Imágenes de páginas

they bave lost it. But that they are a countermine, (in the way of surprise,) clumsy impostors, and deserve no such which, in five minutes, is to blow him lenity, I could end their anxiety in a to the moon! When I was poor, who word; for, if I really have a majority ever behaved even fairly to me? And in the borough, I think I shall sit for is it not monstrous vanity to expect it myself. You laugh—but I can't that I now should behave disinterestcome back to the army, after six years' edly to those I love not ? desertion, to face your Waterloo repu Farewell till we ineet, which I hope tation upon a “ lady peace” establishe will not be many days; but I must ment. And a seat in Parliament gives (with the kind aid of Sir W. Beaua man a semblance of pursuits in life, voir) stamp my credit in the right which (where no trouble attaches) way, before I go-here-in Glosteris convenient. You will come over to shire. I have got a touch, you see, of my election, (if I find I can command the true moneyed feeling already_letthe place,) and help to eat the bad ting policy detain me in one place, dinners, and kiss the people's wives. when inclination would carry me to Drop no word, however, I charge you, another. in the interim; because I must bam Fare you well once more, until we boozle these coxcombs, who meant to shake hands; which, with you, I bamboozle me. The hook is in their would not do, unless I did it honestly. mouths, and I shall be able to keep I shall be in town, I believe, by the them on, without giving either a rea 28th ; and a Lieutenant-Colonel, I sonable expectation. The moment am sure, can leave a regiment at any they ask my decision, I shall give it time. As a proof that (for my part) we against them; and yet, before them, are still upon the same terms that we I will have gained all they sought to used to be ask your father if he will withhold from me. This is not a “ present” me. I could make old Sir world, Robert, in which a man can Walter here, I have no doubt, sublive by the use of candour, or of libe- mit to the duty, (and, in case I go to ral principle ; and he who is wise will the continent, it may be convenient to fall into its spirit, and acquire a taste me to get this done ;) but I would not for hollow-heartedness and selfish feel- have him able to say that I ever hoaxed ing. To have one's “ opinions” al- him out of any politeness worth a moways flying out against those of every- ment's consideration. Besides, I know body else one's heart pinned upon enough of your father, to believe that one's sleeve is it not to fight too he will feel no hesitation in obliging much at a disadvantage ? And may me; and I write to shew you that I can there not be some whim in shaking ask a favour from a friend, when it is hands with a man very cordially, when such a favour as may be conferred by you know he means to do you a more one gentleman upon another. tal injury, and when you have digged

THE DEVIL'S ELIXIR.* The Devil's ELI is, we think, tics will think they say quite enough upon the whole, our chief favourite of, when they pronounce it ore rotunanong the numerous works of a man do, a vile German idea.

No matter, of rare and singular genius. It con whatever these gentry may say, for as tains in itself the germ of many of to thinking-of that they are tolerably his other performances; and one par- guiltless-whatever small men, acticular idea, in which, more than any customed to move in one very small other, he, as a romancer, delighted, has sphere of intellect, may say, the horbeen repeated by him in many various rible is quite as legitimate a field of shapes, but never with half the power poetry and romance, as either the paand effect in which it has been elabo- thetic or the ludicrous. It is absurrated here. This idea is, to be sure, dity to say that Mrs Radcliffe has exexactly what the minor English cri- hausted this. That very clever lady

• The Devil's Elixir : from the German of E. T. A. Hoffmann. 2 vols. William Blackwood, Edinburgh : and T. Cadell, London. 1824.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

had not brains to exhaust anythingớ namely, that the facts of the story-telland she no more worked out horror, er might be more closely examined. than she did the scenery of the Ap A tradition, which is as old as our penines. Maturin's Montorio is far species, or, at the least, many centuabove any horrors she ever excogitated ries older than philosophy, has produ-the St Leon of Godwin, again, is ced, in regard to such things, a sort of very far above the Family of Montorio universal belief and consent of all na. -and Schiller's Ghost-seer is well tions. From infancy, in whatever quarworth both of these. And why? why, ter of the globe we are born, we are simply, because Godwin is a hundred sure to be nourished with the same times a cleverer man than Maturin, unvarying provender of tales, dreams, and because Schiller was a thousand and visions, all connected with this times a cleverer man than Godwin. belief; and it acquires over us a power Nothing that is a part, a real essential too deep ever entirely to be shaken, at part, of human nature, ever can be ex a period when we are not only devoid hausted—and the regions of fear and of any suspiciousness in regard to terror never will be so.-Human flesh others, but unprovided by reason with will creep to the end of time at the any weapons wherewith to defend ourwitches of Macbeth, exactly because

selves from the assaults of our own to the end of time it will creep in a credulous imaginations. In a word, midnight charnel-vault:

as Horace says of Nature in general,

However contemptuously we may So was it when the world began, So ever will it be.

toss from us feelings which are com

mon to all men, there are moments in Ghosts, Spirits of the elements, in which they creep unperceived into our termediate beings between angels and bosoms;" so we are sincerely of opi, men, fire and water spirits, dwarfs of nion, that the earth does not at this the mines, good and evil attendants on moment contain one single individual individual men-in one word, all sorts who never felt a superstitious shudder of supernatural appearances, and wona in passing a church-yard at midnight. derful interferences of invisible beings We are equally of opinion, that so long -these, in spite of all that philosophy as this feeling, this painful feeling, as can do, have taken such a place in the to the reality of such things continues, imaginations, and, indeed, in the hearts the human mind will continue to reof men, that their total banishment ceive a tragic pleasure from the skilfrom thence must for ever remain an ful use made of them in works of ima. impossibility: Every story of that gination. And we are farther of opikind, everything that looks like an nion, that no reader of taste can go anecdote from the world of spirits, and through this book, entitled The Dein general every attempt to support vil's Elixir, without enjoying a great these fantastic existences, or to remove deal of this sort of pleasure. Who is the grounds on which reason would he that hath not known the delightful shun to reject them—is sure of a fa horror of perusing a book full of ghosts vourable reception from the most partof and devils at midnight-the dear mankind. Even the more enlighten shudder with which one turns over ed among us, persons who would on the leaf, half-suspecting its rustle to no account have it said of them that be the approaching footstep of some they are serious believers in ghost

fearful creature,

not of the earth stories, or in the possibility of the in earthy ?" If there be

any such

person, cidents on which such stories turn, let him congratulate himself— Iet him even these persons are in common well hug himself as much and as long as he pleased with an opportunity of chatting pleases--we would not purchase his over such things in a quiet way, by indifference to the pain by giving up the fireside. Nay, the philosopher our own sensibility to the pleasure of himself,who, with all parade of reason it. We like to be horrified—we delight ing, contends against the reality of in Frankenstein-we delight in Grierthese appearances on which the ghost son of Lagg-we delight in the Devil's seers rest their faith, feels, at times, Elixir. his own fancy getting the better of his We have already hinted, however, judgment, and has often enough to do that there is one particular idea on to prevent himself from forming the which this author, when in his horrisame wish which others would have ble vein, is chiefly delighted to expano hesitation in expressing—the wish, tiate. This is the idea of what he

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]


calls, in his own language, a doppel- tion (purposely it shall be but such)
ganger ; that is to say, of a man's be- of the fable, and a specimen or two of
ing haunted by the visitations of ano the author's style in handling differ-
ther self-a double of his own personalent sorts of themes.
appearance. We have something not The main idea, then, is this: A cer-
very remote from this conception in tain Italian Prince, having committed
certain wraith-stories of our a series of the most atrocious crimes,
popular mythology: but either the at last enters into a sort of compact
original German superstitions are much with the Fiend, which, however, is
richer in their details of the notion never quite completed. The fruit of a
than ours, or La Motte Fouqué, and horrible amour is his only child: and
Hoffmann, have made more of what being seized upon its birth with the
their country-people's old tales gave most agonizing remorse, he is suffered
them than any of our writers have to purchase his pardon, on the condi-
made of their native materials of a sie · tion that he shall continue to do pe-
milar kind. In some of their works, nance as a wanderer on the face of the
the idea is turned to a half-ludicrous earth, until the race to which his guilt
use--and very successfully too-but has given origin, shall be entirely at
by far the best are those romances in an end, and that in the person of some
which it has been handled quite seri- descendant, whose sanctity shall be as
ously—and of all these, the best is the remarkable as was the original depra-
book now before us in an English garb. vity of his doomed ancestor.

The superior excellence of the De Medardus, the hero of this book, is vil's Elixir lies in the skill with which one of the remote descendants of this its author has contrived to mix up the Being. The unhappy Ancestor conhorrible notion of the double-goer, trives to be near him in his infancy, with ordinary human feelings of all and strives, in giving a turn the most kinds. He has linked it with scenes pious and holy to his earliest imaginaof great and simple pathos—with de- tions, to lay the foundation of that lineations of the human mind under sanctity of life on which his own peace the influences of not one, but many is to depend. He also, for obvious reaof its passions--ambition-love---re- sons, desires to have him educated as venge remorse. He has even dared a monk-and a German monk he beto mix scenes and characters exqui comes. Being a youth of great talent sitely ludicrous with those in which and genius, his ambition is kindled, his haunted hero appears and acts; and he distinguishes himself very much and all this he has been able to do as a popular preacher. This distinction without in the smallest degree weak- strikes at the corrupted part of his ening the horrors which are through, blood, and destroys him. He becomes out his corps de reserve. On the con vain, proud, voluptuous, and, amongst trary, we attribute the unrivalled ef- other offences, is induced, by the exfect which this work, as a whole, pro- ample of a gay young travelling Count, duces on the imagination, to nothing to swallow part of the Devil's Elixir so much as the admirable art with that is to say, uncorks a bottle that which the author has married dreams has for ages been laid up in the relito realities, the air of truth which quiary of the convent under that horhis wildest fantasies draw from the rific name. The story was, that the neighbourhood of things which we all Devil had once tempted St Anthony feel to be simply and intensely human with this bottle, and that the Saint and true. Banquo's ghost is tenfold having seized it from the grasp of the horrible, because it appears at a regal fiend, had bequeathed it to those pious banquet—and the horrors of the Monk fathers as the trophy of his victory. Medardus affect our sympathies in a But it is farther understood that, such similar ratio, because this victim of is the hellish virtue of the liquor everything that is fearful in the caprices contained in the flask, if any man of an insane imagination, is depicted to drink of it, he will of necessity become us as living and moving among men, the victim of all those impure thoughts women, and scenes, in all of which which were most repugnant from the we cannot help recognizing a certain spotless temperament of St Anthony; aspect of life and nature, and occa and more, that if any two persons sionally even of homeliness. We shall drink of it, they will not only become en leavour to give some very faint no equally victims to these horrid influ. VOL. XVI.


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

ences, but be constrained to bear in the man whose specimens of scenes versieyes of men a more than twin-like re. fied from some of the modern Gersemblance to each other; while, at the man dramatists, have long been famisame time, every evil cleed of the one liar to the readers of this journal, we shall unconsciously and mysteriously have perhaps said more than enough as tend to the evil, not of himself merely, to this matter. The fact, that this but of his guilty Double.

translation comes from such a person, It will naturally be supposed, there might of itself, indeed, be a sufficient fore, that the young travelling Count pledge, not only that the translation acts as the Doppel-ganger of the Monk is well executed, but that the work on -such is the case : but it is also dis which he has chosen to exercise his covered in the sequel, that the resem own graceful talents is no ordinary blance between them may admit of a work. natural explanation, since, in point of Imagine, then, the lowly sequesterfact, Victorin the Count, and Medar ed Monk in his dim cell, and come dus the Monk, are both of them the with us to Hoffmann's picture of the sons of one father. The poor Monk simultaneous wakening up of his geleaves his convent; and these two per nius and his ambition. Nothing, cersons are involved in a long variety of tainly, can be better than the whole of adventures, the eternally intermin- this part of the book is in its way; we gling and undistinguishable threads of are sorry that we must confine ourwhich we have no intention to attempt selves to a mere specimen. untwisting on this occasion. Let it be sufficient to say, that their collision

“ The eventful holiday soon arrived. embraces the whole field of human

The church was unusually crowded, and it passion—that they are rivals in love, that I mounted the pulpit. At the com

was not without considerable trepidation in war, in guilt, in misery, and in

mencement, I remained timidly faithful to madness; and that they at last both die

my manuscript ; and Leonardus told me childless and repentant, whereby the that I had spoken with a faltering voice, great knot is unloosed, and the unhap- which, however, exactly corresponded with py wanderer allowed to quit the world, certain plaintive and pathetic considerations of which for centuries he has been with which I had begun my discourse, and weary. Such is the tale: or rather which, therefore, was interpreted by most such we understand it to be, for, in

of my auditors into a very skilful example

of rhetorical tact. truth, Hoffmann has many excellencies, but clearness of narrative is not

Soon afterwards, however, it seemed as

if my inward mind were gradually lighted of the number. This is quite enough in the way of up by the glowing fire of supernatural in.

spiration. I thought no more of the manuexplanation—for we abominate the re

script, but gave myself up to the influence viewer who forestalls his author. We

of the moment. I felt how every nerve and shall proceed, therefore, without far fibre was attuned and energized. I heard ther preface, to make a few quotations, my own voice thunder through the vaulted simply in order that the reader may sa roof. I beheld, as if by miracle, the halo tisfy himself as to the energy and mas

of divine light shed around my own elevaterly skill with which Mr Hoffmann

ted head and outstretched arms. By what handles his materials of various kinds.

means I was enabled to preserve connecAsfor the translator, wemight safely al- ceptions with any degree of logical preci.

tion in my periods, or to deliver my con, low one specimen of his performance to

sion, I know not, for I was carried out of speak for itself. His version is not only myself

. I could not afterwards have dea faithful, but a highly elegant one; clared whether my discourse had been short and in addition to all this, the writer or long the time past like a dream ! With has shewn great judgment in omitting a grand euphonical sentence, in which I certain details, which would not have concentrated, as if into one focus, all the been over acceptable to the English blessed doctrines that I had been announpublic in its present mood. In a word, cing, I concluded my sermon; of which he has contrived to prune off all the

the effect was such as had been in the con. indelicacy of his German original,

vent wholly unexampled. without doing the smallest injury to

“ Long after I had ceased to speak, there the author's genius; but, on the con

were heard through the church the sounds

of passionate weeping, exclamations of trary, to the great and manifest bene

heartfelt rapture, and audible prayers. The fit and advantage of the work, in every brethren paid me their tribute of the highest possible point of view. When we add, approbation. Leonardus embraced me, and that the translator is the same gentle- named me the pride of their institution !

“ With unexampled rapidity my renown in me the greatest displeasure. There has was spread abroad; and henceforward, on arisen in your mind some adverse and hosevery Sunday or holiday, crowds of the tile principle, by which you have become most respectable inhabitants of the town wholly alienated from a life of pious simused to be assembled, even before the doors plicity. In your discourses there prevails were opened, while the church, after all, a dangerous obscurity; and from this dark. was found insufficient to hold them. By ness many things appear ready, if you dared this homage, my zeal was proportionably utter them, to start forward, which, if increased. I endeavoured more and more to plainly spoken, would effectually separate give to my periods the proper rounding, and you and me for ever. To be candid_at to adorn my discourses throughout, with this moment you bear about with you, and all the flowers of eloquence. I succeeded betray that unalterable curse of our sinful always more and more in fettering the at. origin, by which even every powerful strugtention of my audience, until my fame be- gle

of our spiritual energies is rendered a came such, that the attention paid to me means of opening to us the realms of dewas more like the homage and veneration struction, whereinto we thoughtless mortals due to a saint, than approbation bestowed are, alas ! too apt to go astray ! on any ordinary mortal. A kind of reli. “ • The approbation, nay, the idolatrous gious delirium now prevailed through the admiration, which has been paid to you by town. Even on ordinary week days, and the capricious multitude, who are always in on half-holidays, the inhabitants came in search of novelty, has dazzled you, and you crowds, merely to see Brother Medardus, behold yourself in an artificial character, and to hear him speak, though but a few which is not your own, but a deceitful words.

phantom, which will entice you rapidly into “ Thus vanity gradually, by impercep- the gulf of perdition. Return, then, into tible, but sure approaches, took possession yourself, Medardus—renounce the deluof my heart. Almost unconsciously, I be sion which thus besets and overpowers you! gan to look upon myself as the one elect,- I believe that I thoroughly understand this the pre-eminently chosen of Heaven. delusion, at least, I am well aware of its

effects. Already have you lost utterly that

calmness and complacence of spirit, with. “ That unaffected cheerfulness and in

out which there is, on this earth, no hope ward serenity which had formerly bright of real improvement. Take warning, then, ened my existence, was completely banish. in time! Resist the fiend who besets you ! ed from my soul. Even all the good. Be once more that good-humoured and hearted expressions of the Prior, and friend- open-hearted youth whom with my whole ly behaviour of the monks, awoke within soul I loved !! me only discontent and resentment. By “ Tears involuntarily flowed from the their mode of conduct, my vanity was bit- eyes of the good Prior while he spoke thus. terly mortified. In me they ought clearly He had taken my hand, but now letting it to have recognized the chosen saint who fall, he departed quickly without waiting was above them so highly elevated. Nay, for any answer. they should even have prostrated themselves “ His words had indeed penetrated my in the dust, and implored my intercession heart; but, alas ! the impressions that they before the throne of Heaven !

had left were only those of anger, distrust, “I considered them, therefore, as beings and resentment. He had spoken of the influenced by the most deplorable obdu. approbation, nay, the admiration and reracy and refractoriness of spirit. Even in spect, which I had obtained by my wonmy discourses, I contrived to interweave derful talents ; and it became but too obvi. certain mysterious allusions. I ventured

ous that only pitiful envy had been the real to assert, that now a wholly new and source of that displeasure, which he so canmighty revolution had begun, as with the didly expressed towards me.-Silent, and roseate light of morning, to dawn upon the wrapt up within myself, I remained, at the earth, announcing to pious believers, that next meeting of the brethren, a prey to de. one of the specially elect of Heaven had vouring indignation.” been sent for a space to wander in sublunary regions. My supposed mission I con We must now be contented to imatinued to clothe in mysterious and obscure gine, as we best may, that Medardus imagery, which, indeed, the less it was un. has yielded to all manner of temptaderstood, seemed the more to work like a

tions, wandered far from his cloister, charm among the people. “ Leonardus now became visibly colder

committed sundry heinous crimes, at in his manner, avoiding to speak with me,

the instigation of the real Devil's unless before witnesses. At last, one day,

Elixirs of lust and hate ; and that hawhen we were left alone in the great allee ving entirely laid aside his Capuchin of the convent garden, he broke out

character and costume, he is travelling • Brother Medardus, I can no longer con en seigneur, through a remote part of ceal from you, that for some time past your

the German empire. His carriage whole behaviour has been such as to excite breaks down by night in a forest, and

« AnteriorContinuar »