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his whole character. It should have been generation. In short, it seems to be cominscribed on his tombstone, "He would not pounded of common sense, and a regard for dock his horses' tails." That is, the most decorum and those are not bad things in trifling details of his conduct are regulated their way, though not the highest. He is on the most serious considerations. He is not a very ardent reformer; he doubts one of those solemn beings who can't shave whether the poor should be taught to read, themselves without implicitly asserting a and is very clear that every one should be great moral principle. He finds sermons in made to know his station; but still he talks his horses' tails; he could give an excellent with sense and moderation, and even gets reason for the quantity of lace on his coat, so far as to suggest the necessity of refor which was due, it seems, to a sentiment of matories. He is not very romantic, and filial reverence; and he could not fix his displays an amount of self-command in judihour for dinner without an eye to the refor- cially settling the claims of the various mation of society. In short, he was a prig ladies who are anxious to marry him, which of the first water; self-conscious to the last is almost comic; he is perfectly ready to degree; and so crammed with little moral marry the Italian lady, if she can surmount aphorisms that they drop out of his mouth her religious scruples, though he is in love whenever he opens his lips. And then his with Miss Byron; and his mind is evidently religion is in admirable keeping. It is inti-in a pleasing state of equilibrium, so that mately connected with the excellence of his deportment; and is, in fact, merely the application of the laws of good society to the loftiest sphere of human duty. He pays his second compliments to his lady, and his first to the object of his adoration. He very properly gives the precedence to the being he professes to adore but it is only a precedence. As he carries his solemnity into the pettiest trifles of life, so he considers religious duties to be simply the most important part of social etiquette. He would shrink from blasphemy even more than from keeping on his hat in the presence of ladies; but the respect which he owes in one case is of the same order with that due in the other; it is only a degree more important.
We feel, indeed, a certain affection for Sir Charles Grandison. He is pompous and ceremonious to an insufferable degree; but there is really some truth in his sister's assertion, that his is the most delicate of human minds; through the cumbrous formalities of his century, there shines a certain quickness and sensibility; he even condescends to be lively after a stately fashion, and to indulge in a little "raillying," only guarding himself rather too carefully against unbecoming levity. Indeed, though a man of the world at the present day would be as Duch astonished at his elaborate manners as at his laced coat and sword, he would admit that Sir Charles was by no means wanting in tact; his talk is weighted with more elaborate formulæ than we care to employ, but it is good vigorous conversation in the main, and, if rather overlaid with sermonizing, can at times be really amusing. His religion is not of a very exalted character; he rises to no sublime heights of emotion, and would simply he puzzled by the fervours or the doubts of a more modern
he will be happy with either dear charmer. Indeed, for so chivalric a gentleman, his view of love and marriage is far less enthusiastic than we should now require. One of his benevolent actions, which throws all his admirers into fits of eulogy, is to provide one of his uncles with a wife. The gentleman is a peer, but has hitherto been of disreputable life. The lady, though of good family and education, is above thirty, and her family have lost their estate. The match of convenience which Sir Charles patches up between them, has obvious prudential recommendations; and of course it turns out admirably. But one is rather puzzled to know what special merit Sir Charles can claim for bringing it to pass.
Such a hero as this may be worthy and respectable, but is not a very exalted ideal. Neither do his circumstances increase our interest. It would be rather a curious subject of inquiry why it should be so impossible to make a virtuous hero interesting in fiction. In real life, the men who do heroic actions are certainly more attractive than the villains. Domestic affection, patriotism, piety, and other good qualities are pleasant to contemplate in the world; why should they be so often an unspeakable hore in novels? Principally, no doubt, because our conception of a perfect man is apt to bring the negative qualities into too great prominence; we are asked to admire men because they have not passions-not because they overcome them. But there are further difficulties; for example, in a novel it is generally so easy to see what is wrong and what is right, the right-hand path branches off so decidedly from the left, that we give a man little credit for making the proper choice. Still more it is difficult to let us sufficiently into a man's interior, to
let us see the struggle and the self-sacrifice | solid merit, and the persons by whom he is which ought to stir our sympathies. We surrounded on whom we have not space witness the victories, but it is hard to make to dwell have a large share of the vius feel the cost at which they are won. vacity which amuses us in the real men and Now Richardson has, as we shall directly women of their time. Their talk may not remark, overcome this difficulty to a great be equal to that in Boswell's Johnson ; but it extent in Clarissa; but in Sir Charles is animated and amusing, and they compose Grandison he has entirely shirked it; he a gallery of portraits, which would look has made everything too plain and easy for well in a solid red-brick mansion of the his hero. "I think I could be a good wo- Georgian era. man," says Becky Sharp, "if I had five We must, however, leave Sir Charles, to thousand a year,' -and the history of Sir say a few words upon that which is RichCharles Grandison might have suggested ardson's real masterpiece, and which, in the remark. To be young, handsome, spite of a full share of the defects we have healthy, active, with a fine estate, and noticed in Grandison, will always command grand old house; to be able, by your elo- the admiration of persons who have courquence, to send a sinner into a fit (as Sir age enough to get through eight volumes Charles does once); to be the object of a of correspondence. The characters of the devoted passion from three or four amiable, little world in which the reader will pass accomplished, and beautiful women - each his time, are in some cases the same who reof whom has a fine fortune, and only begs appear in Grandison. The lively lady G. you to throw your handkerchief towards in the last, is merely a new version of Miss her, whilst she promises to bear no grudge Howe in the former. Clarissa herself is throw it to her neighbour all Miss Byron under altered circumstances, these are favourable conditions for virtue – and receives from her friends the same especially if you mean the virtues of being shower of superlatives, whenever they have hospitable, generous, a good landlord and occasion to touch upon her merits. Richhusband, and in every walk of life thor- ardson's ideal lady is not at first sight more oughly gentlemanlike in your behaviour. prepossessing than his gentleman. After But the whole design is rather too much in Clarissa's death, her friend Miss Howe accordance with the device of enabling Sir writes a glowing panegyric on her characCharles to avoid duels by having a marvel- ter. It will be enough to give the distribulous trick of disarming his adversaries. tion of her time. To rest it seems she al"What on earth is the use of my fighting lotted six hours only. Her first three with you," says King Padella to Prince morning hours were devoted to study and Giglio,if you have got a fairy sword and to writing those terribly voluminous leta fairy horse? And what merit is there ters which, as one would have thought, in winning the battle of life, when you must have consumed a still longer period. have every single circumstance in your fa- Two hours more were given to domestic vour? Poor old broken-down Colonel management, for, as Miss Howe explains, Newcome in the Greyfriars, appeals with" she was a perfect mistress of the four infinitely more force to our sympathies, than this prosperous young Sir Charles, rich with every gift the gods can give him, and of whom the most we can say is, that the possession of all those gifts, if it has made him rather pompous and self-conscious, has not made him close-fisted or hard-hearted. Sir Charles then represents a rather carnal ideal; he suggests to us those well-fed, almost beefy, and corpulent angels, whom the cotemporary school of painters sometimes portray. No doubt they are angels, for they have wings and are seated in the clouds; but there is nothing ethereal in their whole nature. We have no love for asceticism; but a few hours on the column of St. Simon Stylites, or a temporary diet of locusts and wild honey, might have purified Sir Charles's exuberant self-satisfaction. For all this, he is not without a certain
principal rules of arithmetic." Five hours were spent in music, drawing, and needlework, this last especially, and in conversation with the venerable parson of the parish. Two hours she devoted to breakfast and dinner, and as it was hard to restrict herself to this allowance, she occasionally gave one hour more to dinner-time conversation. One hour more was spent in visiting the neighbouring poor, and the remaining four hours to supper and conversation. These periods, it seems, were not fixed for every day; for she kept a kind of running account, and permitted herself to have an occasional holiday by drawing upon the reserved fund of the four hours for supper.
Setting aside the fearfully systematic nature of this arrangement, the stern determination to live by rule and system, it must be admitted that Miss Harlowe
was what is called by ladies a very "superi- | gradual development of his plot, the slow or" person. She would have made an ex- accumulation of horrors upon the head of cellent housekeeper, or even a respectable a virtuous victim, Richardson shows the governess. We feel a certain gratitude to power which places him in the front rank her for devoting four hours to supper; and, of novelists, and finds precisely the field in indeed, Richardson's characters are always which his method is most effective and its well cared for in the victualling department. drawbacks least annoying. In the first They always take their solid three meals, place, in spite of his enormous prolixity, the with a liberal intercalation of dishes of tea interest is throughout concentrated upon and chocolate. Miss Harlowe, we must add, one figure. In Sir Charles Grandison there knew Latin, although her quotations of clas- are episodes meant to illustrate the virtues sical authors are generally taken from trans- of the "next-to-divine man which have lations. Her successor, Miss Byron, was not nothing to do with the main narrative. In allowed this accomplishment, Richardson's Clarissa every subordinate plot, and they doubts of its suitability to ladies having ap- abound, bears immediately upon the cenparently gathered strength in the interval. tral action of the story, and produces a conNotwithstanding this one audacious excur- stant alternation of hope and foreboding. sion into the regions of manly knowledge, The last volumes, indeed, are dragged out Miss Harlowe appears to us, as, in the main, in a way which is injurious in several rea healthy, sensible country girl of the peri- spects. Clarissa, to use Lord Chesterfield's od, with sound sense, the highest respect expression about himself, takes an unconfor decorum, and an exaggerated regard scionable time about dying. But until the for constituted, especially paternal, author- climax is reached, we see the clouds steadiity. We cannot expect, from her, any of ly gathering, and yet with an increasing the outbreaks against the laws of society hope that they may be suddenly cleared up. customary with George Sand's heroines. The only English novel which produces a If she had changed places with Maggie similar effect, and impresses us with a sense Tulliver, she would have accepted the soci- of an inexorable fate, slowly but steadily ety of the Mill on the Floss with perfect approaching, is the Bride of Lammermoor contentment, respected all the family of in some respects the best and most artistic aunts and uncles, and never repined against of Scott's novels. Superior as is Scott's the tyranny of her brother Tom. She art in certain directions, we scarcely feel would have been conscious of no vague im- the same interest in his chief characters, aginative yearnings, nor have beaten her- though there is the same unity of construcself against the narrow bars of stolid custom. tion. We cannot feel for the Master of She would have laid up a vast store of lin- Ravenswood the sympathy which Clarissa en, and walked thankfully in the path extorts. For in Clarissa's profound distress chalked out for her. Certainly she would we lose sight of the narrow round of respecnever have run away with Mr. Stephen tabilities in which her earlier life is passed; Guest without tyranny of a much more the petty pompousness, the intense propriety tangible kind than that which acts only which annoy us in Sir Charles Grandison through the finer spiritual tissues. When disappear or become pathetic. When peoClarissa went off with Lovelace it was not ple are dying of broken hearts, we forget because she had unsatisfied aspirations after their little absurdities of costume. a higher order of life, but because she had powerful note is sounded, and the little subeen locked up in her room, as a solitary perficial absurdities are forgotten. prisoner, and her family had tried to force her into marriage with a man whom she had excellent reasons for hating and despising.
Yet the long tragedy in which Clarissa is the victim is not the less affecting because the torments are of an intelligible kind, and require no highly-strung sensibility to give them keenness. The heroine is first bullied and then deserted by her family, cut off from the friends who have a desire to help her, and handed over to the power of an unscrupulous libertine. When she dies of a broken heart, the most callous and prosaic of readers must feel that it is the only release possible for her. And in the
We laugh at the first feminine description of her dress -a Brussels-lace cap, with skyblue ribbon, pale crimson coloured paduasay, with cuffs embroidered in a running pattern of violets and their leaves; but we are more disposed to cry (if many novels have not exhausted all our powers of weeping) when we come to the final scene. "One faded cheek rested upon the good woman's bosom, the kindly warmth of which had overspread it with a faint but charming flush; the other paler and hollow, as if already iced over by death. Her hands, white as the lily, with her meandering veins more transparently blue than ever I had
thing impressive in the intensity of purpose which keeps one end in view through so elaborate a process, and the skill which forms such a multitudinous variety of parts into one artistic whole. The proportions of this gigantic growth are preserved with a skill which would be singular even in the normal scale; a respect in which most giants, whether human or literary, are apt to break down.
seen even hers, hanging lifelessly, one before | powerful, each blow tells. There is someher, the other grasped by the right hand of the kindly widow, whose tears bedewed the sweet face which her motherly bosom supported, though unfelt by the fair sleeper; and either insensibly to the good woman, or what she would not disturb her to wipe off or to change her posture. Her aspect was sweetly calm and serene; and though she started now and then, yet her sleep seemed easy; her breath indeed short and quick, but tolerably free, and not like that of a To make the story complete, the plot dying person." Allowing for the queer should have been as effectively conceived as grammar, this is surely a touching and simple Clarissa herself, and the other characters picture, and suggests the existence of some should be equally worthy of their position. true appreciation of nature even in that age Here there are certain drawbacks. The plot, of buckram and padding. The epistolary it might easily be shown, is utterly incredible. method, though it has its dangers, lends Richardson has the greatest difficulty in itself well to heighten our interest. Where preventing his heroine from escaping, and the object is rather to appeal to our sympa- at times we must not look too closely for thies than to give elaborate analyses of char- fear of detecting the flimsy nature of her acter, or complicated narratives of incident, imaginary chains. There is, indeed, no reait is as well to let the persons speak for son for looking closely; so long as the situathemselves. A hero cannot conveniently tions bring out the desired sentiment, we say, like Sir Charles Grandison, "See how may accept them for the nonce, without askvirtuous and brave and modest I am;" nor ing whether they could possibly have ocis it easy to make a story clear when it has curred. It is of more importance to judge to be broken up and distributed amongst of the consistency of the chief agent of the people speaking from different points of persecution. Lovelace is by far the most view; it is hard to make the testimonies of ambitious character that Richardson has atthe different witnesses fit into each other tempted. To heap together a mass of virneatly. But a cry of agony can come from tues, and christen the result Clarissa Harno other quarter so effectively as from the lowe or Charles Grandison, is comparatively sufferer's own mouth. Clarissa Harlowe is easy; but it is a harder task to compose a in fact one long lamentation, passing gradu- villain, who shall be by nature a devil, and ally from a tone of indignant complaint to yet capable of imposing upon an angel. one of despair, and rising at the end to Some of Richardson's judicious critics deChristian resignation. So prolonged a per-clared that he must have been himself a man formance in every key of human misery is of vicious life or he could never have deindeed painful from its monotony; and we scribed a libertine so vividly. This is one may admit that a limited selection from the of the smart sayings which are obviously the correspondence, passing through more rapid proper thing to say, but which, notwithstandgradations, would be more effective. We ing, are little better than silly. Lovelace is might be spared some of the elaborate spec- evidently a fancy character - if we may use ulations upon various phases of the affair the expression. He bears not a single mark which pass away without any permanent of being painted from life, and is formed by effect. Richardson seems to be scarcely the simple process of putting together the content even with drawing his characters as most brilliant qualities which his creator large as life; he wishes to apply a magnify- could devise to meet the occasion. We do ing-glass. Yet, even in this incessant repe- not say that the result is psychologically imtition there is a certain element of power. possible; for it would be very rash to dogmaWe are forced to drain every drop in the tize on any such question. No one can say cup, and to appreciate every ingredient what strange amalgams of virtue and vice which adds bitterness to its flavour. We may have sufficient stability to hold together are annoyed and wearied at times; but as during a journey through this world. But we read we not only wonder at the number it is plain that Lovelace is not a result of of variations performed upon one tune, but observation, but an almost fantastic mixture feel that he has succeeded in thoroughly of qualities intended to fit him for the diffiforcing upon our minds, by incessant ham-cult part he has to play. To exalt Clarissa, mering, the impression which he desires to for example, Lovelace's family are repre produce. If the blows are not at all very sented as all along earnestly desirous of a
marriage between them; and Lovelace has | fect purity of his own life, seems to have every conceivable motive, including the de- thrown himself with special gusto into the sire to avoid hanging, for agreeing to the character of a heartless reprobate. He must match. His refusal is unintelligible, and have felt a certain piquancy in writing down Richardson has to supply him with a reason the most atrocious sentiments in his own reso absurd and so diabolical that we cannot spectable parlour. He would show that the believe in it; it reminds us of Hamlet's ob- quiet humdrum old tradesman could be on jecting to killing his uncle whilst at prayers, paper as sprightly and audacious as the most on the ground that it would be sending him profligate man about town. As quiet people straight to heaven. But we may, if we are apt to do, he probably exaggerated the please, consider Hamlet's conceit as a mere enormities which such men would openly pretext invented to excuse his resolution to avow; he fancied that the world beyond his himself: whereas Lovelace speculates so little circle was a wilderness of wild beasts long and so seriously upon the marriage, who could gnash their teeth and show their that we are bound to consider his farfetched claws after a terribly ostentatious fashion in arguments as sincere. And the supposition their own dens; they doubtless gloated upon makes his wickedness gratuitous, if we be- all the innocent sheep whom they had delieve in his sanity. Lovelace suffers, again, voured without any shadow of reticence. from the same necessity which injures Sir And he had a fancy that, in their way, they Charles Grandison; as the virtuous hero were amusing monsters too; Lovelace is a has to be always expatiating on his own lady's villain as Grandison is a lady's hero; virtues, the vicious hero has to boast of his he is designed by a person inexperienced own vices; it is true that this is, in an artis- even in the observation of vice. Indeed, he tic sense, the least repulsive habit of the would exaggerate the charm a good deal two; for it gives reason for hating not a hero more than the atrocity. We must also adbut a villain; unluckily it is also a reason mit that when the old printer was put upon for refusing to believe in his existence. his mettle he could be very lively indeed. The improbability of a thorough paced Lovelace, like everybody else, is at times scoundrel writing daily elaborate confes- unmercifully prolix; he never leaves us to sions of his criminality to a friend, even guess any detail for ourselves; but he is when the friend condemns him, and expa- spirited, eloquent, and a thoroughly fine gentiating upon atrocities that deserved hang- tleman after the Chesterfield type. Riching, justifying his vices on principle, is ardson lectures us very seriously on the evil rather too glaring to be admissible. And results which are sure to follow bad courses; by another odd inconsistency, Lovelace is but he evidently holds in his heart, that, till described as being all the time a steady be- the Nemesis descends, the libertines are far liever in eternal punishment and a rebuker the most amusing part of the world. In Sir of sceptics Richardson being apparently Charles Grandison's company, we should be of opinion that infidelity would be too bad treated to an intolerable deal of sermonto be introduced upon the stage, though a izing, with an occasional descent into the revice might be described in detail. A man gions of humour - but the humour is always who has broken through all moral laws admitted under protest. With Lovelace we might be allowed a little freethinking. We might hear some very questionable morality, might add that Lovelace, in spite of the but there would be a never-ceasing flow of cleverness attributed to him, is really a most sparkling witticisms. The devil's advocate imbecile schemer; the first principle of a has the laugh distinctly on his side, whatvillain should be to tell as few lies as will ever may be said of the argument. Finally, serve his purpose; but Lovelace invents we may say that Lovelace, if too obviously such elaborate and complicated plots, pre-constructed to work the plot, certainly works senting so many chances of detection and introducing so many persons into his secrets, that it is evident that in real life he would have broken down in a week.
Granting the high improbability of Lovelace as a real living human being, it must be admitted that he has every merit but that of existence. The letters which he writes are the most animated in the voluminous correspondence. The respectable domestic old printer, who boasted of the per
it well. When we coolly dissect him and ask whether he could ever have existed, we may be forced to reply in the negative. But whilst we read we forget to criticize; he seems to possess more vitality than most living men; he is so full of eloquent brag, and audacious sophistry, and unblushing impudence, that he fascinates us as he is supposed to have bewildered Clarissa. The dragon who is to devour the maiden comes with all the flash and glitter and overpowering whirl