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present it to us in the noblest masses; yet to make us spectators of each individual circumstance of interest in the field, may excite the envy of a painter. We know of nothing resembling these delineations in history or romance, except the descriptions given by Thucydides of the blockade of Plataea, of the Corcyraan massacres, of the attempt to retake Epipolae in the night, of the great naval action before Syracuse, of all the romantic events of the Sicilian war, and the varied miseries of the Athenian army in their retreat under Nicias. In the life and spirit, and minuteness of the details—in the intermingling of allusions to the scenery of the contests— and in the general fervour breathed over the whole there is a-remarkable resemblance between these passages of the Greek historian, and the narratives of Scottish contests by the author of Waverley. There is too the satne patriotic zeal in both; though the feeling in the former is of a more awful and melancholy cast, and that of the latter more light and cheerful. The Scottish novelist may, like the noblest historians, boast that he has given to his country " Krtifuc if etui"—a possession for ever!
It remains that we should say a word on the use made of the supernatural in these romances. There is, in the mode of its employment, more of gusto—more that approaches to an actual belief in its wonders, than in the works of any other author of these incredulous times. Even Shakspeare himself, in his remote age, does not appear to have drank in so deeply the spirit of superstition as our novelist of the nineteenth century. He treats, indeed, all the fantasies of his countrymen with that spirit of allowance and fond regard with which he always touches on human emotions. But he does not seem to have heartily partaken in them as awful realities. His witches have power to excite wonder, but little to chill men's bloods. Ariel, the visions of Prospero's enchanted isle, the "quaint fairies and the dapper elves" of the Midsummer Night's Dream glitter on the fancy, in a thousand shapes of dainty loveliness, but never affect us otherwise than as creations of the poet's brain. Even the ghost in Hamlet does not appal us half so fearfully as many a homely tale which has nothing to recommend it but the earnest belief of its tremulous reciter. There is little magic in the web of life, notwithstanding all the variety of its shades, as Shakspeare has drawn it . Not so is it with our author; his spells have manifest hold on himself, and, therefore, they are very potent with the spirits of his readers. No prophetic intimation in his works is ever suffered to fail. The spirit which appears to Fergus—the astronomical predictions of Guy Mannering—the eloquent curses, and more eloquent blessings, of Meg Merrilies—the dying denunciation of Mucklewrath—the old prophecy in the Bride of Lammermuir—all are fulfilled to the very letter. The high and joyous spirits of Kennedy are observed by one of the bystanders as intimations of his speedy fate. We are far from disapproving of these touches of the super-human, for they are made to blend harmoniously with the freshest hues of life, and without destroying its native colouring, give to it a more solemn tinge. But we cannot extend our indulgence to the seer in the Legend of Montrose, or the Lady of Avenel, in the Monastery; where the spirits of another world do not cast their shadowings on this, but stalk forth in open light, and "in form as palpable" as any of the mortal characters. In works of passion, fairies and ghosts can scarcely be " simple products of the common day," without destroying all harmony in our perceptions, and bringing the whole into discredit with the imagination as well as the feelings. Fairy tales are among the most exquisite things in the world, and so are delineations of humanity like those of our author; but they can never be blended without debasing the former into chill substances, or refining the latter into airy nothings. We shall avoid the fruitless task of dwelling on the defects of this author, on the general insipidity of his lovers, on the want of skill in the development of his plots, on the clumsiness of his prefatory introductions, or the impotence of many of his conclusions. He has done his country and his nature no ordinary service. He has brought romance almost into our own times, and made the nobleness of humanity familiar to our daily thoughts. He has enriched history to us by opening such varied and delicious vistas to our gaze, beneath the range of its loftier events and more public characters. May his intellectual treasury prove exhaustless as the purse of Fortunatus, and may he dip into it unsparingly for the delight and the benefit of his species!
[New Monthly Magazine.]
Mr. Godwin is the most original—not only of living novelists—but of living writers in prose. There are, indeed, very few authors of any age who are so clearly entitled to the praise of having produced works, the first perusal of which is a signal event in man's internal history. His genius is by far the most extraordinary, which the great shaking of nations and of principles—the French revolution— impelled and directed in its progress. English literature, at the period of that marvellous change, had become sterile; the rich luxuriance which once overspread its surface, had gradually declined into thin and scattered productions of feeble growth and transient duration. The fearful convulsion which, agitated the world of politics and of morals, tore up this shallow and exhausted surface—disclosed vast treasures which had been concealed for centuries—burst open the secret springs of imagination and of thought—and left, instead of the smooth and weary plain, a region of deep valleys and of shapeless hills, of new cataracts and of awful abysses, of spots blasted into everlasting barrenness, and regions of deepest and richest soil. Our author partook in the first enthusiasm of the spirit-stirring season—in " its pleasant exercise of hope and joy"—in much of its speculative extravagance, but in none of its practical excesses. He was roused not into action but into thought; and the high and undying energies of his soul, unwasted on vain efforts for the actual regeneration of man, gathered strength in those pure fields of meditation to which they were limited. The power which might have ruled the disturbed nations with the wildest, directed only to the creation of high theories and of marvellous tales, imparted to its works a stern reality, and a moveless grandeur which never could spring from mere fantasy. His works are not like those which a man, who is endued with a deep sense of beauty, or a rare faculty of observation, or a sportive wit, or a breathing eloquence, may fabricate as the "idle business" of his life, as the means of profit or of fame. They have more in them of acts than of writings. They are the living and the immortal deeds of a man who must have been a great political adventurer had he not been an author. There is in "Caleb Williams" alone the material—the real burning energy— which might have animated a hundred schemes for the weal or wo of the species.
No writer of fictions has ever succeeded so strikingly as Mr. Godwin, with so little adventitious aid. His works are neither gay creatures of the element, nor pictures of external life—they derive not their charm from the delusions of fancy, or the familiarities of daily habitude—and are as destitute of the fascinations of light satire and felicitous delineation of society, as they are of the magic of the Arabian Tales. His style has "no figures and no fantasies," but is simple and austere. Yet his novels have a power which so enthralls us, that we half doubt, when we read them in youth, whether all our experience is not a dream, and these the only realities. He lays bare to us the innate might and majesty of man. He takes the simplest and most ordinary emotions of our nature, and makes us feel the springs of delight or of agony which they contain, the stupendous force which lies hid within them, and the sublime mysteries with which they are connected. He exhibits the naked wrestle of the passions in a vast solitude, where no object of material beauty disturbs our attention from the august spectacle, and where the least beating of the heart is audible in the depth of the stillness. His works endow the abstractions of life with more of real presence, and make us more intensely conscious of existence, than any others with which we are acquainted. They give us a new feeling of the capacity of our nature for action or for suffering, make the currents of our blood mantle within us, and our bosoms heave with indistinct desires for the keenest excitements and the strangest
perils. We feel as though we could live years in moments of energetic life, while we sympathize with his breathing characters. In things which before appeared indifferent, we discern sources of the fullest delight or of the most intense anguish. The healthful breathings of the common air seem instinct with an unspeakable rapture. The most ordinary habits which link one season of life to another become the awakeners of thoughts and of remembrances " which do often lie too deep for tears." The nicest disturbances of the imagination make the inmost fibres of the being quiver with agonies. Passions which have not usually been thought worthy to agitate the soul, now first seem to have their own ardent beatings, and their tumultuous joys. We seem capable of a more vivid life than we have ever before felt or dreamed of, and scarcely wonder that he who could thus give us a new sense of our own vitality, should have imagined that mind might become omnipotent over matter, and that he was able, by an effort of the will, to become corporeally immortal!
The intensity of passion which is manifested in the novels of Godwin is of a very different kind from that which burns in the poems of a noble bard, whom he has been sometimes erroneously supposed to resemble. The former sets before us mightiest realities in clear vision; the latter embodies the phantoms of a feverish dream. The strength of Godwin is the pure energy of unsophisticated nature; that of Lord Byron is the fury of disease. The grandeur of the last is derived from its transitoriness; that of the first from its eternal essence. The emotion in the poet receives no inconsiderable part of its force from its rebound from the dark rocks and giant barriers which seem to confine its rage within narrow boundaries; the feeling in the novelist is in its own natural current deep and resistless. The persons of the bard feel intensely, because they soon shall feel no more; those of the novelist glow, and kindle, and agonize, because they shall never perish. In the works of both, guilt is often associated with sublime energy; but how dissimilar are the impressions which they leave on the spirit! Lord Byron strangely blends the moral degradation with the intellectual majesty; so that goodness appears tame, and crime only is honoured and exalted. Godwin, on the other hand, only teaches us bitterly to mourn the evil which has been cast on