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the legitimacy of the author's general conclusions, on account of the defects attending the latter part of his process.
Art. XV. Fleetwood: or the New Man of Feeling. By William
Godwin. In three volumes, 12mo. Richard Philips, London, 1805
has read Caleb Williams, and there are probably
few, even amongst those addicted to graver studies, who have not perused that celebrated work, must necessarily be eager to see another romance from the hand of the same author. Of this anxiety we acknowledge we partook to a considerable degree; not, indeed, that we had any great pleafure in recollecting the conduct and nature of the story; for murders, and chains, and dungeons, and indictments, trial and execution, have no particular charms for us, either in fiction or in reality. Neither is it on account of the moral proposed by the author, which, in direct opposition to that of the worthy chaplain of Newgate, seems to be, not that a man guiliy of theft or murder is in some danger of being hanged; but that, by a strange concurrence of circumitances, he may be regularly conducted to the gallows for theft or murder which he has never committed. There is nothing instructive or consolatory in this propofition, when taken by ittelf; and if intended as a reproach upon the laws of this country, it is equally applicable to all human judicatures, whose judges can only decide according to evidence, lince the Supreme Being has reserved to himself the prerogative of searching the heart and of trying the reins. But, although the story of Caleb Williams be unpleasing, and the moral sufficiently mischievous, we acknowledge we have met with few novels which excited a more powerful interest. Several scenes are painted with the fayage force of Salvator Rosa; and, while the author pauses to reason upon the feelings and motives of the actors, our fense of the fallacy of his arguments, of the improbability of his facts, and of the frequent inconsistency of his characters, is lost in the folemnity and fufpense with which we expect the evolution of the tale of mystery. After Caleb Williams, it would be injustice to Mr Godwin to mention St Leon, where the marvellous is employed too frequently to excite wonder, and the terrible is introduced till we have become familiar with terror. The description of Bethlem Gabor, however, recalled io our mind the author of Caleb Wil. liams; nor, upon the whole, was the romance such as could have been written by quite an ordinary pen. These preliminary remarks are not entirely misplaced, as will appear from the folluwing quctation from the preface to Fleetwood.
One caution I have particularly fought to exercise : " not to repeat myself.” Caleb Williams was a story of very surprising and uncommon events, but which were supposed to be entirely within the laws and established course of nature, as the operates in the planet we inhabit. The story of St Leon is of the miraculous class ; and its design, to “ mix human feelings and passions with incredible situations, and thus render them impressive and interetting.”
Some of those fastidious readers--they may be claffed among the best friends an author has, if their admonitions are judiciously considered—who are willing to discover those faults which do not offer themselves to every eye, have remarked, that both these tales are in a vicious ftyle of writing ; that Horace has long ago decided, that the story we cannot believe, we are, by all the laws of criticiím, called upon to hate; and that even the adventures of the lioneft secretary, who was firit heard of ten years ago, are so much out of the usual road, that not one reader in a million can ever fear they will happen to himself.' Vol, 1. Pref.
Moved by these confiderations, Mr Godwin has chosen a tale of domestic life, consisting of such incidents as usually occur in the present state of society, diversified only by ingenuity of selection, and novelty of detail. How far he has been successful, will best appear from a sketch of the story.
Fleetwood, the only son of a gentleman who has retired from mercantile concerns to the enjoyment of a liberal fortune, is born and educated among the mountains of Wales. He has no companions saving his father, an infirm though very respectable old gentleman, and his tutor, who was not a clergyman; notwithItanding which, he studied Plato without understanding him, and indemnified himself by writing fonnets which could be understood by nobody. Fleetwood being of course a passionate admirer of the beauties of nature, preferred scrambling over the heights of Cader Idris, adoring the rising, and admiring the setting fun, to perusing the pages of Placo, and the poetry of his tutor. In one of these rambles, somewhat to the reader's relief, whose patience is rather tired by an unfruitful description of precipices, cascades, and the immeasureable ocean in the back ground, he at length meets with an adventure. A lamb, a favourite lamb, falls into a lake: the shepherd plunges in after the lamb: an aged peafant, his father, is about to plunge in after the shepherd, when Fleetwood, as might have been expected, anticipates his affectionate intentions. Af ter remaining a reasonable time in the water, the shepherd holding the lamb, and Fleetwood supporting the shepherd, they are all three tifhed up by an interesting young damfel who approaches in a boat, and proves to be (according to good old usage) the mistress of William the shepherd, and the proprietor of the half-drowned favourite. This adventure leads to nothing,
except that, in the conclusion of the work, the interesting young woman unexpectedly pops back upon us in the very useful, though not very romantic character of an old fick-nurse; deferring, no Jess in her advanced age, the praises of the Institution for Relief of the Destitute Sick, than in her youth fhe had merited a premium from the Humane Society. The worthy tutor, in like manner, vanishes entirely from our view, retiring to an obfcure 'lodging in a narrow street, to finish his book of sonnets, and his commentary on Plato. His pupil is now introduced to the knowledge of mankind at the University. Here he discovers no averfion to distinguish himself among the dissipated fons of fortune, and foon becomes something very different from the climber of mountains and diver into lakes. But he acquits himself of all share in a quizzing scene, played off upon a fresh-man called Withers, who had written a tragedy on a very interesting subject-- the cleanling of the Augean stable. This piece he is prevailed upon to recite to certain arch wags, who receive it with rapture, fill the author drunk, and bear him home, crowned with parsley, and dropping with wine, in classical triumph. They have afterwards the address to pass a wooden figure upon him for the master of his college, who, after a rebuke pronoun. ced in character by one of the quizzers, who chanced to be a ventriloquist, proceeds, by some unknown mechanism, to inflict upon Withers the academical difcipline under which Milton is said to have smarted of yore; but, far from imitating the submission of his sublime prototype, the modern bard kicked and cuffed in stout oppofition, till he discovered the impafsible chaTacter of his antagonist. The joke ends by Withers going mad, and the ingenious authors of his distress being rusticated. We prefume the ventriloquist found a refuge with Fitz-James, and the mechanist with Merlin or Maillarder. What connexion this facerious tale has with Fleetwood, or his hisory, does not appear ; but we reverence the established privilege of an Oxonian to profe about all that happened when he was at Christ Church.
We now accompany Fleetwood on his gravels. Paris was his first stage, where he had the strange and uncommon misfortune to be jilted by two mistreiles. The first was a certain Marchioners, whose mind! resembled an eel,' and who delighted in the bold, the intrepid, and the masculine. Her lover was greeted with an impulent amazonian stare, a smack of the whip, a flap or the back, and a loud and unexpected accent that made the hearer start again. Upon discovering the infidelity of this gentle Jady, Fleetwood, being in Paris, followed the example of the Parisians, but not without experiencing certain twinges of pain, and revolutions of astonishment, to which we believe these good
people, people, on such occasions, are usually strangers. In a word, he took another mistress. The Countess de B. had every gentle amiability under heaven, and only one fault, which might be expressed in one word if we chose it, but we prefer the more prolix explanation of the author.
• Yet the passion of the Countess was rather an abstract propensity, than the preference of an individual. A given quantity of personal merit and accomplished manners was sure to charm her. A fresh and agreeable complexion, a sparkling eye, a well-turned leg, a grace in dancing or in performing the manæuvres of gallantry, were claims that the countess de B. was never known to relist.'
vol. I. p. 1520 Upon discovery of this frailty, our hero's patience forfook him and he raved, fumed, and agonized, till ours likewise was on the verge of departure. In this paroxysm, his taste for the mountain and the defert returned upon him like a frenzy; and as there were none nearer than the Alps, to the Alps he flies incontinently on the wings of despair. He repairs to the mansion of a venerable old Swiss gentleman, a friend of his father, delightfully Gruated in the valley of Urlereen, in a wood of tall and veneTable trees; a very extraordinary and fortunate circumstance for the poffeffor, as we will venture to say that it is the only wood that ever grew in that celebrated valley, which is the highest inhabited ground in the Alps. The host of Fleetwood carries hiin to a pleasure party on the lake of Uri, and chuses that time and place to acquaint him, that while he was living jollily at Paris, his father had taken the opportunity of dying quietly in Merionethshire. * The effect of this intelligence upon Fleetwood, is inexpressibly striking. He ate no breakfast the next morning; and it was not till the arrival of dinner, that' hunger at lingth subdued the obstinacy of his grief.' Rutligny, his hoft, now joins him; and after a reasonable allowance of sympathy and consolation, entertains him with the history of his connexion with his father.
Ruffigny, left in infancy to the guardianship of a wicked uncle who thirted after his inheritance, had been trepanned to Lyons, and bound apprentice to a filk-weaver, or rather employed in the more laborious part of his drudgery. His feelings, on being gradually subjected to this monotonous and degrading Jabour, are very well described, as also the enthusiastic resolution which he forms, of throwing himself at the feet of the
King * By the way, we greatly question the locality here pitched on. We know of no such lake as the lake of Uri; but we suppose the lake of Lucerne, a lake of the four cantons, was the scene of this affecting discovery. But Mr Godwin is not much at home in Switzerland,
of this, (which, nevertheless, we do not propose as a good mediod of analysis, but only as one infinitely better than our author's), he decomposes all the binary or ternary compounds of which the plant may have confifted; and thus gives a most indeterminate and fallacious solution of the problem. He finds care bonic acid formed, and deduces from thence the quantity of carbon contained in the plant: he finds water formed, and thence deduces the quantity of hydrogen contained in the plant. But does it follow that those elements, carbon and hydrogen, may not have existed in a state of union in the plant? Would not the same results have followed, had the plant contained oil, without one particle of either loofe carbon or loose hydrogen ? Would not the combustion of this oil have prefented water and carbonic acid exactly in the fame manner ? Would not water and carbonic acid have been formed by burning the plant, if it had been composed of oil and carbon -or oil and hydrogen--or oil, car. bon, and hydrogen-or carbon and hydrogen-or carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen, in any imaginable proportions? It is obvious, then, that the analysis is the most fallacious that can be conceived in this point of view. But, in another respect, it is at leait equally fo. Our author obtains water from the process of combuftion; and concludes from thence, that this water owes its oxygen entirely to the atmospherical air, the plant having only, according to him, furnished the hydrogen. But if the plant had contained oxygen as well as hydrogen separately, might not water have been formed without a particle of atmospherical air? And if water had existed already formed in the plant, would not the very fanie result have been obtained? Thirdly, he concludes, froni finding carbonic acid gas, that carbon existed in the plant, and that it was oxygenated by the atmospherical air. But, sup: pose carbonic acid had existed in the plant already formed, would ziot the heat have drawn it off, and prefented the very result from whence our author draws an inference, that carbon unoxygenatel existed in the plant? Or, if carbon and carbonic acid had Such heen prefent in any imaginable proportion, would not carbonic acid have been obtained in the receiver of caustic alkali? Therefore, in three material respects, our author's inference is ablolutely fallacious : it makes no allowance for the posible exiftence of water, carbonic acid, and oil in the plants; and lays it down as certain, that certain substances, hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen, formed the fole constituent parts of the vegetable, when it is very possible that not a particle of either, perse, may have existed in it. Nor should we forget, that the nature of the soil, in which the plants are proved by our author's own experiments m have grown, renders is extremely probable that our fuppofitioni