter, alas ! how sadly sunk from the high moral position he might have occupied as Hogarth's far-off successor! Well is it, that every police-case of crime and misdemeanour springing from this Jack-Sheppard mania, circulating among the idle and untaught myriads of St. Giles's and St. George's fields, should be brought forward and illustrated in severe italics. But better would it be if that same press could acquit itself of having begotten the monster now found so noxious-of having sharpened, if not created, that unwholesome appetite, which could not fail, at last, to condescend to garbage-of having hastened that movement, the final direction of which was the mire and the foul odours of the kennel !

In examining how far the press has or has not done this, and in illustrating our inquiry with facts and testimonies not easily to be put aside, the somewhat unusual course presents itself, of dwelling for awhile upon a detail previous to approaching the general features of the subject,—that detail being the career and position of Mr. Ainsworth as an author. To describe this will be neither a long nor a difficult task. Mr. Ainsworth possesses the merit of being neither hasty nor frequent in his intercourse with the public. His early tale “Sir John Chiverton” is known to very few, and only to be regarded as an evidence of promise. If intermediate works there be, betwixt its appearance and that of "Rookwood,” they have slipped out of sight:--for it is upon that romance and “ Crichton,” its successor, that the renown was based, which has now spread from boundary to boundary of the empire of the New Police, and too far, we fear, within the jurisdiction of many a county magistracy.

It is needless to recapitulate the incidents of the plot of “Rookwood.” The author's manner of working is more to the purpose. As it is now (and the sign is worth noting) required of almost every writer of a certain popularity, to account for his dealings with the public by the profession of strange mixture of slang, sportsmanship and sorcery, would probably say, that his tale was elaborated in illustration of the same solemn word as that to which the morbid splendours of Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris' owe their accumulation. Destiny would probably bear the blame of the scenes in the church-vault and the doings of the fiend-like sextonDestiny would be brought to apologize for the monstrous wickedness of lady Rookwood in her husband's sick chamber -Destiny would be alleged to be the mover of the atrocities of the gipsies' haunt,-scenes, one and all elaborated with the utmost pains,-in their turgid distortion caricaturing the wildest extravagances of Maturin, but unredeemed by any glimpses of that poetical spirit, which, with all his tawdriness, Maturin possessed. Of this we hold Mr. Ainsworth to be devoid ; celebrated though he be among his admirers, as successful in that sweetest exercise of poetry, song-writing. He can select the thoughts and images which arrange themselves effectively in a lyrical form, and make up a burden certain to catch, if not to keep, the ear; he is familiar with the quips and contrivances of versification; but of that melody of the heart, with which every lyric of Shakspeare and Ben Jonson overflows, and which our modern song-writers, Burns, Beranger and Moore, in a less measure possess, he has nothing. Not one of his songs has struck root. And it is the deficiency of this true poetical spirit which makes his prose descriptions labour as they proceed. Not one single touch or colour in them has of itself any significance. Effort is laid to effort, word piled upon word, allusion tacked to allusion, with as florid a liberality as that of the Irish streetballad maker, who intending to extol the charms of his mistress, compares her to “the famous duchess of Bavaria and Dido the African Queen.” With much care, there is no force of dialogue; with much parade of wit and passion, never an exclamation or a repartee which either Tragedy or Comedy would consent to own.

Of the assertions we have just made, it may not be amiss to offer proof, by citing a passage from each of Mr Ainsworth's novels, chosen rather with regard to brevity, than as offering the fullest illustration of the positions we have laid down which could be found. The first, taken from “Rook

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