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To many, very many, the circumstance of Easter falling late is matter for great rejoicing. There be those to whom “ Passion Week," and the sprinkling of days that follow it, afford the sole opportunity of leaving the brick and stone of London. Far be it from us to depreciate brick and stone, seeing that the same are important elements in that very composite thing called civilisation—a thing whereupon M. Guizot wrote a very big book (for goodness' sake, reader, don't betray our confidence, if we avow that we never read it, or our literary character is gone for ever)—and from the summit of which he one day most unaccountably slipped. Good and useful as the said brick and stone unquestionably are, one does not like to look at them for ever; and notwithstanding all that fine regularity of line which belong to what men call “streets," we would occasionally exchange them for those more savage objects, trees, grass, hedges, and so forth.
What are called the beauties of nature are the mere savageries” of architectural civilisation, or, at best, a rude material to be sawed, chiselled, or knocked about into some more polite appearance,
That spreading tree, which shelters you from the sun, and beneath which the holiday-maker arranges his banquet of sandwiches and bitter ale, is but a wanton barbarian, who becomes far more respectable in the shape of a chair, a table, or a gibbet, or any other article useful to human culture. We have not named the last shape unadvisedly, but we have borne in mind the thanksgiving of that ancient mariner, who, after a weary voyage, was convinced that he had reached a civilised country, because he saw a gibbet and one of its usual appendages.
Yea, we are still savages to a certain extent ; there is a little barbaric spot upon our hearts, which will not come out, wash it as we may. No human soul in England would give twopence to see the very
man in a frock-coat ; whereas, many would pay a shilling to see the very dregs of their species, armed with a tomahawk. If the savage can be made a little more savage, so much the better; people like to see lions at feedingtime, when the animal nature, already indicated by stalk and roar, is more rudely and palpably expressed by spring and snarl. Those same trees, whereof poets sing, are but so many vegetable wild Indians, with unkemped locks ; and the morning-dew that shines on their leaves, is but the well-known expedient of the beads, for which barbarian tribes have ever shown so great a predilection.
Those with the little barbaric spot upon their hearts, who have but the Paschal holiday in the year, rejoice to find that holiday assert its moveability by falling as late as it can, so that it may take within its grasp as much as possible of sunshine, and blue sky, and warmth, and other appurtenances of a pleasant trip. The nearer Easter-day approximates to the 25th of April, the extreme limit of its lateness, so much the better.
But in this rejoicing operatic managers certainly do not participate. They think not of the sky and the picturesque et ceteras, but they see the period before Easter stretching itself out to a length most unreasonable, and thus extending the most difficult part of their season. Let them enrich this pre-paschal part with the means at their disposal, still they cannot prevent the public from reflecting that something better is to come.
Yet Lablache did not wait for Easter ; he made his débût for the season before Passion Week, and might serve for a veritable impersonation of spring, so fresh is his appearance, so luxuriant are those little buds of odd fantasies which he darts out on all sides. A joyous flush passed over the faces of his audience as he stepped forward to sing the duet in “ II Matrimonio segreto,” the flush responding to the happiness which beamed from his countenance. Who had not over and over again seen the grotesque pirouettes, and heard the falsetto notes, so beautiful in quality while meant only to be comic, and yet they were welcomed as new, ay, and were new, springing as they did from the same genial soil which
gave birth to their predecessors, and not being mere faded resemblances. Do we not call the violets new every spring, although those of one year are as like as possible to those of another?
The pre-paschal time has been also illumined by Madame Schwarz, who made a very successful débût as Orsino in “ Lucrezia Borgia,” and of whom still greater successes are expected by the habitués. A nice“ taking” character that of Orsino, for his song is sure to be remembered and hummed about the “lobbies” if all the rest of the opera be forgotten. Little to do, and that little good. Did any one ever hear of the children forgetting the one small bit of citron at the top of a large cake, however savoury the cake might be?
Cruvelli is getting on famously. She is a lady of spirit and will not miss her laurels from the want of stretching out a hand to seize them. Here and there is a want of finish, but there is excellent material and right good will. If you want other people to believe in you, begin by believing in yourself.
Poor Abbadia has not realised the hopes that were entertained of her. She broke down on her first appearance, and did not get up again on her second. Poor Abbadia ! The summer which for some others shall raise a flowery pinnacle, upon which they will stand and smile back upon their Easter, will probably cast funereal wreaths upon thy career.
No matter !—no matter !--hopes are delusions—and theories are delusions—and every thing is a delusion. Here have we been expatiating on the connexion between late Easters and fine weather,—have talked all sorts of rhodomontade about
savageness and civilisation. A noise startles us, We raise our head from our paper and see the rain pelting against the window. Easter is nearly as late as possible, and the weather is vile to the extremest degree of villany. What is to become of our article now the scaffolding of fact is washed away from under it ? We do not despair ; we dare say it reads very well
, and if it can have made one single soul think of blue skies amid this universal gloom, it has more than answered its purpose.
May.-VOL. LXXXIII. NO. CCCXXIX.
ROSE, BLANCHE, AND VIOLET.* Of the history of Rose, Blanche, and Violet, three young maidens throwu into the turbulent sea of life, with pretty names, like straws to cling to; or of their any thing but heroic lovers ; it is impossible to give any idea within ordinary limits—the more especially as, after all, the step-mother, who does not appear on the title-page, is the real heroine in this story.
Poor Blanche and Rose! For a brief, a very brief moment, they win our interest and our affections. Envied by their schoolfellows for their beauty and mental superiority, despised on account of the small allowance made them by their parents, and insulted by their preceptors--indignities which they only returned by meekness and goodtempered resignation - Rose alone venturing upon an occasional reprisal - a vision of a glorious future is opened to the imagination, which the after career of the girls by no means fulfils. The unsparing cynicism of the author, the view which he takes of society at large, unrefreshed by one gleam of sunshine, and by but few genial or generous sympathies, is comprised in one sentence descriptive of school existence.
“ A school,” says Mr. Lewes, “is an image of the world in miniature, and represents it, perhiaps, in its least amiable aspect. The child is not only father to the man, but the father, before experience has engendered tolerance, before suffering has extended sympathy. The child is humbly selfislı, because unreflectingly so. Its base instincts have not been softened or corrected. AI its vices are not only unrestrained, but unconcealed. Its egotism and vanity are allowed full play.”
This is the reverse of the opinion generally entertained, and is one of those sophisms characteristic of the French novel. The instincts of the child are not base, but, on the contrary, honourable and good. Vices are more prominent, because unconcealed. It is the concealment in after-life that softens and corrects the vices, but the natural instincts are seldom modified. Of all the hateful step-mothers ever consigned to ignominy, Mrs. Meredith Vyner is the most odious. Mr. Meredith Vyner, with his perpetual quotations from Horace, is a nonentity. Captain Heath is a true friend and a well-intentioned, but weak man, whose ill success in love-affairs excites no surprise. The success of other less worthy, or rather totally unworthy men, does excite surprise ; and therein, we suppose, lies the moral of the story, if moral there be, for Mr. Lewes candidly acknowledges, in his preface, that he began his work with a distinct purpose, but finding human nature falsified by being coerced within the sharply defined limits of a small dogma, he gave up his original intention, and left “the moral to shift for itself.” This is not new. Even as late as in February last, the fact was insisted upon
in this magazine, in reference to Mr. Tayler's Wilton," that "a sole moral object in view is opposed either to liberty or perfection of art.” That Violet, the brave and the beautiful, the only one who could fathom and could scorn the step-mother's character, should have for a husband the jilted lover of that very step-mother,
* Rose, Blanche, and Violet. By G. H. Lewes, Esq., author of “Ranthorpe,” &c. 3 vols. Smith, Elder, and Co.
and that Blanche should wed the lover of Violet, despised by the latter for his cowardice, are events of as unlikely occurrence, as they are revolting to the sense of either moral propriety or poetical justice.
It is a curious feature of Mr. Lewes's book, that he not only makes all his men morally imperfect, but also downright ugly. Marmaduke, the lover of mother and daughter, is a mind-illumined monster—" our ugly herc," as the author himself calls him. Cecil Chamberlayne has the head and bust of a large man, and the body and legs of a small one. Morally, he is a ninny. He can dress well, sing well
, dance well, talk small-talk to perfection, is lively and good-natured enough, but has never thought of any thing more serious; has neither fortune, profession, nor pursuit. What a husband for Blanche! and what but misery could ensue from such a match ? Mr. Lewes is also exceedingly partial to very minute description of character and person. This leads him into inconsistencies, and thus, as he goes on with his story, he sometimes suddenly begins to insist upon a mine of virtues being hoarded up in what had hitherto filled the mind as a very unsatisfactory character. At times he is finical, as when he tells us that Cecil's conical fingers and slight knuckles belonged to one in whom the emotions predominated ; and at other times coarse, as in his first description of Mr. Vyner's person, to which we shall not refer. His philosophy is evidently that of the phrenological school ; of this we could give numerous instances, but his denouncing jealousy as egotistical, would satisfy any phrenologist of the fact. There are also episodes, as for example, that of “the Walton Sappho," afterwards Hester Mason, which are of extremely objectionable morality. We can also by no means agree with the author in many of his social sarcasms, more especially upon the class whom he designates as soul-less “ gobe-mouches and ologists ;" but few can depict in stronger language than himself the difference between conception and execution in what relates to literary performances ; and as he has the courage and the energy to go beyond the mere conception of the thing, and to enter with vigour upon its embodiment, so also he ought to keep in mind that in the execution of all great works of art, the details ought to be carefully and considerately worked out, to produce either a perfect or a satisfactory result.
MISS STRICKLAND'S QUEENS OF ENGLAND.* This is the twelfth and the last volume of this delightful series. Miss Strickland has brought her successful task to a close with the reign of Queen Anne, and has shown her usual judgment and taste in so doing, as an attempt to trace the Brunswick succession of
would have been attended with obvious difficulties. The series is now before the public therefore as a complete work; and although there may be portions which may not meet the views of the partisanship inseparable from history; we do not hesitate to say, that as a whole, few historical works exhibit a more earnest love of truth, or greater anxiety to record facts and not theories. The work is indeed alike characterised by industry and by impartiality, and it will reflect a lasting credit upon its author.
Lives of the Queens of England. By Agnes Strickland. Vol. XII. Henry Colburn.
SIR THEODORE BROUGHTON.*
MR. JAMES has chosen a subject of deep interest for his new novel. He has also treated in a more than usually felicitous manner. Always clear, animated, and imaginative, he has upon the present occasion been more than usually happy in the consecutiveness of his narrative. The tale is founded upon a tragedy that occurred some time back in domestic life; when a Captain Donellan was hung for poisoning his brother-in-law, Sir Theodosius Boughton. Mr. James says that, from a careful perusal of the trial as reported from Gurney's short-hand notes, he became convinced that Captain Donellan was convicted upon insufficient evidence. The evidence of the celebrated John Hunter was, that the whole appearances upon the dissection of the body of the unfortunate young baronet “explained nothing but putrefaction.” To the question, also, as to whether the symptoms that appeared after the medicine was given were such as necessarily conclude that the person had taken poison, the answer was, “certainly not.” And to the question as to whether, if an apoplexy had come on, would not the symptoms have been nearly or somewhat similar, the answer was,
very much the same.” Yet the judge, in summing up, remarked
this evidence of the distinguished surgeon and anatomist, “ I can hardly say what his opinion is, for he does not seem to have formed any opinion at all upon the matter."
Further, no proof was adduced at the trial that Captain Donellan had been engaged in the distillation of laurel leaves, nor was it proved that he had access to the room in which the bottle stood, the contents of which were supposed to have poisoned Sir Theodosius ; and, lastly, it was Lady Boughton, the mother of the dead man, who gave to him, with her own hands the liquid as a medicine, which was afterwards sup: posed to have been the poison, and whom Donellan indirectly charged with having poisoned her son.
Mr. James has, however, adopted in his interesting fiction, in which no less than two love affairs are skilfully interwoven and made to hinge upon Sir Theodosius's death neither of the versions, but has cast the onus of the crime upon a discontented old serving man called Zachary Hargrave, and its concoction upon Captain Donovan, whom from an idea generally entertained at the time, he makes the guardian as well as brother-in-law to the young baronet. The manufacture of the laurel water is thus briefly but picturesquely recorded.
He (Captain Donovan) betook himself to the shadiest part of the gardens, and walked slowly up and down a walk bordered with shrubs of the cherrylaurel. From time to time, he picked a leaf and put it in his pocket, looked carefully around and resumed his walk. At length he turned back to the house again, and re-entering the little room which he had appropriated to the purposes of a study, locked the door behind him. He then took down from a shelf by the side of the fire a little portable still, put the laurel leaves into it, added some water and placed it securely over the flame. When this was completed a fit of indescribable agitation seized him. He trembled violently, sat down in a chair, placed his hands before his eyes, opened his waistcoat, as if
* Sir Theodore Broughton ; or, Laurel Water. vols. Smith, Elder, and Co.
By G. P. R. James, Esq. 3