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and resignation—and accurately reported conversation with George the Third at Windsor, will have upon the quid-nunc novel readers in our royal boroughs, where, we are credibly informed, the Spirit of the Book is still venerated as an authentic history of an illustrious personage. Some will discover the likeness of Mr. Pitt-some of Lord Grenville—others of my Lord Castlereagh, to whom the application will the more readily be made, because his lordship may be supposed to have held some such colloquy, when his faithful colleague was smoothing the way to his temporary retirement. The more loyal will discover, in Mrs. Falconer's forging, and sale of commissions, the nauseous detail of Mrs. Clarke's plot and correspondence with the Claverings and Fitzgeralds. In the character of the chief justice of England, whose love of liberty, temperance of conduct, elegance of language, and mansuetude of address, secure the esteem and confidence of his country, the very keen-sighted may perhaps discover my Lord Ellenborough. For our own part, however, we are inclined to think that Miss Edgeworth had not that learned personage in her eye-but rather that she drew from the stock of her native country, as well she might--that union of law and literature-of liberal feeling and suarity of intercourse of polished wit and political integrity, of which the bar of Ireland furnishes more than one illustrious example.
Miss Edgeworth, we are afraid, is somewhat enamoured of high station--else why select for the husband of Caroline, the daughter of the high-minded Percy, who spurns at patronage, and deplores the patron, a German—a courtier--and a minister in expectation ? Count Altenberg is the favourite of an hereditary prince, with the reversion of the office of prime minister in his prospect, secured to him on the promise of his highness, whenever bis serene father shall be no more! It may be, indeed, that Miss Edgeworth considers this promise as the best security that the holder of it shall not be tormented with the possession of that painful preöminence!
For our part, we confess, we think the clumsy machinery of majesty, and the cumbrous agency of those superior beings vulgarly known by the name of ministers and favourites, so extremely unlike the simpler and purer taste of Miss Edgeworth's former fables, that we have been sometimes tempted to doubt whether this, and some other parts of the work which we shall point out, are the unmixed productions of her pen. We think we know her style
Miss Edgeworth has hitherto shown an instinctive aversion to bad taste, either in the conduct or in the sentiments of her works. Surely some heavy spirit has occasionally guided her pen--has obtruded its ponderous patronage on her book-has spelled the bulk of the work, but taken from its characteristic delicacy-and has distilled its poppies upon pages, which we are compelled to allow are now and then prosing and tedious.
Miss Edgeworth, in a manner rather temporising, we think, than pronounced, insinuates her doubts-her dislike, we may say, to the German waltz! Of the charms and mischiefs of that mysterious dance we profess to be incompetent judges. We are told, however, that it has all the revolutionary symptoms, and has produced hosts of alarmists in the capital of our neighbours. In this purer region we are still content with a rigid adherence to the orthodox Highland fling—the pure pleasures of the Presbyterian reel! At most, we deviate into a Border-bumpkin; and view with jealousy in the country dances, the occasional introduction of an allemande, (another German innovation, we believe, in which the concatenation of youthful arms is somewhat equivocal and alarming.
Our national feelings, therefore, incline us to join with Miss Edgeworth, in adhering to the old constitution of our balls and our forefathers. This is our opinion; and no doubt it is the opinion of English Clay. But then, English Clay must join with us in tolerating those who discover no immediate and decisive danger to all other people from this indulgence; seeing that the Germans, Russians, Swiss-all Europe, indeed-are blessed with constitutions calculated to resist the evil effects of this stimulus, though ours cannot;—and have their competent share of chastity and decorum, whatever the fashionable tourists of our country may report to the contrary.
FROM THE QUARTERLY REVIEW.
[It is often not less instructive than amusing to observe the very different lights in
which the same object may appear to persons of dissimilar tastes and habits of mind. The Edinburgh reviewers have always been the avowed and warm ad. mirers of Miss Edgeworth's literary productions; their opponents, the Quarterly Reviewers, have generally bestowed their praise with a more sparing hand, and apparently with some little reluctance. The following general character of Miss Edgeworth's writings, extracted from a review of Patronage in the Quarterly, is marked by much candour and good sense, although the praise which it bestows is evidently rather extorted by her surpassing excellence, than flowing as the warm tribute of spontaneous admiration.]
Miss EvGEWORTH, with that vigour and originality which are amerg the principal characteristics of genius, bas struck out a line of writing peculiar to herself—a line which it required considerable boldness to adopt, and no common talents to execute with effect. Not only has Miss Edgeworth interdicted to herself
all those unfair and discreditable modes of obtaining popularity to which we have before alluded, but she has also voluntarily renounced many others that may be deemed fair, and comparatively harmless. We do not mean to speak merely of the entire absence of castles, drawbridges, spectres, banditti-caves, forests, moonlight, and other scenes, which have furnished to Mrs. Ratcliffe and her school, many a gorgeous and terrific tale. Her most distinguished cotemporaries have been content to forego these easy embellishments. But she has made some sacrifices which, if we are not much mistaken, are peculiarly her own. Her pictures are all drawn in the soberest colours. She scarcely makes use of a single tint that is warmer than real life. No writer recurs so rarely, for the purpose of creating an interest, to the stronger and more impetuous feelings of our nature. Even love, the most powerful passion that acts within the sphere of domestic life-the presiding deity of the novel and the drama is handled by her in a way very different from that in which we have been accustomed to see it treated in works of fiction. In them we find it represented sometimes as a guilty, sometimes as an innocent, but generally as an irresistible impulse—as a feeling which springs up spontaneously in the human breast-now as a weed--now as a fower—but whether as a weed or as a flower not to be eradicated. The old rule was for heroes and heroines to fall suddenly and irretrievably into love-if they fell in love with the right person so much the better—if not, it could not be helped, and the novel ended unhappily. And above all, it was held quite irregular for the most reasonable people to make any use whatever of their reason on the most important occasion of their lives. Miss Edgeworth has presumed to treat this mighty power with far less reverence. She has analyzed it, and found that it does not consist of one simple element, but that several common ingredients enter into its composition-habit-esteem-a belief of some corresponding sentiment -and of some suitableness in the character and circumstances of the party. She has pronounced that reason, timely and vigorously applied, is almost a specific--and following up this bold empirical line of practice, she has actually produced cases of the entire cure of persons who had laboured under its operation. Having mastered love, of course she treats the minor passions with very little ceremony, and, indeed, she brings them out so curbed, watched, and circumscribed, that those who have been accustomed to see them range at large would hardly know them in their new trammels. Her favourite qualities are prudence, firmness, temper, and that active, vigilant good sense, which, without checking the course of our kindly affections, exercises its influence at every moment, and surveys deliberately the motives and consequences of every action. Utility is her object, reason and ex
perience her means. She makes vastly less allowance than has been usually made for those “ amiable weaknesses,” “ sudden irnpulses, “uncontrollable emotions,” which cut so great a figure in the works of her predecessors. Her heroes and heroines are far more thinking, cautious, philosophizing persons than ever before were produced in that character. She is, in fact, if we may be allowed to coin a word, an anti-sentimental novelist. Her books, so far from lending any countenance to vice, even in its most refined and agreeable form, afford some of the best lessons of practical morality with which we are acquainted. They teach, not merely by dry, general maxims on the one hand, or by splendid examples on the other, but by reasons put into the months of the actors themselves, what is the right mode of conduct in circumstances of difficulty or temptation. She is constantly endeavouring to point out, by the discussion of cases judiciously selected, or ingeniously invented, what is the road by which virtue conducts us to happiness. There is hardly any good quality to which Miss Edgeworth has not contributed her powerful recommendation; but the ultimate rewards of steadiness, independence, and honest persevering exertion, are those she is fondest of setting before our eyes, and we think her choice is sanctioned by the value of the doctrines which she inculcates. She has, doubtless, observed that this mode of instruction is not adapted to those cases in which to deviate from virtue is palpably a crime. It is to the decalogue, and to the terrors of the law, that we are to look for the prevention of these graver and more striking offences. But men become fickle and indolent, and rely upon others to do that which they ought to do for themselves, before they have remarked the beginning of the evil, without foreseeing its consequences, and without being able to apply a remedy. It is to guard against these bad habits of mind-the causes of so much failure, disgrace, and misery, that Miss Edgeworth has principally directed her attention, and there is scarcely a page that does not contain some exhortation direct or indirect--by precept or example to control our passions and to exert our faculties." There are hardly any works of the kind that young persons can read with so much benefit. To their minds she constantly presents, in various shapes, and with a thousand illustrations, this great and salutary maxim--that nothing is to be learnt, and very little to be gained without labour-severe and continued labour. But she does not forget, in order to reconcile them to this somewhat unpalatable doctrine, to show with equal care and truth that labour becomes vastly less irksome by habit that judiciously directed it seldom fails of its object--that laziness, even to those whose rank and fortune screen them from its most dreadful consequences--poverty and contempt-is in itself wearisome and painful--that the pauses and recreations of successful
diligence comprise within them more cheerfulness and real gratification than are spread over the whole surface of a merely pleasurable life. With this view her principal characters are represented as persons of good, but not of extraordinary faculties: they do nothing suddenly and “per saltum,” and their success and attainments are no more than what half the world may hope to equal by following the same means. She deals in examples, not in wonders; hers are models of imitable excellence, and she rarely abuses the license of fiction to exhibit those miracuJous combinations of virtue and talents, which, though they delight us for a moment with the image of perfection, serve to perplex and discourage, not to guide, the ordinary race of mortals.
Our readers, we presume, are aware, and if they are not, they will be very far from doing justice to Miss Edgeworth's merits, that so far as effect is concerned, this uniform systematic preference of what is useful to what is splendid, is a prodigious disadvantage. It is upon dazzling characters, in which virtue bordering in its excess upon the contiguous fault, more resembles a generous instinct, than a quality cultivated and strengthened by reason, that the writers of novels have justly relied for securing the public attention. Discretion and a logical head they thought by no means fit for the heroes and heroines of romance. And, undoubtedly, if effect were the only object, they did much better with rash courage, inconsiderate generosity, hasty confidence, and love ardent and irresistible at first sight, qualities infinitely more attractive to the bulk of mankind than those with which Miss Edgeworth has ventured to invest the principal persons of her drama. If, then, in spite of sacrifices to which hardly any one else has submitted, she has contrived to render her works highly entertaining and popular, she surely deserves double praise ; not merely for having surmounted a difficulty, which, when that difficulty bas been made only for the purpose of being surmounted, is a merit of a very inferior order, but because the purpose for which she voluntarily encountered it was highly useful and important.
To the accomplishment of this task she has brought very considerable talents and acquirements, various reading, knowledge, which, though she is too judicious to display it with ostentation, seems to be both extensive and accurate; a nice observation of manners and character, both in individuals and in society; a clear, easy, unencumbered style, and a keen sense of the ridiculous. Her two strong poiots are good sense and hutnour, and it is by the buoyant power of her humour that she has been able to diffuse among the public so large a portion of her good sense. Nothing can be more chaste and correct, and at the same time more ludicrous, than the representation of themselves, which her characters VOL. IV. New Series.