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Bertram-what do ye glowr after our folk for?-There's thirty hearts there, that wad hae wanted bread ere ye had wanted sunkets, and spent their life-blood ere ye had scratched your finger-yes--there's thirty yonder, from the auld wife of an hundred to the babe that was born last week, that ye have turned out o' their bits o' bields, to sleep with the tod and the black-cock in the muirs !-Ride your ways, Ellangowan.--Our bairns are hinging at our weary backs-look that your braw cradle at hame be the fairer spread up-not that I am wishing ill to little Harry, or to the babe that's yet to be born-God forbid-and make them kind to the poor, and better folk than their father.--And now, ride e'en your ways, for these are the last words ye'll ever hear Meg Merrilies speak, and this is the last reise that I'll ever cut in the bonny woods of Ellangowan."
"So saying, she broke the sapling she held in her hand, and Aung it into the road. Margaret of Anjou, bestowing on her triumphant foes her keen-edged malediction, could not have turned from them with a gesture more proudly contemptuous. The Laird was clearing his voice to speak, and thrusting his hand in his pocket to find half-a-crown; the gypsy waited neither for his reply. nor his donation, but strode down the hill to overtake the caravan.
pp. 192-126. On the very day in which young Henry completed five years, being the first period of fatality, he and his tutor are met hy a guager who is in pursuit of a desperate set of smugglers--the guager, notwithstandiug his urgent and dangerous business, and the shot of the action which is already commenced, takes the child from his preceptor and hurries on to accomplish their double fate, (for it has been prophesied also of the guager that he should die à violent death.) The poor guager is murdered by the smugglers, and the child is carried away to Holland, not without the connivance of a roguish attorney who, in process of time, becomes, as is usual in such cases, the proprietor of the family estate of the Bertrams.
The loss of her son kills Mrs. Bertram at the moment she gives birth to a daughter; and after seventeen years of obscurity and dilapidation, the health and fortune of Mr. Bertram are totally ruined, his estate is purchased by the roguish attorney, and his daughter becomes dependant on the bounty of Mannering who, after a long service in the East Indies, returns, and with, we think, a more than usual curiosity and gratitude bastens to visit the mansion of Ellangowan in return for one night's hospitality-he arrives at the critical inoment of Mr. Bertram's death, and the sale of the household furniture. It will be ol served that both Colonel Mannering's visits at Ellangowan are unnaturally well timed.
It now becomes necessary to fill up the chasm of the colonel's Indian absence; and we are accordingly told that having married a wife, with whom he was desperately in love, and by whom VOL. XII. NO, XXIV,
he has a daughter, he takes umbrage at the attentions of a young ensign of his regiment, which, though meant for the latter, appear to the haughty and jealous Mannering designed for his wife-he soon finds occasion to fight Eosign Brown on some other pretence, and in the duel, mortally, as the colonel supposes, wounds him. Mrs. Mannering soon after dies, and the colonel returns to England with a troublesome sentimental obstinate daughter, and the agony of thinking that his violence has caused the death of poor Brown, and consequently that of his wife.
Mannering had before cast the nativity of his wife and had found that she was to die in her 30th year, which happened to coincide with the 21st year of young Bertram of Ellangowan ; our readers of course already discover that Mr. Brown is no other than this very Bertram, and that the astrologer's predictious of the danger of the gentleman and the death of the lady are both accurately accomplished.
Brown, however, recovers, and by following Miss Julia to her different residences, gives much uneasiness to her father, who, however, knows only of an anonymous suitor, and does not suspect that his old antagonist Brown is the cause of his new anxiety. At once to remove his daughter from this dangerous pursuer, and to afford an asylum to his adopted child Miss Bertram, the colonel wishes to purchase Ellangowan; but by one of those unlucky mistakes which, to use one of Mannering's own observations, - never happen but in novels,' he is anticipated in this schenie by the attorney who becomes possessed of that ancient seat. The Colonel, however, soon obtains a house in the same neighbourhood, a choice of residence, we must be permitted to say, which does but little credit to his taste, and which appears utterly inconsistent with all his former habits and prejudices; in fact, it is but one more of those violent exertions of the author's despotic power by which, for the little purposes of his plot, he sets all probability at defiance, and does not scruple to overturn even the laws of nature when they stand in the way of the progress of his story.
To her northern retreat Mr. Brown follows Miss Mannering, (who witnesses her father's remorse for the supposed death of the ensign, with admirable indifference) and after divers' hair-breadth scapes' from the arts of the roguish attorney and the violence of his old acquaintances the smugglers, he is, chiefly by the assistance of the gipsy Meg Merrilies, discovered to be the true Bertrain of Ellangowan, and is restored to the estates of his ancestors, while Meg, the attorney and the smugglers all die by one another's hands. Young Bertram, of course, marries Miss Mannering, and his sister has also a lover to whom she is in due time united, when the restoration of her family makes her a suitable
match for the young laird of Hazelwood, and the novel concludes, like the ordinary run of novels, with the reward of all the good, and the punishment of all the bad characters of the drama.
We suppose that our readers will see in this sketch of the story visible marks of inferiority to Waverley, and we are sorry to be obliged to add that we think the details and filling up are, in a still greater degree, below that standard.
The first and most striking objection is the supernatural agency (for so it may be called) of Mr. Guy Mamering of Oxford, and Mrs. Meg Merrities of Derncleugh. An Oxford scholar might, perhaps, in a family in which he was intimate, have amused himself, as a plaisanterie de société,' in playing the part of an astrologer; but that he should have fallen into this absurdity on such an occasion as that of his spending one night in the house of að utter stranger, is absolutely incredible. But if this be incredible, what expression can we find to characterize the fulfilment of his prophecy? an event which, considering that the fates had fair notice that it was to come to pass, they contrive to bring about by very clumsy expedients! It is within the doctrine of chances that one such a prediction should be, by accident, fulfilled; but we believe that numbers are scarcely competent to express the chances against the accomplishment of the second prediction, and when that prediction is combined with another, pronounced at a different time, with regard to a different person, of a different sex, age, and nation, we believe we may safely assert, that all the combinations of Hoyle' and De Moivre would be insufficient to calculate the degree of improbability, and that the statements in which the plot of this novel is founded are absolutely impossible. But we have not yet stated the full extent of this monstrous absurdity; for the gipsy-woman, iu ignorance of Mannering and his astrology, prophesies' on sundry occasions to the same effect, and her predictions are all accomplished in conjunction with his.
We think we are therefore authorized to say, either that our author gravely believes what no other man alive believes, or that he has, of malice prepense, committed so great an offence against good taste, as to build his story on what he must know to be a contemptible absurdity.
The next objection we have to make is, that the incidents of the story, though thus unnaturally brought about, and though in themselves sufficiently improbable; are nevertheless trite and hacknied. The cave in the ruined tower—the death of the wounded bandit--the preservation of the traveller by the female accomplice
-the den of the smugglers on the sea shore-the stealing away of the young heir-his gentlemanly manners, air and education, under all his disadvantages-his subsequent identification by means of a
K K 2
little bag which he carries about his neck, and which is produced when all the dramatis personæ are assembled together to discover one another,-must be as familiar to every novel reader as they are rare to the observer of society and nature.
Our third objection is, that the greater part of the characters, their manners and dialect, are at once barbarous and vulgar, extravagant and mean.
In Miss Edgeworth's works, the peculiarities of low manners are made auxiliary to the development of national character; in the Cottagers of Glenburnie the minute description of scenes of vulgar life contribute to the moral lesson inculcated by that work. In Waverley, the picturesque scenes and the original manners of the country, the romantic spirit and the generous devotion of the characters are heightened and stamped, as it were, with the impress of reality by the use of the appropriate dialect. But the events and objects of Mannering not only do not require, but do not excuse
of barbarous slang with which the author wearies our ears and puzzles, our understandings; and we assure him that we think his work, though it should thereby become more intelligible, would be on the whole improved, by being translated into English; and so far is the story from being so peculiarly Scottish as to require the use of the Scotch jargon, that the whole apparatus of the fable might be transferred to Yorkshire or Cumberland, without doing the slightest violence to the narrative.
To this, however, there is one exception :- an eminent Scottish lawyer is introduced, who certainly could not, by any ordinary process, be changed into any thing at all resembling an English, or, indeed, any other lawyer that we have ever seen or heard of, unless it be the little French lawyer' of Beaumont and Fletcher's comedy.
We shall not pretend to know the character of the Scottish bar better than the ingenious author, but we are, with great humility, inclined to believe, and indeed to hope, that such a dull humorist as Mr. Paulus Pleydell cannot have had a prototype at the Scottish bar within the last half century; and that Hume, Robertson, Adam Smith, &c. who are described as friends of this barrister, had better taste than to admit the intimacy of a cock-brained pedant, a laborious jest-maker, and a superannuated pretender to gaiety and gallantry: we know, that when these Scottish luminaries descended into our southern sphere, they chose companions of a character the most dissimilar from that of Mr. Pleydeli.
We have thus stated, strongly and candidly, our complaints against this hasty and undigested work; but we must not omit to add, that notwithstanding all these defects, the natural energy of the author's mind, bis sly observation of the details of society, his dis
crimination of character, and the unaffected sprightliness and spontaneous vigour of his pen, all of which shone so brightly in Waverley, are still, though in a diminished degree, to be found in Mannering; and though we cannot, on the whole, speak of his novel with approbation, we will not affect to deny, that we read it with interest, and that it repaid us with amusement.
Art. X. Letters and Miscellaneous Papers by Barrè Charles
Roberts, Student of Christ Church, Oxford: with a Memoir
of his Life. London. 4to. 1814. A BOOK printed for a private circle can scarcely be deemed
a subjeet for public criticism. But we are persuaded that we shall render an acceptable service to our readers if we lay before them an account of the diligent talents, early acquirements, and domestic happiness of which this volume coutains the memorial and the proofs.
What Shakspeare says of the course of true love, may be applied to the course of genius,-how seldom it runs smooth, how seldom it finds a free channel! and what obstacles are to be overcome before it can make one, even if it have strength and fortune finally to force its way! To say nothing of the mute inglorious Miltons, who lie in many a churchyard ;-the mighty spirits which have never found opportunity to unfold themselves ;-it is but too true that the greatest efforts of learning and industry and intellect have been produced by men who were struggling with difficulties of every kind. A morning of ardour and of hope; a day of clouds and storms; an evening of gloom closed in by premature darkness :—such is the melancholy sum of what the biography of men of letters almost uniformly presents. In the present instance, however, there were no early difficulties to contend with: Barré Roberts might, like Gibbon, have been thankful for all the accidents of birth and fortune; but the latter part of Shakspeare's words applies too literally to the fair promise of this favoured mind--for
death did lay siege to it;