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on the heart, but leaves no image there, seems to vulgar spirits more potent than the faculty which applies to it all perfect figures, and leaves them to sink gently into its fleshly tablets to remain there for ever. Yet, surely, that which merely shakes is not equal even in power to that which impresses. The wild disjointed part may be more amazing to a diseased perception than the well-compacted whole; but it is the nice balancing of properties, the soft blending of shades, and the all-pervading and reconciling light shed over the harmonious imagination, which take off the sense of rude strength that alone is discernible in its naked elements." Is there more of heavenly power in seizing from among the tumult of chaos and eternal night, strange and fearful abortions, or in brooding over the vast abyss, and making it pregnant with life, and glory, and joy 1 Is it the higher exercise of human faculties to represent the frightful discordances of passion, or to show the grandeurs of humanity in that majestic repose which is at once an anticipation and a proof of its eternal destiny 1 Is transitory vice—the mere accident of the species—and those vices too which are the rarest and most apalling of all its accidents—or that good which is its essence and which never can perish, fittest for the uses of the bard 1 Shall he desire to haunt the caves which lie lowest on the banks of Acheron, or the soft bowers watered by " Siloa's brook that flows fast by the oracle of God 1"
Mr. Maturin gave decisive indications of a morbid sensibility and a passionate eloquence out-running his imaginative faculties, in the commencement of his literary career. His first romance, the " Family of Montorio," is one of the wildest and strangest of all "false creations proceeding from the heatoppressed brain." It is for the most part a tissue of magnificent yet unappalling horrors. Its great faults as a work of amusement, are the long and unrelieved series of its gloomy and marvellous scenes, and the unsatisfactory explanation of them all, as arising from mere human agency. This last error he borrowed from Mrs. Ratcliffe, to whom he is far inferior in the economy of terrors, but whom he greatly transcends in the dark majesty of his style. As his events are far more wild and wondrous than hers, so his development is necessarily far more incredible and vexat'ous. There is, in this story, a being whom we are long led to believe is not of this world—who speaks in the tones of the sepulchre, glides through the thickest walls, haunts two distant brothers in their most secret retirements through their strange wanderings, leads one of his victims to a scene which he believes infernal, and there terrifies him with sights of the wildest magic—and who after all this, and after really vindicating to the fancy his claim to the supernatural by the fearful cast of his language— is discovered to be a low impostor, who has produced all by the aid of poor tricks and secret passages! Where is the policy of this 1 Unless by his power, the author had given a credibility to magic through four-fifths of his work, it never could have excited any feeling but that of impatience or of scorn. And when we have surrendered ourselves willingly to his guidance—when we have agreed to believe impossibilities at his bidding—why does he reward our credence with derision, and tacitly reproach us for not having detected his idle mockeries 1 After all, too, the reason is no more satisfied than the fancy; for it would be a thousand times easier to believe in the possibility of spiritual influences, than in a long chain of mean contrivances, no ope of which could ever succeed. The first is but one wonder, and that one to which our nature has a strange leaning; the last are numberless, and have nothing to reconcile them to our thoughts. In submitting to the former we contentedly lay aside our reasoning faculties; in approaching the latter our reason itself is appealed to at the moment when it is insulted. Great talent is, however, unquestionably exhibited in this singular story. A stern justice breathes solemnly through all the scenes in the devoted castle. "Fate sits on its dark battlements, and frowns." There is a spirit of deep philosophy in the tracing of the gradual influence of patricidal thoughts on the hearts of the brothers, which would finally exhibit the danger of dallying with evil fancies, if the subject were not removed so far from all ordinary temptations. Some of the scenes of horror, if they were not accumulated until they wear out their impression, would produce an effect inferior to none in the works of Ratcliife or of Lewis. The scene in which Filippo escapes from the assassins, deserves to be ranked with the robber-scenes in the Monk and Count Fathom. The diction of the whole is rich and energetic—not, indeed, flowing in a calm beauty which may glide on for ever—but impetuous as a mountain torrent, which, though it speedily passes away, leaves behind it no common spoils—
"Depositing upon the silent shore
"The Wild Irish Boy" is, on the whole, inferior to Montorio, though it served to give a farther glimpse into the vast extent of the author's resources. "The Milesian" is, perhaps, the most extrordinary of his romances. There is a bleak and misty grandeur about it, which, in spite of its glaring defects, sustains for it an abiding-place in the soul. Yet never, perhaps, was there a more unequal production—alternately exhibiting the grossest plagiarism and the wildest originality —now swelling into offensive bombast, and anon disclosing the simplest majesty of nature, fluctuating with inconstant ebb between the sublime and the ridiculous, the delicate and the revolting. "Women, or Pour et Contre," is less unequal, but we think, on the whole, less interesting than the author's earlier productions. He should not venture, as in this work he has done, into the ordinary paths of existence. His persons, if not cast in a high and heroic mould, have no stamp of reality upon them. The reader of this work, though often dazzled and delighted, has a painful feeling that the characters are shadowy and unreal, like that which is experienced in dreams. They are unpleasant and tantalizing likenesses, approaching sufficiently near to the true to make us feel what they would be and lament what they are. Eva, Zaira, the maniac mother, and the group of Calvinists, have all a resemblance to nature—and sometimes to nature at its most passionate or its sweetest—but they look as at a distance from us, as though between us and them there were some veil, or discolouring medium, to baffle and perplex us. Still the novel is a splendid work; and gives the feeling that its author has "riches fineless" in store, which might delight as well as astonish the world, if he would cease to be their slave, and become their master. In the narrow boundaries of the Drama the redundancies of Mr. Maturin have been necessarily corrected. In this walk, Indeed, there seems reason to believe that his genius would have grown purer, as it assumed a severer attitude; and that he would have sought to attain high and true passion, and lofty imagination, had he not been seduced by the admiration unhappily lavished on Lord Byron's writings. The feverish strength, the singular blending of good and evil, and the spirit of moral paradox, displayed in these works, were congenial with his tastes, and aroused in him the desire to imitate. "Bertram," his first and most successful tragedy, is a fine piece of writing, wrought out of a nauseous tale, and rendered popular, not by its poetical beauties, but by the violence with which it jars on the sensibilities, and awakens the sluggish heart from its lethargy. "Manuel," its successor, feebler, though in the same style, excited little attention, and less sympathy. In "Fredolpho," the author as though he had resolved to sting the public into a sense of his power, crowded together characters of such matchless depravity, sentiments of such a demoniac cast, and events of such gratuitous horror, that the moral taste of the audience, injured as it had been by the success of similar works, felt the insult, and rose up indignantly against it. Yet in this piece were passages of a soft and mournful beauty, breathing a tender air of romance, which led us bitterly to regret that the poet chose to "embower the spirit of a fiend, in mortal paradise of such sweet" song.
We do, not, however, despair even yet of the regeneration of our author's taste. There has always been something of humanity to redeem those works in which his genius has been most perverted. There is no deliberate sneering at the disinterested and the pure—no cold derision of human hopes —no deadness to the lonely and the loving, in his writings. His error is that of a hasty trusting to feverish impulses, not of a malignant design. There is far more of the soul of goodness in his evil things, than in those of the noble bard whose example has assisted to mislead him. He does not, indeed, know so well how to place his unnatural characters in imposing attitudes—to work up his morbid sensibilities for sale—or to "build the lofty rhyme" on shattered principles, and the melancholy fragments of hope. But his diction is more rich, his fancy is more fruitful, and his compass of thought and feeling more extensive. Happy shall we be to see him doing justice at last to his powers—studying not to excite the wonder of a few barren readers or spectators, but to live in the hearts of the good of future times— and, to this high end, leaving discord for harmony, the startling for the true, and the evil which, however potent, is but for a season, for the pure and the holy which endure for ever!