Page images

The Pirate, by the Author of view to the general trash of the Warerley, Kenilworth, &c circulating library; we shall not

so strictly confine our remarks, as (Continued from p. 172.) not occasionally to urge arguments In our last Number we stated our which may not apply, at least in intention of entering, somewhat at their full force, to the writings imlarge, into a view of the evils which mediately under our consideration; appear to as to flow from a habit a warning which we think it but of trifling reading, particularly in fair to give, lest we should seem to the line of fictitious narrative. In impute to the author of Waverley order fairly to meet the case, we faults with which he is not chargedivided works of imagination-not able. Our readers, therefore, in very logically perhaps, but conve- justice both to the author and to niently for our purpose into three us, will make the necessary abateclasses ; namely, those which are ments in the application of our stricwritten with an obviously bad in- tures to his particular case. tention ; those which are written The first objection which presses with no definite intention at all, upon our attention in regard to the except fame or profit to the author habit of novel-reading, is the inand amusement to the reader; and JURIOUS excitement which it tends those which are written with a po- to produce. And bere let it be sitively good intention. The first kept in mind, that the works of class we dismissed in a few words, fictitious narrative to which our obas too palpably evil to require an servations are meant to apply, are argumentative reprehension. The those which are written with no desecond class seemed to deserve a finite views, except of fame or promore lengthened discussion; and fit to the author, or of amusement to to furnish a basis for our remarks, we the reader. Now, works of this deselected, as a somewhat favourable scription may differ widely in their specimen, the tales of the unknown degrees of morality, or immorality; author of Waverley; and had pro- but one property is common to alceeded so far in our plan as to give most all of them, that they are inan outline of “The Pirate," with ex- tended to be stimulating. If they Iracts,--this being his last produc- fail in this, it is generally the aution, and though inferior to several thor's misfortune, and not his purwhich have preceded it in literary pose. He intends his work to be merit, yet presenting a fair sample irresistible in arresting the imaginaof the moral qualities of his novels. tion, and absorbing, for the time,

Now, we do not hesitate to say, every faculty of the mind, and every that even were po novel more ex- affection of the heart. If his readers ceptionable than the Pirate, or than can contentedly eat, drink, sleep, Waverley, or Kenilworib, or any study, or pray from the time they other of these tales, the effect of commence his narrative, till they habitually indulging in the perusal have followed the vicissitudes of of such works would be decidedly his hero or heroine to their concluinjurious; and we purpose to for. sion, it is so much detracted from tify our remarks by a specification the potency of his genius. He of some of the evils:which appear wishes his spell to be inextricable: to us naturally to result from this his ideal world is to cast into the habit. We should however premise, shade all the tame realities of this that though we have selected the visible sphere : joy and sorrow, Waverley Novels as a sort of stand. health and duty, are all to be forard by which to try the question at gotten while, following the mazes issue, and have thus taken ground of the artist's fancy, the enchanted much less favourable to our own reader plies the volume by the ray views than if we had extended our of the sickly taper into the darkest watches of midnight. We do not mathematical treatise may create as aver that every novel is thus allur- long and powerfully sustained an ing; but this is only to say that interest as a vovel; and that the every novel is not written by a Ri- excitement will be injurious, if it chardson, a Burney, a Ratcliffe, or cause a person to neglect any duty by the author of Waverley. Wbat of life for its gratification. But is called a “good " novel, and then there are many qualifications what for that very reason perhaps in the one case, which do not apply we ought to call

« bad" one, cer- to the other. For example, the tainly approaches this standard of interest excited by the Principia of excellence. It introduces its reader Newton, is not of an impassioned to a new world ; it rivets his atten. character: it may indeed, 'like a tion by an artfully adjusted series novel, so arrest ibe mind as to of incidents, and a highly-wrought cause the student to neglect the description of characters ; stimu. claims of business, or devotion, or lating the feelings and the curiosity health itself; but it does not miniin so powerful a manner as, for the ster to any corrupt appetite, which time, to render almost every thing is more than can be said of most else uninteresting in the compari. novels : nor is such a course of

The excitement may be more reading open to various other imor less' injurious in its character, portant objections, which we shall or in its intensity, or in its dura- bave to urge against an inordinate tion. In many novels, the charac- indulgence in works of fiction. ter or quality, so to speak, of the Again ; the facuhies called into excitement, is of a decidedly ex- exercise by severe study, are of a ceptionable kind : they add fuel to very different nature to those which the flame of passions which we are are stimulated by novel-reading; bound to mortify and subdue : they nor is the vigour of the mind imlead the reader to the margin of paired, but on the contrary intemplation, and 100 often precipi- creased, by such an application of late him over the brink. We shall its powers. Besides whicli, the not complain very seriously of the one may be an affair of business ; Waverley Tales in this respect; for whereas the other can only be at the excitement they cause is not for best a recreation. A Cambridge the most part strictly that of the wrangler, we allow, may be, as passions. But still an intense ex. much engrossed by his pursuits, as citement of long duration, even if a novel reader ; but the one is envot positively vicious, is generally grossed in his proper calling, the hurtful in its effects. It enervates other for no assignable good end the mind; it generates a sickliness or purpose whatever. If a clergyof fancy; and it renders the ordi. man in active duty, as a nary affairs of life insipid. Should amusement, were to give up his it be objected, that this argument, mind to the same degree of matheif allowed at all, would go much matical study as he might lawfully too far; that it would banish music, do when a college student, he would and poetry, and all works of ima- doubtless be open to a part of the gination, and many of the severer charge which we are urging against sciences themselves, since all these novel-reading: he would find his cause excitement; it may be replied, studies entrenching on his public that it would certainly go so far as labours, and would shrink perto restrict these withio due bounds, haps from the ordinary calls of his where they are matters of mere re- duty to indulge in these pleasures creation := where they are matters of intellect. There would however of business, they do not come still be many degrees of difference fairly within the scope of the pre- in the two cases; though in both sent discussion. We admit that a the claims of a family, or a parisky



might be neglected in the intoxica- curiosity, is but too plain : the midtion of habitual mental excitement. night novel, is it does not colour

Our argument, however, is by the next day's conversation, gives no means intended to go so far at least its tone. 10 the feelings ; as to exclude a temperate degree and it is well if it do not through of mental excitement arising from the day occupy by stealth many a a variety of pursuits, as well as moment clandestinely taken from from the study of inathematics. business requiring close and undiWith respect to such poetry, or vided attention, and if it do not jqusic, or fictitious literature, as also engross the thoughts even while have no vicious tendencies, the it is not allowed to fill the hands. chief danger consists ju the inten- A mind under the genuine influsity and duration of the excitementence of novel-reading, shrinks from they produce. But the intensity every tbing like effort in study. It and duratiou of that produced by is stimulated with artificial condinovel reading is usually very con- ments, till it loses all natural and siderable. Few novel readers can healthy appetite. Not only the take up a well written tale, con- graver departments of literature, sisting of several volumes, for five but even books of amusement of a or ten minutes at a time, and lay less piquant character become dull it down again, and return to the and prosing in comparison with ordinary and less interesting pur- these highly seasoned viands. We suits of life, without baving their question whether a few months unminds injuriously stimulated, and restrained indulgence in. Waverley being led to cast many "a longing novels themselves, sober and manly lingering look behind.” There is as they are when compared wiih an evil in this respect in the general the ordinary class of such producconstruction of our novels : they lions, would not generate for a are usually long-much longer than time at least, a distate, for our any person ought lo be able to find standard essayists, and for most time to read at one, two, three, or writers of true und unromantic nareven many more sittings ; yet they rative; to say nothing of the more are so contrived, as to be incapa. serious walks of metaphysics, theoble of being read iu repose by in- logy, and other abstract studies, slalments. The mind is absorbed ; which could not be supposed 10 the imagioation is healed; and the present any attractions to the boaaffections are engaged. The mo- bitual novel-reader. ment arrives to lay down the vo- Were we Medical Reviewers inlume; but iç is not so easy to ba- stead of Christian Observers, we nish the subject : we quit it in a might feel it necessary to add to severish state of mind, and are in our charge against novel-reading, this fever till we return to it. Bu- on the score of exciteinent, the siness, study, devotion, the re- physical evils often attendant on quirements of nature, and the obli- the practice when carried to excess. gations of society, are but an irk- We know, at least, tbat medical some parenthesis, till some imagi- men have frequently urged this pary hero is extricated from his pe- point; and have stated ihat the rilous jeopardy, or some sentimental habit of novel-reading is almost as heroine is united to the object of enervating to one class of their her uncontrollable affections. The patients as the use of opium, or of result may be best seen in young spiritous liquors, to another. It is and badly educated persons, and in very clear, that the passions of the general wherever the mind has not buuan mind cannot be strongly exbeen disciplined to self-control. In cited day after day, and year after such cases, the struggle between the year, without causing subsequent call of duty, and the stimulus of languor and cxliaustion, both iben.

tal and bodily; and though we fully to number the hours which freely confess, that the novels of they devote annually to trifling the Waverley school are less inju- reading; and then compare this rious, in their effects on the per- startling record with the time given vous system, than those of the to the first great purpose of bunian sentimental class, yet they must existence. And is it not, we would still be ranged under the general ask, in the view of every reflecting head of deleterious stimulants; and man, an evil of incalculable magthe difference of a few drops, more nitude, that the few remnants of or less, of alcohol in the potion, time which persons, immersed in the will not be sufficient to render it business of the world, can spare an innocent beverage, however for the occasional relaxation of mildly it may operate as an occa- their minds; for the amiable endearsional cordial.

ments of the social circle ; for the A second objection which strikes instruction of their families; and us, in connexion with a habit of for that private meditation and novel-reading, is the serious waste prayer, and that study of the Scripof time which it occasions.--This tures, which are so necessary to fit blame the Waverley Tales must, in them to bear up against the temptheir measure, share with the trash tations of the world, and “80 to which loads the shelves of the cir- pass through things temporal that culating library: for it surely will finally they lose not the things not be pretended, that taking them eternal," instead of being improved generally, they pay their readers in for beneficial purposes, should be profit for the consumption of time engrossed and rendered pernicious they occasion. In one view, they by an indulgence in frivolous, not are more dangerous than ordinary to say noxious, reading. In this novels ; because, many persons view it is not necessary that every whose age, or habits, or education, volume, or any one volume, should exempt them from the temptation be of a decidedly exceptionable of promiscuous novel-reading, are tendency; it is enough for our seduced by the talents of this au- argument, if the general result is ibor to devote more hours to his such that the individual is not beperformances than they ought to Defited, that his family has been subtract from their positive duties, neglected, and that bis general train or to dedicate to works of mere of thought and feeling, already too entertainment. Let any person secular, has been debased instead calculate the pumber of solid hours of elevated; has been alienated expended in a large family, where, from God and heaven, instead of perhaps, thirty or more of these being attracted to them by his few volumes have been perused by five select moments of retirement and or six individuals, or let him mul- leisure. tiply this into the aggregate of the A third injurious effect allennational reading, and he will pro. dant on the generality of those bably be surprised at the vast con- works of fictitious narrative, which sumption of time involved in the form tbe subject of our observaprocess. We are aware, that to a tions, arises from the false and thorough novel-reader, time is an dangerous views which they present article of little or no value, except, of the actual circumstances of game to a sportsman, to be it is a prime secret for happiness to “ killed;" but to persons not quite learn the art of lowering our exso far advanced in frivolity, the pectations ; to be satisfied with a estimate may appear of more im- little; to be content with the state portance. We believe, that some of life in which we are placed ; to serious and well-disposed persons improve, and thus to enjoy, the prewould be shocked, were they care- sent lour, and to look for uo perfection either in men or things. such highly wrought exhibitions of But how different the lessons taught ideal scenes and characters. And, by the bulk of poets and novelists ! what we think has not been suffiEstatic joy and insupportable sor- ciently dwelt upon by those who row are almost the only conditions have reprobated novels on account of life for which their scale is gra- of their splendid fictions, -even duated. The mediocrity of talent, where scenes in real life are dis-, of property, and of personal en- played, and displayed faithfully, dowment, which generally presents they may, to many readers, have itself in the actual intercourse of all the evil effect of the most inmankind, is banished from their toxicating ideal world. To a young ideal world. Men are heroes, and man or woman in a humble station, women are angels: love is the mas- many even of the ordinary inciter passion; and the pursuit of a cap. dents of novels may thus be fatally tivating object the great business injurious. To wear silk stockings, of human existence. Now it is im, and go to the play, may appear as possible that a person can habitu- alluring a phantom to a lady's maid ally enter with full zest into the in a country village, as, to her spirit of this fictitious creation, more sentimental mistress, to be a without feeling a little dissatisfied Clementina della Peretta, or, if our with the tame realities of the actual readers will, a Minna Troil." And scene of his own “ work-day” state what is the next step? We refer of being. The best, the most na- to other pages

than our own for an tural, of mere novels, must neces- answer. The annals of the Magsarily be overcharged; their lights dalen and Lock Hospitals, and of must be made brighter than the the Guardian Society, if the secret reality, to give contrast to their history of the first aberrations of shadows; and their shadows darker the heart could always be known, than the reality, to give effect to would too probably furnish many a their lights. But young and inex- record of the baneful effects of perienced persons will not easily bę habits of novel-reading on ignopersuaded to believe that these fas- rant and inexperienced minds. cinating representations are fabu- With regard to the Waverley lous : true, they do not find the Tales, we have before admitted that prototypes among their own rela- the excitement of the passions is tions and acquaintance; but then, not by any means their characteristhey doubt not they are to be found tic quality; yet we cannot exempt elsewhere: they succeed in persuad- them from the charge of exhibiting ing themselves that they shall meet delusive and injurious views of with more sentiment, and more human life. We need go no farsensibility, and more exquisite joys, ther than the novel immediately beand more pungent sorrows, in some fore us; for who among the young other more favoured region, than admirers of these imaginary scenes, they bave yet been able to trace in would contentedly sit down amidst that which happens to lie within books or ledgers, or engross parchthe bounds of their daily vision : ment, or follow any regular honest - tbe enchanted paradise exists, vocation, if he could spend his though hitherto it has not been life like Mordaunt Mertoun, free their happy fate to discover its as an eagle, and without a care or precincts. Surely nothing can be a thought beyond wandering from more ensparing to ardent and crag to crag, encountering the youthful minds, or more calculated perils, and enjoying the pleasures, io destroy that tranquil acquies- of an adventurous sportsman, and cence in the allotments of Provi- relaxing from these rougher joys in dence which forms a grand con- the society of the beautiful and stituent in human happiness, than fascinatiog inmates of Burg Westra? CARIST, OBSERV, No. 244.

2 I

« PreviousContinue »