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On Novel-Reading.

[VOL. 4

ed a more fruitful topie of verbose de- are the Quakers, who, according to Mr. clamation. We shall not stop either Clarkson's portraiture of their creed to collect or to refute every argument, and discipline, condemn ALL novels, as which has been adduced by this misdi- calculated to produce an improper exrected ingenuity. Such a task, though citement of mind, and to alienate the easy to execute, would not be of the attention from objects of serious imporslightest utility, when accomplished, tance. These are good reasons against because not all the powers of reasoning, the reading of immoral novels, and aadorned by all the pomp of words, will gainst making them our sole or our ever persuade one part of mankind to principal study, but not against limiting renounce the delight, which they re- and selecting those, which we allow to ceive from compositions that represent be read. "But even those," say our fictitious adventures, or the other to sac- adversaries, "attract us from spiritual rifice the distinction, which is acquired, to temporal affairs, and cause us to or the pleasure which is derived from think more of the pleasures of the preshappily reducing into form and con- ent, than the enjoyments of a future exsistence those volant images of love and istence." Are we then to be called beauty, which hover around them in upon perpetually for religious thoughts some favored moments. To all the and religious conversations? Are we invectives of all the cynics in the world, to be expected to ride, to walk, to row, both parties will turn a deaf and inat- to wrestle, and to dine out religiously? tentive ear-the first will be glad to es- Does every thing, which tends merely cape from the dull uniformity of life, to exhilaration, contain within itself a and the cold unfeeling tameness of real taint of criminality? And is man put character, into those regions of fancy, into this world for no other purpose where they can luxuriate in ever vary- than to mortify himself into a proper ing combinations, and can gratify the condition for the next? On a point high aspirings of the mind by the con- like the present, we might appeal from templation of ideal virtues and ideal the judgment of the over-righteous Pharperfections: whilst the latter rejoicing isees, to those who think that the Creain the pleasure which they create, and tor, did not form man to be the slave proud of the influence which they are of an austere and overbearing religion, establishing over the tastes and interests but to follow its precepts, as he would of mankind, will continue to spend the the advice of an affectionate monitor. redundance of their genius in giving We might claim to be permitted to life and substance to thought, as long choose individuals entertaining such as they find in the sympathy and curi- sentiments for our judges: and from osity of the public that success which their sentence we feel convinced that we is the constant object of their hopes and should have no reason to shrink. But endeavours, and which, when acquired, we wave this privilege, because we do repays them for all the toil and trouble not see in what manner the argument which they experience in their attempts applies more against this than against to obtain it. For which reason we any other innocent amusement. For shall only combat those objections, in pursuing it, what positive rule, either which bear the stamp of pusillanimity, and which, on account of their general circulation, deserve greater notice than we can bestow on the mass of their fellows.

of divine or human institution, are we transgressing? If we are imbibing doctrines inimical to the constitution of society, or if we are propagating principles injurious to the interests of moralThere is one sect of Christians, for ity, then condemn this occupation; but whose doctrines collectively we pro- if we are doing neither the one nor the fess respect, which totally prohibits other, if we are engaged, as in the limthe perusal of works of this description, ited case upon which we are now partly on account of their fictitious na- guing, in what is in itself perfectly virture, and partly and chiefly on account tuous, why are we to place that under of their general immorality. These interdict, which is adapted so admirably


VOL. 4.]

On Novel-Reading.


to charm away the approach of melan- ing, save to the scriptural instruments choly, to alleviate the calamities inci- sackbut and timbrel, as an unnecessary dent to mortality, and to deceive, what exercise of the limbs, indecent in its some find the heaviest of all burdens, gesture, and improper in its tendency; the burden of existence? Surely they and to deem all garments, save those do not mean to assert, and yet their requisite to the covering of nature, as language seems to warrant the conclu- an idle adornment of the person, and sion, that a gloomy, wayward and dis- a badge of servitude to the powers of satisfied temper; that tears and sighs, darkness. It is this self same false and groans and complaints are the pro- spirit, disguised indeed under a differper offerings for men to make to that ent name, but still retaining all its Deity, who has covered the earth with wonted severity, which sees infidelity gay colours, and scented it with rich at present triumphing in the producperfumes, and who has shewn, by scat- tions of the theatre, and immorality retering over his creation a thousand joys, pluming her crest in those publications which are totally unnecessary to our of the press, which this article attempts mere subsistence, that he has given us to defend and vindicate. something better than a bare existence It has been said, that novels give a even in this sublunary abode of trial false idea of man and of manners.and misery. If they do intend to ad- This is as true with regard to ill-writvocate such dogmas, and if it be, not ten and ill-conducted novels, as a simthe abuse, but the interspersion, of plea- ilar charge is with regard to those missure in the concerns of life, however erable daubs, which degrade nature, by guided by good sense or moderation, misrepresenting it : and proves as which they attack, they are not adher- strongly, that we ought never to look ing to the true principles of religion, at a fine painting, because there are but are actuated by some hidden mo- some wretched sketches, as that we tives unworthy of that beneficent Being ought never to read a well-drawn rewhose service they appear so desirous presentation of human character, beto promote. We say so boldly, and cause, on the one hand there are some upon mature deliberation, because it is tame and feeble, and on the other some only a false spirit of religion, which glowing and overdone delineations of would diminish the number of human it. But even supposing this objection gratifications, and would substitute in to hold good in its utmost latitude, their place, fasts and penances and mor- what is the result? A delusion, so tifications. It was this false spirit, long as it wears the mask of truth, which, in the first ages of Christianity, may be dangerous, but can never be led many to commit such acts of self- productive of harm when this mask is denial as border on insanity, which withdrawn, when the furtive plumage is prompted Simon Stylites to think that stripped off, and the delusion is at once he was doing God a grateful service, in known, avowed and hackneyed. Bestanding night and day upon a pillar sides, the dramatic effect, which it rein the wilderness, and which inspired quires to add to the pictures which we thousands of infatuated enthusiasts to copy from life, so far from rendering seclude themselves in darksome caves them unnatural, only makes them strike and gloomy solitudes, from that society with redoubled effect and energy, by rewhich man is born to enliven by his calling with greater ease to the mind talents, and benefit by his exertions. the events, which they are intended to It was this false spirit, which, in a peri- resemble. You may retort, that the od nearer to our own times, induced the modesty of truth is notwithstanding viPuritans to condemn all poetry, save olated violated however as it is, we that of Sternhold and Hopkins, as con- would gladly give in exchange for one trary to morality; to interdict all har- novel of antiquity, if antiquity dwell mony, save the harmony of their nose- in such publications, all the prosings grunted psalmody, as a profane eleva- and mystifications of Plato, Aristotle, tion of the voice; to prohibit all danc- Zeno and company, upon the monads,


On Novel Reading.-Female Writers.

[VOL. 4 duads, and triads of their respective them more gracefully, because they dissystems. For one such work would cern them more distinctly, than we do. let us more into the domestic economy, This phænomenon arises not more and initiate us more deeply in the fire- from the difference of their education in side habits of the ancient Greeks and childhood, than of the nature of their Romans, than all the grave histories, occupations in more advanced existence. which have come down to us of their From his very cradle, man is taught to actions, and all the ponderous tomes of scorn those refined sensibilities, which learned and laborious annotations, woman instinctively fosters with the which the Wasses, the Kusters, the warmest affection. He is told that Spanheims, and the Schweighaussers they are inconsistent with the Roman of classical literature have compiled to dignity of character, which he is recomexplain them. mended to emulate; he perceives, that It was our intention, on commencing they are little suited to those tumultuthe present remarks, to have concluded ous scenes in which he is to mingle as them with a short review of the most a busy actor; and he discards them as distinguished writers in this province of delusive weaknesses, not less to be the republic of letters: but the great shunned than dreaded. Woman, on the length, at which we have already tres- contrary, naturally disposed, by her passed on the patience of our readers, conscious inferiority of personal strength, compels us, however reluctantly, to de- to imbibe them with eagerness, cherishfer such a discussion to a more favora- es them with redoubled energy as ble opportunity. When that event oc- soon as she discovers them to be the curs, we will gladly resume the subject sources of all those gentle emotions, of our present labours; and will point which cast over all her words and acout the various genera, into which tions a magic spell too mighty to be novels are divided, according as they resisted, and which render her at once depend upon the nature of the events the pride, the ornament, and the prewhich they record, or the form and siding genius of society. In man, if method of narration in which those this refinement of feeling were not exevents are recorded. We shall then be tinguished by the force of education, it led to contrast the advantages and dis- never could survive amid the increasing advantages of each particular system as intercourse with the world, which is considered by itself, and as compared forced upon him with increasing years, with others; and, from such a compar- but would inevitably decay and ison, be able to exhibit in the clearest perish under the pressure of the toils, light the beauties, into which they have vexations, and vicissitudes of fortune, at some times seduced, and the faults, which he is unfortunately heir to in into which they have at others betray- the other sex, should it never have preed, genius and talent of the most exalt- viously existed, it is certain to be elicit ed order. For the present we shall ed during that dangerous period of take leave of our readers, by recalling their lives which intervenes between to their observation, what all of them childhood and puberty; when released will have previously observed, but from their grammars and their samplers, what few of them will have taken the escaped from the frowns, and threats, trouble to account for, the superior a- and petty vengeances of their governesbility which women display over men ses, no longer children, and not yet in every qualification which is requisite quite women, they labour under a rein works of this description. In the dundance of new-born hopes and ideas, representation of those fine and fugi- which keep in perpetual play the pow tive impressions, which constitute the ers of the imagination. Once elicited, soul and essence of sentiment, the fair it receives immediate support and noursex are universally allowed to shine ishment from the influence, which love with unrivalled lustre. They deline- almost simultaneously begins to exerbecause they cise in their bosoms. This passion, and portray which forms but an episode in the bis

ate them more sensibly, feel them more forcibly;

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Female Novel-Writers.


tory of man, composes the main story tam lubricus aspici," as when she comes in that of woman, and by forming one before us arrayed with the decorations of the constant objects of her solicitude, of sentiment. For then, without any heightens and refines her sensibilities to metaphor,grace does indeed sit upon her such a degree, that the most languid lips, and eloquence issue from her frame of mind would be preferable to tongue: then indeed do the effusions their intensity, and, in many cases, of her simple and ingenuous nature would be considered as a welcome re- steal over our ravished senses, like "the first breathings of morning in the uni verse's sweetest climate, carrying along with them the freshness of untainted air, the mild moisture of the dew, and the resistless charm of a thousand odours. and perfumes."

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Nor is it merely in what is called

fuge from it. The pleasing cares, which flock around her on becoming a wife and a mother, instead of diminishing, increase and augment them: they may indeed be changed in the points to which they are directed, and limited, in the objects on which they are bestowed; but all that you effect by narrowing the sentimental style that the ascendthe channel, is to make the tide flow in ency of female talent is displayed; it is the space, over which it does flow, with seen also in the representation of the a richer, a deeper, and a stronger cur- more deep and grave, and tragic pasrent. To sensibility, sentiment is near sions of our common nature. This ly allied; they are children of the same has been denied by some writers, who, house, and cannot well exist apart from though willing to allow the superior each other. The original elements, of acuteness, with which woman discerns, which woman is composed, render her and the superior fidelity, with which the creature of sensibility; and sensi- she depicts, the ever-varying shades of bility soon transforms her into the slave transient emotions, are by no means of sentiment, whilst that slavery, by inclined to concede to her similar praise giving to her thoughts that constant for the delineation of those feelings, employment, which is not to be found which are more permanent in their duin the sameness, and quietude,and friv- ration, and more important in their reolous inanity of her usual occupations, sults. They assert, first of all, that, as appears of so seductive a nature, that she is not accustomed to watch the its tramels are preferred to the most ab- movements of the mind, when agitated solute and unconditional freedom.- by the vexing disquietudes of business, “Aovλedelv dedidantal." She gives her- or ploughed into frightful inequalities self up to it without deliberation and by the tempests of public life, she can without reserve; she makes it the sub- know but little of its stern and violent ject of her daily thoughts and of her and rugged affections; and then add, nightly dreams; and indulges in it, not that, as she has not an intimate acaccording to her usual system, by fits quaintance with the object to be copied, and starts, but with such a regular and it is morally impossible, that she should continued ardour, that her perception produce a correct resemblance of it. of it gradually ripens into instinct, and Grant the major of the syllogism, and her habitual felicity in expressing it the minor is undeniable-to use the seems the effect of inspiration. What language of the schools, "cadit quæsever be the occasion on which she in- tio;" but prove the premises to be detroduces it, she is always original and void of all foundation, and the reason creative, imitating no one, and herself ing built upon them is so weak and erinimitable. Indeed so indisputable is roneous, as to need no refutation. We female merit in this department of lit- shall pursue this latter course, and shall erature, that even the countrymen of shew the fact to be directly the reverse Rousseau are apt to recommend their of what is here stated. Instead of befair writers as the best models of the ing unaccustomed to witness the tusentimental style; and the most deter- multuous passions of the soul in action, mined misogamist must confess, that woman sees them more frequently in a beauty is never so beautiful "nunquam state of excitement than inan does

62 Lady Morgan-Miss Hamilton-Miss Porter-Mad. de Stuel. [voL.4

in works of fiction, which female writers have attained in a much higher degree than those of the male creation : and the cause, to which also this is owing, lies in the nature of their domestic

himself; and from this circumstance, un- severance amidst difficulty, resignation derstands more distinctly their different amid distress, hope amid despair, and causes, gradations, and symptoms. In- unconquered resolution and fortitude deed man, in the presence of man, from in torment and anguish, have emanated various motives, sometimes of shame, from the pen of women, have only to sometimes of terror, sometimes of dig- refer to the O'Donnell of Lady Mornity, and sometimes of a combination gan, the Agrippina of Miss Hamilton, of them all, checks the impetuosity and the Thaddeus of Miss Porter, and the restrains the agitation of his feelings, Corinna of Madame de Stael, to proeven when they convulse him most duce irrefragable conviction of the stapowerfully; to society, he exhibits bility of their position. their movements, not in natural, but There is also another kind of merit artificial colours; and it is only when he has retired within the circle of his own family, that he indulges, without control their genuine impulses, and displays them without disguise. It is there, that he unveils his most secret employments. We allude to their insentiments, and unbosoms his most timate acquaintance with the fire-side hidden determinations: and it is there, habits of life, and their exquisite disthat woman, with curiosity all awake, crimination of those smaller peculiariand sensibility all alive, is called in ties of character, which throw so much to aid, direct, and participate them. light and shade over the surface of orWhen under the influence and do- dinary society. We shall not endeaminion of these powerful masters, man vour to account for this circumstance, by is too proud an animal to disclose their stating, that, as they are themselves the real workings to his fellow men, and most sensitive thermometers of the too much interested in them to be able slightest change in the manners and to investigate their characteristics him- customs of the world, it is not at all self. Woman, and woman alone, wonderful, that they dive into the very views them naked and unmasked; and elements from which such change oriupon the same principle that a looker- ginates; nor shall we adopt the axiom on sees more of the game than the of Diderot, that they are reading in the gamester himself, obtains a clearer in- great book of mankind, whilst we are sight into their peculiarities, than those reading in books of ethics and philoindividuals can, who are personally sophy. Such remarks are merely speactuated by them. It is therefore un- culative, and made for no other purtrue, that the tenor of her occupations pose, than to shine as pithy, and epiand her duties renders her only ac- grammatic sentences; and such speculaquainted with human nature in a calm, tions may be neglected without loss, or at most with human nature ruffled when the stronger testimony of positive into mere gentle undulation; neither is experience can be appealed to. The it more correct, that she is led only to true reason why woman traces with study the light restlessness of the minut- more truth and nature, and less exager passions, and the minor particulari- geration and mannerism, the lineaments ties of ordinary character. No-she of living characters, arises from that takes a wider range, and, extending her observation to the most exalted, the most complicated and the most heroic sensations, embodies them into shape and substance with the utmost truth, accuracy, and exactness. This is a fact, which, whether our method of accounting for it be satisfactory or not, cannot be disputed: and those, who assert that the most powerful delineations, of per

class of her domestic engagements, which concerns the care of children. There can be no question, that, either as mothers, or elder sisters, the female sex are infinitely more conversant with children than we are: and the effects naturally produced on their minds by this sort of society (for surely it may be honored with this sort of appellation), are just such as are required to generate

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