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Carleton, and others. The whole soil of Ireland, and its races of people, have been laid open, like a new world, to the general reader.
8. English history was in like manner ransacked for materials for fiction. Scott had shown how much could be done in this department, by gathering up the scattered fragments of antiquarian research, or entering with the spirit and skill of genius into the manners and events of a bygone age. He had vivified and embodied — not described
9. Many authors have followed in his train, — Mr. Horace Smith,* Mr. James, Sir Edward Lytton Bulwer, Ainsworth, and other men of talent and genius. Classic and foreign manners were also depicted. The “ Valerius” of Lockhart is an exquisite Roman story; Morier and Fraser have familiarized us with the domestic life of Persia; Mr. Hope, in his “Anastasius” has drawn the scenery and manners of Italy, Greece, and Turkey, with the fidelity and minuteness of a native artist, and the impassioned beauty of a poet; while the character and magnificent natural features of America, its trackless forests, lakes, wild Indian tribes, and antique settlers, — have been depicted by its gifted sons, Irving and Cooper.
* James and Horace Smith were the authors of "Rejected Addresses." The former was the author of many of the theatrical entertainments of the celebrated Charles Matthews, which yielded him a thousand pounds. Mr. Smith was still better paid for a trifing exertion of his muse; for, having met at a dinner-party the late Mr. Strahan, the king's printer, then suffering from gout and old age, though his faculties remained un impaired, he sent him, next morning, the following jeu d'esprit:
"Your lower limbs seemed far from stout,
When last I saw you walk;
When you began to talk.
In due proportion spread,
All settles in the head.” Mr. Strahan was so much gratified by the compliment, that he made an immediate codicil to his will, by which he bequeathed to the writer the sum of three thousand pounds! He made a happier, though, in a pecuaiary sense, less lucky epigram, on Miss Edgeworth:
"We every-day bards may 'anonymous' sign, -
10. All these may be said to have been prompted by the national and historical romances of Scott. The current of imagination and description had been turned from verse to prose. The stage, also, caught the enthusiasm; and the tales which had charmed in the closet were reproduced, with scenic effect, in our theaters.
11. The fashionable novels of Theodore Hook formed a new feature in modern fiction. His first series of “ Sayings and Doings" appeared in 1824, and attracted considerable attention. The principal object of these clever tales was to describe manners in high life, and the ridiculous and awkward assumption of them by citizens and persons in the middle ranks.
12. As the author advanced in his career, he extended his canvas, and sketched a greater variety of scenes and figures. Their general character, however, remained the same: too much importance was, in all of them, attached to the mere externals of social intercourse, as if the use of the “silver fork,” or the etiquette of the drawing-room, were “the be-all and the end-all” of English society.
13. The life of the accomplished author gives a sad and moral interest to his tales. He obtained the distinction he coveted, in the notice and favor of the great and the fashionable world; for this he sacrificed the fruits of his industry and the independence of genius; he lived in a round of distraction and gayety, illuminated by his wit and talents, and he died a premature death, the victim of disappointment, debt, and misery.
14. This personal example is the true “handwriting on the wall,” to warn genius and integrity in the middle classes against hunting after or copying the vices of fashionable dissipation and splendor. Mr. Ward, Lord Normanby, Mrs. Trollope, Lady Blessington, and others, followed up these tales of high life with perfect knowledge of the subject, wit, refinement and sarcasm, but certainly with less vigor and less real knowledge of mankind than Theodore Hook.
15. Bulwer imparted to it the novelty and attraction of strong contrast, by conducting his fashionable characters into the purlieus of vice and slang society, which also, in its turn, became the rage, and provoked imitation. “Dandies" and highwaymen were painted en beau,* and the Newgate Calendar was rifled for heroes to figure in the novel and on the stilge.
* In a beautiful light, or with attractive forms.
16. This unnatural absurdity soon palled upon the public taste, and Bulwer did justice to his high and undoubted talents by his historical and more legitimate romances, Among the most original of our novelists should be included Captain Marryat, the parent, in his own person and in that of others, of a long progeny of nautical tales and sketches.*
The same subject, concluded. 1. The last, and, next to Scott, the greatest of modern writers of fiction, is Mr. Charles Dickens, who also deals with low life and national peculiarities, especially such as spring up in the streets and resorts of crowded cities.
2. The varied surface of English society, in the ordinary and middle ranks, has afforded this close observer and humorist a rich harvest of characters, scenes and adventures, - of follies, oddities, vices, and frailties, of which he has made a copious and happy use. In comic humor, blended with tenderness and pathos, and united to unrivaled powers of observation and description, Dickens has no equal among his contemporaries; and as a painter of actual life, he seems to be the most genuine English novelist we have had since Fielding
3. His faults lie upon the surface. Like Bulwer, he delights in strong coloring and contrasts, – the melodramet of fiction, — and is too prone to caricature. The artist, delighting in the exhibition of his skill, is apparent in many of his scenes, where probability and nature are sacrificed for effect.
4. But there is “a spirit of goodness” at the heart of all Dickens' stories, and a felicitous humor and fancy, which are unknown to Bulwer and his other rivals. His vivid pictures of those poor in-door sufferers “in populous city pent” have directed sympathy to the obscure dwellers in lanes and alleys, and may prove
precursor of practical amelioration.
* Marryat, Cooper and Dana, have fully disproved the assertion of Dr. Johnson, with regard to the sea, as furnishing materials of interesting description. The doctor was of opinion that all that the sea could supply is the complaint of the fisherman, that the oysters of his neighbor were accepted, while his own were rejected.
i Melodrama, a dramatic performance in which songs are introduced. * El Dorado, a fabulous country, in which gold and precious stones were as common as sand in other countries.
5. He has made fiction the handmaid of humanity and benevolence, without losing its companionship with wit and laughter. The hearty cordiality of his mirth, his warm and kindly feelings, alive to whatever interests or amuses others, and the undisguised pleasure, “ brimming o'er," with which he enters upon every scene of humble city-life and family affection, make us in love with human nature in situations and under circumstances rarely penetrated by the light of imagination.
6. He is a sort of discoverer in the moral world, and has found an El Dorado* in the outskirts and byways of humanity, where previous explorers saw little but dirt and ashes, and could not gather a single flower. This is the triumph of genius, as beneficial as it is brilliant and irresistible.
7. It will be remarked that a large proportion of the novelists of this period are ladies. “ There are some things, says a periodical critic, “which women do better than men, and of these, perhaps, novel-writing is one.
Naturally endowed with greater delicacy of taste and feeling, with a moral sense not blunted and debased by those contaminations to which men are exposed, leading lives rather of observation than of action, with leisure to attend to the minutiæ of conduct and more subtle developments of character, they are peculiarly qualified for the task of exhibiting faithfully and pleasingly the various phases of domestic life, and those varieties which checker the surface of society.
9. "Accordingly, their delineations, though perhaps less vigorous than those afforded by the other sex, are distinguished, for the most part, by greater fidelity and consistency, a more refined and happy discrimination, and, we must also add, a more correct estimate of right and wrong. In works which come from a female pen, we are seldom offended by those moral monstrosities, those fantastic perversions of principle, which are too often to be met with in the fictions which have been written by men.
10. “Women are less stilted in their style ; they are more content to describe naturally what they have observed, without attempting the introduction of those extraneous ornaments which are sometimes sought at the expense of truth. They are less ambitious, and are therefore more just; they are far more exempt from that prevailing literary vice of the present day, exaggeration, and have not taken their stand among the feverish followers of what may be called the intense style of writing; a style much praised by those who inquire only if a work is calculated to make a strong impression, and omit entirely the more important question, whether that impression be founded on truth or on delusion.
11. “Hence the agonies and convulsions, and dreamy rhapsodies, and heated exhibitions of stormy passions, in which several of our writers have lately indulged. Imagination has been flattered into a self-sufficient abandonment of its alliance with judgment, to which disunion it is ever least prone where it has most real power; and fine creations' (well so called, as being unlike anything previously existing in nature) have been lauded, in spite of their internal falsity, as if they were of more value than the most accurate delineations of that world which we see around us."
Boswell's Life of Johnson. - CHAMBERS. 1. JAMES BOSWELL was by birth and education a gentleman of rank and station, the son of a Scottish judge, and heir to an ancient family and estate. He had studied for the bar, but being strongly impressed with admiration of the writings and character of Dr. Johnson, he attached himself to the rugged moralist, soothed and flattered his irritability,* submitted to his literary despotism and caprice; and, sedulously cultivating his acquaintance and society whenever his engagements permitted, he took faithful and copious notes of his conversation.
2. In 1773 he accompanied Johnson to the Hebrides, and after the death of the latter, he published, in 1785, his journal of the tour, being a record of each day's occurrences, and of the more striking parts of Johnson's conversation. The work was eminently successful; and in 1791 Boswell gave to the world his full-length portrait of his friend, "The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.," in two volumes quarto.
3. A second edition was published in 1794, and the author was engaged in preparing a third when he died. A great
* In excuse for the irritability of the temperament of this great man, it ought to be mentioned, that he was, for the greater part of his life, the victim of disease, and that he was very rarely free from pain.