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pathies more entirely kind, the embodiment of the Roman Dramatist's sentiment,
“ Homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto,' stamped upon all the latest works of Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, whether in prose or poetry, that constitutes his best claim to lasting remembrance, and to a fame superior to change or fluctuation.
It may not be out of place to run over the chief features of those charming novels, which begin with · Pisistratus Caxton' and end with What will he do with it?' in order to ascertain, as we conceive it possible to do, the claims of each to the same favourable regard which is due to the main object of our present criticism, Sir Edward Lytton's ‘Collected Poems.' In each and all may be
' discerned the same “fruits of golden contemplation, the harvestflower of life,' of which the author calls song the twin,' the same well-husbanded wisdom of books, liberally yet withal dis. creetly sown. In each and all one notes an unforced tenderness, and a ripe charity, sitting gracefully upon a writer whom the world recollects erewhile as not unskilled in pointing the shaft of satire. Rich store of various learning, and a deep sympathy with our common humanity, are a very serviceable 'viaticum' for him who would essay the path to literary fame; but it is far commoner to find these outfits apart than together. Their rare combination should be a sure earnest of success, and as such we are disposed to hail it in the case of Sir Bulwer Lytton, who seems to us to have found his account in the afternoon of life in cherishing and giving scope to those very feelings and promptings, of which his earlier manhood thought scornfully or slightingly.
Let us glance, then (it were a bad compliment to author and reader alike if we were to admit the need of more than a glance), at that delightful family-picture “The Caxtons.' Was there ever a reader that did not warm towards that often misjudged species, the scholar and bookworm, after making the acquaintance of dear, simple, unworldly, and yet truly wise, Austin Caxton? Who would not have deemed it a privilege to subscribe for a copy of his 'Opus Magnum,''the history of human error,' and yet who ever doubts that he will make a grand mistake, and, guileless innocent that he is, burn his fingers grievously in his negotiations for printing and publishing it? The “mitis sapientia,' which suggests as a consolation for the interruption of his studies caused by the birth of his · Neogilos,' It might have been worse ; Leda had twins,' grows upon our respect and admiration as we proceed further in this vraisemblable' history. What healing virtues lay in that saffron-bag,'as all, for whom he prescribed it, came, in their turn, to know! What wisdom in his
likening 2 B 2
likening of 'parties to butter-pats!' What resources in the head and heart that could always minister the soundest counsel to others, nor ever failed their owner, save when self-interest was concerned ! It is conceivable, indeed, that objectors may be found to the multifarious learning displayed in Austin Caxton. Why, it may be urged, is a syllabus of his life-work thrust upon the indifferent reader, unless to show the learning of the artist, who must know that he is painting a character utterly beyond the grasp
of the unlearned ? To what other end are the quotations put in his mouth from 'a whole pack of sages, from Plato and Ženo, to Reid and Abraham Tucker?' We reply, that while they illustrate the character of a veritable 'helluo librorum, and set him lifelike before us, they subserve also the purpose of proving the adaptability of deductions from profound human learning to the common needs of work-a-day life. It is this book-learned Austin, as our author shrewdly makes it appear, who is able to put the finishing touch to the erring Vivian's repentance; it is he who has to superintend the successful, if late, application of the saffron-bag to the disappointed ambition of Trevanion. To be sure, all characters in novels are wont to be a trifle exaggerated ; and Austin Caxton is not altogether an exception from the general rule. But is this scholar of a later day a whit in excess of Sir Walter Scott's Baron of Bradwardine; or, for the matter of that, are Trevanion and Sedley Beaudesert characters one tittle more improbable than Fergus or Flora MacIvor? A sweet companion portrait to that of Austin Caxton is his helpmate, a gentle, trusting, admiring, scholar's wife; a motherly home-keeping woman, who herself practises and carefully hands on to the niece, whom she designs for her darling Pisistratus, the last finish of meek every-day charities, the mild household virtues, the soft word that turneth away wrath—the angelic pity for man's rougher faults—the patience that bideth its time, and exacting no "rights of woman," subjugates us, delighted, to the invisible thrall’ (p. 373). Equally good in its way is the minute delineation of gallant Roland Caxton, in his heroic bearing of his great sorrow; his patient seeking for the lost; his veneration for the principle of honour; his chivalrous courtesy to woman, and his Quixotic watch over every item of the De Caxton pedigree. It is no little enhancement to the beauty and truthfulness of this character that the veteran's sword and Bible are represented as equally well worn, and kept equally ready at hand for needful service. And it is, indeed, a noteworthy feature that neither here, nor anywhere in Sir Bulwer Lytton's later works, is the subject of religion treated otherwise than with the most scrupulous reverence and abundant
honour. The interest of The Caxtons' naturally centres in the hope of the house, Pisistratus, whose fortunes, various and eventful, settle down into a happy marriage with his cousin Blanche, a far better wife for him, we may be sure, than his whilom daydream, that somewhat fickle and helpless specimen of womanhood, Fanny Trevanion. In his character there is a notable absence of exaggeration. Its tone is healthy and unselfish. He is a just medium between the scholar and the practical man. A hero of a novel is, by prescription, a faultless work of creation, but our author has shown his sense and tact in making Austin Caxton's "Anachronism' of like flesh and blood with other wellnurtured English lads; not a Lewis Arundel, or a Charles O'Malley, but a youth of good pluck and spirits, with thought and feeling for his fellow-creatures. The whole Caxton family is cleverly sketched in the old Cumberland woman's description of them, 'Wi' heads kindly stup'd to the least, and lifted mansu' oop to the heighest, that ye all war' sin ye cam from the ark.'
Of the minor actors in this domestic drama commend us to Uncle Jack, a sketch which it would be injustice to call a caricature, and the key to the whole understanding of which is given us by Pisistratus in his boyish observation, that if ever you gave him half-a-crown, he was sure to turn it into a halfpenny; he was only unsuccessful in turning my halfpennies into halfcrowns.' From the day Pisistratus first meets him at his father's, on . return from school, until we see him in the Bush, and are made privy to his irresolution between justice and speculation, the character of this adventurer of the Skimpole school is excellently sustained. Nor is the discerning apothecary, Mr. Squills, to be dismissed without a word of praise, who ‘found Mr. Caxton a better book in himself than all he had in his library; and who had a famous retort for that worthy when he twitted him with
saying much the same thing as Anaxagoras had said before him, about hands.' 'I can't help that,' answered Mr. Squills; 'one couldn't open one's lips, if one were bound to say what nobody else said.' This, by the way, might serve for a tolerable answer to the charge against Sir Edward B. Lytton of having plagiarised from Sterne. There is nothing new under the sun. One clergyman, for example, goes direct to St. Chrysostomt for materials for his sermon; another takes his ideas from Jeremy Taylor, who drew copiously from that rich stream of golden words. The more we know and read, the less we believe in the existence of absolute originality. But does the charge against our author need an answer? Is it not enough to admit that advantage has been taken of an eminent model, and to plead that while all its good points have been laid under contribution, all that disfigured
• Tristram Shandy' have been avoided, the result being a pure English novel, which a man may see without disquietude in the hands of his wife or his daughter. Is it no merit to have fined down the grosser traits of the Shandean character, and to have reproduced the conceptions of Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim, Mr. Shandy and Dr. Slop, without the accompaniment of asterisks or inuendoes? Without anywise undervaluing one of the most extraordinary efforts of brilliant genius, we may safely affirm that Sterne has himself limited the enjoyment of his lively wit and inimitable humour by a coarseness which disqualifies his works for the lower shelves of a library. "The Caxtons,' on the other
• hand, lacking, we must admit, the prime merit of originality, may be perused and enjoyed by either sex and by every age, age and sex alike being all the better for such perusal and enjoyment. It is, in a word, a work rich in learning, rich in the fruits of experience and contemplation; rich, above all, in the genuine essence of human kindness. We forget, as we read it, the unloving, worldly creed, that error is irreclaimable, and reformation a fallacy.
In • My Novel 'the reader is launched upon a wider sea, to which «The Caxtons' was, as it were, a quiet inland lake. Instead of a minute picture of one home circle, our interest is bespoken now for at least half a dozen hearths; each representing a different phase of English society, each surrounded by figures sketched with consummate insight into the motives which influence the good, the bad, and that unsettled class which oscillates between the two. Doubtless, in ‘My Novel,' the dark side of human life is more exposed to view than in • The Caxtons,' yet even here the bright and good side largely predominates; and the retribution which is made to overtake the worthless, is tempered by a scrupulous fear of seeming to anticipate the final award. Peschiera, Randal, and the Baron Levy, rascals of various degrees, meet each with that modicum of punishment and degradation which consists with poetical justice, while vengeance is left to whom vengeance belongeth. The finely-drawn character of Audley Egerton points its own moral. The one deceit, at first almost unavoidable, that necessitates a life of suppression, and gnaws the heart with its pent-up secret until he who seems to the world the brilliant and successful statesman, is, by his single false step, stripped of home, and friends, and peace, and life's enjoyment, becomes the key to the whole plot, and opens it so gradually, that our interest is on tiptoe from first to last. And if there is some slight exaggeration in the elaborate scheme which the undeceived Harley l'Estrange con
cocts as a punishment for his friend's treachery, if one somewhat doubts the probability of so tender and impulsive a nature hugging so bitter a project for so long a space as the Lansmere canvass and election, still due amends are made by the author's description of the return of love and charity to Harley's breast, and of the mode in which he overcomes evil with good,' by introducing Audley to his son. Yet it is not so much the plot of 'My Novel' (though that is worthy of one whose dramas are said to be better adapted for representation than those of contemporary playwrights) which entitles it to highest commendation, so much as the happy and careful delineation of its almost inexhaustible list of characters. Each type finds a patron with the particular class of readers to whose special experience of life it comes home with most force; but there is not a single type, we suspect, with which no reader is familiar. Squire Hazledean, for example, is the beau ideal of an old squire;' and his * Harry' not only the very model of the help meet for him, but also in her relations with the parish of Hazledean the picture of a kindhearted squiress' of the last generation.
The rector, Parson Dale, with much book-learning, but more observation of men and life, the thorough gentleman, yet simple and homely parish priest, is a type of a race which runs great risk of dying out in actual life, if the cry of spiritual destitution' leads our bishops to supplement the ranks of the clergy by the introduction of illiterate literates.' Many a Hazledean of this day has lost its Parson Dale, to find his pulpit and parsonage filled by a burly Boanerges, innocent of all refinement, puffed up by his little knowledge, and unpalatable alike to the squire and to the poor of his parish. Yet Parson Dale was no milk-and-water divine. “He had a great notion of the sacred privilege of a minister of the Gospel--to advise, to deter, to exhort, to reprove. And it was for the evening service that he prepared those sermons which may be called sermons “ that preach at you.” He preferred the evening for that salutary discipline, not only because the congregation was more numerous, but also because, being a shrewd man in his own innocent way, he knew that people bear better to be preached at after dinner than before ; that
you arrive more insinuatingly at the heart when the stomach is at peace. There was a genial kindness in Parson Dale's way of preaching at you. It was done in so imperceptible, fatherly a manner that you never felt offended. He did it, too, with so much art that nobody but your own guilty self knew that were the sinner he was exhorting. Yet he did not spare rich nor poor: he preached at the squire, and that great fat farmer,