Page images


him a soured and discontented spirit-unteachable in boyhood, unamiable in youth, querulous and unmanly in manhood,-—singularly unhappy in all three. He speaks of his school as a world of woes,' of his masters 6 as tyrants,' of his school-fellows as enemies,'alas! what is this, but to bear evidence against himself? every one who knows what a public school ordinarily must be, will only trace in these lines the language of an insubordinate, a vain, a mortified spirit.

We would venture to hope that the past may suffice for the speculations in which Mr. Shelley has hitherto engaged; they have brought him neither honour abroad nor peace at home, and after so fair a trial it seems but common prudence to change them for some new venture. He is still a young man, and though his account be assuredly black and heavy, he may yet hope to redeem his time, and wipe it out. He may and he should retain all the love for his fellow-creatures, all the zeal for their improvement in virtue and happiness which he now professes, but let that zeal be armed with knowledge and regulated by judgment. Let him not be offended at our freedom, but he is really too young, too ignorant, too inexperienced, and too vicious to undertake the task of reforming any world, but the little world within his own breast; that task will be a good preparation for the difficulties which he is more anxious at once to encounter. There is a book which will help him to this preparation, which has more poetry in it than Lucretius, more interest than Godwin, and far more philosophy than both. But it is a sealed book to a proud spirit; if he would read it with effect, he must be humble where he is now vain, he must examine and doubt himself where now he boldly condemns others, and instead of relying on his own powers, he must feel and acknowledge his weakness, and pray for strength from above.


We had closed our remarks on Laon and Cythna, when Rosalind and Helen' was put into our hands: after having devoted so much more space to the former than its own importance merited, a single sentence will suffice for the latter. Though not without some marks of the same ability, which is occasionally manifested in Mr. Shelley's earlier production, the present poem is very inferior to it in positive merit, and far more abundant in faults: it is less interesting, less vigorous and chaste in language, less harmonious in versification, and less pure in thought; more rambling and diffuse, more palpably and consciously sophistical, more offensive and vulgar, more unintelligible. So it ever is and must be in the downward course of infidelity and immorality;—we can no more blot out the noblest objects of contemplation, and the most heart-stirring sources of gratitude from the creation without injury to our intellectual and moral nature, than we can refuse to walk by the light



of the sun without impairing our ocular vision. Scarcely any man ever set himself in array against the cause of social order and religion, but from a proud and rebel mind, or a corrupt and undisciplined heart: where these are, true knowledge cannot grow. In the enthusiasm of youth, indeed, a man like Mr. Shelley may cheat himself with the imagined loftiness and independence of his theory, and it is easy to invent a thousand sophisms, to reconcile his conscience to the impurity of his practice: but this lasts only long enough to lead him on beyond the power of return; he ceases to be the dupe, but with desperate malignity he becomes the deceiver of others. Like the Egyptian of old, the wheels of his chariot are broken, the path of mighty waters' closes in upon him behind, and a still deepening ocean is before him :-for a short time, are seen his impotent struggles against a resistless power, his blasphemous execrations are heard, his despair but poorly assumes the tone of triumph and defiance, and he calls ineffectually on others to follow him to the same ruin-finally, he sinks' like lead' to the bottom, and is forgotten. So it is now in part, so shortly will it be entirely with Mr. Shelley:-if we might withdraw the veil of private life, and tell what we now know about him, it would be indeed a disgusting picture that we should exhibit, but it would be an unanswerable comment on our text; it is not easy for those who read only, to conceive how much low pride, how much cold selfishness, how much unmanly cruelty are consistent with the laws of this 'universal' and 'lawless love.' But we must only use our knowledge to check the groundless hopes which we were once prone to

entertain of him.

ART. VIII.-Maurice and Berghetta; or the Priest of Rahery. A Tale. 12mo. London. 1819.

THE HE title-page of this simple production is anonymous, but the advertisements (which have been scattered with somewhat of aristocratical profusion) inform us that the author is Mr. William Parnell, Knight of the Shire for Wicklow in Ireland; and the preface intimates that, in the following tale, the author's intention was not to write a novel, but to place such observations on the manners of the Irish peasantry as had occurred to him in a less formal shape than that of a regular dissertation.' (p. xliii.)


It is somewhat unfortunate for the honourable member that, not intending to write a novel, he should have accomplished, by a most perverse fate, the very thing that he had determined not to do; while, as we shall see, he makes but a lame business of that which was his main design. As he has chosen to publish the unhappy misconception into which he had been inadvertently betrayed,

it becomes our duty to give our readers some account of it: in the first place, as a tale; and secondly, as a dissertation on the Irish character.

As a tale, we were at first inclined to think somewhat better of it than Mr. Parnell himself appears to do; but when we had made a little progress in the work those hopes vanished, and we were forced to acknowledge the impartiality and justice with which our Hibernian Brutus has condemned his own offspring.

Father O'Brian, the popish priest of Rahery, a barren little rock on the north coast of Ireland, narrates to his parishioners with becoming humility, that after a tolerably long ministry he discovered that he had no religion in his heart, but that' (about the period when the novel begins)' he began to change his vain, worldly, selfish, hard and proud temper into a tender and pious one; and that the first proof of this Christian change was resolving to take care of two orphans' (p. 25.) of one David O'Neal, a labourer in the parish who had died about a year before, leaving his children in the filth, poverty and desolation of the lowest order of the Irish peasantry—but the tardiness of this good priest's charity did no harm. -The orphans, a boy rejoicing in the mellifluous name of Muircheartach (anglicè, Maurice, we are told) and his sister Una (hibernicè, Owna) aged about eleven and twelve, had already shown a vigour of character and good sense which would have appeared unnatural in children anywhere but in Ireland; the boy had already turned out of doors, bag and baggage, his surviving relations and friends who had disgusted, by their superstitions and vulgarity, this non non sine dis animosus infans: and he and his sister, though only day-labourers, the one earning thirteen and the other twopence per diem,-had discovered by the mere light of their own talents and taste, and had effected, upon the strength of the aforesaid fifteen-pence, such a pure system of religion and morals, such improvements in agriculture and domestic economy, that the priest had really nothing to teach them, and, when he heard all their wonderful works, could only exclaim, with patriarchal pathos- God love you, children-I never heard the like before!'-p. 30. In this Ultonian Utopia of Mr. Parnell every thing which use could require or taste wish for, was provided, down even to a fashionable accent. Mr. Parnell is well aware that a hero or heroine, with an Irish brogue, would be a monstrous solecism, and he accordingly represents his orphans as so very nice in the article of accent, that they are always mistaken for English!

Besides polishing his own and his sister's pronunciation, learning Greek and Latin from Father O'Brian, and all the mysteries of scientific horsemanship, terre à terre, passades, courbettes, caprioles sur les voltes,' (p. 113.) from an old French book on the



manège, Maurice contrived to work so adroitly as well as earnestly, that the young prodigies found themselves growing rich on their fifteen-pence a day-an advantage, however, which, with all their labour and economy, they could hardly have effected but by the most extraordinary abstinence: for, instead of revelling on potatoes and milk, as their fellow-peasants did, our orphans restricted themselves to tea and bread and butter for breakfast and supper; and cold meat for dinner. p. 28.

A little foreign travel now becomes necessary to perfect the education of the sagacious Muircheartach and the beautiful Una, and accordingly they set out for London, (with an ample pecuniary provision for the expenses of the tour accumulated out of their savings.) Una is soon disposed of in London in the family of a noble lady, (Lady Macartney,) who wanted an intelligent and well-educated young woman as a companion, and who, of course, thought herself happily fitted in Una O'Neal,-though it must be confessed that Una's prime accomplishments, milking, churning, &c. (p. 48.) were as much thrown away on Lady Macartney, as poor La Fleur's talent of making spatterdashes upon Yorick.

All parties, as we may well believe, felicitate themselves on so happy and appropriate a disposal of Una; but Muircheartach, or Maurice as we shall henceforth (disregarding euphony) call him, is still more fortunate; he happens to fall in with a young English farmer of the name of John Headcroft, who shews him how to manage a short-handled spade, which on Maurice's return to day-labour in Ireland, was as good as a mine of gold' to him; he also learned, in this same school, that if he mowed with a long-handled scythe he need not stoop so low as with a short-handled one; and he was gradually initiated into some of the more recondite mysteries of the art of mowing, such as, that damp grass is cut more easily than dry, and that it is less fatiguing to mow in the morning and evening, than under the meridian sun.


Lest our readers should suspect us of not having adequate authority for these important facts, we shall give the original account of the improvement imported into Ireland by Maurice, one of the few benefactors of that too-long-neglected and misgoverned country.

'Profit he did, and that forthwith. He had lived well while in England, and was in full strength and health. He immediately looked out for a job of task work, and as it was well known, that he would finish his work to perfection, equally as well by task as by day's work, he had his choice. His earnings were large, and his expense little, for he drank nothing but milk or water, and ate cold meat and bread. He lived alone, like a hermit, getting a neighbour's wife to buy his meat


and boil it for him; still as he earned his money, he laid it out in getting tools made after the English fashion. He soon had a short handle spade and a broad shovel, and was secretly getting a plough, harrows, and a set of draining tools made, as he began to speculate on taking his land into his own hands, and managing it, as John Headcroft had taught him. He waited impatiently till the mowing began, which was late in the country round about. Good mowers were, as usual, scarce, and the price enormous, five shillings an acre. Maurice contracted to mow so much, that every one supposed he meant to engage under-men to assist him; he set to work with a good scythe and a bent handle, so that he had no longer to mow with his chin almost on his knees, as his neighbours did.

Then, instead of working through the day as was the fashion of the country, under the hot sun, when the grass got dry and cut harsh and difficult, he began to mow with the first foot-fall of the morning, or, as was said, the middle of the night; in the middle of the day he lay down in the shade and slept, and began again in the cool of the evening, for he had learnt in England, not only what every man's sense would tell him, that he could work harder and pleasanter in the cool than in the heat; but that the grass cut twice as easy while sappy and wet with the dew. By this means Maurice did twice as much as the country mowers, with less fatigue than they had.

'To mowing succeeded a job of reaping and thrashing, and then a heavy piece of ditching, which turned out unusually profitable to him, from the use of his broad short handled spade. In truth, if Maurice did the work of four men, the spade did the work of two, for it dug and threw up the clay at once; whereas a shoveller is always forced to attend the narrow fac to lift up all it drops, which is half what it digs, then the shovel being worn and narrow, drops again half what it attempts to lift, and both fac-man and shovel-man, repugning to bend their backs, the day's work has very little to show for itself when it is ended.

'Thus earning much, and spending little, Maurice again grew rich.'— pp. 78-82.

This is not the worst specimen of Mr. Parnell's style; and the reader has already anticipated us in pronouncing it to be a very fair imitation of the most approved models in Mr. Tabart's Lilliputian Library.' We could say much in praise of Mr. Parnell's choice-but we must return to our tale.

In the intervals of mowing, reaping, and heavy pieces of ditching, Maurice found time to fall in love, and to learn French. Though Mr. Parnell did not originally intend to write a novel, yet there are certain stated forms of that admired species of composition with which he feels himself bound to comply.-One of the most recognized of them is, that the hero should save the heroine from some imminent peril. There is a great diversity in the species of peril which authors have had recourse to for this purpose.

« PreviousContinue »