« AnteriorContinuar »
page without feeling its offensiveness. Nor are any of her theories or imaginings supported by knowledge or ingenious reasoning ; she assumes at once the position, and having done so, proceeds equally erroneously to moralise upon it. She commences with a lament (extraordinary extent of Conservatism) that "the good old times of Elizabeth's days were not so good as the good old times of a still more remote and barbarous period. England was, however, even then, a paradise compared to what it is now, but still far below what it was before the revolutionary reformation. What a state of bliss must the ancient Britons have enjoyed before that ancient reformer Cæsar enlightened them, and the Romans taught them to build houses and live sociably!
But in the whole of this introductory chapter there are innumerable contradictions : in one sentence we are told that England still had immense districts of barren, sandy heaths, green commons of prodigious extent, or bleak dreary moors and morasses ;. and yet shortly after that it was then “merry England ;” and a lament is uttered that the vile hand of modern improvement has interfered with these “barren heaths and dreary moors. “ The mysteries of those dark, gloomy moors, as seen under the indigo clouds of a November sky (let us be thankful we still have gloomy Novembers) -- perplexed as they were by the superstition of the times with witches, demons, dwarfs, and fairies-seemed to elevate the imagination.” If this were so (which we by no means believe) it surely would not particularly add to the merriment of the age.
We are also told it is impossible for a mind of any imagination not to regret in this picture the absence of the monasteries.
" The magnificent abbey situated on the bank of some gentle (are all streams gentle ?) stream ; its rich meadow covered with the sheep and kine (for the use of self-denying monks ?); the convent bell tolling for evening prayer ; the beautiful priory ; the hermit's silent cell”—(what a picture for Cremorne Gardens !)—had all disappeared. Now, it so happens that the minds of the greatest imagination, Shakespeare and his contemporaries, never expressed any regret of this sentimental kind. They had no occasion to draw fancy portraits, nor did their truly imaginative minds raise up fictitious impossibilities to weep over their destruction. They informed the real with their intellectual might, and left the exciting process of fanciful exaggeration to the authoresses of the Minerva Press school.
This enfeebling inclination to draw fancy portraits arises from the possession of the same kind of capacity that belongs to the playwrights of the Cobourg theatre, and only can affect weak minds that are caught by the commonest symbols. Here again we have “ the monk in his long, waving garments, book in hand, the type of a life of contemplation; the holy nun—the ancient palmer-were gone. The tide of destruction had swept over all this, and the place thereof shall know it no more.” Now this is all sentimentalizing of a very injurious
kind — those who know any thing of history know it is all false and misleading. The gravest documents sufficiently prove the absurdity of this picture, and three hundred years before we know it was equally false. This lady shoulı have real, at least, the Chronicles of Jocelyn de Brakelond-translated for two shillings*—where she would learn that “the life of contemplation" was filled with the basest worldly cares, much profligacy, anil very little or no true religion, the name of obscure saints being frequently, and that of the Saviour never, alluded to.
What faith, therefore, can we have in any work, which, though clealing with fictitious circumstances should be true in spirit, that commences in this way. In fact, this book, and indeed this kind of writing, is utterly false in spirit, and if read, should only be read for the story, or by those who, forearmed with knowledge, cannot be misled by the exaggerated sentiment.
The very epithets are mi-leading; for the “noble” aristocracy she refers to we find in the real history of the time (with one or two exceptions) was marle up of duplicity and atrocity. Murders, both private and julicial, were constantly occurring, and some of the leading men, for instance, the Earl of Leicester and Lord Bacon, were so vile that they could not have escaped the extreme penalties of the law in our time, as indeed they scarcely did in their own.
To draw a correct view of the age, and to discriminate between the conventional and the real crimes of the period ; to show the effects of laws upon society, and to truly contrast the two eras, were a great and beneficial task. But of this species of composition the writer has no idea. She has conceived an admiration for certain modes of existence—she fancies, or pretends to fancy, that every theory is re(luced to practice; and trusting to this unhappy heat of mind, represents all she approves couleur de rose, and all she does not in the blackest hue. All this would be comparatively harmless if she were quite a Mrs. Bean, or an Anne of Swansea, and she might then dip her pen in gall-or in a blacking bottle-and no one need fear ; but she has education (though very little reading, by the way, of the Elizabethan era)—she has also some powers of writing ; and there are many persons partially and imperfectly instructed, who will be in danger of infection from her notions, and of being misled by her narrative. It were an endless task to point out the errors engendered in almost every page of her book. We cannot, however, resist noticing this. In describing Elizabeth in her last days, she says, scarce one but revered in heart that aged monarch,” when we know that there was
but kept up a secret and almost traitorous correspondence with her expected successor. Her most confidential minister keeping horses saddled at every stage to Edinburgh to carry the joyful news of her death to James.
The whole tone of the book will be offensive to the scholar acquainted
* Whittaker's Popular Library.
with the manners and sentiments and ideas of the close of the 16th century. The characters are very ill disguised mummers, rigged out in the dress of that period, but using the language of this ; having about the same affinity of spirit as there is between the guests of a fancy dress ball and the real personages they seek to represent. Had the pure passions and emotions of human beings been shown one might (unpleasant as it is) have forgiven the falsification of manners; but as it is, there is no compensation of the kind. The common drudging reader who wades through novel after novel in hopes of a new excitement will find but little of even that kind of merit, the ambition to be historic and didactic precluding even that relief.
It may be supposed that we have a prejudice against the work, but we have not the remotest idea who is the writer of it. We only perceive that a sentimental, (leluding, and enfeebling class of fiction is gaining ground; and feel that it is certainly the duty of all those solicitous for the promulgation of principles beneficial to the progress of the many to expose and denounce it. We have already said that the author has powers and capacities, but neither will ever be truly serviceable until all the false sentiment is abandoned, and human character and transactions are depicted in their just relation to existence.
Musings OF A Musician: a Series of Popular Sketches Illustrative of Musical
Matters and Musical People. By HENRY C. LUNN, Associate of the Royal
This is a very agreeable book, and only requires to be known to be popular. The young author, for we believe his brother is the author of that very clever volume “ Bizarre Tales,” has an agreeable style, light, flowing, and sensible, bearing a family resemblance to works already known to the world as connected with the light literature of our times.
By the means of dialogues, occasional scenes, anecdotes, a little dissertation, and a considerable amount of practical and theoretical knowledge, a great deal of sound information is given in music. The subject too is treated of in an elevated style, not as a mere sensual amusement, but as an intellectual art. The motive for writing the book is well sustained and developed, which was to aid in the extension of the humanising influence he believes music capable of exerting. There will be found hints serviceable to all classes, both to those who have to listen as well as to those who have to perform, and to the latter, especially to what may be termed the domestic amateurs, we would particularly recommend the second essay upon the music of society, where, amongst many pertinent observations, it is very humanely urged that “it is true that in the present day all ladies can play, but it is equally true that they can all read. It is no more necessary then, that a young
" is also
lady should play to the company because she knows her notes, than that she should read to the company because she knows her letters."
Did our space permit we should have liked to quote “ The Itinerant Musicians ” of the town, who are capitally hit off from “the man with the flute " to "the sentimental man with the white apron.” The remarks on boarding school music are also well worthy the attention of * parents and guardians." The article on English operas equally judicious, and indeed all the papers furnish proofs of the author's excellent sense and knowledge, and his agreeable powers of style. The following anecdote, no doubt perfectly true, will serve to enliven our pages :
6. To show the utter absurdity of these "cues,' and the total want of thought with which many vocalists will learn and speak them, as if they were the finest specimens of sentimental writing in the world, I recollect an instance of a theatrical manager who, merely in joke, wrote one of them for a young lady who wished to introduce the song of Kelvin Grove, in a piece, the scene of which was in London. The 'cue, intended as a jest, was taken by the lady in earnest ; and, to the surprise of the author of it, during the progress of the piece at night, when she was deserted by her lover, and repining at her destiny, she advanced to the front and, with a solemn expression of countenance said, ' I can bear my fate no longer. Forsaken by the being I adored, what care I now for the glare of fashionable life? I will go down immediately to the • Buck Bull’in Holborn, and book a place to Kelvin Crorc.'
But to prove it is not only the lightness of the style that recommends the work, we shall add the following just and sound remark :
“ Whilst no place exists where the finest compositions can be heard by all classes for a sum which they can afford to pay, it is a matter of course that those persons who undertake to supply them with inferior specimens, should at once become popular with the public. The truth is, that they will have music of some kind, and if dignity in the art can only be preserved, like game, by fairly forbidding the common people to approach it, let those who can feast upon it to satiety, at least do so without laughing at the coarse fare of their less fortunate brethren. The really intellectual mind is ever that which sympathises with the minds of others, and as true poetry. is universal, so does the true poet seek his own gratification by drawing within his magic influence all who surround him. Beethoven was as much a people's composer as Shakspere was a people's author ; and, as we have now begun to erect statues to his memory, we should also begin to reflect, whether the immortal legacy which lie has bequeathed to us, has yet been applied to its proper purpose.”
There is also probably a great deal of truth in the following :
“Why, let me ask, are Beethoven's piano-forte sonatos scarcely ever performed at concerts ? Not because the public do not like hear them, but because the pianist does not like to play them. Because he feels that the audience will go away talking more of Beethoven than of himself; and because, like the great actors of the present day, he will insist upon it that the creator shall invariably be secondary to the executor.”
Having said enough, as we hope, to induce the reader to seek the work itself, we shall merely add that the comparatively plain, not to say humble, way as regards the paper and the printing, in which it is produced will be taken as another proof that the author trusts to the intrinsic merit to make its way with a judicious ” public. We predict for the author a distinguished place amongst the writers for the many, which by no means implies that he should be neglected by those who consider themselves of the choice few.
CHRISTENDOM AND HEATHENDOM : or, SOUND AND SENSE.
An Allegory. 18mo. London : John Ollivier. Although this volume is written in a form and style of language somewhat obselete, and too apt to run into inflation, it is worthy of perusal. It is the product of one who has investigated the condition of modern society, and who deeply sympathises with those suffering from the multitudinous and monstrous wrongs and miseries that almost induce a crusade against what is termed civilisation. It is appalling to consider the amount of agony of spirit and misery of body that is suffered even “in our free and happy country.' A yearly collection of the coroners' inquests alone, would produce such a volume of horrors as must arouse the sympathy of the most sensual, and even operate on the indurated feelings of the sturdiest disciple of Adam Smith and the political economists.
The Allegory consists of the visits of an angel in search of Christianity amongst the dwellings of civilisation, whence an opportunity is taken to show how utterly the divine spirit of religion is banished from modern society. So far we can well go with the author ; but if individual religion is the only purifying cure for social evils, what is to become of those who cannot believe? Or again, if all our evils arise from a want of proper religion, what is to bring about that blissful uniformity, which, if we are to consider the innumerable bulls issued by the popes in their most dominant days, never existed for a single month. We cannot but suspect that this littie work is the product of an amiable enthusiast, who considers things as they should be, with too little reference to what they are. It breathes a strong Young England odour in every page, in its tendency towards and indeed advocacy of a paternal government, guided and informed by Christian philanthropy; but this is a system which has singularly failed, sometimes in its insufficiency to support itself, but more frequently from its being a machine to gratify the worst vices of the vilest governors. It has never been advocated in England since the days of “our most Christian King Charles the Second, and his short-reigned brother, "James the Second,” when every virtue was outraged, and every vice that bloodthirstiness, lust, and avarice could suggest was perpetrated. It is in vain to say that these vices formed no part of the theory, for it is not in theories