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BRACEBRIDGE HALL; OR, THE HU “ Sketch-Book," and professing to
MORISTS. BY GEOFFREY CRAYON, describe more at length the character GEXT. IN TWO VOLUMES, 8vo. . and customs which he had there so LOXDON. 1822.
happily sketched, the author has pe
culiarly exposed himself to a comWe are apprehensive that the parison with his previous writings. perusal of this work will scarcely And if there be any case in which the realise the very high expectations public are disposed to fancy a lack of which its appearance may have ex skill or interest, it is where the same cited. Not that we are by any means subjects are resumed and expanded, convinced that it exhibits a falling after the charm of novelty has ceased, off, as it is usually styled, on the and when the writer is sure to be part of the author, any considerable judged by the over-excited expectadiminution of merit, or abatement tions which well-merited success aof interest; but when a writer, at wakened, and in some measure warone or two efforts, succeeds in obtain- ranted. The reception which the ing a high and permanent place in work before us is at first likely to the literature of the age, so much is meet, seems pretty obvious. Braceexpected from his next attempts, bridge Hall recalls necessarily, and that unless there is a very marked strongly, our recollections of the and obvious improvement, he in- Sketch-Book ; but it has not excited curs some risk of being considered the same delight; neither does it as having fallen short of his for come up to the exalted standard mer excellence. The more that the which we have thought fit to raise, public mind has been gratified, the and therefore it is, on the whole, an higher are the anticipations which it inferior production. Exceptionable forms of the next produetion; and as such a mode of condemnation unwhile there are bounds prescribed to doubtedly is, it is one which is very all human wit and wisdom, the de- generally employed; the decisions of sire and expectation of something the many depending much more on better is confined within no such re the impulse of feeling, than the exstricting limits. It is thus that with ercise of judgment. The circumsome one or other of the band of stances also under which the author discontented and disappointed read- formerly appeared, were such as to ers, the successive works of the lend an additional charm to every greatest of novellists and living au grace and ornament of his writings. thors have been in a state of pro- We listened with mingled feelings gressive declension from the Fortunes of astonishment and partiality, to an of Waverley down to those of Nigel, American describing, for the first -exhibiting various degrees of de- time, the manners, customs, and merit, interspersed with occasional character of Old England, with all glimpses of their dawning splendour; the enthusiasm of the most devoted and yet it may perhaps be questions of her children. There was such a ed, whether, if the whole Series had stretch of liberality in the accombeen reversed, an equally illustrious plished stranger coming amongst us, host of dissatisfied personages would not to spy out the nakedness of the not still have been found to sigh land, but to dilate on its beauty and over the departed glories of Martha virtues ; there was so much to flatTrapbois, and Peg-a-Ramsay, as we ter our national pride, and so concinow do over the much-loved and re- liating a spirit of courtesy in all his gretted forms of Rose Bradwardine writings, that, had even his literary and Flora Maclvor.
merit been less than it was, we But we have still other grounds should have felt it to be a breach of for suspecting that, notwithstanding good manners and honourable feelthe unquestionable merit of the pre- ing to have been very rigorously or sent work, something like a feeling critically just towards him. If any of disappointment may be experi- thing could " smooth the raven enced by some of its readers, and down of criticism till it smiled,” it perchance also expressed by sundry was the display of so many estimable of its critics. Intimately connected as qualities of head and heart on the it is with his former publication, the side of all that we reverence and
love. If any offering, laid at the feet dinary calamities of the world, which of a great and high-minded nation, depress without dignifying the soul. could call forth in return, its genero- He bas surveyed human nature with sity and kindness, it was that of such a calm, undazzled eye, which can see homage to its intellectual talent and into the light-hearted joys of youth, moral worth. If any display of indi- the misfortunes of manhood, and the vidual excellence could command the miseries of old age. There is no regard of every mind, it was that of fond illusion of imagination, or hope, one rising superior to the prejudices or feeling in his mode of viewing obof his own, and the jealousies of a jects, or in the characters which he neighbouring and rival country; re has painted. The author now before turning not railing for railing, but us has none of those plain, unvarnishgood for evil, and setting an exam ed representations of things. The ple of generous and chivalric mag- griefs which he describes are of that nanimity to the great and virtuous romantic cast which are somewhat aof both nations. Now, although the kin to joy; and when, by any effort, same properties continue to charac- his story can be made to issue faterise the present work, yet they are vourably, he is not over scrupulous to be no longer regarded and hailed about the means he employs to acas an unexpected or extraordinary complish so desirable a result. His occurrence. They therefore do not descriptions of England present her produce so lively an impression on the only in her sunshiny moods, with mind; they do not mingle so insensi- her inhabitants decked out in their bly or powerfully with the other feel- holiday attire, and engaged in some ings of delight which are kindled as merry gambol of the good olden time. we read ; our gratification is made to His personages are abstractions of the depend much more on the intrinsic oddities and excellencies of the Old merits of the writings themselves. If English character. The gentry pique we connect these considerations with themselves on their hereditary hothe less variety and range of subject nours, but are generous and kindly in which the plan of the present publi- the extreme to their vassals and decation embraces, and with the cir- pendants; and they, in their turn, look cumstances that our curiosity and in- up to the respected inmates of the terest in several of these topics have Hall “ with almost feudal homage." been forestalled by the author in his You find, in his views of English previous works, and that others of scenery, no such vulgar objects as ihem have been long familiar to the work-houses, ill-aired and dirty cotEnglish reader, we shall be at no tages, and squalid children; and no loss to account for any diminution such traits in English character as of pleasure we may have felt, with selfishness and avarice in the great, out having recourse to the supposi- or discontent and ingratitude in the tion of any weakening of power, or poor. In his own words, he is ever other symptoms of decay, on the part endeavouring to see the world in of the writer.
as pleasant a light as circumstances Bracebridge Hallresembles Crabbe's will permit.” This, it is evident, is Tales of the Hall, in being a sort of quite a poetical view of things; and frame-work in which sketches of would not the Tales of the Hall, and manners and character are exhibited Bracebridge Hall, therefore, have in a connected form. But this, as both been fully as much in keeping, suredly, is the chief, if not the only if the one had been written in prose, point of resemblance. Nothing can and the other farther embellished be more opposite than the charac- with all the glories of verse ? teristic qualities of these two obser After craving the forgiveness of vers of rural life and happiness, our readers for detaining them so whether in the village or the ma- long in the porch, we proceed to innor-house. Crabbe has almost ex- troduce them to the Humorists in clusively described the sober and Bracebridge Hall. Our author, it painful realities of existence; he will be remembered, in the second has chiefly looked upon man as he volume of the Sketch-Book, describes acts and feels in the days of his ad- his first visit to the family on the in versity, and that, too, amid the or. vitation of Frank Bracebridge, with
whom he had travelled on the con." to the core; several village worthies, tinent. It was Christmas-eve, and at the head of whom are the school young and old were absorbed in the master and his assistant, and a radifestivities of that merry season. A- cal, whom the author exposes with mong those happy and interesting most monarchical rigour ; and among revellers, our readers will particular- the domestics of the Hall, a brocaded ly recollect the Squire's second son, antique house-keeper, born and bred Guy, the young officer, and the fair in the family, with her orphan niece, ward, Julia Templeton," the beauti- Phæbe Wilkins, a spoiled, prettyful blushing girl of seventeen.” An faced baggage; and Christy the huntsexperienced eye might have discover- man, a testy, opinionative old fellow, ed, in the mutual glances, the flush- who, at the close of the day, is buck ing cheeks, and such-like heralds led to Mrs Hannah, a most insufferof the heart, that preliminaries were able old-maid, and woman in waiting then carrying on towards a union be- to Lady Lillycraft—as wonderful a tween this youthful pair ; and one in display of the power of the baby-god the slightest degree acquainted with as we remember ever to have encounthe author's obliging dispositions and tered. These personages, it must be address, in guiding matters to a hap- understood, are merely described by py conclusion, could have no doubt the author, there being neither plot but that it would soon be consumma nor adventure to draw them much ted. Accordingly we find, at the into action. We shall now present commencement of the present work, our readers with a sample of these that he has undertaken another visit descriptions, to which we have no to the Hall, that he might be present doubt he has been looking forward, at their wedding, which was about for some time, with considerable imto take place. To the personages patience. with whom we were formerly made We give the following extract from acquainted, others are added from the chapter entitled " Family Serthe neighbourhood, along with some vants," as an example of that amifriends and relations of the Squire's, able feeling which the writings of our who had assembled to celebrate that author so frequently exhibit : joyous festival. The Squire, the But the good “ old family servant !"young Oxonian, Master Simon, the The one who has always been linked, in bachelor of singing and bustling idea, with the home of our heart; who celebrity, and the antiquarian par- has led us to school in the days of pratSOTI, so deeply skilled in popular su tling childhood; who has been the conperstitions, and the various readingsfidant of our boyish cares, and schemes, of Old English song, are again in- and enterprises; who has hailed us as troduced on the scene. Among the
we came home at vacations, and been the new dramatis personæ there is a Lady promoter of all our holiday sports; who, Lilly craft, a sister of the Squire's, a
when we, in wandering manhood, have simple-hearted, sentimental widow, thither at intervals, will welcome us with
left the paternal roof, and only return well versed in love-tales of every dif
a joy inferior only to that of our parents ; ferent complexion, and both experi- who, now grown gray and infirm with mentally and speculatively acquaint- age, still totters about the house of our ed with all the mysteries of love-mak- fathers in fond and faithful servitude ; ing. She is squired and gallanted in who claims us, in a manner, as his own, all her movements about the Hall by and hastens with querulous eagerness to a General Harbottle, who had been an anticipate his fellow-domestics in waiting early admirer of her Ladyship’s ; and upon us at table; and who, when we realthough the General resumes his at- tire at night to the chamber that still goes tacks on the tender affections of the by our name, will linger about the room dame, and for some time with a little to have one more kind look, and one Prospect of success, yet his utter want
more pleasant word, about times that are of sentiment and feeling eventually past--who does not experience towards ruins him in the eye of his mistress.
such a being a feeling of almost filial
affection ? There are also a Mr Faddy, a retired manufacturer, a perfect thorn in the
The following is part of the deflesh of the old Squire ; a whole fac scription of Lady Lillycraft: mily of the Tibbets, all old English Whether the taste the good lady had of
matrimony discouraged her or not I can. waistcoat of figured chintz, between which not say; but, though her merits and her and his coat was another of scarlet cloth, riches have attracted many suitors, she unbuttoned. His breeches were also left has never been tempted to venture again unbuttoned at the knees, not from any into the happy state. This is singular slovenliness, but to show a broad pair of too, for she seems of a most soft and sus. scarlet garters. His stockings were blue, ceptible heart; is always talking of love with white cloaks ; he wore large silver and connubial felicity; and is a great shoe-buckles ; a broad paste buckle in his stickler for old-fashioned gallantry, devot- hatband: his sleeve-buttons were gold ed attentions, and eternal constancy, on seven-shilling pieces; and he had two or the part of the gentlemen. She lives, three guineas hanging as ornaments to however, after her own taste. Her house, his watch-chain. I am told, must have been built and On making some inquiries about him, furnished about the time of Sir Charles I gathered that he was descended from a Grandison ; every thing about it is some line of farmers that had always lived on what formal and stately; but has been the same spot, and owned the same prosoftened down into a degree of voluptuous. perty; and that half of the church-yard ness, characteristic of an old lady very was taken up with the tombstones of his tender-hearted and romantic, and that He has all his life been an importloves her ease. The cushions of the ant character in the place. When a great arm-chairs, and wide sofas, almost youngster, he was one of the most roaring bury you when you sit down on them. blades of the neighbourhood. No one Flowers of the most rare and delicate could match him at wrestling, pitching kind are placed about the rooms and on the bar, cudgel-play, and other athletic little japanned stands; and sweet bags exercises. Like the renowned Pinner of lie about the tables and mantel-pieces. Wakefield, he was the village champion ; The house is full of pet dogs, Angola cats, carried off the prize at all the fairs, and and singing-birds, who are as carefully threw his gauntlet at the country round. waited upon as she is herself.
Even to this day the old people talk of She does a vast deal of good in her his prowess, and undervalue, in comparineighbourhood, and is imposed upon by son, all heroes of the green that have suc. every beggar in the county. She is the ceeded him; nay, they say, that if Readybenefactress of a village adjoining to her money Jack were to take the field even estate, and takes an especial interest in now, there is no one could stand before all its love-affairs. She knows of every him. courtship that is going on; every love lorn damsel is sure to find a patient list- chapter on “ Forest Trees,” and
The following extract is from the ener and a sage adviser in her ladyship. She takes great pains to reconcile all love our author's happiest vein. He is quarrels, and should any faithless swain speaking of the taste of English genpersist in his inconstancy, he is sure to
tlemen for park and forest scenery : draw on himself the good lady's violent There is something nobly simple and indignation.
pure in such a taste : it argues, I think, We cannot omit to indulge our
a sweet and generous nature, to have this readers with a sketch of “old Ready- strong relish for the beauties of vegetamoney Jack Tibbets,” a substantial tion, and this friendship for the hardy and yeoman, and village champion, in- glorious sons of the forest. There is a tended as a specimen of Old English part of rural economy. It is, if I may be
grandeur of thought connected with this “ heart of oak,” but somewhat too allowed the figure, the heroic line of hushighly coloured.
bandry. It is worthy of liberal, and freeHe was between fifty and sixty, of a born, and aspiring men. He who plants strong, muscular frame, and at least six an oak looks forward to future ages, and feet high, with a physiognomy as grave plants for posterity: Nothing can be less as a lion's, and set off with short, curling, selfish than this. He cannot expect to sit iron-gray locks. His shirt-collar was turn in its shade, nor enjoy its shelter ; but he ed down, and displayed a neck covered exults in the idea, that the acorn which with the same short curling, gray hair ; he has buried in the earth shall grow up and he wore a coloured silk neckcloth, tied into a lofty pile, and shall keep on flourvery loosely, and tucked in at the bosom, ishing, and increasing, and benefiting with a green paste brooch on the knot. mankind, long after he shall have ceased His coat was of dark green cloth, with to tread his paternal fields. Indeed it is silver buttons, on each of which was en the nature of such occupations to lift the graved a stag, with his own name, John thoughts above mere worldliness. As the Tibbets, underneath. He had an inner leaves of trecs are said to absorb all nox
jous qualities of the air, and to breathe consequence of their neighbourhood and forth a purer atmosphere, so it seems to similarity. The rooks are old-established me as if they drew from us all sordid and housekeepers, high - minded gentlefolk, angry passions, and breathed forth peace that have had their hereditary abodes and philanthropy. There is a serene and time out of mind; but as to the poor settled majesty in woodland scenery, that crows, they are a kind of vagabond, preenters into the soul, and dilates and ele- datory, gipsy race, roving about the counratas it, and fills it with noble inclinations. try without any settled home; “ their The ancient and hereditary groves, too, hands are against every body, and every that embower this island, are most of them body's against them,” and they are gibfull of story. They are haunted by the re beted in every corn-field. Master Simon collections of the great spirits of past ages, assures me that a female rook, that should who have sought for relaxation among so far forget herself as to consort with a them, from the tumult of arms, or the crow, would inevitably be disinherited, toils of state, or have wooed the muse be. and indeed would be totally discarded by neath their shade. Who can walk, with all her genteel acquaintance. soul unmoved, among the stately groves Nor must I avoid mentioning, what, I of Penshurst, where the gallant, the a. grieve to say, rather derogates from the miable, the elegant Sir Philip Sidney grave and honourable character of these passed his boy bood; or can look with ancient gentlefolk, that, during the archioat fondness upon the tree that is said to tectural season, they are subject to great have been planted on his birth-day ; or dissensions among themselves ; that they can ramble among the classic bowers of make no scruple to defraud and plunder Hagley; or can pause among the soli- each other ; and that sometimes the rooktudes of Windsor Porest, and look at the ery is a scene of hideous brawl and comoaks around, huge, gray, and time-worn, motion, in consequence of some delinlike the old castle towers, and not feel as quency of the kind. One of the partners if he were surrounded by so many monu- generally remains on the nest to guard it ments of long-enduring glory ? It is, from depredation ; and I have seen severe when viewed in this light, that planted contests, when some sly neighbour has groves, and stately avenues, and culti- endeavoured to filch away a tempting rated parks, have an advantage over the rafter that had captivated his eye. As I more luxuriant beauties of unassisted na am not willing to admit any suspicion ture. It is that they teem with moral hastily that should throw a stigma on associations, and keep up the ever-inter- the general character of so worshipful a esting story of human existence.
people, I am inclined to think that these We can only make way for another by the higher classes, and even rigorously
larcenies are very much discountenanced extract, which is in that style of punished by those in authority; for I have quaint humour in which Knicker- now and then seen a whole gang of rooks bocker's History of New York is fall upon the nest of some individual, pull composed. Hard by the Hall was
it all to pieces, carry off the spoils, and even an ancient rookery, the occupants of buffet the luckless proprietor. I have conwhich are thus described :
cluded this to be some signal punishment The rooks are looked upon by the
inflicted upon him, by the officers of the Squire as a very ancient and honourable police, for some pilfering misdemeanor ; fine of gentry, highly aristocratical in their
or, perhaps, that it was a crew of bailiffs Dotions, fond of place, and attached to
carrying an execution into his house. church and state; as their building so lofti. Of a work like the present, only a h, keeping about churches and cathedrals, very inadequate idea can be conveyed and in the venerable groves of old castles by means of extracts. There is also and manor houses, sufficiently manifests.
an interesting portion of it, from The good opinion thus expressed by the
which we have not ventured to levy Squire put me upon observing more narrowly these very respectable birds ; for. I only notice very passingly. We al
contribution, and which we can
any confess, to my shame, I had been apt to confound them with their cousins-german
lude to the specimens of story-telling the crowe, to whom, at the first glance,
with which the unvaried events of they bear so great a family resemblance.
the Hall are occasionally relieved. Nothing, it seems, could be more unjust Our readers will still recollect, with Or injurious than such a mistake. The unabated delight, the matchless exTooks and crows are, among the feathered amples of the author's talents in this tribes, what the Spaniards and Portuguese species of composition, which are conare among nations, the least loving, in tained in the Sketch-Book; and if