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profited by it; and that three desperate and bloody instruments were found to effect that murder.
The dial spake not, but it made shrewd signs.
on the spirit of detraction in which Mr. Thackeray has indulged with regard to the Duke of Marlborough ; and were we disposed to be critical, we might point to other names whom he has treated only less scurvily because he has brought them less prominently before the reader-Dean Swift, Atterbury, Bishop of Rochester, and the Pretender, for instance ; but we are glad to turn away from the deformities which obscure his novel, and address ourselves to the features of wit and beauty that adorn it.
We have no intention, slight as the web of the story is, to describe its plot. “Esmond” will depend—for the reputation to be achieved by itmore upon the manner in which it is written, than upon the dramatic character of the situations.
Here is a pretty scene at the very commencement:
When the lady came back, Harry Esmond stood exactly in the same spot, and with his hand as it had fallen when he dropped it on his black coat. Her heart melted I suppose (indeed, she hath since owned as much) at the notion that she should do anything unkind to any mortal, great or small; for when she returned, she sent away the housekeeper upon an errand by the door at the further end of the gallery ; and coming back to the lad, with a look of infinite pity and tenderness in her eyes, she took his hand again, placing the other fair hand on his head, and saying some words to him, which were so kind, and said in a voice so sweet, that the boy, who had never looked upon so much beauty before, felt as if the touch of a superior being or angel smote him down to the ground, and kissed the fair protecting hand, as he knelt on one knee. To the very last hour of his life, Esmond remembered the lady as she then spoke and looked, the rings on her fair hands, the very scent of her robe, the beam of her eyes lighting up with surprise and kindness, her lips blooming in a smile, the sun making a golden halo round her hair.
Art, not nature, has painted the following portrait: My lady viscountess's face was daubed with white and red up to the eyes, to which the paint gave an unearthly glare. She had a tower of lace on her head, under which was a bush of black curls-borrowed curls-so that no wonder little Harry Esmond was scared when he was first presented to herthe kind priest acting as master of the ceremonies at that solemn introduction -and he stared at her with eyes almost as great as her own, as he had stared at the player-woman who acted the wicked tragedy-queen, when the players came down to Ealing Fair. She sate in a great chair by the fire-corner; in her lap was a spaniel dog, that barked furiously; on a little table by, her ladyship's snuff-box and her sugar-plum box. She wore a dress of black velvet, and a petticoat of flame-coloured brocade. She had as many rings on her fingers as the old woman of Banbury Cross; and pretty small feet, which she was fond of showing, with great clocks to her stockings, and white pantofies with red heels; and an odour of musk was shook out of her garments whenever she moved or quitted the room, leaning on her tortoise-shell stick, little Fury barking at her heels.
This lady sits for her picture a second time: After a proper interval, this elderly Goddess Diana vouchsafed to appear to the young man. A blackamoor in a Turkish habit, with red boots and a silver collar, on which the viscountess's arms were engraven, preceded her, and bore her cushion; then came her gentlewoman; a little pack of spaniels, barking and frisking about, preceded the austere huntress—then, behold, the viscountess herself “dropping odours.” Esmond recollected from his childhood that rich aroma of musk which his mother-in-law (for she may be called so)* exhaled. As the sky grows redder and redder towards sunset, so, in the decline of her years, the cheeks of my lady dowager blushed more deeply. Her face was illuminated with vermilion, which appeared the brighter from the white paint employed to set it off. She wore the ringlets which had been in fashion in King Charles's time, whereas the ladies of King William's had leaddresses like the towers of Cybele. Her eyes gleamed ont from the midst of this queer structure of paint, dyes, and pomatums. Such was my lady viscountess, Mr. Esmond's father's widow.
Amongst the accomplishments of the viscountess, correct orthography was not the most striking feature, as the accompanying letter, written to her cousin (Esmond) while in prison, after fighting a duel, will plainly show. It is by far too good to be omitted :
“Mong Coussin," my lady viscountess dowager wrote, “je scay que vous vous etes bravement batew et grievement bléssay-du costé de feu M. le Vicomte. M. le Compte de Varique ne se playt qua parlay de vous : M. de Moon aucy. Il di que vous avay voulew vous bastre avec que luy-que vous estes plus fort que luy sur l'ay scrimme-qu'il y a surtout certaine Botte que vous scavay qu'il n'a jam may sceu pariay : et que e'en eut été fay de luy si vouseluy vous vous fussiay battews ansamb. Aincy ce pauv Vi. compte est mort. Mort et peutayt-mon coussin, mon coussin! jay dans la tayste que vous n'estes quung pety Mont-angey que les Esmonds ong tousjours esté. La veuve est chay moy. J'ay recuilly cet' pauve famme. Elle est furieuse cont vous, allans tous les jours chercher le Roy (d'icy) démandant à gran cri revanche pour son Mary. Elle ne veux voyre ni entende parlay de vous : pourtant elle ne fay qu'en parlay milfoy par jour. Quand vous seray hor prison venay me voyre. J'auray soing de vous. Si cette petite Prude veut se défaire de song pety Monste (Hélas je craing qùil ne soy trotar!) je m'en chargeray. J'ay encor quelqu interay et quelques escus de costay. La Veuve se raccommo de avec Miladi Marlboro qui est tout puiçante avec que la Reine Anne. Cet dam sentéray sent pour la petite prude ; qui pourctant a un fi du megme asge que vous savay. En sortant de prisong venez icy. Je ne puy vous recevoir chaymoy à cause des méchansetés du monde, may pre du moy vous aurez logement.
“ISABELLE VICOMPTESSE D'ESMOND." Beatrix Esmond—a compound of Becky Sharpe, with less wit, and Miss Amory, with more beauty—is one of the heroines of the story. Her personal appearance is charmingly described :
Esmond had left a child, and found a woman, grown beyond the common height: and arrived at such a dazzling completeness of beauty, that his eyes might well show surprise and delight at beholding her. In hers there was a brightness so lustrous and melting, that I have seen a whole assembly follow her as if by an attraction irresistible: and that night the great Duke was at the playhouse, after Ramillies; every soul turned and looked (she chanced to enter at the opposite side of the theatre at the same moment) at her, and not at him. She was a brown beauty : that is, her eyes, hair, and eyebrows and eyelashes, were dark ; her hair curling with rich undulations, and waving over her shoulders; but her complexion was as dazzling white as snow in sunshine ; except her cheeks, which were a bright red, and her lips, which
* Step-mother, rather.
+ This is a slip of the pen. King William was still alive, and the viscountess had already alluded to him a few lines previously, when she spoke of " le Roy (d'icy).”
were of a still deeper crimson. Her mouth and chin, they said, were too large and full, and so they might be for a goddess in marble, but not for a woman whose eyes were fire, whose look was love, whose voice was the sweetest low song, whose shape was perfect symmetry, health, decision, activity, whose foot as it planted itself on the ground was firm but flexible, and whose motion, whether rapid or slow, was always perfect grace-agile as a nymph, lofty as a queen-now melting, now imperious, now sarcastic, there was no single movement of hers but was beautiful. As he thinks of her, he who writes, feels young again, and remembers a paragon. So she came, holding her dress with one fair rounded arm, and her taper before her, tripping down the stair to greet Esmond.
But "Trix-she deserves the sobriquet—is an arrant coquette, and Esmond is her principal victim. How he devotes himself to her, and how philosophically he prepares to be jilted, he tells us himself :
“Well," said Esmond, “a man can but give his best and his all. She has that from me.
What little reputation I have won I swear I cared for because I thought Beatrix would be pleased with it. What care I to be a colonel or a general? Think you 'twill matter a few score years hence, what our foolish honours to-day are? I would have had a little fame, that she might wear it in her hat. If I had anything better, I would endow her with it. If she wants my life, I would give it her. If she marries another, I will say God bless him. I make no boast, nor no complaint. I think my fidelity is folly, perhaps. But so it is. I cannot help myself. I love her. You are a thousand times better : the fondest, the fairest, the dearest of women. Sure, dear lady, I see all Beatrix's faults as well as you do. But she is my fate. 'Tis endurable. I shall not die for not having her. I think I should be no happier, if I won her. Que voulez-vous ? as my lady of Chelsea would say. Je l'aime.”
But, in spite of Esmond's philosophy, see how he suffers from her desertion. See also how he endures it:
The blow had been struck, and he had borne it. His cruel Goddess had shaken her wings and fled: and left him alone and friendless, but virtute suâ. And he had to bear him up, at once the sense of his right, and the feeling of his wrongs, his honour and his misfortune. As I have seen men waking and running to arms, at a sudden trumpet ; before emergency a manly heart leaps up resolute; meets the threatening danger with undaunted countenance ; and whether conquered or conquering faces it always. Ah! no man knows his strength or his weakness till occasion proves them. If there be some thoughts and actions of his life from the memory of which a man shrinks with shame, sure there are some which he may be proud to own and remember ; forgiven injuries, conquered temptations (now and then) and difficulties vanquislied by endurance.
At certain periods of life we live years of emotion in a few weeks-and look back on those tirnes as on great gaps between the old life and the new. You do not know how much you suffer in those critical maladies of the heart, until the disease is over and you look back on it afterwards. During the time the suffering is at least sufferable. The day passes in more or less of pain, and the night wears away somehow. 'Tis only in after days that we see what the danger has been—as a man out a hunting or riding for his life looks at a leap, and
wonders how he should have survived the taking of it. O, dark months of grief and rage! of wrong and cruel endurance ! He is old now who recals you. Long ago he has forgiven and blest the soft hand that wounded him : but the mark is there, and the wound is cicatrized only-no time, tears, caresses, or repentance, can obliterate the scar. We are indocile to put up with grief, however. Reficimus rates quassas : we tempt the ocean again and again, and try upon new ventures. Esmond thought of his early time as a noviciate, and of this past trial as an initiation before entering into life,-as our young Indians undergo torture silently before they pass to the rank of warriors in the tribe.
We had marked many other striking passages in “ Esmond,” but have been compelled, from want of space, to forego their insertion; some inaccuracies, however, which may be easily remedied should a second edition be called for, require to be pointed out.
Esmond says of Holt, the Jesuit (whose character is very well drawn), that “in every point he professed to know, he was nearly right, but not quite," and cites Holt's observation, that at Vigo Esmond was aide-decamp to the Duke of Ormonde, whereas, remarks Esmond, “his first general was General Lumley.” But Esmond (or Mr. Thackeray) had forgotten that, at p. 148, vol. i., he wrote as follows: “ He went immediately and paid his court to his new general, Mr. Lumley, who received him graciously, having known his father, and also, he was pleased to say; having had the very best accounts of Mr. Esmond from the officer whose aide-de-camp he had been at Vigo." Why, that officer was himself, for at page 84 we find these words: “And Esmond, giving up his post of secretary (not aide-de-camp) to General Lumley, whose command was over, and parting from that officer with many expressions of good-will on the general's side," &c., &c.
Such mistakes as “ Tom Lockwood” for “ Jack Lockwood,” and one or two others, which we have already indicated, may be easily corrected; but it may be worth while to ask Mr. Thackeray if his novel would lose its air of verisimilitude by the omission of passages like these :
Speaking of Prince George of Denmark and the Princess Anne, Beatrix, then a girl, says: They are both very fat, and smelt of brandy,” accounting for her olfactory acuteness by having kissed her own father after dinner.
And of the second Viscount Castlewood, the hero's father, Esmond, in his own person, remarks: “He ended by swallowing that fly-blown, rank old morsel, his cousin;" a person, by-the-by, to whom Esmond is indebted for much kindness during her lifetime, and for all his fortune after her death.
Scattered over the pages of Mr. Thackeray's novel are a great many good sayings. We should have welcomed them more warmly had they all been original, but, with some slight variations of phrase, a number of these are old acquaintances, and do not own Mr. Thackeray for their author.
We now turn to some other novels which are lying on our table.
And first of Fanny Dennison.* This story is exceedingly well told. Written, like Esmond, in the style of an autobiography, the narrative progresses with an earnest and truthlike simplicity, which imparts to it a peculiar charm. The reader is never called off to other characters or other scenes ; the whole interest is centred in the heroine from beginning to end, and that interest never flags. As a work of art, we cannot indeed speak too highly of this new fiction. To say that we were equally well pleased with the character of Fanny, would not be true. The child of a laundress, adopted by a wealthy and aristocratic lady, her vanity and pride are made insufferably ostentatious. At twelve years of age, we are to believe that she could speak Latin fluently, could translate Homer without much difficulty, had passed the ass's bridge in Euclid with flying colours, and excelled in history and astronomy! So promising a young protegée, who, we are led to surmise, was as beautiful as she was clever, could not grow up to years of womanhood without producing mischief. The only two gentlemen she is thrown in contact with Walter Staunton, the grandson and heir of her protector, and one Mr. Elton, a landed proprietor in the neighbourhood -are her instant slaves. Mrs. Staunton, to prevent her grandson wedding a girl of low birth, resolves to marry her to Mr. Elton; but first sends her on a visit to her rustic relations, upon which occasion the inordinate superciliousness of the parvenu, with whom a rustic cousin has the audacity also to fall in love, comes out in full relief.
* Fanny Dennison. A Novel. In 3 vols. Colburn and Co.
Mr. Elton turns out to be a gambler, a rake, and a profligate; and a few months spent in Paris after the wedding suffice to give Fanny an insight into her husband's real character. Instead, however, of trying to reclaim him, or win him from his bad habits, she alternately mopes and lectures, till we almost lose sympathy for her distress. There is a perpetual assumption of moral and intellectual superiority over her husband, and that conveyed, too, in such a formal and pretentious manner that outrages the real relations of the sexes. Gambling catastrophes forcing the happy pair back to England, a kind of platonic affection springs up between Mrs. Elton and Arthur Dormer, which is interrupted by the husband's passions attaining a climax, and in which he strikes Fanny.
The latter hurries out, with the marks of violence upon her, to upbraid her former protector, and ultimately takes refuge in the house of a Mr. Hall, where, her reckless husband having been killed when out hunting, she as usual receives an offer of marriage. Throughout her career, it will be observed that Fanny, who is depicted as anything but an amiable disposition, receives attentions or offers from almost every man she comes in contact with. By the happy intervention of an incident in modern social life--an advertisement in the newspapers-Fanny is, however, recalled to Knockfield, reconciled to Mrs. Staunton, and married to Walter.
The moral of the story would seem to be, to have trust in Providence, that we shall ultimately attain our deserts; but the impression left is, that it is dangerous to adopt a pretty, vain, and ambitious girl, where there is also a youthful and wrongheaded heir in the house.
If thorough mystification, carried out to the end, with the complicated machinery of the actors in half a dozen causes célèbres collected into one, could establish a claim to popularity, “Red Hall "* would be a great literary triumph. The well-known talent of Mr. Carleton, in imparting to his Irish fictions the most minute accuracy of detail, and a graphic circumstantiality which makes vivid daguerreotypes of his pen-and-ink sketches, is in this instance brought to bear in all its original vigour in portraying profligacy, vice, and crime in high life, unfortunately little redeemed by the usual and legitimate contrasts of goodness and virtue. Sir Thomas Gourlay, the “Black Baronet” of “ Red Hall,” is all that his names would indicate an ambitious, unprincipled villain--a brute without feeling or remorse. The stranger," who is ultimately to set matters to right, is not brought into sufficiently bold relief, either as a lover or an avenger. In this respect, the first few chapters which introduce us
* Red Hall; or, the Baronet's Daughter. By William Carleton, Esq., Author of “Stories of the Irish Peasantry," &c. 3 vols. Saunders and Otley,