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was sent forward to Paris; and after much delay and difficulty, negotiated a treaty with the emperor, by which the stales of the Pope were guaranteed to him in all events. When this treaty had been received and forwarded to the Pope, Lucien went to Paris and was lodged in the Palais Royal in great splendour. There begun that system of homage and adulation, for which the French are justly so remarkable, and into which they plunge without thought or scruple, at any change of the cockade. He received a hundred letters a day, expressing profound admiration for him—the great statesman, poet, and philosopher—the hope of the liberty, honour, and peace of France. The Institute, in particular, heard with great complacency a long poem concerning Homer, which the prince condescended to read at one of their meetings, though a few years before many members of this very Institute bad had the base and bateful indecency to oppose answering a letter, in which Lucien, then in exile and disgrace, had made an offering of Charlemagne to the library, and solicited the counsels and criticisms of his brother Academicians. He proposed and arranged the Champ de Mai, the idea of which was taken from his Charlemagne, and recommended to the emperor the dress of the national guards as a suitable costume ; but the emperor insisted to the last moment in going in imperial robes, and Lucien, having no prince's embroidered coat, was forced to have a wbite taffeta cut for the occasion.'
We have already extended this article beyond the limits we had prescribed for ourselves, and must therefore leave, without any particular notice, a number of subjects on which Mr. L. has collected a variety of interesting information—taking it for granted that a work from the pen of an American, which has evidently cost much labour in its preparation, and, although in many respects offensive to taste, is upon the whole quite creditable to our literature, will be very generally perused by our reading countrymen.
ART. VIII. Melmoth the Wanderer ; a Tale. By the Author of
“ Bertram," &c. 4 vols. in 2. 12mo. Boston. Wells and
Lilly. 1821. 2. Precaution, a Novel. 2 vols. 12mo. New-York. A. T.
Goodrich, & Co. 1820.
We have now before us the last English, and the last American novel; and, startling as it may appear to some of our readers, who are inclined to think nothing praiseworthy that is native, we mean to examine their merits comparatively. We hope to see the day arrive, when an American author will not have to
send his book to England, causing it to make a double voyage, ere his countrymen will receive it with impartiality,—when, instead of sneering at the pretensions of a native writer, it
become fashionable to treat him with civility; or, at least, not to condemn his book before its leaves have been cut.
Mr. Maturin has been long before the public : he is at once the writer of tragedies, the author of novels, and the publisher of sermons. We are not so fastidious as to assert that a clergyman should not indulge his genius, and write novels—even plays; but we do contend that those productions should, but for the sake of consistency, be moral, or not subversive of moral principles. The author has introduced into Melmoth blasphemous expressions, which a christian would not wish to hear how much less should he repeat and give them circulation; and in his strictures against priests, he has betrayed an irreverence, to use the mildest term, of their religion. We do not mean to say that Mr. Maturin's intentions were evil; but we must assert that he does indeed “ lack much discretion.” If he has not decked vice in false brightness, he has brought her too near us, and made her features too familiar. Montorio was fairly criticised in the Review of its day; the errors were dispassionately pointed out, and the merits liberally praised. In his succeeding work, the Wild Irish Boy, the author evinced his neglect of the critic's advice ; in Women he seemed to have forgotten it; and in Bertram and Melmoth he has defied it.
In the preface to Melmoth, Mr. Maturin states, as a sort of apology for publishing a romance, the insufficiency of his profession towards his support. This circumstance is certainly to be regretted, though we think a proud or delicate mind would have shrunk from so broad an appeal to the public. But the author mentions a more surprising fact, that his romance is founded on a passage in one of his own sermons, and is an exemplification of the sentence in holy writ, “What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul.” Our readers will perceive that this was treading on dangerous ground; that it required the author to bring to the task reverential and delicate feelings,-a strong inventive genius in conducting, and a powerful hand in describing the narrative. In what degree (in our opinion) Mr. M. possessed these requisites, will appear in the course of these remarks. It is granted that an author may presume any fact he pleases; that is to say, that his reader consents to accompany him beyond the bounds of probability, as long as he preserves the unity and keeping of his work. The impossible, therefore, which pervades Melmoth, would be no objection, did it not so often mingle with realities which destroy the
illusion, and break the above-mentioned compact between the author and his reader.
Melmoth, like all the works of this author, wants originality. It frequently and fatally reminds the reader of St. Leon; and is a compound of the legend of the Wandering Jew, and the Vampyre.
Melmoth, the hero of the book, has sacrificed his hopes of salvation for the possession of a protracted term of life. This scarcely human being wanders over the face of the earth, scattering desolation in his path, and endeavouring to tempt some victim to accept the dreadful boon under which he writhes. His machinations are described in different tales, linked, or rather thrown together, in most admired disorder. The story of the family of Walberg is, perhaps, the best ; exhibiting some strong and vivid description. The Walberg family are supported in affluence by a wealthy brother, who, however, refuses to see his sister or her children, but promises to bequeath to them the whole of his property. They enjoy some years of happiness, when the brother who supported them, dies suddenly ; and on opening the will it is found, that to the church is left the wealth which had fed the hopes of his relations. They are thus instantly reduced from affluence to poverty, and at length to absolute beggary and famine. It is in these scenes of horror that the author seems to delight, and describe with the pen of a lover.
«« Hush,” said Walberg, interrupting her what sound was that ?-was it not like a dying groan ?"_" No—it is the children, who moan in their sleep.' " What do they moan for ?” " Hunger, I believe," said Ines, involuntarily yielding to the dreadful conviction of habitual misery.—“And I sit and hear this,” said Walberg, starting up,—" I sit to hear their young sleep broken by dreams of hunger, while for a word's speaking I could pile this floor with mountains of gold, and all for the risk of” 266 Of what ?" -said Ines, clinging to him,—" of what ?-Oh! think of that! what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?-Oh! let us starve, die, rot before your eyes, rather than you should seal your perdition by that horrible” Hear me, woman !” said Walberg, turning on her eyes almost as fierce and lustrous as those of Melmoth, and whose light, indeed, seemed borrowed from his ; “ Hear me! My soul is lost! They who die in the agonies of famine know no God, and want none-if I remain here to famish among my children, I shall as surely blaspheme the Author of my being, as I sball renounce him under the fearful conditions proposed to me Listen to me, Ines, and tremble not. To see my children die of famine will be to me instant suicide and impeniteut despair! But if I close with this fearful offer, I may yet repent,-1 may yet escape ! There is hope on one side-op the other there is none none
none ! Your hands cling round me, but their touch is cold !-You are wasted to a shadow with want! Show me the means of procuring another meal, and I will spit at the tempter, and spurn him !But where is that to be found ?-Let me go, then, to meet him !You will pray for me, Ines,—will you not ?-and the children ?No, let them not pray for me !-in my despair I forgot to pray for myself, and their prayers would now be a reproach to me.-Ines ! -Ines !-What ? am I talking to a corse ?” He was indeed, for the wretched wife had sunk at his feet senseless. 46 Thank God!” he again emphatically exclaimed, as he beheld her lie to all appearance lifeless before him. " Thank God, a word then has killed her,-it was a gentler death than famine! It would have been kind to have strangled her with these hạnds! Now for the children !” he exclaimed, while horrid thoughts chased each other over his reeling and unseated mind, and he imagined he heard the roar of a sea in its full strength thundering in his ears, and saw ten thousand waves dashing at his feet, and every wave of blood.'
There are many absurdities in this story, although it evinces considerable power. The aged and infirm grandmother, who rises in her agony from her chair, and paces the chamber with supernatural strength, too glaringly reminds us of the awful Elspeth, in the Antiquary; and the idea of Everhard selling his blood to a surgeon for the support of his father and family, is not only wretched taste but ludicrous. It was certainly a blundering way to procure a living. There would be great beauty in the story of Immalee, if it was not so overloaded with ornament. We sicken with the eternal perfume of flowers, the never setting glare of the moon; and though there are many natural touches, they are so dwelt upon, that they lose all their simplicity in the author's hands. Indeed, Mr. Maturin's taste is very gaudy; his descriptions of nature are disfigured by meretricious ornament; and the only scene of happiness in the whole work—that of the Walbergs before their ruin-is utterly spoiled by affectation of simplicity. The tale of the lovers is more to our taste than the preceding ones, though there is little genius displayed either in the narrative or plot. There is an old English stateliness about some parts, which is pleasing, but others again are feeble, and it concludes, a la Maturin, in misery.
But we have not noticed the most horrible of these loathsome narratives—the story of Moncada. This is a tissue of horrors, without sublimity ; terrors which excite no sympathy; and sufferings for which we feel nothing but disgust. When we first beheld the print of Reynolds' Ugolino, we felt not only horror, but displeasure; but when we examined it attentively, observed the perfect execution and exquisite keeping of the picture, we forgave the artist's bad taste in selecting such a subject, and forgot the deformity of the piece—in admiration of the genius which
it displayed. But in this author's representations of famine, madness, poverty, and the long list of ills which flesh is heir to, there is no redeeming sublimity. When we have once looked on them, we do not willingly turn to examine them again. We will give a specimen of this kind of writing. The following tale is related in a dungeon—by a parricide—who was engaged to assist in the escape of two lovers from the walls of a convent.
They were conducted here,” he continued, “I had suggested the plan, and the Superior consented to it. He would not be present, but his dumb pod was enough. I was the conductor of their (intended) escape ; they believed they were departing with the connivance of the Superior. I led them through those very passages that
you and I have trod. I had a map of this subterranean region, but my blood ran cold as I traversed it ; and it was not at all inclined to resume its usual temperament, as I felt what was to be the destination of my attendants. Once I turned the lamp, on pretence of trimming it, to catch a glimpse of the devoted wretches. They were embracing each other,-the light of joy trembled in their eyes. They were whispering to each other hopes of liberation and happiness, and blending my name in the interval they could spare from their prayers for each other. That sight extinguished the last remains of compunction with which my horrible task bad inspired me. They dared to be happy in the sight of one who must be for ever miserable,-could there be a greater insult ? I resolved to punish it on the spot. This very apartment was near, -1 koew it, and the map of their wanderings no longer trembled in my hand. I urged them to enter this recess, (the door was then entire,) wbile I went to examine the passage. They entered it, thanking me for my precaution,—they knew not they were never to quit it alive. But what were their lives for the agony their happiness cost me? The moment they were enclosed, and clasping each other, (a sight that made me grind my teeth,) I closed and locked the door. This movement gave themi no immediate uneasiness,—they thought it a friendly precaution. The moment they were secured, I hastened to the Superior, who was on fire at the insult offered to the sanctity of his convent, and still more to the purity of his penetration, on which the worthy Superior piqued himself as much as if it had ever been possible for him to acquire the smallest sbare of it. He descended with me to the passage,--the monks followed with eyes on fire. In the agitation of their
rage, it was with difficulty they could discover the door after I had repeatedly pointed it out to them. The Superior, with his own hands, drove several nails, which the monks eagerly supplied, into the door, that effectually joined it to the staple, never to be disjoined ; and every blow he gave, doubtless be felt as if it was a reminiscence to the accusing angel, to strike out a sin from the catalogue of his accusations. The work was soon done,the work never to be undone. At the first sound of steps in the passage, and blows on the door, the victims uttered a shriek of ter