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the distribution commenced. Bread, meat, sausages, &c. were showered down on the multitude, in a profusion that would have reminded me of the pleasant times when
“ Streets were paved with penny rolls,
And houses thatch'd with pancakes ;” if my memory had not been pre-occupied by painful recollections of a more recent epoch, and all my feelings in revolt against the demoralizing spectacle. But when the edibles were exhausted, and the winegiving began—then, indeed, I blushed for the profanation of the day, and the degradation of my species. When I looked on the struggling wretches, raving, raging, and deluged in the flood, rushing forward with pots, kettles, and cans, to catch the streaming liquor, and convey it to the barrels provided by each Faubourg as a common reservoir ; while others, the great majority, glutted themselves into instantaneous drunkenness, rolled in the mud, and uttered yells, and songs, and blasphemy-it was then that all my indignation was up,-it was then that I cordially cursed the policy which debases and brutalizes a people, to give their rulers a better chance of crushing them. Then it was, that viewing the national sobriety and decorum violated, as it were, at the foot of the throne and by the royal ordonnance, I marvelled how a king could be honoured, or a saint be glorified, or man be bettered, or Heaven be pleased, by such a scene!
I pondered all this so deeply, walked so fast, and used such energetic action as I inwardly debated, that I saw I had attracted the remarks of some of the agents of that multocular monster—the Police; and fearing to be taken up for a malcontent, I wheeled away through the trees, and took French leave of the place.
ANSWER TO THE POEM ENTITLED
'WHY DO WE LOVE ?"
Which appeared in the 33d Number of the New Monthly Magazine.
Oh! is it not because we love
(Far more than Beauty's fleeting worth)
The fair yet fading powers of earth ?-
From the cold dust left mouldering here;
Of Hope-beyond this troubled sphere?
Is gone, no other charms remain,
Why do we love-if Love be rain ?”
Death's faded victim, once so fair, -
We have already taken occasion * to give vent to a slight movement of impatience at the overwhelming rapidity with which the anonymous author of the, so called, “Scotch novels" proceeds in his literary career-a career, in which the panting reviewer coils after him in vain, and the most voracious glutton of circulating lore that ever days and nights” to the Clarindas and Theodosias of the Minerva press, can hardly avoid being distanced. To what extent our readers may have sympathized in this pettishness of our criticism, we know not; for critics are a waspish sort of personages, and when tormented with the necessity of thinking for others, (it is bad enough to be obliged to think for ourselves,) may fall into fits of spleen, unfelt by the happier being whose “gentleness" is not disturbed by such considerations, and who has nothing in life to do with a book but to read it, to consume his aliquot portion of literature with thankfulness, and be satisfied with what is prepared for him. Of this, however, we are more assured, that if the public be ready to take the productions of the “great unknown” from his bookseller's hands as fast as he can bring them into the market, the case is not quite the same with every imitator, whom the speculating activity of the "north countrie" may engender; and we are quite convinced that something more is necessary to the production of a good novel, than the free use of the Scottish dialect, and an assortment of names for places and persons which no mortal man born south of the Tweed can hope to pronounce. We are, indeed, very much mistaken, if the frequent repetition of the mannerisms of even a good model will not affect the popularity of the original, and the "crambe repetita" of parodists and copyists, bring to a premature close a style of composition, which has perhaps contributed more largely to the public stock of innocent amusement, than any other description of fictitious narrative that has yet lent wings to time, or soothed the anguish of suffering or sorrowing humanity.
To this subject we propose very shortly to recur ; and for the present we shall confine ourselves more strictly to the work the title of which stands at the head of the present article. Reginald Dalton, we are told in its title-page, is the production of the author of Adam Blair ; and we confess ourselves indebted for the information. In no other part of the volumes have we been able to discover the slightest trace of the fact, there being little of that vraisemblance, that Defoeish accuracy of portraiture, and painfully minute delineation of sentiment and situation in the new novel, which characterizes so forcibly its singular predecessor ; and we frankly own, that but for the friendly hint in question, with all our critical acumen and lynx-eyed perspicacity, we should never have dreamed of such a thing " in our philosophy."
To complain that the story is totally defective in interest, may be deemed hypercritical; for though the story used to be considered the most important particular in a good novel, now-a-days “on a changé tout ça," and it goes for little or nothing in the affair. Provided an author can muster a few melodramatic situations strongly conceived, and a few picturesque groupings clearly delineated, the vehicle, or to use
Review of Quentin Durward, page 82.
the apothecary's phrase, the “quisis idoneus rehiculus," in which they are to be gulped down, is a matter of perfect indifference.
This observation equally applies to the characters; if characters they can be called, that character have none. An insipid dawdle of an heroine with nothing indicative of her sex but her petticoat, and a lackadaysical tay-drinking sort of a gentleman, as Paddy happily expresses it, for a hero, are amply sufficient to carry the most rebellious and recalcitrant reader through three goodly volumes of that "pure description,” which in these latter times holds the place not only of sense, but of wit, humour, adventure, pathos, and philosophy, to boot. The defect of moral interest in the writings of the Scottish novelists, which we have already noticed, in our examination of Quentin Durward, as the result of design rather than of accident, of deliberate volition rather than of defective power, is carried to an extreme in the execution of Reginald Dalton,-a work from which it would be difficult to collect that any thing great, or noble, or generous, existed in our common nature. Aristotle*, good easy man, was of opinion, that the agents of fictitious narrative should be marked by decided qualities, good or evil ; and in admitting the wicked to play a part, he required a certain decency and moral shading which should relieve as far as possible, and give elevation even to the worst. He little imagined the possibility of weaving into a story, with any hope of pleasing, the no-characters of that commonplace existence the feelings and motives of which are all grovelling and mean; an existence divested of the energy of passion and the impulse of sentiment, which rarely rises even to the dignity of crime, and is immeasurably removed from the mere apprehension of virtue—at least, of virtue in its more exalted and resplendent phases. It cannot but strike the reader as a circumstance sufficiently extraordinary, that the writers of the Scotch Tory school should have so closely adhered to the médiocre in character, as not even to exempt their own countrymen ; whom, in defiance of all nationality (that bright feature in the Scottish character) they have represented under the meanest and most selfish traits of low cunning and close prudence, which are said peculiarly to belong to narrow fortunes and narrow educations in the northern part of these dominions,
This defect of character, which, in the writings of the original of the school, is relieved by the merits of the narration, and to which, splendid exceptions must occur to every reader's recollection, is the more conspicuously revealed in the novel now under examination, by the almost total absence of a lively interest in its situations and adventures. So much is this the case, that it is impossible to escape, even for a single page, from the conviction of a malus animus seeking to lull the public to sleep, to wean it from all the finer feelings, and more expansive generalizations of sentiment and of views which encourage a love of freedom and predispose to patriotism. As long as the public taste can be fed with an idle literature, that rouses no emotion, forces no thought, awakens no passion, but, like the drowsy hum of distant waters, stupefies with a continuity of monotonous impressions, corruption is safe from invasion, and the work of national degradation goes on in unobserved security. This truth, if not perceived as a sentiment, is no less
felt as an instinctive impulse; and similar writers, among whom the author of Reginald Dalton is evidently ambitious to be classed, labour hard to write down the tone of popular feeling to a right loyal and legitimate standard of insipidity. In every page of the work in question, we perceive the author's conviction, that exaltation of character is jacobinical, and high feeling dangerous to the state. In the estimation of this gentleman and of the school to which he belongs, the staple virtues of social life are-eating and drinking. To listen to their élans on this subject, we might fancy them of that creed, of which Margutto declares the dogmas in the Morgante Maggiore
Io non credo più al nero che al azurro,
Ma sopra tutto nel buon vino ho fedeTheir faith is in "capons and cups of sack ;” and provided the heroes of their romances go drunk to bed every night, they seem very little solicitous that they set an example of any other virtue. In Reginald Dalton, no opportunity is lost of recommending intemperance; and that the reader may judge of this fact for himself, we subjoin one passage of very many in the work illustrative of the point :
“There is nothing in which the young sinners of a debauch have so decidedly the better of the old ones, as in the facility with which their unshattered constitutions enable them to shake off the painful part of its immediate consequences. I say the painful part—because really when the sickness and the head-ache are gone, the feverish fervour which remains about the brain, is with them neither a pain nor a punishment. A sort of giddy, reckless delirium lies there, ready to be revived and rekindled by the mere winds of heaven ; and in fact, when such excitements as air and exercise are abundantly supplied, a sort of legacy of luxury is bequeathed to them even by their departed carousal ; and it is in this point of view, I apprehend, that any chariiable person will ever interpret old Tom Brown's glorious chaunt of
Wine, wine in the morning
Makes us frolic and gay,
In the pride of the day."-Vol. 2. p. 10. To what good purpose, it will be asked, can these fascinating portraitures of debauchery be directed ? Wbat benefit can be sought by informing youth that the first steps in vice are less painful and less dangerous than the last? or by encouraging boys to enter upon a train of riot and excess, which, when once it has become habitual, can seldom be thrown off? Can these scribes be really afraid that a sober and diligent youth leads to a maturity of radicalism and resistance? or that, to ensure the triumphs of legitimacy, it is necessary that man should be not only ignorant, but brutish, sensual, and besotted ? There is something so odious in this eternal recommendation of the pleasures of the table, this chanting of the delights of locked diningrooms and “no daylight,” this fulsome eulogy of sound principles and sound corks, of the good old loyalty and good old port of other times, --coupled too as it is with hypocritical pretensions to superior virtue and sanctity, of the same class of writers, upon other occasions,—that we cannot but mark it with a strong expression of disgust. Let the reader observe also, that one of the coarsest debauches in which Reginald is made to participate (and he is never insensible to the claims
of a bottle of Champaigne) is supposed to occur after he has ruined his father, shot his friend in a duel, been expelled from college, and is on the point of sailing for India without a hope of again seeing the object of his devoted attachment! If this new school of philosophy should take root, we shall have the rising generation staggering through our streets at noon-day; and as the German youth turned banditti after the example of Schiller's robbers, and the English lads knocked down watchmen in humble admiration of the exploits of Tom and Jerry, so we shall see a jovial band of stripling Tories riot through the land, obedient to the canons of good fellowship laid down in the Reginald Daltons, the Peter's Letters, and the other productions of the clique, putting down Whiggery and water-drinking by club law, and forming in every village associations for the propagation of passive obedience to rulers and toast-masters.
But to return to the story. Reginald Dalton, a common-place sort of youth, educated in the seclusion of a north country parsonage, is the son of a clergyman, the cadet of an ancient family, from which he has estranged himself in consequence of a very silly disappointment in love. Left to the solitude of his parsonage-house, the victim at once of ennui and pique, the worthy divine marries a farmer's daughter, who, Dieu sçait pourquoi, is represented as a Catholic. This fair transubstantialist has a sister, who runs off with a seducer, and is privately married according to the succinct forms admitted by the Scottish law. The seducer, after the most approved usages " in that case provided," endeavours to hush up the transaction, and marries again. Of this transient union a daughter is the fruit. The mother dies, and the orphan is quartered on a Catholic priest, who takes her abroad. The gay
deceiver, the cause of all this mischief, is the half-brother of the elder Dalton's cousin and first love; who, to comfort her in her afflictions, instead of looking for another husband, turns Methodist : and her brother, to conciliate her affections and become the legatee of her property, adopts, or rather affects to adopt, her religious predilections also. At the opening of the novel, Reginald's father renews his intimacy with his family, and the problem to be solved in the progress of the work is, whether his old flame shall suffer the family estate to follow the legal course of descent, or will it out of the family to her Methodist brother. En attendant, Reginald goes to Oxford ; and the larger and the most amusing part of these volumes is occupied with details of college life, wine-parties, hunting, fights with the townfolks, debts, duns, and drunkenness. On his road to the university, Reginald meets in the coach with an odd sort of Scotch attorney, who, “for the better carrying on of the plot,” goes at once out of his way and his character to introduce the young man to a Catholic priest, resident in Oxford ; who is, of course, the protector of Reginald's neglected and disowned cousin. Love, in the usual routine, follows; which thrives the better for the mutual poverty of the parties (Malthus on Population at this time probably not forming part of a college course). Meantime the hero's dissipation plunges him in difficulties, and he utterly exhausts his father's slender finances. Notwithstanding a very edifying repentance, he becomes involved in a duel, is expelled from college, and has a new life to seek. Just at this time the dignus vindice nodus of the piece is solved, by the death of the virgin heiress ;