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THE Novel is altogether a produc- The vast variety of occupations, rention of Modern Europe. Antiquity dered necessary by the wants of this has left us nothing to which we can new form of society, produced a corgive the name. The habits of ancient responding variety of character among life were unsuited to that nice deve- those divisions of the great family of lopement of character, close investiga- the civilized world; and, as the result tion into human motives, and strong of the whole, came peculiarities of variety of life, which constitute the habit, eccentricities of thinking, and true materials of the novel. In those wildness of adventure. great ancient societies, where mankind Italy, Spain, and France, took the knew but the two classes of the mas- lead in this sudden expansion of chater and the slave—where domestic racter, and in its description. The life was restriction of all kinds— romancer was often but the historian where the wife was seldom more than of his own chances by flood and field; a higher order of slave, and the child and the vivid truth of his tale was ofand the menial were alike liable to be ten vouched for by the personal expeput to death, at the caprice of the fa- rience of its royal and noble hearers. ther and the master; and where that It is, perhaps, beyond all modern master himself held his life only on conception, to image the keen and the tenure of a despot's caprice, – glowing interest that followed the stothere must have been but little room ries of the Jongleur and Troubadour, for the expansion of character, and while chivalry was in its glory. The little indulgence in its delineation. narratives of gallant exploit, and
But the breaking up of that stern strange preservation ; the achieveand enormous system; like the break- ment which was crowned with honors ing up of a continent, to scatter its in the presence of Europe and Asia ; fragments over an ocean; was the and the dextrous and fortunate escape signal for that growth of individual from evil, that looked like the intercharacter, as it was for that vigör and vention of preternatural power, and variety of individual effort, which invested the knight and warrior with make Europe the chosen seat of every the dignity of a favorite of beaven, singularity, energy, and triumph of must have been listened to with an the human mind. The little commu- interest of singular intensity. But nities, no longer forced to adopt the this day vwnished: the knight rode manners of Rome, followed the course forth no longer alone, but was the of nature ; and every division of ter- royal man at arms; the pilgrim had ritory-every demarcation by mountain degenerated into the mendicant; the or sea, by desert or river, became the monk had thrown aside the mysteries source of a new division of character. of seclusion, for the open indulgence
1 ATHENEUM, VOL. 2, 3d series.
of the vulgar passions of our nature ; ardson lived and thought; his women, the era of the crusader was gone when he would make them intelligent, down, like a star from the firmament, or animated, are transformed into blueinto that great abyss from which there stockings, or hoydens, for such is the is no return; and, with the reality of work of attempts at knowledge among the tale, the spell of the narrator pass- the dull, and labors of gaiety among
the underbred. But he saw the anaThe frigid genius of France now tomy of the heart; and no man could took the lead, and produced a long trace with a closer industry every dissuccession of romances, in which the turbance of the moral circulation. merit of the writer seemed to found His views of life, beyond the range of itself on the farthest possible remote- his own circle, are often absurd, and ness from reality. Love, that could always tame; but he had the microsnever have been felt-incidents, that copic mind, that nothing directly withdefied all probability-and sentiments, in its vision could escape. He loved urged to the most turgid extravagance, to pore into the mosses and fungi of are the coinmon attributes of the character, and discover their cryptowhole voluminous and intolerable train gamous loves. of French Romances, from the age of But if Richardson had no other Francis the First, down to the middle merit, he deserves to be remembered of the last century. The Grand Cy- as the writer, without whom we should rus—the Illustrious Bassa, and the probably have lost Fielding. It was Princess of Cleves, overwhelming as the popularity of Pamela that first they were, exhibit but specimens of awoke the author of Tom Jones. that incongruous and disturbed brood, Fielding, astonished at the praise which burst, with many a throe, from which the world was emulously lavishthe laboring brain of France.
ing on the feeble story of Pamela, The world was long sick of this was stung into ridicule ; and his ridiformal frivolity ; when, to relieve it cule produced Joseph Andrews. But from the loves of kings and queens, the irony was overlooked by the pubcame the English Novel.
lic in their applause at the wit, the Pamela appeared in 1740, and in- animation, and the oddity of this male stantly established Richardson in the Pamela; and the author, roused from highest rank of authorship. Clarissa his long lethargy, the disease of perfollowed in 1748; and Grandison petual disappointment, started forth completed the monument of a celebri- with the ardor and masculine strength ty, which has scarcely mouldered un- of genius. Tom Jone was written in der the changes of years that were full the midst of the distractions of the of fate to sudden fame. Yet Rich- magistracy-of a crowd of minor ardson claims possession of the Eng- pamphleteering efforts-of embarrasslish heart more by right of priority ed circumstances, and of a frame long than of power. Nothing can be more debilitated. Yet the force of its palpable than his deficiencies of style, pictures, the accuracy of its individual his insufferable minuteness, the tedious characters, and the simple and probatrifling of his narrative, and the gene- ble sequence of its narrative, have ral absence of attraction in his cha- since had no rivals in the national racters, But he wrote from himself— praise. Fielding, like all his contemhe was no imitator; there was nature poraries, was guilty of deep offences in his page, and nature is the irresisti- against delicacy. For these the book ble excellence of the novel. His deserves no pardon. It is unfit to be personages are feeble, for he himself put into the hands of the young; and was feeble : his men, when he intends its lessons can add nothing to the virto make them graceful, speak like tues of the nature. But some palliawomen, for it was in the perpetual as- tive may be found for the author in sociation of a female coterie that Rich- the customs of his day, and in the
necessary associations of that unhappy and scribblings, and worth only its inand struggling career, wbich was so trinsic value. soon to close in the bed of incurable A brief period included those tridisease.
umphs of the English Novel. From Another extraordinary person was Pamela, to the last production of the to complete the trial of gread Novel- three writers, was but twelve years, ists. Smollet had crossed the border for Count Fathom appeared in 1753. for London in his nineteenth year, It is remarkable, that, during this pewith a tragedy in his pocket,--the riod, the mind of England seemed to whole foundation to which he trusted be paralyzed in every other limb. for daily bread and immortal fame. Poetry, Eloquence, and Philosophy, His tragedy was worthless—was, of were memorably inactive; whether it. course, rejected ; and the young Scots- was that, like mutilated senses, they man had only the alternative of quit- gave their vigor to the surviving one ; ting London or the world. After or that they were oppressed by the long hardships abroad, he returned celebrity of Romance; or that they while all England was ringing with actually require a time of public trouthe triumphs of Richardson and Field- ble and agitation to rouse them; and, ing. He shut himself up for awhile; like mariners, go to sleep in the calm. and when he re-appeared, he brought After an interval of ten years, anowith him Roderick Random. Within ther extraordinary
writer arose, to two years after (1751), he produced perplex man with the phenomenon of Peregrine Pickle, and shared the full genius in a Yorkshire curate. Sterne feast of profit and popularity with his witched the witty with jest, delighted famous predecessors. No fourth ri- the sensitive with touches of incomval ever appeared.
parable nature ; and, last, and humiThe rank of these celebrateď wri- liating in every sense of the word, ters is so nearly equal, that we may startled the decent by the most unhesiwell feel surprise at the strong dissi- tating scorn of decorum, personal and milarity of their means of success. professional. Richardson loved to contemplate man The publication of the first two in situations unnatural in themselves, volumes of Tristram Shandy absolutely but where his merit, like that of the electrified the multitude.
The ecDutch school, was in the exactness of centric combination of ancient literathe copy. Fielding's study was the ture with modern observation, extrabold and easy figure of man in the vagant whim with profound knowledge common action of general life.- of human feelings, and the most glarSmollet's favorite was the caricature, ing impurity with conceptions of the but of such vigorous and living force, most exquisite refinement, had all the that the burlesque was overpowered in power of an appeal at once to all the the sternness of the satire. Nothing loftier and lower propensities of our could evade the keen investigation of being. No book in the memory of Richardson's touch. A button, a literature was so much read, so ferbuckle, the glance of an eye, the vently worshipped, and so little underpassing color of a cheek, assisted his stood. Its mysteriousness was among discovery. He collected his treasure its highest sources of popularity-for with Indian fineness of tact, and col- every man loves the mystery of rich lected it by grains—but they were he thinks that he alone can find the grains of gold. With Fielding, the solution. Even the occasional tritegold had already taken shape, and ness and dulness of Sterne added to passed, minted and stamped with the the general attraction of his volumes. authority of general circulation. But To the lover of romance for its own Smollet's genius loved it defaced and sake, they were the clouds and darkdisfigured, covered over with stains ness which veiled for a time the pro