« PreviousContinue »
scenes of seduction and adultery, though veiled under an artificial decency of language, is in our minds attended with the very extremity of danger; it accustoms their minds to the visions of guilt, it initiates them in the mysteries of profligacy. Crime is most dreaded when most distant. The temptations of vice, when once presented to the mind, are but too often known to have overcome even its accompanying horrors. Its pleasures are soon separated from its punishments, and frequently its first existence in the mind has been traced to the contemplation of it in others, not in their success, but in their fall. :
We would fully acquit the authoress of the volumes before us of any evil intention in thus publishing to the world her own shame, at the same time we would condemn, with the severest seutence, this triumphant display of her guilt. We do vot imagine that she has yet arrived at that acme of wickedness to rejoice in the profligacy of others, but that as yet she contents herself with pride and gratification in her own. She speaks not in the language of a repentant sinner; she appears to glory in her guilt, even though she represents herself as writhing under its punishment.
It is with the deepest sorrow we understand, that the character of Glenarvon to be founded in reality ; we would that such a monster were an illusion upon the senses of the world ; but he is a man; his prototype is to be found in a human form. Proud, selfish, sensual, inexorable, his delight appears to be, by some strange fascination, to seduce the innocent into guilt, and then with cool and rancorous malignity to trample on the partners and victims of his crime. Innocence has no charms for him, excepting the hope of its destruction.
Though ruin and misery frown upon the very act of guilt, Glenarvou is still irresistible. We should conjecture, that to the infatuation of our authoress, or of Calantha, as she is pleased to call herself, more is to be ascribed than to the powers of Glenarvon. In what the charm can consist, and from whence the fascination can arise, we are at a loss to discover. Divest him of his affected cowl, of his malignant rancour, of his selfish sensibility, and of all the quackery of theatrical misanthropy, and what remains in the character of Glenarvon? A languid, nerveless, insipid sensualist, who never said a good thing, nor ever did a wise one. Yet this is the creature which is the idol of the female heart, and the irresistible tyrant, under whose fascinations innocence shall fall, under whose frowns life shall be insupport. able.
Of Calantha we shall say but little, except that she appears a very silly woman. Her fall is pourtrayed with truth, because, as we understand, it is pourtrayed from life. With more eccen.
tricity than wit, and more rhodomontade than passioni, she falls a victim to the seduction of Glenarvon. She expiates her crime indeed by her death, but that death we kriow to be but in iinagination. Calantha, we are informed, still lives; she lives rather to triumph in hier guilt, than to warn others from the same offence. And here, we conceive, that the danger principally consists. The reader knows that the crime is real, but that the punishment is inaginary: the temptation arising from these scenes of seduc. tion remain therefore in unabated force.
lf, however, by a faithful delineation of the scenes daily pass. ing in the higher circles of the fashionable world, the sturdy mo... rality of the English nation shall be roused into action, and shall stand boldly forward to stem the torrent of Continental profligacy, Calantha will not have written in vain. Every great and good inind must stand appalled at the crimes, which now no longer are veiled in secrecy, but openly defy public decency and public. justice. The curse of Continental intercourse bursts in upon us. The seducer, under the gentler and more liberal name of Cicis. beo, takes his seat in the most public assemblies by the side of his mistress. The husband is, on his side, equally well employed, and thus by mutual consent a double adultery is both sanctioned and proclaimed. The morals of Paris and Vienna are already engrafted upon the English nation. Marriage abroad is but a ceremony of mutual convenience, and we are tauglit, by the exa ample of public men, to consider it as such only here at home. In the mean time the contagion rapidly descends, and there is now scarcelv a military or a diplomatic dandy but must dabble a little in adultery. In this corrupted state of our national existence, infidelity on the one side, and fanaticism on the other, close in upon the few high principles of Christian morality which still exist. Against these two extremes an unequal com. bat is to be maintained. Though advancing in opposite directions, they unite alike in their source, and in their object; in their licentious perversity and pride, and in their hatred and hose tility to true religion and morality. The union of methodism and infidelity needs no prophet to descry; it stands confessed in every corner of the land.
It is for the English nation to pass a severe and indignant sen. tence upon these wretched victims of guilt and corruption. The hand of public justice is raised in vain ; it is the voice of public detestation alone that can arrest the progress of the crime. National glory can rest alone on the basis of national religion and national morality. If the foundations of our greatness be sapped by the influx of foreign profligacy, the superstructure will soon and suddenly fall, and most fatally will the Continent be revenged
- upon VOL. V, June, 1816.
upon us for the proud eminence on which we now stand above the nations of the earth.
As our readers may expect some specimen of the work before us, we shall present them with the description of the Princess of Madagascar, under wbom is pourtrayed a lady, whose literary dinners and reviewing labours Lord Byron has already done so much justice to, in his “ English Bards and Scotch Reviewers.”
« That evening, at the hour of ten, Lord Avondale and Mr. Fremore being in readiness, Calantha drove according to appointment to visit the wife of the great Nabob, the Princess of Madagascar. Now who is so ignorant as not to know that this Lady resides in an old-fashioned gothic building, called Barbary House, three miles beyond the turnpike? and who is so ignorant as not to be aware that her highness would not have favoured Lady Avondale with an audience, had she been otherwise than extremely well with the world, as the phrase is--for she was no patroness of the fallen! the caresses and petits mots obligeants which dropt from her during this her first interview, raised Lady Avondale in her own opinion ; but that was unnecessary. What was more to the purpose, it won her entirely towards the Princess.
“ Calantha now, for the first time, conversed with the learned of the land :-she heard new opinions started, and old ones refuted ; and she gazed unhurt, but not unawed, upon reviewers, poets, critics, and politicians. At the end of a long gallery, two thick wax tapers, rendering darkness visible,' the princess was seated. A poet of an emaciated and sallow complexion stood beside her; of him it was affirmed that in apparently the kindest and most engaging manner, he, at all times, said precisely that which was most unpleasant to the person he appeared to praise. This yellow hyena had, however, a heart noble, magnanimous, and generous; and even his friends, could they but escape from his smile and his tongue, lrad no reason to complain. Few events, if any, were ever known to move the Princess from her position. Her pages-her foreign attire, but genuine English manners, voice and complexion, attracted universal admiration. She was beautiful too, and had a smile it was difficult to learn to hate or to mistrust. She spoke of her own country with contempt; and, even in her dress, which was magnificent, attempted to prove the superiority of every other over it. Her morals were simple and uncorrupt, and in matters of religious faith she entirely surrendered herself to the guidance of Hoiouskim. She inclined her head a little upon seeing Lady Avondale ; the dead, I mean the pick poet, did the same ; and Hoiouskim, her high priest, cast his eyes, with unassuming civility, upon Calantha, thus welcoming her to Barbary House.
“ The princess then spoke a little sentence-just enough to shew how much she intended to protect Lady Avondale. She addressed herself, besides, in many dialects, to an outlandish set of menials; appointing every one in the room some trifling task, which was per. formed in a moment by young and old, with surprising alacrity. Such is the force of fashion and power, when skilfully applied. After this, she called Calantha : a slight exordium followed, then a wily pointed catechism; her Highness nodding at intervals, and dropping short epigrammatic sentences, when necessary, to such as were in attendance around her. "Is she acting?' said Calantha, at length, in a whisper, addressing the sallow complexioned poet, who stood sneering and simpering behind her chair. Is she acting, or is this reality?' • It is the only reality you will ever find in the Princess, returned her friend. She acts the Princess of Madagascar from morning till night, and from night till morning. You may fall from favour, but you are now at the height: no one ever advanced further -none ever continued there long.'
"" But why,' said Lady Avondale, do the great Nabob, and all the other Lords in waiting, with that black hord of savages'-• Reviewers, you mean, and men of talents.' "Well, whatever they are, tell me quickly why they wear collars, and chains around their necks at Barbary House?" . It is the fashion,' replied the poet. • This fashion is unbecoming your race,' said Lady Avondale : ' I would die sooner than be thus enchained. • The great Nabob," quoth Mr. Fremore, joining in the discourse, is the best, the kindest, the cleverest, man I know; but, like some philosophers, he would sacrifice much for a peaceable life. The Princess is fond of inflicting these lesser tyrannies: she is so helplessly attached to these trifles--so overweaningly fond of exerting her powers, it were a pity to thwart her. For my own part, I could willingly bend to the yoke, provided the duration were not eternal; for observe that the chains are well gilded; that the mbles are well stored ; and those who bend the lowest are ever the best received.' "And if I also bow my neck,' said Calantha, will she be grateful? May I depend upon her seeming kindness ?' The poet's naturally pale complexion turned to a bluish green at this enquiry. - " Cold Princess! where are your boasted professions now? You taught Calantha to love you, by every pretty art of which your sex is mistress, She heard, from your lips, the sugared poisons you were pleased to lavish upon her. You laughed at her follies, courted her confidence, and flattered her into a belief that you loved her. Loved her !--it is a feeling you never felt. She fell into the mire; the arrows of your precious crew were shot at her like hissing snakes hot and sharpened with malice and venomed fire; and you, yes -you were the first to scorn her:-you, by whom she had stood faithfully and firmly amidst a host of foes --- aye, amidst the fawning rabble, who still crowd your doors, and laugh at and despise you. Thanks for the helping hand of friendship in the time of need.--the mud and the mire have been washed from Calantha; the arrows have been drawn from a bleeding bosom ; the heart is still sound, and beats to disdain you. The sun may shine fairly again upon her; but never, whilst existence is prolonged, will she set foot in the gates of the Palace of the great Nabob, or trust to the smiles and professions of the Princess of Madagascar.” Vol. I. P. 217.
· If our readers are acquainted with “ The Pleasures of Me mory," they may probably conjecture who is meant by the “ Yellow Poet." The death of the Princess of Madagascar is given with a strange melange of melancholy and absurdity.
“ As to the Princess of Madagascar, she lived to a good old age, though death repeatedly gave her warning of his approach. Can any humiliation, any sacrifice avail ?' she cried, in helpless alarm, seeing his continual advances. •Can I yet be saved ?" she said, addressing Hoiouskim, who often by a bold attempt had hurried away this grim king of terrors. “If we were to sacrifice the great nabob, and all our party, and our followers--can fasting, praying, avail ? shall the reviewers be poisoned in an eminée! shall - It was hinted to the princess at length, though in the gentlest manner possible, that this time, nor sacrifice, nor spell would save her. Death stood broad and unveiled before her. If then I must die,' she cried, weeping bitterly at the necessity, send with haste for the dignitaries of the church. I would not enter upon the new world without a passport; I, who have so scrupulously courted favour every where in this. As to confession of sins, what have I to con. fess, Hoiouskim? I appeal to you: is there a scribbler, however contemptible, whose pen I feared might one day be turned against me, that I have not silenced by the grossest flattery? Is there a man or woman of note in any kingdom that I have not crammed with dinners, and little attentions, and presents, in hopes of gaining them over to my side? And is there, unless the helpless, the fallen, and the idiot, appear against me, any one whom it was my interest to befriend that I have not sought for and won? What minion of fashion, what dandy in distress, what woman of intrigue, who had learned to deceive with ease, have I not assisted? Oh, say, what then are my sins, Hoiouskinı? Even if self-denial be a virtue, though I have not practised it myself, have I not made you and others daily and hourly do so?' Hoiouskiin bowedassent. Death now approached too near for further colloquy. The princess, pinching her attend. ants, that they might feel for what she suffered, fainted: yet with her dying breath again invoking the high priest : · Hoiouskim,' she cried, 'obey my last command: send all my attendants after me, my eider down quilts, my coffee pots, my carriages, my confectioner: and tell the cook- As she uttered that short but comprehensive. monosyllable, she expired. Peace to her memory! I wish not to reproach her: a friend more false, a foe more timid yet insulting, a princess more fond of power, never before or since appeared in Europe. Hoiouskim wept beside her, yet, when he recovered (and your philosophers seldom die of sorrow) it is said he retired to his own country, and shrunk from every woman he afterwards beheld, for fear they should remind him of her he loved so well, and prore another Princess of Madagascar. The dead, or yellow poet was twice carried by mistake to the grave. It is further said, that all the reviewers, who had bartered their independence for the comforts and flattery of Barbary House, died in the same year as the prin•