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pose, who write to inculcate High-Church | venience under the form of letters, as letters or Low-Church principles, or to prove that expanded till they become novels. society at large is out of joint; but a di- uine novelist who should put his work into rect intention to prove that men ought not the unnatural shape of a correspondence to steal or get drunk, or commit any other would probably find it a very awkward exatrocities, is generally considered to be be- pedient; but Richardson gradually worked side the novelist's purpose, and its intro- up to the novel from the conception of a colduction to be a fault of art. Indeed there lection of letters; and his method, therefore, is much to be said against it. In our youth came spontaneously to him. He started we used to read a poem about a cruel little from the plan of writing letters to illustrate boy who went out to fish and was punished a certain point of morality, and to make by somehow becoming suspended by his them more effective attributed them to a ficchin from a hook in the larder. It never titious character. The result was the giganproduced much effect upon us, because we tic tract called Pamela distinctly the felt that the accident was, to say the worst of his works of which it is enough least, rather exceptional; at most, we fished to say at present that it succeeds neither in on, and were careful about the larder. being moral nor in amusing. It shows, howThe same principle applies to the poetic ever, a truly amazing fertility in a specially justice dealt by most novelists. When feminine art. We have all suffered from Richardson kills off his villains by violent the propensity of some female minds (the deaths, we know too well that many vil- causes of which we will not attempt to analains live to a good old age, leave hand-lyze) for pouring forth indefinite floods of some fortunes, and are buried under the handsomest of tombstones, with the most elegant of epitaphs. This very rough device for inculcating morality is of course ineffectual, and produces some artistic blemishes. The direct exhortations to his readers to be good are still more annoying; no human being can long endure a mix-time hung heavier, and letter-writing was a ture of preaching and story-telling. For Heaven's sake, we exclaim, tell us what happens to Clarissa, and don't stop to prove that honesty is the best policy! In a wider sense, however, the seriousness of Richardson's purpose is of high value. He is so keenly in earnest; so profoundly interested about his characters; so determined to make us enter into their motives, that he cannot help being carried away; if he never spares an opportunity of giving us a lecture, at least his zeal in setting forth an example never flags for an instant. The effort to give us an ideally perfect character seems to stimulate his imagination, and leads to a certain intensity of realization which we are apt to miss in the novelists without a purpose. He is always, as it were, writing at high-pressure and under a sense of responsibility.

The method which he adopts lends itself very conveniently to heighten this effect. It may be reckoned as another feminine peculiarity in Richardson, that he had an inordinate propensity to letter-writing. As a boy he wrote love-letters for the young women of the neighbourhood. When he was grown up he was led to write novels by the admiration expressed for his strange fertility in this direction. Richardson's novels, indeed, are not so much novels put for con

correspondence. We know the heartless fashion in which some ladies, even in these days of penny postage, will fill a sheet of note-paper and proceed to cross their writing till the page becomes a chequer-work of unintelligible hieroglyphics. But we may feel gratitude in looking back to the days when

more serious business. The letters of those times may recall the fearful and wonderful labours of tapestry in which ladies employed their needles by way of killing time. The monuments of both kinds are a fearful indication of the ennui from which the perpetrators must have suffered. We pity those who endured the toil as we pity the prisoners whose patient ingenuity has carved a passage through a stone wall with a rusty nail. Richardson's heroines, and his heroes too, for that matter, would have been portents at any time. We will take an example at hazard. Miss Byron, on the 22nd of March, writes a letter of fourteen pages. The same day she follows it up by two of six and of twelve pages respectively. On the 23rd she leads off with a letter of eighteen pages, and another of ten. On the 24th she gives us two, filling together thirty pages, at the end of which she remarks that she is forced to lay down her pen, and then adds a postscript of six; on the 25th she confines herself to two pages; but after a Sunday's rest she makes another start of equal vigour. In three days, therefore, she covers ninety-six pages. Two of the pages are about equal to one in this magazine. Consequently in three days' correspondence, referring to the events of the day, she would fill forty-eight pages of the Cornhill Magazine, a task,

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the magnitude of which may be appreciated | least, the slightest account of the way in by any one who will try the experiment. which she came by the knowledge would be We should say that she must have written enough to satisfy us for all purposes of ficabout ten hours a day, and are not surprised at her remark that she has on one occasion only managed two hours' sleep.

It would, of course, be the height of pedantry to dwell upon this, as though a fictitious personage were to be in all respects bounded by the narrow limits of human capacity. It is not the object of a really good novelist, nor does it come within the legitimate means of high art in any department, to produce an actual illusion. Showmen in some foreign palaces call upon us to admire paintings which we cannot distinguish from bas-reliefs; the deception is, of course, a mere trick, and the paintings are simply childish. On the stage we do not require to believe that the scenery is really what it imitates, and the attempt to introduce scraps of real life is a clear proof of a low artistic aim. Similarly a novelist is not only justified in writing so as to prove that his work is fictitious; but he almost necessarily hampers himself, to the prejudice of his work, if he imposes upon himself the condition that his book shall be capable of being mistaken for a genuine narrative. Every good novelist lets us into secrets about the private thoughts of his characters which it would be impossible to obtain in real life. When Mr. Pendennis relates the history of the Newcomes, he very properly gives us long conversations, and even soliloquies and meditations, of which a real Mr. Pendennis must have been necessarily ignorant. We do not, therefore, blame Richardson because his characters have a power of writing which no mortal could ever attain. His fault, indeed, is exactly the contrary. He very erroneously fancies that he is bound to convince us of the possibility of all his machinery, and often produces the very shock to our belief which he seeks to avoid. He is constantly trying to account by elaborate devices for the fertile correspondence of his characters, when it is perfectly plain that they are simply writing for purposes of the fiction. We should never have asked a question as to the authenticity of the letters, if he did not force the question upon us; and no art can induce us for a moment to accept the proffered illusion. For example, Miss Byron gives us a long account of conversations between persons whom she did not know, which took place ten years before. It is much better that the impossibility should be frankly accepted, on the clear ground that authors of novels, and consequently their creatures, have the prerogative of omniscience. At

tion. Richardson is not content with this, and elaborately demonstrates that she might have known a number of minute details which it is perfectly plain that a real Miss Byron could never have known, and thus dashes into our faces an improbability which we should have been quite content to pass unnoticed.

The method, however, of telling the story by the correspondence of the actors produces more important effects. The ninetysix pages we have noticed are all devoted to the proceedings of three days. They are filled, for the most part, with interminable conversations. The story advances by a very few steps; but we know all that every one of the persons concerned has to say about the matter. We discover what was Sir Charles Grandison's relation at a particular time to a certain Italian lady, Clementina. We are told exactly what view he took of his own position, what view Clementina took of it; what Miss Byron had to say to Sir Charles on the subject, and what advice her relations bestowed upon Miss Byron. Then we have all the sentiments of Sir Charles Grandison's sisters, and of his brothers-in-law, and of his reverend old tutor; and the sentiments of all the Lady Clementina's family, and the incidental remarks of a number of subordinate actors. In short, we see the characters all round in all their relations to each other, in every possible variation and permutation; we are present at all the discussions which take place before every step, and watch the gradual variation of all the phases of the positions. We get the same sort of elaborate familiarity with every aspect of affairs that we should receive from reading a bluebook full of some prolix diplomatic correspondence; indeed, Sir Charles Grandison closely resembles such a blue-book, for the plot is carried on mainly by elaborate negotiations between three different families, with proposals, and counter proposals, and amended proposals, and a final settlement of the very complicated business by a deliberate signing of two different sets of articles. One of them, we need hardly say, is a marriage settlement; the other is a definite treaty between the lady who is not married and her family, the discussion of which occupies many pages. The extent to which we are drawn into the minutest details may be inferred from the fact that nearly a volume is given to marrying Sir Charles Grandison to Miss Byron, after all

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ries of pictures of character and manners skilfully contrasted. and brilliantly coloured, though with a limited allowance of incident. Within his own sphere, no writer exceeds him in clearness and delicacy of conception. We may doubt whether even Miss Austen's female characters are more skilfully developed.

difficulties have been surmounted. We three, they may be entertained with a sehave at full length all the discussions by which the day is fixed, and all the remarks of the unfortunate lovers of both parties, and all the criticisms of both families, and finally an elaborate account of the ceremony, with the names of the persons who went in the separate coaches, the dresses of the bride and bridesmaids, and the sums which Sir Charles gave away to the village girls who strewed flowers on the pathway. Surely the feminine element in Richardson's character was a little in excess.

In another way, the machinery of a fictitious correspondence is rather troublesome. As the author never appears in his own person, he is often obliged to trust his characThe result of all this is a sort of Dutch ters with trumpeting their own virtues. painting of extraordinary minuteness. The Sir Charles Grandison has to tell us himself art reminds us of the patient labour of a of his own virtuous deeds: how he disarms line engraver, who works for days at mak- ruffians who attack him in overwhelming ing out one little bit of minute stippling numbers, and converts evil-doers by impres and cross-hatching. The characters are dis- sive advice; and, still more awkwardly, he played to us step by step and line by line. has to repeat the amazing compliments We are gradually forced into familiarity which everybody is always paying him. with them by a process resembling that by Richardson does his best to evade the neceswhich we learn to know people in real life. sity; he couples all his virtuous heroes with We are treated to few set analyses or sum- friendly confidants, who relieve the virtuous mary descriptions, but by constantly reading heroes of the tiresome task of self-adulation; their letters and listening to their talk we he supplies the heroes themselves with elabogradually form an opinion of the actors. rate reasons for overcoming their modesty, We see them, too, all round; instead of, as and makes them apologise profusely for the is usual in modern novels, regarding them unwelcome task. Still, ingenious as his exsteadily from one point of view; we know pedients may be, and willing as we are to what each person thinks of every one else, make allowance for the necessities of his and what every one else thinks of him; they task, we cannot quite free ourselves from are brought into a stereoscopic distinctness an unpleasant suspicion as to the simplicity by combining the different aspects of their of his characters. Clarissa is comparatively character. Of course, a method of this free from this fault, though Clarissa takes a kind involves much labour on the part both questionable pleasure in uttering the finest of writer and reader. It is evident that sentiments and posing herself as a model of Richardson did not think of amusing a stray virtue. But in Sir Charles Grandison, the half-hour in a railway or in a club smoking- fulsome interchange of flattery becomes of room; he counted upon readers who would fensive even in fiction. The virtuous charapply themselves seriously to a task, in the acters give and receive an amount of eulohope of improving their morals as much as gy enough to turn the strongest stomachs. of gaining some harmless amusement. But How amiable is A.! says B.; how virtuous it must also be said that, considering the is C., and how marvellously witty is D. cumbrous nature of the process, the spirit And then A., C., and D. go through the with which it is applied is wonderful. Rich- same performance, adding a proper compliardson's own interest in his actors never ment to B. in place of the exclamation apflags. The distinct style of every corre-propriate to themselves. The only parallel spondent is faithfully preserved with singu- in modern times is to be found at some of lar vivacity. When we have read a few the public dinners, where every man proletters we are never at a loss to tell, from poses his neighbour's health with a tacit unthe style alone of any short passage, who is the imaginary author. Consequently, readers who can bear to have their amusement diluted, who are content with an imperceptibly slow development of plot, and can watch without impatience the approach of a foreseen incident through a couple of volumes, may find the prolixity less intolerable than might be expected. If they will be content to skip two letters out of every

derstanding that he is himself to furnish the text for a similar oration. But then at dinners people have the excuse of a state of modified sobriety.

This fault is, as we have said, aggravated by the epistolary method. That method makes it necessary that each person should display his or her own virtues, as in an exhibition of gymnastics the performers walk round and show their muscles. But the

fault lies a good deal deeper. Every writer, | Sir Charles is a man absolutely without a consciously or unconsciously, puts himself fault, or at least with faults visible only on into his novels, and exhibits his own charac- a most microscopic observation. In fact, ter even more distinctly than that of his the only fault to which Sir Charles himself heroes. Shakespeare must have had a pleads guilty, in seven volumes, is that he strong dash of Hamlet in his composition, or once rather loses his temper. Two ruffians he could not have drawn Hamlet's charac- try to bully him in his own house, and even ter. And Richardson, the head of a little draw their swords upon him. Sir Charles circle of conscientious admirers of each so far forgets himself as to draw his own other's virtues, could not but reproduce on sword, disarm both of his opponents, and a different scale the tone of his own society. turn them out of doors. He cannot forgive The Grandisons, and the families of Miss himself, he says, that he has been "provoked Byron and Clementina merely repeat a by two such men to violate the sanctity of practice with which he was tolerably famil- his own house." His only excuse is, "that iar at home; whilst his characters represent there were two of them; and that tho' I to some extent the idealised Richardson drew, yet I had the command of myself so himself; and this leads us to the most far as only to defend myself, when I might essential characteristic of his novels. The have done with them what I pleased." greatest woman in France, according to According to Richardson, this venial offence Napoleon's brutal remark, was the woman is the worst blot on Sir Charles's character. who had the most children. In a different We certainly do not blame him for the atsense, the saying may pass for truth. The tempt to draw an ideally perfect hero. It greatest writer is the one who has produced is a perfectly legitimate aim in fiction, and the largest family of immortal children. the only question can be whether he has Those of whom it can be said that they have succeeded: for Richardson's own commenreally added a new type to the fictitious dation cannot be taken as quite sufficient, world, are indeed few in number. Cervan- neither can we quite accept the ingenious tes is in the front rank of all imaginative artifice by which all the secondary characcreators, because he has given birth to Don ters perform as decoy-birds to attract our Quixote and Sancho Panza. Richardson's admiration. They do their very best to inliterary representatives are far indeed be- duce us to join in their hymns of praise. low these, but Richardson too may boast," Grandison," says a Roman Catholic bishop, that in his narrower sphere of thought he has invented two characters that have still a strong vitality. They show all the weaknesses inseparable from the age and country of their origin. They are far inferior to the highest ideals of the great poets of the world; they are cramped and deformed by the frigid conventionalities of their century and the narrow society in which they move and live. But for all that they stir the emotions of a distant generation with power enough to show that their author must have pierced below the surface into the deeper and more perennial springs of human passion. These two characters are of course Clarissa and Sir Charles Grandison; and we may endeavour shortly to analyze the sources of their enduring interest.

Sir Charles Grandison has passed into a proverb. When Carlyle calls Lafayette a Grandison-Cromwell, he hits off one of those admirable nicknames which paint a character for us at once. Sir Charles Grandison is the model fine gentleman of the eighteenth century, the master of correct deportment, the unimpeachable representative of the old school. Richardson tells us with a certain naïveté that he has been accused of describing an impossible character; that

were he one of us, might except canonization." "How," exclaims his uncle, after a conversation with his paragon of a nephew, "how shall I bear my own littleness?" A party of reprobates about town have a long dispute with him, endeavouring to force him into a duel. At the end of it one of them exclaims admiringly," Curse me, if I believe there is such another man in the world!" "I never saw a hero till now," says another. "I had rather have Sir C. Grandison for my friend than the greatest prince on earth," says a third. "I had rather," replies his friend, "be Sir C. Grandison for this one past hour than the Great Mogul all my life." And the general conclusion is, "what poor toads are we!" "This man shows us," as a lady declares, "that goodness and greatness are synonymous words;" and when his sister marries, she complains that her brother" has long made all other men indifferent to her. Such an infinite difference!" In the evening, according to custom, she dances a minuet with her bridegroom, but whispers a friend that she would have performed better had she danced with her brother.

The structure, however, of the story itself is the best illustration of Sir Charles's

All this is easy enough. A novelist can make his women fall in love with his hero, as easily as, with a stroke of the pen, he can endow him with fifty thousand a year, or bestow upon him every virtue under heaven. Neither has he any difficulty in making him the finest dancer in England, or giving him such marvellous skill with the small-sword that he can avoid the sin of duelling by instantaneously disarming his most formidable opponents. The real question is, whether he can animate this conglomerate of all conceivable virtues with a real human soul, set him before us as a living and breathing reality, and make us feel that if we had known him, we too should have been ready to swell the full chorus of admiration. It is rather more difficult to convey the impression which a perusal of his correspondence and conversation leaves upon an unprejudiced mind. Does Sir Charles, when we come to know him intimately for with the ample materials provided, we really seem to know him fairly support the amazing burden thrown upon him? Do we feel a certain disappointment when we meet the man whom all ladies love, and in whom every gentleman confesses a superior nature?

admirable qualities. The plot is very sim- | grandmother. The plot of the novel deple. He rescues Miss Byron from an at- pends upon an attraction for the fair sex tempt at a forcible abduction. Miss Byron, which is apparently irresistible; and the according to her friends, is the queen of her men, if they are virtuous, rejoice to sit adsex, and is amongst women what Sir Charles miringly at his feet, and if they are vicious is amongst men. Of course, they straight- retire abashed from his presence, to entreat way fall in love. Sir Charles, however, his good advice when they are upon their shows symptoms of a singular reserve, which deathbeds. is at last explained by the fact that he is already half engaged to a noble Italian lady, Clementina. He has promised in fact to marry her if certain objections on the score of his country and religion can be surmounted. The interest lies chiefly in the varying inclinations of the balance, at one moment favorable to Miss Byron, and at another to the "saint and angel" Clementina. When Miss Byron thinks that Sir Charles will be bound in honour to marry Clementina, she begins to pine; "she visibly falls away; and her fine complexion fades;" her friends "watch in silent love every turn of her mild and patient eye, every change of her charming countenance; for they know too well to what to impute the malady which has approached the best of hearts; they know that the cure cannot be within the art of the physician." When Clementina fears that the scruples of her relatives will separate her from Sir Charles, she takes the still more decided step of going mad, and some of her madness would be very touching if it were not a trifle too much after the conventional pattern of mad women in novels and on the stage. Whilst these two ladies are breaking their hearts about Sir Charles, they do justice to each other's merits; Harriet will never be happy unless she knows that the admirable Clementina has reconciled herself to the loss of her adored; when Clementina finds herself finally separated from her lover, she sincerely implores Sir Charles to marry her more fortunate rival. Never was there such a display of fine feeling and utter absence of jealousy. Meanwhile a lovely ward of Sir Charles finds it necessary to her peace of mind to be separated from her guardian; and another beautiful, but rather fess admirable, Italian actually follows him to England to persuade him to accept her hand. Four ladies - all of them patterns of all physical, moral, and intellectual excellence, are breaking their hearts; and though they are so excellent, that they overcome their natural jealousy, they can scarcely look upon any other man after having known this model of all his sex. Indeed, every woman who approaches him fills desperately in love with him, unless she is his sister or old enough to be his

There are two anecdotes about Sir Charles which seem to us to indicate his character better than any elaborate analysis. Voltaire, we know, ridiculed the proud English, who with the same scissors cut off the heads of their kings and the tails of their horses. To this last weakness Sir Charles was superior. His horses, says Miss Byron, " are not docked; their tails are only tied up when they are on the road." She would wish to find some fault with him, but as she forcibly says, "if he be of opinion that the tails of these noble animals are not only a natural ornament, but of real use to defend them from the vexatious insects that in summer are so apt to annoy them, how far from a dispraise is this humane consideraation!" The other anecdote is of a differ ent kind. When Sir Charles goes to church he does not, like some other gentlemen, bow low to the ladies of his acquaintance, and then to others of the gentry. No!" Sir Charles had first other devoirs to pay. He paid us his second compliments." From these two exemplary actions we must infer

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