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what is in nature.” This we consider to be a just description of Mr. Carlyle's prose; and he owes much of his popularity to his chief demerit. It is a characteristic, not only of our own, but of all ages, to esteem that which is difficult, and to honour the oracle in proportion to the mystery of its utterance. Few writers of any eminence have reproduced more old friends than Mr. Carlyle ; he has not presented them with new faces so much as in new costume; he covers them with so many veils of imagery, and exhibits them in so dim a twilight of language, that it is scarcely possible to distinguish, far less to recognize, the features of our most intimate acquaintance. Vivid, picturesque, eloquent he sometimes is, notwithstanding all those appalling distortions of his intellectual frame which remind us of the uncouth contractions of Johnson elimbing the tree in Thrales' orchard at Streatham ; but we defy any reader, whose taste has been cultivated by the models of English or of classical grace, to say that he ever rose from any book of Mr. Carlyle's with a clear, distinct, and lasting impression. For our own part, we can compare our feelings to nothing but the sensations experienced in travelling, by night, through the Potteries of Staffordshire, where the busy watchfulness and toil of those illuminated manufactories cast a red and bewildering light over the surrounding country -a light that makes no object clear or intelligible, but confuses and pains the eye, with a mysterious and frightful combination of trees that look withered and black, dwellingsd ismal and desolate, and waters into which a thunderbolt seemed to have descended without being quenched. We shall regard it as one of the most melancholy evidences of the decline of all pure and healthful literature, if the writings of Mr. Carlyle continue to have an enduring hold upon the popular mind. His natural talents will never be able to preserve from corruption and decay the hideous deformities in which he has imbedded them. And if we anticipate so early an oblivion for the master, what can be expected for the disciples? We think we read their history in the misfortune of a character not unknown in song-who, in all the desperation of stupidity and hunger,
“Then gnaw'd lis pen, then dash'd it to the ground,
DISRAELI, Esq., M.P., Author of “Contarini Fleming.” Second Edition. Three Vols. London: Colburn. 1844.
CONVENTIONALISM, to adopt a very modern but sufficiently intelligible word, is the order of the day. Individuality of character is mostly merged in the predominant fashion of the hour, and none can deny that a visible change, be it for evil or for good, has come over the national character of old England. A paramount influence is assigned to institutions to political machinery ; while the personal character of the community is more or less disregarded. As a remedy for social difficulties, attempts have been made from time to time, during the last thirty years, to reconstruct society on a basis of material motives and calculations; but whether the substitution of the union for the parish, the board or the commission for the squire and the parson, and charitable societies for the Church, has augmented the sum of human happiness, we will not for the present discuss. Meanwhile, England is perplexed with the difficulties of her social position, and manifold are the remedies suggested for their removal or mitigation. The rising generation have been foremost in expressing their discontent with this condition of existing things, and young hearts have yearned to restore, were it possible, the days and the men of old. The last fifteen years have witnessed the strange spectacle of sons charging their fathers with rashness; and while the young clung to antiquity, the aged rushed with reckless impetuosity along the road of innovation. The boys of Eton, and the young men of Oxford and Cambridge, were canvassing principles, while their fathers in Parliament were content to deal in shifts and expedients; and though the approbation or disapprobation of schoolboys and undergraduates were derided or despised by Lord Melbourne and Lord John Russell, the young men who assisted in driving the Whigs from power were the striplings of a few short years before. The “ Young England” of the House of Commons derives its origin from the Universities. The opinions, sentiments, and aspirations of that section of the House are far too subtle and refined to have originated in that turbulent assembly; they were engendered in a clearer, calmer region—they were first whispered in an esoteric vein, and are now set forth by Mr. Disraeli in the work before us. “ To scatter some suggestions that may tend to elevate the tone of public life; to ascertain the true character of political parties; and induce us, for the future, more carefully to distinguish between facts and phrases, realities and phantoms," is Mr. Disraeli's own exposition of his design in the publication of “Coningsby.” The medium through which the peculiar views of "Young England” are unfolded is a narrative of the career of a youth, of noble birth and high principle, whom the author invests with the old heroic spirit which courts distinction for no selfish gratification, but simply to enlarge the sphere of its beneficence :
“ His was that noble ambition, the highest and the best, that must be born in the heart and organized in the brain, which will not let & man be content unless his intellectual power is recognized by his race, and desires that it should contribute to their welfare. It is the heroic feeling—the feeling that in old days produced demi-gods; without which no state is safe ; without which political institutions are meat without salt-the Crown a bauble—the Church an establishmentParliaments debating clubs—and civilization itself but a fitful and transient dream.”
The cool, practical man of business, who punctually exacts the hire for which he believes he has honestly laboured, will smile at the above, as an ebullition of enthusiasm, and the man of forms and tape will pronounce such sentiments visionary; but from this high feeling have noble deeds proceeded, whether Mr. Disraeli and “Young England” are too sanguine in their expectations of its revival in this generation or not. That
Young England” aspires to do more than it is now possible to accomplish is, we think, too true; but their aspirations are exalted and refined, and we anticipate that good will flow from the agitation of their favourite topics. Their love for Church architecture may be excessive-their desire to restore festival days and old English sports may appear, in the eyes of economists, exceedingly foolish, or even conducive to a culpable waste of time—and their wish to revive the order of the peasantry may be no longer feasible; but in all these sentiments and desires there is an air of nobility, an elegant taste, and kindliness of heart. The hard, coarse, matter-of-fact spirit of these days needs a corrective, and we have little fear of its being polished by “Young England” into effeminate refinement, or stimulated to lavish generosity. Their errors, we are inclined to think, will be confined to themselves, while their earnestness, we hope, may be beneficially imparted to others. Their fault of youthfulness will inevitably be corrected, and we have little doubt but experience will subdue any excess of zeal, which, after all, is not a fault likely to be imitated by a lukewarm and luxurious generation.
Henry Coningsby is the orphan child of the youngest son of a marquis whom he has mortally offended by his marriage with an amiable and lovely, but not aristocratic young lady. The peer, by a system of domestic persecution, drives his son to a foreign country, where, with broken health and spirits, he shortly dies. The widow, with her orphan and only child, returns to England and makes an appeal to her husband's father, the wealthiest noble in England, and a man who spared no expense upon his own sensual indulgences, or in costly gifts to those who ministered to his amusement. After urgent and repeated, we may say heart-rending applications, the peer's attorney is sent to the desolate widow with the offer of a small annuity, on condition of her own retirement to a distant provincial town, and the surrender of her son to his grandfather. Desperate necessity, the sense of her own forlorn condition, and a maternal wish, at every sacrifice of self, to advance the interests of her beloved child, made the poor victim yield. But her sufferings were short; she died the same day that her father-in-law was made a marquis. Coningsby was only nine years old when he lost his last parent, from whom he had been then separated for three years. But he remembered the sweetness of his nursery days, his mother's mournful yet tender smile, and bitterly did he weep when his schoolmaster broke to him the tidings of her death. His mother seemed to Coningsby his only link to human society ; it was something to write to and talk of his mother, though his prospect of visiting her, as his schoolfellows did their mothers, might be vague and dim. He felt alone, for his grandfather was to him only a name. Lord Monmouth, a calculating, selfish sensualist, resided mostly abroad, and during his rare visits to England felt no inclination to see the orphan of a son whom his unnatural cruelty had destroyed. We will pause to observe that in the character of Lord Monmouth the lineaments of a deceased profligate in high life are readily recognizable by those familiar with society; the same is the case in those of Mr. Rigby, Lord Eskdale, and many others. But our object in reviewing Coningsby is to notice those portions of it only which develope the gradual formation of the young politician's character and opinions; we leave other contemporaries to cater to an appetite for personal slander or caricature. We much mistake if Mr. Disraeli has not raised up for himself an implacable foe in the literary world by his sketch of Mr. Rigby, and cannot forbear from expressing our opinion that a considerable portion of this personal sketching, clever and amusing though we admit it to be, might have been omitted advantageously to the work, considered as an exposition of seriously entertained principles. Mr. Rigby is represented as that most despicable
of creatures, a profligate aristocrat's dirty tool. The race of the Rigbys is, we hope, materially diminished; but specimens of the reptiles may still be detected lurking in the vicinage of great houses, whence they yet occasionally crawl up to the benches of the House of Commons. Mr. Rigby, in the exercise of his vocation as Lord Monmouth's man-of-all-work—now watching his patron's interests in a borough, and now ministering to more impure pleasures, or extricating him from the scrapes incident to their indulgence-writes to his lordship in the spring of 1832, when Lord Grey's resignation of office revived the 'hopes of the Tory party, and draws him from his luxurious retirement in Italy. "Lord Monmouth, who, Sybarite though he was, never lacked energy when his own interests were concerned, crossed the Alps and hastened to England. One evening, during a debate in the Lords, a noble duke, whose son had frequently brought young Coningsby home with him to spend his holidays, sat next to Lord Monmouth, and took the opportunity of praising his grandson, and spoke with warmth and favour of his promising qualities.
Lord Monmouth had too much tact to confess that he had never seen that grandson, and therefore confined himself to gracious bows of acknowledgment of the compliment paid a beloved young relative; but next morning he said to Mr. Rigby, “I should like to see the boy at Eton.” Accordingly the ready Rigby posts down to Eton and brings up Coningsby for his first interview with his grandfather. The ardent and affectionate boy, whose memory dwelt on his mother's sweet embrace, and whose heart yearned for a relation's love, contemplated this interview with intense emotion. He is, with much ceremony, at length, ushered through a suite of gorgeous chambers to his grandfather's presence, and received with such frigid stateliness that he bursts into tears. Lord Monmouth, of course, like all sensualists, hates a scene, and Rigby hurries the agitated boy into an adjoining apartment. “My dear young friend (said Mr. Rigby), what is all this?" A sob the only answer. “ What can be the matter ?” said Mr. Rigby. “I was thinking (said Coningsby) of poor mamma.”
Mr. Disraeli writes in strict consonance with historic truth in thus representing his fictitious hero, who is at school foremost in every manly sport, fearless of every danger, and in manhood bold in debate, and inflexible in his adherence to his professed principles, though their maintenance involves the sacrifice of wealth, rank, and even plighted love, as melting into tenderness whenever his memory dwells upon his mother. Let careless or callous fools sneer at the mother's apron-string,