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a noble nature, and to regard the energy of the character not as Inseparably linked with vice, but as destined ultimately to subdue it. He makes us every where feel that crime is not the native heritage, but the accident, of the species of which we are members. He impresses us with the immortality of virtue; and while he leaves us painfully to regret the stains which the most gifted and energetic characters contract amidst the poDutions of time, he inspires us with hope that these shall pass away for ever. We drink in unshaken confidence the good and the true, which is ever of more value than hatred or contempt for the evil!
"Caleb Williams," the earliest, is also the most popular of our author's romances, not because his latter works have been less rich in sentiment and passion, but because they are, for the most part, confined to the development of single characters; while in this there is the opposition and death- , grapple of two beings, each endowed with poignant sensibi- / lities and quenchless energy. There is no work of fiction/ which more rivets the attention—no tragedy which exhibits/ a struggle more sublime, or sufferings more intense, than this; yet to produce the effect, no complicated machinery fa employed, but the springs of action are few and simp|ie. The motives are at once common and elevated, and are purely intellectual, without appearing for an instant inadequate to their mighty issues. Curiosity, for instance, which generally seems a low and ignoble motive for scrutinizing the secrets of a man's life, here seizes with strange fascination on a gentle and ingenuous spirit, and supplies it with excitement as fervid, and snatches of delight as precious and as fearful, as those feelings create which we are accustomed to regard as alone worthy to enrapture or to agitate. The involuntary recurrence by Williams to the string of frenzy in the soul of one whom he would die to serve—the workings of his tortures on the heart of Falkland till they wring confidence from him—and the net thenceforth spread over the path of the youth like an invisible spell by his agonized master, surprising as they are, arise from causes so natural and so adequate, that the imagination at once owns them as authentic. The mild beauty of Falkland's natural character, contrasted with the guilt he has incurred, and his severe purpose to lead a long life of agony and crime, that his fame
may be preserved spotless, is affecting almost without example. There is a rude grandeur even in the gigantic oppressor Tyre], which all his disgusting enormities cannot destroy. Independently of the master-spring of interest, there are in this novel individual passages which can never be forgotten. Such are the fearful flight of Emily with her ravisher—the escape of Caleb Williams from prison, and his enthusiastic sensations on the recovery of his freedom, though wounded and almost dying without help—and the scenes of his peril among the robbers. Perhaps this work is the grandest ever constructed out of the simple elements of humanity, without any extrinsic aid from imagination, wit, or memory.
In " St . Leon," Mr. Godwin has sought the stores of the supernatural;—but the "metaphysical aid" which he has condescended to accept is not adapted to carry him farther from nature, but to ensure a more intimate and wide communion with its mysteries. His hero does not acquire the philosopher's stone and the elixir of immortality to furnish out for himself a dainty solitude, where he may dwell soothed with the music of his own undying thoughts, and rejoicing in his severance from his frail and transitory fellows. Apart from those among whom he moves, his yearnings for sympathy become more intense as it eludes him, and his perceptions of the mortal lot of his species become more vivid and more fond, as he looks on it from an intellectual eminence which is alike unassailable to death and to joy. Even in this work, where the author has to conduct a perpetual miracle, his exceeding earnestness makes it difficult to believe him a fabulist . Listen to his hero, as he expatiates in the first consciousness of his high prerogatives:
"I surveyed my limbs, all the joints and articulations of my frame, with curiosity and astonishment . What! exclaimed I, these limbs, this complicated but brittle frame shall last for ever! No disease shall attack it; no pain shall seize it; death shall withhold from it for ever his abhorred grasp! Perpetual vigour, perpetual activity, perpetual youth, shall take up their abode with me! Time shall generate in me no decay, shall not add a wrinkle to my brow, or convert a hair of my head to gray! This body was formed to die; this edifice to crumble into dust; the principles of corruption and mortality are mixed up in every atom of my frame. But for me the laws of nature are suspended, the eternal wheels of the universe roll backward; I am destined to be triumphant over Fate and Time! Months, years, cycles, centuries! To me these are but as indivisible moments. I shall never become old; I shall always be, as it were, in the porch and infancy of existence; no lapse of years shall subtract any thing from my future duration. I was born under Louis the Twelfth; the life of Francis the First now threatens a speedy termination; he will be gathered to his fathers, and Henry, his son, will succeed him. But what are princes, and kings, and generations of men to me! I shall become familiar with the rise and fall of empires; in a little while the very name of France, my country, will perish from off the face of the earth, and men will dispute about the situation of Paris, as they dispute about the site of ancient Nineveh, and Babylon, and Troy. Yet I shall still be young. I shall take my most distant posterity by the hand; I shall accompany them in their career; and, when they are worn out and exhausted, shall shut up the tomb over them, and set forward."
This is a strange tale, but it tells like a true one! When we first read it, it seemed as though it had itself the power of alchemy to steal into our veins, and render us capable of resisting death and age. For a short—too short! a space, all time seemed opened to our personal view—we felt no longer as of yesterday; but the grandest parts of our knowledge of the past seemed mightiest recollections of a far-off childhood.
"The wars wo too remembered of King Nine,
This was the happy extravagance of an hour; but it is ever the peculiar power of Mr. Godwin to make us feel that there is something within us which cannot perish!
"Fleetwood " has less of our author's characteristic energy than any other of his works. The earlier parts of it, indeed, where the formation of the hero's character, in free rovings amidst the wildest of nature's scenery, is traced, have a deep beauty which reminds us of some of the holiest imaginations of Wordsworth. But when the author would follow him into the world—through the frolics of college, the dissipations of Paris, and the petty disquietudes of matrimonial life—we feel that he has condescended too far. He is no graceful trifler; he cannot work in these frail and low materials. There is, however, one scene in this novel most wild and fearful. This is where Fleetwood, who has long brooded in anguish over the idea of his wife's falsehood, keeps strange, festival on his wedding-day—when, having procured a waxen image of her whom he believes perfidious, and dressed a frightful figure in a uniform to represent her imagined paramour, he locks himself in an apartment with these horrid counterfeits, a supper of cold meats, and a barrel-organ, on which he plays the tunes often heard from the pair he believes guilty, till his silent agony gives place to delirium, he gazes around with glassy eyes, sees strange sights and dallies with frightful mockeries, and at last tears the dreadful spectacle to atoms, and is seized with furious madness. We do not remember, even in the works of our old dramatists, any thing of its kind comparable to this voluptuous fantasy of despair.
"Mandeville" has all the power of its author's earliest writings; but its main subject—the development of an engrossing and maddening hatred—is not one which can excite human sympathy. There is, however, a bright relief to the gloom of the picture, in the angelic disposition of Clifford, and the sparkling loveliness of Henrietta, who appears "full of life, and splendour and joy." All Mr. Godwin's female heroines have a certain airiness and radiance—a visionary grace, peculiar to them, which may at first surprise by their contrast to the robustness of his masculine creations. But it will perhaps be found that the more deeply man is conversant with the energies of his own heart, the more will he seek for opposite qualities in woman.
Of all Mr. Godwin's writings the choicest in point of style is a little essay " on Sepulchres." Here his philosophic thought, subdued and sweetened by the contemplation of mortality, is breathed forth in the gentlest tone. His " Political Justice," with all the extravagance of its first edition, or with all the inconsistencies of its last, is a noble work, replete with lofty principle and thought, and often leading to the most striking results by a process of the severest reasoning. Man, indeed, cannot and ought not to act universally on its leading doctrine—that we should in all things seek only the greatest amount of good without favour or affection; but it is at least better than the low selfishness of the world. It breathes also a mild and cheerful faith in the progressive advances and the final perfection of the species. It was this good hope for humanity which excited Mr. Malthus to affirm, that there is in the constitution of man's nature a perpetual barrier to any extensive improvement in his earthly condition. After long interval, Mr. Godwin has announced a reply to this popular system—a system which reduces man to an animal, governed by blind instinct, and destitute of reason, sentiment, imagination, and hope, whose most mysterious instincts are matter of calculation to be estimated by rules of geometrical series!—Most earnestly do we desire to witness his success. To our minds, indeed, he sufficiently proves the falsehood of his adversary's doctrines by his own intellectual character. His works are, in themselves, evidences that there is power and energy in man which have never yet been fully brought into action, and which were not given to the species in vain. He has lived himself in the soft and mild light of those peaceful years, which he believes shall hereafter bless the world, when force and selfishness shall disappear, and love and joy shall be the unerring lights of the species.