Imágenes de páginas

mans and Germany, which should be, if they are not, nearest to her heart."

" And so they are, papa," said the young girl, drawing herself up with a mock pride. “Do you forget that we are on the banks of the Rhine, the very name of which wakes the love of Vaterland' in every German breast? That which I admire in your country, Mr. Sherwood," she blushed a little as she turned to me," is your constitution, your liberty without license, your constant reform without revolution, and that feature in your character which fits you to receive the unbounded gift of liberty - a gift which is abused in America and France, and would be so, I fear, in Germany, if there were any chance of our being offered it."

I was astonished at this burst of political enthusiasm in so young a girl; and even her father looked on as if he delighted to see how the mind which he had trained himself could use its newly-fledged wings. : "But, my child,” he said, laying his band on her shoulder, "you forget that we can educate the German mind to receive the liberty which will one day be offered it. You forget that nearly a third of the entire population is brought up at the gymnasiums and the universities supported by each go Fernment; that it is possible for the professors of these establishments to unite in mingling as much political training as they please with their every. day lectures ; that where the object to be gained is so immense, the Jesuit. ism in this abuse of trust is quite ex. cusable - ."

“Yes," she interrupted ; " and what follows ? Exile for life from the place of one's birth, and the loss of one's little all."

“Child, child !” replied her father, “this it but a small price to pay for such a prize. But,” he added sud. denly, “this disquisition can scarcely amuse our guests. We must treat them better. Go, child, and prepare us a bowl of Maitrank, and let it be of your best. It is just the kind of even ing for it."

Shall I weary you with the long conversations that ensued around that social bowl of Rhenish nectar, which was certainly of your very best Beatrix. How well I remember the old china basin in which it was served, and which you told me was bought

from a collection in that fine old palace of the Electors of Mayence, the dark red front of which smiles peacefully at the very edge of the Rhine. How well I remember the quaint taste of the wood-roof, which you bathed in just the right proportions in that brisk old Lahnecker. And the subjects we dis. cussed, I could almost tell you every word each of us said, and the tone in which we said them. We went glibly from one topic to another, as those do whose minds are full of rich thought, and like a kaleidoscope, need but a shake to form a new pattern of ideas. Von Ritter spoke little, but well, as if a spell was on his mind. My interest in him was growing deep, and I watched his expression as we talked freely on many subjects. It was the smile of an old man, listening to children's prattle of a master hearing his disciples dispute-of one who sees all things from a higher watch-tower than the rest of the world—who looks down on the earth as on a globe, a planet, a star.

And what,” he cried, suddenly, “what good chance brought you to Niederlahnstein ?"

“Why," replied Konrad, « Fate seems to have set a great importance on our coming, for she took very strong measures to ensure it, and would have even sacrificed the life of Karl here, that I might have the pleasure of meeting you again."

“So you are the authors of all my misery,” cried Beatrix, laughing. “How wrong of you, Monsieur Sherwood, to try and drown yourself in that way. I assure you it shocked me awfully. I was sitting on my favourite turret in the castle, reading and thinking-for the place is fitted for both-when I saw a boat floating down the stream. I thought I recognised one of the figures in it, and I stared hard at them, till I saw they were staring at me in return. I was just going down, when I saw you thrown out, and the boat dashed frightfully over the rapid, whirling round and round in a most dangerous manner. I certainly expected you would be drowned, but I had some vague idea that by rushing down and sending assistance I might be in time to save you. To say the truth, I did not reason much on the matter, for I could not stay and look on while any one was drowning; and I determined

to do what I could. I need not tell remember those verses of your English you that I arrived long after you had poetess, Mrs. Butler ?reached the inn, as I heard froin old

" Better trust all and be deceived, Babette, who had seen you pass, and

And weep that trust and that deceivingwho was congregated with one or two Than doubt one word, which if believed,

Had blessed thy life with true believing.'." old gossips of the village, with varied accounts of the accident."

When that night I lay between the "Well,” said I, with heartfelt sin- well-aired sheets at « The Crown,” a cerity," the affair, as it was, was most cloud of struggling thoughts jostled fortunate; and I would undergo the through my brain. torments of drowning a hundred times Somehow, Beatrix was ever the foremore for the same number of evenings most of these fancies. I asked myself, like this. But there is another thing why she had persisted in talking to for which I have to thank fate to-day. me, when I purposely engaged the For the first time in my life, I have Professor, in order to leave her alone discovered that I am really attached to with Konrad, I asked myself, how it it. A little while back, I hated my was that Konrad took so little notice existence, and had sundry suicidal of her, except at their first greeting, feelings, which made me really miser. and I strove to explain the affectionate able. Yet to-day, when there was a relations of Konrad and Von Ritter. chance of getting rid of it, I clung to At length an idea seized me. it with obstinacy."

“ Konrad," I cried across the room “And why do you hate life?" she --for it was double-bedded_" are you asked, quietly, but for the first time asleep, old boy?" evincing an interest in what I said. A grunt responsive assured me that

“ Because," I replied, “life with he was still open to a communication. out love, is like night without stars. “What do you say to returning Love is the only thing that makes life here from Coblentz, and pitching our beautiful, or even pleasing. One must tents here for a short time. I have have some interest. From God to long wished to read Philosophy with gold, from the highest to the vilest some one, and Von Ritter is just the love, men's hearts range, and each has man. Then you would have the its interest. But I am so fashioned, charms of Fräulein Beatrix, and the that I can but love the Beautiful and time would spin merrily away." the Good, and these exist not upon “You are quite on the wrong tack earth. There are semblances of them, there," returned Konrad, rousing him. and one is tricked into loving them, self, and sitting up. " The cloud, only to find that one has been duped, Karl, is for you, not for me. But the and that one ought to despise what idea is capital. I know Von Ritter will one has had the folly to admire. I, be delighted. This is a charming too, have had friends. I knew one little spot to stay at. Let it be so." man whom I looked upon as the great And then the delight of the idea prophet of the age. His genius knew improving on acquaintance, we both no limits-his ambitions touched the jumped out of bed in our nocturnal stars_his goodness oozed out at every togas, and danced a North American moment. And this paragon, who spoke war-whoop, frightening mine host into in poetry, and who thought with the fits with our jubilates. What boys we golden brain of angels--this second were then ! Baptist-what was he, after all ? A. However, the next night we danced practised gambler, an habitual black a yet more jovial hornpipe on the same leg, one whose soul, with all its aspi- floor, in the same attire. The Profesrations, could descend to secreting the sor had assented with alacrity. Beaace of diamonds or the knave of spades. trix had clapped her white hands in What could I do, but laugh at my own delight at the idea. The steamer had dullness, and swear never to have an. brought ourselves and luggage from other friend on earth ?"

Coblentz, and we were finally located She mused still, when I had done in the house of the lugubrious innspeaking. At last she said." Do you keeper.

A TRIO OF AMERICAN SAILOR-AUTHORS. ANERICA bas produced three authors, would observe that, as regards seawho, having acquired their knowledge novels, not one realises our idea of of sea-life in a practical manner,* have what this species of literature ought written either nautical novels or nar- to be. A sea-novel, to which we can ratives of the highest degree of excel appeal as a standard by which to judge lence. We allude to Fenimore Cooper, the general artistic merits of similar R. H. Dana, jun., and Herman Mel compositions, is yet, and will, we fear, ville, each of whom has written at least long continue to be, a desideratum. one book, which is, in our estimation, In many so-called naval fictions, twodecidedly Al. Our task here happily thirds or more of the scenes are deis not to institute a critical comparison scribed as occurring on shore, and the of the respective merits of American actors are more frequently landsmen and English sea-novelists and writers; than sailors; and even in the very best but we do not hesitate incidentally to works of the class we find not a few admit that, to say the very least, chapters occupied by scenes and cha. America worthily rivals us in this de- racters which have no connexion whatpartment of literature. Taking Cooper, ever with the sea. A genuine sea story for instance, all in all, we question should be evolved afloat from first to greatly whether any English author last; its descriptions should be conexcels him as a sea-novelist. Our fined to the ocean and its coasts to two best are Marryat and Michael ships and their management; its cha. Scott (“ Tom Cringle "), but they are racters should exclusively be seamen in some respects essentially inferior to (unless a fair heroine be introduced on Cooper; and although they both have shipboard); its episodes and all its invery great distinctive merits of their cidental materials should smack of seaown, in what shall we deliberately pro- life and adventure- the land, and all nounce them superior to the great that exclusively pertains thereto, should American? Turn to Dana, and where as much as possible be sunk and foris the English author, living or dead, gotten ! But, it will be asked, has a who has written a book descriptive of book of this kind yet been written ? real foremast life worthy to be com. No, it has not. And if the most emipared with 6 Two Years before the nent naval novelists have not attempted Mast ?" Again, to select only a single such a performance, does not that work by Herman Melville, where shall prove that they considered the idea we find an English picture of man-of. one that could not be practically car. war life to rival his marvellous White ried out? So at least it would appear, Jacket ?" Tastes and opinions of and very successful nautical writers excourse vary, and there may be, and plicitly give their testimony against doubtless are, able and intelligent cri- our theory. For example, Captain tics who will dissent from our verdict; Chamier--whose “ Ben Brace," and but we may be permitted to say that other nautical novels and narratives we believe very few works of nautical are, by the way, very little inferior to fiction and narrative (by either English Marryat’s_in his “ Life of a Sailor," or American authors) exist, with which makes the following remark: we are not familiar.

Ere proceeding to consider the pecu- " The mere evolutions of a ship, the inliar and distinguishing excellencies of terior arrangements, the nautical expresour three American sailor-authors, we sions, would soon pall on a landsman. Even

* All three, be it observed, have sailed before the mast ; for although Cooper was six years a midshipman in the United States' navy, he previously made one or more voyages as an ordinary ship-boy in a merchantman. See the autobiography of “Ned Myers," written by his old messmate, Cooper himself. We speak from memory on this point, not having a Copy of “ Ned Myers” to refer to; and, singularly enough, we read it in the garb of a French translation when on board a foreign vessel years ago, and have never seen it in the original. A cheap English edition has been subsequently issued.


Marryat, who wrote, in my opinion, the very best naval novel ever penned, “The King's Own,' has found it impossible to keep to nautical scenes ; and the author of the * Post Captain,' a most excellent specimen of nautical life, has wisely painted the beauty of Cassandra, and made most of the interesting scenes occur on shore."

We dissent decidedly from much which our gallant friend here main. tains. The evolutions of Cooper's ships, and the “nautical expressions” which he puts in the mouths of his characters, do not pall; the “ King's Own" is not the best naval novel that even Marryat himself penned ; and as to the “ Post Captain," we admit that two or three opening chapters of that very coarsely-written anonymous work are pretty good, but all the rest are unmitigated balderdash ; and how it happened that many editions of such a miserable performance found pur. chasers, is a greater mystery to us than a reel in a bottle was to our venerable great-grandmother. We must not digress further ; but we reiterate our firm belief that a nautical fiction strictly written on the plan we have proposed, if by a man of genius, would not merely be the facile princeps of its class of literature, but would delight landsmen as much as seamen, and interest all hands to a greater degree than any work written on the mongrel system of alternately describing life at at sea and life on shore, which has hitherto prevailed.

According to an American autho. rity, Fenimore Cooper became a naval novelist through the following circumstance. Some literary friends were praising Scott's “Pirate," but Cooper laughed at its pretensions to be regard. ed as a sea-story, and said that he would undertake to produce a work which landsmen would read and ap. preciate, and which seamen would ad. mire, for its truthful descriptions of nautical maneuvres. &c. He redeem ed his pledge by writing “ The Pilot,” the best and most popular of all his nautical fictions. The genius of Cooper, both as a sea-novelist and as an unrivalled writer of romances, de scriptive of life in the woods and prairies of America, did not, like rich old wine, improve and ripen with age. After he had written less than a dozen works, there was a manifest falling off both in the conception and execution of his stories ; and although he inde.

fatigably continued to labour to the last for the entertainment of that public which had once hailed the an. nouncement of a new work by him with eager interest, his most ardent admirers cared less and less for each succeeding effort that be put forth. In justice to his memory,let us observe, that the very high standard which Cooper's own earlier achievments in nautical and other species of fiction had taught us to apply to works of their class, itself operated to his serious disadvantage as regarded the later productions of his pen ; for we naturally compared the latter with the former, and the result was decidedly unfavourable. Yet we are bold to say that even the poorest of Cooper's works possesses considerable merit in itself ; and had it appeared as the production of a new or of an anonymous writer, might have been better received than as the acknowledged work of an author of illustrious reputation.

Cooper's nautical fictions may be divided into three classes as regards their merit. In the first class we should place the “ Pilot” and the “ Red Rover;” in the second, the “ Two Admirals," the “ Waterwitch," and “ Jack-o' Lantern ;" in the third, " Homeward Bound," " Captain Spike," Sea Lions," &c. task is not to criticise these works in detail, but to consider what are the distinguishing merits of the author, as manifested in a greater or less degree, in his various sea fictions.

The first striking quality of Cooper, is the admirable clearness and accuracy of his descriptions of the maneu. vres, &c., of ships. Even a landsman who is ignorant, practically, of such things, must appreciate this, and be enabled to comprehend, at least in a general manner, the object and results of the efforts of seamanship so vividly delineated. We never noted any technical or professional error on Cooper's part, and whatever he himself might be practically, he certainly was a good seaman theoretically

Secondly-Cooper possessed an absolutely unparalleled faculty of imparting-to his ships a species of living in. terest. He, indeed, makes a vessel “ walk the waters like a thing of life;" and the reader gradually feels an absorbing interest in her motions and her fate as an individual craft. We refer to the Ariel in the “ Pilot," or to the rover's ship and the Royal Caroline

in the “ Red Rover '') as wonderful instances of this peculiar talent.

Thirdly - He is unsurpassed in the power he possesses to invest the ocean itself with attributes of awe-striking sublimity and mystery. His mind, in a word, was intensely poetical, and in his earlier works especially, he revels in fine poetical imagery in connexion with the sea and ships. This is one reason why (as we happen to know) his works are not so popular with practical seamen as Captain Marryat's, for seamen themselves are generally very prosaic, matter-of-fact mortals, and do not regard their profession, nor the ocean, nor ships, in a poetical light. To illustrate some of our preceding observations, we shall here quote a small portion of the magnificently-written description of the chase of the Royal Caroline by the Dolphin, in the “ Red Rover." The time is just previous to daybreak :

" The dim tracery of the stranger's form had been swallowed by the flood of misty light, which, by this time, rolled along the sea like drifting vapour, semi-pellucid, preternatural, and seemingly tangible. The ocean itself seemed admonished that a quick and violent change was nigh. The waves had ceased to break in their former foaming and brilliant crests, but black masses of the water were seen lifting their surly summits against the eastern horizon, no longer relieved by their scintillating brightness, or shedding their own peculiar and lucid att mosphere around them. The breeze, which had been so fresh, and which had even blown, at times, with a force that nearly amounted to a little gale, was lulling and becoming uncertain, as though awed by the more violent power that was gathering along the borders of the sea in the direction of the neighbouring continent. Each moment the eastern puffs of air lost their strength, and became more and more feeble, until, in an incredibly short period, the heavy sails were heard Happing against the masts—a frightful and ominous calm succeeding."

" The lucid and fearful-looking mist which for the last quarter of an hour had been gathering in the north-west, was now driving down upon them with the speed of a racehorse. The air had already lost the damp and peculiar feeling of an easterly breeze, and little eddies were beginning to flutter among the masts — precursors of a coming squall. Then a rushing, roaring sound was heard moaning along the ocean, whose surface was first dimpled, next ruffled, and finally covered with one sheet of clear, white, and spotless foam. At the next instant the power of the wind fell full on the inert and labouring Bristol trader. .. . Happy was it for all who had life at risk in that defenceless vessel, that she was not fated to receive the whole weight of the tempest at a blow. The sails fluttered and trembled on their massive yards, bellying and collapsing alternately for a minute, and then the rushing wind swept over them in a hurricane. The Caroline received the blast like a stout and buoyant vessel, yielding readily to its impulse, until her side lay nearly incumbent on the element in which she floated; and then, as if the fearful

e fabric were conscious of its jeopardy, it seemed to lift its reclining masts again, struggling to work its way heavily through the water."

Now, is not the above a piece of splendid descriptive writing? And we can assure our landsmen friends that seamen (and any person of an observant turn, who has had opportunities of beholding and noting the mysterious phenomena of ocean), will bear witness to its perfect truth and fidelity. But of ten thousand spectators of such a scene, would there be one who could describe it in a few lines in such a vivid and masterly manner as our author has done?

Fourthly-Cooper's leading characters among the seamen are, in many instances, highly - finished portraits, drawn by the hand of a great master ; and the reader instinctively feels that they are not mere conventional mari. ners of the melodramatic school, but genuine blue-water salts, who exhibit special individual idiosyncracies in ad. dition to the general characteristics of their class. The two finest and most elaborate portraits in the entire Cooper sea-gallery are Long Tom Coffin in the

Pilot," and Dick Fid in the “ Red Rover." In their way, they both are perfect, and quite Shaksperian. They never yet have been equalled in naval fiction, nor do we think they ever will be surpassed.

Cooper's sea-novels have several distinguishing peculiarities besides those we have already pointed out. It is worth observing, that they rarely exhibit anything like an artistic plot.

A yet more powerful picture of the ocean during one of its frequent changes, is given in an earlier part of the same narrative. Cooper himself never penned anything more striking, more poetical, and yet true to pature, than the following grand passage :

« AnteriorContinuar »